The 6 Best Arranger Keyboards for Every Composer in 2020

Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Ryan Harrell

Create stunning compositions – without a DAW – with our selection of the best arranger keyboards

Our Top Picks

Best for beginners: Casio CT-X5000
“Affordable and friendly arranger keyboard that’s ideal for beginners”

Best mid-range: Roland E-A7
“Powerful effects and expressive sound make this the perfect mid-range pick”

Most portable: Korg PA600
“Stunning built-in sounds and relatively low weight make this a portable rockstar”

Best for serious musicians: Korg PA4X76
“Best-in-class sounds, powerful workstation capabilities, and excellent keys”

Best DAW replacement: Yamaha Genos
“Feature-rich workstation that does everything a DAW can do – sometimes, even better”

In a world of $200 DAWs, why would anyone buy an arranger keyboard?

Good question.

Arranger keyboards are designed to create entire arrangements, i.e. multi-instrument musical sections (or even entire songs). In that way, they’re just like DAWs, but usually lack the power and flexibility of massive sound and plugin libraries.

But there are still plenty of serious musicians buying them.

The reason why is easy: spontaneity. Music is a “felt” thing. Great guitar solos aren’t made by stringing together note after note. They’re usually made in fits of inspiration during lengthy practice sessions.

For all their power, DAWs are woefully non-intuitive. A mouse is not a musical device. Even when you throw in a solid DAW controller, the workflow is tangential to the idea of spontaneous creation that so many musicians swear by.

Arranger keyboards bring back that spontaneity and instantaneous creation that musicians want. You don’t have to dig through your library to find the right patch. There is no frantic searching on Splice for a good sound. Your entire production “studio” is localized to the arranger keyboard. Working with these limitations, you can sometimes create sections that are far more inspired than what you would get from a DAW.

Of course, arranger keyboards are not for everyone. If you have no piano-playing background, you’ll find them to be a tad too much. If you’re already used to DAWs, the workflows might not fit your habits.

But if you like a localized, standalone production center – one you can use without ever looking at a computer screen – then arranger keyboards would be the heart of your studio.

In this guide, we’ll dig deeper into the best arranger keyboards you can buy right now. I’ll cover most common use cases and suggest the best keyboard for difference price brackets.

We use rigorous research, reviews, and real-world performance when recommending products. Our reviewers include producers, performers, and active musicians. You can read more about our review process here. Be advised that MIDINation might earn referral commissions on purchases made through this website. This does not affect your final purchase price.
We use rigorous research, reviews, and real-world performance when recommending products. Our reviewers include producers, performers, and active musicians. You can read more about our review process here. Be advised that MIDINation might earn referral commissions on purchases made through this website. This does not affect your final purchase price.
Note: As an Amazon Associate, MIDINation earns commissions for qualifying purchases made through Amazon links on this page.

About your reviewer
Ryan Harrell is the founder of MIDINation and an experienced producer/DJ. His first experience with electronic music production dates back to Cubase 3.0 in the summer of 1997, and he’s been a fan ever since. He prefers Ableton as his primary DAW these days, though he is still partial to Cubase and Pro Tools. He lives in San Diego and freelances as a producer and part-time DJ.

The Best Arranger Keyboards

Based on their price and real-world performance, these are the best arranger keybards to buy right now:

Korg PA4X76 is the best arraner keyboard on the market for serious musicians

Korg PA4X76

The Korg PA4x has been a favorite among serious musicians for years thanks to the sheer quality of its keys and onboard sounds and effects. There are keyboards with better arrangement capabilities (Yamaha Genos), but the sheer combination of flexibility and power make the Korg the best arranger keyboard you can buy in 2020.

If you are a professional player, then you simply cannot go wrong with the Korg PA4X76. This model is a complete powerhouse that comes with almost every feature that you’d love in an arranger keyboard. The Korg PA4X76 comes with 76 semi-weighted keys that offer aftertouch. It also has more than 1500 sounds, and at last count, we noticed up to 1900 sounds in the arranger keyboard, including GM and XG sets.

