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#679112 - 03/08/05 04:24 PM Looking for perfect hammer action controller
cmwck Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 12
Hello,

I am a classically trained pianist and have been playing for 15 years (since I was 6).
Since I discovered giga samples, I think the best way for me to go right now is to find the highest quality keyboard action possible and marry that with a $200 sampled Bosendorfer.

My problem right now is finding a keyboard with grand piano action, with nothing else implemented. Things like the Yamaha Clavinovas and Grand Touches cost $4000 and up, and come in elegent cabinents with sophisticated speaker systems and disk drives. And even the piano samples in these pale in comparison the the gigabytes of samples my PC can churn out. See, I allready have the hiFi speaker system, and a gigasampled piano that kicks the pants off of anything anyone could build in to any keyboard. All that I need now is a perfect grand piano action keyboard controller.

For example, Yamaha's top of the line clavinova has the GH3 hammer action, which looks pretty promising, as does the Gran Touch 2's action.
Is it possible to get these actions, or ones of the same caliber, in a midi controller which doesnt have any sound banks, or speakers, or fancy cabinetry?

It seems to me that one could literally just take a real concert grand, remove everything except the keys and hammers, and install velocity sensors and midi output circuitry, and sell this as a controller-only grand piano action keyboard.

For the sake of argument, assume that I have around $5000 to spend here.

Thanks,
-C.

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#679113 - 03/08/05 05:37 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
ProPianoGuyBC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/04
Posts: 388
Some options listed below:
There's tons out there under your budget...

Just as a bit of background as to why I reccomend each of these instruments the criteria is as follows:

#1 Touch
#2 Connectivity
#3 Price (Not really an issue at your budget level far exceeds the price of any of these)

For Roland:

RD-700SX
Progressive hammer action
USB and/or 2 MIDI outs to connect to computer.

HP-107
Home model with cabinet but has the best Roland action. Prog Hammer action w/escapement.
USB Connectivity

For Yamaha:

P-250
Graded Hammer Action
MIDI out and USB too i think!

CLP-170
GH3 Hammer Action.
USB connection.

Kawai MP-9500:
Wooden Keyboard
MIDI out

All the above are great but you should try them out and compare the touch (and yes EVEN sound) of each...

PPBC

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#679114 - 03/09/05 06:14 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
cobs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/04
Posts: 327
Loc: London
All the best options have already been mentioned so far, if you want the most realistic action I'd go for a Grantouch DGT2a, which is the real thing when it comes to touch.
_________________________
A proud employee of Yamaha-Kemble Music

(please scan all posts with bias scanner...)

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#679115 - 03/09/05 08:21 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
If you are looking for a midi controller keyboard, (i.e. no built in tone generator)nothing on the market today is really very good. Yamaha used to make a fantastic controller called the KX-88 (you might be able to find one on the used market). Another option is the Kawai MP9500 (also discontinued) but this is a full blown stage piano.

Both of the above options weigh a tonne but that's what you'd expect from a piano action.

Rodney

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#679116 - 03/09/05 10:01 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
Dan M Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/03
Posts: 770
Loc: California
If you have 5k$, I would buy the real thing. A CW upright could be had for a bit more than that. But if you still want the digital, I've been researching the same thing.

I have a grand, but need a digital for late night/early morning, and travel play, and I don't want any of the extra stuff either. I've found the Doepfer keyboards and have ordered a PK88

http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

It's the bare minimum, and advertised as sticking very close to a real piano action. The few comments I've heard from owners is that it has the best action they've tried. The mechanics look interesting, maybe they simulate letoff.

Anyhow, I'll have it in a week or two, and will post how it feels.
_________________________
The piano is my drug of choice.
Why are you reading this? Go play the piano! Why am I writing this? ARGGG!

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#679117 - 03/09/05 07:51 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
cmwck Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/08/05
Posts: 12
 Quote:
Originally posted by Dan M:
If you have 5k$, I would buy the real thing. A CW upright could be had for a bit more than that. But if you still want the digital, I've been researching the same thing.

I have a grand, but need a digital for late night/early morning, and travel play, and I don't want any of the extra stuff either. I've found the Doepfer keyboards and have ordered a PK88

http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

It's the bare minimum, and advertised as sticking very close to a real piano action. The few comments I've heard from owners is that it has the best action they've tried. The mechanics look interesting, maybe they simulate letoff.

Anyhow, I'll have it in a week or two, and will post how it feels. [/b]
Like you, I need a digital because of size/noise requirements (im in an apartment).

Has anyone tried the Roland A90? This has also been suggested.

