Roland MKS-20 Best Piano Samples

Roland MKS-20 MKS20 EP

Roland MKS-20

Recently I have been on the lookout for a great set of Roland MKS-20 Samples for my keyboards. There are not many MKS-20 sample sets available, but I did manage to encounter three options that seemed excellent. One of these days I may elect to buy a used Roland MKS-20, but since I am in Japan and the fact that it may be difficult to get one shipped here, I’ve elected to try the sample route instead.

The following three Roland MKS-20 Sample Sets are currently available. Two have been around for a while and another was just recently released this month. The three choices I’ve found are (in no particular order):

1. P20 (Roland MKS-20) from Precisionsound$49.00

2. MKSensation Roland MKS-20 from GospelMusicians$99.99

3. MK Digital Keys from Nucleus SoundLab$49.00

Which is better? I have no idea as I don’t currently own them, but most likely I’ll pick up the Precisionsound Set first for several reasons. First is that the price is half that of MKSensation which is an obvious important element. Second, the Roland MKS-20 PS20 set has WAV files already for you which can virtually be used in any sampler which is very versatile. In addition, you get more velocity layers and samples with the PS20 set. You can also checkout DDW4E’s Youtube channel to hear the PS20 sounds which he imported into Reason.

With respect to MKSensation Roland MKS-20 Piano Module, it has two things going for it that make it very tempting. First it is sampled first hand by a fantastic Gospel Musician name Jamal Hartwell. I have almost all his DVDs and he’s simply outstanding. I’m a big fan needless to say. The MKSensation MKS-20 sample set comes from a seasoned pro who owns and uses the MKS-20 on a regular basis. One would expect the quality to be top notch with his background and I’m quite sure it is. The second asset is that it’s focused on the Yamaha Motif series of keyboards which is arguably the instrument of choice for Gospel Musicians with regards to getting that classic rhodes and/or piano sound.

The MK Digital Keys set is a new retro keyboard sample library by Nucleus SoundLab. Bring the 80s keyboard sound to your productions with this faithful sampling of Roland’s MKS-20 keyboard synthesizer. MK Digital Keys is available in three formats, Reason Refill, WusikEngine, and Kontakt/EXS/SFZ.

Again this article is not to decide the best Roland MKS-20 Sample set, but to simply state that there are a few excellent choices out there to choose from. There may be more and if anyone knows of additional MKS-20 sample sets, to please comment below. Probably the biggest deciding factor for many will be first the price and then the reviews once they start to come in. Like I mentioned above, I’ll probably pick up the Precision Sound MKS-20 set first because of the price, but also because I would like to use these MKS-20 samples in other keyboards in addition to the Motif. Of course sound is important and the demos of all three products shine well.

There is one very important similarity with MKSensation, PS20, and MK Digital Keys is that they have samples for all the presets in the Roland MKS-20. So if you are looking for all the sounds, they exist in all three packages. DEMOS are available at the links mentioned above for all products.

Discounts anyone? Precisionsound seems to offer seasonal 50% off discounts on all of it’s sample sets. It might be best to wait it out and grab a bundle when they are on sale. You can check for the latest discounts on their forums here. Gospelmusicians also offers discounts on their products periodically as well. I read on the website though that there will be no sales for the rest of the year, so one might have to wait until the New Year or later. You need to get on the Gospelmusician mailing list in order to get notified about sales. I have not heard of any sales for MK Digital Keys yet. At the price points above though, you can pick up both the P20 and MK Digital Key Sets for the price of MKSensation alone. That’s kind of a deal in itself I suppose.

I’m betting Precisionsound will have one before Christmas. Needless to say, all sample sets are probably worth their retail prices with all the time, effort, and thought that goes into producing such quality sample sets. With that said, it’s a crappy economy for most Americans and I’m sure discounts are on everyone’s minds these days. Thus there’s hope for those who are looking for a sale.

Some may ask about Software or Softsynth choices for the Roland MKS-20. Personally, I’m only focused at the moment on hardware or using samples with my current hardware setup. I don’t take or use a computer when I perform, but I’m sure there are Roland MKS-20 software choices out there somewhere.

If you have either the Precisionsound PS20, Nucleus SoundLab’s MK Digital Keys, or Gospelmusician’s MKSensation, please let me know your thoughts. Ultimately I may get them all and perhaps further down the line I’ll end up getting the real thing. The Roland MKS-20 is a fabulous sound module and I can’t believe I’ve gone without one for so long.

