Best Portable Keyboards: MIDI, Speakers, Battery Powered

The Highest Rated Portable Keyboards Under $500

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Here are the highest rated portable keyboards in the sub $500 price range, featuring beginner to intermediate friendly keyboards that you can play virtually anywhere, from practice to stage, and even for recording.

What started out as electronic pianos are now staple instruments that can reproduce virtually any sound, used by everyone from beginners to professionals, covering all musical styles. And thanks to batteries and built-in speakers, these keyboards have become genuinely portable, ideal tools for musicians who are always on the go.

While these keyboards don't have the complexity and articulation offered by more expensive options, they have sufficient versatility and features to make for a fun and inspiring instrument that can be used for practice and even for performance.

The Best Portable Keyboards Under $500

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Portable Arranger Keyboards Under $500

Arranger keyboards have additional built-in auto-accompaniment functions and/or backing tracks to play along with.

Yamaha PSR-E373

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 850+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Yamaha PSRE373 61-Key Portable Keyboard
Note: You can also get this keyboard bundled with a keyboard stand, headphones and other accessories from Amazon.

Cons

  • Buttons have a soft rubbery feel
  • Requires multiple button presses to cycle through settings
  • No modulation and pitch controls
  • Some instrument voicings sound dated

Pros

  • Great sounding piano and organ emulations
  • Easy to play synth action keys
  • Four Touch Sensitivity settings
  • Versatile voicing and style (rhythm) options
  • Built-in student friendly lessons and features
  • USB direct recording

After fiddling with his grandpa's old Yamaha PSR-E323, my then 10 year old son ended up learning to play the main theme of Fur Elise. And he did so with just the built-in tutorial features, without help from anyone else.

His curiosity soon developed into passion for playing and learning, and as such, he needed a beginner-friendly keyboard. So after much research, I ended up getting him the current generation model of his grandpa's keyboard, the Yamaha PSR-E373.

The PSR-E373 is part of Yamaha's long running PSR line of portable keyboards. It has 61 synth style keys with touch sensitivity, packed with over 600 voices, along with multiple rhythms and effects. What sets it apart from its predecessors is its improved sound processing, and the use of better sound samples - some of which are taken from more expensive models. More importantly, it comes with built-in lessons that teach students how to play a wide variety of songs, from kid friendly tunes to classical pieces.

Keybed

The keybed doesn't stray from standard piano size, so there's no need to adjust finger positioning when playing on stage-ready keyboards or an actual piano. But there is a big difference in playing feel, because this one has a lighter "synth style" action. The keys have uniform weight and are easy to press, making for a more relaxed playing experience. Most young musicians, including my son, prefer this softer feel over the weighted feel of an acoustic piano.

Touch sensitivity adjusts the volume of the note you're playing in relation to how hard you press the keys. This results in more control over dynamics. There are 4 different Touch sensitivity settings available, Soft, Medium, Hard and Fixed. My son and I are content with the default medium setting, we can really hear the dynamic differences as we lighten our key presses, and as we pound on the keys. Those who want the keys to respond to lighter playing will appreciate the Soft setting. Hard setting is meant for those who are used to playing acoustic pianos and weighted keybeds. Fixed setting disables touch sensitivity altogether, much like how old synths behave. For the price, the Yamaha PSR-E373 has good touch sensitivity, comparable to more expensive keyboards that I've tried.

The main advantage of the PSR-E373 over its predecessors is the use of voices and samples that are taken directly from the their former flagship Tyros line. And because of that, there was a lot of hype about its sound quality being better than more expensive keyboards from other brands. Thankfully, the hype turned out to be real - the main voicings sound really great, especially the grand piano sound which is sampled from a very expensive Yamaha CFX concert grand piano. Since my son is into classical pieces, and is taking piano lessons, having a good piano sound is really our primary concern, and so far, the PSR-E373 has not disappointed.

The keyboard's built-in lessons include breakdowns of popular piano standards, classical pieces, nursery rhymes, pop songs and more. My son used this to learn Fur Elise on his own. It has controls for phrase repeat and for adjusting tempo, which helped my son focus on sections that he is having a hard time with. There's even a lesson that teaches dynamic playing. Other lessons include chord study and chord progression. Note that while these built-in lessons are helpful, there's still no substitute for a good tutor. And speaking of tutors, this keyboard is tutor and student friendly, with its tap tempo metronome, and a built-in chord dictionary. It also has a headphones out for quiet practice. Unfortunately, it doesn't have twin headphone outputs which would be great for tutors to also listen in.

