Best Portable Keyboards: MIDI, Speakers, Battery Powered

The Highest Rated Portable Keyboards Under $500

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The sub $500 price range is where you can find good quality feature packed portable keyboards. Most of them are ideal for students, but there are also some gems that are worthy of recording or stage use. Here we feature the best of them, based on the most recent reviews and ratings data up, updated for 2020.

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, all of which can be powered by batteries, that dominate the sub $500 price range, 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.

The Best Portable Keyboards Under $500

Portable Arranger Keyboards Under $500

Not all arranger keyboards have MIDI but they have additional built-in auto-accompaniment functions, or backing tracks, to play along with.

Casio CTK-2550

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$109
Casio CTK-2550 61-Key Portable Arranger Keyboard

The Casio CTK-25550 is a 61-key compact arranger keyboard that's meant to cater to the company's usual targets - students. As expected, it is packed with features that make it fun to play and easy to learn on, complete with a built-in learning system.

With 61 synth action keys, it has enough keys to play many of the classic songs that teachers love to teach to students. And it gives you a lot of music making material to work with, from its 400 voices, to its 100 rhythms. Adding to its practice friendliness is its headphone out for quiet practice, and aux input for playing along with your preferred tracks.

Finally, this keyboard ships with an AC adapter, but for portability it can run on 6 AA batteries.

Features:

  • NB: Does not support MIDI
  • 61 Synth Style Full Size Keys
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 400 voices, 100 rhythms, 50 dance music patterns
  • 10 x Reverbs, Hall, Dance music effect
  • 1 x 1/8" (aux in)
  • 1 x 1/4" (headphones, out)
  • 2 x 3.9" Speakers, 2W Amp per side
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs.

Pros

The Casio CTK-2550 continues to impress first time owners and parents of piano/keyboard students. They make up most of the ones who buy and rate this keyboard highly for its overall quality and playability. Even teachers chime in with their recommendations, describing this as a great starter keyboard.

Cons

The lack of MIDI connectivity is a minor letdown for a few, while some take issue with some of its voicings.

Overall

If you're looking for an affordable good quality starter keyboard, then the Casio CTK-2550 is where you should start.

Yamaha PSR-E263

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$130
Yamaha PSR-E263 61-Key Portable Arranger Keyboard

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Portable Arranger Keyboard Under $500.

There's no stopping Yamaha in the entry-level keyboard market, and the PSR-E263 is helping them big time with its high ratings. It has a 61-key full-size synth action keybed along with a wealth of sound options and practice features that are ideal for learning the instrument.

Yamaha is not one to skimp on features even in their entry level line, so they packed this arranger keyboard with 400 voices and 112 songs. It also comes with the Yamaha Education Suite (Y.E.S.) that helps you practice playing the many included preset songs.

Other features include built-in effects, headphone out, aux in, duo keyboard mode and more.

Features:

  • NB: Does not support MIDI
  • 61 Synth Style Full Size Keys
  • 32-note Polyphony
  • 400 voices, 130 Styles, 112 Song presets
  • Reverb, Chorus, Stereo DSP, Master EQ
  • 1 x 1/8" (aux in)
  • 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • 2 x 4.7" Speakers, 2.5W Amp Stereo
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Optional 12V DC Adapter, Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 8.8 lbs.

Pros

The Yamaha PSR-E263 is currently the rating very well, and owners credit this to its playability and sound quality. Most of the satisfied users are either the students themselves or the parents/guardians who buy them the instrument. There are also many experienced musicians who have good things to say, some even report using the E263 in actual gigs with no hiccups.

Cons

There are a few who noted that the controls need some getting used to. There are also some who are not happy that they have to buy a power adapter separately.

Overall

It's hard to go wrong with a Yamaha keyboard, especially those with very high ratings like the PSR-E263.

Korg EK-50

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Korg EK-50 61-Key Arranger Keyboard

For a 61-key portable keyboard, the Korg EK-50 offers a big step up in terms of control, voicings and recording features.

At its price point, it is no longer targeting beginners, but is designed to be a portable instrument for more experienced keyboardists. At the onset, it has a very expressive keybed, with 61 full-size keys that feature adjustable touch control and velocity sensitivity. It allow you to trigger a wide variety of voicings, rhythms and auto-accompaniment styles that are built into the unit.

