When we hear someone talk about amplifiers, we instinctively tend to think about the guitar or bass guitar. However, keyboard players often use an amp rather than going straight into a PA system.
We are going to review some of the best keyboard amps available in 2020. We will also explain some of the reasons for using a keyboard amp and how to find the best one for you.
Let’s get started!
Here are the best keyboard amps 2020:
- Roland KC-600
- Behringer Ultratone K900FX
- Alto Professional Kick 12
- Peavey KB 1
- Laney AH300
- VOX VX50KB
- Roland Mobile Cube
1. Roland KC-600
We are kicking things off with the Roland KC-600, a top-quality amp from a company who know keyboards so well. The KC-600 is the second largest of Roland’s KC line and one of the best-selling keyboard amps. It is a very efficient 200W amplifier with a 15-inch speaker and horn tweeter.
The custom-designed speaker delivers thumping bass and incredible detail/clarity in the mid/high ranges. Onboard controls include a low/mid/high EQ section so the player can optimize the output to suit their sound.
The KC-600 is a 4-channel amp with the usual 1/4-inch line inputs along with an XLR microphone input for vocals. Essentially it’s a very good portable PA system in its own right. A stereo AUX input allows you to connect portable music players and a subwoofer output means you can connect an external sub should you want even more bass.
Another cool feature, albeit an expensive one, is that you can connect 2 KC-600 amps via Roland’s Stereo Link connection. The Stereo Link feature is great for the obvious stereo output but also if you need more channels.
One final thing that is worth mentioning is that the KC-600 is lighter than the older KC models (of similar size). It weighs approx 63lbs, not exactly lightweight but an improvement compared to the approx 75lbs weight of previous models.
|Image credit: Roland Check Price on Amazon||
The KC-600 from Roland is our highest-rated keyboard amp for a reason, it delivers quality sound across the ranges that is hard to match. If you want to go for an even more high-end keyboard amp you could look to the KC-990 but we feel the KC-600 is pound for pound a better choice.
The versatility of this amp is another reason we rate it so highly. It’s perfect for practice, performance, and even as a portable PA system for small ensemble rehearsals.
We know it’s a little pricey but you will get more than your money’s worth out of this one. The Roland KC-600 is the best keyboard amp right now, in our humble opinion.
2. Behringer Ultratone K900FX
The Ultratone K900FX is a 90W amp with, as you may have guessed, some built-in effects. That’s a simple way to put it but it’s a rather sophisticated and very popular keyboard amp.
One of the reasons we say that is the 5-band EQ that lets you shape your tone more than some other amps on our list. It also comes with Behringer’s proprietary FBQ Feedback Protection System for extra peace of mind on stage.
The built-in effects processor comes with 100 presets including all the usual suspects – chorus, delay, reverb, etc. It’s a 3-channel amp with an XLR input for vocals so it’s also a great small PA system. The K900FX comes with a 12-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter, it may be a small amp but it puts out plenty of noise don’t worry.
Being a smaller amp, it’s surprising how flexible it is. There is an RCA stereo in to connect any music player plus a subwoofer output to hook up an external sub. Its size comes with some perks, it weighs in at just over 40 lbs.
|Image credit: Behringer Check Price on Amazon||
There are a few contradictory areas with this one. We listed that it could lack power and that’s true for players who want a 200W+ amp but it over-delivers on its 90W output.
You can buy keyboard amps of this size under $300 quite easily but not many so versatile. The EQ section is very good for shaping your tone and the FBQ system ensures nothing disrupts that nice sound.
If you want something smaller, lighter, cheaper, without losing versatility then go for this. If you want something bigger in the same price range then look to the Alto Professional Kick 12 below.
3. Alto Professional Kick 12
Alto Professional might not be the first name that comes to mind but they have been making pro audio backline gear for a very long time and they’re very good at it. The Kick 12 is a 400W (peak power), 4-channel amplifier but it’s anything but a normal amp.
The true bi-amped design means the 12-inch low-frequency and 1-inch high-frequency drivers each has a dedicated amplifier. In theory, this means neither gets overworked and every frequency remains crystal clear at all times.
Each channel has a level, effects, and high/low EQ control. There are plenty of inputs/outputs available on the Kick 12 – Line-in, XLR, and stereo RCA, and a footswitch input along with 1/4-inch jack and XLR outputs.
The biggest feature is the built-in Alesis digital effects processor with a whopping 256 effects presets. There are 16 unique effects with 16 variations of each, effects include reverb, delay, and chorus.
|Image credit: Alto Professional Check Price on Amazon||
The Kick 12 from Alto Professional won’t be for everyone, it does things a little different and not everyone likes that. The fact is that it sounds good and it’s cheaper than many amps of similar size/power so it deserves to be on our list. The built-in Alesis digital effects processor is an especially nice touch.
