Best hammer key action MIDI controller in the $500-$700 range?

j3tman

New Member
Due to COVID, I am unable to reach my main studio, so I'm looking to get a makeshift setup going in the meantime.

After agonizing over the perfect all-in-one controller, I finally decided I'll spring for two separate ones: an Arturia Keylab MKII with 49 keys for its low profile, bread and butter MIDI input work, PLUS a second 88 key controller that's strictly for a more authentic piano feel.

Is there anything amazing in the $500-700 range? To be clear, I already have a great keyboard in my main studio for this purpose (Kawaii MP11), so this is absolutely temporary and I may just sell or donate it later once the craziness dies down. I'm tempted to raise the budget a bit and get the Studiolab SL88 Grand, but I've heard so many awful things about quality control and nonexistent customer support that I'm hesitant.
 

Zx81

Producer / developer
I kept postponing the decision over which piano action keyboard to buy hoping that some new product would come to market that would be ‘the one’.

in the end, necessity and desk space forced my hand and I got a studiologic sl73. So far it’s been great - no issues to date . I was a bit confused by the default settings but a quick read of the manual resolved that...

I haven’t needed to use their technical support yet so can’t comment about that.

Despite my reservations about the sl73 (based mainly on reports of technical problems) my unit has worked as expected and the heavier feel suits my hamfisted playing style .
 

Instrugramm

All of the samples? Yes please!
If you want to go cheaper, maybe the M-Audio Hammer 88? I have one here but it broke during transport so I couldn't actually test it yet...

Ps. I can however recommend the NI S61 (synth-action keyboard), the two controller route is definitely the way to go.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
caveat - I am a cheap dinosaur... I second the NI S61 as a synth-action keyboard, I finally retired my Oberheim xK last fall and I'm really happy with the S61. For a piano like keyboard I am still using a Roland Rhodes MK-80. At the time it was my second favorite keyboard, I liked the Korg SG-1D a little better, but the price difference was significant, and I really liked some of the sounds that came with the MK-80. I don't use them anymore (don't even have the audio hooked up) but I still really like the keyboard action.

For something today? If my MK-80 died I'd look for a used MK-80 (seem to run right around $500) or SG-1D (not as many around, and run closer to $700). The nice thing about these, other than the action, is that parts are still readily available, so if there is a problem it can be solved.

And I could be all wet here... like guitars, and unlike synth-action keyboards, I feel like I need to spend time banging on them before making such a decision.
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
The Yamaha’s in that price range have great action. I am firstly a piano player and picked one up to travel light.

The P125 is the newer version of P115 (which I have.)
 

SupremeFist

Active Member
The Yamaha’s in that price range have great action. I am firstly a piano player and picked one up to travel light.

The P125 is the newer version of P115 (which I have.)
I love this guy's videos, he's a great player:


In general in this price range an entry-level digital piano is going to give you better action than a midi controller, simply because the former type of unit sells in hugely greater volume and so they can give you better quality for less. My local music-store guy told me they only make like £15 from every Roland FP10 they sell (but they sell a lot).

(Fwiw my main is a Kawai CA97, very much like or identical to the OP's MP11, and the Roland was by far the most satisfyingly comparable action for me in that price range.)
 
OP
J

j3tman

New Member
Thanks for the replies! The Roland FP10 looks interesting. How does this compare to the Studiologic SL88 Grand and the Korg D1? Judging by this chart, it looks like the Roland is definitely much lighter than the MP11 (although admittedly they all are in the low-mid level range)
 

Attachments

brek

Active Member
I have a:
Yamaha s08 with "balanced hammer action"
Roland FP10
StudioLogic SL88 studio

The Yamaha is perfect as the workhorse MIDI controller (with another keyboard handling knob and fader duties). As an untrained pianist that loves playing real pianos, I love the action on this. It uses a "balanced weighted action" that is lighter in the low end.

The Roland has a more authentic piano feel. I don't use it as a MIDI controller, but it would be fine for that.

The StudioLogic... Ick. Just do not like the feel of this. It's the equivalent of typing on the new-ish MacBook keyboards. The extra joysticks are not even a consolation prize as they are no substitute for a proper mod wheel and/or faders.

Maybe the Grand version of the SL88 is better but I would just get a digital piano, especially since you'll have that Arturia.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
Other options I'm considering are the Korg D1 and the Casio Privia PX-5S.
I have a Casio Privia PX-5S. The action is tolerable, but not great. What I REALLY like about it is the light weight. Nice for gigging. Won't tear your arm out of the socket moving it around.

On the minus side, though, it is not made very well. Don't expect it to last long if you're going to play it seriously. I had to take mine apart to fix a note that had no velocity response (it was generating a high velocity number, no matter what velocity I played). If you had a good feeling about this keyboard, initially, you will not maintain it after taking it apart. It's light because it's all plastic. The screws are tapped into plastic, so don't expect it to be serviced often before the screws will no longer hold. Inside the unit. it's another one of those plastic actions that relies on a HUGE amount of slovenly applied grease to make the action feel somewhat smooth (when new). What happened on my instrument was that some of that grease migrated into the switch (it has those silicone pieces that push up against a grid on the circuit board). Some of the grease had gotten into that, and that's what was causing the velocity problem. I cleaned it up, and it's working better, now, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens again.

So, HIGH marks for the light weight. But, consider the PX-5S as a somewhat disposable keyboard not designed to hold up for a long time, and/or be easily serviced.

Also, if you need to store this keyboard or transport it around (especially in a hot vehicle in warm climates), I think it would be a good idea to transport it facing up. Otherwise, I think there's a good chance of all that greasy stuff inside migrating to a place where it will cause problems.
 

robgb

I was young once
I remember when I was on a keyboard search awhile back, the Privia's felt very nice under my fingertips. I wound up sticking with the keyboard I have, but if I'd pulled the trigger it would have been the Casio.