If you’re a performing keyboard player, either playing in a touring band, function band, church band or even busking, you’re going to need to amplify your keyboards and synths to compete with the other instruments around you. Even if you’re at a venue large enough to be connected to the house PA system through a mixing desk, you’ll still need a way to be able to hear yourself playing, unless you have the luxury of a sophisticated foldback arrangement with in-ear monitoring.
This is why it's essential to find the best keyboard amp for your particular purposes, and that's what this guide is here to help with. To aid your quest for the perfect amp, we’ve rounded up ten of the best keyboard amps on the market right now.
We also have some buying advice towards the end of this article to help you zero in on your particular needs.
Best keyboard amps: MusicRadar’s choice
Our award for the best value keyboard amp goes to the incredibly versatile Behringer Ultratone KXD12. It’s a powerful amp that sounds fantastic and has a superb array of features for the money, including a class D amplifier, 7-band EQ, multi FX and feedback suppression.
At the higher end of the price scale is the Motion Sound KP612S, with its unique stereo processing and generous input and output options.
Meanwhile, for those on a budget or with smaller-scale requirements, the pokey Peavey KB1 makes a great starting point, with its excellent sound and simple feature set making it a cinch for beginners to get to grips with.
Best keyboard amps: Product guide
A powerful, versatile and affordable keyboard combo and mini PA speaker, the Behringer KXD12’s secret weapon is its 12” speaker cone manufactured by Turbosound, one of the most respected sound reinforcement manufacturers on the scene.
Not only that, but with a lightweight Class D bi-amped architecture, and a combined power rating of 600W, its relatively portable yet powerful enough to cope easily with most small-to-medium settings. Sound is clean and crystal clear across all ranges with no hint of unwanted distortion.
With an impressive feature list that delivers four channels, a seven-band graphic EQ, 100 digital DSP FX presets and a feedback detection system, the KXD12 offers considerable bang for buck. Plus, if your pockets are deep enough, you can even link two of them together for stereo operation.
The KP-612S’s unusual cabinet design angles the two 12” speaker cones outwards away from each other, giving the amp a wider projection area and stereo field than most. This can be further enhanced by Motion Sound’s proprietary 3D Expander control, yielding remarkable three-dimensional results that make your synths sound as dynamic and vibrant on stage as they do in the studio.
The KP612 has two stereo inputs per channel and thus can handle four keyboards in full stereo. The sound is pristine across the full spectrum, and at 250W per channel, this thing goes loud.
Small enough to use as a keyboard monitor or for full-sounding backline amp duties, it has generously-sized inset carry handles on either side of the cabinet, coupled with sturdy castors to help move the unit around, which help to overcome the slightly awkward shape. It's certainly not the cheapest option on the market, but for a superbly wide stereo sound on stage it's hard to beat.
Roland’s KC range of keyboard amps have been at the forefront of the marketplace for years now, and for good reason. Delivering a total of 30W full-range, stereo sound through twin 6.5-inch speakers in a rugged and portable battery-powered package, the KC-220 is marketed as the ultimate mobile keyboard amp and mini PA.
On the menu you’ll find three channels, one of which sports an XLR input for a vocal mic, with built-in stereo DSP effects and a dedicated aux input for CD/MP3 players. The KC-220 also features mono/stereo line outputs, allowing you to interface with PA systems, stage monitors, or recording devices.
There’s a headphone output, a 2-band master EQ for shaping the sound to suit your environment, and a footswitch input for hands-free operation of the effects, making the KC-220 a great all-round solution for rehearsals, street performances, and mobile gigging.
Designed not just as a keyboard amp but also to cater for a wide range of different instruments, Laney’s AH300 truly lives up to its AudioHub branding thanks to its versatile array of 5 channel inputs, onboard 5-band graphic equaliser and 16-preset digital effects capability.
Featuring an angled cabinet design so it can either stand flat or set at an angled stage monitor position, and delivering dollops of power via its 300W RMS rating and 15” custom woofer with HF horn, the AH300 is ideal for duos and medium-sized gigs, while being equally at home as an on-stage monitor at larger events.
