Kurzweil was once an industry leader, and while they are still very prominent, they maybe lack the mainstream coverage of some other brands.
However, releases have focused on simplicity in recent years, with a great sound and simple workflow at the forefront.
This review looks at the 88-key SP1, an excellent example of the modern Kurzweil approach.
Our verdict on the Kurzweil SP1
The Kurzweil SP1 could be the ideal stage piano for performers who want fast access to high-quality sounds without paying a fortune.
As good as the sounds are, the intuitive interface might be the star of the show. It’s a fantastic, non-fuss, uncomplicated keyboard and well worth its price tag.Available at: SweetwaterAmazon
The sound quality is very high, particularly with the acoustic piano voices, of which there are four.
The acoustic piano sounds are fantastic, however, they are generally on the brighter side. That’s not necessarily bad, especially with the built-in EQ, but worth noting.
The available sounds cover just about everything you’d need for a typical Pop/Rock gig without additional gear. The included sounds range from electric pianos and pads to strings and woodwinds.
There are 16 sounds split across four categories: Pianos, Keyboards, Strings/Pads, and Other.
The electric pianos are great and lend themselves well to ballads, funk, and 80s Pop.
The number of sounds might seem disappointing when you consider that the SP6 has hundreds of voices. However, it also comes with a significant price increase.
Kurzweil’s SP1 has a max polyphony of 256 notes, which is outstanding by any standards.
The Kurzweil SP1 has 88 fully-weighted hammer-action keys.
This keyboard has a few good and bad qualities. It’s not the most realistic piano feel that you’ll find on a stage piano. But it’s got enough weight to play with dynamics and expression, and it’s light enough for non-piano sounds.
We would think of the SP1 keyboard as a bit of an all-rounder rather than an ultra-realistic piano feel.
The Kurzweil SP1 stage piano doesn’t come with a long list of features. In fact, it has fewer than most, but everything it has to offer focuses on an intuitive workflow.
The SP1 comes with some built-in effects, including reverb, chorus, tremolo, delay, and EQ.
That might not sound like an impressively long list, but they work very well with the SP1 sounds.
The EQ is incredibly useful with the acoustic piano voices, especially in adding a little more depth to the low-end.
The tremolo is lovely on the electric piano voices and the pads.
The SP1 offers various keyboard modes, including Split, Layer, Layer/Split, and Dual.
One of the best things about the SP1 is that you can split up to four voices across the keyboard simultaneously.
Having the option to utilize four keyboard zones on stage allows performers to play multiple keyboard parts with a single instrument.
Dual mode also allows you to create two identical zones for duets or student/teacher practice.
Dedicated external control section
If you feel like you need more than the SP1 has to offer, it won’t complicate your workflow.
A dedicated control section for external MIDI means you can maintain the same speedy, hand-on control, even if you expand your setup.
Pitch and mod wheels
As the SP1 is a fully-fledged performance instrument, you might expect it to have pitch bend and modulation wheels. They add so much expression to your performance.
But, not all keyboard pianos in the same price range have them, so it’s definitely a lovely addition.
The SP1 has an incredibly intuitive interface, and in our opinion, it’s where it comes into its own.
Many stage pianos fail because the number of multi-function buttons and amount of tedious menu-diving make them insufferable to use. With the SP1, everything has dedicated sections and buttons.
Each sound category has a dedicated volume knob, which makes it easy to arrange split or layered sounds. Whether changing your sound, layering it, splitting it, or adding effects, you are rarely more than a single button away from the right result.
The intuitive workflow and the price (under $1000) should make the Kurzweil SP1 an attractive stage piano for any active performer.
Kurzweil keyboards are traditionally quite bulky, which is both good and bad. On the one hand, they could feel quite clumsy moving around, but on the other hand, they feel incredibly robust (which is great for life on the road).
The SP1 is perhaps somewhere in the middle. It’s lighter than many older models, making it easier in transit for performers. But it’s not the slimmest keyboard piano either, so it maintains a bit of that classic Kurzweil style.
More importantly, it should easily withstand the life of a working musician. Even the buttons and knobs feel like they are designed for utility over style.
Having said that, it’s not a bad-looking instrument; it has a somewhat retro image that we like.
Surprisingly, the SP1 has more connectivity options than the more expensive SP6. There are two USB ports (Type A/B), two 1/4″ audio inputs, and two 1/4″ audio outputs.
The SP1 only has one headphone output; two would be nice, but to be fair, it’s a performance keyboard more than it is a student/teacher practice piano.
Compared to other stage pianos
In our opinion, the SP1 is a solid choice in most scenarios. But, we always like to give you more options to consider.
Kurzweil SP1 vs. Yamaha P-125
We have previously scored the P-125 higher than the SP1, and it’s still a fantastic keyboard. However, we feel that the competition has somewhat overtaken it since its release.
Check out our Yamaha P-125 review
Kurzweil SP1 vs. Roland FP-30X
The Roland FP-30X is an easy-to-use, reliable stage piano with some great sounds. We prefer most things about the SP1, but the Roland may have a better keyboard feel.
Check out our Roland FP-30X review
Kurzweil SP1 vs. Korg XE20
The Korg XE20 is a fascinating instrument and offers more versatility than most in its class. It also has built-in speakers, which could encourage many users.
Check out our Korg XE20 review
For more great options, check out our picks of the best digital pianos and keyboards around and the best under $1000 models currently on the market.
Who is the Kurzweil SP1 best suited for?
The SP1 is the perfect keyboard for performers who want a professional but straightforward setup without spending thousands of dollars.
- Straightforward hands-on interface.
- Great sounds.
- Dedicated external MIDI gear section.
- Up to four sounds simultaneously.
- Great price.
- Built-in effects.
- Keyboard feel could be slightly better.