Korg RK-100s Keytar Review

Lately I’ve been very interested in picking up a Korg RK-100s keytar in red just like in the video above. I currently have the original Korg RK100 in red and it’s probably the best keytar I’ve ever played. It truly feels like a guitar to me which is an instrument I originally played on as a kid. Although I don’t have the Korg RK-100s just yet, I thought I would write a few impressions about it as I do my research.

First, the RK-100s has been out in Japan for about two weeks, perhaps longer. Usually the major music stores near me always get in a floor model of the latest Roland, Korg, and Yamaha gear. However, the Korg RK-100s has been nowhere to be seen other than a flood of them on Amazon Japan. I asked the manager at Shimamura which is a pretty big store here and they were not interested in the product. In fact, he said they likely would not get a floor model which I found odd. After all they did get a Roland Lucina and AX-Synth which were both prominently displayed on release day. So why not the Korg RK-100s? The manager just seemed to laugh and then I realized. Oh yeah, Roland is generally more popular than Korg from what I’ve seen. Yamaha has no keytar in the mix so they are happily standing on the sidelines watching to see how the Korg RK-100s flies against the Roland. In fact, maybe Yamaha is sitting there going “Keytars, yeah right, been there done that…laugh”.

Another interesting thing about the Korg RK-100s is how it’s being demo’d on Youtube or lack thereof. There are just two videos at the moment from Japan even though it’s been out for two plus weeks. One is performed by a clown looking guy named H ZETT M and another ( shown above ) by an unknown artist AYANO (Cyntia) of what band I don’t know. ( Yes, I do follow the Japanese music scene very much here in Japan ). Both videos don’t really show anything outstanding about the product or what it’s all about in detail. Instead there is a lot of playing around with the touch strip along the bottom of the keys. It reminds me of when the Whammy Bar first came out on guitars. Everyone under the sun was grabbing that Whammy Bar and going nuts. All of that is fine but I’d like to see and here more details about the product.

I also think the Korg RK-100s looks rather small. I was hoping to see this in a store to actually get a feel for the size. The original is just perfect!! Some people call it big, but not really. I think they are likely coming from the small Yamaha SHS-10 or KX-5 model for example which are significantly smaller. ( The KX-5 is heavier even! ) The keys on the original are the large size while on the newer RK-100s they are the smaller mini keys. They don’t look that bad, but again there is not much info about that available just yet.

One big issue that many might have is how expensive the Korg RK-100s is. In Japan it’s selling for about $600 which is a bit expensive. The Roland AX-Synth sells for around $1300 on Amazon Japan which is brutally expensive. I’m sorry, but that is WAY too much for a keytar and I’ll never pay that much for one. I might as well spring for the MOOG Liberation if I’m going to pay a ton of money for a keytar. The Alesis Vortex sells for about $200 in Japan which is a great price. So the Korg RK-100s sits in the middle with regards to price. Looking at things in that perspective, it seems the Korg RK-100s might not be that expensive, but when you compare it to other non keytar synths, I think it’s price point is debatable.

NO MANUAL! Yep, Korg has yet to release a manual in either English or Japanese. Sure it’s early in the release, but usually the manual is available at least during the release time. The editor is available and after testing to see how it looks, I think it’s pretty nice. I actually installed it to get a better idea of the RK-100s because I couldn’t find a PDF manual anywhere.

Finally, it seems Korg is bent on treating the Korg RK-100s as a gimmick given they seem to use some pretty interesting people to showcase it. Indeed the keytar concept is seen as kind of a gimmick by a lot synth enthusiasts, or it’s viewed as something stuck in the 80’s. That’s all understandable I suppose given the fact that there have been very few big name artists strutting around with one on stage. It’s great that Korg along with Roland are trying to keep the keytar alive. I for one really enjoy playing them and do believe that one day, someone is going to come along and just blow everyone away with one. Then we’ll likely see a rush by many to get one.

Keytars are cool. We just need to see more cool people playing some cool songs on them.

For now I’ll stick with the original vintage Korg RK-100.

Just in time for the annual Japan summer circus.

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7 thoughts on “Korg RK-100s Keytar Review

  1. The one thing I notice about most keytar videos is that you seem to spend an aweful lot of time looking at the top of peoples heads (or that guys nose?)! Note to self, when playing, look at the audience! Those videos seem to be more about ‘look how cool I look’ than anything although from that first video it does look like the octave switch buttons are on the neck and easy to get too, vs the Lucina where everything is on the front. If I ever get enough time and some spare cash I think I’ll just make myself a keytar the way I want it, even if only as a midi controller to my rack. First order of the day, 49 or maybe even 61 keys.

    1. Yeah, that’s a common problem with guitar players too. I remember long ago when I took guitar lessons as a kid, my teacher told me to try and not look at my hands when practicing, but rather straight ahead. I don’t think many people pay attention to that idea much anymore. I will say that in Japan, most musicians, especially guitar players look at their hands or sheet music instead of the audience. Rock bands can be seen with music stands and sheet music if you can believe it. In Japan, I don’t think the audience cares though, so probably why not I suppose. It’s interesting.

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