4. Peavey KB 1
The Peavey KB 1 is more of a straight-forward old school portable keyboard amp. It’s a 2-channel amp pushing 20W of power out of an 8-inch extended-range speaker.
Each channel has a 2-band EQ to give you some degree of control over your tone. Peavey does suggest that this amp is also suitable for vocals, guitar, and other instruments. However, there is no XLR input so an XLR to 1/4-inch jack cable would be required to connect a microphone.
The top panel is very basic, it consists of a line-in, level knob, and EQ for each channel along with a headphone out.
The KB 1 speaker delivers a very crisp sound. It may lack in features/effects but it does accurately represent the sound that you put into it. Weighing just 21lbs, it’s extremely portable but more impressive is the fact it’s one of the toughest built keyboard amps around.
|Image credit: Peavey Check Price on Amazon||
If you just want a small amp with minimal fuss that won’t let you down, the KB 1 from Peavey is for you. For a keyboard amp under $200 it’s surprisingly well built, it will last a lifetime – unless you do anything crazy of course.
It doesn’t offer much in the way of features or inputs/outputs but it does exactly what it says it will. It’s reliable, clear, built to last and it won’t break the bank. Great for practice or small gigs, that’s why it makes our list.
5. Laney AH300
We are cranking up the power a little with the 300W AH300 from Laney. This is a 5-channel amp with a Laney custom 15-inch speaker.
It’s a top-quality keyboard amp with lots of onboard effects available. The effects are custom designed by Laney and include digital delay, reverbs, and chorus.
The AH300 also comes with an FX loop which means you can add time-based effects after the pre-amp section. For example, adding a delay after your distorted pre-amp section will give you distorted delay rather than delayed distortion. There is a 5-band master EQ so each channel doesn’t have a dedicated EQ but it does a pretty nice job overall.
Laney amps are always pretty rugged but the best thing about the build-quality here is that it’s a dual-position cab. The back of the cabinet is angled so that it can be used in a kicked back position which is perfect for personal monitoring.
There are 2 XLR inputs along with the 5 line-in inputs so this is almost a PA system dressed as an amp. An optional footswitch is available for extra control.
|Image credit: Laney Check Price on Amazon||
Laney tag this amp with the line ‘All instruments welcome’ and that sounds right to us. The AH300 is a complete all-rounder, a PA system wrapped up in an amp cab. The sound quality is very good, the effects aren’t the best we’ve seen on an amp, but they aren’t bad at all. The addition of the FX loop makes it much more flexible for players looking for the perfect chain.
This is the perfect purchase for a small combo/band who want something that covers rehearsals and the stage. We love the fact there are 2 XLR inputs, having 5 channels and only 1 XLR would have been a waste.
6. VOX VX50KB
VOX is known for their vintage tube guitar amps so why not have one for keyboard players. The VOX VX50KB is a lightweight keyboard amp, suitable for practice or small performances. It’s a 50W amp with Nutube circuitry that emulates that classic Vox tube-amp sound.
It comes with a single 8-inch speaker, designed to get the best out of that warm, tube tone. There are 3 channels, channel 3 has a line/mic selector but no XLR input.
Vox has added a TRS AUX input, 1/4-inch line-out, and a headphone output so there’s decent connectivity for such a small amp. The 3-band EQ is pretty useful, it’s not per channel but it’s very effective.
The amp is housed in a specially optimized bass-reflex cab that makes your low-frequency thump when it has to. We never put style over substance but when gear looks great too it doesn’t hurt and this little amp looks fantastic. If you aren’t sold on it already, it weighs just over 9 lbs!
|Image credit: VOX Check Price on Amazon||
This one very much comes down to the tube-like sound – if you love that tone, you’ll love this amp. Otherwise, there are better options available, but as we know, that tube sound is often sought after so the VOX VX50KB deserves its place.
It does sound fantastic, more of a practice amp than a performance amp although it will do for small solo gigs. The fact it’s so light makes it a joy to use because you can take it anywhere hassle-free.
Lastly, if you do like VOX amps you will know they always look great and this one is no different. One of the best compact keyboard amps around.
7. Roland Mobile Cube
Now we go from something extremely portable to something that’s built to go anywhere with you. The Roland Mobile Cube is a little battery-operated powerhouse.
This is the modern equivalent of walking around with a boom box, it’s a buskers dream. Its twin 4-inch speakers blast out crystal clear stereo sound at 2.5W each.
