Korg XE20 - REVIEW | 2022 Digital Piano | Lower Price Here


Korg XE20 digital piano review
UPDATED REVIEW - June 1, 2022 - Korg XE20 / XE20SP Digital Piano
- The Korg music products company of Japan recently came out with a newer 2022 digital piano "category" that they have never had before. It is called the interactive arranger digital piano (aka: one-man-band) and the model number is XE20 priced at $899. The XE20(SP) is the version that comes packaged with a matching furniture stand a triple pedal unit,,,SP stands for stand & pedals and is priced at just $100 more for $999 internet discount price. 

Until now Korg has not had an interactive ensemble arranger 88-weighted key digital piano in any price range let alone for under $1000. Yamaha, Casio, and even Roland have these type of digital pianos under $1000 and have been producing those models for a number of years. Even though Korg Japan has incorporated this type of technology before in their "keyboards," they have not done it in 88-weighted key portable digital pianos.

INITIAL THOUGHTS


Korg SP20 digital piano
What makes the XE20 different than the other Korg digital pianos under $1000 is that it combines the weighted-key piano playing experience with impressive stereo piano sound along with a number of the interactive functions you would find on some of their pro keyboards.
Korg put it all together in such a way that you
XE20 with music rack
have the best of both worlds in a low price range that just about anyone can play and sound great whether you are a beginner or pro. What I mean by "sounding great" is that the XE20 instrument sounds are so real and so rich and resonant that you'd think you were playing a much higher priced model instead of this one for $899. 

The XE20 is definitely not your average portable digital piano because it has many of the attributes of digital pianos at 2 times its price...which is saying a lot. It's lightweight at just 25 lbs but very powerful and sounds like a big piano through its own internal speaker system. It has new stereo acoustic piano sounds that are derived from the much higher price Korg Grandstage digital piano at $2199 and hundreds of band and orchestral instrument sounds along with some movie score quality sounds  

THE XE20 AS A PIANO


XE20 German piano
What the XE20 is, first and foremost, is a piano. It has 2 main stereo acoustic piano sounds that are derived from a piano sound engine (chip) inside the piano including a German concert grand piano (Steinway) and an Italian concert grand piano (Fazioli) with long sustain time and no discernable sample loops.
Also, even though the polyphony memory is 120 notes of polyphony whereas other digital pianos in this price range are up to 256-notes of
XE20 Italian piano
polyphony memory, you won't run out of polyphony memory on these 2 XE20 primary piano sounds no matter how complex your music may be, and I did not hear any note drop out at all when I was playing it. 

The way Korg has optimized the piano samples and stereo imaging is impressive. The dynamic tonal range is good overall on those 2 acoustic piano sounds so there is reasonably good expression from the pianos. The other thing that makes the piano tones sound big and full is the powerful internal speaker system that the sound is coming out of. The big sound and bass response is also impressive and much better than any other top brand portable digital piano internal speaker system that I have heard under $1000, and I have heard them all. 

XE20 grand piano sound
Are those 2 main piano sounds as good as (let's say) the Kawai portable digital piano ES520 at $1199 or Kawai ES920 at $1599, for example?
No, those Korg piano sounds are very good, but not that good. Both the Kawai ES520 and ES920 are at a higher level in piano sound authenticity and dynamic tonal range as compared to the XE20, but they are also more money so it makes sense that they should be better in those ways. However, at $999 including stand & triple pedal bundle, the XE20(SP) piano sound is going to work for most people who want to be under $1000 with regard to the combination of piano sound samples, sustain quality, and internal speaker system putting out such a big sound with huge bass response and good frequency range. 

The piano sound is also quite balanced from the bass octaves through the treble octaves so that one hand does not overpower the other hand. So overall I am impressed with the piano sound, it's very playable, and can accommodate any type of music.

XE20 PIANO KEY ACTION


Korg XE20 NH keyboard action
The XE20 key action is weighted and graded and is the same Korg piano key action used in some of its higher priced stage digital pianos.
 Korg has 2 piano key actions they use in their digital pianos and this is there standard quality key action called NH. Their pro quality key action is called RH3 which they use in all their portable 88-key digital pianos over $1000.  This NH key action is responsive and very quiet while the keys are moving. I do like this key action better than others I have played although I like key actions in a couple other brands and models under $1000 as well such as the Korg XE20 key actionCasio PX-S3100 ($879). But this one is definitely up near the top for this price range. Again, the popular 

Kawai portable digital pianos ES520 at $1299 and ES920 at $1799 have superior key actions and also have an impressive internal speaker systems. But as I already mentioned, those pianos are more money and they do not include a stand or triple pedal at those prices. So you do get what you pay for most of the time. 

It just depends on how "good" and accurate the piano key action needs to be for you because you can always spend more money just like you can on any product...you can keep going up and up, but you have to stop somewhere. The XE20 key action is balanced and moves nicely although it is a slightly firmer key action when you press the keys down and the force of the keys coming back up seems good and does not force your fingers back up too hard as a few other digital piano key actions will do. So overall it is a good playing key action and I like it.

XE20 PEDALS


Korg XE20SP piano
Another essential part of any piano are the pedals. On most digital pianos you can either have a separate single sustain pedal or get an optional triple pedal unit so that you can have all 3 pedals to use when needed.
A single sustain pedal is generally enough for most people who are playing at recreational levels, but a triple pedal unit typically is more useful and stable than a single pedal. The XE20 comes with a single sustain/damper pedal while the XE20SP comes with the proprietary triple pedal unit. Both pedal units will support half-damper pedaling which allows for variable amounts of sustain when pressing down the pedal when using the 2 main grand piano sounds in the XE20, as opposed to just an on-off pedal switch which is sometimes all you get with other digital pianos. 

The sustain time and quality of the piano sounds are very impressive with very sustain good tone from lower octaves to upper octaves. I noticed that is was very difficult to discern any noticeable "sample loops" as the piano sounds are sustaining, so the XE20 acoustic grand piano sustained tones sound a lot more natural than many other digital pianos out there. 

