If you’re a budding composer or want to delve into the world of scoring for film and television, you’ll need an arranger keyboard – here’s our 7 best keyboard workstations for the recording artists out there
Trying to find the best arranger keyboard or keyboard workstation to suit your style, set up and recording demands can sometimes be a little tricky with the sheer amount of choice out there.
Fortunately, there’s no real right or wrong answer as the quality of these keyboard workstations is constantly improving, with most arranger keyboards and workstations adding upgrades regularly.
Whether you’re just starting out in the world of recording, you need something to get your ideas down quickly or you’re a professional composer looking to expand their studio, there’s a keyboard workstation within your budget.
So, here’s our top 7 best keyboard workstations to suit all budgets in price ascending order.
1. Korg KROSS 2 61 Synthesizer Workstation
First up we have the extremely affordable Korg KROSS 2 61 Synthesizer Workstation in Black. You have a world of sounds on board this extremely powerful keyboard workstation ranging from pianos to electric pianos as well as an entire orchestra’s worth of brass instruments and strings all the way through to drums, percussion and synth sounds. More than 1000 preset sounds, actually! You’ll find it difficult to feel like you’re missing anything with this in your studio. In addition, the Korg KROSS 2 61 Synthesizer Workstation features 128MB of built-in expansion PCM as well as a number of optional libraries that you can download to expand the KROSS 2’s internal sounds.
You can also power the unit via 6 x AA batteries, so it’s completely portable, and the built-in 16 trigger pads is a welcome addition for those who want to be able to trigger samples and loops live and during the recording process.
You can even connect the Korg KROSS 2 61 Synthesizer Workstation to your computer via USB so you can record directly to your DAW and even play in conjunction with your iPad or iPhone.
Available in a selection of different special edition colours here.
2. Korg Krome 61 Synthesizer Workstation
The Korg KROME 61 Synthesizer Workstation includes world class sounds specially chosen by the team at Korg to provide a powerful workstation for professional level composers at an entry level price tag.
The KROME includes an array of features designed for the pro level musician including the coveted German D Grand that originally appeared on the KRONOS. In addition to the 88 full length unlooped stereo samples, the KROME has been crafted with damper resonance as well as semi weighted keys to provide that realism you need.
There’s a wealth of studio quality drum sounds, electric piano sounds with eight velocity levels and effects to choose from too. However, it’s the huge 800 x 480 pixel TouchView colour display monitor that allows you to change sounds, edit parameters and adjust settings by touching the screen that will really come in handy for the musician in need of quick access to all features. Also available in different formats and a limited-edition Platinum finish.
3. Roland Fantom FA-06 Music Synthesizer Workstation
The Roland Fantom FA-06 Music Synthesizer Workstation is a complete keyboard workstation and live performance tool ideal for stage musicians, composers and those who just need a heck of a lot of features when it comes to crafting their music! This completely bridges the gap between live and studio keyboards, providing a lightweight, highly portable and extremely versatile unit for musicians of all levels.
The Roland Fantom FA-06 includes over 2000 sounds inherited from the flagship INTEGRA-7 sound module as well as the SuperNATURAL synth engine which allows you to enjoy hyper realistic-acoustic piano notes and drums.
A 16 track sequencer with non-stop loop recording is great for building entire songs with minimal fuss and the fact you can export your sequencer tracks to an SDHC card as a stereo mix is great for transferring loops to other compatible instruments. You can even export those sequencer tracks as multi-track audio or as MIDI data for use within your DAW.
The inclusion of an onboard sampler based on the classic Roland SP-404SX with 16 pads x 4 banks as well as recording and playback via SDHC cards is a fantastic addition and makes creating music on the fly a lot of fun! You can even use the Roland Fantom FA-06 Music Synthesizer Workstation to record guitars and vocals via the Guitar/Mic Line input jack as the FA-06 will act as an audio interface for direct DAW recording, sampling and performance.
If you need to cover a wide range of sounds, genres and want to be able to use your workstation for live and studio performance with the option of recording vocals and guitar, this is a fantastic choice.
4. Korg Pa4X 76-key Arranger Keyboard
The Korg Pa4X 76-key Arranger Keyboard is one of the best options for professional musicians, providing easy access and editing capabilities to each sound and parameter via the touchscreen interface for on the fly changes during performance. In addition, you have over 500 unique styles to choose from and play within and over 1500 sounds including GM and XG sets.
