Best Keyboard Workstations (2020)

If you’re a budding composer then a keyboard workstation is a must, they integrate a keyboard with sequencers and sound modules making them perfect for producing music or creating your own original tracks. Keyboard workstations tend to have more effects, mixing, and high-quality synth sounds, as well as all sorts of other features perfect for music production. But you might be wondering which is the best one for you and your style. There’s so much choice out there that it can be a bit overwhelming to make a decision.

Best Keyboard Workstation

Luckily, this handy guide is here to walk you through five of the best keyboard workstations currently available. There’s something for everyone whether you’re just starting out or are a professional looking for the perfect keyboard workstation to help you produce high-quality tracks.

Top 5 Best Keyboard Workstations

OUR TOP PICK

Korg KRONOS2 88 Key (KRONOS8)

Summary

If you’re looking for something top of the range then you might have found the perfect instrument in Korg Kronos 2. This is a beautiful instrument with a sleek body, and gorgeous wooden sides, it has Korg’s legendary RH3 hammer action keys, which means that because of their wide range of touch sensitivity this instrument is incredibly adaptable for editing across the velocity curve. It also has a new SGX-2 grand piano engine and comes with a huge library of a range of different sounds. This new engine enhances the tones and adds the Berlin Grand as a new tone as well. It has 21GB of preset sounds, and a truly incredible 9 sound engines to help tweak and process different voices.

Everything is controlled through the Touch View display. The 8-inch Touch view features a touch-drag ability which makes it not only incredibly easy to use but particularly easy to change parameters without flipping through menus. The workstation has a 16-track MIDI sequencer/audio recorder so you can record anything and everything. The Karama engine featured in this model also makes it easy to create backing tracks. The engine automatically reads the notes and chords you play making backing tracks you can then edit more to create demos and new tracks.

This is a truly excellent keyboard workstation great for professionals, or enthusiastic amateurs. It’s an incredibly versatile instrument thanks to the weighted keys and the Touch Vision display. Highly interactive and instinctual this workstation may be a little complicated for beginners, but its controls aren’t hard to pick up. It sounds amazing and comes with such a range of preset sounds and tones, you’ll be waiting a while before you get bored of playing with this model.


Pros

  • An incredible 9 distinct sound engines 
  • Touch View display making this an incredibly adaptable model 
  • A massive 21GB of preset sounds 
  • Extensive sound library 
  • Incredible recording ability so you can easily make the music you want to

Cons

  • May be too complicated for someone just starting out
Korg KRONOS2 88 Key (KRONOS8)
  • Nine distinct sound engines
  • Innovative Set List mode with many new updates
  • Enhanced SGX-2 Grand Piano Engine featuring the new Berlin Grand
  • Color Touch View display-now with Touch Drag capability
  • KRONOS Expansion Sound Libraries

EDITORS CHOICE

Roland FANTOM-8 Music Workstation 88-key Semi-weighted Synthesizer Keyboard

Summary

This is another great option from Roland and it’s a great option if you’re looking for something that looks and feels like an acoustic piano. This is all thanks to Roland’s PHA-50 hammer action keys, they have wooden sides and plastic tops really nailing the look and feel. The Fantom has a V-Piano tech engine which is why it has such gorgeous grand piano tones. Roland has spent a long time developing this sound engine, and their work shows. The Fantom has an incredible range of voices and with the analog filter included you’ll find it easy to make the sound you want.

As with any workstation, the layout is important and the Fantom 8 lets you fully customize your workstation, to better utilize the functions you want. The Fantom lets you save your settings so that the workstation works best for you. These are called scenes, and a scene can be anything from a selection of sounds, a song, or part of a song- literally anything you want to save in a specific order and the Fantom will bring a scene up instantly when you need it. It may seem complicated at first, but thanks to the touchscreen you’ll find the controls to be intuitive and easy to use. The screen is also where you can manage your DAW’s and VST’s.

The Fantom 8 also allows for a variety of recording options, including real-time and step recording. This is a powerful production tool that will seem familiar to anyone with any production experience. The sequencer uses some of Roland’s classic drum machines and there’s plenty of analog and digital connectivity.


Pros

  • Plenty of analog and digital connectivity

  • Intuitive touch screen which provides an easy place to control everything

  • Great save options perfect for a professional

  • Gorgeous grand piano tones

  • Range of recording options, so you can record whatever you want when you want

Cons

  • This option is more suited to professionals than amateurs as you’ll get more use out of it if you already have a solid knowledge base

Roland FANTOM-8 Music Workstation 88-key Semi-weighted Synthesizer Keyboard
  • Fantom Series Limited Edition T-Shirt with Product Registration
  • Acclaimed 88-note weighted keyboard with aftertouch
  • Seamless workflow with no confusing modes
  • Expandable sound engine delivers authentic electronic and acoustic sounds
  • Fresh hybrid sounds combining modern PCM, virtual analog, and a routable analog filter

BEST VALUE

Roland RD-2000 Premium 88-key Digital Stage Piano

Summary

If you’re looking at something to take with you on stage then this is probably the one for you. It’s an 88-key workstation specifically aimed at performers. This workstation has two sound engines, the SuperNATURAL Piano engine and the V-Piano engine which makes this one of the most powerful options.

