If you’re a performing keyboardist, whether a solo act or in a band, then you need some manner of amplification. But what’s the best keyboard amplifier to get? Or is that even your best option?
- Do You Really Need a Keyboard Amplifier?
- Important Keyboard Amp Features & Specifications
- Top 8 Best Keyboard Amplifier In 2020 Reviews
- 1 Roland Mobile Cube Battery Powered
- 2 Behringer Ultratone K450X 45-Watt 3-Channel PA System
- 3 Behringer Ultratone 900FX
- 4 Roland KC-80 3 Channel Mixing Keyboard Amplifier
- 5 Behringer Keyboard Amplifier
- 6 Peavey KB5 Keyboard Amplifier
- 7 Hammond Leslie LS2215 Keyboard Amplifier
- 8 Laney Amps AudioHub 300 Keyboard Amplifier
- Needs Some Quality Amplifiers?
- So, What Are The Best Keyboard Amplifiers To Buy?
- Best Keyboard Amplifiers – The Last Word
Do You Really Need a Keyboard Amplifier?
You might be wondering if you should invest in an amplifier that’s made specifically for keyboards, or just plug your instrument into a powered speaker, your bandmate’s extra guitar amp or a PA system. You can, but a keyboard amp provides significant benefits.
So, let’s examine this idea in more depth…
Quite simply, the sound you’ll get from a guitar amp won’t sound very good. For one, its input levels, frequency response, and tone controls are optimized for guitar pickups. And many amps are made to sound a little “dirty” to give a guitar some extra crunch.
Most importantly, guitar speakers are designed for the range of the guitar, about 85 Hz to 5 kHz. Keyboard speakers need at least an extra octave at each end. If you run your keyboard at high volume through a guitar amp, you may even risk damaging the speaker.
For larger venues, you’ll probably want to run your keyboard rig through the house public address (PA) system. This is because even larger keyboard amps can’t deliver the sound levels required.
But you still need a good amp for private practice, rehearsals, and smaller concerts. And even for the biggest performance spaces, a keyboard amp gives you control over your sound and also serves as your personal monitor.
Now that’s covered…
If you’re already familiar with the technical aspects of musical instrument amplifiers and you just want to compare models, feel free to skip the next section.
Important Keyboard Amp Features & Specifications
Let’s now take a look at the various significant features available and relevant technical specs, to help you to decide which keyboard amp is best for you.
The more power your amp produces, the louder it sounds. Power is measured in watts. But not all watt ratings are the same.
Manufacturers of traditional amp designs (Class A, B, or AB) usually refer to RMS power, an abbreviation of “Root Mean Square.” It gives an accurate picture of an amplifier’s true performance.
You might also see “power consumption,” which is how much juice an amp draws from the AC power line (most of which turns into heat). Also, “peak instantaneous power” indicates the maximum power an amp can produce for a few milliseconds to handle transients.
Class D amplifiers switch on and off at a very high speed. The pulses are then filtered to reproduce the audio. They’re extremely efficient and thus can be made very lightweight because no bulky transformers or heat sinks are required.
But RMS measurements are meaningless for Class D amps. So manufacturers have devised other methods to rate their amps, often resulting in inflated power figures. As a rough rule of thumb, divide the listed rating of a Class D amp by 4 to determine the comparable RMS power of a traditional design.
This depends primarily on your performance environment. If you’re busking on the sidewalk with the audience drawn close around you, a portable amp with an output of 5 or 10 watts RMS might be enough. Obviously, a large hall requires bigger speakers and much more power. And outdoor venues also require more; with very few reflections, the sound quickly dissipates.
Keep in mind that many venues either mic your amp or send the line outputs to the house PA. In this case, the amp functions as your personal monitor. For many gigs, 40 or 50 watts is sufficient. But more power is always better, cost and weight considerations aside. A 200-watt amp set to “3” will sound much cleaner than a 40-watt amp on “9”.
Inputs & Outputs
How many audio sources do you have? Maybe your amp is only for a single keyboard. Or perhaps you have several, or a guitar, and you want to plug in a microphone, too. Guitars and mics need high-impedance (Hi Z) inputs, and mics generally use 3-pin XLR connectors. Keyboards and other electronic instruments require a line input.
Preamp outputs connect your amp to a PA system while using your amp as your monitor. A Sub out, lets you plug in a separate subwoofer. Also handy are “effects loops,” pairs of jacks that let you patch your favorite effects pedals into the preamp circuit.
Most keyboard amps have a single speaker or multiple speakers connected as a single mono output. But the amp itself might offer stereo inputs, processing, and output, so you can send a stereo signal to a PA system. Even if you don’t need that now, it’s nice to have available.
