Studiologic SL88 Grand VS. Roland A-88 MkII

etudes

New Member
Bit of a weird way to introduce the new Roland controller to the forums here, but this is where I'm at just now. I'm in the market for a new 88-key controller and could use some feedback if people know about all those options out there. The SL-88 and A-88 MkII seem like the top two options for me and the center of this thread, but I'm open to other options too.

Important things for me:
  • Best piano action possible (subjective, but maybe not as much in the limited MIDI-keyboard world)
  • Shortest height (for a desk build with a keyboard tray)
  • A single good expressive CC control
  • Quietest physical mechanics (maybe a bit less important, but a big plus)
I made a list of a bunch of keyboard specs over in this other thread, if it interests anyone. Didn't see any responses there.

Some other thoughts & questions:
  1. SL88 XY sticks seem a little tiny, can't find much info on them. Is there a verdict on how good of a mod-wheel replacement they are?
  2. Any info on the PHA-4 keybed in the Roland A-88 MkII? Is it comparable to the TP-40 on the SL88 Grand?
  3. A-88 MkII has MIDI 2.0 support
  4. A-88 MkII also has knobs and pads and is 10 lbs lighter, but those things aren't as important to me.
 

BassClef

Active Member
One week ago I bought the Studio Logic SL88 Studio... identical to the Grand model except for the keybed. Mine is $400 cheaper as it uses a less expensive Fatar weighted, hammer action. I am not a trained pianist... just a hacker. I do have an actual grand piano in the house and the SL88 Studio is much stiffer action but fine for me. I was using ( and going to sell) a 61 key Nektar Panorama P6, with semi-weighted action, and with the SL88 I have much better control over dynamics, especially at the lower levels.

The 3 mini joy sticks are going to take some getting used to. They give you 6 controllers to work with, 3 with springs and 3 without. I have been using stick 2 "Y" for expression but not liking that. because of their small sizer, I've been using them with one finger placed on top, but they are slippery. So I may try a small rubber pad on top for grip. But I'm going to try stick 3 "X&Y" next for dynamics and expression using it (left-right) pinched between my thumb and forefinger. Note... dynamics and expression are not well suited on a spring loaded stick because they recenter upon release.

I knew going in that I may never be satisfied with the sticks, so I am prepared to look at small hardware controllers like the Studio Logic Mixface, or software controllers "faders" on iPad, or a breath controller.
 
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yves

New Member
I was at NAMM last week and tried both of them .

I was trained on acoustic piano for many years and started playing at 8 years old .

The action is very important for me as well . But what is also important is the relationship between the controller and the actual sound , the velocity curves , the latency of the audio card etc..
For example , I tried the new Roland controller at NAMM at the Roland booth .
I liked the feel of the keys , the fake ivory finish etc .. but they had it hooked up to a Mac mini and a Roland soundcanvas soft synth with a piano sound and the feel was really sluggish .. probably due to the fact that they didn't really paid attention to the audio latency settings .

But I think that with proper attention to details , the Roland A-88 Mk 2 should be fine .

It has also 3 pedal inputs that are assigned to whatever cc and the pads that can also send cc control besides note numbers .

What bugs me is the pitch / mod wheel joystick .. the fact that the mod wheel can't stay at 127 unless you hold the joystick in position , is a drawback as far as i'm concerned.

I haven't investigated on Midi 2.0 but i will look it up . It's also bus powered via USB-C

I also liked the Studiologic SL-88 grand action ... I usually hate Fatar weighted keypads but the TP-40WOOD is good . I own the Arturia Keylab 88 and it sports the Fatar TP-100 and I absolutely hate it .
It's sluggish and not fun to play at all .

The new Arturia Keylab 88 has the same keybed ... I tried it also at NAMM .

Regarding the new workstations , i gave the new Nord Piano a spin and that felt great !! having the sound engine built in and optimized makes it a breeze to play and also musically relevant .

Same with the Yamaha Montage 8

The market for 88 note controllers is small.. there's not many options out there.. But I think the new Roland and Studiologic should be contenders for around a Grand .

I'm not crazy about the Kawai VPC-1 .. There's a tread on the Pianoteq forum that shows irregularities between notes at the same velocities etc..

best regards
 

Greg

Senior Member
"Best piano action possible
Quietest physical mechanics"

I went with the Nord piano 4. Something about it is just perfect and I couldn't find any cheaper options that feel the same. Plus when you crank up your buffer, having a zero latency piano patch to knock out ideas is extremely helpful
 

BassClef

Active Member
I was at NAMM last week and tried both of them .

I was trained on acoustic piano for many years and started playing at 8 years old .

The action is very important for me as well . But what is also important is the relationship between the controller and the actual sound , the velocity curves , the latency of the audio card etc..
For example , I tried the new Roland controller at NAMM at the Roland booth .
I liked the feel of the keys , the fake ivory finish etc .. but they had it hooked up to a Mac mini and a Roland soundcanvas soft synth with a piano sound and the feel was really sluggish .. probably due to the fact that they didn't really paid attention to the audio latency settings .

