Is the Korg SV1 a Worthwhile Stage Piano?
The SV-1 represents a departure for Korg mainly because of it’s DNA; the instrument is very much a vintage performance keyboard through and through. Korg has never ventured into this territory before, and in some ways, it shows. Though this review is for the 88-key version of the keyboard, there is also a 73-key available. Both models employ the Korg RH3 graded-action keybed that can also be found in the popular M50.
Before we move forward, please take a moment to use our interactive table below to compare the Korg SV1 against other notable stage pianos currently on the market:
|Nord Stage 3|
|Nord Piano 5|
One thing is for certain; the SV-1 is gorgeous. It made its first appearance in 2009, and since then, it has been gracing stages and practice venues all across the globe with increasing frequency.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the SV-1 is the unique shape of its body. The keyboard looks like something out of a science fiction novel at first glance, with all of it’s various dials and controls raised up on the dash panel above the keybed. This is easily one of the best-looking performance keyboards out there currently, no questions asked.
The next thing you’re likely to notice about the keyboard is how seemingly confusing it looks to operate. As we’ll discuss in a moment, it really isn’t that difficult at all, but nonetheless the look of the control surface certainly inspires moderate intimidation.
It’s important to note that having said that, this is absolutely not a beginners keyboard. It isn’t meant to be something to learn on, and the feature set, design, and layout all reflect that philosophy. This keyboard would likely be best-suited for a dedicated gigging musician, and even then, if you travel around often, it might not be for you. The keyboard itself is over 53 inches long, and weighs a hefty 45 pounds, not including any sort of flight case.
All the same, this is definitely a sight to behold, and for performing players who need a piece of gear to rely on, this thing won’t ever let you down. The keybed is a perfect example of this mantra; the RH3 design is in its third iteration now, which means Korg has had a chance to iron out many of the issues and mold this into a very strong, very playable key setup.
That being said, this particular reviewer thinks the action is a bit too spongy, especially on the rebound.
Below, please take a minute to view some of the best-selling digital stage pianos currently on sale online, and see how well they stack up to the Korg SV1:
|1) Casio PX-560|
|2) Nord Piano 5|
|3) Roland RD-88|
|4) Korg D1|
|5) Roland RD-2000|
Setup & Connectivity
On the connectivity end of things, the SV-1 is set up for just about any situation imaginable. The keyboard has XLR outputs, MIDI in and out, a USB MIDI port, 2 pedal jacks and a damper. Everything is setup seamlessly and intuitively, and we can’t think of anything that is truly missing here. Plugging in anywhere should be a matter of a few cables and a quick soundcheck, unless you are running the keyboard through a software solution. Based on why you’d purchase this in the first place, though, we’d venture to say that that would be a rare occasion.
There are 6 included soundbanks on the SV-1 which amounts to Electric Piano 1 and 2, Clav, Piano, Organ and Other. Further still, each of these includes six different variations. You can store eight of your favorite sounds, recalling them later using the large favorite buttons on the control surface.
These included sounds are the SV-1’s main draw, and we are pleased to report that the quality of these emulations blew us away. All of the various sounds included are genuine, painstaking emulations of incredible musical devices from the last 60 years, and you can tell that Korg did their homework here, providing users with a true solution for creating top-tier performances on the fly.
The Rhodes, in particular, was a genuine treat. It might be one of the most authentic recreations of an actual Rhodes piano that we’ve ever heard, and we’ve heard quite a few different versions at this point.
We wouldn’t shy away from using this sound anywhere, from the studio to the stage and back again. The RX technology that Korg employs here really shines in these sounds, and the Rhodes is the perfect example to impress even the most discerning players.
Subtle nuances like electrical and mechanical noises are intricately woven into the DNA of the sounds, creating genuinely emotive and authentic collections of sounds that span the ages. There is a lot of depth here, and the included editor let’s you take things much further, should you desire to do so.
The acoustic and electric piano sounds included are very inspiring as well, and the RX technology extends into this territory incredibly well with realistic actions, tones, and responses. Everything about the keyboard lends itself to it’s playability, from the design of the keybed to the emulations of the sounds themselves. There really is so much to love, that it’s hard to say where the cracks begin to show. If we had to nail down a spot, though, it’d be the remaining few sounds included on the SV1.