Given the fact that the XE20(SP) bundle comes with the furniture stand and the triple pedal unit for just $100 more than the XE20 by itself, we always recommend to go for the SP version instead because it is a bargain when purchased together.

XE20 INSTRUMENT SOUND LIBRARY


Korg XE20 brass sound
When it comes to the the over 700 instrument sounds in this piano (that's definitely a lot), normally I would say "why do you need so many?" or "I really don't care much about all those other sounds.
" But in my opinion the real question is.."do you like music?" If you only like or primarily want to hear the acoustic piano sound, then don't waste your money on the XE20 because it is much more than that and needs to be purchased knowing that you will want to use many of the "extras." If you like a variety of good music with many other instruments playing in it that sound realistic, besides having some very good piano type sounds, then the XE20 will impress you and allow you to express yourself  musically in ways you may not have thought possible. It's really a fun instrument to play.

XE20 Big Band Mono Trumpet
As most people know, orchestral music has other instruments besides piano such as violins, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, oboes, etc, and I personally love orchestral music.
The theme songs from popular movies like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many more are orchestral music. If you like non-classical or non-orchestral music such as jazz, rock, Latin, Country, Big Band, etc, then as an example, on the Korg XE20 you may really enjoy using a saxophone,
XE20 B3 Jimmy jazz organ sound
trumpet, violin, banjo, guitar, accordion, flute, electric piano, choir, synth sounds, jazz, rock, pop, or gospel B# type organs, church organs, etc, etc, or a combination of the above to play that music. 

The point of playing music is to enjoy yourself and be able to express your emotions, musically. Well...that's what the XE20 will do for you in my opinion, but on a much larger scale in ways you may have not thought about before. The quality of the instrument sounds in terms of realism is amazing and much better than I have heard on any other brand or model in this price range. There aren't just a few good instrument sounds like on other digital pianos but instead there are hundreds of great instrument sounds. 

The instrument sound designers at Korg did an outstanding job of creating a huge variety of instrument sounds that can make you sound like a pro even if you are a beginner. So when it comes to expanding your musical repertoire, the XE20 can easily and realistically do that for you in a very big way.

XE20 INTERACTIVE ACCOMPANIMENT STYLES


Korg XE20 Latin Jazz
Beyond all that, the Korg XE20 has an interactive accompaniment section (aka: backing tracks) that allows you to play simple (or complex) chords but yet sound like you've been playing professionally for many years, and this includes playing just about any style of music you can think of.
We're not talking about a "toy" that you might otherwise say to yourself  "I don't need or want all those bells & whistles." We're talking about an additional fun way to play music no matter what style of music you prefer whether it be classical, rock, pop, ballads, Latin, Jazz, cinematic movie themes, country, oldies, 30's, 40's, 50's on up to the music of today. The professional sounding pianos, electric pianos, strings, choirs, horns, woodwinds, synths, organs, guitars, and hundreds of other instruments that are part of those music styles are so good you might just for a moment forget about the fact the Korg XE20 is a piano first and foremost.

Korg XE20 digital piano control panel
Korg did not "reinvent the wheel" with this new model, they just made it better in a lot of ways than other things that are out there.
If it was not for the fact that Korg already had all of this technology in their higher priced pro stage pianos, then I don't think they would be able to offer the XE20/XE20SE at this lower price under $1000. It would have cost quite a bit more money in my opinion to create all of the musical content that is in the XE20. Normally within this price there are some good instruments from other digital piano companies that do a lot of cool things, so Korg is definitely not the only brand out there who is offering some impressive digital pianos. 

In fact when you look at the XE20 at face value with the power off, it does not necessarily appear to be much better than what Yamaha, Casio, Roland, or Kawai has to offer under $1000. But in many cases it's not just what's on the outside that counts, but it is what's on the inside that makes the big difference and that's definitely true for the XE20. 

Korg XE20 voices
Personally, I love to "orchestrate" with multiple instrumental sounds on a digital piano just like an orchestra or band if that digital piano has the capacity to do that.
When an orchestra or band is playing a song using guitars, bass, organs, pianos, brass, drums, strings, brass, woodwinds, reeds, etc., those instruments are not necessarily all playing at one time all the time. For an orchestra there is a conductor and throughout that song/piece of music the conductor may be having some of the instruments play while other instruments rest and then the resting instruments will come back in during certain portions of that song. Same thing in pop, jazz, rock, and other forms of music. 

If you have ever seen an orchestra or band play live (or you have been in one yourself) or you see them on a video, then you know what I am talking about. Playing different instruments (and at different times) within that song is what creates musical excitement, expression, drama, musical color, and allows for certain instruments to stand out at different times.

XE20 upper buttons
On digital pianos, those kinds of rhythmic musical arrangements are called "backing tracks," or accompaniment style playing.
 Most digital pianos do not have all of this technology built into their pianos. Some digital pianos have none of it, some a little bit
XE20 upper volume levels
of it, some have a lot, and some have all of it. In the case of the XE20, it actually has all of it. What I mean by "all" of it is, for instance, that you can combine/layer up to 3 separate instrument sounds at one time and put them in the "upper" buttons from the 700+ instrument sound library so you can play in regular piano/keyboard style without any backup accompaniment and also individually adjust their volumes (levels), their effects, change the instrument sounds in mid-stream while you are playing your song, and turn each of those instruments on or off (mute them) at your discretion in real time while you are playing.

XE20 drum percussion parts
Apart from the 3 instrument sound buttons for normal playing you can also choose from 280 different rhythmic styles of accompaniments (backing tracks) and each style has 4 variations of each rhythm which actually creates a total of 4 x 280 variations which equals 1120 different accompaniments.
Among that large amount of impressive accompaniment styles you can also quickly isolate the percussion drum patterns which are located on 2 separate buttons for a mix of 2 different percussive drum patterns. You can turn off (mute) the separate parts of those drum tracks  
XE20 accompaniment style volume
so you don't have to hear the drummer if you don't want to, and you can also quickly adjust volume and tempo while you're playing. I really like the fact that most of the individual parts have their own separate volume controls. On other digital pianos all parts in the "accompaniment backing tracks" are all on one master volume for that section and none of the individual parts can be independently changed or altered. That's OK but does not give you as much control 
XE20 drum volume level control
as the XE20 does. 

