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Light-weight, light-feel 88 controller quest


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  • Light-weight, light-feel 88 controller quest

    For the past couple years, I've been on the impossible quest of finding an 88 key controller that weighs less than 30 lbs, and doesn't have a sluggish, heavy action (like the Casio Privia, or the horrendous M-Audio "semi-weighted", torture devices). Like the Lochness Monster, there have reports of various citings (most recently, CME's vaporware product The Z-key), but no concrete evidence of its existence has been found.

    Anyway, I went to the local music store, and was delighted to discover just about the last potential candidate I had yet to investigate: Korg's SP170S. I had previously tried the SP250, and I just love that action. It is weighted, but it's such a light touch that your fingers can fly over the keys -- nice for both piano, as well as synth/organ parts, and so little strain on the wrists/forearms. Unfortunately, the SP170 uses a different keybed, and while not as sluggish as the Privia (both models were in the store, as well as the SP250, so I got to compare them all), it's not nearly as light and responsive as the SP250. Damn. If only the SP250 weren't 42 lbs!

    One strange thing: Korg lists the same keybed for the SV-1 and SP250, but the SV-1 was also in the store, and the feel of these 2 models is vastly different. How's that??

    One nice surprise was the Roland FP-7F action. Not quite as light as the SP250, but nice. 52 lbs?? No!!

    Played a couple Casio WK models, even though they were only 76 keys. They felt cheap and spongy and not as nice as my old Roland 76 key synth actions.

    Played some Roland DP model, Better than the Casios, but still not as good as the past.

    I went looking for a used, older 88 key synth action on Ebay, hoping I could find something unweighted and light. Good lord. Those things are all 50 lb workstation beasts. Must be all that metal in the casing.

    So I guess I stick with my 34 lb Roland RD300sx, since all other current options are at best, no better, and usually much worse (ie, pig vomit).

    Oh yeah, the store had an EP "made" by Radio Shack. The bass keys go only halfway down. The keys are so uneven, it looks like the ocean on a turbulent day. Now I can say I've played something worse than an 88es.

  • #2
    Yamaha P95
    It has Graded Hammer Standard" (GHS), which, as far as I know, is softer that other weigthed keys found in Yamaha that features "Graded Hammer" (GH).
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    • #3
      In terms of feel, I would probably rate the current sub-30 pound 88s in this order, best to worst:
      1. Casio CDP-100
      2. Yamaha P-95
      3. Korg SP170
      4. Casio PX-3
      5. Casio PX-130/PX-330

      If weight were not a factor, I'd probably rate them
      1. Roland FP-7F (and presumably similar RD-700NX which I haven't played)
      2. Yamaha CP5 (and presumably similar CP1 which I haven't played)
      and nothing else matters


      • #4
        Haven't been able to try a CDP-100 or P-95. I'm leery. I've yet to play a Yamaha that wasn't heavy. And Casio? I've only ever owned 2 of their products, and was not pleased either time.

        But my target for the feel I want is the Korg SP250. How do either of them compare?


        • #5
          And Casio? I've only ever owned 2 of their products, and was not pleased either time.

          Which ones?

          Sorry, I can't offer any comparison to SP250, I haven't played it.


          • #6
            I'll be going out of town tomorrow, and where I'm going has a music store with both the p95 and CDP100 in stock. So I'll try them.

            But assuming the CDP100 is appealing, how does the feel compare to the CDP200R? Is it the same keybed? I'd rather have the USB MIDI of the latter (plus the pitch wheel can be useful).


            • #7
              assuming the CDP100 is appealing, how does the feel compare to the CDP200R? Is it the same keybed? I'd rather have the USB MIDI of the latter

              I don't know, I've never seen a CDP200. But looking online, it doesn't have regular MIDI ports (only MIDI over USB). There are a couple of companies now coming out with adapters that let you convert USB to regular MIDI ports without having to connect through a computer, but I think I'd like to hear some field experience about how well they work before going that route. And without a converter, a USB-only keyboard is pretty useless as a live MIDI controller unless your rig includes a computer.

              Also, I don't want to over-state the quality of the CDP100. I don't think it's a great action, it's not worlds different from the current Privias... it's just "enough" better to me that I can play the CDP100 without feeling the dissatisfaction I feel from the PX-130/330. It's not a great leap, but it just crosses that threshold for me. I put the Yamaha P95 in the same category, the two are quite close, and on further thought, I'm actually not 100% certain which of those two I like better. But they are slightly different, and you may have a noticeable preference for one or the other. Or may hate both of them. ;-) (There are actually some older Casio models I prefer.)

              If by any chance they are both acceptable, I'd suggest the P95 because it is a slightly better MIDI controller... i.e. it has the ability to split the keyboard and transmit on a different MIDI channel on either side of the split; and you can select whether or not you want its patch select buttons to send program changes over MIDI (though you can't change which ones they are, so if you wanted to use them to call up external sounds, you'd have to arrange the sounds on the destination device so that they lined up where you wanted)... and if you do want to use the buttons that way, the Yamaha can call up 10 sounds that way vs. the Casio's 5. And if you care at all about their internal sounds, the Yamaha's piano sounds better, and it has more sounds in it (though I actually prefer the Casio's EP, its velocity switching is more natural).

              And lastly, if by some chance you end up really liking the CDP-100, I happen to have a slightly used one for sale...


              • #8
                have a slightly used one for sale...

                Is that one of the ones listed on Ebay?


                • #9
                  You have a very cool setup there!