The Wurlitzer EP recreation is actually pretty great, and we were pleased on the whole with the synth sounds, but the Hammond emulations included simply didn’t seem to stack up to the competition in terms of authenticity and playability. The only way to edit the vibrato and chorus of the organ sounds is through the included editor, so this setup isn’t exactly ideal for live play. We found this to be an odd move, considering the keyboards overall purpose.
We’d love to see Korg introduce some sort of user library for the keyboard, especially considering the price point. We felt that while there’s a decent variety of sounds on offer, there really should be more, or at least the option to create and share variations with others. Other than this (relatively minor) setback, we feel like the sound library on the SV-1 is top-tier. You’ll be hard pressed to find a similar setup in as attractive a package.
Playing off the back of the sound library, the SV-1 has a truly impressive suite of effects. There’s a standard set of choruses and phasers that can be applied to any of the instruments. The vintage delays and reverbs on offer were particularly impressive, as they have some pretty amazing heft to them that feels incredibly authentic to the eras they come from.
Beyond these, there’s a limiter to keep all of your levels in check, a compressor, a fantastic Vox wah, a vibrato, and a tremolo. All of these more or less do what you’d expect, which is exactly what you’d want them to do.
Although this keyboard is truly unique, that is not to say that it isn’t without its competitors. The high-end performance keyboard market is as cutthroat as it is popular, and many of the top brands in the business are constantly attempted to stay on top of an increasingly feature-starved yet crowded market.
Let’s take a look at a few different keyboards, starting with the smaller version of the SV-1 88.
Korg SV1 88 vs SV-1 73
The 73-key version of the SV-1 distills the essence of it’s larger brother down into a slightly more compact package. The keyboard contains all of the trappings, features and sounds of the 88-key version, and with the addition of the transpose button you can actually end up having more range than the 88-key offers!
Many band players actually prefer this setup for its smaller size and lighter body. That being said, it will really come down to how you use the keyboard. If you’re looking for something to play pianistically on, perhaps the larger variant is for you. If the higher and lower registers aren’t quite as important for you, or you prefer to be a bit more portable, the 73-key is likely to fit the bill.
Nord Electro vs Korg SV1
The Nord Electro is one of the mainstay competitors for the SV-1, and it shows. The keyboard has a full range of features and sounds that put it firmly on Korg’s doorstep, but which one is better for you?
That’ll likely come down to preference. Many have noted that while the SV-1 has the edge in terms of the acoustic piano and Rhodes sounds, the Electro has more on offer overall, including a wide array of sounds, and deeper customization and editing flexibility to boot.
Yamaha CP4 vs Korg SV1
The CP4 has a number of differences that make it worth considering, such as the all-wood keys and the premium acoustic sounds that the company is famous for.
However, much we enjoyed the acoustic sounds on the SV-1, several players have noted that the Yamaha sounds are simply more realistic and enjoyable. This is, obviously, a matter of preference, and if you’re looking for something that will be better overall, we feel that the SV-1 offers more flexibility in the end.
Nord Stage 2 vs Korg SV1
If you’re looking for an incredible organ sound, this is likely to fit the bill. Many users have noted that the Stage 2 Organs are much more authentic than those found on the SV-1. The keyboard also has a number of features not found on the Korg, such as the ability to split the keyboard. Notably, it also has a full FM synthesizer built in, giving it a real edge for players who are looking for added flexibility and power.
Nord Piano vs Korg SV1
Many players tend to gravitate towards this keyboard for it’s keybed; supposably one of the most natural out there at the moment. These players likely found the SV-1 to be a bit too spongy, as we did, and wanted something with a bit more control and nuance. The keyboard also has a selection of downloadable sounds, something that Korg hasn’t quite caught onto yet.
All in all, the Korg SV-1 88-key is an incredible performance piano that’s got it where it counts. It isn’t designed to be the everyman’s piano, and it can’t compete with some of the more feature-rich keyboards out there, but what it does do, it excels at.
We found that the construction was top notch, and that everything from the action of the keys to the sounds included were made with love and care for the product and its legacy. Korg put a lot of thought into executing this keyboard, and it really shows in the end.
- Absolutely striking design
- Amazing Rhodes sound
- Very good effects options
- Not enough features overall
- Organ sounds are lacking
- Keybed might be too spongy for some
The Bottom Line
The Korg SV-1 is a quality, versatile performance keyboard that does what it is supposed to do, and does it exceedingly well.
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