Keyboard amp vs. PA
Old 3rd December 2010
  #1
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Keyboard amp vs. PA

I'm looking for an amplifier for my keyboard (nord electro 3, hopefully adding a moog voyager within the next year). With some research though, it seems that keyboard amps are pretty much PA systems in a box. My budget is around 500 dollars. Should I buy a keyboard amp or is their a quality pa in that same price range that I should opt for instead?

I would like to be able to use this for practicing and gigging, so I would like it to be reasonably portable (I don't mind a little setup). I figure it'd be good to be able to handle vocals and other instruments well too, hence my leaning towards PA. What exactly will I need for a PA System? Is a mixer necessary? What price range is expected of a decent quality PA?

Thanks.
Old 3rd December 2010
  #2
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Old 3rd December 2010
  #3
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The Yamaha G100 212's make a decent keyboard amp. They are basically a solid state Fender Twin and can be found under $250 used. The real thing will sound better but they run $700+ used.
Old 3rd December 2010
  #4
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Old 4th December 2010
  #5
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once a roadie's Avatar
 

Most keyboard amps I have used do not cut it live...if you are going for a viby e-piano sound with the nord, guitar and bass amps could work well.

If you want to reproduce the nord sounds accurately you will need a very clean mixer, very powerful stereo amp and a set of 3-way speakers. Don't skimp because you will buy keyboard amps over and over in your life, and waste money in the long run...go right for something like accugrooves, acme low b1s, QSC power amps, ashley line mixer, etc...

PS - you will want a mixer with bass / treble controls - especially if you are adding older synths...
Old 4th December 2010
  #6
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just realize that we go higher than a cymbal and lower than a bass... so ya want a great full range speaker... i use mpro jbl410's and a sub... 900wt/ch qsc amp dbx crossover... just sayin...
Old 5th December 2010
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badmark View Post
Recommended on a past thread, I've been using one of these for a while:

Roland U.S. - KC-150: Stereo Mixing Keyboard Amplifier

I got an Electro 2 rack last month, haven't gigged with them both yet tho.
+1 for the roland kc series - good bang for the buck, strong bass response (sometimes *too* strong! but that's what eqs are for...)

Quote:
Originally Posted by once a roadie View Post
Most keyboard amps I have used do not cut it live...if you are going for a viby e-piano sound with the nord, guitar and bass amps could work well.

If you want to reproduce the nord sounds accurately you will need a very clean mixer, very powerful stereo amp and a set of 3-way speakers. Don't skimp because you will buy keyboard amps over and over in your life, and waste money in the long run...go right for something like accugrooves, acme low b1s, QSC power amps, ashley line mixer, etc...

PS - you will want a mixer with bass / treble controls - especially if you are adding older synths...
I also love my nord rhodes / wurli / clav patches through my fender twin reverb. But it becomes useless pretty quickly for piano and it gets overwhelmed with organ patches. Forget double-use for vocals and portability too....

A mixer, separate power amp, and dual 3-ways seems off-target for the OP's description, btw.... hardly very portable. I've gigged using the KC for keys and vocals, and sure, it doesn't sound like it does through my studio monitors but it did the job.
Old 5th December 2010
  #8
Gear nut
 

I think the barbetta sona elan se41c is an amazing sounding keyboard amp, very loud, and very light. Has a mic input. Don't think it's Possible to blow the thing. No I don't work for them, just really like mine. It's more in the $800 range though. It serves double duty as a vocal PA (for one person).
Old 6th December 2010
  #9
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You can buy a used Rolls, Behringer or Yamaha line mixer with 6-8 channels for less than $100, with all the tone controls you'll need. Mic preamps up the price to $150. A Peavey IPR1500 amp will be all you need for a LONG time for PA/keys duty at $299 new (no used ones in the pipeline yet). A pair of older Peavey SP5 or PR15 or similar from Yamaha or EV will cost you $250-300. For $800-1000 you have a real PA system you can use for a whole band, a killer keyboard amplifier setup. And when you need less volume or size, you just leave parts at home. The speakers are the only heavy part of the setup.
Old 7th December 2010
  #10
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ime... the rolands are weak... i've done a mod for them...
Old 7th December 2010
  #11
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McDingus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ziggy Stardust View Post
I'm looking for an amplifier for my keyboard (nord electro 3, hopefully adding a moog voyager within the next year). With some research though, it seems that keyboard amps are pretty much PA systems in a box. My budget is around 500 dollars. Should I buy a keyboard amp or is their a quality pa in that same price range that I should opt for instead?

I would like to be able to use this for practicing and gigging, so I would like it to be reasonably portable (I don't mind a little setup). I figure it'd be good to be able to handle vocals and other instruments well too, hence my leaning towards PA. What exactly will I need for a PA System? Is a mixer necessary? What price range is expected of a decent quality PA?

Thanks.
Save a little more cash and buy a used mackie 1202 VLZ mixer and a pair of mackie srm450 powered pa speakers.

Or just get one (mono is FINE for live) and you can buy a second later- you could easily get that for under 500.

That will also give you 12 channels, mic pres and fx sends...

Its by far the best bang for the buck.
Old 7th December 2010
  #12
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Fearless1's Avatar
 

I think all keyboard amps suck.

I ended up getting a pair of QSC K12's and a Mackie 1402 VLZ mixer.
Best sound I ever got out my keyboards.
I use a Yamaha M08 and Roland VR-760 live and add my virtual sounds via EMU Pro-X controller in my studio.
With the built in 1000 watt bi-amped system with DSP and the deep switch engaged, you don't even need a subwoofer.
It's super loud and stays clean.