The XE20 still has an overall master accompaniment left hand style volume so that you can quickly raise or lower the accompaniment volume and balance it out against your regular piano or instrument sounds for your right hand.  This allows for some quick volume level balancing, especially if you are playing out live somewhere for family, friends, or professionally at a wedding venue, etc. So there are definitely some good controls on this instrument in terms of volumes, muting parts, etc and they are pretty easy to use.

XE20 bass and other parts buttons
Adding to the drummer is a bass player who is located on a separate button which can be controlled in the same way so that you can remove (mute) that player from the accompaniment tracks at any time and and also control it in the same way as the drums.
 The bass lines that the pro musicians at Korg programmed into these arrangement styles are incredible and sound like what real bass players would do in a band setting and playing bass guitar along with the other instruments. These "bass lines" are not just your basic, run-of-the-mill lines but they are really top notch and sound great and they put a "feel" and "groove" in the music that makes you sound even better than you are when you are playing along with those arranger styles, and I always like when that can happen.

bass level volume control
The other instruments (aka: other parts) include guitars, organs, pianos, brass, strings, etc which are playing in the background based on the left hand chord you are playing to "fill in" the song and bring more realism and authenticity to your music. All of those "other" accompaniment instruments are located in one single button and can be turned on and off  (muted) whenever you want before or during the song along with real-time volume control. Each instrument within the single button does not have individual
XE20 other parts volume level control
volume control but they are balanced well enough to where that is not an issue. So you have all these extra instrumental sounds in one button along with the bass player and 2 drummers and you have all of that "interactive background combined together for your left hand (including a separate left hand sustained instrument sound which you can choose) while you are playing up to 3 separate instruments one at a time independently or combined all together on your right hand for single note melody or multi-note melody chords. That's a lot of music coming out of one instrument and the accompaniments even change patterns in real-time depending on the chord you are playing!

MORE INTERACTIVE ACCOMPANIMENT INFO


XE20 drum variations and fills buttons
In a real band having a number of musicians in it, typically most songs will have an intro and an ending along with drum & instrument fills that are separate from the main parts of the song.
In fact, some songs are instantly recognizable by their introductions, endings, and drum fill parts where there are special musical riffs,
XE20 Drum fill and style endings
chord progressions, and instrumentation that are created to enhance the overall "feel" of that song, regardless of what type of music it might be. All of the top name brands portable digital pianos out there that have these interactive style accompaniments also have these song intros, endings, and drum-instrument fills in then that you can select with specific dedicated buttons on the control panels. 

But the real differences between all these models is not the quantity of these things or if they have them or not, but it is the musical authenticity and instrumental realism of these intros, endings, and fills. Just because the specifications say that model has it does not make it any good. Some of them sound like toys while others sound like real instruments playing in a musically correct way. 

XE20 intro-ending red button
There are 4 drum-instrumental variations per rhythm, 2 drum "fill" variations per rhythm, and 2 intros and 2 endings per rhythm.
That makes for a lot of variety in the way your music comes out so that it's not sounding the same all the time. Once you start to use these features in the XE20 you'll notice how much more enjoyable your music will become whether you play classical, jazz, rock, Latin, blues, swing, etc. The interactive accompaniments also recreate the sound and feel of music from various time periods over the decades. From as early as the 1920's ragtime, Charleston, and
XE20 Film score music
foxtrot, 1930's swing era, 1940's big band era including Sinatra, Dorsey, Miller, etc, 1950's early rock, jazz, country-western, modern country, classic ballad, Latin, 1960's Beach Boys, Beatles, jazz, 1970's disco, funk, movie themes, and the list goes on and on. 

I will admit that these features are not for everyone and if you are the type of person who mainly wants to play without any "backup" players any don't want to hear other instruments besides the piano sounds, then the XE20 is not for you. But if you want to hear a variety of instrument sounds and also have the option of  a band or orchestra behind you making you sound much better than you really are, then playing on a XE20 is a very exciting way of achieving that experience.

RIGHT HAND ENSEMBLE HARMONY CHORDS


XE20 ensemble harmony button
One other thing concerning the fun portion of this piano is that it has a right-hand chord ensemble "harmony" feature that a couple other digital pianos out there have which allows you to get the sound of a full chord (3-4 notes) when you play just one note on the right hand while playing a chord on the left hand.
  This feature allows the a right hand note to sound like a 3-finger chord. In other words, it would be like you were hearing the bigger sound of multiple fingers on the right hand but you are using just 1 finger to get that sound. This ensemble harmony also gives you the ability to sound way better than you really are with a minimal amount of effort and knowledge that could otherwise take you years to duplicate on your own, even with lessons. 

Some people might say this is a "gimmick," but as a long time piano teacher I say whatever makes your music sound better and motivates you to want to play more, is a good thing....and this feature can do that. It's really not a toy or "crutch" as some people might say because it doesn't stop you from playing whatever you want in the traditional way. This feature just adds another dimension to your music.

XE20 Piano ensemble chord harmony
The "harmony" chord for the right hand also helps train your ear to hear what it's like to hear a full right hand chord while also playing a basic left hand chord.
The more fingers you normally play on the keys simultaneously, the better and fuller your music will sound. So having right hand harmony when playing with just one-finger on melody notes lets your sound become bigger than it otherwise might be. 

That ensemble harmony chord feature will work with all the instrument sounds in the XE20 sound library including pianos, organs, strings, brass, etc, etc. It's actually pretty cool to hear and use it and it's even fun for me regardless of how well I play the piano otherwise. You certainly would not use this feature all the time, but on some occasions it does create more music and more fun with certain types of songs.