Speaking of voicing, there are 700 sounds, 280 styles, 34 effect types (with 148 variations), and many other sonic options to play with, all of which should be more than enough to keep anyone busy tweaking.

Other notable features include an onboard sequencer for advanced recording and playback, multiple input/output options, MIDI connectivity, and it can run on 8 x AA batteries

Features:

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Full Size Keys with Touch Control and Velocity Sensitivity
  • 64-note Polyphony
  • 700 voices, 280 Styles, 41 Drum Kits, 18 Demo Songs
  • 34 Effects Types (148 variations)
  • 1 x 1/8" (Aux in)
  • 2 x 1/4" (L & R Output), 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • 1 x Type A USB, 1 x Type B USB
  • 2 x 4.7" Speakers, 10W Amp per side
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Included 12V DC Adapter, Runs on 8 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 16.5 lbs.

Pros

The Korg EK-50 continues to wow musicians world over with its versatility and sound quality. Sonic versatility gets the bulk of commendations, and it's not just because it has a lot of sounds, but also pertaining to the quality of the voicings. Even experienced pianists appreciate the quality of its piano voicings. Its connectivity and recording/arranging capabilities also inspire many to rate the EK-50 highly.

Cons

With its many voicings, it's expected that some of the presets sound cheesy, and that's reflected in a few reviews.

Overall

If you're looking for a versatile all-around portable arranger keyboard, then this is for you.

Regular Portable Keyboards Under $500

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

Casio CTX700

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$175

Casio's design principle is simple yet effective, pack as many features as possible while keeping the price affordable. The CTX700 follows this to the letter, with 600 voicings and 195 auto-accompaniment rhythms at a very reasonable price.

To trigger the many voicings it carries, the CTX700 has a keybed with 61 piano-style keys, and each one are touch responsive and velocity sensitive. If you want to go outside traditional keyboard playing, it also comes with 100 arpeggiators.

Learning features include 161 built-in songs and Step-Up lesson system.

Finally, it comes with a 6-track recorder and USB/MIDI compatibility.

Features:

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Piano Style Keys
  • Action: Touch Response
  • Velocity Sensitive
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 600 Tones
  • 195 Rhythms
  • 6-track Recorder
  • 2-way 4.7" Stereo Speakers, 2.5W Amp per side
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Included 9.5V DC power supply / 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 9.5 lbs.

Pros

Value for money is the obvious strength of this keyboard, especially for students who want to learn on a piano style keybed with velocity sensitivity. A good number of positive reviews are from beginners, there are also teachers who are happy to recommend this to their students. Sound quality is also often mentioned positively, especially its piano sounds.

Cons

There are a few complaints about the quality of the included power supply. Others are not too impressed with the overall build quality, but still feel that it's solid enough for the money. There are also some who wish for pitchbend and modulation controls but you can only expect so much at this price level.

Overall

This budget friendly piano-style keyboard is a great way to start learning the ropes of making music on electronic keyboards.

Yamaha PSR-E363

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$200
Yamaha PSR-E363

Yamaha continues to deliver the goods, affirming their long held position as one of the most highly rated keyboard manufacturers in the entry level market. The Yamaha PSR-E363 is the successor to the popular PSR-E353, and is a great example of Yamaha's production philosophy, which is to make good quality instruments for students while keeping the price low.

For the price, it gives you 61 velocity sensitive keys, over 500 voices, and a variety of arranger features. It also features MIDI connectivity and is compatible with mobile devices, which complements its portability.

Finally, all of these features are packed in a compact and very lightweight unit.

Features:

  • USB MIDI
  • 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
  • 550 voices, built-in effects
  • Music Rest
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Runs on 6 x AA batteries
  • Optional power adapter - with 8 foot cable at Amazon
  • Weight: 9.70 lbs.

Pros

Awesome and wonderful are two adjectives that are often used to describe the PSR-E363. Students appreciate its beginner friendly features and price tag, while teachers and experienced musicians are satisfied with its overall quality. Sound quality and touch response gets a lot of thumbs up, along with its value for money.

