As an experienced piano player, I am shopping for my first musical keyboard. I am very early in the process of doing research and testing out specific models.
Here is a list of the main questions I have been asking myself when attempting to evaluate a musical keyboard:
- What is the quality of the keyboard itself (how many keys, what type of action/weight--for me, 88 weighted keys is a must)?
- What is the quality and diversity of the sounds that come out of the keyboard?
- If speakers are part of the keyboard (which they often are not on the high-end keyboard/workstations), what is the quality of the sound coming from the speakers?
- What features does the keyboard have that would make it a workstation, meaning something that would be ideal for producing/recording (ex. does it have an equalizer, can it record multiple tracks)?
From what I have heard in my very preliminary research talking to some music store associates and engineers is that connecting a musical keyboard to a PC (meaning strictly Windows or Mac, I don't suspect Linux is relevant here) enables a lot of powerful features to become available. I am not sure what software would be involved in such an initiative or what the cost would be.
When evaluating the value/quality of a musical keyboard, how important are list items 2-4? From what I gather, simply having a computer with the appropriate software actually enables a lower-end keyboard to have a lot (or all) of the features of a higher-end keyboard/workstation. A PC enables the recording of multiple tracks, the creation of new sounds, and is what would be used to connect and project out through external speakers/monitors.
In fact, I suspect taking a PC approach actually ends up being a better approach, in that the final product/configuration would actually be higher quality and more configurable than an approach revolving around the built-in features of a high-end keyboard. In other words, an $600 keyboard connected to a PC (via USB) with all of the best music software ends up being superior (at least in someways) and potentially cheaper than a $3500 keyboard/workstation.