XE20 upper buttons
The harmony feature works only on "upper 1" instrument sound button but you can also use any of the instruments on "upper 2 and "upper 3" sound buttons mixed/layered with the harmony chord on the "upper 1" button.
 You get the full ensemble chord from upper 1 mixed with normal notes for upper 2 and upper 3. That combination allows you to hear up to a total 5 notes and 3 different instrument sounds coming out of one finger on your right hand all at the same time...and that's not counting the separate instrument sounds you can select for your left hand! You just play your normal left hand chords and then your right hand notes will have the harmony in it. Wow...that's a lot of instruments and they sound really good too. 

It even makes me sound better than I am which is OK with me! You definitely do not have to use this feature if you don't want to but if you don't play well or don't have aspirations of achieving an advanced playing skill level and you just want to sound as good as possible with minimal effort (even I like to do that sometimes), then I think most people will enjoy this harmony chord feature quite a bit. 

XE20 PRIMARY FUNCTIONS


XE20 instrument sound layering
In addition to the previous features I mentioned, the XE20 has some primary functions that many other digital pianos have including being able to layer/mix instrument sounds together.
However, while the standard layered instruments on all self-contained
XE20 instrument sound layering
digital pianos under $1000 is 2 instruments maximum (and that includes self-contained digital pianos under $2000), on the XE20 you can layer/mix up to 3 separate instruments of your choice from the XE20 sound library giving you a lot more flexibility in that way over all other portable and cabinet digital pianos under $1000.  You select and mix those instruments using the 3 "upper" sound buttons that I have mentioned before and when you do that then you can add more musical "color" to your songs. 

So as an example, you can layer a sax, trumpet, and clarinet together as a mixed sound, or maybe a pipe organ, stereo choir, and string symphony together, or a harpsichord, bells, and flute sound together, or perhaps an electric guitar, acoustic 6-string guitar, and an acoustic 12-striing guitar playing at the same time when you are playing on the keys.  Perhaps you want to layer 3 sounds mixed together but sometimes want to mix any 2 of them during your song. 

You do that by selecting those buttons on upper1, upper2, and upper 3 combined in any order that you want to so that you can have the sound that you setup in "upper 1" layered/mixed with the sound you setup in "upper 3," and just mute the sound in the "upper 2" button." Maybe you can put the upper 1 & upper 2 together and mute the "upper 3" button so that you don't hear that instrument sound. Or perhaps use just want to toggle back and forth playing all 3 sounds one at a time instead of always layering...you can do that too.

XE20 instrument sound splitting
You can also "split" the keyboard with a different sound on the left hand and a different sound (or sounds) on the right hand....or  splitting the keyboard at any point to use the accompaniment styles for left hand and melody for right hand. When splitting the keyboard
XE20 split button
to use left hand accompaniment styles, you also get to add a separate left hand sustaining sound to the 3 upper instrument sounds on your right hand from the instrument sound library, as well as control the octave that left hand sound is heard in. The split point on the keyboard can be set up to be anywhere you want on the keyboard...you just hold the split button and then touch the key where you want the left and right hand to digitally split. 

The XE20 also has a digital metronome which is adjustable for time signature, tempo, and volume and you can also use it along with your accompaniment styles to better learn the timing. All of those things are standard features on the XE20.

XE20 transpose buttons
Another standard feature is the transpose/modulation feature with has its own dedicated buttons on the front panel of the XE20.
There are a number of people out there who are not musically advanced enough to play the songs they like in different keys other than what they know or what key the song is written in. Transposing a song is not an easy thing to do and it becomes more necessary if you or someone else is singing along and the song is not in your vocal range. Having a transpose feature will allow you to change the key of the song to any other key and modulate in real time. Most digital pianos with this feature don't have a transpose function that is especially intuitive, and most of the time you have to go deep into a digital menu to find that function and then try to use it.  

With the XE20 there are 2 dedicated panel buttons that allow you to easily and instantly move from one key to the next (in 1/2 steps) either up or down from the original key you were playing in. A lot of people have asked me about that kind of thing in the past and the XE20 does a good job in the way the feature is laid out and how to use it...it's pretty intuitive overall.

Piano octave
The other primary function that people ask me about is changing octaves on the instrument sounds
. In other words lets say you want to hear a piano, or saxophone, or trumpet, or violin, etc one octave (8 whole notes) up or one octave down from its normal sound position without actually physically playing it one octave up or down on the keyboard. With the XE20 you can easily set an octave change individually on any of the 4 instrument sound buttons (lower part,
XE20 user display readout
upper 1, upper 2, upper 3) so that you can control any 4 sounds and digitally place them in any "octave" that you want to. 

This can be very useful depending on the overall sound you are wanting to get and where you will be playing on the keyboard. So I might have a piano sound on normal octave, a flute with one octave up, an organ one octave down, and then a viola one octave down on the lower instrument sound and then have all those instruments layered together when you play a note on the keyboard. Those instruments are in unison although maybe in a different octave. It's a very cool feature and can add a lot of depth and variety to your music if you use it correctly with its big 5 octave range for each upper and lower instrument sound. 

You access the octave change feature by holding the shift button while pressing one of the "transpose" buttons which then shifts the octave either up or down to where you want it to be. You can also monitor and change rhythm & metronome tempo, see the chord name that you're playing, and there is a measure counter as the rhythm or metronome is playing.

XE20 USER REGISTRATION MEMORIES


XE20 user set-list registrations
Assuming you have set up the XE20 with your favorite sound and function selections (like I have described above), it would be nice to be able to save those settings so that you can instantly recall them instead of having to do them from scratch each time you want it for a song.
Setting up your favorite setting might include saving specific volumes on each of the instruments you have chosen for a song, a particular "effects setup" that may include reverb, stereo chorus, etc, maybe playing in a transposed key, adding a rhythm style of some type, along with other settings, all of that takes time to do. 

If you like that setup you created then having do set it up all over again from scratch every time you turn the instrument on is not what anyone wants to do. To alleviate this issue that some other digital pianos have, the XE20 enables you to save up to 40 custom settings in what they call a "set list" that you have created and save them to memory banks (set list registrations). 

