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MIDI Controller?

Discussion in 'Current Gear' started by Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 14, 2019.

  1. Hi folks,

    I'm looking for something rather basic. I assume weighted or semi-weighted is a good option (I practice piano on my MIDI keyboard when my daughter is sleeping). Mine is out of commission and I'm using an infuriating old KN400 synth as a replacement.
    I already have an 8-fader controller so I really don't need bells and whistles, just 88 keys. Any recommendations?
  2. The Hammer 88 from M-Audio is fantastic for practicing and performance if you are into weighted controllers. It's pretty cheap price wise for what you get and compares favorably to my Yamaha G1 grand in terms of feel which is no small feat. Ofcourse It doesn't have many CC control functions other than mod wheel, pitch and a volume fader but you said you didn't need that so you should be fine. I also use the m-audio keystation 88 for my semi-weighted needs.

    Here is a review/first impressions video I did of it last year:

    Hope that helps.
  3. I have a M-Audio Keystation 88es and I don't like it for 3 reasons :
    1. The noise of the keys
    2. The black keys are harder to push than the white keys
    3. There's a huge difference of velocity between black and white keys
  4. Since you don't need any controllers, for the price of M-Audio Hammer 88 I would have gone with digital piano Casio CDP-130. I has no Mod Wheel or Pitch Bend, but you won't get any better key responsiveness at that price. Also it is a very popular digital piano model, so I'm sure you can try it at some local Instrument shops near you. That way you can try and decide if you like the feel of the keyboard.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  5. I use a studiologic sl88 grand. It has fantastic hammer action keys, an amazing velocity response and some more extra stuff I never used. They also do a cheaper version called sl88 studio. I never tried it but I hear it's also very good.
    Aaron Venture and Samuel Diaz like this.
  6. #6 Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 16, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
    Thanks for the recommendations guys! I'll try and check some out. Local music stores tend to leave a lot to be desired though.

    Is the Hammer 88 full weighted or semi-weighted? I hate synth-action (or whatever the term is) keys but I'm happy to be persuaded (perc is obviously harder to play on weighted keys). I thought I remember reading Mike and others talking about full weighted keys not being ideal.

    I was using a Yamaha P-...45? before and that thing was probably 8" thick. I'm not sure if all digitals are that thick but I'd appreciate something a tad thinner, if possible.
  7. I just got an M-Audio hammer, myself. Couldn't be happier! It's pricey, but it's worth it. I had an M-Audio 88 semi weighted before and, while it was adequate, I definitely found it difficult to "perform" on. The hammer is a great way to go!
  8. The Hammer is about 5" thick and it's fully weighted. I personally use my semi- weighted for most vst stuff because I'm a drummer more than a piano player so it's easier for me to play faster passages in with semi-weighted keys. But when it comes to piano stuff, I have my hammer 88 off to the side of my desk to play parts that require more expressiveness in that department. That being said, most composers do absolutely fine with hammer action keys with every type of vst instrument, infact Spitfire's Andy Blaney supposedly plays all his parts in using a Studiologic Numa 88 which has similar keys to the hammer 88 ( I know this because I actually owned one before the hammer). It's really personal preference.
  9. Studiologic = Fatar, which are generally considered some of best actions out there. Yamaha can be better, but also heavier. So they’re better for piano and keyboard but maybe worse for banging on percussion, etc. Absolutely try before you buy, or buy from somewhere with a return policy.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  10. I like my old Ensoniq Ts 12 which has a fatar keyboard. Its a 76 vintage synth from 1993, still working pretty good. It is a bit like tank made of steel and very heavy but man, that old thing still works. I think that thing will also survive a fallout EMF Attack. lol
  11. I love it. The action isn't that loud (my computer keyboard is much louder) and I image the Grand is quieter. It doesn't have triple sensor like the Grand. Width: 126cm. Height: 12.5cm. I really like the option to create presets of things like different CC controllers on the sticks, different MIDI channels, and keyboard splits across channels.

    So compared to Grand, it has no triple sensor, TP100LR action (compared to TP40Wood), is 50% lighter and 50% cheaper (~€380).

    I think it's the best bang for buck right now. Whichever one's in your budget, go for it. But if you have space, money and want the closest thing to a piano action, check out Kawai VPC-1.
  12. #12 Samuel Diaz, Feb 16, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019

    How do the controller sticks feel in your hands for controlling dynamics and expression? I ask because I've only tried wheels and faders till now but the sticks really do look flexible in terms of assigning the different CCs and stuff like you mentioned.
  13. I personally don't like them. I've tried to get used to them for a while but I eventually ended up buying an additional cc controller with faders. Part of the problem with those is that the range of action is so short it's very difficult to control subtle dynamic changes.
    Samuel Diaz likes this.
  14. I use the free X/Y for CC11/CC1. Since CC11 isn't used that often, that stick is often sticking (heh) to the right side so it's easy for me to just slide it up and down, controlling CC1. When I need additional dynamic range, having CC11 and CC1 on a single stick feels pretty good. The second one (spring X/free Y) is used for growl/flutter (depending on the selected preset) and vibrato depth. The first one (spring X/Y) I use for pitch bend only.

    Another setup that I have is where Stick 2 is Growl/Flutter and CC1, and Stick 3 is Vibrato Rate and Vibrato Depth (also very cool to have as X/Y).

    Generally, I prefer the first one where the stick is hugging the right side most of the time and I'm gripping it with a middle finger from the left side (as opposed to having to have a finger on top of it). This way, I have 0 issues dialing in CC1. I've gotten so used to it that I'm not sure how long it would take for me to get accustomed to controlling it with a fader. I also use LEAP Motion for a simultaneous CC1 + VibDepth + VibRate input.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  15. Thanks all. I'll go try some of the recommended models. I think the P-45 I was using before had fully weighted keys, so it's what I'm already used to.
    George Streicher likes this.
  16. #16 Daniele Nasuti, Feb 19, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2019
    I've had 3 M-Audio products and with each of them I had problems.

    With M-Audio prokeys 88 semiweighted in 2009 at first one led didn't work anymore and then a key didn't work... so after 2 years it was unusable (more than 700$ in the toilet).

    m audio fastrack pro didn't work with my computer so I had to sell

    m-audio speakers one / two years one of them didn't work anymore. (another 100$ wasted)

    If I can give you and advice don't take ma audio never. Maybe search some other brand that costs not too much. I know there is also Nektar that it's cheap but I never tried so maybe ask to someone who have.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  17. Any updates on this recommendation list? Still considering SL88 and M-Audio Hammer.
    For context, I'd been using a P-115 for the last few years but ran into some dead keys. Replaced the board, worked fine, but now have dead keys in quite a few octaves and am not that inclined to continually try to repair the thing.
  18. I bought a S88 Mk2 a couple of years ago and I still like it. Great for playing, a bit noisy tho.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  19. Do you guys typically use a hammer-action keyboard for MIDI controlling as well? I.e. playing in strings and other instruments, or do you prefer something else?

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