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

jbuhler

Senior Member
Still on the fence about this one. Just got it. Keybed is OK, hoped for a lot better. Has a bit of a spongy, damped feeling (memory foam anyone?) than a hammer strike actuation feel (for want of a better word)

Just fired up the Komplete Kontrol software for the first time tonight, thing seems like a mess. Cant scale the window on the PC, and the way you browse the instruments seems like a pain. Probably just not used to it yet. IDK.
I hate the KK plug-in with a passion. (I’m on a Mac.) I only use it to make changes to splits, lights, etc. on my KK S61 mk II, never to host other VSTs.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
Still on the fence about this one. Just got it. Keybed is OK, hoped for a lot better. Has a bit of a spongy, damped feeling (memory foam anyone?) than a hammer strike actuation feel (for want of a better word)
Not sure if you'll like it more or less, but it'll feel quite a bit different after it's broken in. If you've ever been inside these Fatar actions, there's a big glop of silicone lube on the pivot points. That's what gives it the damped, memory foam feel. As you use the keyboard, a lot of that lube will be moved aside, and it'll feel less damped. Then, after you use it more, the mechanical sound of the action will become a bit louder. I'm not the biggest fan of the way Fatar builds anything, but I do like the way the S88 interfaces with Kontakt. I just wish NI would buy their actions from Kawai, Roland, Kong or Yamaha (definitely not Nord, though... Nord uses Fatar actions).
 

whiskers

Perpetual student
Not sure if you'll like it more or less, but it'll feel quite a bit different after it's broken in. If you've ever been inside these Fatar actions, there's a big glop of silicone lube on the pivot points. That's what gives it the damped, memory foam feel. As you use the keyboard, a lot of that lube will be moved aside, and it'll feel less damped. Then, after you use it more, the mechanical sound of the action will become a bit louder. I'm not the biggest fan of the way Fatar builds anything, but I do like the way the S88 interfaces with Kontakt. I just wish NI would buy their actions from Kawai, Roland, Kong or Yamaha (definitely not Nord, though... Nord uses Fatar actions).
Interesting. I did like how quiet it was, it'd be a shame if it got loud and clunky.

any tips for not getting fed up with KK software? I just want to be able to browse through my instruments like in the library tab of kontakt, I hate that menu where you choose keys, strings, synths, then a style, etc. lol. I'll spend some more time with it tomorrow.
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
will non NKS instruments still show up in Komplete Kontrol?
Yes, load non NKS instruments through "Files." I think you can then put them some place that they load similar to Quickload in Kontakt, but I never use the KK software to host libraries so I don't remember how to do it. I only use it to map the keyboard splits, knobs, buttons, etc. I like the keyboard, though I don't like how closed the MKII is—they took away Mackey support so it only works well with supported DAWS and the transport and navigation keys on the keyboard just taunt you with their inoperability if you use a DAW that isn't supported.
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
any tips for not getting fed up with KK software? I just want to be able to browse through my instruments like in the library tab of kontakt, I hate that menu where you choose keys, strings, synths, then a style, etc. lol. I'll spend some more time with it tomorrow.
You can do this. Press "Browser." The knobs under the screens will then allow you to navigate among your libraries, and patches. Some of the libraries work better than others at this. Right now mine doesn't seem to be playing the previews. I probably turned it off at some point and now can't remember how to turn it back on...
 
OP
H

Headlands

Active Member
Still on the fence about this one. Just got it. Keybed is OK, hoped for a lot better. Has a bit of a spongy, damped feeling (memory foam anyone?) rather than a hammer strike actuation feel (for want of a better word)

Just fired up the Komplete Kontrol software for the first time tonight, thing seems like a mess. Cant scale the window on the PC, and the way you browse the instruments seems like a pain. Probably just not used to it yet. IDK.
Yeah, the Komplete Kontrol thing is a bit of a pain because it requires loading two things instead of one -- i.e., I need to first load Kontrol, then the instrument I want. I wish it would simply communicate with compatible plugins directly instead of having to go through another plugin. Also, it doesn't work through VE Pro, which really sucks; I know it would be extremely difficult to make that happen, but for some reason I had thought that's what it would do (my mistake for not researching better). NI is often fiddly/clunky with a lot of their software GUIs...that's just the way it is with both them and Steinberg.

So, I mostly can't use the keyboard light mapping for that reason. And browsing in Cubase/Kontakt is still faster for me than using the onboard browser on the S88 or their Kontrol plugin.

But I have gotten to like the keyboard just fine and will keep it. I dig the expression pad, and it feels like a quality piece of hardware overall. Maybe we'll see some improvements in the future with the things I've mentioned...!
 

whiskers

Perpetual student
Yeah, the Komplete Kontrol thing is a bit of a pain because it requires loading two things instead of one -- i.e., I need to first load Kontrol, then the instrument I want. I wish it would simply communicate with compatible plugins directly instead of having to go through another plugin. Also, it doesn't work through VE Pro, which really sucks; I know it would be extremely difficult to make that happen, but for some reason I had thought that's what it would do (my mistake for not researching better). NI is often fiddly/clunky with a lot of their software GUIs...that's just the way it is with both them and Steinberg.

