88 keys + 7.5cm or thinner.

William Palmer

Active Member
Hi all!

I'm looking for a very specific recommendation please... something with the following:

A) 88 keys
B) Must be thiner than 7.5cm (lightweight and small form factor also preferred)
C) Reasonably accurate velocity response (hammer/synth/semi-weighted are all fine, again I'm just looking for an accurate velocity curve)
D) Inclusion of mod wheel and pitch bend very much preferred.
E) As cheap as possible, whilst meeting the above. I'm mostly looking at budget to mid-range options.


In my search I've come across:
- 'iKeyboard 8 nano' https://iconproaudio.com/product/ikeyboard-8nano/ (almost what I'm after, but the reviews keep mentioning a lack of low velocity response)
-MAudio's Keystation 88 (both weighted and non weighted versions)
-Nektar's LX88


Any advice appreciated!
 

EvilDragon

KSP Wizard
7.5 cm is something I almost never saw on 88 key boards.

Maybe check out Casio PX-5S... It's not 7.5 cm but it should provide the best response out of anything you've listed.
 

charlieclouser

Senior Member
I have used the M-Audio Keystation 88ex for years, in various versions including the Alesis Q-88 which is a rebadged version. I love it due to the compact depth and height, and the velocity range is fine for me, but it's not what I'd call "a performer's keyboard". It's synth-action and a tiny bit "clacky" but I don't mind. I specifically do NOT want a big, slow, heavy, hammer-action keyboard. It's durable and light and does what it says on the tin.

I was intrigued by the Nektar LX-88 but I played one at NAMM and it felt a bit worse than the Keystation - the keys felt a bit "loose" and they seemed to have a shallower travel depth. Plus I need the center to be empty as that's my wrist rest for the computer keyboard which I place above the music keyboard, so the LX-88 was a no-go for me.

- I had not seen the Icon before, and I will make sure to check it out at NAMM this January. Given the somewhat janky construction of their fader controllers I'm not too hopeful but you never know.

- There's also the StudioLogic NUMA piano that has a compact size, but it has no pitch and mod wheels, uses a terrible tiny joystick instead.

The Casio will definitely have a high-quality keyboard feel. People seem to love the feel of their piano-style controllers and digital pianos, although it's a bit taller than the others in your list.

I will be on the prowl for more low-profile master keyboards at NAMM this January, so if I find any candidates I'll report back.
 

Fever Phoenix

yes, it's true, I can tap dance.
I like the Nektar LX88 for its easy integration in Cubase, but not the biggest fan of how the keys feel.
 
If you're not afraid of a bit of DIY, you could just take a mechanical keybed out of it's casing.

I did this for weighted and non-weighted Fatar ones. You can find these rather affordable 2nd hand. Mod & pitchwheels can be moved "outboard". You're able to get under 7.5cm height with ease :)

Roberts studio 20190412_131954 169.jpg
 

gyprock

Active Member
Nektar Impact LX88+ is 8cm to the top of the knobs. If you removed the rubber feet you could get close to 7.5cm. I'm very happy with this keyboard as a controller.
 
OP
William Palmer

William Palmer

Active Member
If you're not afraid of a bit of DIY, you could just take a mechanical keybed out of it's casing.

I did this for weighted and non-weighted Fatar ones. You can find these rather affordable 2nd hand. Mod & pitchwheels can be moved "outboard". You're able to get under 7.5cm height with ease :)
Ok that's mad! If I decide to go down this particular rabbit hole, where could I start looking/reading?

- I had not seen the Icon before, and I will make sure to check it out at NAMM this January. Given the somewhat janky construction of their fader controllers I'm not too hopeful but you never know.

I will be on the prowl for more low-profile master keyboards at NAMM this January, so if I find any candidates I'll report back.
I suspect the Icon is just a little too good to be true, very little about the keyboard online also. Much appreciated re NAMM!

7.5 cm is something I almost never saw on 88 key boards.

Maybe check out Casio PX-5S... It's not 7.5 cm but it should provide the best response out of anything you've listed.
I'm looking for something more compact and inexpensive, apprecaite the recommendation though.

Nektar Impact LX88+ is 8cm to the top of the knobs. If you removed the rubber feet you could get close to 7.5cm. I'm very happy with this keyboard as a controller.
Keep hearing mixed reviews on the LX in terms of velocity response. Take it that hasn't been an issue for you?
 

Karsten Laser

New Member
You can see many Doepfer LMK 2 / 4 built into desks.
You can buy them without the case:


I had a LMK 2+ years ago, worked fine and plan on building a desk with an integrated LMK4 next year...
As many other manufacturers they use FATAR keyboards.
 