Delivering a sound that’s powerful and crystal clear across a wide frequency range, the AH300 is an extremely capable beast of an amp versatile enough to have your back in most gigging and rehearsal scenarios.
The Vox name is legendary in the field of amplification, the classic 60’s-designed AC30 guitar combo still much revered amongst the guitar fraternity as one of the best-sounding amps there is. So you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d be in safe hands with this cracker of a little keyboard combo, and you’d be right.
The compact and lightweight VX50-KB distils every ounce of the company’s renowned amp-manufacturing smarts into a flexible and clean-sounding solution for gigging keyboardists of every persuasion.
The warmth of ‘Nutube’ vacuum tube technology together with a bass reflex cabinet design and coaxial 8” speaker with tweeter results in an amp that’ll make your keyboard gear sound great all the way through from thundering bass tones to sparkling highs.
The entry-level model in the company’s popular KC range of keyboard amps, the diminutive Roland KC-80 combines 50W of power with a 10” speaker and 1” tweeter, three mono line inputs, a stereo aux input and an XLR microphone input on the first channel.
The KC-80 boasts several upgrades over the previous KC-60 model, including extended bass response via Roland’s patented twin bass reflex cabinet design, an upgraded woofer and a redesigned power amp and power supply sections to provide increased stability.
As a result, the bottom end sounds amazingly well-defined and clear for such a small amp, although the subwoofer output jack provides a way to extend the bass response even further. Not only that, but the sound is clear, clean and precise all the way through the frequency range, and easily powerful enough for small spaces, rehearsal rooms and studios.
Peavey’s amplifier-manufacturing pedigree stretches back decades, over which the company has built a solid reputation for producing rugged, great-sounding amps and speakers for most applications. Their KB range of keyboard amps follows that tradition, with the entry-level KB1 representing a great choice as a starter or practice amp.
A power rating of 20W delivered through an 8” speaker should be more than enough to satisfy most new starters. The KB1 is solidly built, has two channels, each with its own 2-band EQ, and a headphone output for private practising.
The KB1 is a fine example of a quality basic practice amp that has everything you need and nothing you don’t. A great first rung on the Peavey ladder, should you feel the need to upgrade, the range continues upwards as far as the four-channel, 450W KB5.
The K450FX is one of a generous range of keyboard amps from the Behringer stable, whose remit seems to be to squeeze as many features into a product for as small a price as possible, which goes some way to explaining why there are three Behringer amps on this list.
With a power rating of 45W, the K450FX is their mid-range model, perfect for studio, home and smaller live settings. Bristling with connectivity options and housing a 10” Bugera speaker in a casing that remains relatively portable thanks to its lightweight Class D amplifier componentry, it’s unique among its peers for having a 35mm pole socket for elevated mounting on a PA speaker stand.
With three channels, a separate aux input for CD/MP3 players, feedback suppression, 100-preset DSP FX processor, line, headphone and sub output and a 5-band graphic EQ, the K450FX packs a lot in, making it equally at home on stage, in studio or, er, at home.
The fact that this portable pocket powerhouse can be run off 6 AA batteries makes it a great choice for outdoor performers or buskers. Although rated at only 5W (a combination of two 2.5W amps each powering one of the two 4” drivers), the Mobile Cube puts out a remarkably clean, punchy sound.
Shaped like a rugged handbag complete with robust carrying handle, the tiny but mighty Mobile Cube has quite a few other things going for it too - the aux input has a button to cancel the centre channel to eliminate vocals, you can mount the whole device on a microphone stand, and there are built-in stereo effects such as delay, chorus and reverb too.
Best keyboard amps: Buying advice
What is a keyboard amp?
A keyboard amplifier’s main job is to make the sound of your keyboards loud enough to be heard amongst other instruments on stage during a live performance. The first questions on most people’s lips when confronted with a keyboard amp usually go along the lines of ’Why do keyboard players need a dedicated keyboard amp? What’s wrong with using a guitar amp?’
The answer lies in the fact that guitars, being stringed instruments, can only produce notes that lie within a particular frequency range, while keyboards and synths can generate tones at least an octave higher and lower than that. So keyboard amplifiers need to be optimised to reproduce sound across a wider frequency range than most guitar amps, so that rumbling bass notes and sparkling highs are reproduced cleanly and clearly without distortion or muddiness.
