If you’re looking for a worthwhile synthesizer keyboard, then this battle between the Korg Kross 2 vs Roland JUNO DS88 will probably pique your interest. We’re going to examine everything these synths have to offer, from key features to touch, feel and and sound. We’ll then let you know which keyboard we feel is the best one to purchase.
|Roland JUNO DS61|
|Roland JUNO DS88|
|Korg Kross 2|
|Novation Impulse 61|
Korg Kross 2 vs Roland JUNO DS88: First Impressions
Let’s begin with the Korg Kross 2 (priced around $1,200). This initially was not a brand I was familiar with, so I was eager to press some buttons to get a feel. My first impressions of the Korg were very positive, I have to say. When powered up, the buttons light up a very cool-looking red.
I like that there are plenty of phrase pads (16, to be exact), which is great for gigging and recording. If you’re not familiar with phrase pads, they’re a data bank for a prerecorded sample that you can play on a loop while you play or sing over it. I also like that there is a pitch bending wheel and a mod wheel to add effect to your playing. Very nice.
The Korg comes in two models—a 61 key model and an 88 key model. Which one you get depends on your needs and budget. But, with that said, if your primary function is mixing and gigging, you’re not going to miss those extra octaves.
The Roland (priced around $1,000) was also impressive. Its buttons lit up red and blue when powered up for a nice effect.
It has half as many phrase pads and mod wheels as the Korg has, but it does seem to have more precise controls on the left when compared to the Korg.
I see controls (I love sliders!) to adjust phrase pad volume and mic, as well as adjustments for cutoff, resonance, attack, and release of notes. All of that is great for gigging and mixing, so I was pleased to see it.
This model had the full 88 keys, so it was easy to see that even at full size, the keyboard looks pretty portable. Overall, very nice too!
I’m stumped here. I love both of these instruments’ vintage Atari vibes. They both look great and both seem to have some very useful features and controls that I would have loved to have had during my gigging days.
So, here’s a first for us—a tie.
First Impressions Rating: Tied
- You May Also Want to Read: Roland JUNO DS88 review
- You May Also Want to Read: Roland JUNO DS61 review
If you’re going to be recording and mixing, then you’re going to want your new instrument to sound great. And luckily both instruments achieve that. Let’s start by discussing the Korg.
I was expecting both of these instruments to have more of a synthesizer sound to them so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the piano voices are quite natural. If you wanted, you could play a classical piece on the Korg and it would sound great on this keyboard.
The synth sounds are great as well as the organ, strings, and bass. I can see this as being a very useful tool for mixing tracks. With such a wide variety of sounds, there is a lot you can do!
And as nice as the Korg sounded, I’d say that the Roland sounded even better.
The Roland Juno line has its own sound engine (Juno Sound Engine) and it does a very nice job. The DS88 has a very natural-sounding piano voice; it reminded me exactly of a classic upright. While the Kross’s (Korg’s EDS-i Sound Engine) voices were a little on the tinny side (just a little!), that’s not so at all with the Roland.
All of the Roland’s voices from pianos to synth to organ to strings sounded very nice and had a little more depth and fullness to them than the Korg’s. Please keep in mind that the Korg does NOT sound bad. It sounds great! It’s just that the Roland sounds even better.
Also keep in mind that since these instruments are meant for gigging and mixing, they do not have built-in speakers. Be prepared to buy yourself an amp or at least a pair of headphones until you can get one.
- Sound Winner: Roland Juno DS88
You’re going to want your new instrument to sound great and feel great. And while this isn’t the type of instrument that a beginner would be learning on, you’ll still want it to feel as close to a real piano as you can.
So, you’ll be pleased to know that the 88-key versions of both of these instruments come with weighted keys. I find that very important because your technique and playing style is just going to be better if you are learning on something that responds to your touch and allows you to play dynamically.
But while both instruments come with weighted keys, I did prefer the action of the Roland to be a little better. The Roland did feel more like playing a piano and the matte finish they put on the keys is a nice touch.
The Korg Kross 2 features weighted keys as well, but I found them to be less balanced than the Roland’s keys; kind of like playing an old piano. Now, some of you might not give a flip about the key action of your keyboard, and that is totally fine! I do understand that some performers and recording artists aren’t pianists and actually prefer the lighter keys. It’s a completely different playing style, after all.
If I’ve just described you, and you’d prefer a keyboard with a synth touch over a traditional piano touch, then aim for the 61-key version of both of these instruments or the Roland’s 76-key option. The keys are not weighted in the smaller models which might make things a little easier for you and will certainly make your instrument easier to carry.