The Yamaha PSR-E373 has exceeded most of my expectations, and it truly is instrumental in developing my son's playing and love for music - definitely worth getting.

Specifications

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Synth Style Velocity-Sensitive Keys
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 622 Voices,
  • 12 Reverb and 5 Chorus Effects
  • 2 x 4.7" Speakers, 2.5W Amp per side
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • 12V DC Power Supply (Sold Separately) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 10.1 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearank Alexander Briones 96/100
YouTube Jeremy See 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Regular Portable Keyboards Under $500

All of these have MIDI to let you record on, or play sounds from, your computer or tablet.

Casio Casiotone CT-S200

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$139
Casio Casiotone CT-S200 61-Key Portable Digital Keyboard
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Portable Keyboard Under $500 along with the Casio Casiotone CT-S300.

Cons

  • Sound is based on old technology
  • No Touch Sensitivity
  • Limited control options

Pros

  • All-in-one compact keyboard and MIDI controller
  • Easy to play keys
  • Very light and portable
  • Versatile voice and rhythm options
  • Slim and sleek profile

The Casiotone CT-S200 is as portable as it gets while still retaining a 61-key piano style keybed. As such it can serve as a compact digital piano, but with expanded sound options: 400 voices and 77 rhythms. That's a lot of sound options for its size.

And its small profile, and lightweight design, make it even harder to beat in terms of features per pound. Especially when considering that it can also serve as a good MIDI controller.

Other features that add to its portability include being able to run on 6 x AA batteries and having a carry handle.

To improve the resulting sound, it comes with different digital reverb effects. It also has a dance music mode that expands rhythm options that matches what's being used in modern music.

Students will appreciate its built-in lesson function that can assist in learning popular Piano pieces. It also helps that it has a modern sleek appearance.

If you're looking for a super affordable portable keyboard with good quality, then definitely check this one out.

Specifications

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Piano Style Keys (Not Weighted)
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 400 Tones, 77 Rhythms
  • 10 Reverb Effects
  • 2 x 5.1" Speakers
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • AC Adapter (Included) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Gearfacts 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Casio Casiotone CT-S300

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$180
Casio Casiotone CT-S300 61-Key Digital Piano
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Portable Keyboard Under $500 along with the Casio Casiotone CT-S200.

Cons

  • Some of the voicings sound dated
  • Limited control options

Pros

  • Portable ergonomics with handle
  • Easy to play keys with touch sensitivity
  • Has pitch bend control
  • Versatile voice and rhythm options
  • Good overall value

The Casiotone CT-S300 combines digital piano like playability with expanded voicings and rhythm options all packed in a compact and portable profile.

It offers the same functionality and features as the CT-S200, the main difference being the addition of touch sensitivity and a Pitch Bend wheel for more expressive playing.

While some portable keyboards go for mini-keys to make room for buttons and other controls, this one houses a piano style 61-key touch response keybed that takes most of the space.

Still, it doesn't mean that features are compromised, because even with its streamlined interface, it has 400 tones and 77 rhythms.

Other features include built-in lesson function, MIDI connectivity and it also has a carry handle to make it even more easier to carry around.

The Casiotone CT-S300 is a great way to test the waters of piano playing, and it can also be a good portable alternative to bulky digital pianos and keyboards.

Specifications

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Piano Style Keys with Touch Response and Pitch Bend Wheel
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 400 Tones, 77 Rhythms
  • 10 Reverb Effects
  • 2 x 5.1" Speakers
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • AC Adapter (Included) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Piano Tone Editor 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Yamaha Piaggero NP-12

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 61-Key Digital Piano w/ Speakers

Cons

  • Power supply not included
  • Limited voicing options
  • No built-in rhythm, accompaniment or lessons

Pros

  • Slim and lightweight
  • Great sounding piano sounds
  • Streamlined plug-and-play functionality
  • Easy to play synth action touch sensitive keys

The Piaggero NP-12 is a portable digital piano keyboard with 61 full-size touch sensitive keys. As such, it doesn't bombard you with hundreds of voices, rather it focuses on quality emulations of piano, organ and related instruments.

It features Yamaha's Advanced Wave Memory Stereo Sampling which gives this compact instrument quality voicings based on expensive pianos, the downside though is that the number of voicings is limited.