The V-Piano powers acoustic and the SuperNATURAL engine powers electrics, the combination of both results in this model having some of the best tones for both acoustic and electric pianos than most models. This model also includes over 1000+ other voices all of which sound amazing. This model also has the PHA-50 hammer action keys which lend themselves to a realistic piano feel, and they have a 128 note max polyphony which anyone would agree is pretty cool.

This model also lets you connect your laptop and run synths from your DAW, run VST’s and plugins with no inactivity at all. It runs a zero-latency processor and a great USB/MIDI interface which is easy to control in a live setting thanks to 8 assignable knobs, and 9 sliders. They are all LED lit for visual feedback, perfect for a dark stage.

Pros

  • Great authentic feel thanks to the hammer action keys

  • Great for live performance thanks to the versatility of this model

  • Sounds amazing and is perfect for professionals

  • Intuitive and hands-on layout great for non-interrupted workflow

  • Integrates amazingly well with laptops and other external hardware

Cons

  • Not as practical for home use, but would still integrate well if needed

Roland RD-2000 Premium 88-key Digital Stage Piano
  • Your purchase includes One Roland RD-2000 Digital Stage Piano | With Owner’s manual, Power cord & Damper pedal | Piano stand not included
  • Piano dimensions – 55-5/8” W x 5-9/16” H x 14-1/2” D | Weight – 47 lbs. 14 oz. | Display – Graphic LCD 256 x 80 dots | Weighted keyboard – 88-note hammer action | Power supply will automatically adjust to different line voltages
  • Second Supernatural-based sound engine with 128-voice polyphony for electric pianos and additional sounds (compatible with RD-800 Live Sets)
  • Next-generation RD stage piano with two independent sound engines and modern controller features | Eight knobs with LED status indicators and nine sliders for real-time control of sounds and effects
  • Dedicated acoustic piano sound engine with the latest Roland advancements provides authentic, richly detailed tone with full polyphony | Classic electric pianos on board, including Roland’s legendary RD-1000 and MKS-20

RUNNER UP

KORG KROSS288 KROSS 2 88-Key Synthesizer Keyboard in Dark Blue

Summary

If you’re looking to go on tour and need something that’s going to be great on the road then this could be the workstation for you. A slightly slimmer design then other similar options, this is a portable model with natural weighted keys for an authentic piano feel.

The sound engine is the EDS-I and comes with over 1000 presets ranging from piano, to synth pads and leads to electric pianos. All the voices included are a high standard, plus there are 134 effect types so you’ll find plenty to play around within the studio and out on the road.

There are 16 pads you can use to trigger the samples you upload to the workstation. You can also use the pads to program up to 64 steps in the step sequencer, and they can also store your favorite sounds so you can use them instantly, with 4 banks of 16 you can recall up to 64 sounds at a time making this a great option with lots of space.

It’s a model that’s perfect for a singer because you can plug your mic directly into this model or use the included vocoder. There’s also immense recording capability in this workstation, with a favorite being its ability to record external audio. This means you can plug in your mic or instrument into the Kross 2, you can record that sound as well as your keyboard, making this a great option if you’re looking to easily record gigs.

You can also add drum tracks for rhythm to your plays, and with the nice clean layout of the Kross 2, you won’t find a lot of buttons to get the hang of so you’ll find it won’t take long before you are making the sound you want easily and quickly, making this an easy to navigate option perfect for live performance. While you might not find this the best option in the studio, it’s a hard one to beat for touring or gigging.  

Pros

  • Light and more portable than most workstation keyboards

  • Fantastic recording capability great for live gig recordings

  • Easy mic integration for singers

  • Powerful sound engine with over 1000 presets

  • Nice and clean layout easy to get to grips with

Cons

  • Sound shaping is less in-depth compared to other models making it not the best option for the studio 

