It’s been a while since we covered an instrument from Korg. We looked previously at their D1 digital piano, which was an enjoyable experience, featuring excellent sounds and one of the better key actions in that price range.
The only minor annoyance was the lack of onboard speakers, which was a deal breaker for most players without access to an amp or external speakers.
Even so, we’ve always loved instruments from this Japanese company.
Their Kronos, Krome and Kross workstation lines are used on stages and studios worldwide, and their latest attempts at bringing classic, analog synthesis back to the forefront with their Minilogue and Volca series has been met with near unanimous praise.
While digital pianos haven’t been Korg’s main focus, their long-running experience in instrument manufacturing ensures that there’s always a degree of polish and quality with their products.
Today we’ll be looking at an update to Korg’s B1 line, their series of beginner, entry-level digital pianos, first released in 2016.
However, that’s not to say it’s perfect. As we covered in our sub-$500 digital piano breakdown (which coincidentally featured the Korg B1), beginner digital pianos cut corners to reach a budget price point, and the B2 is no different.
The questions to answer here is whether the B2 is worth your money, and whether it stacks up against our top digital piano picks for under $500.
Let’s jump straight in.
Korg B2/B2SP Specs
- 88-key fully weighted keyboard with matte black keytops
- Natural Weighted Action (NH)
- Touch Sensitivity (Light, Normal, Heavy)
- Sound: Stereo PCM
- 120-note polyphony
- 12 instrument sounds (5 pianos)
- Modes: Duo (Partner Mode)
- Metronome, Transpose, Fine-tuning
- Speakers: 15W + 15W
- Connections: Headphone jack, Audio In jack, Damper Pedal jack, USB type B (audio and MIDI support)
- W x D x H: 51.6″ x 13.2″ x 4.6″ (131.2 x 33.6 x 11.7 cm)
- B2 – 25.1 lbs (11.4 kg); B2SP – 46.3 lbs (21 kg)
Check the availability and current price of the Korg B2 in your region:
The B2-series actually features 3 models, one more than its preceding series.
This includes the standard B2, the B2SP (that includes a wooden furniture-style stand plus a 3-pedal setup), and the lightweight B2N (that reduces its weight by a full 2 kg / 4.4 lbs).
Since we’re looking at physical specifications, let’s quickly compare these 3 models:
Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the Korg B2 and B2SP are relatively similar, and they’re right. Like its predecessors, these digital pianos are only differentiated by the inclusion of a furniture-style stand and a 3-pedal setup.
This gives the Korg B2SP a faux furniture-style look, ideal for people who want something that fits in with your living room.
The Korg B2, on the other hand, feels more streamlined and is naturally less bulky with no stand.
There’s more to say about the B2N, but we’ll cover specifics in the respective sections.
Our review focuses mainly on the base Korg B2 model, but the following design comments should apply to all models.
In terms of weight, 25.1 lbs (11.4 kg) is a good place to be for home-based use and practice. Most entry-level digital pianos fall into this weight class, and it’s ideal if you need to store the B2 when you’re done.
Dimensions are fairly standard and the B2 falls in line with most other digital pianos. A slightly unique aspect of the B2 is its large speaker grill located on the front panel, above the keybed and controls.
Note that the B2SP’s exaggerated height includes the stand, hence the extra 23.6″ (60 cm).
For colors, the B2 comes in black and white, just like its predecessor. I personally like the white color myself, as it oozes a certain degree of class. The lightweight B2N model only comes in black, however.
Control-wise, things are very basic. Apart from the volume knob, all the features are operated from a few buttons, requiring occasional key/button combos. The feel of the knobs and buttons are passable.
The buttons don’t have a lot of travel and don’t protrude much, making them feel less intuitive. The knob feels a bit cheap, with not much resistance, but at least precise volume changes are possible.
While I always prefer dedicated buttons for each specific feature, this is standard practice, and we can’t nit-pick at this price point.
Speaking of nit-picks, I wish Korg included a simple display with the update. It can be hard to tell what sound is active and what tempo the metronome is currently set to.
