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Topic: Yet another keyboard query

For years I've got a great deal of pleasure playing a Danemann upright that I bought at a piano auction. Now I've moved to a warehouse with thin walls, and I just don't feel able to practice while people are trying to work or sleep, and so, having inherited a small amount, have decided to move down the digital route. Although I play all sorts of classical, I particularly enjoy playing Scriabin, and so the pedalling is very important to me. I spent ages reading posts on various keyboards (my budget is £2000 tops) and then came across Pianoteq. I'm 99% certain that this is the answer for me; I've downloaded the trial software, and by playing various midi files through it and playing with the settings have fallen in love with the idea, if not quite head over heels with the sound! But I'm sure you will all understand that that the subtlety of response, particularly in the area of string resonance, is more important to me than the timbre of the note. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in Chappell's (a music shop in London) playing the full range of Yamaha gear and hated it as much as I remember from practicing on rehearsal room clavinovas.
So now I'm trying to choose a keyboard, and although there is a huge amount of very helpful discussion on here and I could make a good list of keyboards that I could then audition, there are some basic facts that I would love to know about the keyboards which would help me shorten the list.
Obviously I'm looking for a fully weighted action; but how do I know if a touch responsive keyboard gives a full resolution 0-126 and doesn't split it into levels? Likewise, I would like a keyboard with at least 3 pedals, and how do I know that the touch sensitive pedals likewise give a full resolution? It seems to me that a list of keyboards that, in theory at least, use pianoteq to the full would very helpful to anyone trying to start from scratch.
If I find a keyboard action that I like which has only 2 pedal inputs, or pedals that I don't like, can I connect the pedals separately to pianoteq with some kind of midi junction box?
My budget has to cover the keyboard, pianoteq, and any gubbins I might need to connect the two together (I'll be running on a MacBook 1.83 Intel Core 2 Duo).
Any thoughts?
Looking forward to posting results of my auditioning/shopping!
Ben

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

I'm going down the exact same route as you but for different reasons and I have a smaller budget. I haven't played for about 20 years - mainly because I never had room for a piano, and hated all the digital ones that were out there, but now want to return to the piano and still don't have room. Pianoteq is good enough (trialling it like you, for the moment) i.e. playable and musically expressive to make the idea of the digital route possible.

Again like you I sat at all the Clavinovas in Chappell's on Wardour Street and left an hour later feeling a bit downhearted. I wasn't listening to the uninspiring sound (I'll hook whatever keyboard I get up to Pianoteq), what depressed me was the difference between manufacturers claims about keyboard action and how they actually feel. With the exception of Avantgrand (£££££) which has a real action, they don't feel anything like a piano, all have this rubbery springy feeling which is not surprising because instead of a felt hammer hitting strings you have a metal? hammer hitting a rubber? stopper and the "weight" of the action varies enormously but is either too heavy - the S308 was like using your little finger to operate an organ's pedals, or too light - the P85 was like a childs synth. I've also tried various Kawais and Rolands and some of the expensive models are a bit better than Yamaha in my opinion, but still not right and too expensive.

A bit of internet trawling reveals that there are almost NO dedicated midi master keyboards out there, ones with a good action and no built in sounds, and very few if any pedal sets with three pedals where the sustain and soft pedal are continuous - meaning they send the full range of midi values 1-127. I would like to try a Fatar Studiologic Numa which is nearer my price point but I can't, no one stocks it in the UK.

Ultimately I feel I am going to have to clear out the living room to make room for a (good) second hand upright with a silent system.

Dull. Really dull.  I like the idea of Pianoteq and I think it is setting the standard for virtual instruments, but at the moment it seems the software (inexpensive) is way ahead of any of the hardware (too expensive or too crap) currently on the market.

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

I must say that Kawai MP5 and MP8-II have an amazing touch and mechanics. Especially MP8-II, with real wood keys.

Also all the weighted Studiologics! A good one (and comparatively cheap for that kind of controller) to pick would be Studiologic VMK-188 plus, it even gives you sliders and faders to control Pianoteq in realtime if you will!

Hard work and guts!
Last edited by EvilDragon (02-08-2010 10:43)

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

EvilDragon wrote:

I must say that Kawai MP5 and MP8-II have an amazing touch and mechanics. Especially MP8-II, with real wood keys.

Also all the weighted Studiologics! A good one (and comparatively cheap for that kind of controller) to pick would be Studiologic VMK-188 plus, it even gives you sliders and faders to control Pianoteq in realtime if you will!

