The Korg SV-2S stage vintage piano has all the makings of a modern classic. With the hugely popular Korg SV-1 now discontinued, the SV-2 and SV-2S look set to take its place nicely.
Being marketed as a vintage stage piano rather than just a stage piano suggests that the SV-2S could is at a more niche group of users. Users who want authentic vintage sounds without the expense or hassle of using multiple vintage instruments. Our Korg SV-2S review will take a look at everything it has to offer, who it’s best for, and how it compares to its predecessor.
Before we get into it, we should say we are looking at the SV-2S model and not the regular SV-2. However, the only difference between the two is that the SV-2S has a built-n speaker system, the SV-2 doesn’t. All other info and options apply to both models.
A realistic piano feel
A stage piano that mimics vintage instruments needs to feel right. It can’t feel too light at the bottom end or too heavy at the top; otherwise, the playing experience won’t be authentic.
One of the first things that Korg addressed with the SV-2S was the keybed. It features the flagship Korg RH3 keybed, which has graded hammer action keys. Graded hammer action means that the lower keys and heavier and the higher keys are lighter, with graduated weighting from bottom to top. Korg is generally excellent when it comes to weighted keys, but this one feels particularly good.
It’s not only about how the keys feel to touch; it’s how expressively the weight lets you play. The Korg SV-2S has 8 velocity curves so you can adjust the keyboard’s response to suit your playing style or voice being used.
The keyboard also has 8 tuning systems to choose from, if you want to be extra creative. The tuning systems include equal temperament (default), stretch tunings, detunes, and user-defined. Equal temperament is what we hear from conventional keyboards and pianos these days, but in reality, the intervals are a few cents off. Not everyone will make use of this feature, but it’s a cool option to have as it’s becoming more popular amongst musos.
How it sounds?
The Korg SV-2S comes packed with 72 onboard sounds covering a range of vintage instruments. Sounds are arranged into sampled, VPM, FM, analog, and digital versions. Everything comes from Korg’s EDS-X sound engine (Enhanced Definition Synthesis – Expanded).
As a stage piano, the main focus remains on the piano tones. These voices include gorgeous grand pianos expertly sampled from instrument makers in Germany, Japan, Austria, and Italy. The German grand delivers that familiar Steinway Model D sound with incredible accuracy.
If you want something a little more subtle, maybe for singer/songwriter style performances, there are some lovely German/Japanese upright pianos.
Getting slightly less run of the mill, Korg decided to include an authentic tack piano and a honky-tonk piano. The honky-tonk sound covers anything from Vaudeville to old-school boogie-woogie. The tack piano is a little different, appearing first in the late 1800s with a much brighter tone. A small tack or nail is inserted into the hammer, creating a much brighter sound when they hit the strings. When you hear it, you’ll be transported back to an old west saloon in the days of Billy the Kid.
Wrapping up the pianos are 2 very nice harpsichords, from France and Italy.
Now, as for the electric pianos, organs, and strings, it’s all here, too. The electric pianos are also taken from manufacturers around the world. The classic American tine and reed models are included, which, to be honest, will likely get more use than the others. However, should you want something a little different, there is a lovely Japanese electric grand that sounds very 80s or early 90s. If it is that electronic sound you are after, you’ll be glad to know the Korg M1 is also included.
Organs range from classic tonewheel to American tube, to church organs. You have everything you need to play gospel, blues, prog-rock, or Sunday Church Hymns, and more.
Moving on, there are some beautiful string sounds, ranging from crisp orchestral sections to lush 70s analog string machines. There are other orchestral sounds, including mallets, brass, and choirs. The sounds that we haven’t singled out include guitars, basses, and more interestingly, some impressive synth leads and pads.
All of the voices can be used as solo or layered/split with other voices.
We should give a special mention to the effort Korg put into capturing the best possible sounds. Not only was the sampling process remarkably in-depth, but they also found pristine examples of each vintage instrument to provide the best original source.
