01 Oct Korg B2 Digital Piano | REVIEW | Best Piano Under $500?
Korg B2 REVIEW | 88-weight key portable digital piano | Stereo grand piano sound | for 2020 | Best digital piano under $500? | At $499 internet discount price the Korg B2 has been voted #1 best digital piano under $500 by “Digital Piano Review Expert.” This is the 1st time we have ever voted a Korg digital piano into the top slot in this low price range and because of that we have decided to give it a detailed review. Up until now the traditional brands such as Yamaha, Casio, and Roland have occupied this spot but this time the Korg digital piano & keyboard company from Japan has raced in front of everybody to take over the top spot.
The reason why we gave Korg this special award is because they have done something that no one else has done in a digital piano under $500…they devoted all their attention and product investment to the fundamentals of piano playing which is key action response, piano sound authenticity, and pedal sustain realism along with the best internal speaker system reproduction in a portable digital piano in this price range. In other words, the B2 may look somewhat basic and a bit like other digital pianos in this price range, but it’s the only one in our opinion that makes you believe you are actually playing a real piano and that is a very difficult task to do at just $499. The other brands that have digital pianos for $499 or less including the Yamaha P-45, Roland FP-10, and Casio CDP-S150 good digital pianos, but in our opinion they don’t stand up to the 2020 Korg B2.
The Korg B2 digital piano comes in 2 cabinet colors and 2 configurations. Either just as a digital piano for $499 without optional stand and triple pedal or you can get combined with a very nice matching stand & triple pedal unit for just another $100 at $599 and that model is called the B2SP. Beyond that this model comes in your choice of 2 colors…either an attractive matte black color or matte white color. The piano itself is compact and very light weighing in a just 26 pounds so it’s easy to carry around and pack up to take it places if you wish to do that. The control panel is very simple, easy to operate, and there are a variety of extra features although you do need to look in the owners manual to learn how to use those features because it is not obvious from looking at the piano.
This new model has no ability to layer 2 sounds together, no split, no digital recorder, no drum patterns, has just a few buttons on it, and it would appear that there are other digital pianos in this price range which could offer more features and functions. However, what none of the other digital pianos have for $499 or less is the inedible stereo full resonance acoustic piano sound, fast action balanced piano weighted and graded key action, and dynamic sustaining pedaling response that the Korg B2 has. Then when you listen to all of this impressive piano sound coming through a huge 30 watt speaker system then you really get a chance to hear much bigger and fuller piano sound than with any other piano under $500. In fact, this internal speaker system is so good you almost can’t believe it with all the bass frequency range and clarity that projects through the internal speakers of this model.
What is interesting to me is that over the years as a piano teacher and pro musician I have had so many people say me “I just want a great digital piano that is small, lightweight, and also inexpensive under $500 that mainly just is a piano that can actually play and sound like a real piano. In other words what a lot of people are looking for is an instrument that can just do an outstanding job at being a piano without a lot of extra features that they don’t want to pay for because they would likely not use them much or at all. The fact is that it costs money for these piano manufacturers to make a new piano. The cost of design, construction, and technology can bring the price up on these digital pianos to a point where some people cannot afford them or don’t want to pay for “all the extras.”
So what Korg decided to do is to take its pro piano sounds from its top of the line stage digital piano called the “Grandstage” and put a version of those top-of-the-line piano tones into the new model and to make that technology the focal point of the B2 so that people would have a vastly upgraded piano playing experience than they would have on any other digital piano under $500 and in our opinion they succeeded in a way that we did not think was possible at this price. The B2 has s professionally stereo sampled Steinway, Bosendorfer (from Austria), Yamaha (from Japan), and Fazioli (from Italy) grand piano in its proprietary sound chip that has so much natural organic piano content in it that when you hear these piano sounds resonating through the 30 watt speaker system in ways that sound alive and fresh, you will be more than impressed. Lots of beautiful sustained tones, resonate string vibrations, rich balanced tone, and a huge dynamic range as compared to any other digital piano I have ever played under $500. Once you play and hear those piano sounds you won’t care that the B2 doesn’t have many “bells & whistles” because at the end of the day, at least for most people I know, they just want to play piano and be inspired by the instrument they have.
