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. I have been playing workstations for over 10 years now and I have learned a lot over the years about them.
It is also important to note that while keyboard workstations are usually packed with beautiful piano sounds, they differ from digital pianos as their main purpose isn’t to just emulate an acoustic piano.
*I recently purchased the K2700 and was able to spend a few weeks with it. I believe this is the only workstation that rivals the Fantom. Personally, I prefer the sounds on the K2700 over any workstation to date.
Table of Contents
- 1 Quick Glance At Our Favorite Options
- 2 Best Keyboard Workstations
- 2.1 1) Roland Fantom – Best Overall
- 2.2 2) Yamaha Montage 8
- 2.3 3) Korg Nautilus
- 2.4 4) Kurzweil PC-4
- 2.5 5) Roland FA-08
- 3 Best Budget Workstations
- 3.1 6) Yamaha MOXF6 Music Production Workstation – Best Under $1000
- 3.2 7) Korg Kross 2
- 3.3 8) Casio WK 6600 – Best Keyboard Workstation For Under $300
- 3.3.1 Overall Thoughts On The Casio WK 6600
- 3.3.2 Things To Look For In A Keyboard Workstation
- 4 Is A Keyboard Workstation Good For Gigs
- 5 Conclusion
Quick Glance At Our Favorite Options
|EDITORS CHOICE||Roland Fantom 8||
|Best Sounds||Kurzweil K2700||
|Alternative||Yamaha Montage 8||
|Budget||Korg Krome 6||
Keyboard workstations are versatile as you can use them as a MIDI controller and record with them with a computer or you can do everything internally. MIDI controllers are probably my favorite keyboards at the time. You can read about my favorites at the link above.
You can even record vocals and drums directly into your keyboard. Keyboard workstations are used heavily in hip-hop music, but they can also be used for singer-songwriters who aren’t well versed in working with computers.
Best Keyboard Workstations
Below is a list of the best overall keyboard workstations on the market. You will notice that there are a few standouts and a bunch of others that are also great.
1) Roland Fantom – Best Overall
The Roland Fantom has been brought back and this is impressive in pretty much every way. Packed with top of the line sounds and incredible key-bed, the Roland Fantom comes in as the best keyboard workstation.
The Fantom offers a visual approach that is super innovative and fun. The screen allows you to tweak and see changes from filter sweeps to passes.
Roland knocked the sequencer out of the park on the Fantom and I believe that this keyboard truly competes with your classic MIDI controller setup now.
In my opinion, I believe the Fantom competes with the Yamaha Genos, which is more so a keyboard arranger. Arranger keyboards are more so for live music because they allow you to set up a full band with a few clicks on the interface.
Overall Thoughts On The Fantom Workstation
This is without a doubt the best keyboard workstation available. It’s the most powerful and intuitive option yet and I think it will be extremely popular for years to come.
2) Yamaha Montage 8
For many years, many people believed that the Yamaha Montage was the best keyboard workstation available. I believe that it is definitely one of the best options that you can go with as well.
One of the coolest features on the Montage 8 is the Super knob. This can elevate some of your productions in a new an exciting way.
You can use this knob with one hand and take control of effects and sound modifications while you’re playing.
For example, you could take a piano and for a certain part, you could throw a ton of reverb on it or delay depending on what you’re looking to do. This just allows you to be incredibly dynamic with your playing.
If you need to be playing with both hands you can assign the super knob to be a foot controller as well with a pedal. There are two different sound engines on this instrument and one of them has some crazy cool synthesizers.
This keyboard workstation provides synthesizers for musicians who are looking to create chill-wave 80’s pop to EDM producers who want some buzzy basses and leads.
The Montage 8 is an upgrade to the ever-popular Yamaha Motif series. There is aftertouch on the keys and the key-bed feels really nice as well. The sound library is also massive coming in with over 2100 pre-set patches with an arpeggiator that also has over 10,000 types to pick from.
Overall Thoughts On The Yamaha Montage 8
I think this is easily one of the best keyboard workstations and the only thing I don’t like is the price. It is very expensive, but it is also a keyboard that is basically a complete recording studio all in one.
3) Korg Nautilus
Korg is revered when it comes to talking about keyboard workstations.
It is something they do very well and the KorgNatulis 88 is their very best workstation and it is an extremely powerful machine.
The Nautilus is one of their latest creations and one of the big things that surprised me were the piano sounds. They seemed like a solid upgrade from that of the Kronos.
The Korg Nautilus has 9 different sounds and this is the main feature that sets it apart from most other workstations. One of the sound engines is for electric piano sounds and these are top-notch.
I like the sound of Nord Electro pianos, but I really like the sounds of the electric piano on the Nautilus. There is also a sound engine for organ sounds and this sound engine as well sounds very expensive and warm.
