Performer’s Guide to Keyboard Amps

Out of necessity, many pianists begrudgingly become keyboard players when they join touring bands. Let’s face it – lugging around that Bösendorfer really isn’t an option unless you’re Tori Amos. So the feel of a real acoustic piano may be sacrificed in the name of portability, but that doesn’t mean that sound quality has to take a back seat just because you’re tickling the plastic, instead of the ivories.

So what do you need to look for in a keyboard amp? First, make sure you are indeed looking at a keyboard amp. Your keyboard was designed to output a wide frequency range, so plugging into a guitar amp will choke the full capabilities of your instrument. Guitar amps are mostly designed to boost and cut certain frequencies, which gives the electric guitar its signature sound. But for your purposes, this is not ideal and you’ll be crammed into the same sonic space as your guitar player on stage. Your amp needs to cut through the mix, not clog it up. Which means you’ll need some power. Look for keyboard amps that have plenty of watts – this is not simply for volume, but for CLEAN volume without distortion. Again, you’re not looking to compete with your band mates to see who can most muddy up your house mix. And lastly, look for keyboards amps that offer at least a basic EQ adjustment. As mentioned previously, you may end up fighting for space in the same frequency range as some of your fellow musicians, so being able to tweak your equalization on-the-fly at a gig can come in handy.

On these pages, we’ll be highlighting some of our top picks for quality, affordable keyboard amplifiers. [Editor’s note – some product descriptions courtesy of their manufacturer]

 

OUR PICKS


Roland KC-550

$599

Notes: The KC-550 boasts 180 watts of powerful sound via a 15-inch speaker and horn tweeter. In addition to its four input channels, Roland’s flagship amp includes an Output Select switch for selecting the monitor sound destination, a Shape switch for quick sound adjustment and an XLR Line output for direct connection to a mixing console. To our ears, Roland makes the most dynamically pleasing keyboard amps, capable of handling the full frequency range of today’s synths, keyboards and stage pianos. Where others fail at low-end reproduction, the KC-550 confidently projects bass frequencies with clarity and punch, not mud and boom.

Specs:

180W

15″ speaker and horn tweeter

4 channel operation

3-band EQ

Shape switch for quick tonal adjustments

XLR mic input and line out

1/4″ phone jack for connecting to recording devices

RCA aux stereo input

Stereo link in/out for chaining 2 KC-550s

 

 

Behringer ULTRATONE K3000FX

$325

Notes: The 300-Watt K3000FX gives you four stereo channels, each with separate volume and FX send controls, plus Channel 1 has an additional XLR mic input for the direct connection of a dynamic microphone. So, if you’re the kind of keyboardist with multiple instruments at your disposal, the K3000FX is ready to handle up to four independent signals. It is also ideal for use as an all-in-one solution for keys and vocal applications. The onboard 24-bit digital FX processor, with 100 amazing presets, adds a high-tech dash of reverb, chorus, flange, delay, pitch shift and other effects to your sound.

Specs:

300-Watt 4-channel system

Powerful 15” BUGERA woofer and custom-made 1” driver

Integrated 24-bit digital FX processor

FBQ Feedback Detection System

Full 4-channel stereo operation with separate Volume and FX Send per channel

Dedicated 7-band graphic EQ

Balanced stereo XLR DI

Separate headphone output

 

 

Peavey KB 4

$399

Notes: The KB 4 was designed as a personal PA system in a keyboard amp. The KB 4 features separate inputs on each channel and can easily handle voice, microphones and other instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, drum machines and backing machines, such as CD and DAT players. Other essential features include a stereo effects loop, ground lift, master level, XLR balanced stereo line out, DDT defeat switch and the capability to drive an external speaker. The built-in casters and handle make it a breeze to transport!

Specs:

15″ speaker and tweeter

75W/100W with external speaker

Stereo mixer with 2-band EQ and main effects send/return

Mic/Line channel with 3-band EQ and effects send/return

Monitor input with level control and assign

Headphone out with level control

Built-in casters and handle for easy moving

 

 

Roland KC-880 Stereo Amplifier

$999

Notes: The new flagship of the KC amp series is packed with high-performance features. With five channels of stereo input, 320 watts of power and Roland’s famous DSP effects built in, the KC-880 is a portable powerhouse for keyboards. It’s a step up from the KC-550, for sure, and at this price range, you REALLY start to hear why Roland is our go-to choice for keyboard amplification. The purity of the tone and the robust, full sound makes even die-hard acoustic players turn their heads. Try running your rig on a Grand Piano setting to feel the full power of the KC-880.

Specs:

Stereo amplifier with five channels of stereo input

320W stereo power amplifier

12-inch woofers and two horn tweeters

DSP effects (Reverb, Chorus, Tremolo, Rotary)

Flexible I/O (XLR mic input, stereo XLR line outputs, headphone out)

Stereo Link for chaining multiple KC-880s

Casters x4

 

 

Hammond Leslie 3300 Rotary Speaker

$2425

Notes: Sometimes you just need that Leslie sound, and the 3300 has been designed with the professional touring musician in mind. This single-channel Leslie features a 2-speed horn rotor utilizing the famous Ferro Fluid driver and a bass rotor with a massive 15″ woofer. It’s powered with an ear-shattering 300-Watt RMS solid-state amplifier with a vacuum tube preamp. The Leslie 3300 can be connected to most electronic organs and keyboards on the market today, and is housed in a rugged-built cabinet with a high-impact black finish. The heavy-duty casters will make it a snap to transport to your next performance.

Specs:

220W RMS bass amp

80W RMS treble amp

15″ woofer and Ferro Fluid horn driver

Ruggedly built with high-impact finish

Locking casters

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