Since they’re tailored to a wide frequency range, multichannel keyboard amps are also capable of handling other instruments such as guitars and microphones, and are thus often able to be used as mini PA systems, taking care of the amplification and sound reinforcement for a whole band or ensemble at smaller gigs. With each channel having its own preamp, multiple instruments can be connected simultaneously and their volume levels mixed to achieve the correct balance of sounds.
The main drawback with using amps instead of dedicated PA systems is that PA speakers are usually designed to be elevated by mounting on special poles or microphone stands for better sound projection out to an audience. Although some high-end keyboard amps do provide stand mount options, most are designed to be placed on the floor, often angled upwards towards the player.
What to look for in a keyboard amp
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Here’s a brief rundown and explanation of some of the more important features to look out for when on the hunt for the best keyboard amp for you:
Generally, the number of channels an amp has corresponds to the number of instruments that can be connected simultaneously. Some amps though will allow you to connect two or more instruments per channel, and many will have a dedicated channel to plug microphones into, great for performers who want to play and sing at the same time. Also, be on the lookout for a headphone port if silent practice is important to you.
In terms of types of input, keyboard amps are generally quite versatile and can have various types of instruments and microphones connected to them. Generally, guitars need high-impedance inputs, microphones usually use a three-pin XLR connector, while synths, keyboards and other electronic instruments use line inputs. Meanwhile, auxiliary inputs allow you to connect devices such as CD and MP3 players and mobile phones so you can play music through the speaker, either to play along to or entertain the audience during breaks.
Another handy feature is an effects loop, a pair of sockets that allows you to connect an external effects unit or pedal into the signal path. Plus, if you need a really low bass response, a sub output will allow you to connect to a separate subwoofer for earth-shaking, teeth-rattling bass tones.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the power rating an amp has, the larger the speaker it will have and the louder it’s likely to be. Confusingly though, this isn’t always the case, and it’s important not to be too swayed by big numbers.
The most important thing to think about is what you’ll be using your amp for. Depending on the size of the venue you’re playing in, your amp will either be facing out towards the audience, or miked up or connected to the house PA by the line outputs on the back. In these latter cases, it will most likely function as your personal on-stage monitor, so you won’t necessarily need a huge amount of power.
If you’re just starting out, playing at home or in pubs, coffee bars or rehearsal rooms, a 50W amp with an 8-inch speaker should be plenty loud enough. That said, more power allows you to achieve a better gain structure and signal/noise ratio - a 200W amp set to 3 will sound much cleaner than a 40W amp set to 9, with less risk of unwanted noise and distortion, and enough headroom to go toe-to-toe with your guitarist and drummer in terms of volume.
Many keyboard amps feature a built-in EQ of some kind, ranging from a basic 2 or 3-band tone control up to a 7-band graphic equalizer. This is useful for tailoring the sound of your amp’s output to the environment you’re playing in. Some EQ’s, like those found on some Behringer amps, offer feedback protection by detecting when feedback is occurring and illuminating the slider of the closest frequency band that needs to be reduced to kill it - clever stuff!
Although most modern keyboards and synths offer their own built-in effects processors, keyboard amps quite often feature built-in digital effects such as reverb, chorus and delay. Some even boast a broad selection of sophisticated multi-FX presets, although usually only one effect is available at a time for all channels. Some stereo amps also come with enhanced 3D stereo processing for a wider stereo effect on stage, while others use digital technology to emulate the warm sound of vintage vacuum tubes, great for retro sounds like Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos and tonewheel organs.
As a matter of course, most amps will have been designed with a tough life on the road in mind, bouncing around in the back of a van en route from gig to gig. Like all things though, there are varying degrees of build quality, so some units are more rugged and robust than others. What you’re after is a good mix of things like reinforced corners, quality cabinet materials and general electrical reliability. The ideal is the sweet spot between durability and portability - you want something that’s built to last but not something that’s going to put you on first name terms with your chiropractor after a few weeks of lugging it around.
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