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Help me choose a new 88 key controller/keyboard (NI S88 MK2 v SL88 Grand)

whiskers

Perpetual student
Hello all,

Recently my MPK88 (which I wasn't a huge fan of, but it did have a lot of options) bit dust, with the USB housing coming loose. So i'm looking to get another 88 key hammer action keyboard. I'm looking for something that feels good playing, and have tentatively arrived at potentially the Studiologic SL88 grand (which I think is TP40 Wood Fatar Keybed, so supposed to feel good) and NI's S88 MK2.

I have not been able to try either in a local shop near me, so that's unfortunate; from what I have read and inferred, here's what I've gathered on each:

STUDIOLOGIC SL88 GRAND:

Pros

  • it sounds like the SL88 Grand might be more of a realistic feel than the S88 MK2, and the SL88 Studio.
  • I also like the idea of the 'joystick' modulation and expression controllers, but have not tried anything other than mod wheel in practice
Cons
  • Simple - not a lot of extra features (not necessarily a bad thing) - no built in Kontakt/DAW integration from what I understand?
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS S88 MK2:

Pros

  • a lot of great integration. I use Cubase and NI Komplete Ultimate, so it seems like a great choice
  • lighting zones that would help realize range and keyswitches, and screen and controls that would help spend less time 'clicking' on the computer.
Cons
  • reviews on the keybed seems....mixed? Kind of a question mark here without being able to try it in-person
  • lot of potential parts to break down the road?

Anyone tried both and/or have either and can give good input? My biggest two questions, I'm not sure can easily be answered:

  • Would the S88 MK2 'fit' my workflow? Anyone that got the S88 find they got used to using the keyboard to enhance their workflow and found it a positive? Since i'm pretty new to this, I think it would be a pro, as I'm not so 'used' to a certain workflow yet
  • Not really sure on either action. Anyone disappointed on the MK2's action?

Other thoughts? Anything I haven't considered, or other controllers I should look at?

Cheers!
 

scoringdreams

Random Member A
Hmm, for wooden keybeds, there's also the Yamaha CP4 Stage which I find really impressive.

As for the joystick controls on the SL, I have yet to really use mine as I find them a little small and hard to control. But I am currently exploring the option of connecting an SL-Mixface to my SL-88 Studio - waiting for it to arrive...

I have an S49-MK2 and what's awesome is the DAW integrations which reduce usage of a mouse. Should integrate perfectly w Cubase and NI Komplete Ultimate.

Can't say much about the S88 action as I don't own one. One downside is that the Komplete Kontrol series do not have faders though. And they are overpriced IMO for their feature set...
 
OP
whiskers

whiskers

Perpetual student
Hmm, for wooden keybeds, there's also the Yamaha CP4 Stage which I find really impressive.

As for the joystick controls on the SL, I have yet to really use mine as I find them a little small and hard to control. But I am currently exploring the option of connecting an SL-Mixface to my SL-88 Studio - waiting for it to arrive...

I have an S49-MK2 and what's awesome is the DAW integrations which reduce usage of a mouse. Should integrate perfectly w Cubase and NI Komplete Ultimate.

Can't say much about the S88 action as I don't own one. One downside is that the Komplete Kontrol series do not have faders though. And they are overpriced IMO for their feature set...
thanks for the feedback. Good point on the Kontrol not having faders. But curious as how you see them overpriced for the feature set vs the CP4, which looks to be 1600$ USD + ?
 
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scoringdreams

Random Member A
thanks for the feedback. Good point on the Kontrol not having faders. But curious as how you seem them overpriced for the feature set vs the CP4, which looks to be 1600$ USD + ?
Ah, apologies, I was comparing the S88's price to the Studiologic SL-88 Studio (you can consider this too).
 

SchnookyPants

I never metaphor I didn't like
I'm liking my SL88 Grand, though I've only had it for a month. I've been a keyboard player for 50+ years and I think this is a keeper. I think the SL88 Studio and the S88 share the same Fatar action, but don't take that to the bank just yet. Although I am glad I selected the 'Grand, I agree the mini-sticks are fairly useless. Then again, my hand flexibility ain't what it used to be. But for action-alone, it's a good choice for me. I was sweating it too, because, like you, I could not try before buying. But action is a very personal thing. BTW, the SL88 Grand generally sells for $900 usd.
 

