Whether it’s your first synthesizer or your dozenth, you know that there are different size keyboards. Most notable are 88-key synths (and sometimes 61-key synths) as they are often the most expensive and high-tech. In recent years however we’ve seen a surge of smaller and more lightweight synthesizers that can compete with the big boys in terms of performance. Synths like the Teenage Engineering OP-1 come to mind. Under different circumstances, certain people require different size instruments. For example, someone who travels a lot might need a smaller keyboard. An individual who is more stationary and serious might want something larger and more powerful like a TYROS 5. So which size synthesizer should you opt for?
Understanding the differences
A few years ago, the difference between a small keyboard and a large one were quite drastic in terms of output power, performance, and design. Nowadays it’s becoming more and more difficult to pinpoint what kind of synthesizer was used to produce which sounds as they all sound pretty good lately. If you look at this list for example, which displays the greatest synthesizer of the year, you’ll notice that not all of them are large keyboards! Some even tiny synths can be quite impressive. By far, the biggest advantage of the large synthesizers is the fact that you have a wider range of sounds you can work with – meaning that you’ll be able to fine tine your work more precisely. Rather than being able to break down a single sound through a few dozen keys, when you have more keys you have more precision to work with.
Are all ‘big’ synthesizer better than small ones?
Absolutely not. In fact, I’ve noted multiple times throughout my reviews that it is not at all uncommon to see smaller synths completely beat out large ones. I’m sure if you took the top 50 88-key synths and compared them to the top 50 small synths you’d notice that in general, the large synthesizers will perform better. However, this does not mean such is the case at all times – there are exceptions.
Which one should I buy?
Read this post to get more understanding of how to choose a synthesizer. It’s actually quite simple to break this down and you likely already know which size synthesizer would work best for you. The general consensus is that if you’re a professional and do shows in front of thousands of people you will probably need something powerful, intricate, and usually large like a Montage 8. If you do more amateur performances with fewer attendants, then maybe something less powerful and more affordable like a Krome would suit your needs better. If you are a beginner and just want to play around with the sounds and get a feel for the instrument, then you certainly don’t need to be spending too much money on something like this. Perhaps a MS20 synth would suit your needs.
88-keys versus 61-keys
If you’re more on the high-end of the scale from beginner to expert, this might be a question you are asking yourself. 61-key synthesizers are usually significantly cheaper than their counterparts – just look at the Yamaha Montage 6 as opposed to the 8. It won’t be the case always, but the significant drop off in price is justified; you don’t get as much power with the smaller keyboards. This isn’t to say that one can’t be happy with the smaller workstations. They are great and far superior to the average synths in the world.
Buying a synthesizer is a wonderful process, but you want to make sure you’re doing it the right way. Thankfully there aren’t too many options when it comes to size and this makes the whole selection process a little bit easier.