As a price-cutting measure, it’s fine. Most sub-$500 digital pianos (not keyboards) forgo a display.
If you go with the B2 or B2N, the included damper pedal is shaped like a true piano sustain pedal, a step above the commonly bundled square-pad pedals. Even so, this pedal acts as a simple binary on-off switch, meaning half-pedaling isn’t supported.
However, the B2 sound module features half-pedal support, as the B2SP’s 3-pedal system detects half-damper signals.
If you want to take full advantage of Korg’s multisamples (more on this in the Sound section), you can purchase this pedal unit as a separate accessory.
For reasons we’ll cover in the Accessories section, you can’t use other pedals that support half-damper functionality (such as Korg’s excellent DS-1H).
I’d say the B2’s design is nearly identical to the past B1, and I’ll reiterate what we said about it before. It’s a no-frills experience, and for a beginner, that’s really all you need.
The design of the B2 isn’t its strong suit, and sadly, neither is the keyboard. That said, I’d like to state that these key actions aren’t bad. There’s just better options out there.
The B2 and B2SP use Korg’s NH (Natural Weighted Hammer Action) keyboard, which is identical to the keys of the previous B1 series.
This key action is fairly basic, and it stacks up with Yamaha’s GHS action, with a bit less heft on down presses.
If you’ve read our reviews, you know we’re not huge fans of Yamaha’s entry-level action. The same comments we have apply to Korg’s offering.
In play, the keys are alright. The keybed is velocity-sensitive, so harder keypresses emit louder sounds. This response can be modified on the front panel, and you can choose between 3 preset levels (light, normal, and heavy).
The normal preset is the default and feels perfectly fine for typical piano playing.
The keybed responds as you’d expect, though rapid repeated key presses sometimes fail to register (we’re talking really fast though). The keys are graded, so the keys at the lower registers are heavier than those at higher registers.
The white key surfaces are glossy, and the black keys have a matte finish, differing from the textured synthetic ivory and ebony surfaces featured on many modern digital pianos.
This is not a big deal (especially since many real pianos are glossy), but it means you might have some slippage issues while playing.
It’s hard to describe how these keys feel (which is why I’d recommend testing every digital piano before you purchase one), but among the same keys in this category, I’d rank them as follows:
- Roland’s PHA-4 Standard (as featured on the Roland FP10)
- Kawai’s RHC (as included on the ES110)
- Casio’s Tri-Sensor Hammer Action (as used on the Casio PX-160)
- Tie between Korg’s NH and Yamaha’s GHS (as used on the P-125)
Again, we’d like to reiterate that the NH and GHS action aren’t bad, despite being placed low. There are just better options that feel better subjectively.
We should also discuss the B2N, which uses a redesigned variation of the B2’s action with some weights removed. This arrangement reduces the overall mass of the digital piano, but at the cost of a natural feeling keybed.
We previously reviewed the Stage 3, whose HP76 model used a lighter keybed, and that felt excellent, retaining the expressiveness of fully-weighted keys, along with a good degree of dynamic control.
The NT action on the B2N attempts to do the same, but with less than spectacular results. These keys feel too light for my tastes, and dynamics are a lot harder to control.
In fact, I found myself tuning the touch sensitivity to the heavy setting just to play soft notes, so be sure to give it a test drive if you’re interested.
Sounds were a mixed bag on the B1. While you only get 8 voices, the actual sounds were highly detailed.
While some might turn their noses at the use of PCM sampling technology (a basic form of audio playback without the cool software additions you’d expect from technology like Roland’s SuperNATURAL or Kawai’s Harmonic Imaging), Korg uses multisamples to great effect.
Multisampling here means that each note you play triggers up to 3 samples simultaneously. For example, the Italian grand triggers 3 samples per note, which is pretty impressive for a budget digital piano.
It’s also worth noting that sympathetic and damper resonance is included on the B2 and all its variations. These simulations emulate how neighboring strings are vibrated when you play a note, which further enhances realism.
