Best Keyboard Amp for the Money
|Roland KC-550||17.5 x 23.2 x 21.1 inches||75 pounds||180W|
|Alto Kick12||14.2 x 19 x 18.3 inches||39.2 pounds||400W|
|Hammond Leslie LS2215||27.8 x 28 x 27.8 inches||83.5 pounds||300W|
|Roland KC-880||29.9 x 23 x 18.5 inches||97 pounds||320W
What is a Keyboard Amplifier?
A keyobard amp is, as the name suggests, an amplifier made specifically for keyboards. Most beginners start off by using powered speakers, or just using a guitar amplifier, and these are fine at the beginning. However, as you get serious it is worth investing in an amp specifically for your keyboard, as this kind of amp offers real advantages over the alternatives.
A lot of people use guitar amps for their keyboards. This is fine, most of the time. Pretty obviously, however, guitar amps are designed to optimize the sounds produced by guitars, not keyboards. Modern keyboards and synthesizers need a much broader frequency range than a guitar, and the amps we are reviewing today aim to accommodate this.
Similarly, a lot of keyboard players plug straight into a PA system. This is great, if there is a good PA system available and ready to go. However, having your own keyboard amp means that you can transport your amplifier, and you don’t have to waste time getting your sound completely correct, because after a few weeks you will know your amp inside-out.
This is the great advantage of getting a keyboard amp – flexibility. If you arrive at the gig and don’t like the look of the venue’s ancient PA, you can use your own amp and be confident you will get the right sound. Even if the PA is good, miking-up your own cabinet is an easy of way of getting the sound you want.
What kind of keyboard amp you need, and what features you need it to have, depends on how you are going to use it. A few things to bear in mind, though, are:
- Power. A lot of people talk a lot about power, as though it was a measure of how good an amp is. Certainly, if you are playing huge venues, or outside, you will need a powerful amp. However, for most places and people, a 200W amplifier will easily deal with the task. It will still go incredibly loud, so don’t worry about not being heard!
- Speakers. A common set-up for this kind of amp is a 12” woofer coupled with a smaller tweeter, typically 1”. Some keyboard amps come with an additional mid-range horn as well, which can potentially improve frequency response and definition.
- Inputs and outputs. This is especially important for keyboard players, who often have multiple items they want to plug into their amp. Make sure the amp you are looking at has the correct type of inputs, and enough of them, to accommodate all the gear you want to plug in.
Ultimately, there is no substitute for hearing these amps yourself. Everybody has different preferences when it comes to how they want their amp to sound. But you could do worse than checking out these amps:
A couple other amps we think you’ll dig:
1. Editor’s Pick: Roland KC-550
The best keyboard amp we reviewed, for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, though, this amp is the best because it strikes the perfect balance between power, ease-of-use, portability, and flexibility.
The amp is rated at 180W, which sound low in comparison to the other amps we are reviewing today. Don’t let that fool you – the amp will go plenty loud enough, and will do so with so little distortion that we were truly surprised.
In addition, the sound it produces is crystal clear, and so the people we talked to for this review reported that they had no problems using this amp in large venues. It will easily cover a hall that seats 150, for instance, and do so without compromising on sound quality.
This amp is built around a 15” woofer and a horn tweeter, and this combination provides excellent sound. In addition, the EQ functions on the amp ensure that you can easily get exactly the sound you desire.
If you are looking for a keyboard amp that will put up with years of gigs, can be easily moved around, and will consistently deliver great sound, this is the one for you.
The amp is rated at 180W, which sound low in comparison to the other amps we are reviewing today.
In addition, of course, the Roland KC-550 offers plenty of extra features:
- The EQ options on this amp are great. There is a 4-channel EQ built in to the amp, which allows you to quickly find the sound you’re looking for. A “shape” switch makes things even easier, affording you a number of pre-set sounds, all of which are nicely balanced.
- The frequency spectrum covered by this amp is outstanding. We are not sure how Roland have achieved this without a mid-range horn, but we don’t care! Everything from deep bass to keen highs is covered in great detail.
- This amp has been designed with gigs in mind. Whilst a little more heavy than some other options, it is really built to last. It feels solid, even when lugging it around, and loading it in and out of your truck, and we are confident that you will get many years of service from it.
- The amp features four inputs, including a balances XLR microphone jack. This is perfect if you are the kind of player who needs to plug in a lot of gear! In addition, the amp has outputs that can be used to tie it into a PA system if you are playing huge venues, and this flexibility is extremely useful.
- In truth, none. If you are looking for a great keyboard amp that will deal with anything you throw at it, get this one.
2. Alto Kick12
This is a really great keyboard amp, with incredible sound and power.
Of the keyboard amps we are reviewing today, this is the most powerful. Whilst any of our recommendations will provide enough power for the vast majority of musicians and situations, the extra power offered by this amp comes with some advantages. If you are regularly playing huge halls with crappy PA systems, having a 400W amp means that you can be sure you are producing enough volume to always be heard.
