Keyboard Workstations to Consider 2020

By: The Gear Dude |  Date: 14th September 2020

Keyboard workstations are versatile electronic instruments that integrate a keyboard with sound module and sequence hence making a keyboard ideal for the creation of original music through convenient production features. To achieve originality, keyboard workstations have high quality synthesizer sounds, more effects and other features such as advanced patch editing and mixing.

Pointing out five most suitable keyboard workstations for a music-maker is a subjective endeavor; nevertheless, creating a list of the best workstations would act as an eye-opener for a budding player and will help them avoid make confident purchases. We live in a time when high quality, yet affordable keyboard workstations are a commonplace and so purchasing a musical instrument shouldn’t be much of a fuss; especially because the prices are less daunting. Keyboards workstations are a pretty serious investment which you will treasure for the rest of your musical career. What’s more is that if you decide to sell them, you would get a good chunk of your money back. However, the terminologies used during purchases can still make choosing a keyboard workstation feel quite intimidating for a new and less experienced player or producer.

There are several functions that set apart keyboard workstations from synthesizers, arrangers and other professional keyboards including editing features, MIDI recording, audio recording and built-in effects that are helpful in music creation. Some workstations have a microphone or line inputs that allow you incorporate your audio to sequenced tracks. Manufacturers of keyboard workstations include massive sound libraries and a wide array of musical instruments all into the keyboards. Most of them also have quality synthesizers that can be used for composing full-length multi-voice tracks. Additionally, the type of memory you will find in a workstation is ROM and RAM. ROM lets you switch different sound cards to access a variety of sounds while RAM is the amount of memory that can be recorded or sampled. It is best that you prioritize the amount of ROM if the workstation would be used in performance. On the other hand, if you prioritize the workstation for recording, then look for a larger amount of RAM. Some workstations provide removable and expandable memory slots for memory cared and drives too.

Sound quality and quantity matters whether you want to get a workstation for production or playing purposes. As alluded earlier, workstations have a wide array of instrument presets such as pianos, horns, strings and percussions that produce just as much quality sounds as a dedicated synthesizer. For workstations with in-built synthesizers, you would come across the ‘analogue’ vs ‘digital’ distinction- the former meaning that the synthesizer is powered by a real electronic circuit and the latter means that it is powered by some form of digital signal processing (DSP) which replicates the behavior of a real circuit. It is widely held that analogue automatically means better, but that may not be the case always. While it is true that synthesizers powered by analogue engines are best for classic and vintage sound, digital engines produce cleaner sounds than analogue powered synthesizers. If you plan to incorporate electronic music, a workstation with an analogue modelling synthesis feature would work very well.

Lately, manufacturers have embraced hybrid engines; having a mix of both the analogue and digital worlds. Therefore, there is a sheer amount of choice out there and all you need to do is choose one that will suit your style, budget, set up and recording demands. The other term to look out for is polyphony- this means the number of notes a synthesizer can play simultaneously. For instance, a monophonic synthesizer has only one voice available while a polyphonic synthesizer would have more voices available, and would mean more flexibility. The other rather uncommon synthesizers are paraphonic synthesizers. These allow multiple notes to be played by dividing the oscillators within a single synthesizer voice- the result is not as good as that of a true polyphony. It is highly recommended to look for a workstation that can handle and provide enough polyphony for playing and recording. The more notes a keyboard workstation can handle, the more you can maximize your use of sequencing and recording multiple tracks. So, what are the best keyboard workstations for you? Here is a list of five of the best you can buy right now. Now let’s check out some amazing keyboards workstations.