Essentially, if I were to play one key three times in a row, the B2 has a chance of triggering different samples each time, recreating the experience of playing a real piano, where no two notes ever sound the same.
I love the attention to detail here, and it also helps that the samples themselves sound great, especially when you run them through the direct outputs.
The default sound is the German Concert Piano, which, by name and sound seems to be a sampled Bösendorfer concert grand, more suited for classical pieces with its deep bass frequencies.
The same piano was also sampled for the Classic Piano preset, which has a less-roomy, more ‘intimate’ tone.
My personal favorite was the Italian Concert Piano sound, which isn’t too obvious about what it’s sampled from. Regardless, this has a very pleasant sound that fits in with practically any playing style from classical to modern accompaniment.
The Italian Concert Piano has a somewhat Yamaha-ish tone, with no overly pronounced frequencies, so it’s my go-to for use with the B2.
The same piano was sampled for Jazz piano and Ballad piano presets. The former has an upright-style tone, and the Ballad piano sound has a more ‘close-up.’
The organs and electric pianos are good, if a bit limited in terms of malleability. I’d prefer to be able to change the original amounts of vibrato and rotary speaker modulation, but that’s asking a bit much since this is an entry level instrument.
The strings are passable. These sounds are normally used for layering with a piano, but that mode isn’t present on the B2. In isolation, this sound is limited in its application.
Most digital pianos aimed at beginners are limited when it comes to effects, and the B2 doesn’t break the mold.
You get a reverb and a chorus effect, both of which have unchangeable, hard-coded settings. Korg claims the presets are tweaked to optimal settings, and I’ll agree.
The reverb adds some subtle ambience to the sound. Combined with the natural reverb in most of the presets, this makes the sound feel like it’s in a large room.
The chorus is also very subtle and adds a bit of width to the sound by adding detuned echoes to the sound. This is a good addition to most of the E. piano voices, so adding it to the Digital E. Piano sound means instant 80s pop.
With a limited sound set, Korg enables integration of their Korg Module app for iOS using the USB to Host port, which we’ll cover in the Connectivity section of our review.
The app is a high-quality library of sounds that you can actually download for free in App Store (not sure why Korg advertises the app as “bundled with the B2” if it’s free)
You get 100 presets split across pianos, organs, clavinets, strings, brass and synth sounds. Unlike the sounds included with the B2, you get some options to change the sound to your liking.
Other features include recorders, PDF sheet music support, and also practice features. The practice features are pretty handy and allow you upload your own tracks and slow them down at will.
Korg lists the B2 as having a maximum 120 voices of polyphony, in line with the other competitors in this price range.
120 notes of polyphony is good enough for most pieces, classical or modern.
However, Korg mentions in the manual that certain sounds trigger two or three samples per note played. Case in point, the only sound that has true 120 note polyphony is the Stage Electric.
The Italian Concert, Jazz, and Ballad piano sounds (the best of the bunch in my opinion) have only 40 notes of polyphony, whereas everything else has 60.
40 notes is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum but still adequate for most pianists (even full-range glissando chords are fine).
It also hugely depends on the software and how it allocates memory to avoid noticeable note cut offs. While testing the B2, I didn’t have issues with polyphony.
The Korg B2 and B2SP upgrades the dual 9W speakers from the B1, and they sound alright, though by no means impressive.
Having front-firing speakers, as opposed to the back- or bottom-firing variants of other manufacturers, means a better, cleaner sound less affected by surface reflections.
The speakers are good, as Korg implements Motional Feedback (MFB) technology, which reproduces bass frequencies by moving the speaker cone to correspond with necessary frequencies. This prevents the common ‘tinny’ tone that you might hear from other instruments in this price range.
At higher volumes, these speakers sound good, though perhaps too bright at high frequencies.
Speaking of cranking up the volume, these speakers don’t break up as easily. Even at full volume, distortions are minimal.
That said, these speakers are good enough for practice and clean enough that you won’t miss minor mistakes. Still, I’d go with an external amp if you’re playing for a large room or gathering.
The B2N uses the 9W speakers from the B1 so our same comments apply.
