Korg is, by now, a name in the digital piano industry. Although they’re not as big as Yamaha or Casio, their products are competitive enough to be comparable to models developed by the big names. What makes them stand out is the very good quality for relatively affordable prices. Today’s Korg B1 review is our intent to analyze this entry level digital piano, see how it compares to alternatives and ultimately find out if it’s worthwhile your consideration.
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There are two variations, B1 and B1SP. Actually they are the same thing, the SP signifies that it comes with the dedicated stand and three pedal unit. I recommend focusing on that one, because the piano playing experience is so much better with that package. By the way, our button above leads to the Korg B1SP version. You’ll see that it makes sense, even financially.
Let’s jump right into the review and see what the Korg B1 brings to the table.
One of the main design advantages of this digital piano is the compact size and reduced weight. At only 26 pounds and 51.6″ x 13.2″ x 4.6″, it’s very portable. If you’re anywhere over, let’s say 16 years, you can easily move this digital piano by yourself.
Having in mind these values, I would say that it’s a great fit for anyone looking to place their digital piano in a small space. Because it’s so compact, it will not take away too much of the available space. Not to say how much it will compliment the room with its smooth and elegant looks.
It has a long grill on the front, a design element which gives the musical instrument a lot of character. It’s also an something that you will not find on many digital pianos. It kind of makes it stand out, design-wise.
Because it has been designed as an entry level digital piano, the B1 lacks certain elements that you would find on other pianos. Some of them are actually quite an inconvenience. It lacks USB ports, line out jacks and other functionalities that might or might not be a deciding factor for a beginner.
If you are a performing artist, because of these shortages I wouldn’t recommend the Korg B1 for you. But it can be just the right digital piano for you if you’re a beginner or plan on using it mostly at home. The headphone jack enables you to plug your headphones in and practice without disturbing others around you. And practice is something you’ll have to do daily for a few hours, especially at the beginning. It’s not necessary to say that your practice sessions will not be the most harmonic performances, that’s why headphones are an accessory I recommend.
Because the B1 doesn’t have a display as part of its control panel, you’ll have to get used to certain key and button combinations in order to navigate the menu. But, after a relatively short period you’ll be accustomed to your most often used functions. Otherwise, I think the control panel is very neat, uncluttered with few buttons, actually 4 plus the master volume knob.
Korg B1 / B1SP Specifications
- Dimensions: 51.6″ x 13.2″ x 4.6″ / Weight: 26 lbs. ; 46.3 lbs. the B1SP;
- Natural Weighted Key Action;
- 3 Level Touch Sensitivity: Light, Normal, Heavy;
- 88-key weighted keyboard with matte black key tops;
- Connections: Headphone jack, sustain jack;
- Functions: transpose, metronome, fine tuning;
- Polyphony: 120 notes;
- Voices: 3 piano, 8 total;
- Stereo PCM Sound;
- Modes: Duo;
- Speakers: 2 x 9W
Most digital pianos, from a certain level upwards, usually have the following three modes: split, dual and duet. The first two modes are for mixing two different instrument sounds. The split mode splits the keyboard in two parts, distributing a sound for each one. The dual mode mixes two different sounds into one more complex, harmonic sound. Unfortunately the Korg B1 lacks these two modes.
It does, however, offer the third mode. And it’s quite natural for it to have the third mode, duet. The duet mode, also called partner mode, split the keyboard in two equal halves, each having a middle C. Both parts have the exact same pitch, so that it’s really convenient for a piano teacher and a student to practice together with help of the duet mode.
Even from this point of view, it’s clear that this digital piano is designed with beginners in mind.
Overall, the Korg B1 offers 8 different instrument sounds: 3 grand pianos, 2 electric pianos, 2 organs and harpsichord.
These 8 instrument sounds are very nice, Korg using what is called PCM stereo sampling technology. Although alternative digital pianos offer more sounds, it’s up to debate if you really need them at this level. Sure, it’s fun playing around with different instrument sounds, but a digital piano, and more so and entry-level digital piano, is supposed to primarily offer a high quality piano sound, which is respectably accomplished by the B1.
As for sound effects like chorus and reverb, the instrument sounds are tuned in a certain way. You can’t adjust these parameters. You can only turn them off or on.
As for the piano sounds, they are very rich, with damper and string resonances included.
