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#1573899 - 12/10/10 10:16 AM Stage piano or controller for a beginner
Hemppa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/10/10
Posts: 31
Hello,

I registered to the forum as I've finally come to the point of buying a keyboard after being long time interested in this tpe of intrument. The problem is I'm not yet sure how I'm going to go about it even after spending a lot of time researching.

I'm mainly interested in playing piano, and I don't mind Rhodes and similar sounds. I'm also going to get into synthesis a bit, with software synthesizers most likely. So some sort of a base of hobbyist studio I'm trying to build. Main concern is the keyboard.

I have looked up several models that interest me:

Kurzweil SP2x
Kurzweil PC3x

Fatar/Studiologic SL990XP
Fatar/Studiologic SL990PRO
Fatar/Studiologic VMK188
Fatar/Studiologic Numa Nano
Fatar/Studiologic Numa
Fatar/Studiologic Numa Nero
Fatar/Studiologic Numa Piano

Kawai MP5
Kawai MP6

Doepfer LMK2+ 88T

Yamaha CP33

Akai MPK88

Vintage:
Roland A80
Yamaha KX88
Kurzweil MIDIBoard

If you have any other suggestion, feel free to to tell me. I'm looking for something that resembles piano-action, but doesn't have to be super authentic. I don't play acoustic piano yet. I'm wondering if it might be even better to go with slightly lighter and responsive action (still piano-ish) to make play around with the synth sounds easier, but I can buy other controller for that later one really. Aftertouch and stuff like that would be nice, but that might be also ideal leave for the secondary controller in the future.

What concerns me is the computer dependency. It seems software is pretty much superior to hardware when piano sounds are in question..? How do you guys feel about having to twiddle with computer every time you want play piano? I can get SSD, passive components and such to make computer less of an annoyance, if I get cheaper controller. On the other hand, I'm no stranger to computer, so it's not like I don't like them. This decides will it be just a controller or do I use the hardware sounds. I can also get one with hardware sounds and use software sounds when I don't find the computer distracting. Small difference in paper, but I don't know how it would go in everyday life.

I don't gig obviously, or need to carry it around with me from place A to B. So portability is not a problem. It would always be next to my desktop PC. In that sense getting Doepfer, for example, would be bit of a waste, I guess. I also don't need speakers, headphones and eventually studio monitors will make those pointless, I believe.

The Fatars are quite interesting, but my knowledge of Numa series is very limited. VMK188 has got quite mixed feedback according to what I've read.

I almost bought PC3x, it has pretty convincing line of features and the price has been lowered recently, but I wonder is the price still justified, if I have access to software sounds and synthesizers? A lot of people say it's amazing for giggers, but as I don't do that, I would be paying for nothing, as with a lot gigging equipment, I fell... such as the Receptor, which to me seems like an overpriced PC with old hardware.

Any ideas are welcomed and appreciated, thank you.


Edited by Hemppa (12/10/10 10:18 AM)

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#1573953 - 12/10/10 11:40 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: Hemppa]
dewster Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/09
Posts: 4271
Loc: Northern NJ
We have a Fatar SL-880 controller, and while it feels rather hammerish and pianolike, it's a bit springy. And I've had to fix it twice, so I wouldn't recommend Fatar.

We had a Kurzweil SP77 and it had major issues with the keys sticking. The voices also seemed quite small (in terms of memory) and dated. So I can't recommend Kurzweil either.

The Yamaha CP33 is really interesting from a physical and portability standpoint, but it is rather old and the keys are not triple sensor.

Chances are your DP station will be full of wires and stuff, and if you have to add a PC it will get exponentially worse. Who really wants to boot a PC just to play piano? And if anyone else wants to play it without you there they probably won't be able to figure it out. I'd recommend you try something with the Roland SuperNATURAL piano sound in it, such as the FP-7F or the RD-700NX. If you are ready to spend $1k for something like the CP33, then you might as well spend some more and have the option of not necessarily needing PC sound generation.
_________________________
The DPBSD Project!
THE RD-700NX Thread!
DPs Exposed! (nekid pichures!)

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#1574066 - 12/10/10 02:32 PM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: Hemppa]
egallego Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/10
Posts: 138
Loc: Spain
From your current list, I would choose between Kawai MP6 and Yamaha CP33.

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#1574093 - 12/10/10 03:07 PM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: Hemppa]
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: Hemppa
I'm mainly interested in playing piano,... I'm also going to get into synthesis a bit, with software synthesizers most likely. So some sort of a base of hobbyist studio I'm trying to build. Main concern is the keyboard.

What concerns me is the computer dependency. It seems software is pretty much superior to hardware when piano sounds are in question..? How do you guys feel about having to twiddle with computer every time you want play piano?
If you're primarily interested in piano, then you'll want a fully weighted keyboard, rather than unweighted or semi-weighted. Fully weighted 'boards are easy to find.

