Korg B1 review
What I’ve always liked about Korg is that they offer affordable digital pianos. For those who are looking to learn the piano but aren’t 100% committed, it can be difficult to spend a couple hundred dollars without the certainty that you’ll love it. There’s no need to go out and get the most expensive piano because chances are, you won’t use all of the features.
Although we’ll certainly dive quite deep into the B1 in this review, I’d argue that for about $500, the Korg B1 is one of the best budgeted digital pianos on the market.
Let’s begin to explore why by starting with the specs of this piano. Namely, what features stand out the most, and how do they best help the you, the pianist.
Piano Buying Guide
Please use our interactive table below to compare the Korg B2 (the successor to the Korg B1) to popular digital pianos on the market.
|Alesis Prestige Artist|
Now, let’s move onto a few key specs you should know about.
Key Specs of the B1
- 88 Natural Weight Hammer keys
- 120-note polyphony
- 8 sounds, 8 demo songs
- Headphone and pedal connections
- Includes damper pedal, AC adapter, and music stand
Below, please take a look at a few digital pianos that are currently best sellers that are still available on Amazon:
|1) Yamaha P-515|
|2) Casio PX-S3100|
|3) Casio PX-870|
|4) Roland FP-E50|
|5) Roland FP-30X|
The KORG B1 is a compact digital piano with plenty of key features that can satisfy a lot of piano players. The controls are straightforward and not too technologically advanced, so getting the hang of this keyboard will be fairly simple.
The B1 doesn’t come with a stand, but users can buy one separately for sleek, seamless integration into their home décor.
In an attempt to achieve the rich tones that an acoustic piano offers, the B1 digital piano relies on KORG’s servo-assisted MFB technology, full-range speakers, and a passive radiator. For $600, there are two oval speakers measuring 3.94” x 1.97”, with an amplification of 9 watts. Korg uses sampling technology to create the vibrant tone of the acoustic piano. The tonal range is far more expressive than previous models, and it can reproduce sympathetic string vibrations and damper resonances.
Like a traditional piano, the natural weighted hammer keys are heavier in the lower registers, with lighter touch in the upper regions. What’s nice here, too, is that there’s little to no plastic “clacking” sounds (which you can get with cheaper keyboards t hat have plastic keys), which I think is important to having a proper piano playing experience.
Sometimes it’s hard to really get into a piece without your fingers slipping or it doesn’t feel authentic when you’re trying to practice – not an issue here. The touch of the keyboard can be adjusted to light, normal, and heavy at the discretion of the user.
The body of the piano is sleek and modern and weighs in at 26 pounds, making transport easy if needed. While I wouldn’t recommend this piano for performances, it’s definitely able to make it to and from lessons.
The depth of this instrument doesn’t exceed 13 inches, making it easy to place. The included metal damper pedal for sustain is stable and feels good under the foot. There’s an optional three-pedal unit that is available, too. However, the PU-2 is an accessory that is sold separately.
Tech and Special Features
Korg uses Motional Feedback (MFB) technology to provide you with their best sound quality. How does it work? Well, utilizing the built-in speaker system in combination with MFB tech, there are cones controlled by the active servo system. This allows for low frequencies to be reproduced with little to no distortion.
When you’re using the B1, the movement of the speaker cone aids the speaker chamber to be returned to the amp. According to Korg, this technology makes the B1 unique. The technology returns accurate frequency responses and reproductions, along with correcting sound based on surrounding room acoustics.
I always like to see digital piano manufacturers use technology to improve a piano, rather than make it all the piano has to offer. For the price, I’m impressed that Korg has presented us with this technology for a beginner’s piano. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and hear all these great things about new technology, but we put the voices to the test. The sound quality is notable, but here’s what I thought:
Like most digital pianos, the B1 offers most of the basic voices that any pianist can expect. There are a total of 8 sounds on the KORG B1 digital piano. There are three acoustic piano voices, two electric pianos, a harpsichord, and two organs. For the price, I would’ve appreciated some type of string instruments or the option for the orchestra accompaniment for added depth to pieces.
When it comes to learning the piano, I find that a fun way to get my students engaged is to let them play around with voices. After a while, switching between acoustic and electric can get a little mundane.