Roland FANTOM-8

Music Workstation Keyboard
Since 2001, Roland’s Fantom workstations have been on the cutting edge of keyboard technology and Fantom 8 happens to be the newest or most recent addition to the Fantom line. Fantom 8 is one of the most powerful keyboard workstations on this list, yet again the most expensive workstation on the list. Roland Fantom 8 is built with one major purpose in mind- to supercharge a player’s creativity- this you will realize right from the instrument’s subtle curvature to its buttons and customizable RGB lit controls. It comes with Roland’s acclaimed 88-note, aftertouch sensitive PHA-50 progressive hammer action keys. The keys have wooden sides and plastic tops making them look and feel of acoustic piano keys. Its purposeful design is built into being roadworthy and ideal for musical explorations with robust metal chassis and high-grade components. Fantom 8 is indeed a creative hub for any ardent music performer and producer owing to its inspiring production tools and computer integration. The workstation is designed to provide an intuitive, streamlined and unconstrained music creation process. Roland’s V-Piano technology is the engine behind Fantom 8’s grand piano tones. The engine is a result of years of development and it is evident enough. It is fortified with an arsenal for inspiring authentic, electronic, acoustic and hybrid sounds while at the same time allowing you to take advantage of new sound expansions and sampling technologies as they become available. The engine has an endless amount of voices plus an onboard analog filter that allows a player to sculpt the sound they desire. At the core of the workstation are the Roland’s custom Behavior Modelling Chips that power Fantom 8 with smooth precise control and massive polyphony and a full patch remain for seamless transitions. Fantom 8 allows one to customize their workspace and save their settings. It does this through spaces referred to as scenes- a scene can be anything from a song, part of a song or the starting point with the sounds you arranged that you may need to save in a specific order and recall when required. Scenes store all your sounds, clips, patterns and performance layouts- all these triggerable with a single touch! You can swap scenes or chain them together with no glitches or gaps. The workstation also has an intuitive touchscreen feature that makes the utilization of functions very easy. Moreover, the touchscreen enables you to manage your DAW and VSTs too. Other than the touchscreen, Roland Fantom 8 offers a cockpit of knobs and faders for immediate, intuitive hands-on control of the workstation. Fantom also features a dedicated synthesizer section with oscillator, filter and envelope controls, along with buttons and pads for sequencing and triggering. Moreover, it allows you to connect to third-party USB controllers to any of its three USB ports. Are you fond of integrating analog synths or drum machines into your rig? Well, Fantom 8 has got you-it features two sets of CV or Gate outputs so you can sync tempo or play them from the keyboard or its pattern sequencers. The other efficient feature of Fantom 8 is the Roland TR-REC step sequencer; this provides a powerful yet familiar production tool. The step sequencer which happens to be a borrowed idea from some classic Roland drum machine allows for real time recording, step recording and clip-based sequencing. The workstation also has analog and digital connectivity. Its power grows exponentially when connected to other equipment such as a computer or analog synthesizers. Fantom 8 has two microphone inputs and an onboard 16x3 stereo audio interface that lets you record studio quality sounds and subsequently route it to and from your DAW.

  • V-piano engine for breathtaking realism and expression
  • Polyphony; 256 notes, provide diversity of sounds
  • Deep integration with DAW and plug-ins for sequencing
  • High resolution controls with dedicated synth control section
  • Analog filter
  • 16-part multitimbral music workstation keyboard
  • 88 note, aftertouch sensitive, touchscreen (DAW control),
  • PHA-50 progressive hammer-action keybed escapement
  • Balanced XLR main outputs
  • 4 pedal jacks
  • 2 sets of CV/ Gate outputs
  • Fluid workflow no confusing modes, technical limitations or sonic compromises
  • Expandable ZEN-core sound engine that delivers acoustic and electronic sounds
    • Too expensive
    • Steeper learning curve