But…the B2 does have other instrument sounds and they are also equally impressive and way better than any other digital piano in this price range. Whether, its string sounds, organ, harpsichord, vintage electric pianos such as Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer electric, Yamaha DX7, church pipe organ, or Hammond B3 fast rotary jazz organ, those sounds are amazing and can be used individually to play solo or to accompany someone. There’s even realistic reverb and chorus/tremolo effects on those sounds too making sound even more natural. So not only does the B2 have great acoustic piano sounds, it also has some really good instrument sounds and to top that off, those instruments and pianos have Korg’s “smooth transition” technology where you can change from one sound to the next and not have the first sound immediately cut out if you are playing while changing sounds. The previous piano or instrument sound “holds on” and keeps sustaining while you are transitioning to another sound and then when you press that next sound you don’t hear the first sound immediately cutting off as you would in many other brands and models. Korg uses that technology in its expensive pro stage pianos but I didn’t think they would include it here at this low price. For some people they won’t care about this “smooth sound transition” feature but for others like me who enjoy changing sounds during a song, this is a very cool feature.
I will admit that I like to layer 2 instrument sounds together sometimes when I play a digital piano such as piano/strings, electric piano/2nd electric piano, piano/organ, harpsichord/strings, etc but on the B2 I can’t do that…but for $499 I am not complaining…you can’t have everything you want in a certain price range but I am getting the most important thing in terms of key action, piano sound, and pedaling, and that is what really counts. At the end of the day it’s really all about playing the piano and having be as good as it can be in your price range and if you cannot spend any more than $500, then the new Korg B2 is where it’s at.
However, there was something that really surprised me about the B2 that I have not mentioned yet… it has a direct USB/MIDI connection to go to a tablet or computer and this was very important to me for a few reasons but mainly because I could use my iPad which I use in my music studio all the time and I could take my favorite instrument sounds from apps like garage band, etc and use them with the B2. But, there’s one problem with that..you need to be able to route the audio of your external device whether it be computer or tablet (iPad in my case) back into the piano so you can hear the Korg B2 piano or instrument sounds along with the external device sounds simultaneously be heard through the B2 internal speaker system at the same time. In other words, you would want to hear your extra sounds from your external device come through the piano. There are very few home digital pianos that have that feature but in the B2 the USB/MIDI cable that you would connect to your iPad/computer so you could send and received the MIDI signal also receives the audio signal (sound) from your external tablet or computer and “stream” that sound through the B2 speaker system without the need of any other cable or inputs.
So now I can take my favorite instrument sounds from my iPad apps like synth, strings, electric pianos, horns, guitars, etc and layer one of them with any one sound in the Korg B2 so I can do sound layering and the results sound great through the B2 speaker system. Beautiful, clear, and able to mix 2 sounds together with ease. You can also record your piano performance from your smartphone or tablet because the USB cable can send audio to your device and that’s a very cool feature as well. Once your done recording then you can play it back through the B2 speaker system so there are many extra things you can do with this model when you connect an tablet, computer, or smart phone to it.
The B2 does not have separate audio outputs and instead you would use the stereo audio output mini jack to output your sound to an external speaker system if you need to do that. However, as far as I know that connection will mute out the internal speakers so you won’t be able to combine the sound from both speaker systems. having to use one stereo headphone jack to connect to an external audio source is one of the only real downsides to this model that I would have preferred to be different so that there would have been 2 separate audio 1/4″ output jacks instead of using the single headphone jack. It’s also likely that this is the reason that the headphone jack is on the back of the B2 so that if you use it as an audio jack to an external sound system then you would connect from the back which would make sense. But that means it is inconvenient to connect a pair of headphones because instead of connecting headphones to the front of the piano you have to do that in the back of the piano, and I personally don’t like that. So there are really 2 irritating downsides to the B2 as far as I am concerned, but for a lot of people they won’t care about that because they will just be playing this piano through the internal speakers in their home or some other regular sized room and won’t need to connect an external sound source.
