Jan 14, 2015

REVIEW - Korg SP170S Digital Piano - Improved model is OK but needs better Key Action

UPDATED REVIEW - September 15, 2016 - OK, but with some deficiencies - I have reviewed the previous Korg SP170 (not the S version) in the past and wasn't very happy with it. However, the Korg company does make some great pro keyboards and other pro music gear throughout the years so I do like a variety of music products from this company and have personally played and used them. Update: This model has been replaced with the new Korg B1 ($499US internet price) which in some ways is similar to the previous SP170, and I will be doing a review of this new model in the near future, so stay tuned:)

Previous review: Korg has made some nice improvements over the older SP170 in this updated version which is called the SP170S ($499 internet discount price - optional stand additional cost). First of all, Korg finally realized their mistake (which I had pointed out earlier in a previous blog) in the original SP170 with regard to Korg not having a control panel with knobs and/or buttons for that model. What were they thinking!? Anyway, they put a power on/off button on the front top of the piano along with a basic control panel which includes a button to quickly access all 10 instrument sounds (which are very nice by the way) as well as a default button to automatically reset the instrument to the best piano sound on the instrument (there are 2 acoustic piano sounds with only the main one being acceptable to me). They also put the volume control knob on the front control panel instead of on back of the piano as they did on the previous model. I give credit to Korg for learning from their obvious mistakes in the recent past.

The keyboard action on this model is surprisingly quiet and sturdy but in my opinion the response of the piano notes/keys while playing normally is not so good when wanting to play lighter or softer passages. When you are trying to play a piece that requires a good response from the notes while playing easily and/or quickly, the keys on this model do not react as they would on an acoustic upright or grand piano. This may not be something the average person would notice right away until you play a song where you would need to play more quickly or quietly with less finger pressure. In that way the key action feels mushy to me with some peculiar note reaction time. There is an editing control for key touch sensitivity but this does not help when wanting to get better control over the sound (any instrument sound) during normal play. When you play normally, the physical action, response time, and sensitivity should work well no matter how you play. In this instrument it does not and that's too bad. The stereo piano tone is nice and convincing as an acoustic piano for many people, but the tonal dynamics from soft touch to hard touch when playing the piano could be much better. In other words, I am not impressed with the physical nature of this NH key action and Korg uses the NH in their newer SP280 digital piano ($699 internet price) as well. It's also somewhat noisy and plasticity sounding too when playing the keys. The key action is the most important thing to look for in a digital piano and I like the Yamaha, Kawai, and Casio key actions in the lower priced portable pianos much better than this SP170S piano.

The physical buttons and knob on the instrument feel sturdy and well built and the on-board speaker system sounds good in this price range and is an improvement over the older SP170 model. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that this piano supports half damper play using the included single sustain pedal. So sustain is not just on/off as it is in some other low priced models, but it has a "half-damper" feature which duplicates what acoustic pianos really do when it comes to proper pedaling with the damper pedal. There is plenty of polyphony with 120 maximum notes (60 in stereo) and the design of this instrument is decent but also plasticky cheap looking in my opinion as compared to the Yamaha & Casio, and Kawai portable digital pianos in the lower price range. The SP170S is lightweight at just about 27lbs so it's easy to carry for most people. It has some sound editing features as well as key transpose which is a good thing, but it does not have a high speed USB computer/iPad connection output, only regular MIDI output. That's a  disappointment to me because so many people are connecting their digital pianos to iPad & computers for an interactive playing and learning experience and having a "Core Compliant" USB Midi connection is a better way to do it however a MIDI to USB interface can make the connection better.

Overall, it's an OK instrument (especially with its large amount of polyphony memory) but it's still not quite there because of the key action. As I mentioned earlier, the piano touch response sensitivity, especially when playing with a lighter and/or quicker finger touch as many people do, is mushy. I played on the SP170S many times, and personally, even though all the other features on this piano are fairly nice and the price is somewhat low, I would instead recommend you also look at the portable Casio PX160 ($499US internet price), Casio PX350 ($699 internet price), the Yamaha P115 ($599US internet price), and also the Kawai ES100 ($799 internet price). You'll get a much better playing and practice experience in my opinion, along with better overall features.

Korg is gradually coming close to 'getting it right' when it comes to a low price digital piano, but they're still not there yet with this one in my opinion. Korg does not offer an optional 3-pedal setup for this piano (which is a good thing to have), but Casio, Yamaha, and Kawai do. The Casio Privia PX160 and PX350 ($699US internet price) is by far the best bang for the buck in a portable in this price range, although the Yamaha DGX650 ($799 internet discount price) is nice too, and they not only offer a much more realistic piano playing experience than the SP170S, but the PX350 and Yamaha DGX650 also offers a vast array of built-in educational learning features which are very cool and quite useful. Casio also has a brand new 2016 model called the CGP700 ($799 internet price) which I have reviewed, although it is obviously more money than the Korg. Always do your homework and research so you can make the best buying decision for your needs and then contact me for specific advice and I will be happy to help you.

