The Best Portable Keyboards - MIDI Enabled Under $500

Portable Keyboards

Unlike standard MIDI keyboards, a portable keyboard has built-in speakers so you can play anytime without having to plug in additional equipment. The keyboards included in this guide have built-in speakers plus they have MIDI so you can also use them with your computer.

Keyboards started out as electronic pianos, and have since expanded to reproduce the sound of other instruments and do virtually anything that a computer can do. For this guide, we focus on portable keyboards that dominate the entry to mid-tier market, ideal for students and budget conscious musicians. While they don't have the complexity of premium keyboards or the articulation of expensive digital pianos, they have enough versatility and features to make for a fun and inspiring instrument that can be used for practice and even for performance.

Methodology

To be considered in this list, the keyboard should have built-in speakers and MIDI compatibility. And to make this list useful, we only considered keyboards that are widely available, those that you can actually get your hands on. We also limited our scope to ones that are accessibly priced, while filtering out cheap keyboards with very limited functionalities. The ratings and reviews of the keyboards that met the criteria above were then processed via Gearank's algorithm, which then gives us the scores that represent what the market actually feels about the instrument in real life. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Things to Consider When Buying a Portable Keyboards

  • Number of Keys

    Most portable keyboards come with 61 keys, and this is because it lets you play two-handed piano-style chords and arpeggios, without the extra bulk, weight and cost of those with more keys. Those with more keys allow for even more notes to play with, but expect to shell out a bit more and prepare ample space for playing and transportation. There are also those with fewer keys which are cheaper and easier to carry, at the expense of limited notes to play with.

  • Key Size, Action and Sensitivity

    Most portable keyboards come with semi-weighted synth action keys that balance dynamics and playability nicely while keeping the price low. If you prefer the feel of an acoustic piano, then having a full-size, weighted keyboard is ideal for spacing and finger tension consistency, keyboards with this feature are heavier and usually more expensive. Touch response and sensitivity are features that separate toys from a real instrument, so they should be considered. They allow for volume changes based on how you press the keys, which can be used to make music more interesting.

  • 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 good 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. Most keyboards 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 for keeping your timing sharp.

  • Recording and MIDI

    Some of the latest model keyboards allow for quick recording, either direct to the keyboard itself via a memory card, or on to a computer via a USB cable. 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, but there are still keyboards that have 5-Pin MIDI sockets.

  • 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 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.

  • Student Friendly Features

    I found that most of the keyboards have a number of student friendly features which include metronome, auto accompaniment, headphones out, and some even include virtual "lessons". While these won't take the place of an expert mentor, they are valuable for someone who wants to hone their playing skills.

  • Portability

    The best thing about portable keyboards is that they are... portable. Which means that you can use them to practice or even perform virtually anywhere - if they have the right features which include being battery powered, and having manageable size and weight.

The Best Portable Keyboards - MIDI Enabled

Here are the best portable keyboards in the market today, dominated by Yamaha and Casio with their popular lineups of entry to mid level portable keyboards.

Casio CTK-2400

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$130
Casio CTK-2400

Casio has produced a good number electronic devices, the most popular of which include affordable electronic keyboards. They continue to capture a big chunk of the competitive entry level keyboard market with their impressive ability to pack as many features as they can into budget friendly priced instruments, while keeping the quality high. A great example of this is the CTK-2400, a super affordable portable keyboard that is packed with many practical features that beginners and upstarts will appreciate.

Features:

  • 61 Piano Style Full Size Keys
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • Built-in Microphone
  • 110 Songs, 400 Voices and 150 Rhythms
  • 2-way Stereo Speakers
  • USB MIDI (GM Level 1 STandard)
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • 9.5V DC power adapter Included
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs.

Pros

What we immediately noticed with the reviews is that this particular keyboard is a popular gift to budding musicians, and rightly so because of its affordable price and good quality. Both the giver and the receiver of the CTK-2400 have mostly nice things to say about the unit. It is widely recommended by tutors, as attested to by the many reviews, some even rent this keyboard out to see if a child will be interested with making music. The general consensus is that this is a great value keyboard for beginners.

Cons

Most of the issues raised on the reviews are about the low quality free stand and headphones that their keyboard came bundled with, but there were others that appreciated the extras. There were a few that commented on the sound being more like a toy, but this is expected from experienced players who have tried premium keyboards that sound and play better.

Overall

If you are looking for a budget friendly portable keyboard that has some nice features, then this is the cheapest that your money can get without sacrificing quality too much.