It is very easy to save them and also to recall them whenever you want it. So now all your hard work in creating a cool layer, split, rhythm accompaniment arrangement, etc, can be easily and instantly saved for later recall. I use this feature all the time and it also makes it much quicker to get to the sounds and features you use most often.

XE20 CONTROL PANEL & USER INTERFACE


XE20 control panel and display screen
When it comes to controlling the XE20 and all the features that it has, the user interface and display screen do a good job. There are a number of rubberized soft-touch buttons that light up either red or green when you push the button depending on that feature.
The large LCD gold background with black letters and numbers is easy to see unlike some other digital pianos in this price range. So in terms of a user interface, the XE20 has a good one in my opinion. It is not a "touch-screen" or color interface but it is large enough with easy-to-read characters and a nice back-lit screen to be very useful. I
XE20 category and value buttons and alpha dial
think that using the functions and features is overall fairly intuitive except for the fact that the Korg operating system takes a little bit of "getting use to." 

Unlike other digital pianos that have a "touch and go" system where if you want a function to change you just touch the button and then you change it to another sound or function with a menu button, on the XE20 you need to first press a button called "shift" and then while holding down that shift button then you hold down the function button that you want to change. There is a category button and value button so that you can quickly go to the sound or style category you want and then use the value button (+/-) or alpha dial wheel to go up or down and select the next function, feature, sound, rhythm, etc that you want.

XE20 control panel and LCD display
In other words, there is a bit more to remember on the XE20 in terms of operating it than on other digital pianos out there that I have played. This is not a bad thing but it does require another step most (but not all) of the time and there are a few things that are not quite as intuitive like changing the speed of the tempo for rhythms and accompaniments as an example.
On most digital pianos when it comes to changing rhythm speed you press the tempo button and then select the speed by changing it with a value button or wheel. 

With the XE20 you hold down the shift button wheel with one finger and then turn the alpha dial right or left at the same time. Doing that immediately changes the tempo and you can see that change on the large display screen and it shows you the BPM (beats per minute) in the display screen and what it is when you turn the dial. 

It's a very easy maneuver to do and it's quick to change tempo, but you need to know that there is no actual tempo button but instead it's a shift button coupled with turning the dial to select speed of drummer, metronome, or arrangements. Again, once you learn how to use the operating system of this model (just read the owners manual) then it should be no problem using the XE20.

left side control panel buttons
On the far left side of the piano are 4 smaller, round rubberized buttons and a small knob just above the keyboard which control a few of the important functions on the piano. The first button is the power on/off button for the entire piano and the knob next to it is the master volume control for the internal speaker system.
The button next to that is the "default" acoustic grand piano button where you can select either a German grand piano tone (Steinway) or an Italian grand piano tone (Fazioli) so that you can instantly set up the XE20 to be a piano across all 88 keys without any other functions or features. When you press the piano button it shuts off everything else on the piano so if you had a bunch of sounds, rhythms, or other things selected and just wanted to quickly get out of all those settings and return the XE20 to just being a piano, you would just touch the piano button and then the XE20 would default to one of 2 piano sounds, whichever  one you chose. 

The default piano sounds are automatically loaded into the "upper 1" button and you would see that in the display screen so that you know what sound you have selected. But you can also load either one of the XE20 main acoustic pianos sounds into the "upper 2" button and also into the "upper 3" button giving you the ability to mix acoustic piano sounds together to come up with your own unique acoustic piano sounds. This is a very cool feature that few other digital pianos are capable of doing, even in much higher price ranges.

XE20 STYLE-SET PRESETS


XE20 keyboard set and style set controls
Next to the acoustic piano button is a very cool feature called the "style set" button which automatically sets up special factory settings for the background style accompaniments (Latin, Jazz, rock, waltz, big band, country, etc), along with the appropriate right hand melody sounds that the pro musicians at Korg thought would sound good together.
In other words, if you want to use a great left hand accompaniment background rhythm style and don't know how to best set that up along with the best right hand sound setups for that style, when you use the "style set" button the XE20
XE20 STS factory style setup
will automatically setup a library of background style accompaniments in the display screen so you can easily see what you are getting along with some great right hand melody sounds that go with that background accompaniment. 

Those factory preset right hand melody sounds are tied into those particular accompaniment background styles but they can easily be changed to whatever instrument sound you want to have for those accompaniment styles. The factory style setups along with the right hand instrument setups are called STS. The pro musicians at the Korg factory designed those setups that you otherwise would not necessarily know how to do on your own and they really sound fantastic, and even as a pro musician myself, I think they did a great job creating those style setups and it definitely makes playing music that much more enjoyable. 

XE20 KEYBOARD-SET PRESETS


XE20 keyboard set - stereo strings & winds
The same thing can be said for the Korg designer "keyboard set" factory sound combinations. On the XE20 you can set up your own individual instrument sounds in whatever way you want to (just like any of the other digital pianos out there) or you can choose a special feature which Korg calls "Keyboard Set."
Simply put, the keyboard set is 176 custom instrument combinations put together by the pro musicians at Korg which also contain which have certain combinations of instruments either in a layer or split mode along with just the right effects, octave setups, and any other sounds that would create a professional sounding setup that you otherwise may not know how to do all by yourself. Each one of these 176 custom setups are for right hand/full keyboard plaing and have nothing to do with rhythms, accompaniments of interactive chords. The keyboard set is to be used when you want some pro sounding instrument and effects combinations at your fingertips. 

XE20 keyboard set
When you push 2 specific buttons together on the button panel to the far left side of the keyboard, then you enter into the "keyboard set"
 mode and the user display screen reads out "keyboard set" so that you know you are in that mode.
Once you are there then you have access to some sought after sound and effects combinations that have been in many famous recordings over the years without you having to recreate them yourself, assuming you
XE20 keyboard set - grand choir
would know how to do that. Those preset factory sound registrations/setups can also be individually saved into a user memory for faster access. These keyboard setups do sound amazing, especially considering you don't have to make them yourself. You have access to professionally put together sound setups just like like having a pro musician in your home making the XE20 sound amazing only you get to do it yourself which the push of 2 buttons and then you can go through the 176 selections one at a time to see which one works best for the music you want to play. The other brands don't have a feature like this...you have to do it all yourself. You certainly don't have to use this feature in the XE20 and just just select sounds in a conventional way. But it sure does make it more fun and musically rewarding when you do use it.