Included sounds are improving, but software pianos still sound better. If the software instruments are stored on the same computer that you use for connecting to the internet, that computer will probably already be running. If you're thinking about putting together a dedicated music computer, it would take what, two minutes to fire it up?

It sounds as if you'd benefit from having a weighted 'board which also has a mod wheel and pitch bend capabilities - a controller. If you don't want to buy an external amp and speakers, you'll also want a 'board with Audio In/Out jacks - plus MIDI In/Out, to send the playing info to the software instruments.

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#1574587 - 12/11/10 08:47 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: FogVilleLad]
Hemppa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/10/10
Posts: 31
Thank you. The Studiologics indeed seem to be very questionable by quality. All they have going on about them is the Fatar keybed, which is used in many keyboards, but they don't seem to put any effort in their own keyboards. The price is very alluring though. Only about 360€ for SL990PRO. Would leave a lot room for PC upgrades, headphones and the like.

CP33 is interesting, as well as is MP5, but what does MP6 have the justify the higher price for someone who will use software a lot and isn't overly critical about the feel? These three are probably the most potential choices for me. MP6 is quite close to the price of PC3x though, and the Roland RDx00xx's are said to be quite useless compared to the PC3x. Not necessarily feel wise though. I'm also keeping an eye on Kurzweil SP4-8, which will be released fairly soon according to someone from inside. That supposedly has weighted action, unlike the SP4-7 model. Might be a long wait though. Any other models to suggest?

Thanks for the ideas and advice, FogVilleLad. I guess the lighter actions aren't really an option. The graded action is something I haven't got my head around yet. Is it just for those who play grand piano and want the same feel, or is it actually useful to have in modern keyboards as well? I may be very well playing acoustic piano someday in the future so may be it's only good to learn it on a graded one.


Edited by Hemppa (12/11/10 09:00 AM)

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#1574591 - 12/11/10 09:00 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: Hemppa]
OhioBuckeye Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/10
Posts: 25
My experience with Midi has not been great. I can always feel latency and different plugins work differently so it always takes configuration changes and simply I've just given up on midi and sofware for playing. Keep in mind I'm a computer engineer for a living.

On the other hand my simple Juno Di keyboard is simply fantastic. It's flexible and fun and it been near perfect for what i need. The most valuable feature is the included usb player. I like to learn using play along books. these are great because they accompaniment music acts as a metronome and makes playing the songs more fun with the background sounds. I can't recommend the Juno DI enough. It does have what is called a synth action so many piano players would not like this. I didn't start out on piano so I actually love the action and it's flexible. I can play piano, strings, organ, synth pads...anything. So again for me the action is perfect. The DI has 1200 built in tones so you'll have enough to play with and if you want to edit sounds you can with the software editor. couple it with a Roland MicroCube and you have a perfect setup.

OB

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#1575081 - 12/12/10 01:51 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: dewster]
LesCharles73 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/07
Posts: 739
Loc: Denton Texas
Originally Posted By: dewster
We had a Kurzweil SP77 and it had major issues with the keys sticking. The voices also seemed quite small (in terms of memory) and dated. So I can't recommend Kurzweil either.


The Fatar TP/40 in the Kurzweil PC3X is supposed to be very nice according to end-users, with no recurring quality issues to date, so I wouldn't disqualify the Kurz just yet. I have also worked on a lot of flaky Fatar actions, so I agree with ya there, but this is apparently a new design without the problematic lead impregnated plastic weights. The PC3X also has memory leaps and bounds over that of the aging SP series, so that shouldn't be as much of an issue there.

I have a perfect, never serviced 11 year old K2600X, while others are sitting unused with trashed actions. Fatar is hit or miss -- at least in the old days, but apparently the TP/40 is a vast improvement over the older TP/10 actions (according to the Kurzweil players on sonikmatter.com).
_________________________
Les C Deal





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#1575104 - 12/12/10 02:46 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: Hemppa]
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4680
Loc: San Francisco
Originally Posted By: Hemppa
I guess the lighter actions aren't really an option. The graded action is something I haven't got my head around yet. Is it just for those who play grand piano and want the same feel, or is it actually useful to have in modern keyboards as well?
In the field, techs set up actions so that the bass has a higher touchweight, so if you're thinking about playing an acoustic, the graded hammer DP actions will most closely resemble the piano that you hope to play. That said, the adjustment period between an ungraded action and a graded one should not be difficult. It'd still be a good idea to stay away from unweighted actions. It's actually easier to control dynamics - volume changes - with a weighted action.

I *think* that some instruments, such a horns, are best controlled with a mod wheel, which means that you'd be best served with a controller which also has MIDI and audio In/Out, but others definitely know more than I do about this. I use only a software piano.

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#1575812 - 12/13/10 08:45 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: FogVilleLad]
Hemppa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/10/10
Posts: 31
Ok, thanks a lot! MP5 and CP33 look pretty nice, as it they have wheels, graded piano touch, zones and all that jazz, but nothing unnecessary. I guess it's between MP5/6, CP33 and maybe PC3x. I've read a lot of positive feedback of different versions of TP/40 keybed, so it probably isn't as hopeless as the older Fatars. Fatar electronics and quality control are different story though...

