Thursday, May 20, 2010
REVIEW - Korg SP170 Digital Piano - Disappointed
By Tim Praskins
UPDATED REVIEW - September 1, 2011 - Korg is a smaller, independent music products manufacturer that has made a very big name for themselves with professional musicians through the years. I have played Korg keyboards and digital pianos for a many years and Korg has made some of the most popular synthesizers in the world such as the Triton, M-series, and so on. They know how to produce very cool sounds and features that professionals really like. But when it comes to their digital pianos, generally speaking, Korg has not kept up with the other popular Japanese brands including Yamaha, Kawai, Casio, and Roland.
$499 US discount internet price) 88-key portable digital piano called the SP170. The piano is a bit unusual because it has no control panel buttons at all and the master volume knob is on the back of the piano (a strange place for that and I don't like it). Although the front of the piano looks very clean and simple and some people may like that, the other functions operate by looking in the owners manual and pressing specific pianos keys themselves at the same time, which is very tricky to get used to. I personally prefer buttons or a display screen to access other functions more easily and more intuitively. If you are paying for these features you ought to be able to access them easily and in my opinion it was a big mistake not to do that here. UPDATE: Please see link below on this blog for my review of the new updated Korg SP170S with some improvements.
The major question of this SP170 instrument or any digital piano is, "does it feel and sound like an acoustic piano?" My answer to that question would be...yes and no and this is where I was disappointed in the piano. The piano tone sounds a bit "thin" in the middle octaves although the lower and upper octaves are very good as well as the overall volume, but the touch and feel is not so good. The "feel" of the keyboard (at least to me) when pressing down on the keys is somewhat "spongy," and was especially apparent when I was playing softer songs or moving more quickly across the keys with a lighter touch. That is not normal when a person trys to play normally with proper technique and the other low priced digital pianos in this price range (ie: Yamaha & Casio) were much better at that and did not have that feel. Also, the key travel on this model doesn't seem as if it goes down as far as other pianos in this price range although that could just be my impression. There are some people who may be satisfied with the way this piano plays, but I was not with regard to normal playing of lighter, softer or quicker finger movement and trying to get accurate piano response with normal finger pressure.
$695 discount price) portable digital piano which I have played extensively and came out about 6 or 7 years ago, has a key touch and feel that is much better than the SP170 in my opinion (very solid smooth feel with good key travel and sensitivity response), although it is still only 60 note polyphonic maximum. It also does not have a USB computer output & and lacks a few other features. But it does have a very good stereo piano tone reproduction although it's dynamic range is very limited because of its older technology and lack of updated dynamic sensors in the key action like many of the newer digital pianos have. The new Yamaha P95 and Casio PX130/330 as examples, have better piano dynamic range with newer technology. For the extra $200 (if you can find one) the SP250 is definitely worth the extra money over the Korg SP170 in my opinion and it even comes with its own portable stand as opposed to the optional stand on the SP170. Korg also has the slightly newer Korg LP350 ($999 - pic below left) compact home piano (pictured below left) which has the same specs of the SP250 but it's housed in an upgraded furniture cabinet for $300 more than the SP250.
UPDATE - October 1, 2011: Korg just came out with their new SP170S, a new and improved version of the SP170 (at least in some ways). Go to link below for that review:
Korg SP170S Piano Review
that you would spend on the SP170, I would also recommend looking at the new Casio PX130 Privia piano (left picture), or the Yamaha P95 which is a very nice piano and has an intuitive panel layout as well. The Casio is a better piano in many ways and I like the touch better than the Korg SP170. The sound of the PX130 and P95 is more realistic overall in my opinion and easier to control and the pianos have the 3-pedal option. And if you want a digital piano that is significantly better than these models for only about a couple hundred dollars more or so, then take a look at the Casio PX330. It's worth the difference and I recommend this piano with optional stand and pedals to be a best buy of any portable digital piano in the lower price range under $700. I've written about this PX330 in detail on my blog so check it out when you have time.
By the way, when it comes to piano touch, even though that is always a subjective topic (some people have different opinions), I try to tell it like it is and the SP170/170S has a problem with normal touch sensitivity when playing normally with a softer or lighter finger pressure. The piano should play and respond evenly and easily without need for any adjustment or editing (even if that was available).
If you want more info on pianos & this keyboard, as well as lower prices than internet discounts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call direct at 602-571-1864