The keyboard of the Korg B1 is a full sized 88-key keyboard. The keys are individually weighted with real hammers. The touch is heavier on the lower end and progressively gets lighter towards the higher end. Overall the mechanics of the keys feels similar too that of an acoustic piano’s keyboard.
The keys are also touch sensitive, and you can adjust the sensitivity selecting one of three levels: light, normal and heavy. As you can imagine, the “heavy” setting has the most dynamic range, meaning you can be most expressive while playing using this setting. The favorite setting depends on the person playing this digital piano. People with lighter touches might prefer the light setting, not having to apply the same effort to play a song in fortissimo as with the heavy setting. I personally prefer the heavier setting, as its more similar to the feeling of playing an acoustic piano. So, if you ever plan on translating your newly learned skills onto an acoustic piano, I recommend going with the heavy setting from the beginning. This way you’ll get accustomed with the correct finger technique.
The keys are made of plastic. An aspect similar to most keyboards in this price range. But, unfortunately they lack an artificial ivory and ebony key top, which would have conferred a lot more grip when the fingers start getting moist. In this case, the black keys have a matte finish and the white keys a glossy finish.
Overall, the keyboard is comparable to the alternatives in this price range and category. There are better overall keyboards in higher price ranges, but for a beginner, this might be enough for starters.
Polyphony represents the maximum number of notes that can be played at at any moment. The Korg B1 has a maximum number of 120-note polyphony. Frankly it’s more than enough at this level.
Considering that it doesn’t have multi-track MIDI recording or layering modes that would need a lot of polyphony in order to render complex sounds, you will probably never reach the polyphony limit of this digital piano.
I would say that the speakers are one of the strengths of this digital piano. The two speakers of the B1 have a total power output of 18W. Their dimensions are 5 cm x 10 cm. By using a certain technology, called motional feedback technology, the speakers are able to adapt to the acoustics of the room and render low frequencies with quite impressive accuracy.
The volume is not the most impressive, but considering their utility, they are enough to fill a medium space. Compared to the competition, it’s in no way inferior. I would say equal or above.
Further useful features
One of the main advantages of digital pianos is the lack of the need for tuning. But, as most digital pianos, the Korg B1 can has some features that enables you to adjust the pitch.
To adjust the pitch of the whole keyboard in increments of 0.5Hz, use the fine tuning function. It’s very useful when you play along other musical instruments and would like to match the pitch of the digital piano to those.
You can also adjust the pitch of the keyboard in semitone increments. For this you’ll use the transpose function. With this function you can easily transpose a song to a key that is convenient to you. For instance, if a song is written in a difficult key, you can simply transpose it. But you can also transpose a song in a higher or lower key while using the same finger technique.
To help you keep the right rhythm, the metronome function is at your disposal. It’s especially useful in the beginning when the sense of rhythm might be underdeveloped. It’s a kind of a basic function, but it’s very useful, especially for beginners.
What this digital piano lacks is recording capabilities. Because it does not have a built-in MIDI recorder, you will not be able to record your performances. Nor does it have built-in songs. This is somewhat of a weakness, when compared to alternatives in the same price range.
At this chapter, the Korg B1 is really not excelling. The total connectivity options amount to the disappointing number of 2 jacks.
The first is a quarter inch sustain pedal jack that is located beneath the piano. The 3 pedal unit will be connected here.
The second is a 1/8 inch headphone jack, which is located at the worst possible spot, at the back of the piano. You can also use this jack as a line out to connect amplification, if needed.
The most frustrating part about this is the fact that there is no way of connecting the B1 to your computer in order to enhance the experience through music apps. This might be more or less important to you, depending on the reason for choosing this digital piano.
But judging by the fact that most digital pianos nowadays, that are priced upwards of a couple hundred dollars, offer some kind of connection capability to a computer, it’s pretty hard for me to understand the justification for the people at Korg not adding this functionality to the B1.
These accessories are included in the basic Korg B1 package: owner’s manual, music rest, ac power adapter and sustain pedal.
Stand and Pedals
Right from the beginning of this review I suggested, that if you decide that the B1 is the right digital piano for you, to choose the B1SP version.
The reasoning behind this is pretty straight forward. The B1SP comes with a cabinet style stand and a triple pedal unit. It’s only about $100 more expensive than the B1 version, but it’s so worth the difference. If you were to buy these accessories separately it would cost more than this. Only the stand would be around this difference. And you get the triple pedal unit included in this difference if you choose the B1SP version. Over this, the package in this version includes a bench as well.
