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Phil O'Keefe

Akai Professional's new MPK Road 88 MIDI controller

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This is a very interesting new weighted hammer action 88 key controller from Akai Professional. What did I think of it? For that, you'll have to check out the full review...

 

https://www.harmonycentral.com/exper...ard-controller

 

 

And as always, if you have questions about the review or comments about the MPK Road 88, feel free to post them here.

 

 

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It's a bit on the heavy side. Granted, it comes in its own case. But I think a 73 or 76 key version would hit the sweet spot for a portable. You would be able to fit it into a car and it would reduce the weight. Also with 88 keys, the wheels would be much better suited above the keys. Unless your arms are as long as a gorilla. Not much need for a pitch wheel on a hammer action, though I guess if your going to put a modulation wheel in why not.

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I commented about the placement of the wheels because it 1) does make it longer and 2) it might bother some folks. It will be interesting to see if Akai decides to release a 76 or 73 key version. I think that would be a popular option. Heck, a synth action keyboard in a similar styled case might be a big seller too - maybe they can do a whole series of Road controllers.

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Thank you for this good review. I also ordered one on Feb. and I was stressed about the impossibility to configure the velocity curve and sensitivity. You bring me the good news. I still have a question regarding keybed. Initially the official announcement from AKAI says that is a graded hammer-action keybed, then I asked them to clarify the discrepancy between the specs. As a result they corrected the original announcement because is not "graded" hammer-action, just fully-weighter without grading. Can you confirm that?

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Another question. There is a terminology, such as 3 sensors, which meant to be able to repeat the note faster without releasing completely the key. What was your feeling, does it have this fast repeat feature?

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Another question. What is your impression, this keyboard could be satisfactory for dual purpose, such as for keyboardist and also for classical piano learner? With regard to piano action, I bet does not compete with Kawai MP11 or VPC1, but it could be a good compromise, without negative impact on the new piano student? In my situation I would use it mainly in home studio + gigging, but my son wants to learn classical piano. Since we have anyway very good piano sample libraries, which I prefer over the sound of some stage pianos, I think it could be a good compromise to not buy just another piano for a while and let see how the child is progressing. Otherwise, for master keyboard in my studio it has already a good position already.

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The Sysex message based keybed characteristic control is not a negative aspect at all. I am completely happy with it as it is now.

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Thank you for this good review. I also ordered one on Feb. and I was stressed about the impossibility to configure the velocity curve and sensitivity. You bring me the good news. I still have a question regarding keybed. Initially the official announcement from AKAI says that is a graded hammer-action keybed' date=' then I asked them to clarify the discrepancy between the specs. As a result they corrected the original announcement because is not "graded" hammer-action, just fully-weighter without grading. Can you confirm that? [/quote']

 

I just spoke with the Product Manager at Akai Professional for the MPK Road 88, and this is what he said:

 

"The keybed is indeed graded, not just fully weighted."

 

 

 

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Another question. There is a terminology' date=' such as 3 sensors, which meant to be able to repeat the note faster without releasing completely the key. What was your feeling, does it have this fast repeat feature?[/quote']

 

And here's the details on that, again, per Akai's Product Manager for the MPK Road 88:

 

"We use a 2 switch design, but the key doesn’t have to be fully released before it will trigger again. The key needs to be lifted about 3mm up once a note on is triggered to receive a note off. Then a second press will yield a second note on. The entire throw is the key is 12mm."

 

 

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Another question. What is your impression' date=' this keyboard could be satisfactory for dual purpose, such as for keyboardist and also for classical piano learner? [/quote']

 

That's a question that is probably best asked of your potential piano instructor; some classical piano instructors would probably prefer a "real" piano for their students to learn on as a matter of general principle. My personal opinion is that a first, second or even third year piano student isn't likely to develop bad habits by using a decent weighted hammer action keyboard for practice; a graded hammer action equipped keyboard is even better, so no, I don't think that using the MPK Road 88 for this purpose would be an impediment, although I'm sure some teachers might disagree with me on that.