A unique feature of this instrument is that it has a sound engine that has Analog synthesizer modeling. A product that has crazy good sounds is what the Korg Nautilus is. This device is also a recording studio. The studio functions are very easy to navigate and the tools are all there for editing.
Overall Thoughts On The Nautilus
I think this is one of the most impressive products on the market right now and this is an instrument that you can use for your entire musical career.
4) Kurzweil PC-4
The Kurzweil PC4 is one of Kurzweil’s most popular products. Like most Kurzweil products, this workstation is known for incredible customizability as well as an impressive sound engine.
Another selling point for this is the flashplay technology. It loads far faster than the Nautilus keyboard. When comparing the sounds of the PC4 versus that of Yamaha and Korg, I think it’s a no-brainer that the PC4 sounds better. With this being said, this is subjective and everyone has theire own opinion.
I recently started playing Kurzweil products about two years ago. The PC4’s sound engine is incredible and it has some presets that blow the brakes off of some of the more expensive VSTs I’ve played.
Overall Thoughts On The Kurzweil PC4
I think the PC4 deserves all the attention it has gotten. From impressive sounds to fantastic setlist abilities, the PC4 is built to last.
5) Roland FA-08
The Roland FA-08 is great for touring musicians as well as for studio musicians.
What makes this a good keyboard for touring musicians is how light it is at only 35 pounds. I actually own this and I use it for touring and I use it as a MIDI controller. The MIDI on the FA-08 is very up to date and it immediately worked with my laptop.
In my opinion, because of its weight, I believe the FA 08 is the best keyboard workstation for live performance.
You can read my full product review of the Roland FA 08 here.
It has 16 pads that you can assign anything to inside your DAW. A good way to use the pads is to change the internal setting to pad assign mode.
When you do this you can make it so your DAW will sync with the pads and allow you to change synth sounds seamlessly. You can use these pads for drums and for other purposes as well, this is just one function.
The key-bed on Roland products, in general, is fantastic and this is the same case. They’re known for their ivory feel G series and personally, they’re some of my favorite keys on an instrument because they feel like a real piano. They feel as close to ivory as they possibly can.
I have always loved the synth sounds of Rolands as they just sound so warm and inviting to me. This instrument has some really beautiful sounding pads and huge swelling bass sounds. Roland has its trademark D-beam on the FA-08 and this is a neat feature.
I haven’t found a great use for it other than it’s fun to play with and looks cool. You just hover your hover hand over the sensor and it triggers crazy-sounding synths.
Overall Thoughts On The Roland FA-08
This is one of the cheaper workstations on the market and it packs a powerful punch. I think this is a great product overall and I am happy to own it.
I think it’s very easy to say that this is currently the best keyboard workstation for those on a budget.
*The FA 08 is also available in 61 keys and 73 keys.
Best Budget Workstations
Below are a few looks at workstations that are under $1000. There are some solid choices and I personally love the MOXF6.
6) Yamaha MOXF6 Music Production Workstation – Best Under $1000
The Yamaha MOXF6 is a music keyboard that is affordable, yet still packs a powerful punch.
I wouldn’t put this on the same level as the high-end products, but I would put it on the level right below them. The MOXF6 has 61 keys, but there is a version with 88 keys as well. The keys on this are semi-weighted since it only has 61 keys.
I like that this is more portable than most keyboard workstations in the sense that it’s a little smaller and lighter. You can use the flash drive and install synthesizer samples and I really like this. You can download some serious vintage synths such as the CS-80 by Yamaha.
There are 3900 pre-set sounds, but as far as straight-up synthesized sounds, there is a little bit of lacking here. Definitely, use the flash drive to install more synthesizers if that is what you’re looking for. This also has the capability to be used as a MIDI controller as well.
Overall Thoughts On The MOXF 6
The MOXF6 is one of the best keyboard workstations under $1,000.
7) Korg Kross 2
The Korg Kross 2 is the Korg entry-level keyboard workstation. This is the most portable workstation in the sense that it is only 8 pounds.
The Kross 2 has over 1,000 pre-set sounds. This does not have speakers built-in so you will need to connect to your computer or an amplifier for sound.
You can run this on just AA batteries making it portable friendly for any musician. If you are using a DAW, you can use this keyboard with it as a controller.
Overall Thoughts On The Korg Kross 2
For the price, this is a good choice. I wouldn’t put this up against the Roland’s or high-end Korg and Yamaha’s though.
8) Casio WK 6600 – Best Keyboard Workstation For Under $300
This is very entry-level, but I will say I was surprised when playing this. Casio has come a long way and they’re products are not what they were 15-20 years ago. The sounds on Casio keyboards actually surprise me as they sound pretty realistic.
