Thursday, May 20, 2010

REVIEW - Korg SP170 Digital Piano - Disappointed








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.

Korg is offering a basic low priced ($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.

The older Korg SP250 (currently $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.

In my opinion, it really doesn't matter what else this new Korg SP170 piano has to offer in the way of extra sounds, polyphony, or other features if the piano tone and/or feel is inadequate. Speaking of note polyphony (memory), the SP170 has 120 note maximum and 60 note stereo polyphony which is excellent in this price range. With the nice increased polyphony on the SP170, it's too bad it has so many other deficiencies as I have previously explained. Also, as far as I can tell, there is no optional 3-pedal system available for the SP170 that can be physically attached to the piano stand like you can do with some of the Yamaha and Casio digital pianos. This would be helpful so the instrument could used more like a real piano. But I suppose that wouldn't be a big deal if this piano had much better note sensitivity when playing normally. By the way, the headphone jacks are on the back of the piano as opposed to the front or side which is a bit annoying to me because the jacks are more difficult to find when plugging in the headphones (although that's a small complaint).

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

For the $499 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 tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864

7 comments:

  1. Hi Tim,

    Thank you very much for sharing such a detailed review of the SP170. I was in the process of choosing a digital piano and this review is very useful to me. You recommended the CASIO PX130 and the Yamaha P95. It seems that you like the PX130 more than the Yamaha P95.

    I hope you can give your opinion of the PX130 and P95 (sound and feel).

    Best regards,
    KC

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  2. KC,

    If you would like specific advice on the pianos you mentioned, please email me and I can help me.

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  3. I have an SP170 and I love it, I never had any problems with it...

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  4. I am amazed u found the Korg 170 disapointing.I was looking to spend much more on a piano than the cost of the 170 but found the touch and tone superb!! The bass is warm and rich - not hard and tinny like some. I think it sounds fantastic! Even better than the supposedly great clavinovas!!d

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  5. Hi all Pianists

    I agree with Tim Praskins, the SP170 is really not worth buying for its low price. I just bought it 2-days ago, and am returning it for Sp250 or p95- I am researching now on these 2. The SP170 had click sounds from black keys, n therez white liquid coming out the black keys.

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  6. Hi Tim,

    Would u suggest goin for the SP250 if $1000 is my appx price range? i read that the tech is old. but p95 has small speakers n the LP350

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  7. Yes, that would be a good choice although Yamaha has a new portable model replacing the P95 in a couple of months. It is called the P105 ($599US) and is is MUCH better than the P95. Casio also has 2 new models coming out around the same time and they are called the PX150 and PX350. They are much improved over previous portable models and the piano tone and key action is more advanced than the Yamaha. But Korg would be fine if you cannot find these new models in your area.

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