The Korg Pa4X 76-key Arranger Keyboard is ideal for vocalists and composers in need of high quality audio features as the unit utilises TC Helicon Vocal Processing with Four-part Harmonizer, Double, µMod, Reverb, Delay, Filter, HardTune and Pitch Correction plus, meaning you can capture studio quality vocals directly to the unit.
With improved realism and pristine sound quality as well as the new EDS-X (Enhanced Definition Synthesis-eXpanded) sound engine plus Digital Drawbar Organ sound engine, whatever you play will sound amazing. This is one of the most popular arranger keyboards and one of the best keyboard workstations any producer or composer could hope to play.
5. Korg Kronos 2 88 Key Workstation
We can’t talk about the best keyboard workstations without adding the Korg Kronos 2 88 Key Workstation into our blog! The Korg Kronos 2 88 is an absolute titan in the keyboard world, relied upon by pro musicians and composers all over the world.
Straight out of the box you have 9 individual KRONOS sound engines at your disposal including organs, synthesizers, strings, electric and acoustic pianos as well as in depth parameter control and access to effects via the enormous eight-inch (800 x 600 pixel) SVGA colour TouchView display - now with touch-drag capability.
The fact the Kronos 2 features an enhanced SGX-2 Grand Piano Sound Engine will appeal to the sonic purists out there as this coveted feature provides one of the most dynamic and realistic piano tones you’ll ever hear. Coupled with the Real Weighted Hammer Action 3 RH3 Keyboard for expressive playing – you’ll feel like you’re playing a real grand piano.
The KARMA Arpeggiator and Phrase Looping features allow you to create tracks quickly and jam out songs whilst the Sequencer Composition Tools like Drum Tracks and Open Sampling offer even more tools for musical expression. A world of effects, multi-track audio and MIDI capabilities and an almost limitless library of sounds at your disposal makes this a fantastic option for the professionals out there.
6. Yamaha Montage 8 Synthesiser 88 Key
Finally, we have the Yamaha Montage 8 Synthesiser, an award-winning synth that took the MusicTech Gold Award for "Best Hardware Instrument" at the illustrious MusicTech Gear of The Year awards for 2016.
The fully weighted hammer action keys are an absolute joy to play and the 2 built-in sound engines which can be played separately or in conjunction with each other make this one of the most powerful keyboards and one of the best keyboard workstations on the planet.
The combination of the AWM2 (high-quality waveform and synthesis) and FM-X (modern, pure Frequency Modulation synthesis) allow you to enjoy 128 note polyphony and take control over an array of inspiring sounds.
We could talk all day about the fact you have 88 algorithms at your disposal, the power to use dual Insert FX on all 16 parts and you can enjoy complete control over every parameter of your sound, but we’d rather just show you why this is one of the best keyboard workstations. Check out our video below to see and hear why the Yamaha Montage 8 Synthesiser 88 Key should be on your must -try list!
7. Yamaha Genos Digital Workstation Keyboard
Ok, we've hit the industry standard here, with the brand new Yamaha Genos Digital Workstation Keyboard. Since it was announced in September 2017 the internet went crazy!
This is probably the ultimate keyboard workstation available on the market today, able to provide professional musicians with everything they need to create complete tracks and even fully realised compositions.
The Yamaha Genos builds on the legacy of the coveted Tyros range but offers a far superior digital workstation, playing experience and overall design. You have 1,710 instrument sounds, 550 backing patterns, 216 arpeggios, and more to play with. On top of that each instrument utilises the AEM - Articulation Element Modeling technology. This AEM technology provides a superior playing experience by accurately simulating each and every characteristic of your chosen instrument, based on how you play in real time. This ensures your sound is second to none.
As for drum sounds, you have the Revo!Drum! feature which provides incredible drum sounds that actually change subtly with each hit on the key – the same as t would if you hit a real drum.
A world of effects, sounds and control at your fingertips. This is by far one of the greatest workstations ever invented in our opinion.
Check out a sample video of the Yamaha Genos below.
Keyboard workstations and arrangers provide you with a studio’s worth of effects, sounds and instruments so you can create complete, polished and fully realised compositions wherever you are. They give you the power to write, record and release songs directly from your workstation. In this world of immediacy where artists need to be able to write and record in a matter of days (radio jingle and TV score composers, I’m looking at you) they provide the ideal all-in-one option for high quality music making.
Want more? Watch Our Best keyboard Workstations Video
Shop a full range of Arranger Keyboards & Keyboard Workstations over at PMT Online today or call in to your local PMT store to try out a wide range of arrangers for yourself and speak to use about the Best Keyboard Workstations we have to offer.