KORG D1 DIGITAL PIANO
Grandstage feel for a quarter of the price. If you’re looking for a great keybed and a modicum of top-notch piano sounds, this could be D1.
Review: Preshan John
We recently reviewed Korg’s Grandstage flagship digital piano, which puts the finest Korg tones under an impeccably authentic keybed to make for a thoroughly satisfying piano experience — and you’d expect no less for nearly $4k. The new sub-$1k Korg D1 digital piano represents an affordable way of getting a similar experience — specifically, the same progressively-weighted RH-3 keybed — with a smattering of voices that sound anything but entry-level.
Though it’s small and narrow, the Korg D1 feels like it’s stuffed full of shot-put balls — typical of all Korg digital pianos. The plus side is it takes a very heavy-handed player to make it budge. Thankfully, the D1 doesn’t have the multi-colour light-up logo from the Grandstage. Pitch and mod wheels are also nowhere to be found, though their absence means the keyboard may just fit the width of your car boot. The D1 is aesthetically very minimal, with controls bunched into the left corner. Even the I/O connections on the rear are pared back, with connections for stereo line outputs, sustain, two five-pin MIDI ports and DC power input. On the front is a 3.5mm headphone output, and you get a music rest and nice little sustain pedal thrown in.
The D1 has 30 sounds on offer, navigated via three banks and two rows of five buttons. It’s a best-of package for simple stage setups. Korg has been in the digital piano biz for yonks so it’s no surprise the six piano voices are stunning, covering a couple of lush grands and stringy uprights to a boot-scootin’ honky tonk. EP1 and EP2 contain Rhodes, Wurli and DX7-type sounds (the latter two of which have a rather noisy hammer-off sound that’s noticeable when playing gently). Three nice jazz/rock organ tones live in Organ 1 while Organ 2 covers rich church organs. I thought the Choir voices were painfully synthetic and underwhelming, but then again it’s hard to like any built-in choir sound that doesn’t come in a sample library. I quite enjoyed the guitar sound and would’ve happily done away with one of the vibes voices for a second guitar option.
When playing a keyboard, I figure it’s a good sign when the experience makes your brain’s creative hemisphere kick in and your critical mode switch off. Of all the sounds on the D1, I found the piano and Rhodes most inspiring and soon lost myself in them. They’re warm and rich and feel just right under your fingers. Dual voicings can be created simply by pressing two voices at the same time. You can mix ’n’ match sounds from different banks by selecting each sound’s bank in Single mode, before layering voices.
You can add Reverb and/or Chorus to each sound, while the Brilliance setting adds or subtracts sparkle to the voice in rather large increments. Choose between three amounts of each by pressing the +/- buttons while holding the Touch/Brilliance/Reverb/Chorus button simultaneously.
For under a grand, the Korg D1 targets a niche and hits it hard. For those wanting a top-end digital piano playing experience, then Korg’s RH3 keybed will deliver it for a keen price. You even get three levels of keybed sensitivity, selectable via the Touch button. If you’re after hundreds of sounds and built-in drum machines, go buy a keyboard from JB Hi-Fi. If you’d rather quality than quantity, especially when it comes to piano sounds, the D1 is your pick. It’s perfect for a school, church, or performing arts centre where its simplicity is its greatest asset.