As an entry level digital piano, the Korg B2 doesn’t have a wide feature set.
That’s not a bad thing though. Digital pianos in this price range are meant to facilitate practice, and the more features you have the easier it is to get distracted.
So how does the B2 and its variants fare for beginners?
Let’s evaluate the features.
Korg includes a Partner Mode on the B2, which splits the keyboard into two halves, each having the same key range. This allows teachers to play alongside their students for easy reference and is quite effective, especially for one-on-one lessons.
Most digital pianos and keyboards come with layer and split modes. Sadly, Korg failed to include these modes in the B2 series.
That said, I don’t feel the sting of these absences very much.
Split mode is a discipline performing keyboardists should master. Sadly, that no bass sounds are included with the B2 means you can’t really practice this aspect much.
Having no layer mode also stings, but when you consider the already limited polyphony, layer mode (which plays multiple sounds at once) would be pretty limited.
3-Month Premium Skoove Plan
Skoove is an online piano tutorial platform that’s gaining traction, and the Korg B2 comes with 3 months free.
This benefits more than beginners. While using the app, you can choose immediately which level to start from, whether beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
The app is innovative too, as you don’t even need to connect your digital piano to the app by USB (though it would be ideal).
The device’s microphone can be used as an input as well, and note detection is spot on from our limited testing with an old iPad 2.
The basic Korg B2 series has some other settings that you can modify with button key combos.
1) Transposition. You can move up 5 semitones or down 6 semitones, giving you access to a full octave of expanded range.
2) Metronome. The Metronome button on the front panel turns the metronome on or off and also enables the modification of settings via button key combinations.
3) Metronome Settings. You can change the tempo (from 40 to 240 beats per minute), the time signature, and volume of the metronome click.
4) Master Tuning. The central tuning of the middle A can be modified from 427.5 Hz – 452.5Hz. The default is 440 Hz.
5) Demo Songs. Each preset has a corresponding demo song and can be played with a single button press.
Other functions exist, including some robust MIDI features like sending and receiving MIDI, Program Change, and Control Change data.
Also note that the B2 still doesn’t have an onboard recorder. To record Audio of MIDI, you’re have to use an external recorder.
This isn’t a particularly impressive suite of features, but all you need is present. Just bear in mind that other competing manufacturers do have a leg up in this area.
The B2 has all the standard connections you expect for a beginner’s digital piano.
The 1/8″ headphone out enables you to practice without disturbing the people around you. It also doubles as your main output for use with external amplifiers and speakers.
The pedal jack returns, and sadly Korg continues to use their proprietary jack last seen in the Korg B1. This jack is incompatible with all quarter-inch damper pedals available elsewhere, and that’s a shame.
The biggest downside is a lack of half-damper support, if you’re buying the B2 or the B2N. That feature is only available if you shell out for the PU-2 triple pedal unit, which adds quite a bit to the cost.
The Aux In mini jack is new and allows you to connect your phone or music player to play along with backing tracks or lessons. We complained about this with the Korg B1, so it’s nice to see the problem rectified.
A USB Type B port is also included and supports both MIDI and Audio data exchange.
For people wanting to use digital audio workstations or performance software, this is great, as you don’t need to have an external audio interface to use the sounds on the B2.
The USB to Host port also allows you to connect to mobile apps, such as the previously mentioned Skoove online lessons and the Korg Module app for more sounds.
I would have loved to see Bluetooth functionality, but not many digital pianos include it at this price point.
We already covered the included accessories for each variant of the B2 in our breakdown table, but here are a few extra purchases that might be worthwhile.
If you’re going with the B2 or B2N, you won’t get a matching furniture style stand. However, this isn’t a huge deal, as the B2’s front-firing speakers mean it feels right at home on any table or surface.
If you want a stand, you can purchase Korg’s matching STB1-BK/WH, which is the same stand included with the B2SP.
Most generic X- or Z-stands work with the B2 and are far more portable and affordable.
