Tried the new NI S88 Mark 2. Keyboard still doesn't feel good.

OP
H

Headlands

Active Member
I got one yesterday. After years of using a Yamaha CP-33. I will say that I prefer the keybed on the Yamaha, but I find the NI keybed plenty usable. It was a valid trade off for the integration and control options for me. I am no great pianist, but the velocity curves are decent, and I don't have trouble getting what I intend into the DAW with this keybed. The other controls and wheels feel solid, the screens are useful, the DAW integration with Cubase 9.5 required no setup, it just works. My biggest issue was getting the old Yamaha FC3 sustain pedal working since it is a continuous control instead of just a switch, but even that is working perfectly now. While I would certainly pay more for a better keybed, it wasn't an option, and I find this a decent enough option that as a whole the controller is a massive upgrade. Walking into a store and feeling the keybed is one thing, but hooking it up to your system and seeing how it fits into your workflow is something else, perhaps others will find the tradeoff worth while as well.
I'm glad you dig it! That's a great point you make at the end.
 
OP
H

Headlands

Active Member
I got one yesterday. After years of using a Yamaha CP-33. I will say that I prefer the keybed on the Yamaha, but I find the NI keybed plenty usable. It was a valid trade off for the integration and control options for me. I am no great pianist, but the velocity curves are decent, and I don't have trouble getting what I intend into the DAW with this keybed. The other controls and wheels feel solid, the screens are useful, the DAW integration with Cubase 9.5 required no setup, it just works. My biggest issue was getting the old Yamaha FC3 sustain pedal working since it is a continuous control instead of just a switch, but even that is working perfectly now. While I would certainly pay more for a better keybed, it wasn't an option, and I find this a decent enough option that as a whole the controller is a massive upgrade. Walking into a store and feeling the keybed is one thing, but hooking it up to your system and seeing how it fits into your workflow is something else, perhaps others will find the tradeoff worth while as well.
Do you find that entering in fast things like drums or synth parts is handled well by it? That's my biggest concern since it felt heavy and spongy when I tried it.
 

whiskers

Perpetual student
I got one yesterday. After years of using a Yamaha CP-33. I will say that I prefer the keybed on the Yamaha, but I find the NI keybed plenty usable. It was a valid trade off for the integration and control options for me. I am no great pianist, but the velocity curves are decent, and I don't have trouble getting what I intend into the DAW with this keybed. The other controls and wheels feel solid, the screens are useful, the DAW integration with Cubase 9.5 required no setup, it just works. My biggest issue was getting the old Yamaha FC3 sustain pedal working since it is a continuous control instead of just a switch, but even that is working perfectly now. While I would certainly pay more for a better keybed, it wasn't an option, and I find this a decent enough option that as a whole the controller is a massive upgrade. Walking into a store and feeling the keybed is one thing, but hooking it up to your system and seeing how it fits into your workflow is something else, perhaps others will find the tradeoff worth while as well.
Was curious about the screen - did it seem gimmicky (i feel like i'd still be looking at my PC screen) or did it fit well in the workflow. Guess im wondering if this is worth looking at vs another controller/DP. the big thing here would be komplete integration, but i just don't know if it's worth the premium. I do appreciate that they improved DAW control though.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
My S88 Mk2 arrived yesterday. I have both the original S88 and the new Mk2 side by side, so I can compare them.

One thing I think people need to realize is that there's a break-in period with these keyboards. I haven't been inside an S88 yet, but having been inside other similar keyboard actions, I've noticed that they put a lot of silicone grease on the action parts. I think this really contributes to the "spongy" and viscous feeling that these keyboards have out of the box. OTOH, I've never noticed that on the weighted Korg Kronos keyboard, Yamaha Motifs, or the Kawai VPC1 (all much better actions, IMO).

My original S88 got gentle studio use, only, so it's in excellent condition. Comparing it the the Mk2, the original version seems a bit faster, but also somewhat noisier. But, comparing the note on the extreme hi and low sides of the keyboard (which don't get played as much, and perhaps are not as "broken-in"), the extreme hi and low notes of the original version feel a lot more like the new Mk2 version. So, I really wonder if it's not, in fact, the same Fatar keyboard action in both the new and old S88. If it's different, I don't think it's a lot different. For the moment, I think I prefer the new Mk2 feel, and I think it'll be better after it's been used awhile. It's nowhere near as good, though, as my Kawai VPC1, Kronos or Motif. Those actions are clearly superior. But, IMO, the features on the S88 Mk2 that interface with my DAW and NI instruments make it worth it. In my studio, I have the S88 Mk2 in front of me, and the VPC1 to my left, for when I need to do serious playing. It would really be nice to have a VPC1 quality action in the S88, but we didn't get that. It would be great if NI picked a different action supplier other than Fatar the next time around.