    • Type: Workstation keyboard
    • Sound Engine Type: ZEN- Core, V-Piano Technology
    • Analog/Digital: Analog
    • Number of Keys: 88
    • Type of Keys: PHA-50 keyboard with escarpment
    • Aftertouch: Yes
    • Pads: 16 x Programmable Pads
    • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, 2 x Mod wheels
    • Polyphony: 256 notes (ZEN core), Unlimited (V-piano)
    • Presets: Over 3500 tones, over 90 drum kits
    • Filter: Analog filter
    • Effects Types: 90 multi-effects, 8 x chorus 6 x reverb, 6 x mic reverb, master EQ, Master Compressor
    • Arpeggiator: Yes
    • Sequencer: 16-track
    • Sampling: 16-bit linear, 44.1/48kHz, WAV/AIFF
    • Audio Recording: real-time recording, step recording, TR recording
    • Audio Inputs: 2 x XLR- 1/4” combo
    • Storage: USB flash drive
    • Audio Outputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 4 x 1/4”, 2 x 1/4" (filtered)
    • Headphones: 1 x 1/4"
    • USB: 3 x Type A (external device), 1 x Type A (memory), 1 x Type B
    • MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru
    • Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4” (expression), 3 x 1/4" (control)
    • Other I/O: 4 x 1/8” (CV/gate)
    • Power Supply: Standard IEC AC cable
    • Height: 6.1”
    • Width: 56.3”
    • Depth: 17.3”
    • Weight: 61.1 lbs.


    88-Key Synthesizer
    Roland JUNO is an improved version of its predecessor that comes along with realistic hammer action keys, improved pianos, phrase pads, new vocal effects and much more. It is the first in the JUNO series to feature weighted keys. The keys deliver high-end touch and playability that many keyboardists will certainly fall in love with. You can download music and tunes and load them into the JUNO workstation using a USB. The workstation is best for stage musicians and sound tweakers alike. Its lightweight makes it very suitable for concerts and live performances as one doesn’t have to haul it around. Roland JUNO offers a ton of tones to choose from right out of its box. Not to mention the hands-on controls and adjustable parameters that provide plenty of opportunities for experimentation. The workstation’s microphone input is tailor-made for solo performers and songwriters. First, it provides you with a dedicated vocal reverb to add depth and ambience to your voice and you also get an auto pitch so you can create the popular stepped electronic vocal effect. Additionally, the vocoder allows you to sing into your mic and control the tone and pitch of your voice in the process. Thanks to JUNO’s onboard sequencer, you never have to worry about losing a musical idea.

    • 88 note velocity sensitive keyboard with progressive hammer actions
    • Loaded with performance ready sounds including updated piano and additional organs
    • Sample import function for playing your WAV files
    • Easy sound manipulation and editing using the hands-on knobs and sliders
    • 8 phrase pads for enhanced performance
    • 8 track pattern sequencers with non-stop recording for developing song ideas quickly

    • Type: Synthesizer
    • Sound Engine Type: Updated JUNO engine
    • Analog/Digital: Digital
    • Number of Keys: 88
    • Type of Keys: Weighted action, Roland Ivory Feel- G keyboard
    • Pads: 8 x Phrase Pads
    • Other Controllers: Pitchbend/Modulation lever
    • Polyphony: 128
    • Presets: Over 1200 patches, over 30 drum kits, over 64 performances
    • Filter: Analog filter
    • Effects Types: 3 x multi-effects, 3 x chorus, 5 x reverb, 8 x mic reverb, master EQ, vocoder
    • Arpeggiator: Yes
    • Sequencer: 8-track
    • Audio Playback: WAV, AIFF, MP3
    • Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4” (mic), 1 x 1/8” (aux)
    • Storage: USB flash drive
    • Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4” (R/L)
    • Headphones: 1 x 1/4"
    • USB: 1 x Type A (Stored trigger samples), 1 x Type B (audio/MIDI)
    • MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB
    • Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4” (hold), 1 x 1/4" (control)
    • Power Supply: DC 9V adapter, 8 x AA batteries
    • Height: 68”
    • Width: 75”
    • Depth: 43”
    • Weight: 35 lbs. 12 oz.

