Take your performance on the road with the best keyboard amp
You’ve honed your skills – or are in the process of – and now you want to show them off to the world. Whether you’ve got your mind set on busking, gigging or jamming with friends, those built-in speakers aren’t going to be quite enough to compete with an exuberant drummer. Plus, if you want to incorporate vocals, then there’s nothing better than the humble keyboard amp. As with choosing your instrument, navigating the world of amps and accessories can be just as bewildering to some. We created a ‘best keyboard amp’ list of five that cover a range of budgets and requirements.
How to choose a keyboard amp that’s right for you?
Before we go through what’s available, let’s consider things that you need to think about when finding the best keyboard amp to meet your current and future requirements.
1. Why do you need a “keyboard” amp?
When purchasing a guitar amp, some guitarists may claim to seek ‘classic Marshall ’59 Plexi tone’. Different amps have different pre and power amp setups, which in turn will influence their overall tone and influence what they buy.
However, when it comes to keyboards/digital pianos/synths, the key is simply to amplify the sound output rather than have the amp’s character influence it. Keyboard amps do just that – they amplify without colouration for pristine sound representation at higher levels.
2. Build quality and portability
Most keyboard amplifiers are combos, which combines amps with speakers and sometimes sound processors. Easy to carry and solid as a rock, they are the backbone of any gigging keys player’s setup. A solid wooden enclosure is covered with vinyl or carpet to provide add protection against knocks and bumps, whilst the corners are often braced or metal-tipped for enhanced resilience. Some feature guitar amp style carry handles and rubber feet to make them easier to carry and prevent sliding or slipping on stage.
3. Going power mad (don’t)
When it comes to wattage, bigger isn’t necessarily always better. There are additional factors involved that include speaker size, number of speakers, efficiency of the amplifier, etc. A thing to do it to weigh up what you’re going to be using the amp for, i.e. practise, playing solo with some vocals, playing with a heavy-hitting drummer, playing indoor or outdoor venues. If it’s solo stuff for intimate settings, then you can generally get away with a lower wattage amp. If you’re competing with the next John Bonham, then unless you’re miking up the amp and sending it through an in-house PA, you might want to err on the higher side.
4. Why not just go straight to the PA?
Woah now, we’re not going to stop you. If you’re playing as part of a band and you already have a PA on the go, then fill your boots. If you don’t and you need a road-ready combo to get the job done, then check the list below. It’s worth noting that some keyboard amps are equipped with XLR inputs as well as instrument inputs, which accommodate microphones as well as your keyboard. We’ve also chosen some that include Line and Aux inputs for connecting external sound sources, which will do that job of providing backing tracks to play along with or music between sets.
At the end of the day, you’re going to go with what you can afford. Don’t feel like you’re missing out though, we’ve made sure that on our list there are a couple of gig-ready amps that perform exceptionally well and won’t leave you flat broke. Check out the list below to find the best keyboard amp for you.
1. Redwood DR-30 Drum and Keyboard Amp
Redwood are gaining a reputation for crafting superb musical instruments and audio equipment at affordable prices, and the DR-30 Drum and Keyboard Amplifier is a fine example of what they’re capable of. Boasting 30-watts of output power via a generous 10-inch woofer and 3-inch tweeter – handling low/mids and high frequencies respectively -, the DR-30 offers more than enough oomph to ensure that you’re heard. Across the top of the amp is a control panel layout featuring a selection of inputs and knobs to tweak your amp’s response.
The angled speaker cabinet design projects sound with greater clarity for the listener. Equipped with a hardwood enclosure backed by a hard-wearing vinyl cover, the cab stands up well to the usual bumps and scrapes that come with lugging gear from A to B. Reinforced corner brackets and a metal grille speaker cover all contribute to the road-ready build of the DR-30.
As well as an instrument input for your keyboard/digital piano – or electronic drums -, Redwood have included a Line input for connecting an external audio source. Therefore, you can perform along with backing tracks or play music between tracks when you’re taking a break. The DR-30 Drum and Keyboard Amplifier is perfect for everyone from beginners to pros who need a reliable performer that won’t break the bank.
2. Laney AH-Freestyle Multi-Instrument Amp
Switching to a legend in the industry, the Laney AH-Freestyle Multi-Instrument Amp comes from a manufacturer who knows a thing or two when it comes to solid amp design. Another model that favours an angled design, the AH-Freestyle endures the most punishing of tour schedule with hard-wearing vinyl cover, reinforced corner brackets, and kick-proof metal speaker grille as standard. Hopefully, there won’t be any need for protection against those wanting to kick the speaker, but accidents can happen!