                  No, I haven't put the CDP-100 on eBay yet. I'll get around to it. ;-) But if anyone is interested, I see all the ones on the "completed listings" page have gone for $300+ (with shipping), so I'll offer it for $275 shipped.


                  • #10
                    If the P95 is similar in action to the MOX8, I can recommend that to the OP. I've also disliked Yammy action in the past due to the heaviness, but the MOX8 I tried recently is very light but good. Lighter than the SP250.


                    • #11
                      Yes, the P95 and the MOX8 actions are at least very similar, probably identical. The MOX8 is a bit over the 30 lb mark, but if "close" is good enough, it's a great board, in terms of sound and in terms of a good live user interface (including control of other MIDI devices). Also, the weight is well balanced and well distributed, and the shape/feel of it is conducive to getting a good grip on it. So even though it's a couple of pounds heavier and inches larger in every direction compared to my Kurzweil PC361, I think it's actually easier to move around.


                      • #12
                        Ok, I had a chance to try out the CDP-100 and P-95.

                        The store also had a PX-130 (and 330), which is the Casio I've used for a little over 2 years, and recently gave up on due to its heavy, unresponsive action. So I just turned the volumes down on all 3, and simply played the keybeds.

                        The CDP was very, very slightly better than the PX-130/330, but just barely. It's still heavy and not too responsive (ie, repeatedly striking the same key can be frustratingly uneven to the point of undoable -- unless you have ape fists). My Roland RD300sx is better. So the CDP is a no go, and in fact, I've yet to encounter a Casio that I've found to be positively musical and playable. The company lives up to its reputation, and I'm done with this brand.

                        The P95 is better. It's a lighter action than I've come to expect from Yamaha, and I would find it definitely playable. But not any moreso than my RD300sx. And the P95 is missing too many other features the RD has for me to want the former, so that's a no go too.

                        As long as I was in the store, I decided to try every other model too. Of course, every Casio (including a bunch of WK models) made my fingers recoil. I'll say this about Casio as a music company, they make nice calculators. The other Yamahas were heavy/slow.

                        But there were a couple of nice surprises. I found an action I really liked as much as the Korg SP250. It was on the Fantom G8. Wow, what a beautiful weighted action, so light and fast. But 76 lbs?? Also, the Roland VR700 organ had a very pleasant unweighted action. (It turns out that the Roland organ I tried previously was the VK-8, whose action felt too cheap and springy to me). Unfortunately, the VR700 is only 76 keys, a little cramped for a guy who plays left-hand bass lines. There was a Korg Triton there (forget which model, but not the Extreme) that had a pleasant enough action, but not as good as the SP250 or G8.

                        So I'll probably keep gigging with an RD300sx until the day I die (or Infinite Response make a Vax88).


                        • #13
                          Yup, as I said, the CDP-100 is only slightly better than the PS-130/PX-330... it's just enough for me to cross the threshold from frustrating to playable. As I mentioned, some older Casios were better, but you won't find them in any stores to try anymore.

                          If you fine the P95 action as good as the RD300sx, but no better, there is something to be said for the fact that the P95 is almost 8 pounds lighter, if your main goal were simply to reduce weight.

                          I also think you might really want to look at the MOX8. It's got the same action as the P95, it's still a bit lighter than your RD300sx (almost 2 lbs), and in terms of the other MIDI control features you like in the Roland (and its use as a backup board with high quality sounds), I'm pretty sure that the MOX8 would be far more functional than the SX. As long as you like the action as much, there would seem to be all advantages and no disadvantages in making the change.

                          I haven't played the Fantom G8, but yes, once you take weight out of the equation, Roland makes some terrific feeling actions. The FP-7F (which I think is the same keybed as the RD-700NX) is probably my favorite piano action of all. I like the Yamaha CP5 too. But you can't get these kinds of feels in a lightweight board, alas.

                          I like the VR700 a lot. It is probably the best unweighted action for piano I ever played. The biggest problem with it is that it's bulky/heavy. It tops 35.3 pounds, but the ergonomics of it are such that it feels way heavier to move than the 32.6 pound MOX8, more than the difference in numbers imply.

                          For organ playing, if I remember correctly, I didn't actually notice much difference between the VR700 and VK8 (preferring both of them to the feel of the Nords and Hammonds), but I never attempted to play piano from the VK8 board... and that's definitely surprisingly good on the VR700, which really is the effective replacement for the VK8.


                          • #14
                            I don't use the RD300sx sounds. That's what my Fantom XR is for (with some custom waveforms). And the primary controller features I need are implemented in my custom software. So the MOX8 doesn't offer me any advantage. I probably would have considered the P95 if it had USB MIDI. But that's an important feature for me to lose. Anyway, the RD isn't bad to transport now. I was putting it in a case along with my cords, pedals, mic stand, and touchscreen monitor... and all that got to be too heavy. Now I transport it by itself.

                            On another topic, does anyone get the impression the Studiologic Acuna 88 is a repackaged Numa Nano with an ipod dock? The Nano uses the TP/100LH keybed. The Acuna mentions "TP/100 light-weight" keybed. Is this the same keybed? Or did they create another modded keybed for it?


                            • #15
                              does anyone get the impression the Studiologic Acuna 88 is a repackaged Numa Nano with an ipod dock? The Nano uses the TP/100LH keybed. The Acuna mentions "TP/100 light-weight" keybed. Is this the same keybed? Or did they create another modded keybed for it?

                              I was guessing it was an ipod-oriented repackaged Numa Nano without the lightweight casing (it weighs 50% more) and without their funky touchscreen interface and velocity adjustability (neither of which work well, so good riddance).