We are checking out the best arranger keyboards available in 2020. In this article, we will identify and review our top picks, discussing some of their best features. We will also talk a little about what an arranger keyboard is, what they do, and what kind of musician they suit most.
What is an arranger keyboard?
An arranger keyboard is a keyboard primarily aimed at performers who want to replicate a full band sound as a solo performer. Arranger keyboards come with accompaniment styles that react to chord changes and other cue’s, just as a real band would.
While arranger keyboards have all kinds of sounds, they focus more on real instrument sounds like pianos, guitars, horns, and making them as authentic as can be. Instead of the sound-shaping/manipulating capabilities, you’d get with a good workstation or synth; arranger keyboards provide more live performance-based effects and MIDI/MP3/WAV editing.
They come with built-in sequencers and arrangement functions, making them a mobile recording studio or the ultimate band in a box. They are often used by singer-songwriters, band leaders, and even as karaoke machines because of their ability to remove vocals from songs and display lyrics.
Here are the best arranger keyboards 2020:
1. Korg Pa4X
Still king of the hill 5 years after initial release
We kick off our list with the Korg Pa4X, an absolute powerhouse professional arranger keyboard. The Korg Pa4X comes with 61 or 76 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch. The 76-key version comes with an internal hard drive; it’s an optional extra on the 61-key model.
It comes with over 1,900 sounds, including both GM and XG sets. The addition of Korg’s DNC (Defined Nuance Control) and real-time articulation enhances many of the sounds. 3 assignable switches can trigger different note articulations, for example, making a saxophone growl. Further articulations come from a 4-way joystick and ribbon controller.
The drawbar organs are amongst the most impressive sounds on the Pa4X, thanks to Korg’s digital drawbar organ sound engine. Korg has also vastly improved the guitar sounds, too, with Guitar Mode 2.
It has over 580 built-in styles, all complete with intros, outros, count-ins, fills, and breaks. Chord Sequencer in Style Play mode allows you to record chord progressions that can be saved in any style. The Korg Pa4X also has the best MIDI to style conversion we have heard on an arranger keyboard. There are 2 MP3/MIDI file players that can record and remove vocals.
This arranger keyboard also has Korg’s Kaoss functionality, which lets you remix styles/songs in real-time. Anyone familiar with Korg’s Kaoss Pads will know this is a lot of fun! Kaoss enables you to control various effects from the touch screen in an intuitive way.
As far as effects go, the Pa4X has some of the best onboard effects you will find. There are 148 total effect types; 4 insert and 3 master effects for accompaniment parts; 1 insert and 2 master effects for keyboard part. Now for the vocal effects which come from TC Helicon Vocal Processing, including a 4-part harmonizer, reverb, delay, pitch correction, and more.
Everything is controlled from the adjustable 7-inch TouchView display. As well as being easy to navigate, the TouchView display can show scores, chords, and lyrics (in multiple languages).
|Image credit: Korg Check Sweetwater||
The Pa4X is not only the best Korg arranger keyboard, it’s the highest-rated arranger on our list. Everything about the Pa4X is very high-end, from the build quality to the sounds and effects. The sounds are great, to begin with, but adding some extra realism through Korg’s DNC is lovely, especially on sounds that keyboards usually struggle to replicate. Adding TC Helicon Vocal Processing to the mix makes it a dream for performers.
It might be at the top-end of most people’s budgets, but if money is no object, this is where we would spend it.
2. Korg Pa900
The best lightweight arranger keyboard money can buy
Another Korg to add to the list, the Pa900 is our number 2 choice. This arranger has 61 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch and comes in a slim, lightweight cabinet.
As with Korg’s entire PA series, the sound quality of the Pa900 is very high. Sounds come from the enhanced RX (Real eXperience) sound engine and are helped along by Korg’s DNC, allowing the player to add beautifully subtle realism to any sound. The Pa900 also features Guitar Mode 2, which provides some of the most convincing guitar sounds on a keyboard of any kind.