So, I mostly can't use the keyboard light mapping for that reason. And browsing in Cubase/Kontakt is still faster for me than using the onboard browser on the S88 or their Kontrol plugin.

But I have gotten to like the keyboard just fine and will keep it. I dig the expression pad, and it feels like a quality piece of hardware overall. Maybe we'll see some improvements in the future with the things I've mentioned...!
That's basically where I am with it too. I'm OK with the action, and do like the hardware overall, I just think it would be doubly as good if we could see/control the instrument and light mapping directly from konakt. I just want to go in Cubase and add a konakt instrument that way.

Assuming the hardware on the SL88 Studio or grand was as good, I suppose it would make a tough choice. The main reason I chose this was for the integration, but that's much clunkier than I had hoped. Ah well.
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
That's basically where I am with it too. I'm OK with the action, and do like the hardware overall, I just think it would be doubly as good if we could see/control the instrument and light mapping directly from konakt. I just want to go in Cubase and add a konakt instrument that way.

Assuming the hardware on the SL88 Studio or grand was as good, I suppose it would make a tough choice. The main reason I chose this was for the integration, but that's much clunkier than I had hoped. Ah well.
I have the S61 mk2 and I've done some mapping of lights and knobs to the instruments I use a lot (and Spitfire, for instance, uses a pretty standard set of CCs that means I can have a Spitfire preset). I also set up some keyboard splits for working with multiple instruments in different channels. (It took NI almost a year after it first released the mk2 keyboards to get this functionality, however.) I've also mapped the buttons along the top to DAW capabilities since I don't use them for the KK software.

In Logic and a few other DAWs, the transport and page navigation are all nicely integrated, but if you use a DAW the keyboard doesn't support those buttons are useless. I do wish the keyboard had a few sliders, and I've taken to adding a Korg NanoKontrol Studio, which fits neatly in an open space on top of the S61 mk2, in order to run Studio One and add sliders.
 

whiskers

Perpetual student
I have the S61 mk2 and I've done some mapping of lights and knobs to the instruments I use a lot (and Spitfire, for instance, uses a pretty standard set of CCs that means I can have a Spitfire preset). I also set up some keyboard splits for working with multiple instruments in different channels. (It took NI almost a year after it first released the mk2 keyboards to get this functionality, however.) I've also mapped the buttons along the top to DAW capabilities since I don't use them for the KK software.

In Logic and a few other DAWs, the transport and page navigation are all nicely integrated, but if you use a DAW the keyboard doesn't support those buttons are useless. I do wish the keyboard had a few sliders, and I've taken to adding a Korg NanoKontrol Studio, which fits neatly in an open space on top of the S61 mk2, in order to run Studio One and add sliders.
Thanks for the thoughts.

RE: the sliders. I agree. Seems it would be really simple to add 4-10 sliders, and not cost very much. You have space to stick 5 or 6 on there easy.
 

ChanceD11

New 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.
Thanks for your review! I also have the Komplete Kontrol 88 going on a year or so now. Has yours broken in yet? I love the screen interface but can't stand the super heavy action. I wonder what your experience has been with the keyboard these last couple years. Hoping it will eventually feel broken in.
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
Previous one was said to be TP100, which makes sense given the weight. It's not heavy enough to have a TP/40 in it. I've pretty much just accepted that unless you are paying about $2k and up, something that approximates a real piano isn't going to happen. The Yamaha CP4's can be found under $2k, also the Roland RD-2000. If you want something that is as good as it gets? That's the Kawai MP11. It is better than a lot of acoustic pianos. Not high end grands, but shockingly good.
Any idea the difference between the Kawai MP11 and the Kawai MP11SE?
 

Thundercat

Active Member
I'll be interested to hear what others think. Some may love it - who knows.
For me it is perfectly acceptable. I also own a Kawaii MP9 Stage Piano. I guess I’m not that picky but the NI keyboard works great for me.

I am also a pianist.

mike
 

Levon

Active Member
What is quality of the NI S88 like? I'm debating whether to go for the NI S88 or perhaps go with a combination of the new Roland A88 midi keyboard and a NI S49.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
Update on my S88 MkII... As I expected, now that it's broken in and the glops of silicone lubricant have dispersed, the action feels faster, but it's more rattle-y. It's an okay keyboard, definitely NOT a great keyboard. I do like the specific features (especially the LED lights to indicate where the key mapping is, and the number of input controls).

One weird quirk which I have yet to resolve deals with the MIDI assignment in Komplete Kontrol. It keeps wanting to revert back to a stock pedal/footswitch MIDI assignment. I build and save a new template in the stand-alone app, but from time to time, it just vanishes, and I don't know why. Then I have to open up the app again (and wait for the time-consuming scan), and set up the MIDI assignments again. Sure wish I could find a way to lock those things in.

