REVIEW - Korg LP380 & Korg SP280 Digital Pianos - 2018

Korg SP280 digital piano UPDATED REVIEW - November 1, 2018 - Korg LP380 & SP280 Digital PianosSP280 Semi-recommended. LP380 is recommended. The Korg Keyboard & Pro Music Products company has been popular with professional keyboard players for many years and I do like many of the products they make and have used them professionally. You see the keyboards on stage and in a variety of venues all over the world and they make great synthesizers, keyboard workstations, and a bunch of cool pro products. However, they are not really a "player" (haha) in the digital piano world:) They used to make a number of home/portable digital pianos like Roland, Yamaha, and Casio do but they just have 4 basic 88 key models now including the new B1, LP180, the SP280 portable piano, and LP380 compact furniture cabinet pianos. The SP280 portable model ($699 internet price) and the compact furniture style piano LP380 ($1099 internet price) has been available for awhile now and are still current models. They both come in black or white cabinet finishes. 

Korg LP380 digital pianoI was disappointed to find out that the top of the line Korg RH3 key action is not in the newer SP280 portable digital piano, but instead has Korg's basic NH key action which is not near as good in natural key weight and movement as compared with the more advanced RH3. However, the newer LP380 cabinet model still has the better upgraded RH3 key action which is a very good thing and I do highly recommend that model:) The Korg RH3 hammer weighted key action is one of the main reasons I like Korg digital pianos so much. After playing the SP280 a number of times I feel that the new NH key action in the SP280 is sluggish and somewhat unresponsive (in my opinion) especially when playing softly and trying to reproduce a wide dynamic range, and it just doesn't feel right to me, especially when compared to a good acoustic piano. Nevertheless, the NH key action is physically quiet and doesn't make much noise when the keys move up & down, so I give high marks to Korg for that. Korg is using this NH key action in other models as well and there is a noticeable difference in the two key actions (NH vs RH3) although the NH action is weighted and feels more like a piano than keyboards do. I will admit my opinion of the NH key action is subjective and other people may have a different opinion, but I like the key actions in Casio, Kawai, Yamaha in similar price ranges much better, as well as some new Roland pianos, I would not personally choose the Korg NH action given a choice.

Korg SP280 digital piano As far the piano sound goes, Korg increased polyphony piano memory from 60 notes to 120 notes on both the SP280 and LP380 so that is a nice upgrade and much needed for better extended note sustain and sound layering. The main stereo acoustic piano sound is big and full and has good sustain decay time (with half damper control) when using the piano sustain pedal included with the SP280. Many digital pianos in this price range cannot trigger the half-damper, more realistic pedal sustain with the included single pedal, so the SP280 is very good when it comes to this feature. Although I do like the acoustic piano sound in the SP280 portable, it has noticeably limited sound dynamics when playing soft to hard, delicate to loud, etc as compared to Casio, Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai in similar price ranges. In other words, when you try to express yourself and want more natural "color" to the music as you play the keyboard, the Korg SP280 in my opinion just doesn't cut it for me. It's like the piano sound itself is good but doesn't change character too much as you strike the key harder or softer like a real piano would. Also when the volume knob/slider is up somewhat loud, when you try to play more quietly and strike the keys easier, it is somewhat difficult to get a quieter touch volume...it's like the the volume is automatically too loud to strike the keys easily enough to get a quiet response. This is not true on other good digital pianos I have played where the volume knob or slider was on loud. On some of those better pianos you could still play lightly at a very soft volume because the dynamics-tonality and/or added key sensors allowed for more natural response. But if you are a beginner (or you just don't care) you may not notice this right away. The LP380 furniture cabinet model with the advanced RH3 key action does offer more control over the sound dynamics and is noticeably more enjoyable to play.