I agree about those particular Kawais, not quite right but very near  - preferred the mp5 as the mp8-II was a tad heavy - or was I being too kind to my 20-year-out-of-practice fingers..?, but its the price, beyond me and I think would max out Benormerod's budget too. I've read reviews about various Studiologic keyboards and want to try, but I can't. Where are they?

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

Studiologic is an italian company, IIRC.

Hard work and guts!

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

I believe Fatar is the company that makes keyboard actions, and Studiologic is the brand under which they market some of their actions as finished keyboards (e.g. the Numa).  Both are Italian and apparently hard to get in touch with.

http://www.fatar.com/scegli.htm

Dolphin Music seems to be a prominent UK music e-tailer, they carry the Numa and have a couple showrooms in Northern England...  Maybe that's an option?

http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/contact-us/index

You might also just want to look at a second hand Studiologic keyboard on e.g. eBay.  If the seller is nearby, you might be able to test-drive it, and if not (and you can get it shipped for a reasonable price) you'll still have a decent keyboard to get started with, which has resale value, and around which you can easily build up a rig (just add a stand and a pedal system like the CME GPP-3: http://www.forum-pianoteq.com/viewtopic.php?id=7).

Last edited by doobya (02-08-2010 12:45)

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

Dolphin Music seems to be a prominent UK music e-tailer, they carry the Numa and have a couple showrooms in Northern England...  Maybe that's an option?

http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/contact-us/index

Thanks for spotting that; I went to the site and I don't see Fatar there, but I'd certainly be willing to take a trip to Liverpool to try out some keyboards, as they seem to have some good stock.

You might also just want to look at a second hand Studiologic keyboard on e.g. eBay.  If the seller is nearby, you might be able to test-drive it, and if not (and you can get it shipped for a reasonable price) you'll still have a decent keyboard to get started with, which has resale value, and around which you can easily build up a rig (just add a stand and a pedal system like the CME GPP-3: http://www.forum-pianoteq.com/viewtopic.php?id=7).

This is tempting...

I'm in Amsterdam today and my meeting finished early, so I've been googling for a store that stocks Fatar; can I find one?...

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

benormerod wrote:

Thanks for spotting that; I went to the site and I don't see Fatar there, but I'd certainly be willing to take a trip to Liverpool to try out some keyboards, as they seem to have some good stock.

They currently only list the Numa: http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/brand/fatar/

This is tempting...

I'm in Amsterdam today and my meeting finished early, so I've been googling for a store that stocks Fatar; can I find one?...

I live in Amsterdam smile  But unfortunately I'm not aware of any music showrooms large enough to carry soundless master keyboards.

I do have a Studiologic SL-880 which I acquired 2nd hand as I suggested above, and which you are welcome to come try out if you like.  Shoot me an email if you're still in town: chris /\ doobya \/ com

Edit: you can try this shop http://www.midi-amsterdam.nl/contact.html but I'm not sure they have (m)any keyboards in the showroom.

Last edited by doobya (02-08-2010 16:52)

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

I would second the notion about the Kawai MP series: MP9000,MP9500, MP8, MP8II.  I have the MP9000 and really enjoy it with pianoteq, though not a super-portable keyboard at 73 pounds--but very high build quality with thick brushed aluminum and very nice wooden keys.  You can find some of these used on EBAY for <$1000. I got mine from Craigslist.

Also, your audio gear will make a big difference with Pianoteq.  For headphones, pick the Senn HD600 or AKG 701.  If you don't have a pro-level audio interface like RME fireface, then you will also need a headphone amp (or receiver output) to get the most out of these.  Audio Interfaces like the Echo series, Apogee duet,etc. can't really drive the phones to their full potential.

Pianoteq 4, Dell Studio 14 (core i3 2.26 ghz), M-Audio Uno midi connector, Echo Indigo Djx (expresscard), Little Dot MK V Headphone Amp, Senn 580 Headphones, Kawai MP9000 digital piano

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

I do have a Studiologic SL-880 which I acquired 2nd hand as I suggested above, and which you are welcome to come try out if you like.  Shoot me an email if you're still in town

That is very kind; sadly I didn't get your post until I was boarding the ferry back to the uk...

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

Benormerod, I couldn't help noticing you were bidding on a Studiologic VMK 188 plus on Ebay today (so was I !!).. did you win? I saw it went for £205 - good price.