T.j.

Member
Are you looking the best piano action or the best tool to make your job easier?
A lot of the reviews you read will be from the perspective of a 'pianist', not a composer.

You'll get used to the (/any) action in no time whereas the SL88 will never get any the integration / workflow benefits.

I'd also argue that's it's impossible to ride a joystick the way you can a modwheel to get expressive performances because there's simply not nearly enough travel. At least I can't...
 

SchnookyPants

I never metaphor I didn't like
Are you looking the best piano action or the best tool to make your job easier?
A lot of the reviews you read will be from the perspective of a 'pianist', not a composer.

You'll get used to the (/any) action in no time whereas the SL88 will never get any the integration / workflow benefits.

I'd also argue that's it's impossible to ride a joystick the way you can a modwheel to get expressive performances because there's simply not nearly enough travel. At least I can't...
All true. But between expression pedal(s), TouchOSC and Leap Motion/GECO, you can put together a very expressive, flexible custom rig, and the price can't be beat (& the odds of something 'breaking' are virtually nil).
 
OP
whiskers

whiskers

Perpetual student
Are you looking the best piano action or the best tool to make your job easier?
Ideally a nice mixture of the two, but mostly the best tool. I just want something that doesn't feel distractingly 'not like piano' if that makes sense
 

Wolfie2112

Senior Member
I've tried the SL88, but prefer my S88 (I have the MK1). Despite the complaints out there, I personally love the fatar keybed on this this. My only complaint is the touch strips, which have been replaced with traditional wheels on the MK2. If you use a lot of nks stuff, this controller is the bomb.
 
OP
whiskers

whiskers

Perpetual student
I've tried the SL88, but prefer my S88 (I have the MK1). Despite the complaints out there, I personally love the fatar keybed on this this. My only complaint is the touch strips, which have been replaced with traditional wheels on the MK2. If you use a lot of nks stuff, this controller is the bomb.
That's what i'm leaning towards, just for the extra features (at roughly the same price). I'm hoping for a BF/CM deal on the MK2, but I feel that's unlikely.
 

thecomposer10

Soundtrack Composer • Pianist
I have an S88 Mk I (I upgraded from a Novation Impulse 61). As a classically trained pianist, I have been extremely impressed with the action on the S88. Not that I record/play classical rep on it, but I have run through some Bach with my Spitfire Harpsichord loaded into Kontakt and it plays as clear as it does when I play it on a real grand piano. I also love the color-coded keys for NKS libraries – it really helps with stuff like keyswitching. Just my two cents.
 
OP
whiskers

whiskers

Perpetual student
I have an S88 Mk I (I upgraded from a Novation Impulse 61). As a classically trained pianist, I have been extremely impressed with the action on the S88. Not that I record/play classical rep on it, but I have run through some Bach with my Spitfire Harpsichord loaded into Kontakt and it plays as clear as it does when I play it on a real grand piano. I also love the color-coded keys for NKS libraries – it really helps with stuff like keyswitching. Just my two cents.
Thanks!!
 

thecomposer10

Soundtrack Composer • Pianist
I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and show what the S88 can do: here's some Bach played with the Spitfire Harpsichord. The action on the S88 is truly incredible, I can't speak highly enough of it.

 

Tfis

Active Member
I use a Motif XS8.

- I like the keys
- pitch and modwheel are on the left side (not above)
- 8 faders and 8 knobs
 
OP
whiskers

whiskers

Perpetual student
What was/were the main reason(s) for choosing the S88 MK2?
Largely software integration. As mentioned prior I've not had the ability to try any controllers out, so it's a bit of a gamble on the keybed, but sounds like the S88 MK2's action is 'good enough', and I'm not keen on spending more than 1k.

Almost all of what I use is Komplete or other Kontakt instruments within Cubase, and working in IT I find I'd rather tweak physical controls vs look at the screen when I can help it. Just seems to make the most sense :)
 
OP
whiskers

whiskers

Perpetual student
Now the question is, should I order from Time+Space, Musicians Friend, or Sweetwater. Hmm....
 
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