As an old-school jazz pianist and teacher, I’m not necessarily interested in crazily high-tech keyboards. I prefer simplicity and authenticity. I’ve been on the lookout for a new temporary piano until the repair in my studio is over. I’ve tested a lot of digital pianos, and it is always interesting to review some fresh model. This time I chose Korg B2.
I’d seen a review online about the Korg’s new B2, and thought it might be well suited for me because of its simplicity. Yes, it’s a digital piano, so there are obviously a few technical elements to the piano. That’s what makes it digital after all. However, Korg say they’ve paid ‘special attention to the experience of playing a real piano’ with their new B2 release – which was only released in September of this year. That’s exactly what I wanted: a cheaper, more flexible piano with the same feel as an acoustic.
I wanted to see if Korg were being truthful. From time to time, companies can make up this sort of fluff about their new instrument being ‘the best on the market’, or ‘perfect for you’, or ‘feel as if you are playing acoustic instrument’. And another thing I wanted to check is how Korg upgraded the previous B1 model, which I used to check some time ago at my student’s house. I didn’t want to invest money without trying it out first. So I headed down to my local music store to try out the new model.
Table of Contents
The first thing I noticed about the piano is its lack of ‘fiddly bits’, if you like. Perfect for my purposes but limiting for more adventurous pianists. They’ve used the rest of the gaping space above the keybed (where said fiddly bits would usually go) and inserted a set of 15w speakers which really do make all the difference. Play a few major 7th chords through those speakers and you’ll be whipping your credit card out in no time. So far so good.
Like I said, it’s really important that any new piano I buy has an acoustic feel to the keys. The Korg B2 has 88 weighted hammer action keys. If you don’t want those heavy weighted keys, the Korg B2N offers a lighter-key version. Later on, I’ll talk a little more about the Korg B2N, as well as the Korg B2SP. Both are variations of the Korg B2.
I’ll be honest and tell you that I did notice a difference between the feel of this Korg and my old acoustic at home when I tried them out in the store. The Korg keys don’t quite have the same amount of authenticity. However, that’s what I expected. I don’t think a digital will ever perfectly replicate the feel of an acoustic. Sure, some makers will get close, and Korg have come pretty close with this B2 model. It’s clear they’ve spent a good portion of their development time on trying to replicate the experience of playing a real piano and I applaud them for that.
12 sounds – a mixture of good… and a a couple of not so good
What they have replicated quite well is the sound of an acoustic. The Korg B2 comes with 12 built in sounds and voices, four of which are acoustic piano sounds. The German Concert Piano sound is very grand, perfect for a jazz player like me. I love my extended chords and low bass lines, and this sound accommodates that perfectly. I also love the Ballad Piano sound. It’s a lot softer than the German Concert Piano but also adds a lot of warmth to your playing. I’m not too keen on the Italian Concert Piano sound. Personally, its a little bit too tinny and harsh. I like my piano sound to be a little softer.
The remaining eight sounds on the Korg B2 are electric sounds. I haven’t dabbled in electric sounds a lot since I was in school! It was a lot of fun to play around with them and to bring back some memories. This Korg B2 features a stage electric piano sound, a 1960s electric piano, a digital electric piano, a harpsichord, a pipe organ, an electric organ and strings.
My favourite digital sound? I would say the digital electric piano. It takes me back to the days of Whitney Houston and Luther Van Dross. What an era of music that was. I was thrilled to see that Korg want to keep the memory of that era alive with the inclusion of this sound. It’s of vital importance that we make sure we teach our piano students, and ourselves, about the whole spectrum of music. The electric sounds on this new Korg model definitely support that.
If you are going to be using this Korg in piano lessons I think the addition of these digital sounds will add another level of fun and creativity to the sessions. As you will see below, some of the competitors have much more voices included into their instruments, so this is not the best side of B2. But I need to pay tribute, the quality of the voices is decent.
Thanks to Korg, B2 at least has built-in metronome with a separate button which you can to play along to without having to purchase a separate one.
Any other B2 additional features?
I like to play live at my local jazz bar a couple of times a month, and I’m considering bring this Korg B2 to my next gig as it allows me to switch between sounds so easily. All I need to do is press the ‘piano play’ button and one of the labelled lower notes together, and I can switch sounds in a second. This feature is super handy for any of you planning on performing a live set and need to switch between sounds quickly.
This same system of pressing the ‘piano play’ button and holding a note down together at the same time can also be used to change other settings as well, such as the speed of the metronome, the amount of chorus and reverb, and transposition. The system is very simple to use if I want to switch sounds. I am able to switch from the Ballad Piano to the Stage Electric Piano in a second. On the other hand, the feature is quite frustrating if I’m looking to speed the beat of the metronome up. It would be much more convenient if Korg had built in a separate controller for the metronome.
There is an additional feature that allows you to connect your mobile phone or tablet to the piano using a jack cable. This enables you to play your music through Korg’s set of 15w speakers. I have been doing this a lot in my lessons when I am required to show a student some band backtrack of the new piece they will be learning.