Larger speakers can handle more power and lower bass frequencies without “breaking up” with serious distortion. But they tend to favor lower frequencies, so a large bass and midrange speaker (“woofer”) is usually paired with a small treble speaker or horn (“tweeter”), to cover the entire range of the instrument. Some larger systems might include an additional midrange speaker.
Woofers for stage use are usually 12 or 15 inches across, although sometimes multiple 10-inch speakers are used. Some amp cabinets include strategically-placed holes called “ports” to extend the bass response.
Keyboard amps usually provide several channels, so you can plug in multiple keyboards or instruments, microphones, and even stereo sources such as MP3 players. This lets the amp control all the audio for practice or small performances. In addition to its own volume control, each channel should have tone controls (EQ), plus an FX send level if the amp includes built-in effects.
All the keyboard amp models reviewed here provide some degree of control over the EQ. This can be as simple as a single tone knob that makes the sound brighter, or separate bass, midrange, and treble controls. Some amps include a multiband EQ with sliders, so you can see your tonal contour at a glance. Generally, more EQ is better.
Some amps that are designed to work with a keyboard, guitar, and other instruments have “voicing” switches to give the instrument a classic tone.
A built-in signal processor (DSP) can provide digital effects (FX). The most common FX for keyboard are reverb, chorus, and delay, but some amps offer a wide selection of 100 or more. Generally, only one effect (or multi-effect combination) is available at a time for all channels.
Generally, more powerful amplifiers require more and larger speakers and stronger cabinets. Watt for watt, tube amps, with their bulky transformers are heavier than solid-state models. Class D amps produce less heat and are usually much lighter. If portability is a factor, one possibility is a smaller amp plus an extension speaker cabinet.
Now let’s evaluate some real amp models…
Top 8 Best Keyboard Amplifier In 2020 Reviews
1 Roland Mobile Cube Battery Powered
The Roland Mobile Cube is the keyboard amp to grab when you have to be extremely portable. You can carry it in one hand or even on the back of a bicycle.
Several inputs let you connect a keyboard, acoustic or electric guitar, or other mono or stereo instrument, plus an MP3 player and a microphone. And the Mobile Cube is a true stereo amplifier. Its dual 4-inch speakers are each powered by a 2.5-watt amp.
The single tone control acts as a treble cut and boost. Built-in stereo effects include reverb, delay, and chorus. A separate rotary switch lets you select a normal or “fat” keyboard tone and several guitar settings. A “center canceler” button removes sounds of equal volume and phase on both inputs, useful for eliminating vocals on an MP3 recording for karaoke or practice.
The Mobile Cube is just 11-1/16 x 4-1/4 x 7 inches (280 x 108 x 177 mm) and weighs only 5.51 pounds (2.5 kg). A carrying strap is included, and it’s easily mounted on a mic stand.
Best of all, it runs on six (included!) AA batteries, so you can use it anywhere. An optional AC adaptor is also available.
If 5 watts isn’t enough, Roland also offers the battery-powered KC-220, with 15+15 watts.
- Battery-powered to go anywhere.
- Very lightweight.
- Stereo amp and effects.
- Low power not suitable for many performance situations.
- Single tone control.
2 Behringer Ultratone K450X 45-Watt 3-Channel PA System
Behringer is known for delivering exceptional bang for the buck, and the Ultratone K450K amplifier is no exception. It provides three mono input channels, each with volume and FX send level controls, plus a music player input for practice or performance breaks. Channel 1 includes both 1/4-inch line and XLR dynamic mic inputs.
The K450X delivers 45 watts to a 10-inch Bugera woofer made by Behringer, plus a 1-inch dome tweeter. It also includes a subwoofer output, a line output for connecting to a mixing board, a headphone jack and a jack for an optional footswitch to turn FX on or off.
In addition to master volume and FX return controls, the main section has a 5-band graphic EQ (60, 250, 1k, 3.5, 12k). It’s equipped with Behringer’s proprietary FBQ feedback detection system to pinpoint and eliminate feedback.
The effects selector can choose from 100 24-bit FX presets, including reverb, delay, chorus, phaser, flanger and pitch shift, plus several multi-effects. The DSP sample rate is 40 kHz, a little less than CD quality.
The K450X measures 17.36 x 11.77 x 16.5 inches (441 x 299 x 419 mm) and weighs 34.8 pounds (15.8 kg). It includes a 5-mm pole socket for stand mounting, so you can use it as a PA system.
- Three input channels.
- 100 effects.
- 5-band EQ with feedback detection.
- Subwoofer output.
- Lightweight, with stand mounting option.
- Mono only.
- FX parameters are not adjustable.
3 Behringer Ultratone 900FX
The Behringer Ultratone 900FX is basically a 450FX on steroids. It has the same input channels, 5-band EQ with FBQ feedback detection, 24-bit FX, and auxiliary outputs.
