If you ended up on this page where I am telling about the best keyboard workstation, you are probably familiar with this device.
Nevertheless, I want to briefly describe what keyboards stations are. So, here, we are going to talk about an electronic instrument that integrates a keyboard with a sound module and sequencers. These units help create quality sound and their features make them quite convenient to use. Keyboard workstations can be used for advanced patch editing and mixing.
Why did I decide to dedicate the whole review to these instruments? The thing is, there are too many of them on the market nowadays. Making the right choice gets harder with each new model released by a certain manufacturer. Let me tell you why the information below will be helpful for you, First, I have divided all the workstations according to their price. Of course, the figures vary in different shops but I considered the average ones. Second, I am describing every model in detail. You will easily understand why some instruments got into my rate of the best keyboard workstations.
What to pay attention to?
As I said, the whole review is divided into sections depending on the price of the models. I do know that money is important for you and you might have some financial limitations when buying a keyboard workstation. So, one of the main things to take into consideration is definitely the price. To make this information maximum useful, I read keyboard workstation reviews and tried lots of instruments myself.
Speaking of my own preferences, I usually buy instruments with a midrange price. As a rule, such units provide great features and have decent quality. If you want to have a maximum advanced model, then pay attention to the category with premium workstations. They are quite expensive, but they will impress you with a fantastic variety of features and perfect sound.
Keyboard Workstation Reviews
Best keyboard workstations under $2000
Yamaha MODX8 – best overall
I am totally convinced that this is the best workstation keyboard in my review. It is a model with an 88-note, weighted keyboard action. It triggers the signals of the AWM2 and FM-X sound modules, which use the same sampling and frequency modulation technology as the premium MONTAGE line from the manufacturer. In addition, the 4-position sound switching allows music to sound very naturally when the musician changes the performance patches. If you are not keen on managing things, you will certainly like this device. The thing is, Yamaha MODX8 has Live Sets that allow performance organization without copying, renaming, and even changing order.
Using Motion Control allows you to create sounds that were not possible with previous synthesizers of this manufacturer. The MODX8 is equipped with a powerful and innovative DSP with awesome sound quality. If you want to compose a cool EDM sound, you can use Beat Repeat, Vinyl Break, or Bit Crusher. The capacity for 27 simultaneous effects make this instrument just perfect for any musician.
The A/D input allows you to process external audio using DSP. It is possible to plug in microphones, guitars, or any line level audio source and process them with built-in effects. Moreover, ycan use external audio along with the Envelope Follower or Sidechain to compose a fully unique sound. On top of that, the MODX8 has a high-quality multi-channel USB interface that provides a user with an opportunity to transmit up to 10 and receive up to 4 channels of digital audio. Isn’t it impressive?
It’s really hard to describe the sound of this awesome keyboard workstation since it can be changed in the way you want. You can get super natural acoustic and electric pianos, basses, and even vintage sounds. This all is available with just one instrument.
- The unique Motion Control system lets you control any tone parameters with amazing studio detail, even during live performances
- Envelope Follower allows you to use audio to control practically any synth parameter or effect
- Four-part Seamless Sound Switching
- Has AWM2 which provides data compression without damaging sound
- The touch screen interface seems to be little complicated sometimes, especially in times of record recall
- Super knob flashes a color, and it can’t be turned off, which might be annoying
The FA-08 is very lightweight and portable for an 88-note synthesizer. This workstation takes just 8 seconds to be fully operational. It looks stylish and practical, the body is made of tough textured plastic, and the work area has a black and shiny surface.
The control panel buttons are firm to the touch, and the knobs used to adjust the parameters feel slightly softer and more flexible. From an ergonomic point of view, the front panel is simple and functional, without a touch screen, with a large knob. This model has a “Shift” button for direct access to the main editing parameters, so you don’t need to constantly scroll through all the content of the pages. Thanks to a powerful arpeggiator, you can import SMFs (Standard MIDI Files) of up to 500 events to use as arpeggios. To add, you even have a possibility to import a MIDI track from the current song and use it as the basis of an arpeggio.
A professional keyboard sequencer with a non-stop recording function is also available. Such a feature allows you to easily record your musical compositions, subsequently exporting the finished data in the form of multitracks directly to the software music editor. By the way, Roland FA-08 can be used as a USB audio interface to record different audio sources directly into the program via the stereo output and just a headphone jack.
This model allows you to get more than 2000 sounds, including sounds of synthesizers, acoustic instruments and drums. Tone Remain lets you switch between tones without cutting off the tails of notes or effects. In addition, D-Beam Infrared Sensor, Arpeggiator, Rhythm Patterns, and Chord Memory functions will certainly expand your creative toolbox. All FA series instruments have an easy-to-use 16-track sequencer that provides you with an opportunity to record musical ideas as they arise.