Yamaha PSR-E353

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$180

Yamaha consistently delivers, giving their brand name the world renown that it deserves. Being one of the most highly rated keyboards in the entry level market, the Yamaha PSR-E353 showcases the Yamaha's design philosophy, which is to make good quality instruments for students while keeping the price low. With its velocity sensitive keys, variety of voices, and arranger features, the PSR-E353 is a great student keyboard that has satisfactorily served as the first keyboard for many.

Features:

  • 61 Synth Style Full Size Keys
  • Action: Touch Response
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 32-note Polyphony
  • 136 Style varieties
  • 2-track Sequencer
  • 2-way 12cm Stereo Speakers
  • USB MIDI
  • 550 voices, built-in effects
  • Music Rest
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • Optional power adapter
  • Weight: 9.70 lbs.

Pros

The words fun and enjoyable came up a good number of times in customer reviews, along with positive remarks on the PSR-E353's value for money. Most of the users who loved it were beginners, but there were some experienced musicians who were impressed with the quality they got considering the price. The keyboard's touch response also got a lot of thumbs up, along with its music tuition and auto-accompaniment features.

Cons

Some customers reported that the stand and headphones were of poor quality, so you may want to look at a more stable stand, or if not, a sturdy table will suffice. The weight and feel of the keyboard, which is very light had some users worried, but this maybe a design decision since this is meant to be a portable keyboard.

Overall

With its cool features and big brand backing, the Yamaha PSR-E353 is a safe choice for beginners and students of the instrument.

Casio CTK-4400

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Casio CTK-4400

Another CTK series keyboard makes it to this list, this time with switchable touch sensitivity levels, more sounds to choose from and other extra features. The Casio CTK-4400 keyboard lets you choose between two sensitivity levels to match your playing style, a feature that's not available from the CTK-2400. It also features an additional 200 sounds, giving you a staggering number of sounds to play with for the price, totaling 600. Improved playability and the extra sounds easily justify the small price difference, but the value of this keyboard goes up another notch with its improved sampling and 6-track recording.

Features:

  • 61 Synth Style Full Size Keys
  • Action: Touch Response
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 600 sounds, 180 built-in rhythm
  • 6-track Sequencer
  • 152 song presets, 10 digital effects
  • 2-way Stereo 12cm Speakers
  • USB MIDI
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Headphones/Output Jack
  • Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • Includedl DC 9.5V power adapter
  • Weight: 10.14 lbs.

Pros

It's not surprising to find that many reviewers recommend the CTK-4400 as a great beginners keyboard, especially when considering its playability and versatility for the price. Most of the comments also mention that they are using the keyboard for formal lessons, and that it has met their expectations quite well. The keyboard's piano sounds (including its variants) were reported to be of good quality, along with the reverb effect that ups the realism of the piano sound.

Cons

There were a few reports that complained about the buzzing sound of the speakers, specifically when the volume is set high. Again the quality of the bundled items (which include the headset and stand) caused some reviewers to reduce the score of the unit.

Overall

At just under $150, this touch sensitive portable keyboard gives you quite a lot of bang for your hard earned cash.

Yamaha YPG-235

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$250
Yamaha YPG-235

The YPG-235 portable keyboard exemplifies Yamaha's student friendly design, combining good playability and practice enhancing features while keeping the price accessible. It features 76 graded hammer piano style keys that better resembles the playing feel of an acoustic piano, and give you more notes to play with compared to the usual 61-key configuration keyboards in this price range. It also lets you utilize various sounds to play a variety of musical styles, keeping practice fun and interesting. This keyboard is labeled as a portable arranger, pointing to its sequencing and recording capabilities, features that even experienced musicians appreciate.

Features:

  • 76 Piano Style Full Size Keys
  • Action: Graded Hammer
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 32-note Polyphony
  • Dual and Split Mode
  • 6-track Sequencer
  • Pitch Bend Wheel
  • 2-way Stereo Speakers with Bass Ports
  • USB MIDI
  • 150 styles, 30 internal songs and 70 more on CD
  • Flash ROM memory for downloading new songs
  • Music Rest
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x D batteries
  • Optional PA5D power adapter
  • Weight: 18.31 lbs.

Pros

This top rated portable keyboard has mostly good things written about it. Many agree that it is a great bang per buck keyboard with all its features, and you'll often find users reporting that it works as advertised, and does so excellently, even exceeding the expectations of some users. The Grand Piano setting got a lot praise as a well, with many saying that it sounds more expensive than it actually is.

