GEAR EXPO 2022: There’s never been a better time to tune up your keyboard skills or treat yourself to new gear in order to further your musical hobby.
Today’s home keyboards are more affordable and more powerful than ever, turning any upcoming musician into a possible pro in record time. Here are the latest keys that are all set to make you sound great through 2022 and beyond.
1. Rhodes MK8
We've spent the last six months awaiting the arrival of this top-draw, luxury monster and the wait is almost over as - having previously opened up its website to those who signed-up for early access - Rhodes is now accepting orders for its new MK8 electric piano from everyone. Well, everyone who can afford one, that is.
Yes, we've already equally surprised, delighted and confounded regular readers with the first glimpses of the MK8, updates on its development and features and the reveal of that price tag…
But now the MK8 is almost ready for action; the Rhodes website makes it easy to customise your piano, with different colour/material options for the hood, bottom shell, front panel and preamp panel, which gives access to the parametric EQ, independent drive, envelope control, wah, vari-pan with four waveshapes and audio rate modulation capabilities.
You can also decide whether or not you want built-in FX (compressor, chorus, phaser, delay) and a stand. The latter comes free if you pay for your order up front.
What you’ll quickly discover during the customisation process is that things can get very expensive, very quickly. So yes, you can have an FX-loaded MK8 with a smoked transparent hood, walnut bottom shell and stand, but - assuming you’re only going to pay a 20% deposit - this will set you back $12,640/£9,115.
There are cheaper ways to get a MK8 - you can have one for as ‘little’ as $9,450/£6,795 - but whichever way you spec/slice it, this is going to be an expensive purchase.
Is it worth it? That’s something only you can decide. Obviously, there are numerous ways for you to get the Rhodes sound in your studio - both in software and hardware - but that’s not the same as owning a real piano that (we hope) has that Rhodes magic. And there’s no denying that this thing would look great in your studio/living room.
If you do order, you might have a bit of a wait, as Rhodes says it can only make around 50 pianos a month. All specifications will be confirmed with customers before the build commences, and you’re entitled to a full refund until this point.
The rest of us can only dream…
Find out more on the Rhodes website.
2. Casio CDP-S360 and CDP-S110 digital pianos
At the other end of the piano spectrum, Casio has unveiled new versions of two of its affordable compact digital pianos - the CDP-S360 and CDP-S110.
While neither of these is particularly pricey, the CDP-S360 is the more capable, and now enables you to add Bluetooth audio and MIDI functionality via the optional WU-BT10 adapter.
Polyphony has been increased, too, from 64 to 128 notes, and the piano tone has improved decay. A white colour option has also been added to the range.
The CDP-S360 comes with 200 rhythms and 700 tones, covering both keyboard instruments and strings, wind and percussion. It’s compatible with the CS-470P fixed three-pedal stand and SP-34 three-pedal unit.
The CDP-S110 is the successor to the CDP-S100, which we rate as one of the best digital pianos for beginners. Like the CDP-S360, it features an 88-note scaled hammer action keyboard, and still promises an authentic piano sound.
In fact, a total of 10 tones are included, and you also get what’s described as a high-quality speaker system. You can have this one in black or white.
The CDP-S360 costs £529, and the CDP-S110 is priced at £389. Both models are available now, and you can find out more on the Casio website.
3. Yamaha PSR-E portable keyboards
Yamaha is promising more bang for your beginner keyboard buck with the PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473, which promise “pro-quality sound for the first time” at their price points. These are set to replace the PSR-E463 and PSR-EW410 in the PSR range.
Yamaha says that this kind of sound quality was only previously available in its higher-end keyboard models: both of the new PSRs offer “high resolution” voices, and are the only models in the PSR-E range to feature two channels for insert effects. Like the sounds, these effects are said to be “top-quality”.
The PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473 have 76- and 61-note touch-sensitive keyboards respectively, and offer 820 voices apiece. They also come with a Super Articulation Lite feature, with compatible voices promising to simulate the tone, resonance, and material characteristics of the instruments they’re emulating.
Both keyboards have redesigned control panels and LCD displays for a better workflow, and the numeric keyboard has been replaced by direct category access. This should make it easier to get to the voices, styles and other features that you’re looking for.
If you need more volume when you’re playing, there’s a Mega Boost button that gives you an additional +6dB. Yamaha says that, in some performance situations, this could mean that you can get away without hooking up to a PA system, but if you do need to do that, there are left and right audio outputs in addition to the headphones jack.
There’s also a mic input, so you can sing along to your playing, along with vocal effects, quick sampling and motion effects. The Rec’n’Share and MusicSoft Manager apps, meanwhile, enable you to share your music, exchange data and communicate.
The PSR-EW425 and PSR-E473 are expected to be hitting stores in March or April. Prices are £545 and £412 respectively.