What do you like in 73 or 88 key workstations/electric pianos?

Rufus

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Background: I’m not much of a keys player but am looking to get better. I already have a passable 61 key Casio workstation But am looking to get something with better feel and sounds. Not particularly interested in going the software route at the moment, so I am looking for self-contained. Excellent keybed is critical.

In terms of sounds, I want great piano, EP, organ, clav, and classic synth sounds. I’m not a perfectionist, though, so minor quibbles with those tones don’t bother me much. Basic arranger capabilities are a plus but not a deal-breaker. Complex sequencing abilities and massive sound tweakability are not necessary and would largely go unused.

I’d like to keep it under $2500, new or used. I’m leaning toward the Roland RD 2000, but am also interested in the Kronos 2 (my local GC has or had one for $2k). The Roland SV-2 looks cool, too, it might not have enough synth tones for me. Yamaha CP88 looks interesting too but might be too limited in sounds available. Nords generally seem beyond my price point.

I understand a keyboard in that price range is major overkill for someone of my skills. But you only live once, etc. Any help you can offer is appreciated.
 

Bucksears

Silver Supporting Member
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I’m becoming a convert to the idea of getting a decent 76 or 88-key controller and going with soft-synths for everything else. Unless it’s something you LOVE and you KNOW you’ll never get tired of, hardware gets outdated. Software gets upgrades.
Not to mention, you can piece together your whole software environment as finances allow, and/or you can demo most stuff before buying.
ANNNNNNNND there are a ton of free apps/VSTs out there.

Just a suggestion.
 

Steve Hotra

Silver Supporting Member
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I bought a Yamaha MOX 6 a few years ago. It has all the sounds you are looking for, including jam / rhythm bass and drum tracks.
Yamaha has now updated the MOX series, as far as I know. Their model line is worth considering.
 

Devnor

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3,609
Kronos basically does everything, immediately and seamlessly. There's a few ways to generate music in this thing...karma, RPPR and you can create or import midi loops into the sequencer. The learning curve is a bit steep at first. Depends on how deep you want to go with Kronos. Out of the box, there's thousands of presets. Don't expect much in the way of computer integration. I use din midi with my Kronos and sequence it with Logic Pro or Roland Fantom. 2k is a good price but I would only buy a studio queen at this point.
 

stevel

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14,508
88 (weighted) for me is all about feel - playing piano "authentically" on a non-weighted keyboard (especially a not-so-great one) is really hard to do.

76 is kind of an odd one for me - but, I ran into some situations with 61 where I needed more notes than I had.

My ideal setup with be a nice weighted 88 for Piano and anything else I might need that feel and that amount of keys for, and then a 61 with a nice Fatar feel for synth stuff and everything else.
 

Rufus

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1,727
Thanks for the replies. 88 keys would be ideal from a playing perspective, but I'm not sure I have enough room at home to house a small aircraft carrier. I'll measure and see. 61 is nice for most things, but I do end up using that octave button a fair amount.

I recognize the software route is the wave of the future, but I really don't want to have to hook a keyboard up to a computer and fire everything up just to play. I'm not a studio musician and don't need absolute perfection in my tones, just something I can turn on, play, and enjoy.

I'm maybe leaning Korg SV-2s now. It's probably overpriced for what it does, but I appreciate the simplicity and the throwback to vintage tones. It lacks the spaceship noises and other synth tones of the big workstations, but my other keyboard can cover those to the extent I need them.
 

anotherscott

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172
76 is kind of an odd one for me - but, I ran into some situations with 61 where I needed more notes than I had.
The 76 advantages really come into play if you're in a situation where it's the board you need to play piano from, or if you need space for splits.

Excellent keybed is critical.

In terms of sounds, I want great piano, EP, organ, clav, and classic synth sounds.
Keep in mind that an "excellent" keybed for piano will not be "excellent" for organ, and vice versa. Even short of "excellent," piano plays best from a hammer action, and organ from a non-hammer action.

Does your current Casio 61 have a MIDI Out connector? Or is it only USB? Do you find its feel adequate for organ? Playing some of your new board's sounds from those keys could be an option here, if your new board has a piano-oriented action.