An upside of having fewer voices is that you won't have to get lost in a long list of voices and complex menus, instead you get good plug-and-play functionality that doesn't distract from actual practice and playing.

The NP-12 comes with record and play functionality, along with the all-important metronome.

You can play this keyboard anywhere for up to 5 hours on just six AA batteries, and even longer with alkaline batteries. And portability is really the main strength of the NP-12, it sounds close to digital pianos, but with less of the bulk and weight.

The need to buy a power supply separately is a bummer, so be sure to get one alongside the NP-12. Those who are looking to play with different instrument voicings will have to look elsewhere given the limited sounds that this one has.

If you're looking for an affordable, good sounding, and portable piano keyboard, then this is for you.

Specifications

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Piano Style Touch Sensitive Keys
  • 64-note Polyphony
  • 10 Voices, 10 Demo Songs, 10 Piano Preset Songs
  • 4 Reverb Effects
  • 2 x 4.72" Speakers, 2.5W Amp per side
  • Sustain Pedal (Sold Separately)
  • AC Adaptor Supply (Sold Separately) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 9.9375 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube John Coupland 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Roland GO:KEYS

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Roland GO:KEYS

Cons

  • Plastic exterior doesn't feel as solid as expected
  • Complex features may be distracting to beginners

Pros

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Built-in looper functionality
  • Easy to play synth action keys
  • Good sounding modern rhythm and accompaniment
  • Assignable pads

The Roland GO:KEYS is a true modern portable keyboard, with built-in loop/sequencer functionality, and wireless Bluetooth connectivity.

The Loop Mix function lets you record and trigger phrases intuitively, making this instrument a viable tool for songwriting and for learning music production.

Add to that the convenience of wirelessly streaming tracks that you want to play along with and wirelessly controlling your favorite software instruments via MIDI.

It has over 500 sounds. While there are some bad apples, the essential voices sound good, including piano, e-piano, synth pads and the like.

It sports an easy to play non-weighted synth action keybed that is up to snuff when compared to other portable keyboards.

What separates this unit from the competition is the included pads, that can be assigned to do different things, like apply pitchbend and effects.

What makes all these features even more special is how all of them are packed in a compact portable unit. Just be careful not to bump or drop it because it is made mostly of lightweight plastic.

If you're looking for a portable keyboard with modern functionality, then the Roland GO:KEYS is your best bet.

Specifications

  • USB & Bluetooth MIDI
  • 61 Synth Style Full Size Keys
  • 128-note Polyphony
  • Built-in Microphone
  • 99 Songs (MIDI), 500+ Voices
  • 2-way Stereo Speakers
  • Bluetooth Connectivity, USB MIDI
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • Power adapter Included
  • Weight: 8.625 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube jammstudiosmusic 90/100
Piano Dreamers Lucas Welter 76/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Things to Consider When Buying a Portable Keyboard

Portability

Portable keyboards are born out of necessity in this era where mobility and space saving are of high importance. And so it would be wise for beginners to start with something portable, even experienced musicians can also benefit from having a portable alternative to their main instrument. Portable keyboards come with built-in speakers, amplifiers, and the ability to run on batteries, allowing them to be used virtually anywhere. They also come in compact profiles to limit size and weight to more manageable levels.

Student Friendly Features

Many of the keyboards sold in this price range are aimed at students, so expect them to have features that help hasten learning and more importantly, make playing fun and enjoyable. Student friendly features to look for include a metronome, auto accompaniment, headphones out, and built in virtual "lessons". While these built-in lessons won't take the place of an expert mentor, they are valuable for someone who wants to play popular piano pieces and to hone their playing skills.

Difference between an Arranger Keyboard and Regular Keyboard

Arranger keyboards are those that let you arrange notes and rhythms to create music. They usually have auto-accompaniment functions, or backing tracks that you can play with or even personalize. While most modern keyboards already have some accompaniment features, arranger keyboards give you more control over the accompaniment, and some even allow you to edit or create yourself.

Key Size, Action and Sensitivity

Most portable keyboards come with semi-weighted synth action keys that balance dynamics and playability nicely. If you prefer the feel of an acoustic piano, then having a full-size, weighted keyboard is ideal for spacing and finger tension consistency. But be warned that keyboards with this feature are heavier and usually more expensive so you won't find many priced under $500. As such, most of the keyboards in this price range have softer synth style keys, which are easier on the hands. Touch response and sensitivity are features that separate toys from a real instrument, so they should be considered. These features allow for volume changes based on how you press the keys, which can be used to better express your music, much like an acoustic piano would.