Three independent channels are yours for the taking. Channel 1 offers an XLR mic/line combi input, Channel 2 offers stereo line inputs, and Channel offers a line/instrument input with independent Level controls. Therefore, you can incorporate keyboard, vocals, and a backing track simultaneously and mixed to your liking. Should you require more power than the 5-watts RMS available, the mini-jack stereo speaker output allows you to get more bang for your buck.
On-board digital delay with Time and Feedback controls and an FX assign switch on each channel allows you to enhance the flavour of your performance without having to incorporate external effects.
For those who like the idea of roaming freely with their gear, Laney equipped the AH-Freestyle Combo with a guitar strap carry handle for easily transporting this lightweight little beauty.
3. Redwood DR-60 Drum and Keyboard Amp
Coming from the same family as the DR-30, Redwood’s DR-60 Drum and Keyboard Amp offers more power for your performance. Adhering to the same angled speaker cabinet design with reinforced brackets and non-slip rubber feet, the DR-60 also boasts a side carrying handle for easy transportation.
Delivering an impressive 60-watt output via a beefier 12-inch woofer, the DR-60 features a trio of inputs options that includes XLR mic and line inputs to accommodate microphones, keyboards, electronic drums, etc. A handy three-band EQ allows you to shape your output to suit your playing environment. Whether you’re going it solo or performing as part of an ensemble, the DR-60 Drum and Keyboard Amplifier guarantees that you’ll be heard loud and clear.
4. Laney AH80 Audiohub Combo
As the saying goes, “…with greater power comes great responsibility…”. Thankfully, the Laney AH80 Audiohub Combo helps lighten the load when it comes to delivering a generous sonic performance. The carpet-covered kickback cabinet design is as rugged as they come, making this 80-watt powerhouse a workhorse to be admired.
Laney’s 10-inch custom-designed woofer capably handles anything thrown its way via the three-channels at your disposal. As with the aforementioned AH-Freestyle, the Audiohub is endowed with the ability to handle a trio of inputs simultaneously, including vocals, keyboards, and an external sound source. Where it pips its sibling is in the 5-band Master Graphic EQ, with global settings that enable you to shape the output of the amp to suit your aural demands. A useful Line Out connection enables you to connect the Audiohub directly to another amplifier, whilst a headphone jack allows you to practise in silence.
On-board digital delay effects come with comprehensive control over Delay Time, Feedback and Level. Each channel can be assigned a delay effect, putting control at your fingertips.
5. Roland KC-80 3-Channel Mixing Keyboard Amp
Finally, the Roland KC-80 3-Channel Mixing Keyboard Amp is a fantastic amp that is worth including in any ‘best of’ list. Roland are masters when it comes to building stage-ready music gear for professionals, and the KC-80 is part of a family of outstanding amps. When it comes to road-ready reliability, it doesn’t get much tougher than a Roland amp. Solid cabinet construction, kick-proof metal speaker grille, braced corner joints and a carry handle that will outlast the longest of tours, the KC-80 has it all.
Roland redesigned the power amp and power supply sections of the KC-80 to improve its performance, which also gave it the benefit of optimising bass reproduction for a smooth response across a vast frequency range. There are three independent channels to play with across XLR and line inputs to accommodate microphones and keyboards, as well as Aux In RCA jacks for external audio sources and smart devices.
The Roland KC-80 3-Channel Mixing Keyboard Amp is built to be gigged with and won’t settle for anything less. For those who crave a bit more power, additional Sub Out and Line Out connections allow you to expand your sonic palette even further.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from. Many features overlap from model to model, so it’s worth visiting your local Dawsons store where our specialists will be help. Whatever it is that you’re looking for, we will have keyboard amp to suit your setup.
If you need any help or advice, then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420.
As always you can check out the Dawsons’ website to search our full selection of Keyboards Amplifiers.
Quick recap of the keyboard amps highlighted in the article:
- Redwood DR-30 Drum and Keyboard Amp
- Laney AH-Freestyle Multi-Instrument Amp
- Redwood DR-60 Drum and Keyboard Amp
- Laney AH80 Audiohub Combo
- Roland KC-80 3-Channel Mixing Keyboard Amp
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.