Note that I don't really care about weight, only size. In fact, the heavier the better for me. When I am literaly throwing by body weight into the keys to to finish off a Beethoven piece, I would rather the piano not fly across the room \:\)

Is the yamaha KX88 really 20 years old?? I see a couple of issues here. First, if I buy one off of ebay and, oh whoops, middle E breaks, who do I take it to to get it fixed? Second, unless the MIDI standard has been frozen for the past 20 years, there may be issues hooking this up to modern equipment. I would also need solid evidence that the action in it is 'indistinguishable from a real grand' as many have said.

Along those same lines, none of these keyboards discussed so far (roland a90, yamaha KX88, kawaii MP9500, that wierd german keyboard PK88) would be available to play on before I bought it. I would have to buy one off the internet, and if i didnt like it I would have to buy _another_ one, compare it to the first one, then sell one of them on ebay. Repeat until you find one you like. This could cost alot if I loose $100-$200 everytime I sell one back.

If anyone here is a classical pianist who's been playing for a loooong time, mostly on grands, and has personally tried one of the above keyboards, I would appreciate and value your recommendation.

Thanks!
-C.

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#679118 - 03/10/05 05:29 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
cmwck,
Which one of the MIDI controllers listed in your post would a serious classical pianist prefer? The honest answer? None of the above. That doesn't mean they all suck. But I hope you realize that there are serious compromises no matter what you choose. I've owned a KX88 and an A90 in the past. I now use a Fantom X8 and an XV88. There are slight differences in the action among the Roland's I've owned (Fantom, XV88, A90). I honestly don't know which one I'd prefer. I look at playing a synth as sort of a "necessary evil". I don't think too much about comparing it to my acoustic piano as it simply doesn't compare! I just pick one and make the best of it. Now obviously you want to choose wisely. I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into.

My .02 would be to find the best digital piano you can find and go that route. The actions on an A90, KX88 or the Kawai are dated. You're likely to get a better action on a current model (that includes sounds). If you want to play soft-synths from there, that's OK. But at least you have some on-board sounds if/when you need them.
_________________________
PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

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#679119 - 03/16/05 09:45 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
trihai Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/10/04
Posts: 23

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#679120 - 03/16/05 12:42 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2693
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Hi cmwck,

I also use Giga and am enjoying using it with a Yamaha P60. However there is something you may not have considered that limits just how enjoyable this experience is, latency. When I play a note the sound comes out of the P60 immediately. When I play a note and run midi through Gigastudio there's a slight delay. It's not so much to make it unplayable, but it's noticeable and bothersome. I've reduced the soundcard latency to 256 samples (as low as it goes), but I think my problem stems more from midi latency than soundcard latency. Just thought I'd let you know of this potential problem.

Cheers,

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#679121 - 03/16/05 12:54 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
holodude Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/14/04
Posts: 21
Loc: BC, Canada
My advice is that there is no keyboard that has indistinguishable action to a grand piano. In terms of the ones listed, all I know is that I don't think you'd be happy with the P250. I've got a P90 at home (basically a P120 without speakers), and it is great, but it cannot compare to the real thing. It is not even close. And a P120 is simply a P250 without all those bells and whistles, as far as I know, so the action should be the same. Basically if you play the keys lightly they are very close to the real thing, but playing them hard like I do, it just doesn't compare. I just think about the $1500 I saved by not getting the P250, and all my annoyances just disappear. Not helpful, I know, but it shows that as "classically trained pianists and have been playing for 15 years (since I was 6)" we can't expect to find a replacement piano in digital form, at least without spending huge dollars. Our preceptions and knowledge of how a piano is supposed to feel will always find fault with the current lines of pianos. And yes, I am also 21 and have been playing since I was about 5 or 6, when my Grandma started to teach me piano. What a coincidence, eh?

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#679122 - 03/16/05 02:18 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
Steve,

Latency in Giga (or any other soft synth/sampler) is a product of many things but there are some optimizations that can get it down to so that it isn't noticable:

1) Performance of audio hardware and drivers (You get what you pay for)
2) Quality of MIDI driver (GSIF 2) drivers in Gigastudio 3 make a big difference in midi latency
3) Performance (processor speed) of workstation. I found that going from a 2.8 GHz processor to a 3.2 GHz didn't appear to have much impact on CPU utilization BUT it did bring down latency.
4) Amount of RAM (More samples in memory the less waiting for samples from disk)
5) Speed of sample drive. SCSI 15K RPM drives are definately the best, but SATA Western Digital Raptor drives are almost as good. Then comes Hitachi and finally the big Seagate drives. Everything else is a little slower and may increase latency. I've heard that SATA RAID 0 is a good option and produces speeds comperable to SCSI but I've never tested it myself.
6) OS and application overhead (Lots of tweaks out there that can help!)

