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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:27 am 
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I find myself wanting a keyboard but am having a hard time finding the info and insight I need to narrow down the choices. Anyone here up to date on the current state of the art with various types of electronic keyboards, current NAMM show new products not withstanding?

I’ll follow-up with my specific needs and questions if there are replies to this post.

Thanks.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:00 pm 
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It's such a vague question, Loren...

So what does 'keyboard' mean to you? 61, 76 or 88 keys, or even small MIDI controller? Synth, piano or bells-and-whistles thing with auto accompaniments?

Sometime I'll get myself a decent stage piano like a Yamaha P-255 or Kawai ES8, but that might not be what you're looking for at all!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 4:37 pm 
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Yeah, I know.....was being vague because I didn’t want to waste time if there were no keyboard heads around :poke:

I’m looking for something preferably with:

High quality acoustic piano, electric piano, classic organ and synth sounds. I don’t really care much about stings, horns, etc and I don’t need hundreds of sounds.

Weighted or semi-weighted keys.

Relatively compact and light weight, with 61 keys.

Headphone jack and I don’t really need on board speakers, but I won’t kick them out of bed either.

Price range around $500 USD, but willing to spend more if I determine that’s what it’ll take to meet my needs.


So here’s the thing, this will be a first keyboard for me, and I am really short on space in my apartment. I’d prefer a nice 88 Key.....something, but I really don’t have the room right now. Reality is, what would probably work best is something I can play on my lap, and stand up in a corner the rest of the time. But I don’t want a cheap sounding piece of junk with unweighted synth keys.

I have no need or desire for a workstation keyboard. A lightly featured, easy to use Arranger keyboard would work if the sounds were really good, but the low to mid priced ones often seem to have mediocre sound engines.

I might even consider something with mini keys, like the Korg Microarranger, but that’s getting a bit long in the tooth and it looks like Korg isn’t updating or replacing it this year.

What I am now wondering more and more is this: Are there good affordable priced keyboard sound libraries that work well with midi keyboard controllers? It seems like really good, and decently priced weighted keyboard controllers are now available, but I have no knowledge about what may be out there on the software soundbank side.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 5:15 pm 
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OK, your precise needs at your budget are outwith my precise experience, but I'm still going to offer what general advice I can...

61 keys is very limiting for something to play (as opposed to a controller where you can manipulate the octaves) because you run out of bass keys so quickly. For 61-key models you want to play independently of your computer, you really need +/-12 transpose setting as opposed to +/-6 (which lets you turn C major — or F# major if you're Irving Berlin — into any other key but doesn't give you the choice of direction). Hopefully they all do +/-12 now because +/-6 just seems like a short-sighted approach saving nothing, but I have been frustrated by it in the past.

You're likely to get acceptable on-board piano, electric piano, pipe/electric organ and strings (whether you need strings or not) on any decent keyboard designed for playing, but which electric piano or organ sounds may vary. Very likely harpsichord and vibes too, but synth sounds could be a bit more hit or miss. Likewise touch sensitivity... you might not (won't!) get professionally-weighted piano keys at that price point, but you should be able to find acceptable. But the more of your budget that goes into doing the simple things (touch, a few good sounds) well and the less into bells, whistles and unneeded 1,000,000-instrument/rhythm palates, the happier you'll be, especially if you can control external sounds.

If you do get one with built-in speakers, consider how you want to support it (you've suggested on your lap). We've got two portable pianos* at school (a Kawai ES100 and an older, but more expensive, Yamaha) and I like both of them (chose a Kawai for my nephew on the strength of the ES100 experience), but that particular Kawai sounds crap sitting on a table because the speakers are underneath and it's just got to go on a stand. The Kawais I've seen also have more fiddly ways to set up things like metronome, transpose, internal recording etc. involving unintuitive combinations of buttons and piano key presses, but I believe some Yamahas may also be doing this now.

*We also have an older, cheaper 76-key Roland which isn't so good, but that's not indicative of potential Roland quality... just price point. It was bought to take round my primary schools.