Here are some other things I noticed about the new S88...

1.) I would have thought that the construction would have been similar with just the added screen features, but it appears that NI really did a big re-design of the case (probably to save money). The original case has more metal, and seems to weigh more. The front and back edges of the original are also about 1/4" bigger. The Mk2 does not have end bells. The top part of the Mk2 case is a big one-piece plastic casting. Probably won't make much difference in studio use, but I think the new Mk2 would be more prone to breakage on the road. The original version has end bells with some kind of rubberized padding. If you bashed the end of the old version, you could easily just replace an end bell. Bash the end of the Mk2, and you're going to need a whole new top part of the case. The edges of the new version are also crisply squared off. Looks nice, but more prone to breakage. On the plus side, the connectors are recessed on the Mk2. I also think the Mk2 is easier to grab and pick up since it has sort of a pedestal.

2.) I do like the newer, smaller LED lights on the keyboard. Makes the Mk2 look less like one of those Magic Fingers organs from the seventies.

3.) I like the fact that they went to wheels for pitch bend and modulation, plus an additional touch strip. The wheels feel okay, BUT, they are definitely not at the quality level of those, say, on a Yamaha Motif. The S88 Mk2 wheels feel kind of cheap. They also have kid of a viscous damped feel. Probably a lot of lubricant in those pots, too. Might be faster after they break in. There's also a bit of mechanical scrunch in the modulation wheel (might just be my unit).

4.) I DO like the fact that they made the two pedal inputs similar. Now, they can both support continuous controllers as an option, so you can use both a volume pedal and a continuous sustain pedal (great for piano damper pedals in virtual instruments that respond to continuous control). Also, there are number of parameter selections for configuring the pedal inputs (you need to click the MIDI icon on the stand-alone version of Komplete Kontrol to do this). I'm thinking it's possible that the new Mk2 might work with a wider variety of third party pedals.

5.) The new screens look very nice. Not sure if that's going to change my life, though. I have my big computer monitors right in front of me, so I'll probably continue to do my instrument selection on them.

6.) The feel of the buttons, pots and rotary controllers on the new Mk2 feel the same as the old ones.

So all in all, I think I'm glad I made the switch. NI did not hit it out of the park with the new MK2, but there are some improvements. It'll be interesting to see what the keyboard is like after some break-in. I hope it doesn't get noisier.
 

Iostream

Member
Do you find that entering in fast things like drums or synth parts is handled well by it? That's my biggest concern since it felt heavy and spongy when I tried it.
I tend to do most of my drumming on Maschine pads for input, but fast synth parts, 16th note bass lines with resonance tied to velocity and I want good control seem just fine. After some more time with it this morning it seems more comfortable than before. I think after so many years of experience with the same keybed on my CP33, this will take some getting used to before it has the same comfort level, but I don't feel that the keybed will hold me back in any way.

Was curious about the screen - did it seem gimmicky (i feel like i'd still be looking at my PC screen) or did it fit well in the workflow. Guess im wondering if this is worth looking at vs another controller/DP. the big thing here would be komplete integration, but i just don't know if it's worth the premium. I do appreciate that they improved DAW control though.
The screen is wonderful. Pulling up existing projects, the mixer functionality is actually pretty usable, and it is nice to see things there. The default midi mode on the screen is fairly useless outside of Komplete Kontrol itself, and I didn't use that in my previous projects, but the mixer mode and such put the screens to good use.
Inside komplete kontrol, the screens make it unnecessary to look at the PC when entering a new track, provided your library is nks compatible. So Spitfire and Heavyocity stuff uses the screen well, as do U-he and Native Instruments products. Loading non nks sample libraries in still makes some use of the screens, but less so. Overall, things are really well laid out. Even when using libraries in VEPro, I can use the screen for mixer mode, etc. It isn't wasted space.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
Do you find that entering in fast things like drums or synth parts is handled well by it? That's my biggest concern since it felt heavy and spongy when I tried it.
I don't think weighted piano keyboards are good for these things, in general. Synth keyboards are much faster, and drum pads are always better for drumming. Playing one note with two fingers on a keyboard is always kind of awkward (even though there are people who have mastered it).