- Intuitive, refined interface with color LCD screen
- 16-channel sequencer with continuous recording function makes song creation quick and easy
- Built-in sampler based on SP-404SX with 16 pads, 4 banks, plus playback from SDHC cards
- Screen gets cramped on some functions
- Lacks PC editor
Best keyboard workstations under $1000
Korg Kross 2-61 – best budget
Let me tell you about the best keyboard workstation under 1000 with a dedicated section for managing parameters in real time mode. This model has a “Favorite” function for saving and quickly finding favorite sounds. The next thing you should know about the Korg Kross 2-61 is a dedicated button for quick access to Quick Layer and Quick Split functions.
The color scheme of the model is extremely elegant and the user interface allows even beginners to work intuitively. The panel layout provides easy access to functions. I would say the Korg Kross 2-61 is a great keyboard workstation made for creative users. I also have to mention the fantastic sampling functionality and 16 sampler pads. You have an opportunity to program your Combi with your split layers and arps. Moreover, you are also able to assign a specific drum pattern and then save it as a preset.
The keyboard workstation is perfect for those starting out that want something simple on the surface but that can grow with the musician as deeper editing is required. Generally, Kross 2-61 is extremely easy to use and the sound set is just amazing. On top of that, it has practically every sound you might need for pop, jazz, etc.
Extremely lightweight and compact dimensions make the unit convenient to carry and use. Compared to the previous model, the Korg Kross 2-61 has an increased runtime of up to seven hours on battery power. Musicians will appreciate the built-in sequencer, Drum Track and arpeggiator. Streaming music is not a problem, because this keyboard workstation has a built-in USB audio interface, compatible with iPad and iPhone.
If you asked me what I like the most about this model, I would call the wide range of input jacks for instrumental singers or vocoders that don’t require any additional equipment. An audio player that can be triggered using the pads makes the unit one of the most excellent in its class. Overall, you will find pretty much everything you could want in terms of parameters to edit including several LFOs, EGs and filter types with flexible routing.
- Rich selection of timbres: over 1000 preset sounds
- 128 MB of memory for loading additional sound libraries
- Powerful EDS-i sound engine and excellent variety of effects (134 types in total)
- Multifunctional built-in sampler with sixteen pads
- Few real-time controllers
- No aftertouch
Looking for a cheap keyboard workstation? Let’s talk about this awesome 61-note mobile synth workstation with mind blowing sounds and hands-on operation for demanding bands. With 1230 lifelike sounds for live instruments, especially piano and organ, 128-voice polyphony and 240 accompaniment styles, the professional musician will be certainly satisfied. Moreover, additional sounds and effects can be loaded into the synthesizer’s memory via the USB port. Sampling functions are super easy to use and let you assign a sample to a pad or pattern.
Each of the 8 phrase pad controllers can be easily assigned to a variety of samples and songs, both ready-made and just created. Sounds from preset banks, user banks and expansion cards are retrieved using cursor buttons. The most favorite and frequently used sounds (up to 10) can be added to a separate Favorite category for quick access. All controls are intuitive, each action is displayed on the LCD.
A vocal microphone can be connected to the Roland JUNO-DS61, which can be used in vocoder mode. It will especially appeal to fans of experimenting with sounds. There are also outputs for expression and sustain pedals, support for recording ready-made compositions to WAV and MIDI file. If you are making music and have no desire to struggle using a DAW or computer and want to jam right out of the box, the considered model is the right choice for you. By the way, if you forget to turn off the Synth, it will notify you. Plus, you have a possibility set the instrument to auto off as well.
Speaking of the keyboard workstation performance, the JUNO-DS61 plays fantastic. The model is fully weighted and super responsive to your touch. The fantastic feel that it creates is similar to the experience of playing an acoustic.
- 256 user tones, 8 drum kits and 128 performances
- Supports audio files in WAV, AIFF and MP3 formats
- Mic input with eight types of reverb, built-in vocoder, and Auto Pitch effects
- 80 types of multi-effects, as well as 3 types of chorus and 5 types of reverb
- Lack of a “local” switch on the board itself
Premium keyboard workstations
Korg Kronos 2 88 – best premium
Let me show you the greatest premium keyboard workstation that is the perfect solution for live performance as well as professional studio recording. The model is equipped with a multi-functional 16-track MIDI sequencer and a 16-track AUDIO sequencer. Just imagine, users can use up to 16 effects simultaneously. I’m really in love with this workstation. The nine engines really cover it all with very little need for sound customization.