XE20 FACTORY DEMO SONGS


XE20 demo song mode button
Normally I would not mention this next thing because many digital pianos have them but they typically are not very impressive.
That feature would be the factory "demo songs" which you access in the "demo song mode" so that you can hear the piano play some demonstration songs and get an idea what the instrument is capable of sounding like. Most digital piano demo songs are generally pretty basic, if they have any at all. In the case of the XE20 there are 21 multi-track demo songs that  are outstanding and pretty much show off most of the major instrument sounds in songs written and played by the top musicians at Korg. They are very enjoyable to listen to and can inspire you to use some of those instruments sounds in the songs that you play.. 

XE20 demo song mode
Those song demos effectively show off lots of great instrument sounds, rhythms, and other tones within the XE20 that you may not otherwise get to hear altogether on your own.
In fact, a few of those demo songs are so good that you may think they were famous songs on the radio or from your audio streaming channel, but they're not...they are song demos designed to show off what the XE20 can really do if you were playing it in a more advanced way. But even if you play it in a simple way, in my opinion the sound library in the XE20 coupled with its amazing internal speaker system can make you sound much better than you really are, even when playing simple songs as a beginner, let alone a pro player. I have heard hundreds of digital pianos but this one continues to impress me as I dug into it more and more. 

 SOUND EDITING SETTINGS


XE20 editing setting button
The Korg XE20 also provides the user with the ability to edit different functions on the piano in a variety of ways that can be useful to some people depending on your expertise and desire to change or edit certain functions on the XE20.
The feature is under the "settings" button on the main control panel and once you press that button then you enter into the settings of the piano. The editing functions are fairly basic overall and include EQ settings for bass, mid range, treble adjustments, etc. There is a basic touch sensitivity function with hard, medium, and soft touch selections. 

XE20 editing touch setting
The most unusual editing adjustments is that you can change the special effects of reverb and stereo chorus independently on the 4 instrument sound settings for upper 1,2, and 3 along with the instrument sound for "lower" keyboard when using a split function.
Most effects changes tend to be "global" for all sounds at one time. With the XE20 you can divide up different parts of the keyboard sounds with up to 4 of them having independent controls for those effects so that one does not over power the other. That's a smart idea and can be useful depending the the type of music you are playing. Also, the reverb/echo effect has an on/off button located down near the piano default button on the left side of the keyboard which makes it convenient to operate.

USB AUDIO STREAMING TECHNOLOGY


XE20 USB MIDI & Audio streaming
So what else can the XE20 do that is useful. There are a few digital pianos these days that have a new technology built in that is called USB audio streaming.
 Up until now most digital pianos have had USB MIDI connectivity so that you can connect the digital piano to an external device by way of a special USB cable and connect with MIDI apps for piano lessons, sounds, etc. But that connection did not allow for audio sound transmission...only MIDI connectivity.  USB "audio streaming" allows you the ability to connect an external device like an iPad to your digital piano via a USB cable to the external device and then any audio/music coming from the device or an app on the device will "stream" through the cable so that you can hear the audio automatically coming through the speakers in your digital piano. 

This feature not only eliminates the need for an audio input connector on the digital piano and an audio output on the external device, but the USB cable turns into 2-way USB audio and MIDI connectivity for seamless audio and MIDI communication with external devices. We are not talking about Bluetooth wireless here because that is a separate feature and is known to have some latency or lag-time in the streaming end of things.

XE20 USB audio streaming
USB audio streaming on the XE20 can be very useful because then you can connect with a number of apps on an iPad/Android such as piano lesson apps, metronome apps, instrument sound apps, etc.
You'll be able to hear all the audio/music from those apps coming in loud and clear through the powerful XE20 internal stereo speaker system via a USB cable, so that it also mixes together with whatever sounds that you play live on the XE20 if you want to. You can also control the volume of the external audio coming through the piano so that it can be balanced properly with the audio of the internal sounds. USB audio streaming is currently not found on a number of new digital pianos out there and is mostly important if you will be using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone device to interface with your digital piano to take advantage of programs and apps that can be useful in enhancing your piano learning and/or playing experience. 

You can also hear all of that external audio coming through any wired stereo headphones plugged into the XE20 for private practice. I use this feature quite often and it is really amazing in the way that it works and how it helps to simplify things.

 RECORDING & SONG PLAYBACK FEATURES


XE20 recording and playback features
So what's next on the XE20? One of those features is recording and playback of your music. This can happen in a number of ways on the XE20 and it is unlike other digital pianos with regard to how it records your music.
The XE20 has 12 instrument parts that can be recorded either altogether or just specific parts and then saved as a recorded song. The user memory for recorded songs consists of 999 internal memories for storage and you save the songs in the user song mode. However, there are some caveats to the recording and playback system. It's not as intuitive as other digital pianos. If you want to just record a 2 hand piano song with nothing
XE20 user song recording & playback mode
else and no extra instruments or rhythms, you still would need to setup a rhythm accompaniment background style with right hand sounds and then shut off (mute) all the parts except the piano sound. 

Then you can press the record button and it will record whatever you play with the instrument sound that you selected on both left and right hand. There is just not a separate independent right hand piano part like you would find on other digital pianos that have song recorders. If you want to record right hand only and then add the left hand part later on on a separate recording track like you can do on other digital pianos, you cannot do that on the XE20. You would instead have to record the left hand part on top of (overdub) the right hand part that you previously recorded and then they would be permanently mixed together after you did the left hand recording. 

You can not separate the left and right hand parts to listen to them independently as you can do on 2-track MIDI recorders from other brands. I would have preferred a independent 2-track recorder for this model but Korg did not do it that way.

