88 note midi keyboard recommendations

Discussion in 'GEAR Talk Forum' started by jimjazzuk, Feb 19, 2019.

  1. jimjazzuk

    jimjazzuk New Member

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    Hey guys,

    I'm currently using my nord electro to play with VSTs, but unfortunately it's limited as it only has 76 keys and no mod wheel or easily assignable controls.

    I'm looking for an 88 key midi keyboard which has a minimum of a mod wheel and ideally other knobs for controlling parameters. I'm torn between weighted keys (great for piano) or semi weighted (perhaps better for other instruments sometimes). My budget is about £300 maximum and I don't mind used 'boards. I'm also open to purely midi controllers and stage piano type keyboards like a Roland, Yamaha etc.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  2. Well, I can tell you I use both of these...and love them...

    Nektar LX88+ this is an excellent, set-weighted controller with all the slider and knobs you'll typically need. It's quite inexpensive (I paid $400 Canadian), and inegrates nicely with most major DAW's.

    Native Instrument S88 - I have the first generation, and I love this thing. It has weighted keys, and works great with major DAW's. In my case, Logic Pro and Cubase 10. An added bonus is the included Komplete Kontrol software which integrates perfectly, allowing you to control any NKS instrument straight from the controller's knob's. You can also assign any of the knobs to whatever you wish, and there is a cool light-guide feature. The only thing I dislike is the tech-sensitive MOD and pitch sliders. The new MKII version has regular wheels though. I highly recommend!
     
    bill5 and ooktron like this.
  3. Niah2

    Niah2 Active Member

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    What does "set-weighted" means? It that the same has having weighted keys?
     
  4. ooktron

    ooktron just another gearhead

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    I agree, the Nektar LX88+ and NI S88 (MK I) are great midi keyboards in that price range.

    You could also keep an eye out for a used Doepfer LMK or PK series keyboard, the older ones often show up in that price range on eBay and the Fatar keys they use (TP/40GH) are, IMO, some of the better plastic keys you'll find in that price range.
    Another great thing about the Doepfer keyboards is the fact that you can upgrade them with all kinds of add-ons Doepfer makes (ribbons, mod wheels, etc.)
     
  5. Damn auto correct ;) I meant semi-weighted.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    jimjazzuk

    jimjazzuk New Member

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    Jan 9, 2018
    Thanks guys. Alternatively do many keyboards transmit midi changes of octave? My Nord doesn't. I.e. transpose down the octave so that I can get to key triggers lower down the keyboard range
     
  7. EvilDragon

    EvilDragon KSP Wizard

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    Any decent MIDI controller should be able to do that. If it doesn't, it's not a decent MIDI controller :)
     
  8. Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    The Korg Kronos which is overkill in many ways has numerous assignable sliders and switches (a joystick instead of mod wheel so I assigned to a slider.) The action may be the best of any keyboard available and fine for synth or organ-type parts. I used to have an Electro 4 but unloaded it due to the pitiful SW action (the weighted action also not good.)
     
  9. OP
    OP
    jimjazzuk

    jimjazzuk New Member

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    Jan 9, 2018
    Do you think this is a viable option (transposing so I can get to key triggers) with a smaller keyboard, or am I better off going for the full 88-keys? Mostly doing orchestral style stuff.
     
  10. Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    Different people are comfortable working different ways. I’m a keyboard player by trade and totally comfortable with smaller keyboards for gigs but for writing, I don’t want to deal with a fixed limitation particularly when playing with ideas low or high in register. It makes me way too conscious of the process of translating those ideas since I know I maybe stopped in my tracks any second to hear what I’m thinking and then transposing down and back etc. Some guys have no problem working that way but us pianists are most likely going to chafe at that.

    An important thing to consider is that the fader throw is rather short so if you like to ride your parts in than it could be a problem. I think they work fine for entering CC info and getting things where you want them essentially. I always end up editing that information very carefully afterward in the DAW so it’s not a hindrance and there are numerous faders which can be saved in numerous configurations for whatever library you’re dealing with. One thing that is more of a nuisance than you would think is the fact that the keyboard boots up rather than turning on instantly so there’s 90 seconds or something to wait each time. It’s a great keyboard though and what guys like Herbie Hancock play with it’s great feel and programmability.

