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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel S

Review: Korg Liano 88-Key Keyboard

Today, I'm going to explain 8 reasons why this new Korg 88-key keyboard is my latest choice when recommending a keyboard to piano beginners and those who need 88-keys for casual gigs.


Sound Quality

The default Grand Piano sound on the Korg Liano 88-Key Slim-line Digital Piano is the highly detailed and resonant Italian Grand Piano sample derived from the $3,000 Korg Nautilus 88 workstation. This is a stereo multisample with a whopping 3 samples per note - a feature uncommon at this price category.

I loved the easy-to-use sound selection knob to call up the 8 sounds on this keyboard. Instead of throwing gazillion sounds that you won’t use beyond the first week of ownership, Korg included 8 bread & butter sounds piano students and performing musicians use on gigs. The 2nd sound is a Ballad Piano great for slow romantic contemporary music. The 3rd sound is the classic Fender Rhodes Electric Stage Piano that sounds round and warm. The iconic 1980s Yamaha DX-7 FM Electric Piano perfect for classic ballads is sound number 4. The 5th sound is a harpsichord which isn’t the best I’ve heard but students working on their Bach Inventions will not be left stranded. You’ll find a majestic pipe organ on sound number 6. A workhorse staple Jazz Organ is the 7th sound. The final patch is lush orchestral string sounds with good attack ensuring it is usable for backing chords as well as melodic lines. At this price, don’t expect Korg’s latest SGX-2 sound engine but the tried and tested PCM sound generator matches the price tag. With 120-note polyphony, you are unlikely to encounter note drop-offs with single sample sounds such as the Fender Rhodes E. Piano but huge chords with sustained long arpeggios with the tri-sample Italian Grand would quickly gobble up note polyphony.

On paper, the Liano has 8 onboard sounds, but the bundled apps containing hundreds of sounds and a multi-track music production sequencer is where this keyboard becomes an exceptional value for money. You can find the best price and detailed specifications here.

Bundled Software & Sounds

The software bundled with this keyboard is what truly sets it apart from the competition. For the beginner piano student, you get a 3 months premium subscription to Skoove, a music-learning app, valued at about $50. In a separate post, I compared the best piano-learning apps and Skoove ranked high. The bundled Korg Module LE comes with an additional 5 studio-quality sound modules that are highly configurable with various effects and parameters. The Liano also unlocks a multi-track mobile music production app, the Korg Gadget LE containing studio-quality sound generators containing synth modules, drum machines, effects processors & samplers with hundreds of sounds. With a simple USB cable, your keyboard triggers the sounds on your iPad or smartphone and the audio is routed digitally via the USB cable to the speakers on this keyboard.

Key Action

Piano players who don’t like heavy key actions will love Korg’s Light Touch semi-weighted keys. Beginners who often struggle with heavy keys will be less discouraged when starting out. Nonetheless, there are 3 adjustable levels of touch response - light, normal, or heavy ensuring you’ll find the perfect key response for your playing style and skill level. While a few of you might argue that weighted keys are your only preferred choice, there is no denying that keyboards with weighted keys are significantly heavier and weigh at least twice as much as this lightweight, compact keyboard. From my performance demo, you can tell I didn’t give up any expressiveness with this semi-weighted action.

The key surfaces are not as glossy as those found on Yamaha keyboards but are also not heavily textured like those from Casio. I didn’t experience any of my sweaty fingers slipping during my extended practice. These are one of the quietest keys I’ve experienced. There’s no knocking or thumping key noise when I start to really dig into some pieces. Something I really appreciate when practicing late at night with a pair of headphones. I do wish there was a felt liner accent at the key pivots to keep dust out like other 88-key keyboards but this isn’t a deal breaker. But if you are adamant about getting a weighted keyboard, the ones I recommend can be found here.

Speakers

A pair of 8-watt amplifiers driving two 8 cm speakers located on the front panel projects the sound directly to my ears. The bass reflex speaker with specially designed sound ports gave the output a dynamic low-end sound. I pumped up the volume knob to the max and there were no vibrations or distortion. You can connect this keyboard to a powerful PA system when more volume output is required. The onboard speaker volume is more than sufficient for home or school use as well as for small intimate parties and street busking. You can find a pair of external keyboard speakers I recommend here.

Features

To thicken up your sounds, you can apply, from a button on the panel, a Reverb effect to the samples. You can also apply a Chorus effect for greater phase modulation. Music students will love the onboard metronome with adjustable tempo, time signature and volume. And those who perform with other musicians and vocalists will make full use of the transpose and fine-tuning features.

Connectivity

For silent practice, you can plug in a pair of headphones through the 3.5mm output jack which also functions as an auxiliary output for connecting your keyboard to more powerful PA systems. I would have loved a separate set of outputs but that is absent on this keyboard.

