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New Roland A-88mk2 is ALMOST perfect

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Thanks ED.

Seeing that... I have a Korg controller keyboard from the '80s that a friend left when he moved out of town, as well as an extra wooden keybed from a Kurzweil k250 (which I bought a few years ago because it seemed like a good idea at the time).

Next time I need a project, that (combining the two) might be interesting. The Korg was too filthy to bring inside the house, so it's going to be filthy. Will see whether it works...
 
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Hey I'm with

88 keys, square shape and flat surfaces, nothing in the center for those (like me) who want to put their computer keyboard there, as compact "as possible" (but still chunky as all weighted keyboards), adjustable response (but probably not mechanically adjustable feel), 8 software assignable knobs.... looks good so far.

Add in 16 banks for the 8 drum pads which can be configured to send notes, CC messages, or program changes when pressed, and have assignable colors and you have a nifty 8-pad mini-panel for your key switches. Great!

.... and then you see the freakin' Roland pitch+mod wiggle stick, which makes using orchestral libraries that use mod wheel for dynamics control utterly impossible.

So. Close. But completely unusable. When will Roland get a clue?
Has any one ventured into getting rid of the spring that probably pulls the mod wheel back to zero??

I was thinking it might be a straight forward hack to open this thing, leave the left and right ones that keep the pitch in place but disengage the one that forces the mod back.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
oh my names all over that. I think I'm still within 30 days to take back the LX88 I just bought and get one of these instead. Room for my QWERTY it looks like. Thanks for sharing that.
 

Pietro

Senior Member

Yeah, looks interesting. Although some of the buttons seem to be not very useful outside their software?

I have my eye on the Arturia Keylab 88 Essential as well.

- Piotr
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
There are plenty of keyboards with lots of buttons. LX88 is close comparable. The whole point of this one is that I don't actually need or want slides and drumpads on my midi controller, there are much better alternatives for that. This is 2 inches shallower and has place to put my QWERTY and trackball on top where there are no buttons.
 

Pietro

Senior Member
I'm totally with you. But of all the waiting and looking for the perfect one, I'm left with a 12 year old Keystation 88 es. So I'm currently changing my strategy and opening myself to other options. Otherwise, another year with a squeeky controller and another disappointing NAMM.

Every now and then I look at Komplete Kontrol 88 mkii and almost but it. Then I have to remind myself, that it's a desk eating monster :D. Ain't nobody got space fo that.

- Piotr
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
a lot of the 88 controllers won't fit on my desk. This one and that new roland will not only fit but also have a place to put my QWERTY. Sold. This one happens to be less then 1/3 the price of the KK. I expect the action to be lower then mediocre, but good enough for my desk
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
admittedly the SL88 Grand has my attention too, but it would literally squeeze onto my desk with absolutely no place to put my QWERTY or trackpad.
 

Alex Fraser

Requires ☕️
I'm totally with you. But of all the waiting and looking for the perfect one, I'm left with a 12 year old Keystation 88 es. So I'm currently changing my strategy and opening myself to other options. Otherwise, another year with a squeeky controller and another disappointing NAMM.e

Every now and then I look at Komplete Kontrol 88 mkii and almost but it. Then I have to remind myself, that it's a desk eating monster :D. Ain't nobody got space fo that.

- Piotr
I feel ya. What I really want is M Audio to release a “Mark 3” version of the 88, like the 61 and 49 key versions. My tweets to the company about this go unanswered.

They’ve been selling the same design since to dawn of time. Someone must be buying them..
 

Michael Antrum

Only the good die young....
Has anyone hand their paws on the new Arturia Keylab Essential 88 ?

88 key with hybrid synth piano action and after touch for 350 euros... might be an interesting alternative to the M Audio...
 

chimuelo

Star Of Stage & Screen
Make sure to buy 4 of the cheap ones.
When the first contact goes you can’t use it anymore for Pianos, etc.
So turn that into a B3 / Synth controller, break out # 2, now you got enough spares to get you through 2026.
 

Pietro

Senior Member
I feel ya. What I really want is M Audio to release a “Mark 3” version of the 88, like the 61 and 49 key versions. My tweets to the company about this go unanswered.

They’ve been selling the same design since to dawn of time. Someone must be buying them..

Their mk3 is basically the same design as ever before, so I wouldn't expect an 88 mk3 be any better than mk1. Time to look elsewhere.