This is for the musician who wants to wet their feet before spending a ton of money seeing how this is a very cheap price.
If you go into this keyboard workstation not expecting the most amazing product, you will be very happy. It comes with 76 keys, but you can also find it with 61 or 88 as well. There are sliders that you can use with your DAW or just use to tweak your sounds internally.
Overall Thoughts On The Casio WK 6600
It is crazy this is so inexpensive, for that reason I think it makes this a good purchase for a beginning to intermediate music producer.
Things To Look For In A Keyboard Workstation
Sound Quality And Number Of Sound Pre-Sets
The quality of the sound samples on your instrument is important for musicians looking to record in a studio, play live or just play for their own fun. A big reason why musicians like to play these instruments is that the sounds typically are much better than normal keyboards sounds.
The sound library is usually pretty massive on a keyboard workstation and this is another big thing to pay attention to.
You want to find something that has a lot of different sounds, yet you also want to make sure that the samples sound realistic and not cheap. When you’re dealing with these you usually are getting high-quality sounding samples from strings to drums.
Sound quality also refers to the customization you are able to do to your sound of choice.
Having the ability to alter sounds and tweak them to your liking is a big plus with these types of keyboards. If you have a sound that you like, but it needs a little refining, then you will want the controls to be able to do so.
The Key-Beds On A Keyboard Workstation
The key-bed, in general, is very important when it comes to deciding on which keyboard is right for you. Some key-beds come with 88 keys, others with 76, 73, 61, and some even have only 49 keys. When you purchase a workstation with less than 88 keys, the keys will likely not be weighted.
Now, this is a preference of the musician on whether or not they want weighted keys. I have a piano background so when I pick keyboards I always prefer a one with weighted keys.
There are semi-weighted key-beds that don’t feel awful, you just have to find the right one. If you don’t have a piano background, not having weighted keys isn’t going to be a big deal then as you don’t know the difference between semi-weighted and weighted keys.
Rom stands for “Read Only Memory” and what this does is allows you to add memory cards with more songs to your instrument.
The more Rom your keyboard has, the better in the long run. Ram stands for “Random Access Memory” and this determines the amount of you will have on your instrument for sampling. If you’re going to be doing a significant amount of sampling then you will want more ram.
Computer Interface Of Your Keyboard Workstation
Most will have a USB interface so you can transfer data. Some have built-in audio interfaces which means you will save a lot of money and not have to invest in additional software for recording. One thing I like to do is use it as a MIDI controller because then I can access unlimited sounds through a DAW.
We will be talking about the effects that come with each product pretty extensively because this is an important feature. You want to have a keyboard workstation that has a lot of effects and effects that are easy to use and implement.
Putting effects on certain sounds or audio clips can take an idea or a song to the next level and become the backbone of it. Becoming familiar with effects is also important if you don’t fully understand what they are because you want to be able to take advantage of all your instruments abilities.
Audio And Sequencing
You can pre-record parts into your instrument for when you’re playing live and want to have more parts playing to fill the sound out. This is one of the nicest features in a workstation and a function that makes it very valuable.
You can use MIDI to also hook up to a laptop for live performance if you want to have even more access to sounds. However, with a workstation, you are able to setup live-sets that have all of your sounds so it is easier to navigate for a performer.
This is something these instruments make very user-friendly. These are such good tools for a film score composer because they are able to instantly hear what certain sounds like when layered immediately. Workstations make it so you can layer multiple sounds together to create warm and large sounding patches.
Type Of Synthesizers
This is where workstations really match what their price value is. If you want a keyboard workstation that has great sounding synths, you will want to consider an expensive one that has multiple sound engines for this purpose.
The entry-level stations are going to always supply you with the best synths in the big picture. Something with different sound engines and tons of pre-set patches would definitely be the route if synthesizers are important to you.
Is A Keyboard Workstation Good For Gigs
100%. These can be awesome for gigging as you can save your whole live set on it prior to performing. This makes it so you can easily switch from song pre-sets. The key-beds are typically fantastic as well.
If you can afford a workstation, I would recommend getting a nice one rather than getting a really nice digital piano. Digital pianos are great as well, however, they don’t have near the abilities of that of a workstation. Even if the piano sounds are better on the digital piano, you can still get expansion packs and download new ones.
One thing that I will mention is that workstations can be pretty heavy. If you are wanting to tour, the FA-08 is hands-down the best choice as it’s light, durable, and simply powerful. They also fit in 88 key keyboard cases exceptionally well.
We have provided you with the very best keyboard workstations available for all budgets. If you enjoy making beats on keyboards, check out this post where I talk about the best beat making keyboards at the link above.
If you enjoyed this post or use another product that I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments below!