Anyway, because the keyboard is not a great keyboard, I have it in front of me and use it for most general things. On my left, though, I have a Kawai VPC1 88 key controller which totally blows away the S88 MkII for playing pianistically with velocity. The S88 MkII velocity response is not that predictable, whereas the VPC1 is spot on. Huge difference if you're a pianist. On top of that, I also have an Arturia Matrix Brute which has a nice, fast, synth keyboard for that style of playing. Between the three, this covers all the bases for me.

I REALLY wish the S88 MkII had a much higher quality action (e.g. on par with the weighted keyboard in something like the Korg Kronos or Yamaha Motif). It's just not. Fatar just doesn't make anything on that level.
 

GNP

Active Member
As long as I'm dealing with MIDI samples being triggered, and it depends on the sampling of the library itself, I'll try not to pretend to be a connoiseur of "truly great-feeling" MIDI controllers.

If I can even get a decent middle ground between the controller and the quality of the sampling library I'm playing with, I'm happy. Other than that, I often find myself going in and manually adjusting the velocities of the notes I performed and recorded, no matter how immaculately I performed the part!
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
What is quality of the NI S88 like? I'm debating whether to go for the NI S88 or perhaps go with a combination of the new Roland A88 midi keyboard and a NI S49.
That would be an option, but you're really defeating the purpose of all the LED indicator lights if you do that. If you're using a lot of NKS instruments, having all of that key switching mapped and color coded is a real benefit.

Regarding Roland, their actions are okay, but I prefer the higher end Korg and Yamaha actions (too bad they don't make 88 key controllers). Also regarding the A88 (the new one, and the predecessor), they are quite long. I had actually considered buying one at one point as a second keyboard for my Korg Kronos (for live playing), and when an A88 was put into a case, there was no convenient way to fit one in my car (although the length of an 88 key Korg Kronos in a case was no problem). The A88 is just a LONG keyboard with all the extra length on the left side.
 

Lee Blaske

Senior Member
As long as I'm dealing with MIDI samples being triggered, and it depends on the sampling of the library itself, I'll try not to pretend to be a connoiseur of "truly great-feeling" MIDI controllers.

If I can even get a decent middle ground between the controller and the quality of the sampling library I'm playing with, I'm happy. Other than that, I often find myself going in and manually adjusting the velocities of the notes I performed and recorded, no matter how immaculately I performed the part!
Yeah, you can always come back and fix things. The problem, though, is that with a keyboard like the S88 MkII, if you immaculately perform the part, the MIDI capture of your performance might not be all that immaculate. Note velocity, and resultant sound of individual notes might be louder or softer than what you actually played (notes might pop out, unmusically). If you're a halfway decent player, your playing will sound better on a better, more accurate keyboard. It's more than just enjoying the quality of a nicely made product.
 

SupremeFist

Senior Member
Yeah, you can always come back and fix things. The problem, though, is that with a keyboard like the S88 MkII, if you immaculately perform the part, the MIDI capture of your performance might not be all that immaculate. Note velocity, and resultant sound of individual notes might be louder or softer than what you actually played (notes might pop out, unmusically). If you're a halfway decent player, your playing will sound better on a better, more accurate keyboard. It's more than just enjoying the quality of a nicely made product.
I have to edit piano performances much, much less using a Roland FP10 as controller than when I was abroad last year working on a rented S88 (mark I). Still have to edit them a bit, obviously, but the Roland is just hugely better from the first pass.
 

Thundercat

Active Member
Update on my S88 MkII... As I expected, now that it's broken in and the glops of silicone lubricant have dispersed, the action feels faster, but it's more rattle-y. It's an okay keyboard, definitely NOT a great keyboard. I do like the specific features (especially the LED lights to indicate where the key mapping is, and the number of input controls).

One weird quirk which I have yet to resolve deals with the MIDI assignment in Komplete Kontrol. It keeps wanting to revert back to a stock pedal/footswitch MIDI assignment. I build and save a new template in the stand-alone app, but from time to time, it just vanishes, and I don't know why. Then I have to open up the app again (and wait for the time-consuming scan), and set up the MIDI assignments again. Sure wish I could find a way to lock those things in.

Anyway, because the keyboard is not a great keyboard, I have it in front of me and use it for most general things. On my left, though, I have a Kawai VPC1 88 key controller which totally blows away the S88 MkII for playing pianistically with velocity. The S88 MkII velocity response is not that predictable, whereas the VPC1 is spot on. Huge difference if you're a pianist. On top of that, I also have an Arturia Matrix Brute which has a nice, fast, synth keyboard for that style of playing. Between the three, this covers all the bases for me.

I REALLY wish the S88 MkII had a much higher quality action (e.g. on par with the weighted keyboard in something like the Korg Kronos or Yamaha Motif). It's just not. Fatar just doesn't make anything on that level.
At random, my S88 mk2 loses the pedal assignment. Which means it doesn’t work. Then I have to go and set it up again through Komplete Kontrol.

soooooooo annoying when I just want to sit down and play or record.

However - I DO like keyboard action, and I’m a piano player too. But I’ll admit it’s not as good as my Kawaii MP9.