2 hand piano playing
This can be a limitation for some people who may be practicing piano lessons or parts and they want to isolate the left and right hand piano parts or left and right hand instrument parts if they are not using the piano sound for both recorded parts.
If that limitation would not be a hindrance to you then the XE20 can record both left and right hand together as I mentioned and even do that one at a time. But once you do then you cannot separate and listen to those parts independently and then play them back together after that. They would always be together at that point. I suppose you could always record the left hand part on a separate song recording just to hear it independently, but you could not play those two independent songs together at the same time.

XE20 999 internal song memory
However, if you want to add other instrument sounds, one on top of the other, then you can do that with the 3 upper sounds using the XE20 instrument sound library to choose the sounds, and you can also add the accompaniment background styles to that recording to get a full song and then save it into memory.
There are 12-tracks of recorded instruments and those tracks are divided up into 2 drum pattern track buttons, one bass track button, a button which contains 5 preset instruments (you cannot choose them separately) to go along with that accompaniment style you have chosen, one left hand instrument sound, and 3 right hand or 3 full keyboard sounds for a total of 12 tracks that you can record and playback later. You can save up to 999 user songs into internal memory as I mentioned before.

XE20 mp3, wav file, and MIDI song player
When it comes to playing back songs, you can do that from the "user songs" that you recorded on the XE20.
You can also load in external MIDI song files, audio wav file, and audio MP3 music via a USB flashdrive and then you can play all 3 formats of music back through the XE20 internal speaker system and also play along with those songs "live" with the internal XE20 instruments. There is even a separate volume control for the song playback mode so that you can balance out the song playback volume with the live instruments you are using to play along with the music. So if you want to play along with the music and vocals from Elton John, Billy Joel, etc, or the Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark theme, or Beethoven and Mozart orchestral music, or your favorite Jazz, Latin, Country, or rock artists, you can do that on the XE20 and learn to play those songs that way. It sounds great and is a lot of fun.

PLAYBACK SONG-PART LOOPING


XE20 song playback looping
Besides just playing along with the entire song, you can also pick out any part/portion of a song that you want to "isolate" so that you can concentrate on just learning that part of the song, especially if you are having more difficulty with it.
You can "loop"
XE20 A to B song part looping
those measures from a point "A" to a point "B" that you choose in your song to constantly have that part play over and over and loop without stopping so you can play along just with that part of the song to learn it. That feature works really well, is super easy to do, and the results in using that looping feature can really help piano students, recreational piano players, and pros learn songs in a more efficient way. 

When playing back song in the MIDI format then you can also change tempo and slow it down so you can more easily follow along with that part and learn it better. In the audio wav or MP3 formats you cannot change the tempo of the song so unfortunately you cannot slow it down. But typically when you try to slow down audio format songs like MP3's and wav files, the song gets distorted, changes key, and vocals sound strange. Most people will use General MIDI song files to learn to play using the looping feature.  
  

GENERAL MIDI SONG PLAY


XE20 General MIDI song play
Another thing the XE20 can do as far as song playback is be able to play back General MIDI song files that you can get off the internet.
There are literally thousands of songs available on the internet for you to download to a USB flashdrive, put that flashdrive into the XE20, and then the Korg XE20 will play back those songs for listening pleasure or to play along with the song as it is playing back. The upside to playing GM song files is that you can also slow down the tempo to learn that song or loop any part of that song to work on it better. The General MIDI files are "multi-track" and can have many instrumental parts in them (think of a big orchestral music score like Beethoven's 5th Symphony or Star Wars them by John Williams), and the XE20 handles that very well. 

XE20 General MIDI song play
The only negative thing with the song playback mode for all formats including audio & MIDI is that you cannot have songs continuously play back one after the other in a "continuous play" mode.
That's something I really wish this instrument could do and it is a negative thing for me because sometimes I just like to hear the songs play one after the other without me having to manually start them every time a new song comes up. It is definitely disappointing in that way but given how much the XE20 can do otherwise with song playback and that it can handle all formats including basic standard MIDI, General MIDI, wav file, and MP3 file, it's something I can live with but I definitely do not prefer it to be that way.

XE20 CONNECTIVITY PORTS


XE20 back panel connectivity ports
There are a number of useful connectivity ports on the back of this model.
They include a separate jack for a single sustain or expression pedal, a place to plug in the triple pedal unit, 2 separate 1/4" audio output jacks for connecting to an external speaker system if necessary for a bigger venue, an 1/8" audio input jack to run audio devices through the XE20 speaker system, a USB to host port to connect to computer, tablet, etc, and a USB flashdrive input so that you can save recorded songs and play music files you get off the internet or from your own personal MP3 or wav music files. There is also a separate 1/8" mini stereo headphone jack for private practice which is nice but unfortunately that headphone jack is on the back of the piano instead of on the front where it would have been more convenient. 

There is no question that the Korg company did it that way to save money but I don't think that's a good excuse to put it on the back where you cannot easily see it when you need it. It also makes you have to route the headphone cable under the piano to the back rather than have it simply come out the front which is way more practical and less intrusive. Korg could have done better in that way but it's not a "deal breaker."

 INTERNAL SPEAKER SYSTEM


XE20 36 watt internal speaker system
The internal speaker system in this portable piano is very powerful with a full sound beyond what I thought was possible in this price range.
It's bassy and rich without being muffled or distant like you would get in the Roland FP-30X ($899 without stand or triple pedal unit). The Roland model has 22 watts of total power with downward facing speakers under the piano vs Korg XE20 at 36 watts of total power coming through upward facing speakers at the top of the piano hidden under an attractive black grill-cloth. Having top facing speakers gives you an immediate sound that comes up towards your ears rather than being pointed away from you as in the Roland FP-30X. There is also no comparison with the portable Yamaha or Kawai models under $1000 with this XE20 model being so much better with regard to the internal speaker system.

XE20 36 watts stereo speaker power
Also, the internal speaker system is housed in a separate speaker enclosure inside the piano which really helps the overall sound generate the type of tone and bass frequencies you just would not expect otherwise in a 25lb portable instrument.
I did not hear any distortion or anomalies in the sound, even when I was playing it at high volume and it still sounded great at low volumes too. I see no need at all for an external speaker system connected for the XE20 unless you are in a large room with a lot of people in it and then maybe you would, but otherwise for most occasions the internal speaker system will be way more than enough to generate big volume, quality sound, clarity, and huge bass response. So "hats off" to Korg for being able to produce such an amazing internal sound system in this lower price range. 

