20 Sample Playback Synths Compared
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Multi-Timbral
Synthesizer

The Korg M50 is a low cost alternative to hi-priced workstations. Hi end features abound like the TouchView screen.

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Comparison Chart

For Keyboards that use Sample Playback Synthesis

The keyboards on this page all have onboard sounds. Other keyboards include Soundless Controllers, Digital Pianos, Compact Synths

 

 

Pic Synth Keys Approx. retail price AT Voices Rom Max sample Ram Expansion cards Seq. Arp outputs Sample transfer Ext.
Storage
MIDI
Editors
Demo
Roland Fantom G 88, 76, 61 3700, 3245,  2600 Y 128 256 MB 544 MB 2x ARX exp. board slots Yes +  audio rec Y 4x analog, coax, phones USB USB Flash Memory In Out Thru, USB    
Korg M3 88
73
61

2700
2300
1900
Y 120 256 MB 320 MB EXB-FW
EXB-Radias
EXB-M256
Yes + Open Sampling Y + Karma
II
6x analog, optical s/pdif,
phones
Via EXB-FW card USB 2.0 In Out Thru,
USB
VST, AU or RTAS plug-in at Korg site
Motif XS 88,
76,
61
3600, 3200 2400 Y 128 355 MB 1 GB -- Yes+
audio rec
Y 4x analog, 1x digital, 16xFW, phones USB2, Ethernet, FW--std on 88-opt on 76,61 on  computer, USB Flash Memory In Out Thru, USB,
FW
editing software  
Main Kurzweil PC3x 88 3000 Y 128   no sampling 2 sound rom slots Yes Y Four 1/4 in.TRS analog + s/pdif   Flash Memory Port: xD card type In Out Thru, USB software  
Roland RD700GX 88 2500   128 256 MB no sampling SRX x2 playback only Y XLR+ 1/4" x2 analog, phones None audio playback from USB memory In, Out x2, Thru, USB    
s90xs Yamaha
S90XS

S70XS
88,
76
2400
2300
Y 128 456 MB Audio recording: internal flash 192MB none MIDI playback only; records or plays audio .wav
Y Four 1/4" standard, phones
has Mic Input
usb to internal flash drive   In Out Thru, USB software  
Pic Synth Keys Approx. retail price AT Voices Rom Max sample Ram Expansion cards Seq. Arp outputs Sample transfer Ext.
Storage
MIDI Software
Editor
Demo
Korg M50 88,
61
1800
1100
N 80 Single Osc mode 256
MB
no sampling   Yes Y 2 1/4" TS, phones None SD Card In, Out, USB -  
PC3le6 Kurzweil
PC3LE8
PC3LE7
PC3LE6
88
76
61
2200
1800
1500
Y 64 check manual no sampling   Yes Y 2 1/4" TRS, phones, s/pdif   USB In Out Thru,USB    
juno stage Juno Stage 76 1400 N 128 128
MB
no sampling SRX x2

Playback SMF: format-0/1, Audio File: WAV/AIFF/MP3

Y 2 1/4" TS, phones. song out combo mic input   USB 2.0 storage supported IN
Out
USB
   
Yamaha Mo 88, 61 1600, 1200 N 64 175 MB no sampling none Yes Y 2x analog, coax, phones None USB In Out Thru, USB VST -
Roland Juno G 61 1000 N? 128 64 MB 516 MB for audio recording SRX x1 Yes +  audio rec. Y 4x analog, phones USB PC Card In Out Thru, USB -- demos
Korg X-50 61 700 N 62 64 MB no sampling none No Y 4x analog, phones None on computer In Out USB stand
alone and plugin
-
Yamaha MM6/MM8 61/88 600/
1000
N 32 70 MB no sampling none Yes Y 2x analog, phones None USB In Out USB -- -
juno di Roland Juno Di 61 700   128 64MB no sampling none MIDI playback only;  plays audio .wav, mp3 Y 2 1/4" TS, phones, 1/4" mic input and 1/8" stereo input   USB 2.0 storage supported In, Out, USB    
                                 
Discontinued                 Discontinued              
Korg Triton Extreme 88, 76 61 2300, 1900, 1700 Y 120 160 MB 96 MB Moss slot (virtual analog synth) Yes Y 4x analog, coax, phones USB CF In Out Thru, USB    
Motif ES 88, 76, 61 2600, 24001700 Y 128 175 MB 512 MB PLG X 3 Yes Y 4x analog, phones USB SM Card In Out Thru, USB -  
Roland RD700SX 88 2200   128 128 MB no sampling SRX x2 playback only Y XLR+ 1/4" x2 analog, phones None -- In, Out x2, Thru, USB   demo
                                 
Kurzweil PC1X 88 1350 Y 64 32 MB no sampling 16MB slot x1 No Y 2x analog, phones none none In Out Thru, - demo
Alesis Fusion HD 88, 61 1500, 1000 Y 48-272 120 MB 192 MB --- Yes +  audio rec Y 4x analog, coax, optical, phones USB2 Internal HD or CF card In Out Thru - demo
Yamaha S08 88 1000 N 64 28 MB no sampling none playback only - 2x analog, phones none SM card In Out Thru, USB -- -
Alesis QS 88 800 Y 64 16 MB no sampling card slot x1 No N 2x analog, phones Over MIDI to optional PCMCIA card Flash Ram Card In Out Thru 3rd party demo
- Kurzweil KME61 61 520 Y 32 -- no sampling none No N 2x analog, phones none none In Out Thru - -

