The Yamaha CK61 and the Yamaha PSR-SX600 are 2 of Yamaha’s most affordable, similarly priced and immensely popular “pro” level keyboards. Both these keyboards are more than sufficient for busking and stage performance - both with a band or as a solo musician. In this comparison, I will break down the key differences between these 2 keyboards, play a number of the onboard tones so you can compare the sound quality, and discuss the key action, features, and functionality that will help you decide which is the better keyboard for you. Before we get started, you can check out my list of recommended digital pianos, keyboards, and music-learning apps that I personally use.
Both these keyboards have just a 10% price difference. As at the time of writing this article the CK61 costs $999 while the PSR-SX600 is $100 more. At this point, you might be tempted to spend $100 less and get the CK61 but read till the end of this article and you will most likely change your mind. I have found the best prices and bundled deals for you and they are listed here.
The key action on both these 61 synth action keys cannot be more different. The PSR-SX600 has a less premium key action which is also found on Yamaha’s PSR-E series keyboards. The CK61 which was launched not too long ago, has the same improved FSB key action found on Yamaha’s $2,000 flagship PSR-SX600 keyboard. I find the FSB keyboard provides a more nuanced and controlled expression when playing piano, organ and synths voices. The key action on the PSR-SX600 isn’t bad by any means, but the FSB keyboard is simply superior. To adapt to your playing style, both these keyboards have 5 user selectable velocity curves for varying key touch response.
These keyboards are great for playing a diverse variety of tones. However, if you are primarily a piano player, you should check out my recommended 88 weighted key keyboards.
The CK61 contains Yamaha’s 2nd generation AWM2 sound engine, whereas the PSR-SX600 uses the AWM engine. In my opinion, the difference isn’t massive, even more so when you are playing in a band or with backing tracks. Both keyboards get a 128 note polyphony, essential when playing multi-timbral patches and long sustained piano passages.
The CK61 comes with 363 sounds but for just $100 more, the PSR-SX600 contains a whopping 400% more sounds with 850 instruments, 43 drum and SFX kits and 480 XG voices for a total of 1,373 onboard sounds. Not only does the PSR-SX600 contain more sounds, you can add more samples and instruments with Yamaha’s expansion packs. The sound library of the CK61 is fixed and cannot be expanded. If future-proofing a keyboard is important to you, the PSR-SX600 is an obvious choice. The CK61 can layer up to 3 voices mapped onto 3 zones on the keyboard whereas the PSR-SX600 only supports dual voice layers mapped onto 2 zones.
The effects section of the PSR-SX600 is significantly more powerful than those found on the CK61. The PSR-SX600 has more than 500 insert effects, reverb, chorus & delay which can be daisy chained whereas the CK61 has just 80 effects. You can edit the LFOs, envelopes & ADSR to get really wild sounds on both these keyboards but there is no denying the PSR-SX600 has a more powerful effects section. To my ears and with my pair of studio headphones, the default factory PSR-SX600 tones sound fuller & richer.
For organ players, it’s a no brainer. The CK61 comes with live drawbars and quick rotary switches whereas the PSR-SX600 does not have these live controls for organ playing. For those who are into synthwave, the lack of an arpeggiator on the CK61, which the PSR-SX600 has, is a deal breaker. The biggest determinant of which is a better keyboard for you is no doubt the accompaniment section of the PSR-SX600. In many parts of the world outside of the USA, arranger keyboards are still essential for musicians who perform solo in informal gatherings such as birthdays, weddings & nursing homes. The PSR-SX600 has 415 styles spanning diverse genres providing lush accompaniment when you play. You can also create an unlimited number of your own original styles with the onboard style creator on the PSR-SX600.
The PSR-SX600 comes with a large 4.3” color LCD screen due to the higher functionality. The CK61, due to its simplicity and tactile knobs and sliders, does fine with a small monochrome display. However, in addition to the usual pitch & modulation wheels, transpose and octave buttons found on both these keyboards, the CK61 has loads of physical knobs and faders for morphing your sounds on the fly. While I love the 80 factory “live sets” which are essentially preset combis on the CK61, the PSR-SX600 has more than 1,000 One-Touch-Settings, which are factory combinations matched to your selected style. The PSR-SX600 can also store thousands of user registrations organized into banks and sorted into folders whereas the CK61 has just 160 memory slots for storing user registrations. It is also easier to organize, cut, copy and paste user registrations on the PSR-SX600 with its large LCD screen. Those who include samples in their performances will love the 4 multipads on the SX600 which can be used to trigger your own audio samples and MIDI phrases while performing. The CK61 has no such feature.
The PSR-SX600 also comes with an onboard 16 track sequencer and an audio recorder. Yamaha expects CK61 owners to use mobile apps to do the same which I do not prefer. The audio player on the PSR-SX600 is also tremendously powerful with the option to pitch shift, vocal cancel and time stretch audio files contained in your USB stick. The CK61 only has a basic USB audio player.
Both keyboards come with a headphones jack, a pair of stereo ¼” outputs for connecting to external amplifiers and 2 assignable pedal inputs but the PSR-SX600 has a stereo mini-jack aux-in whereas the CK61 has a pair of sturdier ¼” stereo aux inputs. The CK61 being a newer model supports Bluetooth wireless audio streaming whereas the PSR-SX600 needs a cable to stream backing tracks to the speakers. While both keyboards support a microphone input and effects can be applied to the mic signal, I love the “talk” feature on the PSR-SX600 which allows me to conveniently turn-off all mic effects when I interact with my audience between songs.
Both keyboards allow you to plug in a USB stick to save your own settings but the USB to Host port on the PSR-SX600 supports only MIDI data whereas on the CK61 the USB port transmits and receives both MIDI and digital audio data. You will need an additional external audio interface to send digital audio from your PSR-SX600 to your DAW software. If you need to control external sound modules or additional synthesizers, the CK61 is the only one that can do that with its 5 PIN MIDI ports.
The 30 watts speaker output on the PSR-SX600 is significantly louder and noticeably more powerful with a pair of 15 watts amplifiers. The pair of 6 watts amplifiers on the CK61 are really more for monitoring your own playing or for practice whereas you can definitely perform to a small audience with the onboard speakers of the PSR-SX600. A deal breaker for you may be the power options for these keyboards. The CK61 can be operated with both AA batteries or a power adaptor whereas the more powerful speakers on the PSR-SX600 means it can only be powered off an electrical outlet. The PSR-SX600 is also 50% heavier, slightly thicker and therefore less portable than the CK61. I have found the best prices and bundled deals for these keyboards and they are listed here.
Here’s your takeaway. If key action, lightweight portability is important to you, get the CK61. If you often need to perform solo, the style creator, onboard accompaniments and advanced audio file controls on the PSR-SX600 is unbeatable especially for just $100 more than the CK61. The more powerful speakers on the PSR-SX600 also means you do not need additional amplification to perform to a small audience. On the other hand, the sheer number of live control knobs, sliders and drawbars to quickly edit sounds on the fly, coupled with the 5 PIN MIDI ports to control external equipment makes the CK61 your only choice if these are important to you.