Each of the acoustic piano voices is pleasant to hear at any volume, and notes flow together wonderfully. The organ voices are best appreciated at the lower register, so those who are looking to play with this voice should try pieces there. When I tried the harpsichord voice, the sound was very crisp but the trill was at a higher frequency than expected. It was slightly piercing. I expected better blending of notes when I played a full piece. At either extreme, either too low or too high, the sound can get a little fuzzy.
Users can activate Partner Mode, which allows the keyboard to split into two keyboards. With two middle C’s, this makes is simple for students to mimic teachers or play duets. If you’re a learner-by-doing or have a student that learns this way, Partner Mode is extremely helpful and will get them learning pieces much quicker than switching back and forth. This is a decent keyboard for when there’s a shortage in the classroom, as two students can share a single instrument.
Korg B1 vs the Competition
Just as Korg released the B1, Kawai introduced the ES8. While the B1 has a market suggested retail price (MSRP) of $500, the ES8 is a little more advanced for $2,000-2,500. This portable digital piano features RHIII graded hammer action, 34 instrument sounds, and 256 polyphony.
Even though Kawai says that the ES8 is a portable digital piano, I would not carry it around everywhere I go for the price I’m paying. This is a great quality piano, but if you’re a performer that will be traveling from practices to gigs, this is not the piano for you unless you can ensure that it won’t get banged up during commutes.
Like the B1, the ES8 has a built in stereo system. Something that more experienced players will appreciate is Kawai’s “harmonic imaging,” which helps to reproduce the sound quality and detail to that of EX concert grand pianos. The Kawai ES8 is steps ahead of the Korg B1, however those that are looking for compact digital pianos with higher quality should look into the ES8.
Yes, the price is a massive jump, but you are getting what you pay for. This piano is for someone who is an intermediate to professional, frequently plays the piano, and perhaps performs from time to time.
The Korg SP170s is another great digital piano from the company that is tailored to beginners. The MSRP is $600, so only about a $100 difference from the B1. The maximum polyphony of 120 is in both keyboards, but there are two extra demo songs and voices on the SP170s.
There are 88 full-weighted keys, chorus and reverb effects, as well as a transposing feature. For those looking for heavier keys and a couple voices to play around with, the Korg SP170s may be a better option. This piano would be best for novices, or people who have only ever looked at a piano, while the B1 may cater to higher learners.
The Yamaha P-115 is a fairly recent piano, but it’s become a dependable, affordable piano. The MSRP is $600, in close range with the B1 and the SP170s.
The P-115 is slightly more advanced and has a lot more voices. This is definitely another performers piano. It features Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Standard with matte finish keys for a great touch. It’s similar in weight and build to the B1, however the P-115 has a maximum polyphony of 192. The speakers are at a lower wattage (7W x 2), but the Pure CF sound engine makes any voice you use sound impressive.
In comparison to some of the B1s competitors, it’s the best piano for intermediate players. Absolute beginners could benefit from the SP170s, however I don’t think an extra $100 on two extra voices and equal or lesser sound quality is worth it to me – I would stick with the B1.
The P-115 and ES8 are higher up on the pay scale, but there are some noteworthy features. The P-115 is one of the best pianos for intermediate to professional players under $1,000. And the Kawai ES8 is definitely a splurge, but it’s a beautiful instrument. However, I believe only expert to professional players would truly appreciate all the features it has to offer.
As far as Korg digital pianos go, the B1 is great for those that are looking to get a feel for the piano or those that want to relearn the instrument. In comparison to its competitors, it has enough features that are sufficient for someone that’s learning piano for the first time, or just someone that needs a solid instrument to practice on.
I don’t believe that the B1 has anything spectacular going on with it, it’s just good at what it was made for. It has just enough features to satisfy a beginner, but it could leave more experienced pianists wanting more.
For the price, it’s definitely worth the buy, but if anyone is willing to expand their budget by just $100-150, you might get slightly better sound quality, more voices, and a couple technological features that we don’t see here.
A popular feature of a lot of digital pianos that are new on the market is some form of app integration or mobile device/tablet connection. This is a feature that most beginner’s pianos are implementing in order to attract people who don’t believe they could ever learn the piano in a conventional way (check out our reviews of the One Light Keyboard and One Smart Piano, for instance). The Korg B1 does not have any of these capabilities or an accompaniment app, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily missed for its intended use (and audience).
This is not a piano that will teach you how to play, but if you ever feel that’s something you need, you can always purchase learning software or beginner lessons separately.
3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
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