    Edit: Sorry, I didn’t directly answer your keyswitch question. I tend to mouse those in since they are not consistant even within libraries; very low or high and have to be placed exactly in time as opposed to freely played in.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2019
  11. Alex Fraser

    Alex Fraser Senior Member

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    Or a third option: Get a mini keyboard like the NanoKey for keyswitching. This way, your switches are always in the same place. Useful even with 88 keys.
     
  12. OP
    OP
    jimjazzuk

    jimjazzuk New Member

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    Jan 9, 2018
    Thanks for you you input everyone. I've read that the Nektar 88+ can have some unevenness between the black and white keys - can anyone vouch for this?
     
  13. Not here, but I heard the fist generation LX keys were like this. The LX88+ apparently fixed this problem.

    I should also mention that if you use a lot of NKS Kontakt stuff, and sometimes use key switches, the LED's on the S88 are brilliant....they show exactly where they are.
     
  14. bill5

    bill5 Member

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    Can you elaborate on "semi-weighted," as I've seen keyboards called that which felt anywhere from fully weighted to very close to synth action. I'd like to find a MIDI controller that's truly about half-way in between.


    ? The Kronos is a full-up workstation/synth and is I think about $3000+.
     
  15. bill5

    bill5 Member

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    PS to OP: I've been window shopping for awhile and this is what I've found on 88-key controllers - first number is cost (US dollars). I can't speak to how good any are, just FYI:

    200 Alesis Q88
    250 Swissonic Controlkey88 (note: has aftertouch)
    290 Nektar LX88
    340 MAudio Code61 (also aftertouch)
     
  16. Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    As I said it's overkill with all the on board features but it's also worth every penny in my case. Being a piano/keyboard player the single most important thing to me is the action and feel. Virtually every single controller I've played has inferior action. Who wants to fight a sluggish action all day year-round? Particularly doing orchestral mock-ups where you're playing in quick parts constantly. The Kronos is a dream to play and has enhanced my workflow measurably.

    The problem with keyboard controllers has always been quality action versus control features.The choice has always been one or the other. They have got better in recent years but not up to my standards - and I've played them all. With the Kronos I have assignable sliders, buttons and knobs - a lot of them! nothing stacked on the keyboard for extra functionality and a clumsy setup. It's perfect for me in that it provides the two most important things to me in a keyboard. As far as the cost, I got it used in perfect condition for $2700 which compared to the other gear we all have to buy is not out of the ordinary and a write-off of course. Everyone has their preferences and budget and I've stated mine just in case the OP or someone isn't aware of what a great machine it is.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019 at 10:36 AM
  17. Your best bet is to try a few out before deciding, it all comes down to personal preference. For me, the action is a bit heavier than my old M-Audio Keystation 88, but definitely not fully weighted. I personally like it.
     
  18. Victor N.

    Victor N. New Member

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    in the same boat... looking for a 88 keys midi controller after i sold my nektar lx61+.

    lx88 would be top on my list if not for the million buttons and controls i never used on the lx61+. in fact, most midi controllers would do us (do me at least) a big favor, and a price cut too, by having just two mod wheels and removing all the unnecessary buttons and switches and controls. all those could be delegated to another controller device. which, by the way, most of them have on the market as well.

    i am surprised none of these companies has thought about it.

    if yamaha ever enters the midi controller market, they would do great i believe. i mean, i am looking at this on amazon and all they need to do is remove speakers, add mod wheels, add midi. would buy instantly.
     
  19. ratherbirds

    ratherbirds Active Member

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    Maybe you can try this too :
     
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  20. AllanH

    AllanH Senior Member

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    I have an older Privia that we have in the living room. The action is actually very nice. The built-in sounds and speakers a bit less so. But with headphones, it's very playable. I've never used it as a controller but the action is better than most cheap weighted keyboards I've tried.
     

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