    Yamaha Montage 8

    88-Key Workstation Synthesizer
    The Yamaha Montage 8 is one of the most expansive workstations. The keyboard came at a time when people were craving a new Yamaha motif and yes, it carried on the Yamaha legacy but is not exactly the same as the Motif. Yamaha Montage 8 has balanced action keys with aftertouch. It is powered by one of the most powerful engines; Montage Motion control synthesis that streamlines your workflow. The engine unifies Montage’s sound engines; AWMX and FM-X and is powered by Yamaha’s proprietary data compression and sound playback technology. Montage 8 delivers amazingly realistic sounds reproductions and around ten times the wave capacity of the Yamaha MotifXF. The keyboard boasts of an 8- operator architecture and 128-note polyphony and massive sound design arsenal. The keyboard features a control appropriately named the Super Knob. The knob lets you execute one hand dynamic sound modifications from subtle to severe. With the knob, you can control multiple keyboard parameters at a go. Additionally, its synthesizers are modified with a nifty feature called the Motion Sequences which is customizable and allows you to assign a sequence to any parameters.

    • Aftertouch enabled
    • Sound expansion available
    • Polyphony allows sound diversity and experimentation
    • Almost ten times waveform of the MotifXF
    • Super knob allows you to modulate multiple controls at the same time
    • Powerful DSP effects engine for fully realized patches
    • Expensive
    • Not graded hammer action

    • Type: Workstation synthesizer
    • Sound Engine Type: AWM2, FM-X, Motion Control Synthesis
    • Analog/Digital: Digital
    • Number of Keys: 88
    • Type of Keys: Balanced hammer effects
    • Aftertouch: Yes
    • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod wheels, Ribbon controller
    • Polyphony: 128 notes stereo mono, 128 note FM-X
    • Presets: 128 live sets, 2048 User presets
    • Filter: 18 types
    • Effects Types: DSP effects engine: 12 x reverbs, 15 x master effects, 76 x variation types, 5 x band master EQ, 1st part 3 band EQ
    • Arpeggiator: Yes
    • Sequencer: 16-track, 64 songs, performance recorder version 2, motion sequencer
    • Audio Recording: real-time recording
    • Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4” (L/Mono, R)
    • Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (R/L), 2 x 1/4” (R/L assignable)
    • Headphones: 1 x 1/4"
    • USB: 1 x Type A (external device), 1 x Type B
    • MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru/USB
    • Pedal Inputs: 2 x 1/4” (foot control), 1 x 1/4" (assignable), 1 x 1/4" (sustain)
    • Power Supply: Standard IEC AC cable
    • Weight: 63 lbs. 15oz.

    Yamaha MODX8

    88-Key Workstation Synthesizer
    Yamaha MODX8 is like a brother to the Yamaha Montage as they share the same powerful sound engine AWM2 and FM-X. the MODX8 has 128 note max polyphony and better key action than Montage. Another thing the two share is the multi-controlling super knob. Many workstation keyboards have a built-in audio interface but they don’t have the same input option as the MODX8. The multi-channel audio interface has two inputs and ten outputs. Additionally, the keyboard has a capacity for 27 simultaneous effects and has a 1 GB internal flash memory that completes the features set. MODX8 gives you a powerful synthesizer and a controller with a multi-channel USB/MIDI interface for extensive DAW and VST controls.

      • Great onboard effects
      • Incredibly expressive piano owing to the Super knob
      • 192 note polyphony, 128 notes stereo AWM2 and FM-X sounds
      • Live sets allow performance organization and without copying, renaming or changing order
      • Direct control assignments assign controls at the touch buttons
      • Huge amount of voices
      • Powerful sound engine

      •  Type: Workstation synthesizer
      • Sound Engine Type: AWM2, FM-X
      • Analog/Digital: Digital
      • Number of Keys: 88
      • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod wheels
      • Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4” (R/L mono)
      • USB: 1 x Type B, 1 x Type A
      • MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB
      • Pedal Inputs: 2 x 1/4” (sustain, assignable), 2 x 1/4" (controller)
      • Power Supply: 12 VC power supply
      • Height: 6.29”
      • Width: 52.48”
      • Depth: 15.9”
      • Weight: 30.7 lbs.