Even at the limit of its power, this amp sounds great. It has been designed specifically for keyboards, and as a result delivers a great response to a really wide frequency range. If you love to make use of unusual sounds in your music, and to play really loud, this is the amp to get.
This amp also offers great flexibility, in that it can also function as a personal PA in addition to being an instrument amp. In this mode, it has a 4-channel mixer included, making sure that you always get the sound you want.
Of the keyboard amps we are reviewing today, this is the most powerful
In addition, is has these great features:
- The circuity in this amp is a marvel. Alto have broken new ground with this amp, which provides a true bi-amped design. The signal to the woofer and tweeter are separately amplified, which results in great sound quality. If you have been using a guitar amp up until now, plugging your keyboard into this amp will be a real eye-opener!
- The range of effects offered by this amp also make it stand out from the crowd. It has 16 different effects, and 16 variations on each, meaning that a full 256 effects are available to you. After getting the amp, there are many hours of fun to be had just messing around with these effects.
- The amp, like all the best keyboard amps, has been built with gigging in mind. It will stand up to years of abuse, no matter how crazy things get on stage!
- The range of inputs and outputs on this amp is great. The advantage of this is that the amp is really flexible. Use it on its own, surround it with microphones, or plug it into an existing PA – it will sound great in all situations!
- Very few. The people we spoke to for this review said that the only disadvantage they could see with this amp is that the sound quality was so good it revealed the deficiencies of their keyboard! No matter – upgrading to this amp is the perfect excuse to also upgrade your instrument!
3. Hammond Leslie LS2215
This is a true classic, updated for the demands of the modern world.
This amp has been built by the people behind the iconic rotating Leslie speaker that gave the Hammond B3 organ its signature sound. The sound is warm, but still manages to be crystal-clear. It generates 200W of power, more than enough for large venues or for drowning out your drummer.
In fact, the sound produced by this keyboard amp is so good that the people we talked to for this review reported that they would recommend getting it even if they didn’t use a keyboard! The sound is big and clean, and so is just as good when amplifying vocals, brass, and strings as it is when used with a keyboard.
This amp has been built by the people behind the iconic rotating Leslie speaker that gave the Hammond B3 organ its signature sound.
- The amp has three dedicated inputs for keyboards, other instruments, and mics, and each of these inputs has its own EQ section. In practice, this means that this might be the only amp you will ever need, and you can really tweak the sound of each input to achieve exactly the sound you want.
- If it’s important to you, this amp looks really great. Of course, we would expect this from an amp that comes from such an iconic range, but the styling has been nicely updated, retaining a vintage feel whilst also looking modern. You will be the envy of the rest of you band with this amp.
- This amp is a little heavy, and some people said that it could be a hassle to load it in and out of their cars. However, this is the price you pay for such good build quality – the whole package is incredibly rugged, and will put up with years of gigging with no complaints.
- Very few. If you play electronica, the warm sound of this amp might not be the perfect fit for the stranger sounds you make. However, if you play jazz or rock, the sound produced by this amp is precisely what you need.
4. Roland KC-880
A monster. This amp is larger than the others we are reviewing today, but also comes with added power.
The Roland has been the choice of musicians who play large venues for some time now, and it is easy to see why. It delivers 320W of power across two channels, making it the most powerful amp we are reviewing. This power is used to drive two 12” woofers and two horn tweeters, and is louder than you will ever need.
The sound of this amp is also great, even when pushed to its limits, and so you don’t have to ever worry about being heard. It’s definitely not a Mini amp!
A monster. This amp is larger than the others we are reviewing today, but also comes with added power.
In addition, this keyboard amp comes with a number of extra features:
- The effects offered by this amp are great. Roland’s popular DSP effects come built in, meaning that you can easily find the perfect sound. If you are already using a smaller Roland keyboard amp, then this is great, as you can just transfer your favorite settings over to this amp.
- This amp has been designed to be flexible, so it offers stereo XLR outputs, a headphone out, and a stereo link. This stereo link can be used to chain this amp to other KC-880s, so if you are looking for an enormous sound system, consider getting a few!
- This has become the standard for professional keyboard players for a reason – it is incredibly durable. People we talked to for this review said that they constantly came across ten-year-old versions of this amp, which is a testament to its build quality and durability.
- Some of the people we talked to found that this amp was simply too large for them to carry around easily. Whilst it might be annoying lifting this amp into your car, the extra power it delivers is a must if you are playing huge venues!
- Your drummer will be annoyed, because at full power this amp will make you the loudest musician on the stage.
So which to choose?
Well, your choice of keyboard amp is yours. Some people prefer an amp that is small enough to carry around with them everywhere, others prioritize great sound quality. All of the amps we have reviewed today are a good choice, and we are confident that you will get many years of great service out of any of them.
There has to be a winner, though, and ours is the Roland KC-550. In our opinion, this is simply the most flexible keyboard amp available today, offering the power and effects of much larger amps whilst being small enough to easily travel around with!
If you have been using a guitar amp up until now, trust us – get this keyboard amp, and you will never go back!