The actual advantage to the weight in a weighted keyboard is to better handle dynamics with velocity.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
If it's a good piano keybed, with triple sensors, it's absolutely not a problem to do drum stuff on them.
I suppose it depends on how fast you want/need to play. For me, the keys don't snap back fast enough to play quickly. Of course, if you duplicate the instrument in two areas of the keyboard so LH and RH are playing the same instrument with different keys, that helps a lot.
 

jononotbono

Luke Johnson
If it's a good piano keybed, with triple sensors, it's absolutely not a problem to do drum stuff on them.
How do triple sensors work? Sorry if this is an obvious question and the answer is “there are three of them” haha

Does anyone know of specific controllers with triple sensors? Does the Doepfer LMK4+ have them? I’m guessing the NI88 mk2 does not. I think the Studio Logic Grand has but not sure either.
 

EvilDragon

KSP Wizard
There's a third sensor in between the usual two that are used for detecting velocity. That one allows redetecting velocity before the key is fully up, essentially emulating escapement of actual piano actions.

IIRC Doepfer doesn't have these (but you can special order most anything with them, including Fatar actions that do have triple sensor, like TP40WOOD). Various Rolands have this, VPC1 for sure, Casio PX5-S, etc...
 

jononotbono

Luke Johnson
There's a third sensor in between the usual two that are used for detecting velocity. That one allows redetecting velocity before the key is fully up, essentially emulating escapement of actual piano actions.

IIRC Doepfer doesn't have these (but you can special order most anything with them, including Fatar actions that do have triple sensor, like TP40WOOD). Various Rolands have this, VPC1 for sure, Casio PX5-S, etc...
Right this sounds actually amazing. I had no idea I could special order a Doepfer. I think that’s pretty much narrowed my decision after so long of pondering. I think the TP40Wood is the one I’m going for.
 
OP
H

Headlands

Active Member
I don't think weighted piano keyboards are good for these things, in general. Synth keyboards are much faster, and drum pads are always better for drumming. Playing one note with two fingers on a keyboard is always kind of awkward (even though there are people who have mastered it).

The actual advantage to the weight in a weighted keyboard is to better handle dynamics with velocity.
As EvilDragon said, the better quality ones are great for doing the fast stuff as well (not as fast as a full synth-style keybed, but notably faster than the S88 when I tried it). For me, the S88 needs to have more of a workhorse/versatile keybed because composers and songwriters play and program tons of different sounds and instruments -- the only problem with the S88 (mark 1 and mark 2) to me is that they both have subpar keybed which is not versatile and actually not very good at either end of the spectrum (real piano or fast synth).

Maybe breaking it in would help, I don't know. I would have been happy to pay more for a high quality keybed, but that's pointless to complain about at this point.
 
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InLight-Tone

Senior Member
Might just get drunk and let the booze make the decision because choosing the right one has got exhausting.
Careful with that strategy Luke. I did that twice selling Cubase Pro, once I was convinced that Ableton Live was for me, another time to go to Reaper. I lost so much money on those transactions, drunkin dreams (saving right now to buy Cubase for the 3rd time!!!)...
 

jononotbono

Luke Johnson
Careful with that strategy Luke. I did that twice selling Cubase Pro, once I was convinced that Ableton Live was for me, another time to go to Reaper. I lost so much money on those transactions, drunkin dreams (saving right now to buy Cubase for the 3rd time!!!)...
I’ve been trying to decide on a main 88 weighted controller for about 3 years. I feel I’m getting closer. As for Cubase, you won’t regret it. Again. ;)
 

jononotbono

Luke Johnson
IIRC Doepfer doesn't have these (but you can special order most anything with them, including Fatar actions that do have triple sensor, like TP40WOOD).
Just to clarify, after speaking to Doepfer, it's not possible for getting a TP40WOOD keyed put into the LMK4+. A quote of a message I'm sure will be fine to share...

"The LMK4+ keybed scanner is incapable to handle triple sensors and because of the mechanical dimensions the TP/40Wood does not fit into the regular LMK4+ cabinet."

Oh well, that's a shame. I guess that's me steering away from the Doepfer.