But the 900FX gives you a full 90 watts and a 12-inch speaker. It’s slightly larger, at 19.37 x 11.77 x 16.89 inches (492 x 299 x 429 mm) and weighs 39.9 pounds (18.1 kg). Like the 450FX, it includes a stand mount.
- Double the power of the 450FX.
- Bigger speaker.
- More expensive.
4 Roland KC-80 3 Channel Mixing Keyboard Amplifier
Keyboard players have long relied on Roland KC amps for their power, features, and reliability. The latest generation carries on the tradition, with innovations designed to meet the needs of contemporary musicians. In addition to the 50-watt mono KC-80, Roland also offers models KC-60 (40 watts), KC-200 (100 watts), KC-400 (150 watts), and KC-600 (200 watts), plus the true stereo KC-990.
The KC-80 provides three line input channels for keyboards, electronic drums, or other electronic instruments, plus a dedicated input for a music player. Channel 1 also includes an XLR ic connector.
Unlike many of the amps reviewed, the KC-80 provides no built-in FX or effects loop. Keyboardists will have to connect their pedals to the inputs. A 2-band equalizer with traditional knobs controls overall low and high-frequency levels.
The amp powers a 10-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. Other options include a subwoofer output, a mono line output for a PA system, and a headphone output with volume control. All input and output jacks are metal.
The KC-80 is 16-9/16 x 11-13/16 x 16-3/16 inches (420 x 300 x 410 mm), and weighs 27.6 pounds (12.5 kg). It’s built to stand up to heavy gigging, with a sturdy open metal grill to protect the speaker from accidents.
- Plenty of inputs for a small amp.
- Rugged build.
- Subwoofer out.
- No built-in FX or effects loop.
- Very basic EQ.
5 Behringer Keyboard Amplifier
Next, in our rundown of the Best Keyboard Amplifiers, we have the Behringer KXD12. This comes loaded with features, including a remarkable bi-amped Class D amplifier driving a Turbosound 12-inch speaker and a 1-inch tweeter. It’s rated at an amazing 600 watts, but it’s not nearly as loud as a traditional 600-watt Class AB amp, as explained in our introduction.
You get a stereo mixer with four (stereo or mono) line input channels, each with volume and FX send controls. Channel 1 doubles as a dynamic mic input. There’s also a stereo aux input for a music player. A headphone jack and volume control are on the front panel.
A Klark Teknik DSP provides a selection of 100 24-bit true stereo effects and combinations, with a master FX return level control. Also provided are master volume and FX return knobs, and a 7-band graphic EQ (63, 160, 400, 2.5k, 6.3k, and 16k Hz, +/- 12 dB) with Behringer’s FBQ feedback detection system.
The KXD12 provides both 1/4-inch TRS and XLR stereo line outputs for a PA, a subwoofer out, and a connection for an optional footswitch. And Stereo Link inputs and outputs work as an effects loop or to connect another amp to get more channels.
With all that power, it’s still portable, at just 18.5 x 17.4 x 11.7 inches (470 x 442 x 297 mm) and 40.3 pounds (18.3 kg). It doesn’t include a pole mount. Designed and engineered in Germany and manufactured in China, it includes a 3-year warranty.
- 7-band EQ with FBQ
- True stereo FX and mixing.
- Attractively priced.
- 3-year warranty.
- Not as loud as a 600-watt Class AB amp.
- No pole mount for PA stand.
6 Peavey KB5 Keyboard Amplifier
The KB 5 features four independent stereo line-level channels. Channel 4 can also be used as a dynamic mic input and includes its own mono effects send and return. There’s also a separate monitor input and a main stereo effects loop.
Each channel has its own EQ controls. Channels 1-3 have 2-band low and high knobs, while channel 4 adds a midrange control. No DSP is included.
The amp powers a pair of 10-inch speakers and a 1-inch tweeter, with a rated frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. Other outputs include a pair of XLR line out connectors, a headphone out, and a jack for an extension speaker cabinet (which increases the output to 200 watts). Other features include a button to engage Peavey’s DDT speaker protection circuitry, and a ground lift switch.
The KB 5 is a heavy 94 pounds (42.7 kg), but Peavey provides a solution. Two large casters and a tall removable metal handle attached to the back lets you roll it around easily.
- Stereo mixer.
- EQ on each channel.
- DDT speaker protection.
- Easily movable in spite of weight.
- No built-in DSP.
7 Hammond Leslie LS2215 Keyboard Amplifier
The company whose rotating speaker gave the Hammond organ its iconic sound brings some serious firepower to the stage, with the Leslie LS2215. It pumps 200 watts RMS into a (stationary) 15-inch woofer and two 4-inch midrange speakers. Two ports in the front of the cabinet provided enhanced bass response. The sound is powerful and distortion-free, able to cut through a mix.