As if that weren’t cool enough, Korg has also included DNC to improve the quality of the sounds. With a trio of assignable switches, you can change note articulations. Ease of use is also improved with the joystick and ribbon controller.

As a result of the digital drawbar sound engine, this arranger keyboard offers some of the most impressive sounds that we have heard.

Additionally, you enjoy more than 580 in-built styles here, including a Chord Sequencer that lets you save your chord progressions.

One notable feature of this model is the MIDI to Style conversion. So far, this Korg PA4X76 offers the best we have had the pleasure of hearing on an arrange keyboard.

With the KAOSS function, you can remix songs in real-time and have plenty of fun as you play. The onboard effects here are also some of the best available right now across categories. The unit offers you up to 148 effect types. And vocal effects are handled by the impressive TC Helicon Vocal Processor.

With a relatively large 7″ display, you can see all the arrangements of the keyboard. It makes it super easy to use and customize.

What I don’t like:

In terms of specifications and functions, there is almost nothing to complain about. If we have any problem with the Korg PA4X76, it would be because of the price. It is the most expensive on this list, and not everyone can afford it.

Recommended for: If you make money with your music (producer, composer, professional musician), then you can’t go wrong with the Korg PA4X. In terms of sheer sound quality and technical capabilities, it remains peerless – easily one of the best arranger keyboards ever made.

Pros

  • Extensive search function
  • High quality effects
  • Plenty of sounds and styles
  • Intuitive design

Cons

  • Prohibitively expensive for 95% of musicians

Best Arranger Keyboard for Beginners: Casio CT-X5000

As a beginner, you need a keyboard that is easy to use and comes with plenty of useful sounds to fiddle with and learn. Well, the Casio CT-X5000 fits the bill in this regard. It is a portable arranger keyboard that works perfectly as the best arranger keyboard for beginners.

Casio is a popular manufacturer that is known for making stunning and versatile keyboards.

It comes in a compact and lightweight design, which makes it easy to handle.

It has the popular AiX Sound Source technology. Therefore, you have a keyboard with a rich library of sounds. This includes more than 800 instrument sounds and 235 rhythms.

The design of the keyboard itself is suited to help beginners get the hang of the instrument. It has a 61 key touch-sensitive keyboard that has impressive responsiveness, and that allows you to layout chords without fuss. Additionally, for your benefit, there is a 17 track MIDI data recorder and 42 part mixer. All these combined results in a keyboard that lets you create songs and sequences effortlessly.

The CT-X5000 comes with customizable pedal inputs as well to give you external control of the instrument. With a clear, large LCD screen, you can easily control your keyboard.

When you consider that this is one of the most affordable on this list, you will wonder at the impressive performance. The synth sounds on this keyboard are better than what you’ll get in even more expensive keyboard. With over 260 accompaniment styles, Casio has given users plenty of room to play with. Despite the number, I observed that all these styles sound great and are customizable.

Overall, this is a versatile option that is useful, whether in concerts, studio, or professional situations. While it does less than most of the others on this list, that isn’t because of the poor quality. Instead, that is a reflection of the budget price. The sheer number of features makes it a good pick, whether you are a beginner or an expert player. Coming at an affordable price, it offers excellent value for money and is the best arranger keyboard for beginners.

What I don’t like

While the AiX technology gives DSP effects to your sound and makes it sound incredible, you do not really get control over the effects. There is also a lack of aftertouch. However, seeing as this is a budget option focused on beginners, these downsides aren’t too bad.

Recommended for: Given its price, this is a nice option for anyone on a budget. The nice features that make it easy to use also make it the best arranger keyboard for anyone just starting to get into standalone arrangement and composition, minus the DAW.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Lacks editing effects
  • No aftertouch

Best Mid-Range Arranger Keyboard: Roland E-A7

The Roland E-A7 is the best arranger keyboard from Roland, and that is saying a lot about the quality of this model. Roland makes some of the best keyboards and musical instruments on the market, and this model is a near-perfect option that gives the best mid-range performance of all the arranger keyboards that I have tested.