The reason the Korg SV-2S is able to offer so many high-quality sounds is that it has over ten times the sample data provided by past models. This increase offers 64 memory slots to store your favorites and custom patches. So you can now easily save and recall any custom split or layered sounds that you create.
The one drawback is that you need to use the SV-2 editor to create custom patches. The editor itself is fine, but it would be easier if you could do it directly from the front panel. You can, however, adjust split points of custom patches directly from the front panel, so it’s not all bad.
A single memory slot can store sounds with up to three timbres at once. That means you can have a split of two voices and layer a third voice. In addition to the increased memory and sample data, the SV-2S has been given increased polyphony, now at 128 voices. The increased polyphony comes in handy when layering voices and sustaining more complex chords.
Effects are a big part of adding authenticity to any vintage sound; it gives you a real era-correct feeling. Korg’s SV-2S comes with six stages of studio-quality signal processing, visualized by the Korg Valve Reactor. The Valve Reactor adds a warmth that typically only comes with a vintage 12AX7A vacuum tube can provide. However, the effects and circuitry behavior have been modeled so accurately; it’s as close as you will get to the real thing.
The six independent effects stages are:
- A 3-band EQ (bass, middle, and treble).
- Pre FX – Pre FX comes with multiple options, including the red compressor, U-vibe, tremolo, vibrato, treble boost, and VOX wah.
- Amp Model – As you’d expect, this section deals with various classic amps, and does it rather well. The modeled amps include clean, twin, AC30, tweed, and some cabinet simulators. Without getting too deep into it, you have everything from the crunch blues tone you’d get running a Fender Rhodes through a vintage amp to the swirl of a Leslie speaker.
- Modulation FX – There isn’t anything unexpected here, but there’s enough to do the job. You get a few chorus types, phase types, flanger, and rotary effects.
- Reverb/Delay – Reverbs and delays sometimes get a little overlooked because they are pretty standard. But, they are usually the most important effects on any keyboard; if they aren’t authentic, nothing else will be. There are four reverb types of various sizes, and two delays, tape echo and stereo delay.
- Total FX – A stereo limiter and stereo mastering limiter.
The effects might not wow you, but if you are looking for crazy effects, this isn’t the stage piano for you. Everything sounds realistic and genuine, that’s what matters here, good job from Korg.
With authentic vintage instruments like a Wurly, Rodes, or VOX organ, the controls tend to be very simple. Korg stayed true to that principle with the SV-1, and we are glad to say nothing has changed in that regard with the SV-2S.
The first thing you will notice is that there is no LCD or touch screen. Again, that’s in keeping with the tradition of vintage instruments. But, it also means there is absolutely no menu-diving, and that’s something incredibly valuable when on stage. That means everything is hands-on physical control, and Korg has added a couple of nice workflow touches.
When you are working with physical controls, whether it’s knobs or sliders, you can sometimes go too far and lose track. With the SV-2S, whenever you adjust a knob, clicking down on it will reset that parameter to its default setting. It might sound like a small detail, but it’s not just a time-saver, it lets you experiment with a safety net.
Taking it a step further, there is now a panel lock function. So when you do find just the right sound, with the perfect effects mix, you won’t accidentally lose it.
Another simple but effective feature is that the switches have LED indicators, so you can clearly see anything that is active. The sound selection comes from two dedicated rotary switches for type and variation. If you have favorites or custom sounds stored in any of the allotted slots, they can be recalled quickly via eight highlighted central buttons.
If you do need more in-depth control, that’s offered via the SV-2 editor. As we said, the thing is supposed to mimic a real vintage instrument, in both sound and function. So, if that’s what you want, you’ll love the stripped-back control layout.
Built-in speaker system
The most noticeable upgrade from the SV-1 and the regular SV-2 models is the internal speaker system. It hasn’t changed the shape or size of the keyboard at all; the K-ARRAY speakers fit nice on the top/back panel.
