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Korg Pa900, Roland BK-9, Yamaha PSR-S970 And Ketron SD5/ SD7 - Best Mid-Range Arrangers

Korg Pa900, Roland BK-9, Yamaha PSR-S970 And Ketron SD5/ SD7 - Best Mid-Range Arrangers

As professionals move up to the top the instruments surpass each other in quality and money – that’s what Tyros5 did to PSR-S970, and that’s what Korg does to us when we get to the new level and become happy to face Pa4X. Anyway the models which happened to land on the middle of prestige are not so easy – they’re priced at about $2000, read and learn how you can get what you need for the money you agree to pay for an arranger. Roland offers its BK-9 model as a backing keyboard since there are no top arrangers by Roland available on the market. Ketron, a famous Italian company, has nothing to do with this Japanese quality/quantity racing leaving them busy with each other – the Italian engineers are absolutely into their own point of view: they offer a different kind of arranger featuring their own multimedia specs.

Among the mid-range instruments (comparing to the top instruments for experienced composers) you can quickly find (just after a short analysis) durable and suitable enough arrangers. Have a look at Yamaha PSR-S970 and PSR-S770.

S970 offers a 61-note keyboard with 5 touch response modes, AWM Stereo Sampling tone generator technology, 128 voices of polyphony, 131 Super Articulation!, 30 Mega, 31 Sweet!, 74 Cool!, 89 Live!, 30 Organ Flutes! sounds of the same great quality Tyros features (989 «Voices» programs). Auto accompaniment offers 450 preset styles (3 Intro control variations, 4 Main variations, 4 Fill, Break and 3 Ending) as well as includes Music Finder possibilities (up to 2500 records) and OTS (one touch settings) assigning 4 various settings per style. Quick, Multi or Step record allows managing up to 16 tracks. Among many functions there are Registration Sequence, tempo, tuning, transpose, scale type and the functions for programs, styles and songs. Recording in WAV (44kHz, 16 bit, stereo) lasts up to 80 minutes; time stretch, pitch shift, vocal cancel functions are available.

Two assignable controllers, modulation wheel and two assignable pedal inputs allows managing programs, effects and styles during live performances. The new DJ-styles concept lets you have a collection of various chord progressions which set you free from making successions yourself while playing and allow you to focus on the tune. Multi pads will trigger some additional external audio sources.

PSR-S970 operating is based on the Virtual Circuitry Modeling brand technology simulating such effects as phaser, wah and compression as well as offers Real Distortion and Real Reverb effects taken from Tyros 5.

Audio styles will help you to achieve that authentic “animate” sound providing high quality percussion and drums recorded by professional musicians in a studio. PSR-S970 is equipped with a Synth Vocoder function featuring Vocal Harmony 2 system controlling pitch, level and number of harmonics.

Comparing it to S970 we should note that PSR-S770 offers 830 programs, twice smaller number of Super Articulation «Voices», 160 Mb maximum (vs 512 Mb), there are not so many styles and the amount of Music Finder records is twice smaller. But anyway it costs 1/3 less - $1300 vs $2000 for PSR-S970.

KORG Pa900

Among Korg instruments there is one arranger which is more or less affordable – we talk about Pa900. The updated RX (Real eXperience) synth engine featured in Pa900 doubles the PCM memory of Pa600 and increases the amount of user memory up to 192 Mb. The number of styles might be extended up to 1200 (including 400 factory ones) – the previous model couldn’t help you with that. The instrument has 128 voices of polyphony and more than 1100 sound presets.

Pa900 offers a semi-weighted 61-note velocity sensitive keyboard with aftertouch and comprises the Defined Nuance Control technology, 3-voice vocal processor with 4 effects by TC Helicon, sequencer with Dual Crossfade function, improved Guitar Mode 2 to deliver the very best of real guitar strings, 4 stereo master effects + 2 global (limiter and equalizer), fully programmable SongBook triggering all the saved settings, double MP3/MIDI file players with recording capability.

Pa900 would cost you $1900 – that’s how Korg makes you buy it instead of its major competitor with a price tag $100 higher - PSR-S970. The funny part is that Korg Pa3X LE drags the audience as well – and you still can have it for $2100 but we believe this one beats them all.

Roland BK-9

Roland is presented in this category with its 76-note ВК-9 including the most impressive figures among all the featured in our review arrangers – 70 drum kits and 1700 sounds embracing 22 SuperNATURAL brand technology sounds and 500 completely new voices. Virtual Tone Wheel engine supplies us with the best qualities an authentic organ sports. The instrument is equipped with 540 remastered rhythms (including 25 new ones) and you can add other MP3, WAV and SMF files via USB.