UPDATE: Jamal from Gospelmusicians has just posted an excellent video comparing the real Roland MSK-20 with the new MKSensation MKS-20 Sample Set for the Yamaha Motif ES/XS/XF Synthesizer.

Is going the Hardware route all that expensive?

What’s the average pricing for a Roland MKS-20 on Ebay as of the date of this post? The average price is $310 according the last five completed auctions. Considering there are 8 presets in the Roland MKS-20 module, you can do the math and it would cost about $38.75 per voice. I’m starting to think that it’s still pretty reasonable to get a Roland MKS-20 over samples. What do you think?

Of course you wouldn’t have to drag the Roland MKS-20 around, but you would get full access to the effects and the ability to tweak the presets. Are old Roland MKS-20 Sound Modules reliable? I’m not sure about that either, but they sure do sound great.

Roland MKS-20 Ebay Pricing

Roland MKS-20 Ebay Pricing

Here’s an interesting question….

If you owned a good Roland MKS-20 Sample Set, would you sell your Roland MKS-20 if you had one?

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22 thoughts on “Roland MKS-20 Best Piano Samples

  1. UPDATE #1:

    I discovered that if you send an email to info@precisionsound.net with “add me to your mailing list” written in the subject, Precision Sounds will send you a 15% off discount coupon which I’ll write here:

    The first offer to you:
    Get 15% discount on any order above $50 by entering “NEWSLETTERDISCOUNT” in the coupon field at checkout.

    Note that this offer is subject to change most likely and that as a catch you have to spend more than $50 which defeats the purpose of buying just one product. However, it is a discount nonetheless.

    For me, I plan to wait for the seasonal 50% discount as that’s a lot of money to save if you are planning to buy multiple items. I don’t mind waiting 3-6 months either as I have plenty of other projects to do.

    I’m also on the lookout for an actual Roland MKS-20 hardware module as well. I heard that it features a Dimension Chorus that is essential to getting the famous Roland MKS-20 sound. It’s something to consider when checking out the samples by the companies I’ve indicated in my article.

    Note that Precisionsound garners some pretty excellent reviews around the internet as THE MKS-20 sampler soundset of choice. To quote someone I read recently on another forum, the Precisionsound P20 MKS-20 soundset is “close enough” to get that great gospel sound.

    Jim

  2. Here are a couple of videos of a guy who is using the Precision Sound MKS-20 samples and putting them into Reason. I think he’s triggering them with a Yamaha Motif but I’m not sure which model exactly. You can checkout the video here to get an example of how the PS20 MKS-20 Sample Set.

  3. Today I just bought the MKSensation MKS-20 Samples for the Motif ES/XS/XF from Gospelmusicians. I’m still downloading the sample package as I write this and I haven’t put them in my Yamaha ES yet, but I’ll write some additional comments once I have a chance to check them out. I also plan to convert and program these to work in my Fantom XR this week as well. I’m almost done with the Neo-Rhodes set and it sounds great in the Fantom too although you have to adjust a few things of course. Motif does not equal Fantom….laugh.

    MKSensation Patch List

    001 (A01) MKS Piano 1
    002 (A02) MKS Piano 2
    003 (A03) MKS Piano 3
    004 (A04) MKS Clav
    005 (A05) MKS Vibes
    006 (A06) MKS Harpsi
    007 (A07) MKS-20 EP1
    008 (A08) MKs-20 EP2
    010 (A10) MKS Remix – Piano and EP Tines with chorus
    011 (A11) Piano1&Str – MKS Piano 1 with Strings.
    012 (A12) MKSEP&Strg – MKS EP 2 and Strings
    013 (A13) Stack Vibe – Super layered MKS and Yamaha Tines
    014 (A14) MKS Tine 1 – MKS EP 2 with high chorus and warmth
    015 (A15) MKS Tine 2 – Piano 2 and Strings
    016 (A16) Hard MKS20 – Piano 3 with a hard dance piano sound

  4. I have a pretty comprehensive set of files sampled from a MKS-20 I mod’d years ago for lower distortion and noise. For each patch (except EP2) I have samples for all 99 notes and at 16 velocities – no effects. I intended to condense this down for a Kurzweil K2500 but never got around to it. Let me know if you’re interested. It’s about 3 DVD-ROM’s.