It comes with over 400 factory styles, plus 15 user banks to save customized styles and user-created styles. All styles have intros, outros, fills, and so on. Double MP3/MIDI players/recorders with crossfade and vocal remover give users further scope to control their accompaniment.
You can fully customize your songbook with styles, MP3s, Karaoke, etc. You can instantly recall everything from your songbook, and users can even create custom lists with filtering and ordering options.
The Pa900 has 125 total master effect types and 2 global effects types (Limiter, EQ). Up to 4 stereo master effects can be used at one time. Vocal effects come from TC Helicon’s 3-voice Vocal Processor with 4 dedicated effects.
The centerpiece of the Pa900 is a 7-inch TouchView display that can control almost everything in an instant. The display can show lyrics in their original languages – except Arabic and Oriental languages.
|Image credit: Korg Check Korg’s Site||
The Pa900 is somewhat like a toned-down version of the Pa4X. It does almost everything that the Pa4X does, but not to the same extent. For example, they both have fantastic onboard effects; the Pa900 has less.
The massive upside to buying the Pa900 is that it’s less than half the price, and it’s much easier to move around. The compact design and built-in speakers make it the perfect choice for performers who want maximum performance with minimal effort.
In our opinion, the combination of great workflow and portability make this the most user-friendly arranger on our list.
3. Yamaha PSR-S975
The best Yamaha arranger keyboard
Yamaha’s PSR series ranges from beginners’ first keyboard to high-end professional instruments. The PSR-S975 is a top-quality arranger from the professional side of the range. It’s a 61-key arranger with organ/initial touch keys.
Initial touch is similar to velocity-sensitive, in the sense that if you strike a key harder, it produces a louder sound. The added element of initial touch is that hitting a key harder can also initiate different characteristics from a sound. For example, with a brass section, a harder strike could trigger a big stab/hit and fall.
The PSR-S975 utilizes Yamaha’s AWM Stereo Sampling sound engine. Not only does it deliver great sound, but it has an incredible 1090+ voices! The piano sounds are very nice, as you’d expect from Yamaha, along with some lovely organs.
There are 523 styles, including just about every popular musical genre you can imagine. Styles have multiple variations of intros, outros, etc. They can also be expanded via Yamaha’s Expansion Manager. The Expansion Manager provides additional sound packs that can be uploaded to the PSR-S975s internal memory – you can also load sounds from your sample collection.
Onboard effects are powered by Yamaha’s Virtual Circuitry Modeling technology, which simulates effects processors at a circuit level. In basic terms, it emulates classic and vintage effects authentically. Effects are tweaked in a very intuitive way, for example, when tweaking a guitar amp effect, the display will show a guitar cab.
The Yamaha PSR-S975 also comes with a very powerful vocoder and some excellent vocal effects. The vocoder lets you combine your voice with any of the PSR-S975 sounds, and the harmonizer enables you to layer multiple vocal harmonies to create a massive sound from one person.
Audio playback via USB has some functions not found on many arrangers, like real-time pitch shift or time stretch. A 7-inch LCD screen is the central control hub, and it features some tutorial/lesson material from Yamaha’s Performance Assistance Technology.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Amazon||
The PSR-S975 is a fairly new arranger, and it’s a star, but it’s let down in a few small areas. Let’s start with the positives, though, it has a crazy amount of voices, and they sound amazing. The onboard effects are authentic and a joy to use, too.
But, it falls in the price/size category of the Korg Pa900, and it just doesn’t match it everywhere. It’s slightly less user-friendly than the Korg, it’s a little behind with some features, and the keys don’t feel as good. The things that might sway you towards the PSR-S975 are the versatility in sound, and functions like the synth vocoder.
4. Yamaha Genos
An arranger keyboard for those with expensive taste
We have reached the most expensive arranger keyboard on our list with the Yamaha Genos. It has 76 initial touch keys with aftertouch (they feel far better than the Yamaha PSR-S975).
