Review: Yamaha's Newly Upgraded PSR-SX600
An upgrade from the 4 year old Yamaha PSR-S670, this is the long-awaited Yamaha PSR-SX600 portable arranger keyboard. This new keyboard maintains the exact same street price as the outgoing model, making the PSR-SX600 the most affordable model in Yamaha’s pro-level SX-series of portable keyboards.
Do note that I paid full price for this keyboard with my own money in order to give you an unbiased and independent review. Yamaha is not in contact with me and no one provided me with a review unit.
At less than $1,000, the Yamaha PSR-SX600 is an entry-level SX series keyboard and the key action and build quality shows. The key bed and key action feels very similar to the Yamaha PSR-E463, which is 70% cheaper than the PSR-SX600 and Compared to the PSR-SX900 and SX700, the control knobs feel less premium. The pitch and modulation wheels have quite a bit of unwanted resistance and feel less smooth as well. Not the best but the key bed, key action and pitch and modulation wheels does have a utilitarian quality to it.
The previous S670 and S650 had an awful blue LCD screen that had a really low resolution that made previous models look and feel cheap, even though it sounded great. The new Yamaha PSR-SX600 sports a brand new colour screen which is bright, clear and is really easy to navigate and understand. Although it isn’t a touch-screen like the more expensive SX700 & SX900, I actually prefer the assured tactile response of physical buttons especially when performing. One gripe I have with the LCD screen is 4.3 inch size which is the same as previous models. With this new interface and compared to mobile phones with close to 7 inch screens, the small display looks really out of place on the PSR-SX600.
A very welcomed upgrade to the Yamaha PSR-SX600 is a microphone input — and this is not a plain vanilla normal mic input like what you get with the competition. The mic input feature was only previously available on Yamaha keyboards that cost up to twice as much as the PSR-SX600. Not only can you apply regular effects such as reverb, chorus, a noise gate, compressor and a 3-band EQ to your voice, you can also apply many different DSP effects to get a unique sound from your voice. This is a feature that no one else in the industry has at this price. The microphone input is also clearly geared for live performance. With just a single button press or using your pedal, you can easily switch between two different settings for talking to your audience and for singing. One very powerful feature is that your vocals, including all applied effects, can be effortlessly recorded along with your playing onto a USB stick as an audio file. While there is no vocal harmony function like those found on the more expensive models, you do get a full featured and sophisticated mic input for under $1,000 on the PSR-SX600.
The PSR-SX600 continues to have the exact same speaker system as the previous PSR-S670. With only 2 speaker cones, the bass response on the SX600 is more muted and the higher frequencies are less detailed when compared to the PSR-SX900 which comes with 4 speakers, 2 of which are dome speakers.
Yamaha sells loads more PSR keyboards compared to their synths because PSR keyboards come with rhythm accompaniment styles, making them more versatile, more accessible and simply more fun to play with. Yamaha almost doubled the number of rhythms in the PSR-SX600 to 415 styles versus the 230 styles previously available. You can also find Free Play Styles, previously reserved for Yamaha’s flagships on this keyboard. There are also many new and improved styles taking advantage of the new accent & unison feature found only on this keyboard. This is a feature even the PSR-SX900, which costs twice as much, doesn't get. The Yamaha PSR-SX600 is also the cheapest keyboard from Yamaha to offer 3 rhythm intros and endings as well as 4 variations to every style. Many of the new styles in the PSR-SX600 are for World Music, catering to those from Latin America, Middle East and East Asia.
With the SX series, it comprises of the ability to create and edit your own styles with a Style Creator function. In addition, there are way more third party styles available for the PSR-SX series keyboards. The PSR-S670 styles are also available for easy download onto the new PSR-SX600. This new keyboard also boasts of the Style Section Reset feature.
On the PSR-SX600, you get 30% more sound design tools such as a myriad of Digital Signal Processors, Choruses & Reverb blocks to shape each voice on a granular level to sound exactly the way you imagine it to be. The previous PSR-S670 only had a master EQ feature which is applied globally across the keyboard. The PSR-SX600 is an upgrade that now allows you to individually tweak the EQ of every voice layer and each of the 8 instrument parts that makes up a style. This is an unprecedented level of control you get on a Yamaha PSR keyboard for under $1,000.
In addition to the usual user registration banks, the SX600 gets the playlist function. This is a feature very similar to Korg’s Songbook function which has been around for more than a decade. For those who perform with their keyboards, this is an indispensable feature for organising your repertoire into sets for quick and hassle-free recall.
Other than the usual ports for headphones, pedals, audio in/out and USB MIDI & storage, the PSR-SX600 is the only keyboard currently in the SX range that gets a USB audio interface. While almost every keyboard these days can send MIDI data to your computer, the PSR-SX600 is able to receive & transmit audio to other devices without the need for an external audio interface. This built-in audio interface allows you to use Yamaha’s Rec’N’Share app to quickly record high quality digital audio and video of your performance directly into your phone. With just a few taps, you can share your performances on social media such as Tik Tok, Instagram, YouTube and instant messaging such as WhatsApp & Messenger.
This keyboard has 850 voices instead of the 416 sounds found on the older model. 73 of these new voices are super articulation voices which were only reserved for Yamaha’s flagship keyboards, such as the $5,000 Yamaha Tyros. This new technology allows the musician to intuitively reproduce an acoustic instrument’s natural expressive nuance on a keyboard under $1,000. You can find the new super-articulation technology in the guitars, saxophones, trumpets, strings and organ voices.
However, the default piano voice hasn’t received an upgrade. It is the same Live! Concert Grand patch from the previous model instead of the richer and more detailed super articulation grand piano sample found on the higher PSR-SX models. Moreover, the PSR-SX600 continues to only be able to layer up to 2 voice layers as compared to the ability to layer 3 voice layers on the PSR-SX700 & PSR-SX900. The similarly priced PA300, released by Korg 6 years ago, already had triple voice layer capabilities for under $1,000.
One big selling point of the pro-level SX series is the keyboard’s ability to load new sound samples via expansion packs. The PSR-SX600 receives a whopping 300% upgrade in the expansion memory from the previous 32MB to the current 100MB.
I hope you found my unbiased and independent review of the Yamaha PSR-SX600 to be useful in helping you make informed choices. Do click on the links in the article for the latest prices and updated information. Also, do check out my beginner step-by-step course in learning how to play the keyboard!