B2 Piano Learning Bonus
You can find a lot of online piano lessons on the Internet – I’ve reviewed some of them here. What Korg B2 gives you is the software bundle for enhanced tuition and creativity that comes with the purchase, including a three-month trial to an app called Scoove. Scoove claim they can offer the ‘easiest way to learn piano’. So far, I like it. There are hundreds of different pieces that you can learn through the Scoove app. It will talk you through exactly how to play the piece in a very visual way, as you can see below.
What you’ll lack a little here though, is a deep understanding of the theory of music which we all know is absolutely vital if you plan to study seriously. The app gives you a basic understanding, but not enough of a foundation. If you simply want to learn some of your favourite songs without getting to grips with the foundation of the music, you will enjoy the app.
The other pieces of software included are the Korg Module LE and the Korg Gadget LE. I haven’t yet tried these out, so you’ll have to see for yourself!
Korg B2 can not boast of a large number of connections onboard. This model can transmit audio and MIDI via USB directly into your computer. Annoyingly, however, the headphone output and the stereo output are shared. Unfortunately this means you are unable to use both features at the same time unless you have a splitter. Hopefully, Korg can improve on this feature in any future model releases.
Korg B2N and B2SP variations: are they any better?
As mentioned before, the Korg B2N features a lighter-touch keyboard for those who aren’t looking for a full-weighted digital piano. I am impressed with Korg’s flexibility here as I haven’t noticed many other piano makers doing the same. So B2N is the lightest keyboard of these – it weighs only 9.3 kg (20.5 lbs). But I always recommend fully weighted keyboard, so B2N is not my choice.
The B2SP variation maintains the fully-weighted keys but also comes with a stand and a three-pedal unit. This variation is perfect for more advanced players who are looking for the ‘full package’. Also note that B2N uses 12V power adapter, while B2 and B2SP – 15V.
Korg B2 vs Korg B1
I managed to have a play of the previous Korg B1 model previously. I can’t say that Korg have stepped it much up with the new model. The exterior is almost the same. But as expected of the updated model B2 has some improvements. Most important differences is the number of voices and USB connection. Please see the comparison table below.
I’ve also noticed that B1 has a much lower build-quality as it features a lot of hard plastics. Another issue with this previous model is that the sustain pedal came with its own propriety connector. You are not able to use any other third party sustain pedal. You were forced to use Korg’s, which is very limiting. Now B2 features universal jack as a sustain pedal connector, which is very pleasing.
Korg B2 vs Yamaha P-125 vs Casio PX-160 – Piano Comparison
The Korg B2 wasn’t the only model that I checked out. I also explored Roland’s new FP10, Casio’s PX-160 and my favorite Yamaha’s P125. The difference between Korg B2 and Roland’s new FP10 is an extended number of extra sounds the Roland model is equipped with: it has 15 voices (B2 has 12). But the polyphony is a bit lower – only 96 voices. I prefer Roland’s keyboard action (PHA-4 Standard Keyboard with Escapement) and sound engine, as per me it is more “natural”.
And another thing that I didn’t like in Korg B2 (same as in Korg B1) is lack of dual/split mode, while competitors have it. For those of you who don’t know, dual mode splits keyboard into two equal parts and allows to play teacher along with the student with the same sound. And split mode does similar thing, but you can assign a voice to each part of the keyboard and play with different voice with each hand.
The Yamaha P125 is a little more expensive but is more feature rich, it includes more voices, have internal rhythms to play along (Korg doesn’t have any). So does the Casio PX-160: though developed back in 2015 it still is very popular because of it’s features and price. I think that Casio will release updated model of their PX-160 soon, I’m looking forward to try it.
Nice feature in PX-160: if you are learning some demo song from the piano internal bank, you can turn off left or right hand of the performance and play it yourself – very useful while studying.
My personal winner in this comparison is Yamaha, but if you are on budget – I recommend Korg B2. Casio is good also, but I expect it to release the updated PX piano soon, so maybe you should wait a little and check it.
If you’re on the lookout for a cheap digital piano, and you are looking for simplicity, I’d recommend to try Korg B2. It’s a ‘no fuss’ option. The lack of complexion does make it limiting for more advanced and adventurous players, but it is that very lack of mass complexion that makes this model suited to me as a jazz player. And it is cheaper than competitors.am
As I mentioned above, the piano sounds are mostly gorgeous (albeit with one not-so-good Italian Piano sound thrown in there), and the electric sounds are simple but not overly simplistic.
The included software – Scoove, Korg Module LE and the Korg Gadget LE – make this model good for piano learning, as do the built-in metronome.
If you are a budding producer, this probably isn’t the model for you. There just isn’t enough variation in tone, sound, and feel for you. But that’s ok, because not every model can be built for every single type of player.
Korg B2 is a renewed version of B1. This is rather stylish piano with minimum set of features and is pretty much suitable for beginners as well as for advanced travelling pianists, as it is very compact and lightweight. Don’t expect much from it, but if you are looking for a simple and not very expensive piano Korg B2 can be your choice.
Check Korg B2 price on Amazon here.
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Official Korg B2 page: https://www.korg.com/us/products/digitalpianos/b2/