Cons

Some users gave this keyboard a slightly lower score because the power adapter does not come with the package, so if the package does not come with the adapter, make sure you buy one at the same time as the keyboard, so you can play it immediately without waiting for the adapter to arrive at a later date. Experienced players who got the YPG-235 reported on clicking noises when pressing the keys, the noise varies from subtly distracting to really annoying, and that it will be obvious when playing at lower volumes. Silent practicing with a headphone is a good work around.

Overall

The YPG-235 is a great beginner to intermediate keyboard for serious students of the instrument, it also falls within a good price point where the quality you're getting is better than what you're paying for.

Yamaha PSR-E453

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$280
Yamaha PSR-E453

The PSR series is one of Yamaha's more popular line of keyboards, and it continues to carry the brand in the entry to mid-tier market. The PSR-E453 sits at the sweet spot where the price is still within the entry level range, while the features cross over into intermediate and even advanced territory. Compared to the YPG-235 which feels more like a piano, the PSR-E453 plays more like a synth/organ, and features more sounds and more control over the sounds for experimental and modern electronic music styles. It does have the portable Grand Piano function, but its strength is its softer playability, versatility and arranger features.

Features:

  • 61 Synth Style Full Size Keys
  • Action: Touch Response
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 758 onboard voices
  • One button Grand Piano mode
  • Pitch wheel and 2 control knobs
  • 150 arpeggio patterns help create complex arrangements
  • 220 intelligent accompaniment styles help you flesh out songs
  • 26-type harmonization
  • 6-track recorder
  • Onboard effects (Chorus, Reverbm Stereo, EQ)
  • 3.5mm aux-in
  • USB MIDI + USB connectivity
  • Can run on 6 x AA batteries
  • Optional 12V DC power supply
  • Weight: 14.9 lbs.

Pros

Many of the reviewers who rated this keyboard highly either gave the keyboard to a loved one who wants to start playing keys, or they themselves got the unit as a gift. And it's interesting how they still took the time to write great things about the PSR-E453, given that they either didn't spend any money on it, or will just be giving it away. The general trend in the reviews is that people like this keyboard for its playability, sound quality and value for money.

Cons

Not having a power supply were reported by few reviewers, they were irked that they have to pay extra for the power adapter, or that they weren't properly informed that the unit doesn't come bundled with it. There were also some who didn't like the non-graded synth style keys, but this is more of a preference issue than a quality one. Following the trend in this price range, a number of users rated the keyboard a bit lower because of the poor quality of the accessories that were bundled with the unit.

Overall

If you're not into classical piano, and you're looking for a more versatile practice friendly keyboard, then get this one.

Casio CTK-7200

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Casio CTK-7200

For the price the Casio CTK-7200 carries a hefty amount of features that would normally cost much more. So while it is still a beginner to intermediate level performance and practice keyboard, it is also a useful music production tool for seasoned musicians who want to record, arrange and produce tracks. With its piano style full size keys, the CTK-7200 will feel familiar, but the ridiculously huge number of sounds available to it makes it stand out from the crowd. And it's not just pre-packaged sounds because you can customize or craft your own sound. In addition to its practice and performance friendly bits, the 17-track sequencer and 32-Channel mixer makes this a viable tool for recording and arranging, which is usually reserved for premium arranger keyboards.

Features:

  • 61 Piano Style Full Size Keys
  • Action: Touch Response
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • LCD Display
  • 64-note Polyphony
  • 820 sounds, 260 built-in rhythm,
  • 17-track Sequencer, 32-Channel Mixer
  • 127 DSP Effects and Metronome
  • 2 x 7W, 4.72" x 2 + 1.18" x 2 bass-reflex speaker system
  • USB MIDI
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Headphones/Output Jack
  • Runs on 6 x D batteries
  • Optional DC 9.5V power adapter
  • Weight: 14.771 lbs.

Pros

Many were simply overwhelmed by the number of features that this keyboard carries, reporting that they find the CTK-7200 to be simply amazing. Even more experienced musicians were impressed by what this keyboard can do, and it's not just about the features, the quality of the build and the sound also received positive mentions. To be specific, there were a number of users who found the electric piano sound to be on the spot, while some found the Hammond organ style sounds to be impressive for the price. Some even reported using this keyboard for live performance through a PA with satisfactory results.

Cons

There are no consistent complaints about the unit, but there were a few that wanted the acoustic grand piano sound to be a bit more realistic. There was a user that rated the keyboard poorly because he wanted old school MIDI in/out ports rather than the standard USB that this one is equipped with, something worth considering when you're planning to pair this up with other MIDI devices.

