Finding the right keyboard on a budget for a beginner can be fraught with many pitfalls. This guide is here to help you make your choice, whether you’re introducing someone to keyboards for the first time, or trying to nurture someone to realise their musical potential.
Today, we have a huge choice of instruments for all sorts of budgets. Choice is great, but how can you be sure that you’re going to get a return on your investment? Will Xmas Day’s delight turn into Boxing Day’s abject boredom? Or will that noisy gift be the first step on the road to superstardom? I’ve chosen five different options, each retailing for less than €150 which might just make your choice a bit easier.
Casio CT-S200 RD/WE/BK
First up, let’s start with a brand that has been around for well over 40 years of home and professional music technology. Synonymous with affordable home keyboards. Casio has a long and rich tradition here and in 2022, this reputation remains solid and intact. At around €145, the CT-S200 features a good quality, 61-note keyboard with full-size keys.
A pair of stereo speakers are built into the sleek case. That case also features a built-in carrying handle, essential for those first gigs in front of friends, family or assembled cuddly toys!
Don’t let this simple exterior fool you. The CT-S200 has 48-note polyphony (the number of notes that can be played simultaneously), a staggering 400 preset sounds and 77 preset rhythms. It also has the classic auto-accompaniment feature you would expect. Better still, it has the ability to connect to the free Chordana Play for Keyboard app, making this an ideal instrument to learn on.
Connections at the rear include USB (for MIDI and data transfer) as well as headphones and audio in so that you can play along with your favourite tracks. A music holder and power supply are included. For music on the move, you can power the unit with 6x AA batteries. You can have the CT-S2000 in either Red, White or Black; we’d go for the red one, because how cool does that look?
Casio CT-S200 RD
The Casio CTK-240 offers a basic approach and is squarely aimed at beginners with a smaller budget. It has a 49-key keyboard with 100 tones, 100 rhythms and 50 songs, as well as an auto accompaniment feature. A built-in music stand is supplied and there is no external connectivity except a power socket and headphone jack. However, it contains a built-in learning system and has battery power for portability.
This model is ideally suited to young children and adult beginners. The quality of tones is also not as good as models higher up the range, but perfectly adequate.
The PSR-F52 is the latest in a long line of powerful, well-made home keyboards from Yamaha aimed at beginners. It has a 61-note, full-size keyboard and a wealth of built-in sounds, rhythms and songs. Yamaha has designed the F52 for the whole world and it features a wide range of global and ethnic styles to suit a huge variety of tastes.
Like the Casio CTK-240, it doesn’t feature any connectivity other than mains power and a headphone jack. You will want to bear this in mind in case its intended user wants to expand as a lack of MIDI makes this very much a standalone unit.
The drop in specification is to be expected at this price point. The F52 comes with a power supply, battery power and music stand. We’d go for this great bundle deal from our affiliate partners at Thomann, which also includes a keyboard stand and headphones!
Yamaha PSR-F52 Set
Looking far less modern and more like the home keyboards of the 80s and 90s, the MK-300 packs quite the punch. Of the three items we’ve looked at so far, it packs in more polyphony, voices, rhythms and styles than the others. It also has more powerful speakers and has that all-important USB connection for MIDI and computer connections.
What’s more, you can record and playback your performances and it also has a synth-style pitch bend wheel for those more adventurous lead lines! It is also bi-timbral, which means it can play two different tones simultaneously. The MK-300 also has a socket for a sustain pedal, something keyboards in this range rarely have.
As expected, mains and battery power are both available. One other pro-level feature it has is a velocity-sensitive keyboard. This means that the harder you hit the key, the louder the sound, an essential feature for musical expression.
The Startone MK-300 is incredible value for money. It has the feature set for excellent, standalone use and can later become part of a larger set-up if required. Our choice would be this full starter set with a keyboard stand and headphones for less than €150!
Startone MK-300 Set
Akai MPK Mini PLAY Mk.3
Having been one of the most influential musical instrument manufacturers of the last 40 years Akai, and their MPK range, have gained a huge following for their robust build and feature-packed contents.
It’s worth noting that the PLAY has a 25-note, velocity-sensitive mini-key keyboard. But it also features 8, illuminated MPC-style pads for easy beat-making. The control surface also features 4 rotary knobs and transpose keys, and the keyboard keys double up as various shortcuts to other settings.
A built-in arpeggiator allows for instant inspiration and the small 4-way joystick doubles up as a pitch bend and modulation input. All information is displayed on a small, informative OLED screen. There is a built-in speaker and a headphone socket too.
On the rear, there is a USB socket for MIDI and data as well as a sustain pedal port. The PLAY is mains or battery powered so equally at home on the move or in the home.
Better yet, it comes pre-loaded with over 100 drum and instrument sounds, all of which are entirely contemporary and ready to go. It includes a comprehensive software package with Akai’s excellent MPC Beats sequencer software. It also comes with software instruments that can be controlled by the PLAY when connected to a computer.
And to seal the deal, it comes with 60 lessons on the Melodics learning platform.
AKAI Professional MPK mini Play MK3
So, there you have it. My recommendations for the best five budget beginner keyboards under €150. Plenty to choose from and something for every taste, I hope! Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
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- Casio CT-S200: Casio
- Casio CTK-240: Casio
- Yamaha PSR-F52: Yamaha
- Startone MK-300: Thomann
- AKAI MPK mini Play mk3: AKAI Professional