The bottom line is, music has tonal dynamics, color, tonal changes, and expression and when you play a good musical instrument correctly (piano, guitar, violin, clarinet, etc), you will be able to achieve those tonal dynamics, full expression, and color and then you'll be happy the instrument can do that. As I mentioned earlier, in the beginning it does not matter much about dynamics and tonal changes, but as a student progresses (or if you already play well) they'll not be able to play more intermediate & advanced music in the way it was intended to be played and heard, and so that would be a deficiency of the SP280 in my opinion. Korg LP380 white One of the impressive features of the SP280 as well as the LP380 is the internal audio power and speaker system. These two models both have 44 watts of total power (22 watts per side stereo) with nice sized built-in speakers, so if you are looking for a big loud piano sound, both pianos do that nicely and the SP280 is especially impressive in that way for its low price. In fact it has the most powerful speaker system in this price range of all the major brands. However, the sound on the SP280 comes up towards you through its speakers on top of the keyboard and if you have the volume up much past 1/2 Korg LP380 way -3/4 volume, it gets to be much too loud coming right up at you. The speakers are in a different place on the LP380 so it is not the same in that way and sound is dispersed in a better way. As a comparison, the Yamaha P125 portable piano ($599 internet price) has just 14 watts of total power but it also has 4 speakers as opposed to two in the Korg SP280, and the Yamaha in my opinion is plenty loud and full because the sound is projected in a different way and using 2 additional speakers helps too. So you would think that at 44 watts for the Korg SP280, which is 3 times the power of the Yamaha, the sound would be better and fuller than the Yamaha P115, but it really isn't in my opinion...it's just louder, but louder does not always make for "better." In fact, the SP280 is much louder through headphones too so you cannot play much past half volume that way either. If you were playing in a large crowded noisy room either professionally or at home, the extra volume would be helpful, but even then it can get too loud for the person playing it as opposed to people in the room hearing it at a distance. Again, the LP380 put out a much more balanced, better dispersed sound with more volume control dynamics so the piano playing experience on that model is a lot more enjoyable.

Korg SP280 digital piano
SP280 control panel buttons
The SP280 portable does have a nice contemporary new design and styling with its rounded corners, back, and sides and the control panel buttons are easy to use, nicely laid out and accessible with buttons centered above the middle of the keyboard. Korg did a great job with that, although the features themselves on this piano are a bit basic (same as LP380) but they offer good control over the functions. The LP380 compact cabinet piano is also very nice with its flat closing top and out-of-the-way buttons located on the left side of the top control panel. It's a simple but elegant look so does not appear to be unnecessarily cluttered with buttons. The cabinet takes up a small footprint and the internal speaker system points the sound towards the player instead of away from the player like other brands and models do in this price range. So when it comes to putting together an efficient and impressive piano in terms of key action, piano sound, and pedaling response in this price range, the Korg company has done a great job in the LP380 model, and an OK job in the SP280 portable.

Korg SP280 white Both piano models offer 30 very good instrument sounds including electric pianos, strings, organs, choirs, etc, layer two sounds together, reverb echo, transpose, 3 key touch sensitivities, adjustable metronome for rhythm timing, stereo audio outputs, and other useful features including duet partner mode. Partner mode is the ability of the piano to allow to people to play the same song at the same time. It's useful but only when two people want to practice the same song at the same time dividing the 88-keys electronically into 2 44-note keyboards. Neither model has a recording feature (which is too bad) nor USB direct connection to computer or iPad. However, both models have standard MIDI connector ports so that you can buy a separate adapter cable which converts MIDI to USB and then you can connect either piano to an iPad or computer. The SP280 does come with a basic metal keyboard stand/legs included in the price which mounts to the piano and allows for good leg room when sitting at the piano, although I don't personally like the look of the stand unless this will be on-stage or in a bedroom. The stand is functional but not very attractive in my opinion. The SP280 and LP380 also have a number of preset temperaments or tunings including tunings for middle eastern and Indonesian music which is very cool.