The system is made up of two 2.5-inch loudspeakers and a 3-inch passive radiator. Generating 15 watts of power, the speakers are good enough for any kind of practice and small performances. Not to mention the sound quality is fantastic, and to be expected from Italian speaker manufacturers K-ARRAY.
The beauty of the speakers is that you now have a genuinely high-end stage piano that doesn’t need an amp just to practice. So, whether at a small venue or a friend’s house, taking your keyboard with you just got easier.
Old vintage vs. New vintage
The original Korg SV-1 is over a decade old, and to be honest, it would still sell today. So, Korg didn’t have to redevelop it into the SV-2S. For that reason, what you have here is exactly the same keyboard that the SV-1 always was. You are probably familiar with the idea that sequels are never as good as the original movie, right? The same logic applies here, with the SV-1 being so well-loved, it’s a risk to change it up and replace it with something different.
So, Korg didn’t change the SV-1, they took everything great about it and made it better, and that’s what the SV-2S is. The SV-2S has more memory, more sample data, more sounds, improved sounds, and improved effects.
All of that, along with a top-notch speaker system, sum it up, so if you missed out on the SV-1, don’t worry. The SV-2 isn’t a new idea; it’s a better version of an already fantastic stage piano.
Who is it for?
Ultimately, this stage piano will suit any player, providing it’s a vintage sound you are after.
The best way to think about it is that it’s most definitely built for the stage. So, it’s a performers’ keyboard that will also do a good job in the studio. Most performers need an instrument that works well in both areas.
If you want something that is only for the studio and you don’t plan to gig with it, then there are better options. You might want something with more DAW integration, or even a great MIDI controller.
In short, if you perform and record, it’s perfect for you. If you only record, there may be something better.
We mentioned the editor a couple of times, and how it offers enhanced control. That means you can arrange your favorites and edit them with a nice little digital interface. That might be easier for some people and certainly worth checking out if at home or in the studio, in performance, the extra control isn’t needed, it’s less intuitive.
Where it starts to get interesting is the hundreds of additional sounds that become available. Additional sound libraries released by Korg can be accessed via the editor, and you can even swap custom patches with other SV-2 users.
That makes the editor amazing for studio use, and depending on your workflow, you could maybe add it to your live setup.
Despite the vintage persona, the SV-2S does have a very modern connectivity base. On top of the stereo 1/4-inch jack outputs, there are a pair of left and right XLR outputs. So, you have more options when it comes to connecting directly to a mixer in the studio or on stage.
There is a dedicated headphone out for monitoring your performance. Din-style MIDI in and out ports let you hook up your other hardware gear. So, if you have modular gear that you want to trigger via the SV-2S, that’s possible. The SV-2S connects to your computer via USB, which is how you use the editor.
It comes with three pedal inputs to create the full piano experience or add some effects triggers. The SV-2S includes Korg’s DS-2H damper pedal.
- Vintage styling.
- EDS sound engine.
- Real hammer action keys.
- Built-in stereo speaker system.
- Valve reactor effects circuit.
- Increased memory.
- Less suitable if you want a modern sound.
Korg’s updated and improved SV-2S is a fantastic stage piano, without question. There are ups and downs with any instrument, and the downside to this one is that it doesn’t offer the tonal versatility of a modern stage piano.
The upside is that it’s not supposed to, it offered a specific vintage feel, and it delivers it incredibly well. In addition to providing the vintage theme very well, you get the comfort of modern connectivity.
There isn’t any single area where we can say the SV-2S is particularly poor. First and foremost, it’s a stage piano, and it kills it on stage. From the sounds and effects to the super intuitive hands-on control, it’s a player’s dream.
Its secondary purpose is a studio piano, and while we admit there are better studio keyboards, it’s still terrific, especially when you use the SV-2 editor and Korg’s additional sound libraries.
When you add that it has great speakers (that don’t detract from the stunning looks), you can play anywhere; it’s a no-brainer. If you gig a lot, just try it out, you will absolutely love it.
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.