Just my $2K
Old 7th December 2010
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McDingus View Post
Save a little more cash and buy a used mackie 1202 VLZ mixer and a pair of mackie srm450 powered pa speakers.

Or just get one (mono is FINE for live) and you can buy a second later- you could easily get that for under 500.

That will also give you 12 channels, mic pres and fx sends...

Its by far the best bang for the buck.
+1
Having done it both ways, the PA route is better IMHO.
One setup I use is a Mackie mixer, dbx 266 compressor, Lexicon AleX effects unit, QSC power amp bridged and a single Yamaha cabinet with a 15 inch woofer and horn
It doubles as a seat for me!
Full range crystal clear sound and it will rock the house with low bass output if I need to play bass.

My other setup, I use for lounge acts especially when I work with a vocalist is the same as above but using Bose 802 speakers.
Crystal clear sound and easy to transport.

I've used the JBL Eon stuff as well and it's very nice for keyboards IMHO.
Old 8th December 2010
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loopy View Post
One setup I use is a Mackie mixer, dbx 266 compressor, Lexicon AleX effects unit, QSC power amp bridged and a single Yamaha cabinet with a 15 inch woofer and horn
.
your missing a good thing here... take the qsc outta mono and get a crossover to put infront of it... play with the crossover freq till ya like it... most horns do like 800-1.2 k as their bottom freq... good shit...
Old 8th December 2010
  #15
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Old 8th December 2010
  #16
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I have an old (20 years?) Barbetta that I love. Warm and rich, light with plenty of power. The new ones don't move me.

I use a pair of 15" Eons. No mixer required if you only have 2 keyboards. But I'm thinking of getting my Barbetta fixed, cuz it just sounds great.

-R
Old 3rd February 2012
  #17
Gear interested
 

I love my Barbetta Sona 41, the thing kicks ass. The tweeter is whiny, which can be cut, but I'm sure it's useful in certain live situations. The crossover is exceptional for a keyboard amp.
Old 3rd February 2012
  #18
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ionian's Avatar
I make my living doing session work and playing live so here's my 2 cents:

No Roland. Can't cut it live. Their bass is weak and if you try to push it, they eventually distort and you'll somehow blow the sub cone or something. They eventually just end up distorted in the bass. I've gone through two of them. I like their keyboards but in my opinion their keyboard amps are embarrassing.

The Barbetta Sona is nice, but run into a problem with it and you're up the creek. Service is non-existent for them. I have one sitting in my garage for the past 11 years to prove it. I've tried to get it fixed only to have techs tell me that it's near impossible to find parts for it and the company never answers calls or responds to messages.

Go for a JBL EON. They're PA speakers and have the power and bass really make the low end pop on the keys. They're the best thing I ever used.

Anyway, that's what I use.

Regards,
Frank
Old 3rd February 2012
  #19
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Another +1 for going down the PA route here. In terms of bang for the buck, general useability and expansion potential (e.g. running a couple of other band members' vocals or whatever through your setup for small gigs), a PA wins hands down.

Others have already said to look at the JBL EONs - I think that's a good call although I don't know how that would fit with your budget. I'm currently using a pair of Wharfedale EVP-X12P's connected to a small mixer and they sound great and are plenty loud, crisp and clear enough for small gigs (e.g. pubs and clubs). The only problem with those is that they're pretty old-school (wood/MDF cabinets with carpet/felt covering) and they're damned heavy. I'm wondering about changing to something like the EONs (or Wharfedale Titans, Mackie SRM450's, etc.) just to get something that's slightly lighter to lug around. And there are smaller, lighter and cheaper options out there if you just want something for more intimate gigs that don't need to run as loud.

The only other thing I'd add is that, although going down the active speaker route necessarily makes the speakers themselves heavier, I think it's a better option. You don't need to worry about correct matching of speakers to power amp (or powered mixer) etc. and, if you play a gig at a venue where they already have a reasonable front-of-house PA, you can leave the speakers at home, just take the mixer and send the FOH a stereo feed from there. Or you can still take one of your powered cabs to use as a stage monitor, fed from your own mixer or from the FOH.

[ Edit: Having said all that about active speakers and a simple mixer, I've just been thinking about your budget and I wonder whether something like the Yamaha Stagepas 300 might fit the bill for you. OK, so it's a powered mixer plus passive speakers package, but it all comes as a bundle with everything matched up to work together and the mixer even slots away into the back of one of the speakers for transport. You might be able to find one of those, brand new, within your budget. Or its slightly bigger brother the Stagepas 500 - although you might have to look used for that if you want to stay within your 500 dollar range. I actually tried one of these systems before I bought the Wharfedales - it sounded absolutely great but the band I was playing in at the time had a helluva loud guitarist and bassist so I ended up having to go bigger and louder just to cut through on stage. ]

Last edited by adrianww; 3rd February 2012 at 09:53 AM.. Reason: Extra info/suggestions
Old 3rd February 2012
  #20
Gear nut
 

I'm not a serious gigger on keys so when I do go out I have to use PA. Depending on the gig I'll take one, two or three db Opera 405s (old model) or possibly a pair of db FLexSys. All active and mixed through a Soundcraft Notepad (needs careful level settings or it hisses like a bucket of snakes) or one of my bigger Soundcraft or A&H mixers.

I did have a go with a Roland amp a while back, and while it was fine for rehearsal I agree they're not great live. It's the amp you buy when you get home with your stage piano and realise it hasn't got its own speakers.
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