Casio CGP700 My general assessment of these pianos is that if you are wanting to spend somewhere between $700-$1100, there are better choices as far as key action is concerned in the SP280 such as what Yamaha, Casio, and Kawai have to offer with their newer digital pianos when it comes to key action and key action response including the Casio CGP700 compact portable piano ($799 internet price - left pic shown with included stand unit), and the Kawai ES110 ($729 internet price - lower left pic shown with optional stand & 3 pedal unit which are extra costs). You'll get a more realistic, more responsive key action, better piano playing dynamics & tonality for piano sound, more overall useful features, USB direct connect to iPad and computers (on the Casio & Yamaha), and the portable Yamaha, Casio, and Kawai pianos are much lighter in weight than Korg SP280. The Korg SP280 portable weighs in at about 40lbs and the Yamaha Casio, and Kawai weigh in at about 26lbs each (without stand). Having 30 instrument sounds and big audio volume is great in the Korg SP280 but having less sounds with
Kawai ES110
Kawai ES110
better key action and sound dynamics is even more important in my opinion and you can always connect external speakers to these pianos for more volume if needed. However, it's the Korg LP380 that really shines and when you compare that model against some of the other brands & models in that price range such as the Roland F140R ($1199 internet price), the Casio PX870 ($999 internet price), and the Yamaha YDP143 ($1099 internet price), in my opinion the Korg LP380 furniture cabinet model is the much better buy and offers a lot more "piano bang for the buck" in that price range in my opinion, with the Casio PX870 following right behind it. Both Korg pianos are similar pianos in different cabinets with the similar features (except for the big difference in cabinet, speaker system projection and design, and most importantly...key action) and I believe that a person could be happy with the Korg SP280 but a lot happier with the LP380 depending on your musical goals, playing skill level, music experience, and expectations.

Korg G1 Air digital piano - azpianonews.com
Korg G1 Air advanced digital piano
I know people who seem to the like the Korg NH key action in the Korg SP280 and a few other Korg digital pianos and that's fine, but I personally would not get one for myself  because the action is just too sluggish for me and not very responsive, especially when playing softly and gently.  I have always loved playing Korg pro digital piano and keyboard products because that is what this company is especially known for and the quality and durability of there better models are well known to be very good and reliable and it is no different with these digital pianos. In fact, Korg is the only brand out of all the popular digital piano brands to have their cabinet digital pianos manufactured in Japan in their own factories as opposed to being made in China, Indonesia, or Malaysia as other famous brands will do. So when it comes to a very good value, you really don't have to look much further than Korg, and especially with regard to the LP380. However, Korg does produce some even more authentic home digital pianos with even better piano sounds, internal speaker systems, and other features. Those pianos are called the Korg C1 Air and Korg G1 Air. Check out my reviews of those models and then contact me for more info and lower prices than on the internet for any and all digital pianos.

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

25 comments:

  1. Hi there, I'd really appreciate your input :-) what's your verdict on the korg LP350 at £699? I'm not interested in the digital stuff, different instruments etc, only in the key action, the colour as you said - having the keys respond well to different touch, the pedals etc and a real piano sound. I know its older technology but is it good value for money and usable for someone who wants to play grade 6/7 pieces. I loved playing it and would like one for myself. Thankyou for any advice.

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  2. Here is the link that will take you to my blog review of the Korg LP350. Hopefully this will help you: http://azpianonews.blogspot.com/2011/11/review-korg-lp350-sp250-digital-pianos.html

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  3. Are LP380 sounds worst?

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  4. I love how every review always ends in you plugging Casio.
    I have a SP280 and it is an excellent piano for its price. So, even though the speakers sound better, you would actually rate speakers higher that are muffled yet facing downwards?
    The Korg SP280 sounds far clearer and more natural than the PX x50 series.
    It is just that you might get a better commission from Casio.

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  5. I don't recommend the Korg 280 mainly because of its sluggish key action and limited dynamic range. I especially do not care for the key action. As for Casio, I do recommend them in the lower price range and they have speakers pointing up or forward depending on the models. I recommend many pianos incl Roland, Kawai, Yamaha, Casio, Kurzweil, and others. It just depends on the price range and overall playability. There are people that may be happy playing the Korg SP280 and that is fine and I hope they enjoy it. I don't work for any of those companies and my opinions are my own.

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  6. I think that Casio PX-350/850 are not even close to Korg SP-280/LP-380.