Yamaha’s AWM Stereo Sampling engine drives the Genos. That means it comes with a massive amount of realistic voices, over 1600! From stunning grand pianos, to drum kits, and horns, everything is as realistic as you could expect. 9 assignable sliders are fantastic for playing organ sounds or controlling effects parameters on the fly.
The Genos has a total of 550 accompaniment styles, each with multiple variations. These styles can be expanded via Yamaha’s Expansion Manager or uploading your sample/songs. The recording functions on the Genos are straightforward to use, too; quick recording, multi-track recording, and step recording are available.
The onboard effects utilize Yamaha’s VCM technology and go deeper than many other arranger keyboards. Effects include reverbs, chorus, master EQ, part EQ, and more. To give an idea of how deep the effects go, there are 59 reverb presets plus 30 user settings. All other effects are similar in scale, so there’s no shortage of tweaking fun to be had.
The synth vocoder is fantastic on the Genos, just like the PSR-S975. However, the Genos excels in the more standard vocal effects. The 3-band EQ, compressor, and noise gate produce an amazing performance-ready path for your vocals.
The Genos also excels in the display department with a gorgeous 9-inch touch screen.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Sweetwater||
While we love the Yamaha Genos, and it’s a better arranger keyboard than the PSR-975 (and possibly the Korg Pa900), we couldn’t place it higher on our list. The reason is that the increase in quality doesn’t justify the increase in price.
This keyboard is a fantastic arranger, and on its own, it would get very few complaints at all, even at the high cost. But, while the 3 keyboards above on our list are available, the Genos has to settle for 4th place.
5. Korg Pa300
The best arranger keyboard under $1000
Yes, it’s another Korg on our list! As you might guess, the Korg Pa300 is a little brother to the Pa900. It shares some key features and comes at around half the cost. It has 61 velocity-sensitive keys (no aftertouch this time).
The main thing it shares with its big brother (Pa900) is the RX (Real eXperience) sound engine that generates some truly astonishing sounds. In this model, the guitars stand out as do the EDM based voices. There are over 950 sounds overall, and a 3-band EQ for each track so you can shape the sound as you like.
Accompaniment styles are plenty here, with over 310 presets (with variations), and 8- to 1,040 style locations for user banks or favorites. One of the most impressive things about the Pa300, considering its low price, is that the onboard player can read lyrics and chords from MP3, MIDI, and KAR file types. It can then display the music as beautifully clear notation. This feature makes filling your songbook with performance-ready styles/songs a breeze.
The Pa300 has 4 stereo master effects processors powering over 125 effects, including reverbs, delays, and chorus. It also includes some highly-acclaimed REMS guitar-based effects for ultra-realistic guitar tones. As well as the 3-band EQ per track, there is a 4-band parametric EQ added to the sound output. This EQ processes everything and is excellent for fine-tuning your overall sound.
The onboard 16-track sequencer has a quick record function for making backing tracks quickly. It also has multi-track and step record functions up to 100,000 events.
|Image credit: Korg Check Sweetwater||
Despite being one of the most affordable arranger keyboards, it’s every bit a professional instrument. The Korg Pa300 is the best budget arranger keyboard on our list. It does lack some of the finesse you get at the top end of the PA series, but it’s a workhorse.
If you are a singer, it will be a little disappointing that there is no mic input, given how good Korg’s vocal effects generally are. However, if you don’t need a mic, this arranger keyboard will do pretty much everything else. Do it very well indeed, we might add.
6. Roland E-A7
The best Roland arranger keyboard
The E-A7 is the only offering from Roland to make our list. Roland’s E-A7 is an arranger keyboard with 61 velocity-sensitive keys. The keyboard has a 4-part split functionality: up1, up2, up3, and LWR.
Roland took a pretty in-depth approach to create the sounds for the E-A7. Every single sound was created in collaboration with expert musicians from different genres, cultures, and locations around the world. So, it’s safe to say you get a diverse range of sounds, from grand pianos to the more obscure instruments of the Middle East, and Asia. There are over 1,500 sounds in total. On top of that, the sample import function gives you limitless possibilities.