- Piotr
 

bill5

Senior Member
Agreed, whoever designed that modwheel has no idea what they're doing.
I couldn't disagree more. Roland are one of the few who DO know what they're doing. It's the mod wheels that make me shake my head. Try doing a pitch change with vibrato that way. A joystick is infinitely easier and better.

What puts me off is no transport controls (??) and the price. Hell for that I can get a DS88; I don't need the pads or other control knobs.
 

bill5

Senior Member
Why do some companies insist on junky alternatives to the trusted mod wheel? There is a reason why the mod wheel is standard. I completely agree. Attractive controller keyboard with a dumb stick that makes it unusable.
You people are insane. ;)

Actually what makes way (way) more sense than either one is make it a modular unit so you can plug n play either one. I can't imagine in this day and age it would be that hard to implement or even add much cost.
 

whinecellar

Jim Daneker
Has anyone hand their paws on the new Arturia Keylab Essential 88 ?

88 key with hybrid synth piano action and after touch for 350 euros... might be an interesting alternative to the M Audio...

Yeah, played one at NAMM and it felt decent let alone for $349. 30+ years of banging on heavily weighted actions have taken a toll on me, resulting in surgeries on both hands this past summer - so I am now on the hunt for a decent feeling semi-weighted controller that doesn’t feel like complete poop. No more heavy weights for me. So far the StudioLogic Numa Compact 2 wins for me - it is surprisingly playable - but yeah, those little joysticks.

The Arturia (the new Essential 88) is a close second - a bit lighter feel, and very little resistance. The entire chassis flexes on this one though in the middle, which would be easily fixed by some rubber feet.

Tied for 2nd place would be the Nektar LX88+ and sadly they didn’t have the new GXP88 on display, unless I missed it. A rep tells me it feels even better than the LXP. Thing about the LXP is that it feels pretty decent, but actually pushes back a bit trying to return to the key up position, which can get fatiguing after a while when you’re trying to play soft parts. I’d really love to check out the GXP when it ships - and for just $299? Probably a no brainer if you don’t mind the tightly sprung bit. On the upside, the pitch and model wheels are in the right place. Bonkers that other mfrs don’t get this right!!!

Last point I can’t figure out with *every* semi weighted action on the market: they are all a half inch shorter in length than standard piano keys, which makes the pivot point weird. You can get used to it, but I don’t understand why it’s a thing!?

Anyway, there ya go!
 

dcoscina

Senior Member
Since I work in keyboards in a retail store I have had the benefit of playing everything. Nord Grand and Piano 4 are lovely on their own but surprisingly not great as master controllers (the velocity curves aren't well suited to orchestral composing in my experience).

Komplete Kontrol S88mk2 is nice but very heavy weighting. Moreso than my Kurzweil PC3x. Same Fatar bed is found in the Arturia Keylab 88mk2. I used a Keylab 49 mk2 over the holidays and loved the weighted synth action by the way. Perfect for orchestral composing. Same bed found on their MatrixBrute.

Yamaha CP88 and CP73 are both very good as stand alone and master controllers. They also transmit MIDI and audio over USB. Yamaha P515 (with speakers) is also nice. A bit cheaper than the CP series.

Our store carries Dexibell and their S9 controller is a beast thanks to wood keys, motorized faders, unlimited polyphony and the ability to download sounds from their website. But it's very expensive (I dare say over priced given the competition at the $5000 price point).

Recently got in a Fantom 8 and the RD2000 key action is nice but heavy. I dig it however. Thinking an RD series might be my next purchase or else the A88mk2 (I don't care about aftertouch and I could put a NanoKontrol on top of the board for sliders).

I'm not particularly warm to the RH3 keyboard found on Korg's Kronos 73/88 as well as their GS-173/188 but I like it on their SV series. Not tried the D1 but I know a few people who bought them just as controllers.

Honestly, I haven't played a Nectar that I didn't want to chuck into a landfill. The action is horrible. No weight and cheap. The new Keystation 61mk3 have a nice semi weighted action. Build quality is another thing however.

M Audio Hammer 88 for the budget conscious is honestly the best bet. Simple layout, but really good action. Also leans on the heavier side but for $499 CAD, it's a steal. I think Mark Isham replaced his old KS88 PRO with it. It's solid.

As I said above, I'm waiting on the Roland A88 since I like its footprint (I have a small desk) but I'm not sure about the PHA-4 action. If its exactly the same as found on the FP10, I'm going to pass and probably get the NI S88mk2 since we get it for a ridiculous staff discount. Or if funds are low, the Hammer 88. I would prefer a more nimble weighted action like my current PC3x but that is more in the Dexibell/Nord price point.
 
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