When we review a keyboard piano from Korg, we typically expect high quality across the board, with maybe a few minor exceptions.
The 88-key Korg XE20 is something a bit different; it’s a hybrid keyboard piano/arranger.
Let’s see what it has to offer.
Our verdict on the Korg XE20
We like the XE20 a lot, but we wouldn’t recommend it above all similarly-priced keyboard pianos.
If you want a pure stage piano, there are a few better options, but if you like the idea of an arranger with the feel of a piano, it’s the best of both worlds.
Being a bit different is what we like best about the XE20; it sounds very good, feels good, and is perfect for anyone who wants a band in a box.
The XE20 has over 700 sounds in total, including two flagship grand pianos: Italian and German.
While there are many quite average sounds, the variety, and the outstanding grand pianos are why we gave such a high score.
The Stereo PCM grand piano voices are stunning, particularly the Italian, which would be at home on any high-end stage piano.
Both of these piano sounds have a max polyphony of 120 notes, but all other voices drop to a max of 64 notes.
The limited polyphony won’t be an issue for every voice, but it could be for some, which is a shame.
Outside of the piano voices, the organs are impressive, especially the church organ.
Overall, the XE20 provides some great sounds and more than enough variety for any player.
This area is one where we feel most of the major manufacturers have improved significantly.
There is a gap between quiet practice at home and playing through a PA system or amp, and the XE20 can fill that gap.
It features two 4.9″ speakers with 18 W amplifiers. It delivers enough power to practice at home, rock out with built-in styles, or even get your friends round for a jam without needing external amplification.
We talked above about how good the grand piano voices sound and part of that is thanks to the built-in speakers. Without great speakers, you can lose the depth of the bottom-end or the articulation in the highs.
This keyboard is crystal clear through the lows, mids, to highs.
The simple way to sum up the keyboard feel is to say that it’s better than many arrangers but worse than many keyboard pianos.
In saying it’s worse, we don’t mean it’s terrible, but it lacks the realism of similarly-priced keyboard pianos.
It has graded hammer-action keys, which is a good start, and the weight transitions nicely from heaviest to lightest.
However, the keys just feel a little cheap compared to some of the competition. Many keyboard pianos have plastic keys, but not all give you an overwhelming plastic feeling while you play.
In Korg’s defense, perhaps the keys feeling less substantial is a way to balance between piano sounds and organs/synths/orchestral sounds that prefer a lighter touch.
The Korg XE20 isn’t as feature-packed as some typical arrangers, but as a hybrid, it has plenty.
It comes with 280 preset styles and 64 music styles. Every style comes with four variations, two fills, two intros, and two outros.
Split Mode and Layer Mode allow you to create keyboard zones with different sounds or combine voices.
There are 41 drum kits, including a GM-compatible sound set.
The Korg XE20 will playback MP3, WAV, SMF and comes with 21 demo songs.
Here is where you start to see the difference between a typical keyboard piano and an arranger.
The XE20 has a built-in 12-track (four keyboard parts and eight accompaniment parts) sequencer/recorder capable of capturing up to 999 songs.
The XE20 offers a total of 40 user registration slots. You can easily store custom sounds and settings for quick recall.
Most good arranger keyboards are reasonably easy to use, despite having a lot of functions.
Korg’s XE20 follows a typical arranger layout, which means the controls are positioned to be as intuitive as possible.
For example, the style variation buttons are in an orderly row and double as transport controls when recording.
Just above those controls, you’ll find part mute buttons that allow you to drop instruments in and out of styles.
A decent-sized screen helps get around the 700+ voices without much fuss.
More than anything else, the XE20 is a lot of fun to use. It’s good enough for the stage without being the best, and it’s more than good enough for learning piano at home.
It’s the middle-ground where it really shines; for people who want to write/record music and feel like they are playing with a band when circumstances may not allow.
The Korg XE20 weighs just 25 lbs, but it feels pretty solid for such a lightweight keyboard.
There are slimmer keyboard pianos on the market, like the Casio Privia PX-S3100. But, the XE20 is quite a bit slimmer and lighter than the average arranger keyboard.
Despite being made almost exclusively from hard plastic, the matte finish gives the XE20 a more sophisticated/professional look.
There may be a slight complaint regarding the buttons and main encoder, all of which could feel more robust.
However, we have seen far worse, and it’s hard to be too negative without seeing them after a year or so of consistent use.
The XE20 provides pretty decent connectivity, starting with two USB ports (Type A/B).
There are two 1/4″ audio outputs and a single 1/8″ audio input. It comes with just one 1/8″ headphone jack; a second would have been nice.
Lastly, you get a single 1/4″ pedal input.
At this point, we should mention the XE20SP. It’s almost exactly the same as the XE20, with just one difference.
For a bit more money, it comes with a stand and a three-pedal unit for a more realistic piano experience.
Compared to other keyboard pianos
It’s a hard one to compare because of its hybrid nature, but here are a few choices that we like.
Korg XE20 vs. Yamaha DGX-670
We thought we’d start with another arranger, the Yamaha DGX-670. It’s one of the best arrangers in its class; however, it’s much bulkier than the XE20.
Korg XE20 vs. Casio PX-S3100
If you want something ultra-portable with many sounds and fewer arranger features, the PX-S3100 is great.
Korg XE20 vs. Kawai ES110
If you just want a straightforward keyboard piano that feels and sounds realistic, the ES110 is outstanding.
Who is the Korg XE20 best suited for?
It suits beginner to advanced players who want to learn piano, write music, or enjoy playing with auto-accompaniments.
- 700+ sounds.
- Fantastic grand piano voices.
- No Pitch/Mod wheel/stick.
- Keys don’t feel great.