REVIEW: Korg D1 Digital Piano

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Korg’s new D1 stage piano endeavors to bring the feel of a grand piano to the stage and home. Featuring Korg’s touted RH3 “real hammer” keybed at a mid-range price, the D1 packs 88 weighted hammer action keys into a compact frame with 30 patches and built-in effects.

IN THE BOX

Make no mistake: Korg is going for a complete experience with the D1. Its weighted keybed, featured in Korg mainstays like the Kronos and SV-1, fits into a svelte, low-profile jet black frame that’s equally appropriate onstage and at home. The D1 is unquestionably well-designed, taking a minimal approach to construction and layout. In fact, this stage piano is so minimal that I initially had a bit of difficulty finding the headphone jack, which was inconspicuously tucked away on the left-hand panel below the keybed.

Above the keybed, the D1’s control surface features numerous patch and effect controls. The left-hand side displays controls for touch sensitivity, basic “brilliance” EQ, reverb, and chorus. To the right, simplified patch selector controls enable access to 30 different sounds, organized into 10 standard tone categories with 3 variations each. Onboard metronome controls are also included.

The back of the keyboard is as simple as it gets: stereo 1/4” outputs, a damper input and power adapter jack, and MIDI in/out 5-pin jacks. It’s worth noting that Korg opted not to include a USB jack on the D1 – a surprising omission considering its focus on home use. To use the D1 with a computer, one would need an extraneous MIDI-to-USB converter interface, a mild inconvenience in this day and age.

Finally, a detachable music stand, power supply unit, and compact sustain pedal are also included in the box.

IN THE FIELD

The biggest selling point of Korg’s D1 is its top-of-the-line RH3 keybed. The action simply feels great. The keys are even and balanced; not too stiff, not too light. The D1 is a great fit for pianists who want the expressiveness of a fully weighted action, without shelling out big bucks for a piano or high-end workstation.

Many of the onboard patches are quite similar to Korg’s previous stage piano models, but the D1 brings additional depth to the table with an increased focus on sympathetic resonance and sample release sounds. Sustained passages sound full and vibrant. The key-off sounds are a welcome addition to the sample-based D1, contributing realism that’s especially evident on the electric piano, harpsichord, and clavinet patches.

While the D1’s piano and Wurlitzer samples are sufficiently expressive, I didn’t find they had the fidelity of some higher-end stage pianos. Nevertheless, the gigging musician should find them perfectly acceptable.

The built-in reverb and chorus effects are useful for adding ambience and motion to patches. By using the + and – keys, the depth of each effect may be adjusted. However, these reverb and chorus settings are enabled by default on most patches. There doesn’t appear to be a way to save default settings for reverb and chorus on a patch-by-patch basis, so the D1 may not be an ideal fit for keyboardists who regularly change sounds on the fly.

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STRENGTHS

Fantastic keybed and action. Ideal for home practice and piano-centric performance. Solid, minimal, smart design in a compact frame.

LIMITATIONS

No USB connection. Piano and Wurlitzer samples lack the fidelity of higher-priced units.

$629.99 street

www.korg.com

Cale Hawkins is a multi-instrumentalist and writer who has worked with Quincy Jones, Nate Ruess, Wyclef Jean, Bilal, Nikki Yanofsky and others. Find out more at www.calehawkins.com