Roland XP-80, the newest may not be the best
You may wonder why I'd write about the Roland XP-80, a keyboard you can only buy used because the manufacturer no longer makes it. I've seen them on Ebay, as recently as August, 2006, for less than a thousand dollars.
Although it would be considered an older keyboard the Roland XP-80 is the best value I know of in keyboards today. Visiting friends in Ohio, recently, I had the opportunity to play one again. Playing it was like catching up with an old friend.
Many of us, as church musicians, are eager to learn how keyboard programming can help us improve our overall musical sound. The Roland XP-80 offers a believable approach to take, especially when a new keyboard is beyond your means. Because the Roland brand is well known for ease of use in its products, you can learn midisequencing and patch creation more simply than on instruments from other makers.
The Roland XP-80 is a true music production machine. With a full MIDI production center and a 76-note, semi-weighted keyboard, a flexible arpeggiator, a bigger display screen, palette controls and the MRC-Pro sequencer, including JV sound engine and you won't find a better feature/value set anywhere - especially for the money..
You'll love the set of palette control sliders. They edit the filter cutoff and resonance of the filter, or the attack and decay of the envelopes. They are also used in creating patches or to record into the sequences. The MRC-Pro sequencer has three different modes of sequencing---song, pattern and RPS (Real-time Phrase Sequencing), both offer sixteen tracks of MIDI sequencing with pro-editing capabilities.
This makes the XP-80 a more useable size for use as a "master controller". It gives you 33 arpeggio styles, with up to 34 variations of each. Additionally, the accent and shuffle rate can be adjusted on each, allowing you to customize the variations. One of the cool things you can do with the arpeggiator and the sequencer is in record mode. When arpeggios are recorded, the information is recorded note-for-note.
Sequence files from the Roland "MC"-series of sequencers can be loaded into the XP-80, and so can Standard MIDI files. The sequencer offers enough memory to store 60,000 notes, and you can save sequences to floppy. (You know what a floppy is, right?)