The stereo preamp section has virtually identical channels labeled “Keyboard” and “Instrument”. Both have stereo unbalanced inputs, 3-band EQ, and an effects loop. The Instrument channel conveniently includes a passive/active switch to attenuate the input 6 dB. The microphone channel includes both 1/4-inch and XLR connectors and a 3-band EQ, but no effects loop. Additionally, an aux input has a volume control only.
The preamp’s master section provides a level control plus an additional 3-band EQ. There’s also a headphone output.
Stereo line outputs on the back include both unbalanced 1/4-inch and balanced XLR connectors, with an additional master volume control and a master effects loop.
It’s a big cabinet, 29-3/16 x 21-5/8 x 13 inches (760 x 565 x 332 mm), but designed to fit into the back of an SUV or truck. It’s also heavy and very solidly made, but manageable at 70 pounds (31.8 kg), especially with the heavy-duty recessed carrying handles. And it’s available in either black Tolex or tweed.
- 200 watts RMS.
- Incredible sound.
- 3-channel EQ on inputs and master.
- Passive/active instrument switch.
- More expensive than many other models.
- No built-in FX.
8 Laney Amps AudioHub 300 Keyboard Amplifier
Laney Amplification has been a renowned UK guitar musical instrument amplifier manufacturer since 1967 and is still run by its founder, Lyndon Laney. Their AH 300 Keyboard Amplifier is the pinnacle of their AudioHub series, which also includes the AH 150 and AH 40, plus the portable 5-watt AH Freestyle.
The AH 300 is a powerhouse, rated at 300 watts RMS, with a 15-inch custom-designed woofer and a high-frequency horn. The unique 5-sided “kickback” cabinet can be used upright or tilted up toward the performer.
This amp provides five line input channels with a wide variety of options. Channels 1 – 4 all have 1/4-inch jacks and controls for level, FX send, and 2-band EQ (+/- 15 dB). Channel 5 has RCA jacks and a level control only.
Channel 1 offers mono line and low-impedance mic inputs. While Channel 2 is optimized for a high-impedance microphone or instrument (like a guitar). Channels 3 and 4 have dual jacks for a mono or stereo source. Channel 5 has RCA connectors for a music player, with level and FX send controls.
An FX section lets you choose among 16 preset digital effects, with an on-off button and an FX return level control. While the versatile master section includes a 5-band master graphic EQ (100, 340, 1k, 3.4k, and 10k Hz) that controls the full mix. There’s also a mono line out with a master level control.
Additionally, a number of other input and output options are available. Aux In with a 3.5 mm jack lets you connect an MP3 player. Alt Out is a balanced mono, pre-EQ, and master volume output for connecting to a PA. And a headphone output has its own volume control.
At the back of the chassis is an effects loop for channels 1 – 4, a jack for an optional FX footswitch, and an extension speaker output.
The AH300 is built to last, with carpet covering, recessed handles, and a metal grill. But it’s not as heavy as some other models reviewed here, weighing in at 52 pounds (23.6 kg).
- Five channels with numerous input options.
- 300 watts of RMS power.
- Rugged cabinet with “kickback” design.
- Mono signal routing throughout.
- More expensive than other models reviewed.
Needs Some Quality Amplifiers?
You may also need a new amplifier for another instrument or need a recommendation for someone else in your band? Either way, it’s well worth checking out our reviews of the Best Tube Amps, the Best Solid State Amps, the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers, the Best Modeling Amps, and the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 200 Dollars currently available.
So, What Are The Best Keyboard Amplifiers To Buy?
There’s a wide choice of outstanding amps available, so we’re going to waffle a bit on our best amplifier for keyboard choices.
Best Overall Keyboard Amp
Our top pick is the… Laney AH 300.
This amp is a monster that will make you sound better than you really are. With 300 watts, five channels, and a convenient cab design, it’s hard to find fault with this one.
Virtually tied for the top spot is the… Hammond Leslie LS2215.
This is the one to get if you need a stereo mix. Three-band EQ on each instrument channel and a 3-speaker configuration give it high marks.
Best Budget Keyboard Amp
If your budget is tight, but you want adequate power and a ton of features, our top choice is the… Behringer Ultratone K900FX.
You get 90 watts and a 12-inch speaker, it weighs less than 40 pounds, and the price is very attractive.
Best Portable Keyboard Amp
For street performance or just jamming anywhere, portability is the main issue, and the… Roland Mobile Cube
…wins this category hands down.
Best Keyboard Amplifiers – The Last Word
Ultimately, your choice of keyboard amp depends on where and how you perform. You might need a small amp for home practice and a larger one for gigs. But you can’t go wrong with any of the models we’ve reviewed.