It comes with plenty of impressive features, including 61 velocity-sensitive keys. It is simple to use and has a 4 part split functionality, which is impressive at this price.

In making this model, Roland took a step back to look at what many people on the market wants. The result is an astounding piece of equipment that you’ll surely fall in love with. Showing just how much went into making this instrument, all the sounds on it, all 1500 of them, was made together with expert musicians from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, genres, and spots around the world.

Hence, if you are looking for an arranger keyboard that gives you unique and diverse sounds, you’ll be pleased by the Roland E-A7. Additionally, the keyboard lets you import your own sounds. Thus, the opportunities to make different sounds are nearly endless.

Aside from the useful features above, this model also has more than 600 preset styles and limitless storage for different user styles. You can access these on the internal memory or a USB stick. The good thing about these preset styles is that it offers different variations. And you can add up to four different registrations on each style! While most of the style content is somewhat partial to western music, you will still find different styles from different parts of the world.

Roland has improved on many features and added some notable features as well. For instance, there is instrument oriented editing. The benefit of this feature is that you can change the styles’ instrumental functions.

Another nice feature I noticed is that while there are no lyrics for SMF files, you get chord detection for it as well as MP3, SMF, and KAR files.

One downside of this model is the few numbers of effects. You get the basic reverb and chorus effects, but these are not really customizable. Nevertheless, the variety you have is all high quality options.

There is a Master EQ with six presets and input effects as well. To improve your playing, the model comes with six different pads for tones and a one-stop pad.

With up to 156 dedicated buttons, there is a lot to play with. One unique feature found here is the dual display. Overall, it is an excellent model that gives high sound quality and luxurious sounds. It is one of the most versatile options on the market too.

What I don’t like

Well, the few effects are a bummer. I wish that there was more space for effects and not just the limited number on the keyboard.

Recommended for: I recommend this model for anyone looking for a keyboard with diverse sounds. It is very versatile and an overall one of the best arranger keyboard in the mid range.

Pros

  • Has a dual display
  • Great quality on-board effects
  • Expressive sounds

Cons

  • Limited variety of effects
  • Build quality is below expectations

Most Portable Arranger Keyboard: Korg PA600

The next option on this roundup is the keyboard from Korg. Korg makes several models, and this is one of the best that we tested. It is the best option if you want a portable keyboard. It comes with several useful accessories as well, including a padded piano bench, large headphones, a sustain pedal, and a stand.

Additionally, the sound engine is quite impressive as it features RX and DNC sound. Therefore, sounds come off richer and more vivid. It is so good that listeners might assume you were playing on a grand piano.

In terms of sound, this model offers you up to 950 sounds, as well as 64 drum kits, all in a high quality release via the PCM. The styles might be numerous, but the quality unmatched as each one comes expressive and will fit different users. The styles are also very easy to use because the keyboard is designed in a simple layout. If you are stuck or cannot find a style, the search function on the interface is readily available to help you.

Another notable feature of this model is the chord sequencer. Due to this function, you can store any chord progression in a jiffy. It will record the sounds that you produce with the keyboard. The sounds produced are also highly customizable and controllable. As we earlier pointed out, this is made possible via the DNC and RX engines.

The sounds are also delivered richly and as good as anything you might have heard. The device comes with four Stereo Master Effect processors to aid the sound, and this processor gives you up to 125 effects ranging from reverb to guitar-driven options.

As the description claims, this is the best option for portability. The arranger keyboard weighs just 30 pounds, so it is one of the easiest to carry around on this list.

What I don’t like

Well, although this is an excellent overall option, it comes with certain flaws. For one, the keys are non-weighted. It, therefore, loses the feel of an authentic keyboard. It also comes with a style that an expert player might find too simple.

Recommended for: “Portable” arranger keyboard sounds like a misnomer, but there are situations where you’ll want to carry your keyboard around to gigs and studios. If that describes you, you’ll find that the Korg PA600 to be among the most portable options on the market. It’s not something you can drop in your backpack, but it is lighter than a lot of competitors.