 

After a few years, you should know how he's progressing and whether he's serious about learning to play or not, and at that point you can always re-evaluate and consider getting him an acoustic piano if you feel it's warranted.

 

With regard to piano action, I bet does not compete with Kawai MP11 or VPC1, but it could be a good compromise, without negative impact on the new piano student?

 

I've never tried either one of those Kawais, so I can't make any comparisons there. The piano I initially learned on was a Kawai 5' 2" baby grand that my parents purchased when I was in high school in the late 1970s. It was a fairly stiff and somewhat heavy action - in fact, the MPK Road 88 reminds me more of that piano in terms of "feel" than most of the other weighted hammer action keyboards I've tried (and I've played on several); the Kurzweil SP2X that I have in my studio is a bit lighter by comparison. IMO, the Akai feels much nicer than the Studiologic controller I used to have.... but "feel" is definitely subjective, which is why I always recommend that people try a keyboard they're considering if at all possible before purchasing it.

 

In my situation I would use it mainly in home studio + gigging, but my son wants to learn classical piano. Since we have anyway very good piano sample libraries, which I prefer over the sound of some stage pianos, I think it could be a good compromise to not buy just another piano for a while and let see how the child is progressing. Otherwise, for master keyboard in my studio it has already a good position already.

 

Again, I'd recommend you discuss the idea with your son's piano instructor. My opinion is that it's not likely to cause any problems or give him any bad habits, but it's their opinion that matters since they'll be the one teaching him.

 

For your intended uses - studio and stage gigs, it's very well-suited.

 

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I just spoke with the Product Manager at Akai Professional for the MPK Road 88, and this is what he said:

 

"The keybed is indeed graded, not just fully weighted."

 

 

 

That is a really good news! Here is the discussion I had with someone https://getsatisfaction.com/akai_professional/topics/spec-clarification-regarding-the-new-akai-mpk-road-88 But I will see soon once I get my ordered keyboard.

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And here's the details on that, again, per Akai's Product Manager for the MPK Road 88:

 

"We use a 2 switch design, but the key doesn’t have to be fully released before it will trigger again. The key needs to be lifted about 3mm up once a note on is triggered to receive a note off. Then a second press will yield a second note on. The entire throw is the key is 12mm."

 

 

I also believe that with 2 sensors it can be implemented this feature. Cool!

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That's a question that is probably best asked of your potential piano instructor; some classical piano instructors would probably prefer a "real" piano for their students to learn on as a matter of general principle. My personal opinion is that a first, second or even third year piano student isn't likely to develop bad habits by using a decent weighted hammer action keyboard for practice; a graded hammer action equipped keyboard is even better, so no, I don't think that using the MPK Road 88 for this purpose would be an impediment, although I'm sure some teachers might disagree with me on that.

 

After a few years, you should know how he's progressing and whether he's serious about learning to play or not, and at that point you can always re-evaluate and consider getting him an acoustic piano if you feel it's warranted.

 

That you for your opinion. The same I was thinking about, now at least I see others can reason the same way.

My son already has an upright piano, but that is in other continent and does not make sense to transport. Later we will see how we optimize our decisions. :)

 

I've never tried either one of those Kawais, so I can't make any comparisons there. The piano I initially learned on was a Kawai 5' 2" baby grand that my parents purchased when I was in high school in the late 1970s. It was a fairly stiff and somewhat heavy action - in fact, the MPK Road 88 reminds me more of that piano in terms of "feel" than most of the other weighted hammer action keyboards I've tried (and I've played on several); the Kurzweil SP2X that I have in my studio is a bit lighter by comparison. IMO, the Akai feels much nicer than the Studiologic controller I used to have.... but "feel" is definitely subjective, which is why I always recommend that people try a keyboard they're considering if at all possible before purchasing it.

 

The upright piano is also stiff, in addition I know that someone who learn to play in stiffer keybed, then eventually need to use a softer one is easier to get accustomed than vice-versa. In our case is not so important to check the feeling as much as we have not accustomed to piano keys yet. A stiffer keybed sound good for me as soon as the expressiveness still is ok. I have AKAI gears already and they meet my expectations.

 

Thank you for all the feedback!