Number of Keys

Most portable keyboards come with 61 keys, since that allows for two-handed piano-style chords and arpeggios, with a length that's still easy to carry around. Those with more keys allow for even more notes to play with, but expect them to be heavier, bulkier and not to mention more expensive. On the flipside, there are those with fewer keys, making them cheaper and easier to carry, at the expense of having limited notes to play with. The 61-Key configuration sits nicely in between the big and small keyboards, allowing for good access to notes while keeping the instrument reasonably portable.

Voice, Style and Rhythm

Portable keyboards usually come with as many sounds that the manufacturer can put on them without jacking up the price too much. As such, some of the voices or styles may not sound great to professionals, but they can be useful and fun to play with for beginners. Some even come with effects so you can personalize the sound better, or mimic the sounds used on your favorite songs. Many also come with drum and percussion sounds, along with pre-made rhythms that can be used to accompany you as you play, again a nice little feature for fun use, and more importantly, for training to improve your timing. Note that there are keyboards in this price range that go the digital piano route, focusing more on sound quality and playability, but with more streamlined features given the price constraint.

Recording and MIDI

Some of the latest models allow for quick recording, either direct to the keyboard itself via a memory card, or on to a computer via MIDI. While not necessary, recording can be a useful tool for practice and for songwriting. MIDI connectivity will let you use the keyboard as a controller for your MIDI device or virtual instrument software. The most common MIDI connection these days is USB which allows you to connect to a computer or tablet, there are very few that still have 5-Pin MIDI sockets for directly plugging into hardware sound modules or synthesizers.

Mod Wheels and Other Controls

The more control options there are, the more use and variation you can get out of the instrument. However, the drawback to having more control for a beginner is that you may end up wasting time tweaking than instead of actually practicing or making music. Most students will usually just need to play traditional piano parts on the keys, but if you are into modern electronic music, you'll want mod wheels and other extras which are uncommon in this price range.

Best Portable Keyboard Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition which was published on July 3, 2022.

To be eligible for this guide and to meet the portability requirement, each keyboard had to have the option of running on batteries and have built-in speakers so you don't have to use them with an amplifier. Like we normally do, we limited our scope to keyboards that are widely available from US retailers, to make sure that you can readily get the keyboards that we recommend.

We ended up with a short list of 18 keyboards, which entailed the analysis of over 27,300 relevant ratings and reviews for this July 2022 edition. All these data were analyzed and fed into the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us rating scores out of 100 that represent what the market actually feels about each instrument in real life. We then used the scores to narrow down the list further to the highest rated options. Finally, we divided our list to two sets, first of which feature the best arranger keyboards and the second one showcases the best regular portable keyboards . For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Keyboards are central to church music, so I literally grew up watching keyboardists play. My dad also loves keyboards as well, so through the years I’ve played on many different keyboards from Casio, Yamaha, Kawai, Roland and more. Now as a music director, I am still surrounded by keyboards, although this time around I’m the one guiding the players.

Contributors

Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com using photographs of the Yamaha Piaggero NP-12, Roland GO:KEYS and Casio Casiotone CT-S200.

The videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers, except for the additional image of the Yamaha PSR-E373 which was supplied by the Author.

Comments

We have removed the Korg EK

We have removed the Korg EK-50 from the recommended list above due to a price increase that put it over the $500 price limit for this guide.

I am looking to connect two

I am looking to connect two key boards together for organ practising performances. Would these make a good combinations through midi connections?

The keyboards listed in this

The keyboards listed in this guide have the wrong kind of MIDI for connecting directly to other keyboards.

What you need is a MIDI Controller Keyboard that has 5-Pin MIDI connectors - you'll find those in the following guides:

Love the roland Go Keys but

Love the roland Go Keys but looking for something with 88 keys and better weighting. Any recommendations?

Have you ever considered the

Have you ever considered the new CT X-3000 from Casio and the EK-50 from Korg? Those are very promissing keyboards within the price range too.

Both of those are on our

Both of those are on our short-list to be considered for recommendation when we next update this guide.

Good point. They are

Good point. They are considered portable when compared to upright digital pianos like this. Also, because they have their own speakers, you don't need to carry around an amplifier to play or practice.