My point is that a system that produces ultra low level latency (not perceptable) is very expensive and time consuming to set up. The dedicated hardware solution will always work out of the box (after all this is what it's made to do) but the software solution can be much more rewarding.

Good luck in getting that latency down.

Rodney

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#679123 - 03/17/05 09:51 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
cobs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/04
Posts: 327
Loc: London
 Quote:
Originally posted by holodude:
My advice is that there is no keyboard that has indistinguishable action to a grand piano. In terms of the ones listed, all I know is that I don't think you'd be happy with the P250. I've got a P90 at home (basically a P120 without speakers), and it is great, but it cannot compare to the real thing. It is not even close. And a P120 is simply a P250 without all those bells and whistles, as far as I know, so the action should be the same. Basically if you play the keys lightly they are very close to the real thing, but playing them hard like I do, it just doesn't compare. I just think about the $1500 I saved by not getting the P250, and all my annoyances just disappear. Not helpful, I know, but it shows that as "classically trained pianists and have been playing for 15 years (since I was 6)" we can't expect to find a replacement piano in digital form, at least without spending huge dollars. Our preceptions and knowledge of how a piano is supposed to feel will always find fault with the current lines of pianos. And yes, I am also 21 and have been playing since I was about 5 or 6, when my Grandma started to teach me piano. What a coincidence, eh? [/b]
In reference to Yamaha products, have you tried any of the other actions that Yamaha produce? All the pianos you mentioned use the same, Graded Hammer action. There is also the GH3 action, the natural wood action, and the real piano actions found in the Grantouch. All of which I think are superior to the standard graded hammer action.
_________________________
A proud employee of Yamaha-Kemble Music

(please scan all posts with bias scanner...)

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#679124 - 03/17/05 01:07 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
holodude Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/14/04
Posts: 21
Loc: BC, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by cobs:
In reference to Yamaha products, have you tried any of the other actions that Yamaha produce? All the pianos you mentioned use the same, Graded Hammer action. There is also the GH3 action, the natural wood action, and the real piano actions found in the Grantouch. All of which I think are superior to the standard graded hammer action. [/b]
Admittedly, I have not. But I have heard from enough people who have tried them. My point was simply that the P250 that he listed (which is pushed by so many people on these forums), uses a mechanism that isn't good enough for any serious pianist. To practice, yes, but full time, no. And basically I just pointed out that the only way you can get anything worthwhile, is to spend a whole ton of money (which you'd have to do if you got the expensive model yamaha listed).

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#679125 - 03/17/05 01:25 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
cobs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/04
Posts: 327
Loc: London
It's not that much more expensive than the P250 to get the CLP170, which has the GH3 action. But I'm hoping we'll see an upgraded stage piano line with GH3 in them.
_________________________
A proud employee of Yamaha-Kemble Music

(please scan all posts with bias scanner...)

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#679126 - 03/18/05 09:52 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
lesecret Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/18/04
Posts: 39
I've played classical piano for more than 20 years, and I'm currently a MMus student in Piano Performance and Accompanying.

About half a year ago, I started looking around for a stage piano which I can practise on. It had to be a stage piano because I'm at college now, and expect to be moving more than once in the next couple of years. The thing that mattered most to me was touch, since I would use it primarily to practise. Sound is second.

I tried many stage pianos. Only three - Yamaha, Technics and Casio (SP20 I think) are "heavier" than the rest. But SteveY is right, you probably won't find anything that is to your complete satisfaction.

I have tried some of the Yamaha Clavinovas. They're more realistic than the Yamaha P120 that I now have, but they're way beyond my budget and not portable.

Btw, CMWCK, I'm interested to learn more about your $200 Bosendorfer sample. Can you give me more details? And perhaps a link to the product?

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#679127 - 03/18/05 10:48 PM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
gregjazz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/05
Posts: 316
Loc: CA
I found the Roland FP3/FP5 is one of the best keyboards for realistic piano feel. Of course, no synthesizer feels like a real piano, but you can get close sometimes. Also, the keyboard stand you're using is very important. You're going to want one that won't budge no matter how hard you play. Maybe go so far as to use some sort of wooden cabinet or small desk to put the keyboard on. Whatever you use, it's gotta be solid.
_________________________
Greg Schlaepfer
Orange Tree Samples
http://www.orangetreesamples.com

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#679128 - 03/19/05 12:17 AM Re: Looking for perfect hammer action controller
fogwall Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/04
Posts: 160
Loc: Sweden
A piano I haven't been able to try myself is Kawai CA5. It is a budget model that has the same touch as MP9500 and CA7/CA9. As you are just after the keyboard action and nothing else, I guess this could be worth checking out.
_________________________
www.fogwall.com

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