If you will need to plug in headphones it is certainly doable and works fine but it’s not near as convenient as compared to the B2 having had that headphone jack in the front left side of the piano cabinet. Other things you can do with the B2 include it having an adjustable digital metronome for rhythm & timing training which is great for students to keep them on track or for recreational players who want to learn a new song and need some timing help. The B2 can also transpose/modulate your song to any key instantly which is great for getting a song in your vocal range if your range is not in the the original key. You can adjust the key-touch and change the setting anywhere from hard to soft depending on what kind of finger strength you have. The key-touch settings does not change the physical movement of the key, only the digital velocity curve in how the sound comes in when you play the key. The
One big thing I want to bring up at this point is the “polyphony” number of the Korg B2. It s specification is 120 notes maximum of polyphony and people ask me all the time if they should be worried if the polyphony specification is low relative to some other digital pianos which may have a higher polyphony specification such as 128 notes maximum, 192 notes maximum, 256 notes maximum, etc. Some digital pianos just have 64 notes maximum such as the Yamaha P45 ($499 price) and that polyphony count is actually too low in my opinion and could possibly cause some playability problems for people depending on your playing skill level. What polyphony means is basically having enough memory in the piano chip to sustain the maximum amount of notes in a digital piano.
Most digital pianos have a “stereo recorded piano sound” and that means to get stereo you would need to use twice the amount of polyphony memory in each note you play. So instead of using 1 polyphony note of memory for each key you play if the sound were in mono, you would need 2 polyphony notes of memory for stereo. In other words, if there is only 64 notes of polyphony memory, you would divide that number into 2 and you would get 32 notes of polyphony memory when you play a piano sound on a Yamaha P-45 digital piano if that piano sound is in stereo. That means if you play and sustain more than 32 keys at one time (which is entirely possible) you would hear any additional notes above 32 notes instantly drop out and stop playing. So there is a point at which more polyphony is a good thing. But then there is also the quality of the sampled piano sound and the layers of samples in each piano sound selected.
This is all somewhat of a mathematical equation, but the bottom line is, if you play a digital piano and play a more complex piece of music playing a lot of notes and using your sustain pedal to sustain those notes, if you don’t hear any notes suddenly drop out then you have enough polyphony memory. However, that does not mean the piano sound is very good or realistic because I have heard some expensive digital pianos that have 256-note polyphony and even “unlimited” piano polyphony and yet the piano sounds themselves were very artificial and not pleasing to my ears at all. There was no note drop-out at all…but the piano sound just was not good. With the Korg B2 there is 120 note maximum polyphony and I played all 5 acoustic piano sounds on this model and not once did I have any “note drop-out” and I tried hard to get it to drop out. This means that the piano sound technology in this instrument is at a much higher level than normal in this price range so no matter what playing skill level you are at you can rest in knowing that the B2 can handle your piano playing needs regardless of what those needs happen to be including very responsive fast-movement key action, sensitive pedaling, and long sustain time.
If you want the “best bang for the buck” in a digital piano under $500 and you really just want to focus on the best piano playing reproduction you can get in this price range, then we recommend the Korg B2 88-key digital piano at just $499 or with the package added on (stand & triple pedal) at just $599. The Korg company produces reliable product, offers a factory warranty to cover any defects (it’s rare to find defects in this kind of product based on my experience with using Korg digital pianos), and having the Korg name on a digital piano is actually a big thing because Korg is recognized as making pro keyboard product that thousands of top musicians and recording studios use all over the world and is very respected in the music field. The B2 measures 52″ x 13″ x 5″ so is small enough and light enough at 25 lbs to put just about anywhere and yet it looks great too with its simple but elegant cabinet design with buttons and volume knob that have a very nice tactile feel to them. This piano also includes a large music rack to put your music on which is really helpful considering many of these portable digital pianos have very small music racks.
It is important for us to mention that although we rank this model as #1 under $500, as good as it is, some of the portable and furniture cabinet top name digital pianos over up to and over $1000 are even better with more piano playing realism! If you think the all new Korg B2 sounds like the piano for you then let us know. Please contact right away by email or call us directly Mon thru Sat during our studio hours 10am to 7pm Mountain Time if you live in the US and we can talk to you in detail about this and other digital pianos and let you know about the special pricing available to you right now also with free shipping, no tax, brand new.