Overall

If you're looking to up your keyboard skills and sound palette, and if you want to take a step into music production and arranging, all without breaking the bank, then we recommend the Casio CTK-7200.

Casio WK-7600

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Casio WK-7600

While the naming convention maybe different, the Casio WK-7600 is essentially the same as the CTK-7200, with the main difference being the extra octave that the 76 Key configuration provides. This is essentially a version of Casio's flagship keyboard, carrying the same incredible amount of sounds, effects and arranging but with more notes readily available to play with. The same audio recording features that let you record vocals and an instrument straight to the keyboard is available as well. More importantly, it gives you all this while keeping the unit reasonably portable and affordable.

Features:

  • 76 Piano Style Full-Size Keys
  • Action: Graded Hammer
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 64-note Polyphony
  • Dual and Split Mode
  • 820 tones, 260 rhythms, 100 DSP effects.
  • 17-track Sequencer, 32 Channel Mixer

  • Pitch Bend Wheel
  • 2cm x 2 + 3cm x 2, bass-reflex system
  • MIDI via USB/SD Card Slot
  • 96-setting Memory
  • Mic input, Stereo Audio input, Instrument Input
  • Music Rest
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x D batteries
  • Power adapter included
  • Weight: 18.298 lbs.

Pros

The overall response to the WK-7600 is generally positive, with many being impressed by its massive feature set, one man band accompaniment and recording capabilities. While Casio keyboards are not necessarily popular for their sound, the WK-7600 got quite a lot of high ratings due to the quality of its sound, specifically for its customizable piano and organ tones. Even experienced musicians were floored by how good the sounds of this keyboard are, and add to that the fact that you can further sculpt the sound to your preference.

Cons

Some users commented that the manual is not as beginner friendly as it should be, thankfully, there are a number of youtube videos detailing the use of the keyboard. As expected there are those that find some of the sounds to be lacking, but they do appreciate the other sounds, specifically the Hammond organ ones. The lack of old MIDI ports also came up, since this one also utilizes USB MIDI.

Overall

If you're looking for a 76-key performance keyboard that can also double as an arranger keyboard for simpler tasks, then this will get the job done while keeping the price accessible.

Korg MicroArranger

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Korg MicroArranger Portable Keyboard

From its humble beginnings in 1962, Korg is now one of the biggest music gear producers in the world. As a testament to the quality of their products, Korg tops this list with the MicroArranger, a reasonably priced portable keyboard with "arranger" features built-in.

The Korg MicroArranger is more than just a practice and performance keyboard, it is also a powerful music production tool. It is part of the company's line of keyboard arrangers which normally require a more premium price tag. As the name implies, the keys are smaller to limit the overall size for increased portability, while having the same sound quality and "arranging" features so you can sequence multiple instruments to produce songs, right on the unit itself. It provides a powerful and lightweight instrument and tool for keyboardists who are beginning to arrange and produce songs, or want to craft music while on the go.

Features:

  • 61 Mini Size Keys
  • Action: Touch Response
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 62-note Polyphony
  • LCD display
  • 16-track Sequencer
  • Pitch Bend Wheel
  • 2-way 10cm Stereo Speakers (open air)
  • 5 pin MIDI In + 5 pin MIDI Out
  • 62 voices, 62 oscillators, 662 presets, 33 drum kits
  • Multi-part Arrangements
  • Memorize maximum 36 chord variations per style

  • Music Stand
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • 12V power adapter
  • Weight: 9.26 lbs.

Pros

Many of the musicians that rated this keyboard highly point to the quality of its sound and its incredible versatility. Others mention being surprised by the number of things that they can do with the unit, and the improvements it brought to their performance and music production process - especially when considering its modest size and price point. The overall opinion is that the Korg MicroArranger is of top notch quality in terms of playing feel, sound and reliability.

Cons

There are few complaints that refer to the keys being smaller, but this is to be expected given its portable design. Thankfully, many of those who commented on the size of the keys actually learned to like and appreciate the instrument, even ending up highly rating the MicroArranger. There were a few that mentioned learning curve to be an issue, but other reviewers were quick to point out that it gets easier once you get used to the controls.

Overall

After looking at all the portable keyboards in the sub $1000, the Korg MicroArranger easily has the best feature set, and well worth the extra money that it requires compared to the others on this list. If size is not an issue, and you're looking for a powerful portable keyboard, then get this one.

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