The 10 Coolest Keyboards & Synthesizers Of 2009

2009 has been a great year for electronic music gear and software. Never before have you been able to get so much power for so little money.

The year has seen an explosion of free music software, cool new MIDI Controllers, updates to popular software sequencers and the introduction of Propellerhead Record, the rise of iPhone music software and some great new virtual instruments.

While 2009 was a great year for digital music, it was an incredible year for keyboards and synths.

Here’s our take on the 10 coolest keyboards and synths from 2009, in no particular order:

First up, the Roland V-Piano:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=C89F4850E6A1D495

The above videos offer Roland’s official introduction to their new V-Piano – a stage piano that gives you an amazing level of control over how its piano sounds are modeled.

The Roland V-Piano lets you play a variety of preset keyboards, but also lets you edit details like Unison Tune, Hammer Hardness, Cross Resonance, Tone Color, String Resonance, Damper Resonance, Soundboard Resonance, Key off resonance, Damping Time and Damping Noise Level.

We saw this at the Winter NAMM Show and it sounds great, offers tremendous power and is very practical for live work.

The JUNO-Di Mobile Synthesizer is an entry-level synth, but Roland has packed a lot into the synth for its $799 suggested retail price.

Features include:

  • Over 1,000 instruments onboard
  • Battery operation for mobile use (supports Ni-MH AA-size rechargeable batteries)
  • MP3, WAV, AIFF, and SMF playback capability via optional USB memory
  • Microphone input with dedicated reverb and vocoder effects
  • PC/Mac Editor software included

The video lays it on a little thick – but the Juno-Di actually delivers a lot for the price.

The Korg SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano is designed to capture the look, feel and satisfaction of performing on a vintage instrument. It offers vintage electric pianos, clavs, classic and cult-fave organs, string machines, analog/digital electronic contenders and acoustic pianos in one instrument.

The SV-1 provides a streamlined front panel where each knob serves a single function and LED indicators that cue you to each knob’s current setting. Pressing any knob recalls its original saved setting. Eight Favorites buttons work like car radio buttons, bringing up “favorite” sounds.

And – it’s pretty sexy, too.

The 73-key SV-173 will has a MSRP of $2700.00; the 88-key SV-188 has a MSRP of $3000.00.

The Korg microSampler offers unique styling.

Some say it’s ugly. Some hate the recessed knobs. And we’ve heard some WTF reactions about the iPhone sockets.

But with the microSampler, Korg is doing something different – something not obvious – and something original.

The Korg microSampler offers sixteen-voice polyphony, reverse playback, editing operations such as Normalize and Truncate, and a Time Stretch feature that lets you change the tempo without affecting the pitch.

Sonic State’s Nick Batt does the dirty work of checking out the microSampler in the video, which gives you a great overview of the microSampler and its capabilities and limitations.

Jean Michel Jarre jams on the Roland AX-Synth in Koblenz.

The Roland AX-Synth wasn’t an obvious choice for this list, because many readers would have preferred a less expensive, controller-only keytar.

We were also a bit puzzled by Roland’s insistence on calling the AX-Synth a “shoulder synthesizer” instead of a keytar.

Seriously, guys – it’s a keytar! Nobody is going to call it a shoulder synthesizer!

And calling it a “shoulder synth” isn’t going to do anything to combat the curse of Herbie Hancock.

Nevertheless, the AX-Synth has a lot to offer:

  • Built-in sound engine with voices from Roland’s latest synthesizers.
  • Ribbon controller, D Beam, modulation bar, knobs, and easy-to-see display for stage.
  • USB MIDI for easy connection to PC.
  • Dedicated V-LINK button for video/visual control.
  • Innovative “bender mode” for expressive solos.
  • Longish battery operation (approx. 6 hours).

The AX-Synth was 2009’s best reason to strap on a keytar. It has an MSRP of $1,349.

24 thoughts on “The 10 Coolest Keyboards & Synthesizers Of 2009

  1. The Miniak and the Dark Energy have me drooling.

    Seems like last year was a good year for synths. I wonder what they'll have at the NAMM Show.

  2. The Miniak and the Dark Energy have me drooling.

    Seems like last year was a good year for synths. I wonder what they'll have at the NAMM Show.

  3. Wow Roland got a lot of great nods this year! PS the reason why keytars can't "officially" be called keytar (besides the inherent lameness of the moniker) is that it's copyrighted, like Kleenex. Damn shame…

  4. But isn't it easier to buy Alesis Ion or relase rack or desktop version of Alesis' synth? I feel like there are lot of people fooled by Akai's brand new synth. And even more expensive. If you need new hardware – it's okay but there is nothing cool in syntesizer when it's just packed.
    It's still extremaly powerful engine but Micron was relased in 2004! How cool is that!

  5. But isn't it easier to buy Alesis Ion or relase rack or desktop version of Alesis' synth? I feel like there are lot of people fooled by Akai's brand new synth. And even more expensive. If you need new hardware – it's okay but there is nothing cool in syntesizer when it's just packed.
    It's still extremaly powerful engine but Micron was relased in 2004! How cool is that!

  6. Wow Roland got a lot of great nods this year! PS the reason why keytars can't "officially" be called keytar (besides the inherent lameness of the moniker) is that it's copyrighted, like Kleenex. Damn shame…

  7. Wow Roland got a lot of great nods this year! PS the reason why keytars can't "officially" be called keytar (besides the inherent lameness of the moniker) is that it's copyrighted, like Kleenex. Damn shame…

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