If you’re going with the B2 or the B2N, the included pedal is fine, but it doesn’t detect half-pedaling signals. If you really want that functionality, you have to purchase Korg’s PU-2 triple pedal setup (which comes with the B2SP).
Sadly, we can’t recommend Korg’s DS-1H pedal, as we usually do. The B2 series has a proprietary sustain pedal jack that only allows the use of the included pedals, which is a bummer.
Headphones come in very handy when you want to practice in private, focusing solely on your playing and not disturbing others nearby.
Moreover, a good pair of headphones will provide a clearer and more detailed sound compared to onboard speakers.
Check out this guide to learn how to choose the best-sounding headphones for your digital piano.
It’s hard to reach a verdict on the B2. On one hand, thanks to multisampling, it’s one of the best sounding digital pianos in this price range. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better sounding digital piano without moving up to the next price bracket.
However, the limited functionality of the B1 remains and is a massive downside to the B2, especially since other digital pianos have nearly standardized these extras.
Many upgrades to the B2 feel like Korg playing “catch up” rather than innovating, which is sad. We praised the Korg B1, but it’s 2019. Since the competition is sprinting ahead, it’s hard to recommend an ‘upgrade’ that only brings the bare minimum to the table.
The comments we shared for the B1 still apply here. Korg has once again created a digital piano that is no-frills (though one might say bare bones is a more accurate descriptor), though it certainly sounds amazing.
The new Italian Grand samples hit well above their weight class and are a fine addition to the B2-series. As we said in the beginning, Korg instruments sound great, and the B2 is a worthy addition to their lineup.
For beginners, you won’t be disappointed with the B2. It will serve you well when starting out. Just know that there are better options out there.
If versatility is what you’re looking for, there are other options that might give you more bang for your buck.
Check the availability and current price of the Korg B2 in your region:
Korg B2 vs Yamaha P-45 (Full Review)
The Yamaha P-45 is part of Yamaha’s P-series (the P stands for Portable) and is Yamaha’s most affordable piano featuring weighted hammer action.
While this piano is popular, it’s also quite basic and suffers from some of the same issues as the Korg B2, namely a lack of features.
The P-45 may be an alternative if you’re on a budget, but the downgrades are evident from the get-go. While the B2 uses dual 15W speakers, the P-45 uses dual 6W speakers that are noticeably weaker at delivering clear tones.
Polyphony is also on the weak side, as it features only 64 notes of polyphony. It is hard to compare this with the B2, as the B2 has varying polyphony depending on the currently selected sound.
Even so, the B2 sounds better. While I like Yamaha’s piano samples, their detail in the P-45 is lacking and doesn’t do the sound source justice. If you’re particular about sounds, the B2 wins. The B2 also features 12 sounds to the P-45’s 10.
Keys are somewhat even, as Korg’s NH action feels to Yamaha’s GHS action as featured on the P-45. I recommend testing both out to see which you prefer.
The P-45 features more modes though, including the standard Layer and Split mode, as well as a Duet mode, identical to the Partner mode on the B2.
Korg B2 vs Roland FP-10 (Full Review)
We often bring the FP-10 up when discussing entry-level digital pianos. It features the best keys in the price bracket, hands down.
The FP-10 uses Roland’s PHA-4 Standard keyboard, which is the same keys featured up to their midrange FP-60, which costs many times more.
These keys include escapement, triple-sensors, and also synthetic ivory key surfaces, making them feel excellent and a joy to play.
The keys aren’t the only pro here. The FP-10 uses the same sound engine as the FP-30, its big brother, so it includes Roland’s SuperNATURAL engine, which generates sound with more-involved techniques than the sample playback of the Korg B2.
While SuperNATURAL is an excellent sound engine, I personally think the B2 has the edge in sound. The pianos feel a bit more detailed on Korg’s B2, but it comes down to personal preference in the end.
The FP-10 wins outright in polyphony. While 96 notes seems worse on paper, the B2 has varying polyphony, so piano sounds have a maximum of 60 notes on the B2.
If you want a more complete list of alternatives, check out our list of Top Digital Pianos Below $500 article, where we list out our top choices.