KORG KROSS288 KROSS 2 88-Key Synthesizer Keyboard in Dark Blue
  • A rich selection of more than 1,000 powered-up presets 128MB of expansion PCM memory is built-in, and option libraries are supported The rich expressive power of the EDS-i sound engine, and a rich selection of effects with 134 types Superb sampling functionality and 16 sampler pads
  • A panel layout that lets you access functions without confusion Realtime control section for quick parameter editing Favorite function lets you register and instantly recall up to 128 frequently-used sounds Quick layer/split can be specified by a single button Ultra-lightweight compact body; the lightest in its class
  • Long operating life, with six AA batteries allowing up to seven hours of use/a> A color lineup with a peerless finish that exceeds its class/a> Audio player/recorder that can be easily triggered by the pads
  • Sequencer, drum track, and arpeggiator to support your song production A rich array of input jacks for singer-instrumentalists or vocoder performance without requiring additional equipment Also functions as a USB audio interface​

RUNNER UP

Yamaha MODX8 88-Key Synthesizer Workstation

Summary

Yamaha is well known for producing some of the best quality instruments in the world, and their keyboard workstations are no exception. MODX8 has graded hammer key action with 128-note max polyphony, making it a model with superb key action. This model has a multi-controlling super knob, making it one of the most user-friendly options out there. This is a great model if you’re just starting out. This model has two main piano sounds, both of which sound great and are easy to articulate because of the graded hammer action keys. There are over 1000 present voices and includes 72 drum kits.

This model has a built-in multi-channel audio interface with 2 inputs and 10 out, surpassing many other similar workstation keyboards. The onboard effects on this model come from the VCM engine making this a brilliant powerful option with a multitude of voices

Pros

  • Powerful sound engines
  • A huge amount of voices and presets 
  • User-friendly interface making this a good option to get to grips with music production
  • Expressive pianos with a beautiful sound 
  • Amazing range of great effects 

Cons

  • There are better options for professionals
Yamaha MODX8 88-Key Synthesizer Workstation
  • Motion Control Synthesis unifies and controls AWM2 and FM-X sound engines
  • The Super Knob controls multiple parameters simultaneously for highly expressive sound interaction
  • Send 10/receive 4 audio channels plus 16 channels of MIDI via a single USB cable
  • Live Sets allow Performance organization without copying, changing order or renaming
  • 4-Part Seamless Sound Switching: change Performances while holding notes without sound or effect cutoff

Best Keyboard Workstation Buying Guide

Before you buy any new instrument, you have to be sure that you’re sure you choose one that suits you and a keyboard workstation is no exception. More than some other instruments keyboard workstations can be incredibly expensive and often if you’re willing to spend a bit more you will get more features. But cheaper keyboards are great if you know what you want, and as long as you keep in mind what you’re looking for you’re certain to find something that suits you. In the end, only you know what you need out of your workstation. Think about how often you’re going to use in live performance, or if you’re looking for something to use in production and need something for the studio. Once you know that, you can think about what features and functions you need and can choose the best keyboard for you.

If you’re a complete beginner you need to know what you’re looking for and you might not actually know what a keyboard workstation is. Put simply it’s a workstation suited for performers and composers. The workstation has a variety of functions like patch editing and sequencing, more effects, and synth sounds. This makes it suited for most musical needs, whether you’re a solo artist, a band or a composer

The keyboard workstations work because they give you a greater scope to create more original sounds and effects than a normal keyboard. Workstations offer more variety like analog modeling (perfect for electronic music) and sample playback (for amazingly realistic renditions of acoustic instruments). Some keyboards can even give you sampling functionality, so you can record anything and reproduce it in different pitches across your keyboard workstation. If you’re looking to take your music to the next level then you could consider a professional workstation at the top of its game that uses multiple synth engines. The keyboard workstation makes designing and shaping your own music easy, with a solid control set that lets you modify a large range of hundreds of presets or create your own patches.

One of the features many artists love about the keyboard workstation is how it lets you simultaneously create multiple sounds. This means that you could sequence brass, percussion, woodwind, strings, and grand piano patches to create a film score, or create a ‘band’ using bass, drums, and a guitar. The right keyboard will even record audio if you want to add vocals. If you’re looking to get more out of your live shows, you could add in a violin, a choir and a guitar for a unique sound that can only be created with this type of equipment. If you’re looking to elevate your music, then this is a great way to go about it.

If you are a liver performer looking to write your own music then you’ll need MIDI sequencing. This lets you record multiple parts on your keyboard unless you want to perform them live and play along with a sequenced backing track. If you’re a singer or a vocalist then the right workstation will have a mic/line input that’ll let you record audio and then insert it into your track. The perfect keyboard workstation will work around what you need from it to better improve your music and your performance.

FAQs

Can I control other hardware with a workstation?

100%. An on-board sequencer will be able to control the synth module or synthesizers with a MIDI cable.

Do workstations have speakers?

Most of the time workstations are connected to a PA system or other sort of setup. But it’s definitely possible to get keyboards with speakers if that's what you need. You can also get studio monitors for home use or portable PA systems if that’s what you need.