But I think that with proper attention to details , the Roland A-88 Mk 2 should be fine .

It has also 3 pedal inputs that are assigned to whatever cc and the pads that can also send cc control besides note numbers .

What bugs me is the pitch / mod wheel joystick .. the fact that the mod wheel can't stay at 127 unless you hold the joystick in position , is a drawback as far as i'm concerned.

I haven't investigated on Midi 2.0 but i will look it up . It's also bus powered via USB-C

I also liked the Studiologic SL-88 grand action ... I usually hate Fatar weighted keypads but the TP-40WOOD is good . I own the Arturia Keylab 88 and it sports the Fatar TP-100 and I absolutely hate it .
It's sluggish and not fun to play at all .

The new Arturia Keylab 88 has the same keybed ... I tried it also at NAMM .

Regarding the new workstations , i gave the new Nord Piano a spin and that felt great !! having the sound engine built in and optimized makes it a breeze to play and also musically relevant .

Same with the Yamaha Montage 8

The market for 88 note controllers is small.. there's not many options out there.. But I think the new Roland and Studiologic should be contenders for around a Grand .

I'm not crazy about the Kawai VPC-1 .. There's a tread on the Pianoteq forum that shows irregularities between notes at the same velocities etc..

best regards
As I said, the SL88 Studio (Fatar TP100RL) is pretty stiff and I am considering returning it as a swap for the Grand which my dealer will allow. How would you describe the difference?
 

dohm

Member
I have the SL88 Grand as my main controller. I was using a Nord Stage 3 88, but was not happy with it as a midi controller and I always need to remove it from my desk when I wanted to take it to a band rehearsal. The SL88 Grand is much better in my opinion. Now, I am a fairly serious piano player and have a 7 foot 6 inch Yamaha S7X grand piano in my house that I play every day. It has the most perfect action of any piano ever made, imho. Is the SL88 comparable? Absolutely not! But, it is enjoyable to play and the response when using software libraries is very good. I typically use Spectrasonics Keyscape for playing piano at my composing desk. In general, I really like the SL88 Grand and it has a low height that fits nicely in my desk. I even like the little joysticks.
 

mavrix

New Member
I have the SL88 Studio which is great for me. It is a stiffer action than my Yamaha Baby Grand but it works great and feels natural enough for me. I don't even try to use the XY sticks for modulation and have a separate fader setup for that. I bought it knowing that I could return it without issue to my retailer but have no complaints at all. At NAMM they introduced a new little mixing/control module that integrates with it to some degree and will retail for around $250 - its nice as it has a magnetic strip to latch on to the top of the keyboard.
 

whinecellar

Jim Daneker
Man, I’ve been a die-hard Yamaha CP300 guy for about 10 years. Just bought a brand new one and to my horror, Yamaha completely changed the action on the new ones… It is heavier and tedious to play - likely because of RSI issues. I had surgery on both hands last year due to 30 years of pounding on these things, so I’m going to sell it in favor of a much lighter action.

Having said that, I ran around NAMM over the weekend trying all the contenders I could find. Much to my surprise, I really loved the StudioLogic SL88 Grand. It’s crazy to me how many people have said the “Studio” version is less sluggish - the Grand felt much more natural and faster to me, while the Studio felt slow and “squishy.”

I’ve had a Roland RD2000 for about a year as well, and while I like playing it for certain piano parts, the action is too sharp and squared off for my taste, and not fast enough for programming a lot of what we do here.

So, the SL88 Grand is probably my top contender at the moment for my main weighted action. YMMV, but it’s worth trying them all if you can!
 
OP
etudes

etudes

New Member
Thanks so much for all the feedback everyone. Sounds like that SL88 Grand really might be the one. I just don't understand why these companies don't just put a regular old ding dang mod wheel in their keyboard. I just need one good expression controller.

I'm also realizing I could get the same keybed via a Doepfer LMK2+, plus a mod wheel and a shorter profile, but the trade-off for what I've read is very noisy action is pretty iffy for me.

I was at NAMM last week and tried both of them .

I was trained on acoustic piano for many years and started playing at 8 years old .

The action is very important for me as well . But what is also important is the relationship between the controller and the actual sound , the velocity curves , the latency of the audio card etc..
For example , I tried the new Roland controller at NAMM at the Roland booth .
I liked the feel of the keys , the fake ivory finish etc .. but they had it hooked up to a Mac mini and a Roland soundcanvas soft synth with a piano sound and the feel was really sluggish .. probably due to the fact that they didn't really paid attention to the audio latency settings .
I'm the same, trained all my life on real pianos, so action is super important to me. Really curious if that sluggish feel was due to software stuff and not the controller itself. That A-88 MkII really does seem like such a great option, but only if the action and playability lives up to the SL88 Grand.