The link in the buttons on this page go to the B1SP version. I strongly recommend checking it out, so you can see for yourself what I mean.
Yes, X and Z style stands are more portable, but with the package discussed above, the entire piano playing experience is far more authentic. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, if you decide to buy this piano, not to choose this version.
Because the B1 is, considering its weight and dimensions, a pretty portable digital piano, if you think you’re going to move it around, I strongly recommend a padded bag. The bag will protect your digital piano from accidental damages that might occur during transportation.
You will not find a bag especially made by Korg, but there are multiple options available that will fit just right.
Using headphones when practicing piano comes with a number of advantages, for you and for those around you. Because long practice sessions can get pretty annoying for those having to listen to them, a good pair of headphones will keep your relationships in a good state.
But a good quality pair of headphones also come with advantages for the user. The sound on most digital pianos is quite better quality when listening through headphones than through the built-in speakers.
There are some alternatives to the Korg B1 which in my opinion are viable options. Continue reading to find out how they compare to the B1:
Korg B1 vs Casio PX-160
Looking at the specifications list of the Casio PX-160, it’s not that hard to notice that it’s quite better equipped than the Korg B1.
It has 50 songs that are installed on the piano which you can practice. The B1 lacks this feature completely. A MIDI recorder enables you to record your performances and then transfer them to a computer through the USB type B port. It also has 18 instrument sounds vs B1’s 8. Not ony this, but you also have the Dual mode on the PX-160 which enables you to mix any 2 of these sounds and create more complex sounds.
A nice feature concerning the keys of the PX-160 is the artificial ivory and ebony key tops. These are of great use during prolonged practice sessions. They prevent your fingers from slipping when they get moist.
The clear advantage of the B1 is the SP package which I mentioned. The furniture style stand and triple pedal unit offer a more realistic piano playing experience. The B1 also has more powerful speakers. They’re actually a bit more powerful, and wouldn’t make a major difference. But they are, so it has to be mentioned.
If you want to learn more about this digital piano, read our full Casio PX-160 review.
Korg B1 vs Yamaha P45
These two digital pianos are evenly built, having similar features and functionalities.
They both have full 88-key weighted hammer action keyboards which have a realistic feeling. The technology behind the keyboards might have different names, but essentially offer similar experiences.
And this is the part where the differences start. The B1 is a bit more expensive than the P-45. It offers a more powerful sound because it’s equipped with more powerful speakers. The P-45 has a total speaker power output of 12 W vs the 18 W of the B1. The B1 also has almost double the polyphony compared to the P-45, 120 vs 64. This feature gives you the ability to play a lot more complex musical pieces without losing any complexity along the way.
The P-45, on the other hand is superior in other aspects. It ha 2 more instrument sounds and USB connectivity. The USB connectivity enables you to connect it to a computer which opens up more functionalities. It also has the dual mode, which gives you the ability to layer two sounds, and create even more complex new sounds.
Both digital piano models are basic, they don’t overly impress with ther capabilities, but they are very well suited for beginners. It depends on your certain needs, which functionalities you tend to appreciate more.
If you want to find out more, read our full Yamaha P-45 review.
After reading our Korg B1 review, I think you have all the information you need to determine whether this digital piano is right for you or not.
What’s clear is that Korg attempted to produce a digital piano for beginners, that has strong fundamentals and has a stylish design. And they succeeded in doing so.
But, we cannot but notice the lack of certain features that most digital pianos over a couple hundred dollars have, such as a USB connectivity, or Bluetooth, a MIDI recorder or even ‘split’ and ‘layering’ modes. It’s obvious they tried to simplify the B1 as much as possible, in order to be able to sell it for an entry level price. But, they omitted some features, and I am underlining USB connectivity here, that could have amplified the usage possibilities of the piano without having to install too many extra features on the item itself.
On the other hand, what it does have, is really great quality for the price. The B1SP version is very good value for money, as you get a furniture type stand and integrated 3 pedal unit for only a supplemental $100 than the B1 version.
The speakers are really nice with the ‘motion feedback’ technology. The grand piano sound is resonant and rich. And it has the duet mode that beginners will probably appreciate as it makes learning piano with a tutor easier. The keyboard is also good quality with a nice hammer action that simulates an acoustic piano’s keyboard closely.
I would recommend the Korg B1 for beginners and intermediate pianists because it has all the basic elements at an affordable price.