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#1575816 - 12/13/10 08:57 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: OhioBuckeye]
anotherscott Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/10
Posts: 3076
Originally Posted By: OhioBuckeye
My experience with Midi has not been great. I can always feel latency and different plugins work differently so it always takes configuration changes and simply I've just given up on midi and sofware for playing. Keep in mind I'm a computer engineer for a living.


MIDI via computer can have its complications, but attaching MIDI devices directly is more simple and still often very useful.

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#1575828 - 12/13/10 09:24 AM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: Hemppa]
anotherscott Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/10
Posts: 3076
Originally Posted By: Hemppa
MP6 is quite close to the price of PC3x though, and the Roland RDx00xx's are said to be quite useless compared to the PC3x. Not necessarily feel wise though. I'm also keeping an eye on Kurzweil SP4-8

Roland RDx00 vs PC3X is not a direct comparison. The RDx00 is more like the MP6... a stage piano with other sounds and MIDI controller functions. While the PC3X can fulfill those functions, it has the advantage of being a full-blown workstation and synthesizer as well; but also the disadvantage that, if *all* you need is a stage piano with other sounds and MIDI controller functions, it is not as easy to use as the pieces that are designed to just do those things. In a way, the SP4-8 will be closer to those Roland and Kawai models, though it will not have the faders for the different zones (assuming it shares the layout of the SP4-7). But a lot of this will come down to what keyboard feels best to you.

Originally Posted By: Hemppa
Any other models to suggest?

Sounds like you've looked at Yamaha, Kawai, Roland, Kurzweil... Nord Stage could be another possibility.

From a MIDI controller perspective, apart from the feel of the keys, some other things to consider might be the presence of aftertouch, support for multiple footswitches and pedals, the approach they take to pitch bend and modulation controllers, and the presence of easily assignable knobs/buttons/faders.

Originally Posted By: Hemppa
The graded action is something I haven't got my head around yet. Is it just for those who play grand piano and want the same feel, or is it actually useful to have in modern keyboards as well? I may be very well playing acoustic piano someday in the future so may be it's only good to learn it on a graded one.

I think graded action is over-rated, and has become a big buzzword only because it's something the manufacturers have figured out how to do easily and cheaply, so they make a big deal of it. Many actions are far enough away from feeling like real pianos that worrying about graded action should be the least of their concerns. Regardless, the effect is subtle, and I really doubt its presence or lack thereof would have any impact on a player's ability to play the instrument well.

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#1575924 - 12/13/10 12:50 PM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: OhioBuckeye]
ChrisA Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 3841
Loc: Redondo Beach, California
Originally Posted By: OhioBuckeye
My experience with Midi has not been great. I can always feel latency and different plugins work differently so it always takes configuration changes and simply I've just given up on midi and sofware for playing. Keep in mind I'm a computer engineer for a living.


You can get around this problem. I use Logic but any DAW software like it would work. What you do is create about 3 or 4 (or 20 if you like) "tracks" and load a different virtual piano plug-in into each track and then connect your piano to all of them at once. Now if you play it will sound like 3 or 4 pianos but you can "mute" all but one of them. Most DAWs have a "solo" button that you can use to mute all but one track. Then you can hook up your reverb and eq theo each track and tweak the sounds of each piano. But switching sounds is now like a radio push button.

One more refinement, With Logic and I assume most others you can map the on-screen butons to any MIDI message you like. Channel switches on the piano can so to those solo buttons or maybe you buy a Korg nano-Kontrol and map the DAW controls to it.

In the DAW save this entire setup as a project

All that said I mostly use my Yamaha P155 without the computer. Mostly I'm studying new pieces or scales and don't need any more than the four layer internal sounds. I would recommend you get a piano/controller that has sound that is good enough for most practice

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#1576169 - 12/13/10 08:50 PM Re: Stage piano or controller for a beginner [Re: ChrisA]
ebfunk Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/05/10
Posts: 3
For software piano I use the VMK-188 which I like very much, very responsive. Feels great and I have never had any problems with it. Love that it powers via USB.
For software I prefer NI Akoustik Piano. Not impressed with Pianoteq 3.
My PC3x is a great instrument but not a great piano. The piano sounds are pretty good but lack the dynamic nuances and expressiveness one would hope for when playing serious piano. Tonal variation from ppp-fff is less than optimal.
Considering buying the Kawai MP6 soon.
If you cannot try it in person, make certain your seller has a 30 day trial/return policy.
Best of luck.
_________________________
Roland RD700-GXF, Kurzweil PC3X, Kawai MP5, Yamaha KX88, Novation Remote 37 SL, Logic Pro 9, Ivory II & Ivory II Italian Grand, Muse Receptor 2 Komplete Inside, Komplete Classics, Kore 2, Pianoteq 3 and my beloved MACs.

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