Yamaha SO3 61 500 N 64 -- no sampling none No - 2x analog, phones None none In Out Thru and to Host editing software -
Roland Fantom X 88, 76, 61 2000, check1500 Y 128 128 MB 544 MB SRX x4
(64 MB ea)
Yes +  audio rec Y 4x analog, coax, phones USB PC card In Out Thru, USB - demo
Roland Juno D 61 600 N? 64 32 MB no sampling none No Y 2x analog, phones None none In Out editing software -
Yamaha S90ES 88 2000 Y 128 228 MB no sampling PLG x3, mLAN16E playback only Y 4x analog, phones None on  computer In Out Thru, USB standalone and VST editors -
Kurzweil K2661 61 1900 Y 48 32MB +two 8mb slots 128MB Two 8Mb soundblocks included Yes   TRS balanced
ADAT,
Phones
SCSI SCSI In Out Thru   -
Korg TR 88, 76, 61 1600, 13001000 Y 62 64 MB 64
Mb requires sampling card
EXB-SMPL card Yes Y 4x analog, phones SCSI (requires sampling card) SD Card In Out Thru -- demo
Korg Micro-X 25 500 N 62 64 MB no sampling none No Y 4x analog, phones None on computer In Out USB stand alone and plugin  
                                 



How to Read this chart

This chart allows you to compare a number of multi timbral keyboard synthesizers on the market that use the sample playback type of synthesis.  This type of synthesis has samples stored in a ROM.  The samples form the basis for the programs.  A multi timbral synthesizer is one that can record and playback tracks on several (usually 16) MIDI channels at the same time on either an onboard or external sequencer.  All of the keyboards on this page are multi timbral and can be used with software sequencers.  

Approx. Retail Price:  This is a approximate price for the keyboard at the time this article was written.  It may have changed.  Click on the pic to get the current price.  Note that you can also click the number of keys to get the prices for keyboards that come in 88, 76 and 61 key formats. 

Keys:  Specifies the number of keys on the keyboard.

AT:  Stands for aftertouch.  This is a feature that can modulate the sound by pressing down the keys after the initial strike.  It is also called "Channel Pressure".  All the keyboards listed respond to velocity.

Voices:  This refers to the maximum polyphony available for the keyboard, without any optional boards loaded.  The Yamaha PLG boards and the Korg MOSS board increases the number of voices available.  This is not to be confused with number of sounds in the keyboard. 

ROM:  This refers to the size of the block of samples stored internally in the keyboard's Read only Memory. These samples cannot be modified. The samples in this rom, their number, variety, and quality is what gives the synth it's core sound.  

Max Sample RAM: Keyboards that have sampling allow you to load your own samples into RAM.  You typically have to add RAM modules to achieve the maximum sample RAM for the machine.  After you load your samples in RAM, you can use them to create custom programs.

Expansion Cards:  These are typically proprietary cards sold as option by the manufacturer.  They may contain additional ROM samples, as is the case with the 64 MB Roland SRX cards; may extend functionality, as with the Korg EXB-SAMPL card, or my provide additional types of synthesis, as is the case with the Yamaha PLG and Korg MOSS cards.

Seq: Refers to the presence or absence of an onboard MIDI multi-channel sequencer.  If "Yes" the keyboard has its own sequencer.  If "no", a computer sequencer has to be used for multi timbral operation.

Arp:  Refers to the presence or absence of an onboard arpeggiator.

Outputs:  Tells you how many outputs are on the board and what type they are.  If the board has digital outputs they will be listed here.

Sample Transfer: This refers to the method the keyboard uses to transfer samples to and from a computer.  USB, for example, means that samples can be transferred to the computer over a USB connection.

Ext Storage: This is where the synth stores data externally, often in addition to its internal storage.  Please consult the keyboard's manual to get a better idea of how this works as every keyboard is slightly different.  CF stands for Compact Flash; SM means Smart Media; "on computer" means that data can be transferred to a computer, typically by USB.

MIDI:  This details the methods by which MIDI data is transmitted and received.  IN, OUT and THRU means the synth has common 5 pin MIDI jacks. These require that you have 5 pin MIDI ports on your audio interface or soundcard, or that you have a stand alone MIDI interface.  USB means that the keyboard can connect directly to the computer via USB.

Software Editor: The more recent keyboards are coming with a plugin that can control the keyboard from within the sequencer.  Others have stand alone applications that may be run on the computer to allow you to do patch editing and library functions on the big screen.  There may be 3rd party editors available on the internet for your synth.  I was not able to list them here.

Demo:  If zZounds had demos on their site a linked the first one.  Often you will find more at the product's page or at the manufacturers website.

 

Pic:  Self explanatory!

 

Notes:  I dug through countless manuals and product literature to compile this chart.  Where you see a blank "--" it means I could not find info on that item.  Where you see a "?" it means the manufacturer did not make it sufficiently clear in the documentation.  Note also that manufacturers sometimes change their feature set but do not change their documentation.  Also note that this chart was constructed by a human being and may contain errors.

 

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More Articles by Tweak on Keyboards and Synths

Keyboards and Modules INDEX
Choosing the Right Keyboard for your Studio
Synthesizer Comparison Chart
Guide to Compact MIDI Controllers
All about Synthesizer Modules
The Roland Fantom Family
The Yamaha Motif Family
The Access Virus Family
The Korg Triton/M3 Family
Roland V-Synth GT
Yamaha Motif XS
Korg M3 Resources
Triton Rack/EXB Card Review
Novation ReMote 37 SL
How to program a Synthesizer
Proteus 2000
Keyboard Price List

 

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