      Korg Kronos

      88-Key Workstation Synthesizer
      Last on the list is Korg Kronos 88-key synthesizer. Korg Kronos is an absolute legendary titan in the keyboard world. It is relied on by popular keyboardists, musicians and song writers across the World. With one single keyboard, you get nine generations of Kronos sound engines at your disposal including synthesizers, organs, strings, electric and acoustic pianos as well as in depth parameter controls and access to effects via the huge eight-inch (800 x 600 pixel) color touch view display now with touch-drag capability. Put together, the keyboard lets you access a ton of sounds layered into rich and engaging music beds. The keyboard has breathtaking string resonance modelling that produces sympathetic harmonies that any pianist would surely appreciate. All this is as a result of the fact that the workstation incorporates the SGX-2 engine. The other thing with the engine is that it’s a una cord soft pedal response- this literally means that it has one string. The pedal allows you to completely shift the piano action to access an additional range of timbre you would rarely find even in a dedicated piano. Kronos 88 has astonishing realism that is able to pick up any EP sound you may crave. The key to this is called the Multi-dimensional Synthesis (MDS) technology that eliminates any and all unnatural sounds of looped samples to provide smooth dynamics that respond naturally to your touch. With Kronos 88, you can absolutely define your sound effortlessly. Korg Kronos 88 key synthesizer should be on your must-try list, you won’t regret it!

      • Comprehensive keyboard workstation with nine sound engines, thousands of sounds and effects, extensive hands-on controls and everything you would need to create original sounds on board.
      • RH3 weighted hammer action keys with resistance zones provides and authentic piano feel
      • SGX-2 engine capable of producing German and Japanese grands, including string resonance and una corda modeling
      • CX-3 sound engine leverages decades of PMC digital synthesis developments to produce wavetable tones ranging from perennial classics to unparalleled futuristic synths
      • Powerful songwriting platform includes 16-track sequencing and 16-track audio recorder that allows you to create an entire song via an intuitive workflow
      • Advanced Kay Algorithmic Real-time Music Architecture (KARMA) technology provides natural sounding and responsive accompaniment that adapts to your style of music
      • Complex yet easy-to-use drum tracks from the M3 synthesizer allows you to quickly add compelling drums and rhythmic elements to your music

      • Type: Workstation synthesizer
      • Sound Engine Type: 9 x sound engines
      • Analog/Digital: Digital
      • Number of Keys: 88
      • Type of Keys: Weighted, Real weighted hammer action 3
      • Other Controllers: 1 x 4-way joystick, 1 x vector joystick, 1 x ribbon controller, 9 x sliders, 8 x knobs
      • Polyphony: Variable per engine
      • Presets: 1792 memory programs, 78 drum kits
      • Number of effects: 197
      • Effects Type: various
      • Sequencer: 16-track (MIDI), 16-track (audio)
      • Sampling: Yes
      • Audio Inputs: 2 x ¼” (mic/line)
      • Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (R/L), 4 x 1/4” (individual outs)
      • Headphones: 1 x 1/4"
      • USB: 2 x Type A, 1 x Type B
      • MIDI I/O: In/Out/Thru/USB
      • Power Supply: Standard IEC AC cable
      • Height: 5.83”
      • Width: 56.42”
      • Depth: 14.61”
      • Weight: 53.13 lbs.

      I always encourage people to ascertain the reason why they need a keyboard before buying one and that is most relevant with workstations. Also, know your budgetary needs so that you won’t have to spend what you do not have. Workstations can be incredibly expensive and generally, the more expensive a workstation is, the more it has to offer. However, a cheaper workstation could be better in a specialized area than an expensive one. My advice is while considering to purchase a workstation, figure out if it will be used for live performances or whether it would be for studio use first, and then settle for one that will suit either need.

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