If you want to play (as opposed to just control a few sounds), don't get mini keys. Just don't!

Something that takes a sustain pedal is also good, whereas I've never seriously missed other piano pedals or foot controllers on a portable keyboard. But that's just me!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 7:14 am 
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Thanks Peter, good information. Back in the 80’s I managed a music store and keyboards were simple then - easy to understand and explain. Not so anymore. I dread making a trip to the local Guitar Center, but it may be inevitable.....


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:36 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Sometime I'll get myself a decent stage piano like a Yamaha P-255 or Kawai ES8, but that might not be what you're looking for at all!

Or most likely (from current choice) a Roland FP-90... I've been wrestling with it for weeks because I've wanted one (decent portable) for years and you've kind of got me going again, but still holding back because I don't 100% need it right now!

Loren wrote:
Weighted or semi-weighted keys.

Quote:
and stand up in a corner the rest of the time.

There's some debate about whether this can adversely affect the instrument, I think for two reasons:
1. Movement of lubricant (which wouldn't necessarily worry me).
2. Gravity affecting weighted keys in undesigned ways (which might).
I've regularly left simple Yamaha (touch-sensitive but not weighted) keyboards standing on end at school and once the Kawai ES100 piano for a few weeks or months with no obvious consequences, but maybe something to bear in mind? Many people do it, but I've found some references to manafacturers (e.g. Yamaha) advising against it.

Quote:
So here’s the thing, this will be a first keyboard for me

One thing I'm still unsure about is whether you're an experienced player with no keyboard or still (despite your music store past) just starting?

Not something I'd want, but Roland's new 61-key Go Piano might have some merits as a cheap and cheerful solution. It's possibly not up to your spec. either in being clearly aimed at beginners/casual players, touch-sensitive rather than weighted, with negligible speaker power where you might prefer more or none (will almost certainly sound better on headphones), but it's light, compact, only $329 and has push-button +/- 3-octave (yes, 3-octave!) shift I've never seen on a 61-key (or any) model before to obviate the need for +/-12 transpose where it only does +6/-5.

There's also a $299 Go Keys, which is more a bells-and-whistles keyboard with many more (presumably lower-quality) sounds and the +/- 3-octave thing apparently not directly accessible.

Caveat: I'm only reporting what I've seen on the Internet and haven't tried either of them.

Andertons comparative test

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:13 am 
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Peter wrote:

“Or most likely (from current choice) a Roland FP-90... I've been wrestling with it for weeks because I've wanted one (decent portable) for years and you've kind of got me going again, but still holding back because I don't 100% need it right now!”

“Need” Pffft, why let that stop you? :twisted:

“There's some debate about whether this can adversely affect the instrument, I think for two reasons:
1. Movement of lubricant (which wouldn't necessarily worry me).
2. Gravity affecting weighted keys in undesigned ways (which might).
I've regularly left simple Yamaha (touch-sensitive but not weighted) keyboards standing on end at school and once the Kawai ES100 piano for a few weeks or months with no obvious consequences, but maybe something to bear in mind? Many people do it, but I've found some references to manafacturers (e.g. Yamaha) advising against it”

Interesting, I hadn’t considered the possibility that side standing could cause problems for a modern electronic keyboard, regardless of the key type. Thanks for the heads up.


“One thing I'm still unsure about is whether you're an experienced player with no keyboard or still (despite your music store past) just starting?”

Ah, yes, I suppose I wasn’t completely clear on that. I haven’t played before, which is sad because my grandmother was a highly regarded classical piano teacher affiliated with one of the premier music conservatories here in the states. She tried to teach me, exactly once, lol. As a child I had too much energy and not enough interest, which is not unusual, but now I sure wish I had availed myself of the opportunity.

At any rate, my reason for getting a keyboard at the moment has less to do with becoming a piano player per se and more to do with having a fun, interesting, and useful tool for increasing my working knowledge of music theory. A keyboard is a much easier way for me to visualize, work on and memorize theory related stuff than a simple system flute or harmonica, which I also play on occasion. That said, I do plan to learn to play the piano a bit in the process, and to that end the sound quality and variety is important to me.

