New Affordable Keyboards

I'm always happy to be able to report that something that I've complained about has changed. A couple of years ago, I complained loudly that there were very few good, affordable (under $750) keyboards. At that time, there were only a couple of decent-sounding instruments out there -- Korg's X-50 and PS-60 (both of which I own), Roland's Juno-D, and Yamaha's MM-6. I'm happy to report that the market is responding! There are now at least 15 sub-$750 professional-level keyboards available from a variety of manufacturers, with two new models on the way from Casio.

That's right, I said Casio.

Casio brought out some of the first of the affordable synths and samplers (you can read an interesting history of Casio keyboards here and here), but with the exception of digital pianos, they've pretty much ignored the pro market until now. Casio will be releasing two exciting new instruments in the next couple of months -- a pro-performance-level model called the XW-P1 (slated to ship in March) and a loop and groove oriented model called the XW-G1 (arriving in April). MSRPs on these models are right around $700, with one dealer listing prices of under $500! While I need yet another keyboard like I need a hole in my head, the XW-P1 is on my short list for purchase later this year -- despite the fact that I just acquired a Casio CTK-6000 arranger keyboard.

I'm really excited by the resurgence of lower-cost instruments in the market. There are a lot of us weekend-warrior musicians who just don't have the cash assets to plunk down a lot of money on equipment, but still need reasonable quality keyboards for our garage bands that only gig a couple times a month at best.

Of course, I found some more info on the new Casio XW-P1 after I posted and shared. Here's a video from Casio:

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On The Hunt: Keyboard Amps

I'm sort of in the market for a new keyboard amp. Don't get me wrong; my current amp, a Peavey KB3, is an awesome amp. It's got plenty of power. It sounds great. It's got plenty of inputs. It's got every feature I could want in a keyboard amp, including a special monitoring input that allows me to use it as a keyboard mixer/amp and a monitor wedge at the same time. And, it was reasonably priced. What more could I possibly want, for goodness sake?!? Simple.

Controls on the face of the amp, not on the top all the way at the back, where I can't see them easily when I reach to make a quick adjustment. See, I either raise my amp off the floor behind me, so it's closer to my head, or angle it back on a floor stand, so that the speaker is facing up like a floor wedge. That way, I can hear what I'm playing, as opposed to shooting the sound past my knees.

Controls on modestly-priced (sub-$300) amps were on the front, once upon a time. My first keyboard amp (Peavey KB100) and my second keyboard amp (Peavey KB/A60) had front-facing controls. So, what's with the trend to put them at the back? Just because Roland (undoubtedly, the makers the most popular series of keyboard amps out there) has been putting them back there for years, it's not necessarily a good idea.

So, how 'bout it, friends. Any ideas on a comparable amp that has its knobbies on the front, where I can see 'em, that won't break the bank?