Arranger keyboards are very interesting models that give you a ton of extra options. In addition to the usual features, such as big banks of sound samples and various possible connections, these types of instruments enable you to create arrangements on the fly and also record your own composition/song arrangements. Thanks to powerful processing, the unit will interpret your left hand’s harmony and accompany you with multiple instruments and rhythms. These are pre-programmed, and you can usually activate variations, fills, intros, and endings with dedicated buttons. Most of the time, these products are more expensive than regular keyboards. The Korg EK-50 I’ve received is an exception to this rule and is quite powerful considering the affordable price.
I’ve recorded some sound examples that feature the arrangement functions as well as different tones available on the EK-50. I’ve also documented my initial impressions of the model.
Powerful, quality features
Like most arranger keyboards, the EK-50 has light, synth-style keys. This helps with the portability of the unit and has the most logical feel to sound relation. You probably won’t be using exclusively piano sounds on it, and a heavy action doesn’t suit other types of tones really. There are 61 keys, and you can adjust the sensitivity. It has 4 levels, including soft, medium, hard, and fixed. This represents how the keyboard will react to the dynamics of your playing. Depending on the setting, the keyboard will have different ratios of volume changes to match the strength you use to play the notes.
Countless sound possibilities
There are over 700 different sounds on the unit. You can also stack up to three tones to create unique textures and soundscapes. Additionally, you can select a different instrument for the lower part of the keyboard thanks to a movable split point. You will be able to turn all four of them on and off with buttons directly on the keyboard and even edit them to some extent (there is a choice of 34 effects to explore). This adds up to an infinite number of possibilities.
Most styles are covered
For arrangements, Korg has included 64 unique styles to craft accompaniments for your playing. The manufacturer organized them into 280 easy to use presets. Thanks to dedicated buttons near the keys, it’s easy to control the arrangement on the fly. You’ll be able to cue intros, endings, fills, and four variations per preset. The video has two examples of this if you are curious to hear it in action.
Other features of Korg EK-50
The EK-50 has a pair of 10W speakers. They have decent volume to cover rooms slightly bigger than average size. The product is shipped with a music rest, but no sustain pedal. You’ll have to bring your own. In addition to the usual headphone jack and auxiliary input, there is a stereo line out. You’ll be using this to send your keyboard’s signal to a PA system or an audio interface (as I did in the video). There are two USB ports: one for receiving extra songs, and one to send digital information to a computer (to control a sound bank, for example). While there is an adapter included in the box, you can power the unit with 8 x AA batteries, perfect for practising or performing anywhere you wish.
Easy to use and great sounds
With so many options, it might seem that the EK-50 would be a complicated unit. But after only a few minutes of exploring, I was able to navigate it pretty efficiently. I didn’t even need to open up the manual. The controls are well labelled, and everything is divided into sections: sounds, style presets, and arrangement controls. There’s even a handy dedicated piano tone button to instantly recall the quality piano sample. This sound is featured in the video, if you want to hear it.
As mentioned before, the keys are light. This doesn’t translate into a bad playing experience. They feel good and pleasantly springy. They are more appropriate on the organ, synth, and various other samples than on the piano.
Creating an arrangement is a fun activity. I would start out by finding a chord progression or melody idea. Once I had that figured out, I could tap in the tempo and start the party! You can bring in the instruments as you see fit, so it’s easy to have control over the dynamics and the general direction of your song or idea. It’s also easy to set up an accompaniment in any style and work on improvisation.
The sounds themselves are great. While exploring Korg’s included sets, I was impressed by the richness and depth of each one of them. You can adjust which layers you want to hear, and you can even modify the volume of each one. You can come up with your favourite flavours and then save them to one of the 40 user-defined set lists.
Good entry point to the world of arranger keyboards
If you are looking to explore what an arranger keyboard has to offer, the EK-50 is a logical choice. It’s not as expensive as the widespread models, while providing a lot of their features. It is a very capable and powerful unit. The ease of use is certainly a strong point, and you’ll have full songs in no time. I certainly had a lot of fun with it. It was great to explore all the styles and try out different musical ideas with a full band accompaniment.
This is a great choice for the one-man show performer. It has all the important connections and features that you’ll need to entertain any type of audience. With some preparation, you can perform awesome sets covering many styles, all thanks to this versatile unit. The battery compartment and built-in speakers are welcome additions, especially if you like to carry your keyboard with you to friends’ houses, on business trips, or any other kind of outing.
It might not be the best choice for a beginner to learn, though. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably have a lot of things to work on before you can make the most of all the features and arrangement possibilities of the EK-50. If you’ve never played piano, you’ll also be missing out on all of the benefits of starting out with a heavier piano action—something a lot of teachers insist on.
Make sure to check out the Korg EK-50 on Best Buy’s website.