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.

17 comments:

  1. Hi Tim,
    I regret not following your advice and ordered one from ebay, only to find out what you said about the Korg SP170S keyboard is absolutely true. It felt somehow stiff or mushy or like there was a sponge fitted under the key-bed. Now I have to go through the hassle to get it returned. Fortunately, the seller has a return policy.

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  2. Hi Tim,
    I regret not following your advice and ordered one from ebay, only to find out what you said about the Korg SP170S keyboard is absolutely true. It felt somehow stiff or mushy or like there was a sponge fitted under the key-bed. Now I have to go through the hassle to get it returned. Fortunately, the seller has a return policy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Tim,
    I regret not following your advice and ordered one from ebay, only to find out what you said about the Korg SP170S keyboard is absolutely true. It felt somehow stiff or mushy or like there was a sponge fitted under the key-bed. Now I have to go through the hassle to get it returned. Fortunately, the seller has a return policy.

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  4. I bought the Korg sp170s and love it ! The way things have always worked for me is if someone recommends something- don't buy it, I am ALWAYS dissapointed. Your lack of enthusiasm for this piano made me want to try for myself. I like the sound and feel of the piano and swear it could be mistaken for something costing 5 times the price!!

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  5. One thing about the Korg, the weight of the key is very much like a real piano, I can't find this feeling as a pianist on any other keyboard so yeah I'll buy it. The other keyboard you might go for effects but definitely not touch

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  6. Two Down: The first Korg-SP 170S arrived Dec 17, 2012, from an Amazon-linked company. Seemed great, but then I realized that only one speaker worked. That unit is being returned for refund.

    I bought a second Korg SP-170S from Amazon itself instead of waiting for the exchange offered by the company that supplied Korg #1. Ordered Dec 26, 2012, with 2-day shipping guaranteed (Prime). It arrived Jan 3, 2013. This one had two speakers working, but only 87 of the 88 keys worked well. The problem is the E2 key (used to set the Key Touch to "Standard" when the "Piano Play" and "Sound" buttons are pressed). It's loudness varies intermittently on all Touch Settings and on all sounds (some of which are very jarring, especially e-piano 20). Tested carefully with attempted light to heavy pressure on key and different volumes, but get the same variable loudness randomly on E2 only. The loudness spike when headphones are used can be huge, but it is very annoying through the speakers. Unplugging the pedal and the headphones does not solve the problem.

    What is the probability that two Korg SP-170S units in a row are defective? Any suggestions other than sending the 2nd unit back? (The nearest Korg repair business is 85 miles away). The Casio PX-150 looks like a better option than trying for a 3rd Korg. I am a retired person who decided recently to recover old keyboard skills developed in teen years in the 1950s playing in dance bands and jazz combos. So far, the two keyboards I have bought are not co-operating. Korg SP-170S does not seem to deserve such praise as I read in reviews before I bought.

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  7. In your review on the Korg SP-170 you mentioned that you preferred the SP 250. Given the fact that some of the issues of the SP-170 have been addressed in the SP-170, would you now recommend the SP-170S over the SP 250? Thanks

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  8. Sp170s now at 350$0price range, is it worse than yamaha p35/ casiocdp 120?

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  9. yes, in my opinion the Korg SP170S NH key action is not near as realistic as the Yamaha or Casio.

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  10. Is there a difference in the key action of the older model SP-170 (without knobs and controls) and the newer versions, SP-170S and SP-170DX. Somewhere I read that the original SP-170 had the RH3 key action. Was it removed and replaced by NH in S and DX?

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  11. all 170 models have the same action and always had the same key action...NH

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  12. 170s P35 or px150 what would you recommend as a beginner for pure sound and action and not bothered about bells and whistles?

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  13. Any thoughts on the Korg B1 which was recently introduced?

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  14. I have played the new B1 and will be reviewing this new model within the next few weeks.

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  15. Older kawai cl25 in perfect condition or a used korg sl170s ... Both same price... Which should I buy?

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  16. i cant agree more with you comment!! i came from a guitarist background and start my piano practice on a SP170S. the tone was great to listen to in the begining. as i play through softer part of a song. there is NO WAY or near impossible to get the soft notes right! i totally felt the slugish key action through the faster sections! had it returned within 30 days and bite the bullet and brought back a Kawai CN25. what a stunning piece of kit!! loving it day and night! it it the closest resemble of a grand piano on a digital platform that i have ever come across or imagined! For ambitious players out there. SP170S is a keyboard that is only suitable for ppl who wants to spend a little money as possible and dont take their music seriously. it will hinder your expression of emotion in playing hence greatly limit your potential in becoming a better pianist.

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