5 independent MFX (multi-effects engines) give enough space for sound processing: 3 of them are dedicated to auto accompaniment and 2 – real time mode section. Mastering processors allow you to optimize the sound of each section individually; there are global reverb and chorus available. A built-in 16-track sequencer and Rhythm Composer are responsible for SMF editing and user rhythms creation featuring quite a useful Chord Loop function as well as Audio Key function reading audio files via USB and assigning them to the keys to make them easily accessible. BK-9 records performances via USB as a WAV audio for CD.

BK-9 supports Roland Wireless Connect owing to which it allows wireless integration with iPhone, iPad or iPod. The D-beam brand technology lets you change previously assigned sound parameters with just a move of a hand. BK-9 has also an interesting peculiarity – 2 independent monochrome displays. The price for this amusing instrument with the emphasis on stage exploitation has dropped to $1600. We wish it could’ve had a longer life but Roland’s production is busy with other plans. 2017 will bring a decent substitute. We hope it will.

Ketron SD7

Ketron SD7 / SD5 Version 2 appeared to be the most expensive mid-range arrangers – you can get them for $2800-3000 if you search properly.

SD5 v2 sports a semi-weighted 61-note keyboard with aftertouch (6 velocity curves), monitor speakers, up to 32Gb USB devices support and, of course, a full-fledged multimedia compatibility. SD5 v2 offers a 32-part multitimbrality, more than 1000 percussion sounds, 290 orchestra presets while the digital processing includes 60 types of reverb, chorus, tap delay, wha rotor, bass legato. Besides 120 programs, 16 registration groups (198 user settings), offers a second voice function (292 programmable presets), 2 drum sections (1: 24 sets, 24 user, drum mixer; 2: 62 live drum sets, acoustic kit, latin loops). You can enable up to 128 styles while arranging.

SD7 is a professional and multipurpose instrument: DJ, karaoke, creating your own music and accompaniment playback. SD7 is a capable media device with practical and flexible style and beat modeling system. Style Modeling let you choose groove, hundreds of audio drums, bass lines, pianos, guitars and orchestra tracks for any style if you use a built-in library. Tracks can be assigned to different style sections allowing you to create a completely new one right during performing. SD7 offers 543 orchestra sounds divided into 4 banks of brand Best Natural Sounds. 386 voices are placed into 12 groups and enable layering (up to 3 layers + the second voice as an addition to any lead one) and Velocity switch, Duet, Trio, Steel, Harmony functions. 48 acoustic and electric drum kits as well as the new stereo drum kit are manageable with Live Modeling “tool” which picks and applies samples randomly and makes us perceive the performance as the authentic music coming out of a real instrument which can’t be hit twice in identical manner by a human.

The settings are stored in 4 banks 1024 registrations each. Thanks to the special application you can change settings by managing external libraries. As for DSP there are Chorus, Reverb, Phaser, Tremolo, Flanger, rotor, Echo Delay, Tap Delay, Overdrive, Distortion, amplifier simulator, Compressor, 4-band parametric equalizer, 10 programmable insert effect “chains”. You can control the guitar effects with the help of a Ketron Foot Switch optional pedal. HD recording allows creating 1 stereo track, audio editing, MIDI phrase and song recording. The arranger numbers 260 styles, multifunctional and multiformat players, visuals support and movie playback.

SD7 gives way (insignificantly) to its successor SD9 making Ketron the priciest brand in mid-range category reviewed by us today. Anyway the company has the evident emphasis on multimedia use – it produces the real media centers and doesn’t even compromise the sound.

We should also add: if you need an arranger which doesn’t let the price hit the sky and still it offers a classic good sound you’d better opt for Yamaha PSR-S970; if you need a powerful though light and compact instrument to take it on tour and you don’t ask for built-in speakers you then pay attention to Roland BK-9.

If you plan to use your arranger as a multimedia center featuring all the visuals and graphic support – well, it’s definitely Ketron SD-7. But this exclusive Italian beast will cost you a whole lot of money to make you the lucky owner.

If you’ve always admired that recognizable peculiar sound produced by a Korg instrument which you wouldn’t trade for or confuse with anything then you might have read only Pa900 part of our review being completely sure that there’s nothing better than Korg. We’d like to learn about it from your comments and now we’ll just take a break for 5 minutes and dream about Pa4X… You might want to have a look at it in our top arrangers article.

Published: 21:55 01.10.2016
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