Nov 6, 2011

REVIEW - Korg LP350 & SP250 digital pianos - Oldie but a Goodie, with some important exceptions

UPDATED REVIEW - April 20, 2013 - The SP250 and LP350 are now discontinued and no longer being made. My review of new replacement models called the SP280 and LP380 can be found here: Korg SP280 & LP380 Review

Review of the Korg SP250 & LP350: The Korg musical instrument & pro music products company is famous worldwide for producing outstanding workstation keyboards (ie: Korg Kronos), pro synths, arranger keyboards, and various musical devices that help musicians produce better, more exciting music. I have played many, if not most of the keyboards and digital pianos they have produced over the years and know them well. Korg used to produce a vast array of home digital pianos but in recent years, has all but gotten out of that market (except for the recent addition of the lower priced SP170S at $499 internet price).

The Korg SP250 (pic left) & LP350 (pic below left) that I am reviewing here were first introduced 8 years and 5 years ago respectively. Both models are identical in every way except that Korg came out with the LP350 cabinet version of the SP250 portable stage version about 3 years after the SP250 so they could have the piano in a furniture style cabinet with 3 traditional foot pedals. However as I just mentioned, both pianos are otherwise identical in every way including the stereo sound system (22 watts total with two 4" speakers), although the speakers are positioned below the keyboard on the LP350 instead of on top of the keyboard as in the SP250. The 22 watt internal audio power on the SP250 is still more powerful than the competing new Casio or Yamaha portable models in its price range, so that's a nice plus. The sound buttons feel good and work well, the control panel is user friendly, and the pianos have 1/4" outputs which can be useful if wanting to plug into an external sound system. And although the stand on the SP250 is fairly sturdy, in my opinion it's not that attractive for a home, so this could be a disadvantage as compared to what Yamaha & Casio has to offer (furniture style stands with 3-pedals) in the same price range.

When the Korg SP250 first came out back in 2004/2005, it was selling for about $900 and was my favorite digital piano under $1000 at the time. Yamaha, Roland, and Casio did not have anything to really compete with it. I like the stereo piano tone on the SP250/LP350, especially in the bass portion of these pianos, although the treble piano sounds on the upper 3 octaves are a bit plunky (short and muted sounding on some notes, a little bit odd) when playing staccato style or using pedal. These pianos have fairly realistic piano key action for their prices and feel good to play. The polyphony note memory is OK at 60 notes although polyphony is especially important when you layer two sounds together at the same time, which these pianos are not able to do very well because the notes start dropping out quickly. Even the newer lower priced Korg SP170S ($499 internet price) has 120 notes of polyphony, double that of the SP250/LP350.

These days, the SP250/LP350 are still available from Korg and they have not changed and are the only pianos that I know of that are still offered by a major keyboard company that is technologically old. I suppose that's OK because the pianos still compare favorably in some ways with a few of the newer piano brands and models, and the internet price on the SP250 has come down in the past few years to $695 including the metal stand. The LP350 (furniture style cabinet) price is $999 internet price and I have played that piano as well. Korg offers it in a black cabinet and also in a nice looking white cabinet.

Casio PX750 Piano
However, as with all technology, things change and mostly improve. Seven year old digital technology is considered by most people to be outdated, and in certain ways these Korg pianos are no exceptions. I would not be surprised if Korg either updates these models one day soon or perhaps discontinues them altogether if they cannot keep up with the competition and lose sales. Polyphony, which generally allows the notes to play more smoothly especially when playing more complex music or using layered sounds, has increased since seven years ago when this instrument came out. Increased polyphony which comes with increased and better computer memory and polyphony is now available on other brands such as the new Casio Privia PX750 at $799 (above left pic) with 128-note polyphony. A USB plug & play output is also very good to have on a digital pianos so you can more easily connect to a computer or iPad, and that feature is not on the Korg's.

There are 3 different acoustic piano sounds on the SP250/LP350 which are grand piano, bright piano, and mellow piano and they are different from each other. The dynamics and expression that you can achieve with these tones using the Korg piano weighted keyboards are fairly good for their age and price range and are normally sufficient for most students or players looking for a good piano in a low price range.

The SP250 & LP350 do have velocity key sensitivity controls for light, medium, and hard key touch, but this has nothing to do with acoustic piano tonal characteristics and changes. Sensitivity refers to how much finger strength you need to apply to the keys to get volume, depending on how hard you press on the keys. The sensitivity simply allows the piano to play louder if you have a very light finger touch (lack of finger strength due to loss of muscle, arthritis, or a young child with little finger strength yet), or if you have a very hard, aggressive touch and don't want the sound to come in too strong too quickly. Key sensitivity can help control and adjust for those things and just about all good digital pianos available today have that feature.

Kawai EP3
These Korg pianos have a good amount of nice instrument sounds on them (30), and the instrument can layer any two sounds together (no split function) along with having good reverb, & chorus effects and also is able to easily change keys with a transpose feature. I especially like the electronic/digital piano sounds on these Korg instruments as they sound very realistic as do some of the organ sounds. But as far as the acoustic piano sounds go, they don't sound very good on the last couple of octaves, especially when playing softly or lightly. The piano tones are just not very good up on those keys. But that is to be expected with older digital piano technology.

But at the end of the day, you can enjoy playing these Korg pianos as they are fun to play (even with older digital technology), but there are certainly other piano options with better polyphony, better key actions, full tonality changes when playing from soft to hard, USB outputs, etc in similar price ranges. If you cannot tell the difference in what a piano is actually supposed to sound & feel like as you play it, then the Korg pianos could be fine and certainly are affordable for most families and better than some other brands I have played, so I do recommend these models overall. Check out my reviews on other recommended models including the Kawai EP3 (pic above left), Yamaha YDP142, Yamaha P155, Casio PX850 (above left), and Casio PX750 & PX780 as examples of what else is available that has some of these newer digital piano features.

Casio PX780 Piano
Casio PX780
As I mentioned earlier, the new Casio Privia PX750 for $799 including stand and 3-pedal system, has 128 note polyphony, more distinct tonal changes over key velocity &amp (has a 3-sensor key piano weighted action); time, a graduated upright piano weighted key action, a USB plug & play computer output, and weighs just a bit over 70lbs. That model should also be a consideration as well as the more advanced PX780 ($999 internet price - pic left) with in addition to what the PX750 has, also offers an intuitive LDC display screen, 250 instruments, drums, plays & records General MIDI song files over 16 individual tracks, and has stereo audio inputs & outputs along with being able to split, layer and edit various tones including saving them into 64 memories. The keyboard can even be divided into two identical 44-note keyboards for dual simultaneous piano play such as teacher/student, etc. Not bad for $999.

Check out the following reviews on other digital pianos:

Kawai EP3 & Yamaha P155 piano review
Casio PX780 Review
Casio PX850 Review
Yamaha YDP142 Review

If you want more info on these and other pianos and LOWER PRICES than internet discounts, please email me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864.

1 comment:

  1. I have a Korg piano at home and it has been in my possession for many years. It's very reliable and I could say that it was really worth buying.

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