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

EdinKent wrote:

Benormerod, I couldn't help noticing you were bidding on a Studiologic VMK 188 plus on Ebay today (so was I !!).. did you win? I saw it went for £205 - good price.

Nooo; it was very awkward for me, I was out of the country today, and am going off again for two weeks on Thursday, so my heart wasn't really in it. I also got the feeling that someone else wanted it very much and would go higher than I was willing to.

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

EdinKent wrote:

Benormerod, I couldn't help noticing you were bidding on a Studiologic VMK 188 plus on Ebay today (so was I !!).. did you win? I saw it went for £205 - good price.

That's amazingly cheap for such quality controller!!

Hard work and guts!

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

Just spent an hour or so in Rose Morris, London, trying a variety of keyboards. Of course these things are never as simple as one thinks they are going to be; the keyboards are racked above each other, so the Kawai MP7 II (which I can't afford) is at perfect height, whereas the MP5 (which I can afford) is at Rick Wakeman standing height, so quite difficult to judge. The shop kindly let me plug my macbook into the keyboards and that was as plug and play as I'd hoped, but I'm going to have to come back with better headphones. I tried the Roland FP4 and FP7, but they were both a little too lightweight for my taste, and I spent most of my time on the Kawai. Then I went into the digital piano section and found what I think may be my keyboard; the CN33. It has the new RH action which feels very nice to me; no artificial bounce at the end, but capable of fast repeated notes;  it's £100 or so more than the MP5, more probably when they add the delivery on as it's a heavy beast, but it comes with its own stand and 3 pedals, so it'll come out costing the same in the end. The problem is that someone else came in and decided to try out all the other keyboards without headphones just as I was getting going, so I've come  out for a short lunch and a think; and to share my shopping trip with the forum!

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

bebop603 wrote:

I would second the notion about the Kawai MP series: MP9000,MP9500, MP8, MP8II.  I have the MP9000 and really enjoy it with pianoteq, though not a super-portable keyboard at 73 pounds--but very high build quality with thick brushed aluminum and very nice wooden keys.  You can find some of these used on EBAY for <$1000. I got mine from Craigslist.

The action in those Kawais is not the same as the MP8-II. I went through the whole same audition process in the Denmark St shop and settled on that above all the others.  Bought from Thomann (as Rose Morris wouldn't match the price) and saved a bit of dosh but the exchange rate was somewhat better then.

I tried the Rolands, Yamahas, Korgs & Casios (one was surprisingly good given its budget price) and the MP8-II was the best for my particular touch. I didn't buy it for the onboard sounds (average) but purely to use as a master piano controller. Works a treat with Pianoteq. Yes, they are expensive but do occasionally come up on eBay. Just don't go bidding on one of the earlier Kawais as the action is not the same (heavier imho).

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

boomtown wrote:
bebop603 wrote:

I would second the notion about the Kawai MP series: MP9000,MP9500, MP8, MP8II.  I have the MP9000 and really enjoy it with pianoteq, though not a super-portable keyboard at 73 pounds--but very high build quality with thick brushed aluminum and very nice wooden keys.  You can find some of these used on EBAY for <$1000. I got mine from Craigslist.

The action in those Kawais is not the same as the MP8-II. I went through the whole same audition process in the Denmark St shop and settled on that above all the others.  Bought from Thomann (as Rose Morris wouldn't match the price) and saved a bit of dosh but the exchange rate was somewhat better then.

I tried the Rolands, Yamahas, Korgs & Casios (one was surprisingly good given its budget price) and the MP8-II was the best for my particular touch. I didn't buy it for the onboard sounds (average) but purely to use as a master piano controller. Works a treat with Pianoteq. Yes, they are expensive but do occasionally come up on eBay. Just don't go bidding on one of the earlier Kawais as the action is not the same (heavier imho).

I found the others too heavy as well; too inhibiting for my fingers which are used to a lighter action. I ended up buying a Roland HP302 for the lighter touch and then saw an MP8 II on ebay for the same price (£1400). Ah well...

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Re: Yet another keyboard query

I guess there are still the Yamaha GranTouch pianos available on the market which I can warmly recommend trying. I own an GT-1 and can´t complain in any way about it due to the real grand piano mechanics! Love it!

For a new GT-1 you will still have to pay around EUR 6.000,-. But the upright versions, the GT-20 or GT-10, featuring a real mechanic of an upright are at a lower price.... if you can get one. Maybe on the second-hand market.

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