Are you looking for a reliable home piano that looks good in your living room, but isn’t a space hog? Do you need an instrument that plays and sounds like a real grand piano but won’t break your budget? If so, perhaps the Korg B1 Digital Piano is the right choice for you.
Don’t let its slim profile fool you. It has a full 88-key weighted piano-style action and the built-in sounds of a concert grand piano and seven other instruments.
Yet, it costs a tiny fraction of what you’d pay for an acoustic piano, and less than many competing digital piano brands. And it includes some handy additional features that only a digital instrument could provide.
So, let’s look more closely at what the Korg B1 can and can’t do…
Size & Profile
The Korg B1 has a sleek, compact design. Less than 14 inches deep, it’s ideal for any location where space is at a premium. And it weighs just 26 pounds, so it’s easy to move around. You can get it in black or white, to suit your décor.
The music rest is not included. Its innovative design features a page retention pocket that keeps pages from unexpectedly turning when you’re playing. It can accommodate music books as large as 3/8 of an inch (1 centimeter).
The Korg B1 Digital Piano relies on its NH keyboard action. Naturally-weighted hammers have a touch that is heaviest at the low end, becoming gradually lighter toward the high end, just like a real piano.
Unlike a traditional acoustic piano, you can quickly adjust the keyboard’s dynamic response to match your style of playing. For a wider dynamic range, choose the Lighter setting.
The keys on the B1 are plastic. Though they feel solid, they don’t absorb moisture from your fingers as does a real piano keyboard with wooden keys.
The Korg B1 includes a rugged damper pedal (sometimes mistakenly called a “sustain” pedal). However, for realistic piano performance, you should get the PU-2 triple pedal unit, sold separately. It provides all the three pedals normally found on a grand piano. These include a damper pedal that sustains every note you play, a sostenuto pedal that sustains only the notes you hold down before the pedal is pressed, and a soft (“una corda”) pedal.
Realistic Piano Sound
As with all digital pianos, the Korg B1 uses samples of the notes of real instruments. This technology is referred to by Korg as PCM Stereo Sampling. For added realism, the B1 also uses samples of damper and sympathetic string resonance.
Overall, the piano sound is excellent. But, Korg doesn’t say what brand and model of piano was used to develop this instrument.
The B1 actually comes loaded with three piano sounds: concert piano, jazz piano, and “ballad piano.”
The Korg B1 also includes the sounds of other keyboard instruments. To cycle through and select an alternate sound, press the SOUND repeatedly. The other available instruments are electric piano (1 and 2), harpsichord, pipe organ, and electric organ.
Depending on the instrument selected, the maximum polyphony – the number of notes that can sound at once – is 40, 60, or 120 notes at once. In particular, the main concert piano has a maximum polyphony of 40 notes. This is generally enough, though you might notice some notes drop out if you play several large chords with the damper pedal depressed.
Built-in amp & Speakers
The Korg B1 includes a stereo amplifier that can output 9 watts per channel and a pair of 2-by-4-inch oval speakers with passive radiators. A single headphone jack is also provided on the back of the instrument.
Sophisticated Motional Feedback (MFB) technology is employed to emulate the rich tones of an acoustic piano, particularly enhancing the low frequency response. In use, the velocity of the speaker cone movement is detected by servos, and a compensating signal is fed back to the
Digital Reverb & Chorus
You can use the Korg B1’s built-in digital reverb effect to add extra room ambiance to an instrument, and also assign the chorus effect to give any sound a sense of motion.
In some respects, a digital piano like the Korg B1 is an improvement over a true acoustic piano.
You can quickly adjust the overall pitch, setting “Concert A” anywhere between 427.5 – 452.5 Hertz, or reset it to the stand A=440 Hz. You can also transpose the entire instrument up five semitones or down six semitones.
The Korg B1 includes a built-in metronome, which you can set to 40 – 240 beats per minute. Optionally, you can specify the number of beats per measure (2 – 6) and assign an accent to the first beat. While it’s convenient to have this feature built-in, it has limited functionality compared with free metronome apps available for smartphones.
Built-in Demo Songs
The Korg B1 includes eight demo songs, one for each instrument. To play a song, press the SOUND and PIANO PLAY buttons and press the appropriate key on the keyboard (as shown in the manual). The song will play immediately, then the other songs will play in order, and the whole cycle will repeat.
Aside from providing a music store with a tool to help sell the instrument, the only obvious use of this feature is to become familiar with the different sounds.
This is almost a secret feature of the Korg B1 Digital Piano, barely mentioned in the regular instructions that come with it. Partner Mode splits the keyboard in the middle (between D# and E above Middle C), and transposes the left half up 2 octaves and the right half down 2 octaves. To select it, hold down the METRONOME button while turning the power on.
Partner Mode can be an important teaching aid. It enables two people, for example, a student and teacher, to sit side by side and play in the same range of notes.
So What Can’t The Korg B1 Do?
A primary reason that the Korg B1 is less expensive than similar products is because of what it can’t do, that others can. For example, you can’t record even a single-track performance, much less create a multitrack recording. And while you can play the built-in demo songs, you can’t download other songs to play.
The B1 comes with just eight sounds installed. Although they sound great, you don’t get a vibraphone, xylophone, or strings. And you can’t layer two sounds to play at the same time or split the keyboard with different instruments for each half.
Also, the Korg B1 lacks USB connectivity. That means it can’t send or receive MIDI data or otherwise communicate with any app on your computer or
Korg B1 Digital Piano Pros & Cons
- Realistic keyboard response.
- Excellent sounds.
- Lightweight, portable, and unobtrusive.
- Handy (optional) music desk.
- Full set of pedals available separately.
- Partner Mode is good for teaching.
- Limited number of instruments.
- No song recorder.
- Can’t load MIDI songs to play.
- Can’t split the keyboard or layer sounds.
Other Korg Options
If you like the B1, but are looking for some other options available from Korg, it’s well worth checking out our in-depth reviews of the Korg SV188BK 88 Key Digital Piano, the Korg SP280 Digital Piano, the Korg LP380 88 Key Digital Piano, and our Korg SP170S review, and our Korg Krome review.
With the Korg B1 Digital Piano, you get what you pay for: excellent sounds and a keyboard that feels very good, in a lightweight cabinet that takes up very little space in a room. And the music desk is well-designed.
On the other hand, the B1 lacks several features that would make it more versatile, especially as a more modern teaching tool. You can’t record your performances, play along with digital sheet music, or use any apps to automatically monitor your practice.
The Korg B1 Digital Piano does an excellent job of emulating the sound and feel of a real piano, without making you pay more for a lot of extra features. If that’s what you are looking for, this might be your first choice.