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5 Best Keyboard Workstations 2021 – Buying Guide & Reviews

Keyboard workstations vary significantly in price, features, and overall quality. I put together this list of the best keyboard workstations, as I have owned and played nearly every option on the market.

Keyboard Workstations are an all-in-one package as they are recording studios and keyboards built into one instrument.

Not all workstations have weighted keys, but if you get one with 88 keys they will most likely be weighted.

We are looking at the best keyboard workstations available in 2021. Workstations are some of the most powerful and versatile keyboards you can buy.

keyboard

Korg KRONOS2 88 Key

A subtle evolution, but one that keeps Kronos firmly at the top of the diminishing workstation pile.

$3299

The Kronos range includes the 61-note model with synth action (one of the nicest synth actions around), the 73-note weighted version, the 88-note weighted version (which is the subject of this review), and the recently added Kronos LS-88 which features a lighter-touch 88-note keyboard for those that require a lighter full-length keyboard without the weighted feel. 

There are 185 effect types including delays, compressors, EQs, envelopes, choruses, phasers, panners, delays, reverbs, decimators, cabinet models, and a vocoder. The newest engine included as part of the 3.1.0 OS is SGX-2; a premium acoustic piano engine that now includes a splendid ‘Berlin’ grand piano alongside the already well-respected Japanese and German brands.

Pros
  • It’s an indispensable self-contained solution for those wanting to be less DAW-centric.
Cons
  • Takes time to learn.
5 Best Keyboard Workstations 2021 - Buying Guide & Reviews 1

Roland FANTOM-8

A versatile powerhouse with bags of connectivity.

$3999

The new Fantom ‘platform’ uses Roland’s latest Zen-Core tech (basically a powerful new unified engine that contains PCM, V-Piano modeling, and VA waves, in this instance), with processing headroom for future engine upgrades and additions.

PCM banks A and B contain 963 and 257 samples respectively, giving a total of 1,220 raw partial waves to build on across the four partials available within a Tone. To bring things further up-to-date, you’ll also find new Tones from the AX-Edge keytar, alongside classics from the Integra-7 and XV-5080, though there are none of the lovely Supernatural Acoustic Tones onboard.

 

Pros
  • Well-built with a clear, snappy touchscreen

  • Powerful step LFOs, multimode analog filter/drive and great sequencing, sampling, and effects
  • Streams multiple audio channels over USB, CV/gate outs

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Cons
  • Expensive

  • No dedicated tonewheel organ/EP engines
  • Not enough ‘bread and butter’ scenes. No full ‘linear’ audio track recording or user multisampling.
  • Piano-roll editing is quite basic
  • No rack version; bulky at 27kg
5 Best Keyboard Workstations 2021 - Buying Guide & Reviews 2

Yamaha MODX8 88

Essentially the MODX combines the best bits of the Montage/Motif/DX engines, for a great price.

$1999

The 88-note weighted action GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) MODX8 weighs 13.8 KG (a notch over 30lbs) and is aimed at those wanting to get the most from piano and electric piano sounds or to use as a weighted controller. Yamaha describes this action as “great for the aspiring pianist because it can help you build proper finger technique.” 

Many workstation configurations have a built-in sound interface, but they do not have exactly the same input options as the MODX8. The multi-channel audio port has two inputs and 10 out. As with lots of Yamaha’s high-end keyboards, the onboard effects come in the VCM engine.

Pros
  • Motion Control engine and superknob offer deep, multifaceted real-time sound control/evolution.
  • Massive power, versatile sounds, and serious portability.
Cons
  • Lacks a dedicated tonewheel organ engine with preset drawbars, a VA engine, direct sampling, and a deeper Motif-type sequencer.
5 Best Keyboard Workstations 2021 - Buying Guide & Reviews 3

Yamaha Montage 8

The Montage is a uniquely powerful sound design and live performance machine, though beware of the often overwhelming depth.

$3999

The Montage 8 is a heavy beast at 63lbs. It will be a great centerpiece in a large studio but for more compact spaces, the 61 or 76-key models are better suited. Ideally, we’d like a 73-note weighted version, or a more stiffly sprung waterfall keybed version that transverses synth sounds and pianos nicely without the extra weight.

The first is that the AWM2 engine, which generates amazingly realistic acoustic guitar and Rhodes sounds. The second is the FM-X motor that covers a broad range of vintage and modern synths. The Montage also receives regular firmware updates and optional audio expansion packs.

Pros
  • High-quality build and stunning sound.
Cons
  • Lacks a dedicated tonewheel organ engine, VA engine, direct sampling and deep sequencer.
5 Best Keyboard Workstations 2021 - Buying Guide & Reviews 4

Nord Stage 3

The NS3 builds on the solid foundation of the Stage 2 series, adding functionality that makes using it much more practical and inspiring.

$4699

NS3 Compact features a semi-weighted 73-note waterfall keybed which straddles the massive range of sounds that the NS3 can produce brilliantly. It has just enough tension and precision for accurate piano and EP playing but it’s simultaneously light and precise for synth, clav, and organ work too. 

Each audio engine includes a dedicated management section with LED labeling for visual feedback. You will find committed onboard effects for each department as well as master consequences. The synth section has a dedicated OLED screen to make things much more accessible.

Pros
  • The addition of real drawbars makes using the B3 engine a lot more inspiring, plus there’s a new C2D organ engine.
  • The new A1 synth engine is a massive improvement over the old NS2 synth.
Cons
  • Still no XL Rhodes samples, or Clavinet with note-off noises and muted sample.

CONCLUSION

We hope our review will help you to find the best keyboard workstation for your needs. Everything considered we recommend you go with a keyboard workstation that gives you most features for less money. The above review includes the most popular and best workstations that you can find in the market.

If you are looking for other reviews go check out our website.

Ritvik

Written by Ritvik

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