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That is a really good news! Here is the discussion I had with someone https://getsatisfaction.com/akai_professional/topics/spec-clarification-regarding-the-new-akai-mpk-road-88 But I will see soon once I get my ordered keyboard.

 

He may have been mistaken. Again, the answer I got came straight from the Project Manager for that particular keyboard - if anyone should know for certain, it would be him.

 

 

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Thank you for all the feedback!

 

You're quite welcome. Enjoy your new keyboard. :)

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Hi Phil.

In the meantime I received the new keyboard.

The touch is indeed on heavier side. Quickly visited a music store and I checked a few Yamaha and Kawai actions. In general those are more lighter actions. At the end I like the action which is in Road 88.

 

I tried to change the velocity curves by sysex commands using MIDI-OX. I see the message was sent (not rejected) but I see no difference, just like it would not change anything. Did you tried this feature?

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I just received word late yesterday from Akai that they’ve updated the software so you can now adjust the velocity levels. Check their site for more information. What you're looking for is the MPK Road 88 Editor v1.2.0 - you'll find it in the downloads section - use the downloads link on the page I linked to and you should see it.

 

From what I'm told, the new editor will allow you to adjust the velocity curves for the black and white keys separately - I'm not sure why they went that way, but as long as you can edit both to suit your playing style / touch, that shouldn't be a problem.

 

I already sent the review unit back, so I’m unable to test anything further myself - sorry. But I'd love to hear how it works for you, so if you can, please let us know once you download it and try it!

 

 

 

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Actually that sounds like a good idea. Some DP's have the issue where the black keys for some reason are way too easy to get 127 velocity. With the length being different I would expect the opposite. But for example I had a Kurzweil SP4-7 that the black keys would cause the the EP to bark. It was predominately an issue with the black keys. It was fixable with the velocity curve but that affected the white keys as well.

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Actually that sounds like a good idea. Some DP's have the issue where the black keys for some reason are way too easy to get 127 velocity. With the length being different I would expect the opposite. But for example I had a Kurzweil SP4-7 that the black keys would cause the the EP to bark. It was predominately an issue with the black keys. It was fixable with the velocity curve but that affected the white keys as well.

 

Ahh - that makes sense! I guess it's good that they give you the ability to adjust them separately then. :)

 

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I just received word late yesterday from Akai that they’ve updated the software so you can now adjust the velocity levels. Check their site for more information. What you're looking for is the MPK Road 88 Editor v1.2.0 - you'll find it in the downloads section - use the downloads link on the page I linked to and you should see it.

 

From what I'm told, the new editor will allow you to adjust the velocity curves for the black and white keys separately - I'm not sure why they went that way, but as long as you can edit both to suit your playing style / touch, that shouldn't be a problem.

 

I already sent the review unit back, so I’m unable to test anything further myself - sorry. But I'd love to hear how it works for you, so if you can, please let us know once you download it and try it!

 

 

Thank you for the tips. Originally in the product website was a wrong archive, where it was mixed the PDF for a Road Editor with the sound card driver. In fact this Road 88 Editor is the first available. I reported the problem and they promised the fix. Looks like they did it.

 

I did a try and now with this Road Editor application indeed, I can send the velocity curve for the white keys and black keys and is easily observable the difference. I did a manual calibration and indeed it changes the velocity curve.

 

The available settings are Linear (default), Exp 1 (exponential), and Exp 2 (exponential), Exp 3

(exponential), Log 1 (logarithmic), Log 2 (logarithmic), and Log 3 (logarithmic).

 

While the editor is open I enabled MIDI-OX to monitor midi communication. There are two places where the application requests some configuration from the keyboard using SysEx messages. One is happening when I open the velocity curve dialog and the other one when I press Get Preset menu for the main settings. These two SysEx messages are not the same, but static and never changes its content. The main screen presets where we set the splits and buttons, that is in sync with the content read from the board by Get Preset, but the dropdown selectors indicating velocity curve types for white and black keys, always shows up with Linear velocity selection. We have to remember the last set or just send it again if we are not sure.

 

All in all, the velocity curves can be set.

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