When I first heard that Korg was replacing the older SP250 ($699 internet price) with an updated version I thought this could be a very good thing and in some ways they did a good job with new upgrades. However I was disappointed to find out that the top of the line Korg RH3 key action that was in their older SP250 has been replaced in the newer SP280 with Korg's basic NH key action which is not near as good in natural key weight and movement as compared with what was in the SP250. The new LP380 still has the better RH3 key action which is a good thing and so I do recommend that model:) The Korg RH3 hammer weighted key action is one of the main reasons the older SP250 did as well as it did although the sound volume & polyphony was not as good as the new SP280. 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) 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. However, 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.
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 on these new pianos, 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/LP380 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 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 & LP380 in my opinion. 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 way -3/4 volume, it gets to be much too
|SP280 control panel buttons|
Both pianos 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 not have a recording feature nor USB direct connection to computer or iPad and when I noticed that I was a quite disappointed especially because other brands do have them and those features are useful. 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. Both the SP280 and LP380 do digitally split into two identical 44-key pianos so that two people can play the same notes at the same time for practice (such as teacher student). This feature is also available on competitive Yamaha & Casio digital pianos but have different names for the same function. The SP280 also has a number of preset temperaments or tunings including tunings for middle eastern and Indonesian music which is very cool.
Many things use USB connectivity these days and I am a big fan of using an iPad in my studio for teaching, learning, etc, but at least Korg included standard MIDI in & out connectors which you could connect to a MIDI to USB converter if you wanted to, although that is not preferable. Korg obviously designed these pianos for people who just want more of a basic digital piano with basic features combined with a very loud internal speaker system, but they should have kept their better RH3 key action in the SP280 and not just have it for the LP380. It's the key action that makes the LP380 so much better than the SP280 and the key action is the #1 most important factor in any piano regardless of whether it's digital or acoustic.
My general assessment of these pianos is that if you are wanting to spend somewhere between $700-$1000, there are better choices as far as key action, piano dynamics, and functions are concerned such as what Yamaha, Casio, and Kawai have to offer with their newer digital pianos including the Casio CGP700 compact portable piano ($799 internet price - left pic shown with included stand unit), and the Kawai ES100 ($699 internet price - lower left pic shown with optional stand & 3 pedal unit). 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. The Korg SP280 portable weighs in at about 40lbs and the Yamaha & Casio weigh in at about 25lbs each (without stand). Having 30 instrument sounds and big audio volume is great but having less sounds with
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