Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Yamaha PSR-550 Portable Keyboard

Yamaha’s PSR-550 portable keyboard is a utilitarian concept for those who are space or finance challenged; who need a practice instrument to take on the road or nurture their kids; who desire an eminently affordable means of interfacing with a computer to share or store or create ideas-and which could easily, in a pinch, function as a professional quality performance/recording instrument.

For a retail list price of only $799 (I’ve seen it on the Web for $550), the Yamaha PSR-550 portable keyboard offers an SUV full of functions: 700-plus voices, 32 notes of polyphony, a 16-track sequencer, a floppy disk drive for storage, a “to host” port (offering direct connection to a PC or Mac) and a built-in stereo sound system. At this price point, you don’t get a weighted piano-style action, but the 61-note keyboard is very sensitive to variations in touch and dynamics, and, having evaluated Yamaha’s top-tier S80 last year, I discovered that the PSR-550’s sounds rival that of the S80, thanks to Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) tone generation architecture, beginning with a natural sounding grand piano in a cozy ambient space; a warm, spatial suitcase (read: Rhodes) EP; useful banks of jazzy organ sounds; reasonably realistic brass, reeds and woodwinds; and vast banks of synthesizer, ethnic, percussion and drum set sounds. I wish the mono output was in stereo and buffered a bit better, but as a performance instrument, it more than held its own in the company of acoustic and acoustic-electric combo instruments.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published