    • Hey Michael.
      Don’t mean to intrude here, but can you elaborate of how you modded your MKS-20 for lower noise and distortion?
      I ask because I have an RD-1000, and it has some noise/distortion issues that Id like to see if I can correct.
      I’d appreciate your reply.
      Thanks,
      Brian

  5. I don’t have any of these samples, but I do own an MKS-20. I was waiting for reviews before I buy any. It’s too hard to tell on youtube videos how similar they are. Even if they were dead-on alike, I would never sell my unit. They are just too rare. I have a hard time believing the EP1 would ever sound as good sampled as it does on the unit with the on-board chorus. What a great patch that is. It layers good with anything. If they would let me demo that patch and I liked it, I would definately buy it, but it doesn’t seen they let you demo anything first.

    • Hi David. Thanks for the comment.

      A vintage Roland MKS-20 still continues to be on my “watch list”. I still plan on buying one eventually and would absolutely never sell it should you already have one. I know Jamal Hartwell from Gospelmusicians keeps saying he’s going to sell his MKS-20, but I personally wouldn’t and I’m not sure if he actually did. There are definite pluses in having the samples so that one “could” leave their MKS-20 at home when performing live, but for studio use, I think it’s crazy to get rid of it.

      Enjoy your MKS-20. I hope to one day have one myself.

      Jim

  6. Hallo I found your blog Googling for a VSTi software emulation of MKS-20 / RD1000.
    While I think that the 3 sample set you are presenting here are great (I’ve listen tho the demo, I (still) don’t own any of them…) on the other end I wonder why there seem not to be any software simulation of the SAEP synthesis (the synthesis that pwered the MKS-20 and RD 1000).
    I mean: there are a lot of Yamaha Electric piano’s emulations, even good freeware, not based on samples but actually reproducind the sound generation engine, why no Roland ones?
    I’m really curious: maybe the SAEP engine is too difficult to reproduce?

    Sorry for this “off topic” comment… but you are the only muscian online that I find is interestend in some sort of MKS-20 reproduction…

    Stefano

  7. This is what I want: A software reproduction (not samples) of EP1 and EP2 with the chorus and EQ and other fx. Maybe we can start a petition to roland to do so! We could solicit the support of musicians such as Jason White and Mike Bereal of “hear and play”

  8. Just picked up an MKS-20 off Yahoo Japan for 15,400 yen (~$200 flat). It lacked the rack ears, which does count, but all in all i’d say that if you have physical space, a real MKS-20 would be a good route to go.
    /KRM

    • Hi Kevin! Congrats on finding a Roland MKS-20. I agree! I’m scouting around for one in Japan as well. After working with samples and playing an RD-1000, I personally don’t think anything beats the real thing. MKS-20 samples these days are adequate and serve their purpose, but having a real MSK-20 certainly is the way to go. The people I know who make these samples still own their MKS-20 modules as far as I know. That tells you something too…laugh. Enjoy the module and I hope to be reporting a similar find shortly. – Jim

  9. Hello everyone I love this thread/blog or whatever it is called
    I did purchase the gospel musicians mks20 patch I also have kid nepro killer keys for the jv880
    and there is a mks 20 patch on there it is actually duplicating the ep2
    finally I got a chance to partially demo a real mks20 at my house yesterday a guy was going to sell it but it was having sound issues and probably needed to go to the electronics store for a vascular eloctroplasty

    here are my thoughts when I first got the MKS20 from gospel musicians I thought ok whats the big deal what was all the fuss (take note of this first reaction)
    after playing through them I thought ok these are usable but nothing I am really reaching for

    when I got Kid nepros sound set killer keys for the jv880 I thought wow a lot different from the gospel musicians sample set much warmer bigger sound which I wasnt sure is it supposed to sound like this

    until I played juanita bynums “Like The Dew In THe Morning ” and then I compared the kid nepros mks patch
    and I heard an almost exact replication.
    I talked to a friend of mine Sebastian From Wheatworks and he commented that producers have there own tweaks similar to an organist and their individual drawbar settings
    what he meant by tweaks I am not sure

    so back to the tale
    I then heard the mks the craigslist seller brought to my house before the unit just up and died on us
    the sound I heard was really shocking
    at first I couldnt believe I was hearing a unit from the 80′s the presence this unit had
    I mean forget realism it sounded great
    the piano patch which I really wasnt after had a warmth that I just couldnt believe

