Whether you’re a soloist or you perform in a band, it’s important to ensure that your keyboard gets the best sound amplification for live performances. That means you have to invest in the right amplification system for your keyboard. In this case, you can choose between a keyboard amp and powered speakers. So which is the better choice? Let’s find out.
Keyboard Amp vs Powered Speakers
Some people argue that it’s necessary to invest in a keyboard amplifier rather than connecting your keyboard directly to a powered speaker. Essentially, both options are viable. While keyboard amps are specially designed to amplify sound signals coming from a keyboard, powered speakers come with an inbuilt amplification system. You can find a powered speaker that has similar features as that of a keyboard amp such as equalizer controls and a wide frequency range.
Plugging your keyboard into a keyboard amp may be a greater option in some applications. For instance, if you’re a solo performer and you also want to plug in your microphone, it’ll help to invest in a keyboard amp. Regardless, most powered speakers also feature microphone channels and pre-amplifier channels.
A keyboard amplifier tends to be more portable and compact than a powered speaker. That makes keyboard amplifiers more suitable for performances in small, cramped-up venues. If you’re performing in larger venues, powered speakers would be the better choice. For instance, you can mount a powered speaker on a speaker stand to enhance sound dispersion to the audience in larger spaces. However, keyboard amps cannot be mounted on stands. Thus, they won’t disperse sound effectively in a large space.
Also, powered speakers often have a higher power rating than keyboard speakers. Again, performing in large spaces requires using a more powerful sound system, and this makes powered speakers a better choice. A keyboard amp may not have much power to deliver sufficient sound in large outdoor spaces or large halls.
Powered speakers and keyboard amps also differ in terms of affordability. Generally, powered speakers are costlier than keyboard amplifiers. Thus, if you’re working with a tight budget, a keyboard amp would be your better choice.
How to Choose a Keyboard Amp
If you’ve settled on a keyboard amp, there’re certain considerations you need to make including:
1. Number of channels
Most keyboard amplifiers come with one channel to allow you to plug in keyboards, microphones, and other instruments. Thus, you can use the amp as the main source of audio. You can also find a keyboard amp with two channels or four channels, especially in high-powered keyboard amps.
2. Equalizer controls
If you want a keyboard amp that can deliver customized sound output, consider choosing an amp that has EQ controls. That way, you can use it to control different sound frequencies for a more customized sound output. This is especially important when connecting a mic and keyboard to the amp. Also, extra onboard features would be an added advantage.
3. Inputs and outputs
Different keyboard amps feature different kinds of inputs and outputs depending on the model. Ensure the keyboard amp you’re choosing has the inputs and outputs you need. If you want to connect multiple instruments, consider an amp that has those specific inputs. Also, if you want to connect the amp to a PA system, make sure it has the necessary outputs for making such a connection.
Most keyboard amplifiers are portable due to their compact design. Regardless, some models are more portable than others. If you’re always on the move, find something that’s very compact and lightweight. That way, you won’t struggle to carry it along with you.
How to Choose Powered Speakers
On the other hand, if you’ve settled on powered speakers, you’ll need to take note of factors such as:
1. Power rating
Powered speakers feature an inbuilt amplifier that powers them. Ensure the power rating of the speaker is sufficient for your needs. If you perform in large venues, consider choosing a more powerful speaker. If you perform in small venues, a less powerful speaker can suffice.
Another major consideration to make is the portability of the speaker. If you perform in one venue most of the time, or you only move once in a while, portability won’t be much of a concern. However, if you’re a street performer or a performer who always moves from one venue to another, you must invest in portable powered speakers for enhanced convenience when moving.
It’s important to consider the inputs that the speaker supports. Ensure it has inputs that can be connected to your keyboard. Also, if you want to connect a microphone, ensure the speaker has mic inputs.
4. Onboard controls
At least, ensure the powered speaker has onboard controls for equalizer and volume. With an equalizer, you’ll be able to cut or allow certain frequencies. Also, onboard volume controls will allow you to control the volume level directly on the speaker.
The Bottom Line
The ultimate choice between a keyboard amp and powered speakers will largely depend on your needs. If you want to perform in a large venue, powered speakers would be your best choice. On the other hand, if your budget is tight or you want to perform in a smaller venue, a keyboard amp would be the best option.
Michael Evanchuk is a San Francisco-based sound engineer with 20 years’ experience installing, troubleshooting, and repairing commercial, automotive, and household sound equipment. Evanchuk owns an auto stereo center, where he offers highly competitive car audio installation and repair services. He has written dozens of articles on different sound engineering topics, all of which have been published in leading journals, blogs, and websites.