A standard 1⁄4'' pedal input is where you can connect the included damper pedal to sustain your piano tones.

The USB connector does not just transmit and receive MIDI for use with music production software and music learning apps on your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. It is a full-featured USB digital audio interface which means you do not have to shell out a couple of hundred dollars for an external audio interface in order to send or receive digital audio data between your keyboard and digital devices. The USB MIDI implementation is above average for a keyboard at this price. Apart from the usual MIDI CC messages, you can transmit and receive MIDI Program Change and MIDI Channel Select data. There are a couple of keyboards I recommend that come with wireless Bluetooth MIDI and audio and you can find them here.

Portability

A traditional acoustic piano takes up space, is heavy, needs expensive regular tuning, and is often too loud for smaller homes. One of the biggest selling points of this keyboard is the compact form factor and weight. At just 6 kg, this is one of the lightest, if not the lightest premium quality 88-key keyboard. The nearest worthy competitor I know, the Roland Go:Piano 88 is at least 1 kg heavier - which might not sound like much but is significant if you are carrying your keyboard around.

A lightweight wireframe music rest is also included so you can sight-read and play. An optional carrying case for the Korg Liano makes it really easy for you to play music everywhere you go. At less than 3” thick and 12” deep, you don’t need much space for this keyboard. You can either place this keyboard on your desk or on a keyboard stand - I have linked an incredibly sturdy keyboard stand I recommend.

While a power adapter is included in the box, you don’t need to be near a power supply to use this keyboard as this 88-key keyboard can run off 6 “AA” batteries. Check out other battery-powered keyboards I recommend.

Price

There are only 2 other competitors at this price point with high-build-quality 88-key keyboards. Roland’s offering is 20% more expensive and in my opinion, has a less impressive key action and sound. Alesis’ version is cheaper but the build quality, key action, and sound quality are also lower. With Korg’s bundled software sound modules, the tones offered by the Liano are miles ahead of the competition. The prices and detailed specifications of the Roland & Alesis 88-key keyboards can be found above.


Things That Could Be Better

While the Korg Liano is a compelling package for a low price, there are a couple of features I wish could be better. I wish the reverb button had an LED indicating if the reverb is on. Right now, you’ll only know when you hit a note and you hear the reverb effect. It would also be nice if the sound selection knob had an indicator light so it’s easier to see which sound is currently selected, especially in darker venues and on-stage. As this keyboard is heavily targeted at beginner music students, I am dismayed that there is only one headphone jack. Most learning pianos have 2 headphone jacks allowing both teacher and student to use headphones during lessons. A sturdier ¼” headphone jack would also be better than the current 3.5mm connector. While I can understand there is less need for an auxiliary audio input jack as one can use the USB digital audio port to stream music from your smartphone or tablet to the keyboard speakers, it would have been nice to have wireless Bluetooth audio and MIDI for a cleaner setup without dealing with wires. The lack of a pair of ¼” stereo outputs was also disappointing, especially for those who see this as a fantastic lightweight 88-key stage and busking keyboard. While you can connect to PA systems using the 3.5mm headphone jack using various Y-adaptors, nothing beats a proper set of sturdy ¼” stereo outputs. Functions which are less frequently used are accessible by selecting corresponding keys on the keyboard while pressing both the reverb and metronome buttons. This means you will need to carry the function chart with you to reference the corresponding keys. These functions should really be printed above or below the keys like what Casio and Roland does.





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4 Comments


Elaine Briani
Elaine Briani
Feb 02

Where is the link to carrying case & stand?

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goldfingers728
Sep 05, 2023

As a pianist, I love the piano sound and would consider purchasing this keyboard for giging, Also love how light and portable to carry around. But the lack of 1/4" output may prevent this as Im not sure how it would sound if purchasing a separate 3.5mm to female 1/4" adapter. Would it come out as stereo when attached to a sound system and an amp. Can any one confirm this please. Thanks.

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Dejan Stankovic
Dejan Stankovic
Dec 04, 2023
Replying to

I am not sure if you already bought this piano, but I will answer anyway - yes, you will get stereo sound if you use simple stereo 3.5mm to female 1/4" adapter you will get stereo on the output. I'd recommend to use cable with 3.5mm jack on one side and whatever connection (RCA chinch, 1/4" jack/banana, etc) you would like to use on the other end (mixer, hi-fi amp, keyboard amp, etc). If you just ask about headphones use, 3.5mm to female 1/4" adapter will do the job, and you will get stereo sound.

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Noel Gama
Noel Gama
Apr 18, 2023

I wish it had dual mode — a must for playing worship music in church. Is it possible to layer the main piano sound with a synth pad via an iPad or a synth module like the Yamaha QY100?

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