Fever Phoenix

yes, it's true, I can tap dance.
Ok that's mad! If I decide to go down this particular rabbit hole, where could I start looking/reading?



I suspect the Icon is just a little too good to be true, very little about the keyboard online also. Much appreciated re NAMM!


I'm looking for something more compact and inexpensive, apprecaite the recommendation though.



Keep hearing mixed reviews on the LX in terms of velocity response. Take it that hasn't been an issue for you?
yes, some irregularity/uneven attacks between black and white keys, but I can work with it. The price is amazing and the integrity with all kind of DAWs is what I love about it. Worked with Novatipn before, amazing playability, but I had a ton of problems with Automap and that got me to switch in the end.
 

LudovicVDP

Member
Nektar LX88 owner here. The first version though.
Like I said a few times, I love it when it comes to price, footprint and integration with Cubase.
But I indeed feel it's close to unplayable...
I really don't care though as I didn't buy it to play piano but to control my DAW... which is does very well.
 
OP
William Palmer

William Palmer

Active Member
You can see many Doepfer LMK 2 / 4 built into desks.
You can buy them without the case:


I had a LMK 2+ years ago, worked fine and plan on building a desk with an integrated LMK4 next year...
As many other manufacturers they use FATAR keyboards.
Had no idea that was a commercial thing! If I go down this route, I'll do it myself because the Doepfer stuff is way over my budget.
 
The Doepfer keybeds resemble the older Fatar range like the SL-880. But you need some luck finding one used at a good price.

IMO, the quality has always been so-so. Slightly spongy action, not really consistent force-velocity curve. And the mod / pitchweels potentiometers are prone to trouble due to oxidation. But this can be solved with e.g. Kontakt K60 spray.

Trouble is, you have to spend much more for quality 88-key keybeds. They're used in some Japanese piano keyboards , e.g. from Kawai. Clearly better then the old or new Fatar stuff. But, apart from the cost, these nice Japanese hammer action keybeds require more vertical space to build in.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
If you're not afraid of a bit of DIY, you could just take a mechanical keybed out of it's casing.
Cool!

What keyboard did those come from originally, and where did you put the electronics (key scanners or whatever)?

Also, are those Speck mixers? I haven't seen those for years. They were (hopefully are?) really good.
 
Cool!

What keyboard did those come from originally, and where did you put the electronics (key scanners or whatever)?

Also, are those Speck mixers? I haven't seen those for years. They were (hopefully are?) really good.
Nick, these come from Fatar SL880 (weighted) & TMK88 (non-weighted) keyboards (see sig).
At the time, these were amongst the most affordable 88 keyboards available. Never really liked their somber grey plastic casing, so taking out the keybeds didn't hurt that much. The electronic boards sit just below the keybeds: a very tight fit, but it works :)

All the mixing stuff is DIY. Since a kid, I got into building and designing electronics. As you know, before DAW's became as powerful as they are now, one had to use outboard gear, FX, samplers etc. So there was always a need for (more) mixing channels. Being a bit of an audio-freak, I used high-end very-low-noise components like the AD797 opamp and MAT02 transistors (for MIC preamps). Going the DIY route kept things nevertheless affordable.
 

EvilDragon

KSP Wizard
I do think that that huge display is too close to your eyes, though! :) Monitor of that size should probably be away for at least 2 meters, if not more!
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
I do think that that huge display is too close to your eyes, though! :) Monitor of that size should probably be away for at least 2 meters, if not more!
And then the letters, etc. are too small, so you're back where you started.

That's why I went back to my 30" Cinema Display after trying a 40" 4K one. :)
 

Alex Fraser

Senior Member
Like Charlie, Keystation 88 here.

I won't pretend it's the ultimate performance instrument, but it's fine for general production.
I've got the velocity curve permanently edited in my template via the Logic Environment - so don't get too hung up on the curve out the box.

They're kind of disposable at the price. Mine is full of sandwich crumbs and I don't care. And if you break it? Amazon prime next day and carry on. ;)
 
OP
William Palmer

William Palmer

Active Member
Thanks everyone for all your comments!

I'm down to my final 5 choices.

Bit more context:
-I don't have a dedicated studio, meaning I may at times have to relocate whatever controller I buy.
-Overall, I'm after accurate 88 key action in a small for factor. I'm looking on the budget end.
-I found a way around my initial 7.5cm height limit. That said, form factor is still key.
-I'm leaning towards the Casio CDP, although I have yet to try out and the Numa Compact and Oxygen 88.

Here's a very serious table I made for myself last night:

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 15.30.03.png

Any more takes appreciated!