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.
The Roland rep has been buy our store three times with this and yes, it feels and sounds terrific. I’m seriously considering replacing my PC3x with it. Should have the same keybed as the A88mk2 as well
For comparison, I just ordered a Roland FP10 because I found it vastly better than the M-Audio Hammer and also preferable to the S88. Different strokes.I'm not in the position to have played most of these or have any great knowledge about them, so I really appreciate your taking the time to do this!
...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...
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...
Just got one today, and I gotta say, it's really impressive - let alone for $350. First thing that surprised me is that it feels really substantial - the bottom is metal, not plastic, and the top and sides feel really high quality. I expected it to feel extremely cheap and plasticky.
The action itself is semi-weighted and fast, but still has a nice bit of resistance and bounce to it - it doesn't feel like empty plastic. Having had surgery on both hands last summer and still dealing with some pain when playing heavy weighted actions, this is exactly what I was looking for until I can get back to a heavier action. And frankly, I can imagine ending up with this permanently given the need for 88 keys but without a heavy, slow action. Oh, and it has pitch & mod wheels even if they're top left rather than beside the keys where they belong. And finally, all the pads, buttons and faders are a nice bonus and feel decent.
If I'm nitpicking, you can't adjust velocity curves onboard - you need their app for that, and the curves aren't editable. Further, none of them is perfect for me, so I'll need to create a MIDI transformer in Logic to tweak to taste. Also, the white keys are 5.5" rather than the full 6", but easy to adapt to. For whatever reason, every semi-weighted action I know of is like this. Last thing: the front edge of the "lip" on the white keys is a bit sharp - could be smoother.
All things considered, I think this is the controller to beat right now for my $$$!
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Still enjoying this?
Anybody else tried / bought the A88-MK2?
Sadly no - I really had high hopes for that controller. It felt great in a lot of ways, but I just could not get the velocity curves right on it no matter how hard I tried. Same with every similar semi-weighed action out there. And for some stupid reason, they all use keys that are 1/2” shorter than fully weighted piano keys/actions, and that makes a difference.
I ended up with a Korg D1, which is perfect for me. Weighted, full sized keys but not a super heavy/sluggish action.
That actually uses the same PHA-4 keybed as the A88mk2. Quiet, though it's housed in a plastic case rather than the metal one that the A88mk2 comes in (its left hand controller part is plastic however)For comparison, I just ordered a Roland FP10 because I found it vastly better than the M-Audio Hammer and also preferable to the S88. Different strokes.
The Hammer 88 action is NOT light. It's more firm than the Komplete Kontrol S88Mk2 and Keylab 88 mk2. But at its price point, nothing touches it. It is full weighted. For piano playing it would be great. I'm not sure how fast synth work or orchestral ostinati would fare unless you are a really strong player.Bummer - I like that it is so thin in terms of height. Pretty much everything else is 4.7 - 5" (twice the height). I've read that the M-Audio Hammer 88 has decent light action (I don't think too heavy of an action would be handy for non-piano parts).
The Hammer 88 action is NOT light. It's more firm than the Komplete Kontrol S88Mk2 and Keylab 88 mk2. But at its price point, nothing touches it. It is full weighted. For piano playing it would be great. I'm not sure how fast synth work or orchestral ostinati would fare unless you are a really strong player.
No 88 key version : pissed :Incidentally, M Audio released their new PRO series of Oxygen controllers with aftertouch. M Audio confirms this key action is not the same as their Mk 3 line of Keystations. I have an order in for the Pro Mini 32 because, gasp! it has 4 programmable sliders AND a pitch and mod wheel. Super cool!
The 49 and 61 have boxed semi weighted keys with AT. I will see if I can get a staff loan on one of those bad boys.
Same thing with the Arturia KL88mkII. The MkI, although clunky, had smooth curves. The Mk2 was a disaster. The S88mkII at least was correct, but not built as well as the KL unfortunately.Yeah kinda a shame though Guy Mitchellmore had an Oxygen 8 and said the velocities were wonky on it. That's my main gripe with all M Audio keyboards- they don't have consistent velocity. Not sure why....
I will be getting a S88mk2 when my PC3 dies because I get stupid good prices on NI stuff since I work in music retail.Same thing with the Arturia KL88mkII. The MkI, although clunky, had smooth curves. The Mk2 was a disaster. The S88mkII at least was correct, but not built as well as the KL unfortunately.
Haha!I see a ton of composers with the Doepfer. I wonder if that’s because it is actually great or because they saw Hans with it.