What bugs me is the pitch / mod wheel joystick .. the fact that the mod wheel can't stay at 127 unless you hold the joystick in position , is a drawback as far as i'm concerned.
You didn't happen to ask about that, did you? I wonder if that was a faulty unit?


"Best piano action possible
Quietest physical mechanics"

I went with the Nord piano 4. Something about it is just perfect and I couldn't find any cheaper options that feel the same. Plus when you crank up your buffer, having a zero latency piano patch to knock out ideas is extremely helpful
So wish I could afford one of those. But besides the price, I just have a wariness buying something designed for stage performance to be used as a MIDI controller, just because my current Yamaha keyboard is a little strange with the MIDI messages it sends to my computer.
 

BassClef

Active Member
I just set up a swap... ordered the SL88Grand... shipping today... after it arrives and I check it out, I’ll return the “Studio” for full credit.
 

dsblais

Active Member
I really like my SL88 Grand for its action and the feel of the keys. I also appreciate the little touches like the laptop holder and so on. However, I find the joysticks less than a joy. They are arguably better than a wheel, but nearly any other controller (foot, etc) would be still better in my opinion.
 
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yves

New Member
Man, I’ve been a die-hard Yamaha CP300 guy for about 10 years. Just bought a brand new one and to my horror, Yamaha completely changed the action on the new ones… It is heavier and tedious to play - likely because of RSI issues. I had surgery on both hands last year due to 30 years of pounding on these things, so I’m going to sell it in favor of a much lighter action.

Having said that, I ran around NAMM over the weekend trying all the contenders I could find. Much to my surprise, I really loved the StudioLogic SL88 Grand. It’s crazy to me how many people have said the “Studio” version is less sluggish - the Grand felt much more natural and faster to me, while the Studio felt slow and “squishy.”

I’ve had a Roland RD2000 for about a year as well, and while I like playing it for certain piano parts, the action is too sharp and squared off for my taste, and not fast enough for programming a lot of what we do here.

So, the SL88 Grand is probably my top contender at the moment for my main weighted action. YMMV, but it’s worth trying them all if you can!
The SL88 Grand felt also easier to play for me than the SL88 Studio . I think it also felt better than the new Roland one as well . I think the joysticks can be useful and you have 3 of them that can send different cc's
 

yves

New Member
Thanks so much for all the feedback everyone. Sounds like that SL88 Grand really might be the one. I just don't understand why these companies don't just put a regular old ding dang mod wheel in their keyboard. I just need one good expression controller.

I'm also realizing I could get the same keybed via a Doepfer LMK2+, plus a mod wheel and a shorter profile, but the trade-off for what I've read is very noisy action is pretty iffy for me.



I'm the same, trained all my life on real pianos, so action is super important to me. Really curious if that sluggish feel was due to software stuff and not the controller itself. That A-88 MkII really does seem like such a great option, but only if the action and playability lives up to the SL88 Grand.




You didn't happen to ask about that, did you? I wonder if that was a faulty unit?




So wish I could afford one of those. But besides the price, I just have a wariness buying something designed for stage performance to be used as a MIDI controller, just because my current Yamaha keyboard is a little strange with the MIDI messages it sends to my computer.

I'm pretty sure the problem was with the buffer size they had set up for the NAMM show . Probably an oversight on their behalf.. I tried to ask but couldn't get anyone from Roland to talk to . I only did an in & out on thursday and i was short on time .
 
OP
etudes

etudes

New Member
I'm pretty sure the problem was with the buffer size they had set up for the NAMM show . Probably an oversight on their behalf.. I tried to ask but couldn't get anyone from Roland to talk to . I only did an in & out on thursday and i was short on time .
Ahh ok, no worries.
 
OP
etudes

etudes

New Member
Does anyone know of any locations that allow you to test these MIDI keyboards? The SL88 Grand and the Roland A-88 MkII in particular. I'm in Los Angeles, but I don't know of any stores that actually have demo models for MIDI keyboards, especially specialized ones like these.
 
OP
etudes

etudes

New Member
Order both from Sweetwater, try them both, send one back.
Ah man, that's a lot. Also, it looks like Sweetwater won't cover the shipping cost to return it, which I imagine won't be cheap for something that huge and heavy. There's gotta be an easier way to test a couple keyboards in LA.
 

rrichard63

Perpetual Novice
Ah man, that's a lot. Also, it looks like Sweetwater won't cover the shipping cost to return it, which I imagine won't be cheap for something that huge and heavy. There's gotta be an easier way to test a couple keyboards in LA.
Check the Roland and Studio Logic websites to see if they list retail dealers. There must be a lot of music stores in Los Angeles.

Then call ahead to make sure the retailer has the model you want to test in stock.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
Ah man, that's a lot. Also, it looks like Sweetwater won't cover the shipping cost to return it, which I imagine won't be cheap for something that huge and heavy. There's gotta be an easier way to test a couple keyboards in LA.
buy from guitar center online then you can return to local store if you need to. I love Sweetwater and buy from them often but certain things like this it’s safer to ya e a local return option