Cons

The weight of the unit worries some users, with a few feeling that it is too light to be structurally solid. But being a portable keyboard, this is a given, and more importantly, there are no complaints yet of the keyboard breaking down while being handled and used normally. We do caution that the PSR-E363 does not come with a power supply, so you'll have to get one separately. Thankfully, some retailers do sell the keyboard with the power supply bundled.

Overall

With its lightweight and versatile design, along with its with big brand backing, the Yamaha PSR-E363 is a good safe pick for beginner to intermediate keyboardists.

Roland GO:KEYS

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$330
Roland GO:KEYS

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.

These two features are in addition to its Roland quality keyboards function, which include having over 500 sounds

Features:

  • 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.

Pros

The Roland GO:KEYS balances versatility and portability really well, as attested to by its many positive reviews. It continues to get rave reviews, be it from students who appreciate its playability, to parents and teachers who feel that it is worth more than the small investment. Even experienced keyboardists appreciate its light and portable profile, which when combined with Roland's brand of quality, makes for a quality portable instrument. There are also plenty of reviewers who are happy with its overall sound, which some even compare to more expensive Roland keyboards.

Cons

There are a few users who are not happy with the plastic feel of the chassis, but they do appreciate its synth style playability and lightweight profile.

Overall

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

Yamaha PSR-EW410

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$430
Yamaha PSR-EW410 76-key Portable Keyboard

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Portable Keyboard Under $500.

The Yamaha PSR-EW410 is a portable keyboard that threads the line between being a piano keyboard instrument and an electronic music sampler. While at it's core, it is a keyboard with 76 keys, it crosses over into the EDM/DJ realms with its groove creator and sampling features.

In addition to sampling features and realtime track triggering controls, the PSR-EW410 has assignable knobs for realtime manipulation of parameters and effects, much like a MIDI controller would.

Being a sampler, this keyboard does not have that many voices by default (237 Voices and 24 Drum/SFX kits) but this is expandable via Yamaha's XGlite voices.

Other standout features include having a pitchbend wheel, arpeggios, USB MIDI connectivity and support for USB flash drives.

Features:

  • USB MIDI
  • 76 Synth Style Touch Response Keys
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 237 Panel Voices, 24 Drum/SFX kits, 40 Arpeggio, 35 grooves, 457 XGlite voices
  • 59 Effects
  • 2 x 4.7" Speakers, 12W Amp per side
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • Included 16V DC Power Supply / 6 x D batteries
  • Weight: 18.52 lbs.

Pros

At the time of writing, the Yamaha PSR-EW410 is the highest rated portable keyboard in the sub $500 price range. Users are simply impressed with its sonic versatility, for the price, there's so many things that can be done, above and beyond what's usually expected from a conventional electronic keyboard. Fans of EDM and modern dance music love its sampling features, from making beats to completing tracks using samples. Build and sound quality also get a lot of kudos in reviews, be it played through the built-in speakers or when plugged to a PA system.

Cons

There are a few complaint about the need to buy a power adapter separately. Some also comment that you need a bit more patience to figure out all its features.

Overall

If you want nothing less than the highest rated keyboard in the sub $500 price range, then get the Yamaha PSR-EW410.

Things to Consider When Buying a Portable Keyboard

  • Portability

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

  • 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 includes 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 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.

  • 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

Originally published on Sep 6, 2016 written by Alexander Briones who also wrote the latest comprehensive update which was published on April 17, 2020.

To be eligible for this guide and to meet the portability requirement, each keyboard had to have the option of being run on batteries and have built-in speakers so you don't have to use them with an amplifier.

The previous iterations of this guide were focused on portable keyboards with MIDI compatibility. For this 2020 update, we decided to drop the MIDI requirement for arranger keyboards. 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.

Following the updated scope of the guide, we ended up with a short list of 19 keyboards, along with over 6,200 of the most current and relevant ratings and reviews, up to April of 2020. All these data were analyzed and fed into the Gearank Algorithm, which gave us the scores out of 100 that represent what the market actually feels about the instrument in real life. We then used the scores to narrow down the list further to those that are worthy of your consideration. 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.

Comments

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.

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