Some time ago, a friend of mine came to me with an interesting revelation. He’s a successful businessman, who’s made his wealth through a variety of career fields, and has no worries about his financial future. However, he has one sort of a “bucket list” that he’s been compiling, and while he didn’t care to divulge the contents of the entire list, he did speak to one burning desire: learning to play the piano. Specially, a Korg digital piano.
He knew that I had been into music my entire life, and admitted he had no real knowledge of this instrument, only that he wanted to take it serious. His parents had owned an old baby grand, which sat just outside the foyer of their home, quietly calling to him. He never answered the call, and chalked it up to the worries of life. But now, after 50 years, he had found surprisingly that it was still calling him.
So he charged me with the task of finding him a piano that would be suitable for him. I knew about his lifestyle, so I immediately brought up the idea of having a digital piano. The more I told him about digital pianos, the more he was shocked that they even existed. He almost didn’t believe me, when I told him these pianos can feel, look, and sound exactly like a real acoustic piano. As I continued to search, I settled on one specific machine: the wonderful and very affordable Korg SP170.
The SP170 is one of a number of dependable machines on Korg’s line of digital pianos. It’s not a piano that is going to wow you with its range of eye-popping characteristics and capabilities. It’s going to do exactly what it was created to do: provide an incredible and realistic acoustic piano experience in an environment that’s comfortable for you.
- NOTE: You can read our review of the Korg B1 now, which has since replaced the very popular Korg SP170s and Korg SP170.
Piano Buying Guide
Below, please compare the affordable Korg SP170 to other pianos in its class based on weight, price, and even customer reviews from Amazon.com.
$ = $500 or less | $$ = $500 – $1,000 | $$$ = $1,000 and up
|Korg SP170S||88||$||Natural Weighted Hammer Action (NH) Keyboard|
|Casio PX-160||88||$||Dual Headphone Outputs on Front|
|Alesis Recital||88||$||Semi-Weighted Keys|
|Casio PX-S1000||88||$$||18 Sounds, Bluetooth Capability|
|Casio PX-S3000||88||$$$||700 Sounds, 200 Rhythms|
|Donner DEP-20||88||$$||Fully-Weighted Keys|
|Casio WK6600||76||$||700 Tones|
|Yamaha P-45||88||$||64 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha P-125||88||$$||GHS Weighted Action|
|Yamaha P-515||88||$$$||Natural Wood X Key Action|
Korg SP170 Review: Specs and Features
The look and feel of this digital piano to me is simply amazing. It’s a full length, 88-key piano, with 60-note polyphony. One awesome feature of the 170 is that it can come in a variety of custom colors. There is a smooth jet black, a beautiful ivory white, and a sizzling cherry red for the bold person who wants to make a statement. Even the sturdy wooden legs of the piano – which are optional – can come in any of the matching custom colors, along with the music rest. The machine is 52 inches long and 12 inches wide, with a weight of about 27 pounds. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you choose to carry it around frequently.
The piano has an even, plain surface that won’t bog the user down with a barrage of buttons. In fact, on the surface of the machine there are no buttons. The SP170 doesn’t have the traditional control panel and utilizes an innovative new technique for the control of functionality. Every function is controlled by the piano keys; something that surely would have frustrated any new user who skipped the user’s manual and was frustrated by the lack of navigational buttons.
To reach any choice of options, all the player has to do is press down the A#7, B7, and C8 keys simultaneously, and press whatever other key that performs a specific function. For example, if I want to change between any of the ten tones inside the 170, all I have to do is press that exact key combination, and then press any of the C7 through A7 keys to choose a tone. From that selection you will have Piano 1 & 2, Electric Piano 1 & 2, Harpsichord, Clavinet, Vibraphone, Piano Organ, Electric Organ, and Strings.
If you press any of the C6 to A6 keys, you’ll be able to listen to any of the ten wonderful demo songs that are on the machine. These demo songs give you an incredible insight into the full capability of the Korg SP170. I personally couldn’t get past the first song, “Fantaisie-Impromptu Op.66 /F.Chopin,” which showcased the incredible sound of the piano and the sensitive touch of each of its keys. I might even dare say that anyone listening to that recording would be hard pressed to know it was played by a digital piano!
Before we continue, please take a look at a few digital pianos that are currently best sellers and some of our favorite instruments on the market:
Pressing A5 and B5 will turn on the reverb and chorus effects, while keys C4 through D#5 will control any one of the sixteen MIDI channels. Keys F#2 through F3 control the Transpose function, which allows any player to shift the notes to whichever key they’re comfortable with, without having to move their fingers. There is also a Key Touch function, which will regulate how the piano reacts to the pressure you put on the keys. The three settings are Light, which will play fortissimo with a soft touch, Heavy, which will play fortissimo with a strong touch, and Standard, which will simulate a normal piano touch.
One of the beautiful things about the SP170 is that it comes with Korg’s patented “Natural Weighted Hammer Action”, which is an innovative feature that replicates the striking hammer action of a regular acoustic piano. Now there are several different schools of thought when it comes to weighted keys and hammer action on electric keyboards and digital pianos. Some people believe that a digital piano can never truly mimic the action that a hammer striking a vibrating wire creates on a key, even though it may replicate the weighted keys. Others are amazed by the creativity of inventors who have brought the same hammer action from acoustic pianos and cleverly placed it in the digital piano.
From my point of view, I believe that every person should try out pianos for themselves, because ultimately it is you that will be happy or unhappy with the performance. Personally, I think it’s wonderful! I’ve played all kinds of “toy” keyboards and flimsy plastic alternatives, so I almost get physically excited when I see a piano that matches the weight, feel, and hammer action of a real piano. To me, it couldn’t get any better.
Naturally, my friend has enjoyed the Korg SP170. He’s come to me over and over again to thank me for igniting his passion for the piano again. He had left this dream of his by the wayside, but he never thought it would be brought back to him through a type of digital piano he had never even seen before! He’s enjoyed this machine from the day he got it, and I’m sure anyone who makes this purchase will feel the same way as well.
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