    so lets look at first reactions
    gospel musicians “whats the big deal”
    kid nepro mks patch from killer keys “wow”
    Real MKS 20 “I cant believe this thing is from the 80′s”

    these first reactions should tell the real dish on this sample thing

    I havent bought any of the other programs sample sets but I am not giving up

    I will go further and put this out there
    roland has patches called rd1000 on their xv5050 1080 they also have patches called SA Rhodes 1 and SA rhodes 2 it is my feeling that these were rolands attempt to reference the mks20 and or RD1000 boards
    I am buying a 1080 and I am going to check out this patch
    like mentioned before if you do own an mks 20 you dont want to lug this thing around it is nearly 30 years old
    the serach continues and I agree with the last posters
    that reproducing this sound via the original subtractive synthesis is the answer perhaps a subtractive synthesis board can be made to go into the new rolands

    allowing for the archetecture to work.
    why should roland let everyone cash in on their technology?

    • Hello Steven! Thanks very much for visiting my blog and the excellent info about your experiences with the MKS-20 sound and samples. I only just recently found on the SR-JV80-03 Piano board ( http://www.synthmania.com/sr-jv80-03.htm ) some RD1000 oriented samples that were pretty good. I also have the JV-1080 and will check out more closely what’s on there. By the way, I’ve heard a lot of great things about that JV880 and am tempted to get one. The Gosepel Musicians MKS20 was tweaked I’m sure to fit Jamal’s style of playing. I find his Rhodes samples to be similarly tweaked for the Neo Soul sound which I like. I have never played a real MKS-20 or RD1000 before and I’m anxious to do so. I had an opportunity to buy a used Roland RD-1000 for $60 bucks about a month ago. I passed it up because it was absolutely HUGE and had no place to put it. I really struggled with that decision but really that RD1000 is a beast!! The RD sounds on the JV80-03 I rather like so that works for now. I haven’t found my ultimate solution yet but I’m still searching. Thanks again – Jim

    • Hello again Steven! I’m happy to say that I just found a Roland MKS-20 piano today here in Japan. It’s on the way!! I’m looking forward to doing some comparisons with samples and other sound modules I have. Stay tuned! – Jim

      • wow lucky you. I saw that one at a good price on ebay
        but once you ship it here it would be just as much as the ones sold here.
        congratulations you will love it very warm
        and when you do a comparison you will here the difference

        I have yet to find the sr jv80-03 sound card but I did manage to get a patch editor that will work with my roland jv1010 and 880 the patch editor is a free download and a must have for roland jv owners

        the patches I mentioned in my previous posts do sound very mks20 like.
        if you have the jv1080 you can pull up any patch that says mks such as the mks 80 there are rd1000 patches
        and there are some SA piano patches.

        number 16 in the user bank is a very strong not subtle sound
        so I want to get an editor and learn how to tweak these sounds so that I can get a variety of them.

        so my advice to those who want to go module route try the jv880 or 1010 or 1080 and see how these SA patches sound they are really close and with some editing you can bring them even closer.

      • Thanks Steven! Indeed having it shipped locally here in Japan and getting an additional discount made it a nice find. I buy a lot from a few of my friends off Ebay here in Japan. Sometimes Yahoo Japan Auctions are good too. Thanks again!

  10. No problem I just scored a roland Fantom G8 today it has aa arx-02 which actually has SA wave forms in it
    so apparently Roland is recognizing their mks is the beat it is
    but quietly including it in their arsenal it would be nice to have some real side by sides with all these options
    I am looking forward to you doing a review once you get yours and do some A/b comparisons perhaps I will see If I can do some on my end between Kontact motif and the Arx board so people will have an idea whats available

    • I’m on the lookout for the variations on the Piano 3 sound. I owned both an MKS-20 and a Roland P-330 at one point, driving them with a Kurzweil PC2x. I play in a Grateful Dead band and the MKS-20 Piano 3 tone is integral for Brent Mydland’s sound when he played with the Grateful Dead. It’s a really heavy SA Piano, almost Yamaha electric grand sounding. I have a Roland VR-760 in our practice space with the SRX-7 board and this has a patch called “SA Piano” which nails the tone exactly. Hoping to find the same sound to load into my Nord Stage, which is what I use for live gigs.

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