Pros

  • Useful touch screen
  • Comes with useful accessories
  • Impressive detailing
  • Excellent for new players

Cons

  • Non-weighted keys
  • Expert players might find it too simple

Best DAW Replacement: Yamaha Genos

If you thought the Korg PA4x above is costly, wait till you meet the Yamaha Genos. Yamaha makes some great musical instruments and has hit the ball out of the park with the Yamaha Genos. This excellent arrange keyboard is for those that don’t mind spending a fair bit of money on quality.

It does deliver on this count. First, the model is driven by the AWM Stereo Sampling Engine from Yamaha. This engine is one of the most powerful that you will find on an arrange keyboard. Therefore, it gives you plenty of voices, over 1600, with each of these voices sounding unique and realistic. You will certainly be awed by the realistic sounds. The Yamaha Genosa also has up to nine assignable sliders for playing sound or controlling effects in a jiffy.

In addition, the Yamaha Genos gives you up to 550 accompaniment styles with different variations. They are easy to use, and when you use the Expansion Manager, they become even expandable. As with the best arranger keyboards, you can make recordings of your songs. This function is simple and quick to use on this model.

With up to 59 reverb presets and 30 user settings, the effects on the Yamaha Genos are pretty deep, and you can tweak them as much as you like to your delight.

The Yamaha Genos also excels in the vocal effect category, blowing other models right out of the water. The 9″ color touchscreen is the biggest on this roundup, and the most impressive. It makes it a joy to use the Yamaha Genos and is easy to navigate.

What I don’t like

Although the Yamaha Genos has many useful features and is one of the best arranger keyboards on the market, the increased quality doesn’t justify the high price.

Recommended for: Professionals and amateurs (who can afford it) will find this to be an excellent companion. Ideal if you’re sick of producing on your DAW and need something that’s fast and spontaneous.

Pros

  • Incredible synth vocoder
  • Highly customizable
  • Compact

Cons

  • Massively expensive!

Cheaper Alternative to Korg PA4X: Yamaha PSRSX900

It’s a rare keyboard category that doesn’t find a Yamaha at the top of the charts.

So I had to mention the PSRSX900 as an alternative to the monstrous Korg PA4x.

It’s not quite as capable, but at nearly half the price, you can’t complain much either.

This is a 61-key arranger keyboard that comes with several useful features that amateurs and professionals alike will delight in. Some of the best features include a touchscreen that makes it pretty easy to see the voice and style arrangements. This color screen also allows you to customize the settings easily.

With the Yamaha PSRSX900, you get access to many combinations of pitch and modulation. And the styles here are not only numerous but also diverse. They cut across genres. All of these can be easily accessed through the joystick controller.

The sheer versatility of the Yamaha PSRSX900 is something to behold. It comes with 986 voices, 41 drum kits, and has 480 XG voices. As if that wasn’t enough, it also comes with up to 487 preset effects. Therefore, you can rest assured that you will enjoy the sound created. With the effects, you can create and store up to 150 new presets to play with.

Ease of use is one of the best things about this model. It comes with useful control knobs that are clearly designated and can be customized for your comfort. Another interesting feature is that you can save chord progressions, and the style engine will form these into a loop. Thus, you can play with two-hands without worrying about playing chord changes.

Connectivity and exportation are also pretty good on the Yamaha PSRSX900.

What I don’t like

If you are a new player, you might find the sheer number of features and controls intimidating. I also did not like that the pitchbend is tricky to master.

Recommended for: Weighing just 23.37 pounds, this is even lighter than the Korg model we reviewed above. It is also arguably more intuitive than the Korg PA4X. One of the best arranger keyboards for a serious musician.

Pros

  • Impressive connectivity
  • Can use two pedals at once
  • Good sound quality

Cons

  • New users might be intimidated by the breadth of features

Over to You

It’s not always easy to zero-in on the best arranger keyboards for your needs. Hopefully, this guide will help you zero-in on the right option.

For more recommendations and advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also Read:

References:

Changelog
  • Sep 14, 2020: Article first published

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