Sticking with hammer action boards, SV2 is great for piano, EP, clav; not so much for organ (e.g. no drawbar control) or synth (no synth controls or pitch bend/mod). Best bang-for-buck in a hammer action board these days may be the Kurzweil PC4, but the SV2 does have areas where it excels, despite its relative limitations. I haven't played the RD2000, or the Korg Grandstage which might be another worth looking at. In a used board, maybe Nord Stage 2 or 2EX would hit the mark (3 would stretch the budget).

In a non-hammer board with more than 61 keys, Nord Electro 6, Dexibel Combo J7, Hammond SK1, and Roland VR-730 could be possibilities as piano/organ/EP/clav boards. The Roland is the only one with real synth functionality, but I'd say lags the Nord and Dexibell in pianos. (Hammond is probably weakest of the bunch in piano.) The Nord and Dexibell allow you to load your own samples, while the Dexibell and Hammond have above average MIDI functions, making it easy to get more sounds from, say, an iPhone/iPad. (That's also true of the Kurzweil, RD2000, and Nords mentioned above.) One other thing worth noting about the Dexibell... I found that the piano and EP sounds you can download from their web site were much better than what ships with it, which also means that when you hear it in a store, you won't be hearing it at its best.
 

sws1

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10,787
I'm not much of a keys player either, but I needed something to play a few songs at gigs. But I also wanted something that I could grow into, without breaking the bank, or having too many knobs.

I chose a Yamaha MX88, which has weighted keys, a bunch of built-in Motif sounds, integrates with my DAW, etc. I got a demo model for under $900.

If my piano playing takes off, I'm happy to upgrade to something better. About the only thing that isn't great about it is the fact that the sustain/sustain pedal sounds a tad artificial, particularly if you hold it a long time. But if you don't use it too much, the piano sounds are great. And certainly at a gig, no-one is gonna hear that.
 

kiki_90291

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3,784
I'm not really a keyboard player - prior to covid, I just did some basic keys stuff with my band (mostly a guitarist). So take this with a grain of salt. I have a Roland DS88 at home and a Nord Electro 61 for the band.

If I were starting from scratch, I'd get the Nord Electro 73 to have a little more room for splits and the occasional really low note. The keybed seems to me to be a pretty good compromise that feels "piano-ish" enough for piano parts, but also works well for organ/synth. Of all the stage keyboards I tried, the Nords seem to have the most logical user interface for someone like me who likes to keep it simple. It's mostly knob-per-function or close enough that it's intuitive for my brain. It does not have any sequencing or arranging capabilities.

Sound-wise, I think everything at that level sounds really good, with variation between brands. E.g., Rolands may have better pianos, Nord may have better organs, etc. - I think it winds up being very subjective. But none of them suck.

Also, if starting from scratch, I'd still have a weighted board at home to practice on - I like the feel (I did learn piano when I was very young and I think that muscle memory stuck). I'd probably get a MIDI controller, though and not a feature-packed monster like the DS88 - I don't use 99% of it's capabilities, so if feels like a bit of a waste. I got a great deal on it, though, and it has a really nice keybed, so I'm reluctant to swap it out for something that might not have as nice a keybed (no one has 88 key controllers on display around here).
 

soundchaser59

Thank You Great Spirit!
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I've been researching this for a while. You said feel is important. You'll find that only the 88 key boards have the grand piano style weighted keys. Also have to be careful about how much plastic they use to build it. The Casio px560 is impressive for the price, but every review mentions the plasticy feel.

The one I've found to be under sold and under described is the Yamaha p515. The quick specs and marketing hype online don't do it justice. Down load the manual and make sure you understand everything it will do. For example, none of the sites or specs mention that it does 16 track midi sequencing. And it's almost impossible to find a demo that covers the other 400 and some XG sounds it has. You can record 16 tracks of midi instruments and it will render it down to a cd quality wav file to a USB stick. You can play wav files live through it and play the keyboard live along with it. It has speakers with 15w per channel. But you have to read the manual to realize all of this.

That's the one that has me tempted, and I've compared to all the others in the under $3k arena.
 




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