Despite being so portable this is a 2-channel amp, 1 mic, and 1 instrument. The instrument line-in has L/R stereo inputs for keyboards. It also comes with mono and stereo AUX in. If that isn’t impressive enough, it comes with Roland’s legendary built-in FX engine with high-quality reverb, chorus, etc.
|Image credit: Roland Check Price on Amazon||
There is no real fault with this cheap keyboard amp and we mean cheap in the best possible way. It won’t suit every requirement but it’s not meant to. This is very much for traveling, practicing on the go or busking. If that’s what you need then look no further!
We were surprised to find any onboard effects, to have such a high-quality FX engine is amazing. A great purchase even if you have a larger amp already. This is by far the most portable keyboard amp on our list, check it out.
That’s our top 7 of the best keyboard amps available right now. You might notice that we list some pros/cons for certain models that we don’t list for other models that share the same feature. The reason we do that is because it’s based on what we expect from a particular keyboard amp. For example, we wouldn’t list ‘No XLR input’ as a ‘con’ for the Roland Mobile Cube because we would never expect it to have one.
There are keyboard amps that we left out which could easily be on our list. For example, the Roland KC range, Behringer Ultratone range, and the Peavey KB range all have multiple models. So, if you like those amps, but feel the model we have listed is too big/small for you then you can check out the rest of their range.
How to choose a keyboard amp and what to look for?
This is the same thing we tell our readers when they are choosing an instrument. Think about what you play and what you need your keyboard amp to do.
The first thing to look for is the size/power of the amp – if you only need something to practice on at home then you don’t need a 300W amp. There are no set guidelines to tell you what size amp fits your exact use so it’s about common sense. Remember, this will be a huge factor in the price of the amp too.
Our advice would be to always look for longevity, don’t buy something you will outgrow in a few months.
Think about how many channels you might need, are you always going to plug in solo or do you need the amp to double as a small PA system?
If you want to sing/play at the same time then look for a keyboard amp that delivers quality sound for both. An amp with a thumping low-frequency response might sound great for your electric piano or key bass sounds but the vocals won’t cut through enough. One solution could be opting for an amp that has per channel EQ.
Many amps have great built-in effects and that usually comes with a higher price tag. If you are running your keyboard through FX units or pedals then to your amp, the need for built-in effects is far less. Also, consider what inputs/outputs that you can’t live without.
Lastly, if your amp is likely to get put through its paces on the road, choose something that’s built to last.
Keyboard amp vs. powered speaker
There are arguments for each but the main difference is that a powered speaker/monitor will have one input and a keyboard amp is likely to have multiple.
Even a budget keyboard amp is likely to have some EQ control, etc, and act as a mini mixer. This gives the player far more control than just the master volume on your keyboard.
If you already have a small mixer then you could opt for powered speakers/monitors and have a full PA system.
There are arguments that a powered speaker will deliver better quality audio than a keyboard amp because it’s just a speaker, that’s all it has to focus on. This is true in some cases but unless you go into the higher price ranges it isn’t consistently true.
So, if you are considering taking the powered speaker route, don’t automatically think the sound quality will be better. There’s a very good chance it won’t be.
Why not go straight into the PA?
If you gig regularly, you’ll find most venues have a house PA system. Singers and keyboard players generally plug straight into the PA and there’s no problem with that at all.
However, musicians like to have control and a keyboard amp gives you more control. Whether you want it for the built-in effects, to use as a personal monitor, or simply to have extra control over your levels and EQ, a keyboard amp is always an option.
Will a guitar amp do?
Generally speaking, the answer is no. Keyboard amps and guitar amps are significantly different. This is because the tonal spectrum of both instruments is different.
Guitar amps work in a narrower frequency range and keyboard amps work within a much wider range. Keyboard amps need a much wider frequency range because a keyboard replicates the sound of many different instruments – piano, strings, organs, etc.
For this reason, guitar amps won’t produce as clean and accurate sound as a keyboard amp will in this use.
That was speaking in a general sense, here is the curveball. Musicians are a funny and experimental bunch, not least of all keyboard players. While a guitar amp won’t technically deliver the same quality, some guitar amps (like the Fender Blues Deluxe) are used because they deliver a very specific tonal quality. This is found more often with certain musical genres, like funk for example.
We put together a pretty strong list of contenders for you to consider. As always, we highly recommend each keyboard amp we listed but they don’t all serve the same purpose. So, when choosing, make sure you consider everything we discussed above and you’ll find something suitable within your budget.
Above all else, never choose purely on the review, choose something that fits your needs!
James is a writer and musician with a passion for audio production. He is a lover of all things tech, especially the latest keyboards, synths, DAW’s, virtual instruments, and effects plugins. Musical interests include jazz, funk, hip hop, blues, and rock.