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  7. I hope you enjoy your Korg as ultimately it is about enjoyment and expression

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  8. Hi, I appreciate your reviews and would like your advice...
    Last year i gave my daughter a Casio PX 850.. I like it, and now it is my wife's turn, for a new piano, and this one I will play on as well..
    question 1: is there anything better today (or coming up shortly) than the PX850 in the same price range (± 200$)?
    question 2: does the Celviano range feel and sound any better?
    question 3: I already have a decent sound system ( marantz etc).. will I gain quality if I play the piano through a sound system?
    Thanks

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  9. my answers are

    1. no, not yet
    2. no, it does not in the same price range
    3. it might...you can only know for sure by connecting it and seeing what happens

    If you want more specific info on these pianos & lower prices, please email me directly.

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  10. Hi! Here (in PerĂº) i found a Korg LP380 for 460 $. For this price, it would be a good option? Thanks!

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  11. Hello,
    what do you think about new Korg LP 180 piano? I'm looking for piano for my 7yr old daughter who has just started to take lessons.

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  12. The Korg LP180 is basically just a repackaged version of the Korg SP280 for the same price, but in a "furniture style" cabinet with less sounds and less powerful internal speaker system. It would have the same key action, dynamic range, and piano sound of the SP280. Although I have not played this model yet, I would give it a low rating because Korg is using the main functionality of the SP280 in the LP180 which I find not to my liking. You would be better off buying a Yamaha or Casio piano in this price range when it come to key action and piano sound realism.

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  13. Hi there from Greece. There is a Kurzweil M1 (not the MP10) which I played and found good but the keys feel funny when compared to the Kawai KDP90, the Casio PX-850 ivory and the Korg LP380. I prefer the Roland F130 but it's 200 euros more expensive. The question is: If somebody GAVE YOU FOR FREE the Kawai KDP90, Roland F130, Korg LP380, Casio PX860, Yamaha S51, Kurzweil M1 and (if you know it) the German GEWA DP120, how would you RANK them (meaning first, second, etc)? Thank you and sorry for the provocative question!

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  14. I am not willing to rank all of them. I would personally take the Roland 1st followed very closely by the Casio, then the Kawai, and the rest of the pianos behind that.

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  15. Which digital stage piano then you would recommend after Korg SP280 where you actually can get the dynamic nuances you were talking abt in the review? Thanks

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  16. Have you played the Korg Havian yet? If so, how would you compare its action and dynamic range?

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  17. Thanks for the review! I almost bought the Korg LP380 but tried the Kawai ES100 and was blown away by the difference. However, the downside is that the Kawai does not have an aux out. I know that one can use the headphone jack as a line out but this would be in stereo and I need to plug into a mono board. If I buy a stereo to mono converter, will it compromise the sound quality?
    Thanks.

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  18. We tried both the Yamaha P115 ($599 CAD) and the Korg LP380 ($1250 CAD) at the store, and liked the key action on the Korg a bit better. However, when trying to compare cost, the Korg comes with 3 pedals (P115 has only 1) a built-in stand (pretty nice), and a built-in cover (very handy). So, if we bought those things for the P115, there'd still be a $300-$400 difference.
    Tim, in your opinion are we getting that much better of a piano? The bells and whistles of dual headphone jacks and different instrument sounds don't matter a lot; we just want good (and lasting) quality. Thanks!

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  19. What is the speaker like on the LP380? Considering it's positioned beneath the keyboard, is it not a bit muffled? I often hear the best arrangement is to have speakers at ear level, but that's clearly unpractical on a digital piano.

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  20. Tim, does your concern about the dynamic range also apply to the LP380, or is it specifically the SP280 that does not respond softly when played with a light touch?

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  21. Thanks for your reviews. I am hoping you might soon review the new Korg C1 and G1 Air - which seem very promising.

    GG

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    Replies
    1. Yes please! I'm considering purchasing the Korg C1, but I'm hesitating because the lack of reviews.

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    2. Second yes please, a review of the C1 would be great

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  22. With Korg C1 Air on the market now can you compare and contrast this to the Casio PX 870? I would be interested in knowing which one you would rate higher. Thank you for your time and reviews.

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