Korg Kronos 2 88 features nine modern sound modules (SGX-2, EP-1, HD-1, AL-1, CX-3, STR-1, MOD-7, MS-20EX, PolysixEX), each of which uses the original technology to create an authentic, original sounding. For instance, the EP-1 virtual synthesizer lets you experience the natural sound of six of the most popular classic electric pianos.
The midi workstation supports sound control right on the touch screen, so if you need to make any changes to the sound, you can do it by touching or dragging blocks right on the screen. I can assure you that the touch screen is gorgeous and fast. By the way, Set List mode with programs, combinations and songs with indication of performance notes are combined into a single list on one large page. The set list mode is incredibly convenient to use. I really like setting up my sets ahead of time and simply pushing the screen to go from a program to a combination. It is perfect for those who like order.
The manufacturer also implemented a unique MDS (Multi-Dimensional Synthesis) digital synthesis technology for very natural sounding of a variety of amp types, effects, and cabinet emulation. The mentioned technology also allows you to completely eliminate transitions in the sound between samples. The STR-1 sound module transmits the sound of plucked string instruments such as acoustic electric guitar, clavinet, and even different ethnic instruments.
- Workstation keyboard sensitive with aftertouch function
- Built-in 16-track MIDI sequencer for recording 16 tracks plus one master track (200 songs in total)
- Lots of controllers right on the panel
- The manuals are quite difficult to understand
- The software that comes with it is quite slow
With the Yamaha Montage7 keyboard, composing a variety of sounds – from powerful and fast to calm and slow is really easy. With Motion Control, the musician can easily control rhythmic and multidimensional movement. 8 rotary encoders and faders with position indicators make the instrument perfect. Semi-weighted FSX keyboard is pressure sensitive and allows you to really enjoy using Yamaha Montage7.
Do you like to keep things in order? If yes, I have good news for you. The Live Set function allows you to organize the Performances settings in a specific way, without copying, reordering or renaming. Moreover, the model is equipped with a Direct Control Assignment function that lets you assign certain parameters with the push of a button. Excellent, isn’t it?
Let’s talk about the sound. Honestly, I have never used a synthesizer that sounds as good as this Yamaha Montage7. The attention to detail in the sounds is impressive. I believe this is a great unit for those who are looking for a sophisticated synth engine. Yamaha Montage7 certainly can provide you with everything from vintage ’80s to modern EDM sounds, all with superb dynamic range and perfect fidelity.
One more feature I want to tell you about is Motion Sequences. These are tempo-synchronized, fully programmable control signal sequences that you can assign to any synthesizer parameter and thus find completely new ways of programming sounds. The Motion Sequences function has controls on the front. Thanks to this, you can control the audio in real time.
- The workstation has an onboard Envelope Follower which allows you to use any audio as a modulator for any synth parameter
- Has 1.75 GB of user memory with high access speed
- Compatible with YAMAHA Motif XF Voices
- The sliders do not lock in either direction until you reach the preset levels of the patch you selected
What is the difference between an arranger keyboard and a workstation?
Are you wondering how to distinguish a workstation from an arranger? Well, the main thing you need to consider is that the standard arranger keyboard is equipped with a built-in “auto-accompaniment.” Simply put, you can turn on certain backing tracks with just one button. The sound will be automatically adapted to the style, rhythm, and tempo of what you are playing.
Meanwhile, a keyboard workstation has different effects that can be set manually. As a rule, such instruments also offer more advanced features like patch editing and sequencing. One more thing that makes keyboard stations different from arranger keyboards is a wide variety of methods of sound generation. For instance, it can be analog modeling or sample playback. With any of the models mentioned in this review, you can modulate hundreds of presets or build patches from scratch.
Should I get a 66 or 88 key keyboard?
Most keyboards come with 66, 72, or 88 keys. Some manufacturers offer the same workstation model with different numbers of keys. If you are a beginner, you will probably be fine with a 66 key instrument. The main benefits of such a choice is an affordable price and ease to use.
Speaking of versatile options, most music compositions can be played on 72 key workstations. So, what is the 88 key instrument for? It is perfect for those who are interested in playing classical piano. Plus, it is a suitable option if you are going to play a traditional piano as well.
If you are looking for a good 88 key workstation, consider that it should have weighted and graduated keys to mimic the feel of a real piano. To add, it is great if the unit has speakers built right into the keyboard.
By the way, there are many instruments that have even less than 66 keys. They are intended for producing electronic organ music. After reading my review, you don’t have to struggle trying to choose the best keyboard workstation. All the models mentioned above fully meet my standard of excellence. Make your choice and enjoy the sound!