It comes with over 600 preset styles and unlimited storage for user styles via internal memory and USB. Each style has multiple variations and 4 programmable registrations per style. In terms of style content, it favors western popular music, but there’s plenty of styles from around the world, too.
Roland has added some interesting editing features, also, like instrument-oriented editing. This feature lets you tweak the instrumentation of some styles, very useful. It only offers chord detection for SMF files, but display lyrics for SMF, KAR, and MP3 files.
The effects are quality over quantity here. There are the usual reverbs and chorus effects, but not a wide variety of each. The master EQ has 6 presets, and one user memory location, as does the master compressor. The input effects include 6 reverb types and 2 delay types.
To add to the playability, Roland has added 6 pads for triggering phrases/tones, and 1 stop pad. The E-A7 has 156 dedicated buttons, so while the panel may look too busy, it’s pretty smart. It also has a unique feature on our list, it has dual displays, with styles on the left and sounds on the right.
|Image credit: Roland Check Sweetwater||
No keyboard best-of list would be complete without a Roland model in there. However, on this occasion, Roland barely made it on to our list with the E-A7. We have to stress; above anything else, this is an excellent arranger keyboard. The problem is that it doesn’t beat the competition, so it’s more to do with how good the others are than how bad the E-A7 is.
The sound quality is very high, and in typical Roland fashion, the piano sounds are wonderfully luxurious. The versatility of sound is a big plus point for this keyboard, too, with instruments and styles from all around the world.
If we could exchange some of that versatility for some more effects, or more sequencer options, we would. So, unless you need the more unusual sounds offered by the E-A7, there are better options for the same or similar price.
7. Casio CT-X5000
The best arranger keyboard under $500
Our final pick comes from Casio, a manufacturer that is known for making versatile keyboards. The Casio CT-X5000 has 61 velocity-sensitive keys; the keys do feel good, but have no aftertouch.
The sound quality of the CT-X5000 is quite exceptional when you consider it’s the cheapest arranger keyboard on our list. It comes from Casio’s AiX Sound Chip, and the acoustic pianos, organs, and strings are beautiful. Casio also got the synth sounds better than most of the other keyboards on our list, too. There are 800 sounds in total plus plenty of room for user expansion.
Casio has added 260 accompaniment styles, again, with room for user expansion. Compared to other keyboards on our list, this amount might seem quite small. The important thing is that the styles are authentic, good quality, and customizable. There are 128 registration memories available, and they can be controlled via a foot pedal to make switching during performance flawlessly smooth.
The AiX sound engine does apply DSP effects to every sound, and they sound fantastic, but there’s no real control over effects for the user.
As for recording, the CT-X5000 has a pretty powerful 17-track sequencer and 42 channel mixer. The built-in player can instantly remove vocals from any standard WAV file, so you can play or sing the melody live.
|Image credit: Casio Check Sweetwater||
The Casio CT-X5000 is last placed on our list, and maybe the shortest review. It’s simply because it does less than all of the other keyboards. Again, this isn’t to say it does anything wrong; it just does less.
It’s still the best arranger under $500, and the most beginner-friendly on our list. Because it doesn’t have an abundance of effects or functions, Casio was able to keep the controls clear and concise. The problem with it is that you might outgrow it quite soon.
Although, the AiX sounds are stunning, and if you need essential arranger functions, those sounds could sway you towards the CT-X5000.
In general, we try to keep our lists versatile and offer as much variety as possible. This time it’s a little different; our list is quite Korg heavy. If you are the type of musician who needs an arranger keyboard, chances are you already have an idea of what you want. So, if our list lacks a little brand variety, it’s because Korg builds arranger keyboards so well. The other manufacturers on our list aren’t too far behind.
As always, there are no terrible keyboards on our list; some are just better than others. We hope that our list helps you find the best arranger keyboard for you!