- Touch Winner: Roland Juno DS88 (but your mileage may vary)
Since both of these keyboards are designed for gigging, it should come as no surprise that both are portable. Both the Roland Juno and the Korg Kross 2 are offered in 88-key and 61-key versions (the Juno also comes in a 76-key version as well), so if a full-sized keyboard is too big for you then aim for the smaller version for maximum portability.
Both instruments can be operated by battery (6 AA for the Korg and 8 AA for the Roland) so if you don’t have enough plugs for your amp and your piano both, then no worries, your instrument’s got you covered.
The only thing that might sway things toward the Korg is, when comparing the 88-key versions, it weighs about 8 pounds less. And that actually didn’t surprise me.
Rolands are notoriously chunky instruments so, weighing in at a bicep-building 36 pounds, the Juno DS88 is going to be a bit harder to lug around than the Korg (27 pounds, thank you very much).
And as we mentioned a little earlier, if you go for the 61 key versions of either instrument, the keys aren’t weighted and that significantly reduces the weight you’ll have to carry (8.4 pounds for the Korg and 11 pounds for the Roland).
I also shouldn’t forget to mention that the Korg also comes with a nifty little accessory compartment on the 88-key version. It’s not much, but it’s enough room to store your charger and some extra batteries too (rubber band them together so they aren’t rattling around, please).
- Portability Winner: Korg Kross 2
Here we go. Time to see what kind of bells and whistles these instruments come with. To make things easier, I’ve split this section into smaller parts to dive deeper into what these instruments can offer.
Voices and Effects: For a keyboard workstation, this is going to be pretty important.
Both instruments deliver here and impressively so.
Both have chorus and reverb effects, allowing you to add depth and fullness to your sound. They also come loaded with tons of voices and presets (1000+) and if that isn’t enough, you can download more.
The voices come in categories, such as piano, bass, strings, and within that category, you can narrow down the sound you want from the huge amount of variations each instrument packs.
Play them as is, load them into a phrase pad and play them on loop, whatever you want, the possibilities are almost endless here.
The edge the Roland has here is more effects (more variations on chorus and reverb effects), more presets and drum kits, and a very nifty vocoder to alter your voice on the microphone.
Connections: Both instruments are tied in this category.
They offer connections for microphone, headphones, amp, USB, pedal, and MIDI. Both can be set up to play straight into your DAW (digital audio workstation) and, as you can see demonstrated on the Korg image below, neither will have trouble hooking up to any of the sound equipment your band will need for your next gig.
Functions: It took me about 10 minutes to decide where to start with this section.
Both of these instruments are loaded with great features that will definitely take your playing and mixing to the next level.
Both instruments can play in split layer and dual layer, allowing you to assign different voices to different keys for some very cool effects.
Use the sequencers to create your own backing drum beats, pattern loops, or recordings for a full band experience right from your keyboard. The Korg has 16 phrase pads to record on vs the Roland’s 8, but both are still very useful and can create some amazing loops with tons of variety. You can even bypass the metronome and create your own tempo using the “tap tempo” button for total control over your recordings.
Plenty to give you everything you need.
User Interface: It actually might come down to which instrument is easier to use.
So, which is it? Well, I am going to go with the Roland for just a couple reasons.
I really like how the voices are actual buttons. You want a piano voice? Punch the piano button. You want a bass voice? Punch bass. You can slide around to narrow down your sound, but having the buttons just makes it easier.
Not that finding voices with the Korg is difficult, but it does take a little bit longer to slide around.
I also appreciate the added control with the sliders and the tuners on the left. It really does make things easier when you can see levels by the height of the slider. That being said, there is still going to be a learning curve with both of these instruments, especially if you’ve never owned a keyboard workstation before.
Study your manual, watch videos, and really pay attention to how your new instrument works so you can get the hang of how to create loops, record audio, use your presets, and just make full use of your instrument’s huge potential.
- Features Winner: Roland Juno DS88
Roland JUNO DS88 or Korg Kross 2: Who Wins?
We’ve now reached the end of a contested battle between the Korg Kross 2 vs Roland Juno DS88, and it’s time to declare a winner. And, after weighing the pros and cons of both synth keyboards, I feel the best synthesizer keyboard is: the Roland Juno DS88!
With that said, both of these instruments would make excellent keyboard workstations for music mixers and rock stars everywhere, and owning either of them should suit all of your needs and bring you and your audience plenty of enjoyment.
There is just so much these instruments have to offer and so many things you can do with them. Honestly, you’ll probably want to take off work for a couple of days once you bring your new instrument home because you’ll likely be enjoying your synth so much, you’ll want to devote your full attention to it.
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