XE20 POLYPHONY NOTE MEMORY


XE20 digital piano polyphony
So what's not to like in the Korg XE20 besides the few smaller issues I mentioned earlier?
 The answer is...not much to not like. For me personally, I don't like the limited polyphony memory on the general instrument sounds which is a lower at 64-notes of stereo polyphony. However, the 2 main acoustic piano sounds (German & Italian) have 120 notes stereo polyphony memory in a separate "sound engine," so there is no polyphony shortage and no note drop-out for those two main sounds no matter what kind of music I have played on it. But apart from those 2 sounds, the more limited 64-note polyphony sound engine for all the other instrument sounds is somewhat small in being able to effectively handle all instrument sound layers (up to 3 sounds layered together) across all 88 keys when playing more complex arpeggios, runs. and lots of chords when using full sustain pedal. 

When you layer 2 or as many as 3 stereo instrument sounds together at the same time with both of those sounds coming from the 64-note polyphony sound engine then you may notice some notes cutting off/dropping off as you play across the keyboard, especially if you are playing more complex chords with arpeggios and using your sustain pedal a lot as I previously mentioned. 

XE20 2 polyphony sound engines
Most digital pianos these days have a minimum of 120, 128, 192, and 256 notes of polyphony memory for all of the sounds when playing them. Generally speaking you will not hear any note-drop-out with disappearing notes (no matter how many notes and sustain you play) as you are using your sustain pedal and playing piano style music with up to 2 sounds layered together on those bigger polyphony sound engines. So the Korg XE20 is behind their competition in that way for its (non-grand piano) instrument sounds, But I find the vast majority of people playing an instrument like this do not run into that issue. 

But I wanted to point all of this out since the specification on the Korg website says 120 note polyphony (for the 2 main grand piano sounds) coupled with 64 note polyphony equals 184-note polyphony. That specification actually does not mean a truly 184-note polyphony (voices) experience for all sounds. It means 120 notes polyphony memory only for the 2 main pianos and 64-note polyphony for everything else including all the stereo instrument sounds.  

XE20 instrument sound library
So why did Korg choose to use a lower polyphony sound engine for non-piano instrument sounds? It's because there is a positive trade -off in doing that way. That trade-off is the fact that Korg offers less polyphony note memory in its 64-note polyphony sound engine in return for a higher memory quality and a more authentic library of instrument sounds as compared to any other new portable digital piano under $1000. 

It's about keeping the price of the XE20 under $1000 and that's how they did it. When it comes to the authenticity of all those (700+)instrument sounds in the XE20 including many different vintage electric pianos, B3 jazz organs, church organs, string symphonies, violins, brass, woodwinds, horns, reeds, guitars, choirs, synth sounds, pads, retro sounds, Latin instruments, percussion, special effects, etc along with just the right amount of effects, the XE20 is far more realistic in that way than any other digital piano out there under $1000. Nothing comes close in my opinion and I have played them all. 

I know I already talked about this earlier but it is worth mentioning again. So if you like high quality instrument sounds then having a lower polyphony memory sound engine to achieve that goal is worth the trade-off in the XE20 because those sounds are that good. With the high quality of the XE20 instrument sounds being what they are, you would definitely be the "star of the show" whether you're playing for an event, a church, a school, recording a pro multi-track multi-instrument song, or just adding to the overall music, those Korg instrument sounds in the 700 + sound library are really amazing.  


 CABINET DESIGN


Korg XE20 cabinet full view

Couple all that with some fun features such as the very capable interactive accompaniment styles along with some of the other things I already discussed and you have a real winner in my opinion. The XE20 cabinet design and size are also impressive with it's total weight at just 25 lbs so it's easy to transport and the measurements are 52" x 13" x 5." If you add the included full size music rest to piano then the height measures 30" because it is a big music rest that can support a good amount of sheet music or books. 

The black cabinet looks great in my opinion with a sleek design with rounded corners and has a very clean look with a minimal amount of controls and an attractive larger LCD backlit screen, considering how much it actually can do with regard to its functions and features.

XE20 - IS IT MISSING ANYTHING IMPORTANT?


XE20 side view
The XE20 does not have a few of the current features that a couple of other brands have in this price range such
 as Bluetooth wireless audio and Bluetooth wireless MIDI connectivity, simulated textured ivory and ebony key tops, pitch bend wheel, and triple sensor key electronics. But the dual key sensor electronics that it does have seems to be more than sufficient for key movement sensing when I played the XE20 (and I played it many times for a number of hours) and the feel of the key-tops to me was also fine because real acoustic pianos these days don't use real ivory any more and they have the normal smooth white plastic key tops and that's what this model has as well. So I don't personally find the lack of "Bluetooth" wireless especially given that it has USB audio streaming, the keytop material is fine, and the dual key sensors is not an issue for me nor do I think it matters in the long-run for most people. 

Yes, those features would be nice to have but they certainly are not "deal-breakers" for me because of all the functions and features that the XE20 does have which are impressive.

 FINAL THOUGHTS


XE20 conclusion - final thoughts
The Korg XE20 is very playable as a piano and overall I like it a lot
. It responds well to a variety of music, has amazing piano and instrumental sounds along with professional quality arranger styles, and all coming through a power internal speaker system in a lightweight compact, attractive cabinet. Personally I think it's a great mix of features from a highly respected pro music products company known for making reliable product for many, many years that professional musicians use all around the world. 

For $899 by itself or $999 including the furniture stand and triple pedal bundle (we definitely recommend this bundle for just $100 more)...you just can't lose if  this new model fits your musical needs and budget. Korg digital pianos have proven to be reliable products for many, many years and the XE20 comes with a new factory warranty covering parts & labor. Now you just need to get it so you can start to enjoy playing music as soon as possible.

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.

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