Korg is no newcomer to the digital, electronic instrument market. With many years of innovative technology, they have constantly produced a range of instruments that have superior tone quality and touch sensitivity, making them the envy of their rivals.
With the SP-170S Korg have launched a simple, yet elegant digital piano that makes use of Korg’s signature stereo sampling technology to provide a good budget price instrument that still delivers excellent results.
Compact enough to fit into smaller spaces, it offers the market a quality instrument that offers a great alternative to purchasing, a cumbersome acoustic instrument, that is not properly tuned and may need constant maintenance.
They have not skimped on the essentials of good tone and touch and as such one can be assured of purchasing a well-made, good sounding instrument.
Korg have used their stereo sampling technology to mimic the sound and feel of an expensive grand piano. The sound is warm and rich and leaves a very satisfying sense of realism with the musician.
Korg has transferred their research into sound reproduction from their more expensive models into this entry level machine. This sets a new standard for entry level instruments that no longer sound cheap and will only benefit the industry as a whole.
The instrument also boasts 120 notes polyphony allowing for very little drop off of sustained notes during play. Users will find the similarity in response to acoustic instruments quite satisfying.
This does drop to 60 notes if stereo is being used, but even 60 notes is more than most entry level electronic keyboards, which start around 32 notes and often hover around the 48 note mark.
The higher polyphony allows users to play relatively advanced works with long sustained passages and high note complexity and not lose any notes along the way.
All other tones such as Electric Piano, Harpsichord and Strings, also come from the samples created by Korg in their more expensive stage pianos and synths and the passing down of technology has given a high level quality of sound across the options available on the SP-170S.
The Natural Hammer action technology of all of Korg’s entry level keyboards provides a pretty sturdy and solid response from the keys that really gives them a superior touch response in comparison to many or their rival brands.
The SP-170S is no different and offers the feel of a high quality upright piano, with an even graded response that feels heavier in the bass and lighter in the upper registers.
Korg have refined the Hammer Action response of their keyboards to a point of near perfection and have demonstrated the ability to use this technology in cheaper instruments over the years.
Entry level instruments used to only have a pressure sensitivity or velocity-sensitive response but now a weighted action is the minimum criterion for almost all digital pianos on the market.
In my opinion, the SP-170S could be a choice for the best weighted piano keyboard in the under $500 price range.
Korg remain ahead in producing an authentic touch that replicates the response of an acoustic instrument. Despite other top digital piano brands following on from Korg’s lead in touch technology, Korg still have an edge in accuracy even on their entry level instruments.
Technical Specifications of the Korg SP-170S
- Keyboard: 88 notes (A0–C8)
- Touch: Natural Weighted Hammer Action (NH) Touch Control Three Level (Light, Standard, Heavy)
- Sound System: Stereo Sampling Maximum Polyphony 120 notes / 60 notes (Stereo)
- Sounds: 10 Total; Piano x 2; E. Piano x 2; Harpsichord; E. Clavichord; Vibraphone; Pipe Organ; Electric Organ; Strings
- Effects: Reverb; Chorus (Effect depth is preset for each sound)
- Demo Songs: 10 songs (1 per sound)
- Key transpose
- Pitch control
- Inputs/Outputs: Jacks Headphone/Line output x 2; MIDI OUT; Damper Pedal connection MIDI Out Amplifier
- Speakers: 9 Watt × 2 Speakers 10cm x 5cm Oval x 2; Bass Reflex
- Power Supply: DC 12 V Power Consumption 9 W
- Dimensions: (W x D x H) 1,312 × 325 × 144 mm / 51.65″ × 12.8″ × 5.67″
- Weight: 12 kg / 26.45 lbs
- Accessories: AC adapter, Music stand, Pedal switch
Features of the SP-170S
The instrument provides 10 high quality sounds for performance use. It has a quick play button so that users can return to the default piano tone in an instant.
The touch sensitivity can be adjusted in three level settings in order to adjust the sensitivity for those who play heavier or lighter on the instrument.
An extra chorus and reverb feature also allows for some alternative shaping to the original tones.
The high quality speakers offer a reasonably spacious sound and give substance to the sound. And the keyboard housing structure is designed to complement the improved sound quality from earlier models.
Dual headphone sockets allow for two people to listen to performances in complete privacy. This can be useful for a student-teacher setup where the need for privacy is paramount or people in close proximity may not want to be disturbed by the lesson.
The sockets can also be linked to an external recording device or to an amplifier for increased volume if required.
The Pros of the SP-170S
Essentially the starting point of this digital piano is its superior quality sounds and touch. Instruments like this have the potential to ruin the second-hand acoustic instrument market.
Users have the option of working with an instrument that has a uniform graded touch response and great tone for very low cost and the instrument guarantees years of use without ever needing maintenance, such as tuning.
The instrument is also robust enough to endure long hours of use, even though it is lightweight.
Its smaller dimensions, make it an ideal choice for those who have limited space for an instrument and yet would like an instrument that can remain permanently in place and not have to be unpacked and repacked each time.
The cost is, also, ideally suited to those on a tight budget and in situations where more instruments are needed in a limited space situation and on a limited budget, this instrument provides a quality solution for a start-up teaching studio or school. The SP-170S is, no doubt, one of the best digital pianos in the under 500 dollar price range.
Being light and easy to dismantle, the keyboard is portable and does make for easy transport, especially if it used outside of its housing unit. Also it is a cost-effective solution to having a fully functional digital piano.
The Cons of the SP-170S
As a digital piano made for home use (which it is designed to be), Korg should market the instrument together with its music stand and housing unit.
The instrument also needs a sustain pedal and one wonders why this is sold as an accessory and not built into the mechanism of the stand and instrument combination.
My expectation would be that Korg would have sold the instrument in its stand with a two pedal unit, as a fully functional digital piano.
The fact that the housing for the instrument as well as the sustain pedal are not part of the instrument would make me reconsider buying the instrument even though it feels and sounds better than many of its competitors.
I would be tempted to spend a little more on a rival brand that uses similar Hammer Action technology in a fully housed setting with a three-pedal option.
While the small speakers, do present a limitation on volume if one wants to use the instrument to accompany other instrumentalists or perform for others, the quality of sound is great. Amplification may, however, need to be considered and this would be an extra expense.
While there is nothing wrong with the instrument per se, the fact that it doesn’t come with an attached pedal mechanism, so common amongst equally priced versions from other brands, is an oversight that I think Korg may regret.
Also knowing that Korg have a better hammer action keyboard in the models just up from this at a price that does not differ hugely from this entry level instrument, one can’t help being tempted to ditch the baby in the series for its bigger, better sibling.
If I was unaware of the company and its achievements, I would be impressed with the sound quality and touch of the SP-170S, but when one knows that Korg do things even better, it feels as if this keyboard is the starter that prepares one for the main course and this buyer would like the main course now.
On its own merits though, when housed in its stand and having the music stand and pedal unit attached, the instrument presents a sleek, elegant look that, while only using a small space, lends an air of class to any venue.
It comes off as a beautiful, high-end digital piano that matches its looks with tone quality and feel.
With many people living in smaller home environments though I am sure that this model will find a way into the homes of many would-be musicians and it will not disappoint users even if it does leave some wanting more.