“Not something I'd want, but Roland's new 61-key Go Piano might have some merits as a cheap and cheerful solution. It's possibly not up to your spec. either in being clearly aimed at beginners/casual players, touch-sensitive rather than weighted, with negligible speaker power where you might prefer more or none (will almost certainly sound better on headphones), but it's light, compact, only $329 and has push-button +/- 3-octave (yes, 3-octave!) shift I've never seen on a 61-key (or any) model before to obviate the need for +/-12 transpose where it only does +6/-5.

There's also a $299 Go Keys, which is more a bells-and-whistles keyboard with many more (presumably lower-quality) sounds and the +/- 3-octave thing apparently not directly accessible.

Caveat: I'm only reporting what I've seen on the Internet and haven't tried either of them.

Andertons comparative test

Thanks Peter, hadn’t checked those out before. The price, size and weight look right, but I’m not convinced about the quality and variety of sounds, again seems like I may have to suck it up and make a trip to the big box music store, ugh.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2018 4:07 pm 
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Loren wrote:
“Need” Pffft, why let that stop you? :twisted:

Something got ordered today after some price negotiation, so perhaps it didn't...

Peter Duggan wrote:
but I've found some references to manafacturers (e.g. Yamaha) advising against it.

Did I really say 'manafacturers'? (Apparently yes!)

Loren wrote:
Interesting, I hadn’t considered the possibility that side standing could cause problems for a modern electronic keyboard, regardless of the key type. Thanks for the heads up.

I'm still not convinced it's an issue except perhaps for some weighted piano keys over the longer term. But not personally planning to test on mine since I actually Googled that for myself!

Quote:
The price, size and weight look right, but I’m not convinced about the quality and variety of sounds

Think you could probably do a lot worse, especially as a beginner looking for something cost-effective to try. But have to say again I'm really just guessing from experience of what I have tried (which is quite a lot).

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:37 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Something got ordered today after some price negotiation, so perhaps it didn't...

Something's going straight back with a misaligned Bb4 key that's slow to return from playing and a C#3 that's intermittently/randomly cutting in with hard tone/volume at no increase in pressure. Whether I get another FP-90 or try an ES8 instead continues to exercise my mind.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:34 am 
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Ugh, what a drag, doesn’t bode well for that model.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2018 10:50 am 
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The misaligned/sticky key is hopefully rare, but not unheard of because I'd previously watched a YouTube video of someone who took the piano apart to fix one rather than send it back. My key wasn't really a problem in 'normal' playing (apart from being so squint it touched the B key at its front corner), but returned too slowly for rapid repeated notes I could get on its neighbours.

The other problem I've found no reference to anywhere despite having read/watched pretty well all the available reviews and demos. So it's most unlikely to be a hitherto undiscovered/unreported modelling quirk, but I just dunno. Neither problem was acceptable in an instrument costing a four-figure sum.

There's much to love about the FP-90. The quality of touch, response, pedalling etc. (excepting above problems) is stunning, as is the recreation of string/damper harmonic resonance etc. Pianos I previously liked at school suddenly seem lifeless, but the ES8 might yet be a safer bet for me. It's pretty well equally renowned for action, feel, sound etc. and also simulates these acoustic-piano-type resonances I'll never be happy without again. I like the idea of what Roland's doing with modelling as opposed to sampling, but have been somewhat unsettled by that C# thing (the sticky Bb being a far more obviously explainable fault) and find myself wondering whether it's a fully mature/reliable technology yet.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:55 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Whether I get another FP-90 or try an ES8 instead continues to exercise my mind.

Well, I decided to give it another go and, after a bit of a wait because they're in quite short supply at the moment, my replacement FP-90 arrived yesterday and I'm very happy with this one... the keys are straight, and (touch wood) there's not the slightest hint of the other problem. Basically, I love it!

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