Need advise finding a digital piano / midi controller


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I have been trying to find a keyboard to that will serve my purposes. I am looking to take out a few different birds with one stone, which is probably why I'm stuck. I have been looking and looking but running into walls, so I'm reaching out to the collective wisdom.

  1. I would like to spend $600-$800. The lesser the better of course but I also understand that you get what you pay for. I am trying to be a stickler about my high range because $800 turns into $900 very quickly, and $900 can turn into $1200 even quicker, if you know what I mean.
  2. The primary purpose is for a piano in the home for general playing. Mostly for myself but my family would like to play it too. So I want an 88-key digital piano with weighted action. Obviously, the closer to an acoustic the better but I'm also not that picky about that at this point. Anything weighted that doesn't feel too synthy will probably do fine.
  3. I would like a keyboard that can also serve as a midi controller because I would like to get into synths and also composition via a DAW.
  4. Things like aftertouch, vibrato, pitchbend controls are not mandatory but they are strong nice-to-haves (especially given my controller needs.)
  5. On-board speakers are not a deal-breaker but they are strong nice-to-haves because the simplify the rig.
My two top contenders from a digital piano pov are the Roland FP-30 and the Yamaha P125. They are neck and neck (they both have their pros and cons) but I think I lean slightly towards the FP-30 because of the action. But correct me if I am wrong, neither would serve that well as a midi controller. Yes, they can do midi communication but they lack some data transmission and other midi-like capabilities. Again, correct me if I am wrong.

From a controller pov my top choice is the SL88 Studio. That seems like it would satisfy my piano action needs (e.g. fatar action) but now I need to always have it connected to a DAW or some other source and I would need to have external speakers/amplification. Not a deal-breaker but the costs accumulate quickly. Plus, I would like a fairly simplistic system so my kids could play. I would have no problem starting up a computer, an amp, etc. to begin playing but I'm sure that would cause problems for my kids, my wife. Complexity in a rig is certainly not a deal-breaker but it is something that complicates the choice.

Am I asking for a unicorn? Maybe I just need to push my budget into the $1000 area? Any ideas, comments to steer me in the right course, or recommendations?
 
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The ones you mentioned are okay as MIDI controllers. If you want more knobs and sliders, you can add something like a Korg Nanokontrol in the future. If you want more MIDI pedal controllers, you can get an adapter like the ones at https://www.audiofront.net/MIDIExpression.php

The Kawai ES110 would be another worth looking at, for what is generally considered above average action and sound for the price.

If you want a pitch wheel, you can look at Casio CDP-S350 or Yamaha DGX-660. The latter will have an action similar to that of the P125,

If you want a mod wheel too, there's the Kurzweil KA90, but unlike most Kurzweils, the sounds are pretty lame. On the plus side, it has probably the best speakers of any mentioned here, and the best connectivity (audio in and out, USB and 5-pin MIDI). The kids could just turn it on and play, but for the better sounds, I'd probably connect it to the computer (or an iPad/iPhone, whatever) and take advantage of the connectivity and speakers to play those sounds from it instead of its own. Action is probably in the same general category as the P125.
 

happyrat1

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Check out the Roland Juno DS88. It ticks a LOT of your boxes plus allows you to integrate with your DAW seamlessly. Heavier than some others but not by a ton and if you're not buying for gigging, mine sits comfortably in my living room with a rapidly evolving studio growing around it.

And it offers so many great sounds, plus the ability to load samples, totaling over 1400 onboard sounds plus downloadable libraries from Roland. I may be the world's worst judge of grand piano sounds, but there's over 100 of them to choose from in the first bank alone. And it's my honest opinion that any electronic piano can be made to sound "right" with the right FX and tweaks.

The best part is your budget. At this time of year it occasionally goes on sale for as low as $799 USD. Also it may end up being replaced by next year so keep an eye open for closeouts of old stock.

It sounds great, and the hammer action is a pleasure to play on. You may or may not like the "Ivory Feel" of the 88 keys at first, but I eventually grew accustomed to them,

The only bad thing I can say about it is that it uses a joystick instead of pitch and mod wheels. This annoys me because I can't just set the modulation where I want it and leave it alone. My workaround was to assign MOD to a Roland FC-5 CC pedal and use that instead.

As for speakers? With the right cabling and a small mixer you could even plug it into a home stereo or use a set of 2.1 powered computer monitors. Either way, sound can be as good or bad as you're willing to spend on amps or monitors.

I'd say now is the right time to start looking around.

I'd start checking to see if any stores are dumping demo units with full warranty these days.

Gary ;)
 
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Juno DS88 is great, but currently $1200, not even counting the additional you'd have to spend on speakers! I think it would be great luck to find one for $799...
 

happyrat1

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Like I said, Dealer Demo Units and Boxing Day Sales.

Roland keeps the dealers marching in close step pricewise for most of the year, but comes a time when the dealers want to sell LOTS of inventory and some real bargains can be found for a careful shopper.

He might even want to check Reverb, Craigslist and Ebay for a gently used unit.

Roland sold a lot of these and I got mine in a swap plus cash for a gently used unit. :)

Sometimes buying brand new is simply not the best choice when it comes to keyboards.

I'll add that one of these units can make a very good nucleus for a kickass studio. :D

Gary ;)
 
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See this thread
https://www.keyboardforums.com/threads/digital-pianos-c£500-750-usd-€600-860-cnd-960-aud.30702/

As you will read I went through what you are going through now.

Roland FP has the best action, but the method of changing sounds sucks as does the lack of proper output terminals.

Yamaha P125 action is pretty good but the piano sounds are imo superior to the Roland.

Scott rightly adds a Kawai ES110 to your list, do note that this keyboard regularly gets the best reviews but the model I tried had a terrible noisy action with very loud clunks every time a key is pressed. So if you do go with this do ensure you have a long returns window.

All that said, I would not buy any of these models.

Within your budget then there are three models that I would now consider, in preference order:-

Yamaha DGX660
Korg Xe20
Casio S3000

All have a good mix of onboard sounds plus Arranger features which not now on your list for a home entertainment / learning keyboard the feature will enable a far more versatile keyboard, I very much miss having these features on my P series.
 
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Within your budget then there are three models that I would now consider, in preference order:-

Yamaha DGX660
Korg Xe20
Casio S3000

All have a good mix of onboard sounds plus Arranger features which not now on your list for a home entertainment / learning keyboard the feature will enable a far more versatile keyboard, I very much miss having these features on my P series.

Arranger/backing features could be nice especially with the kids using it too. The Casio PX-S3000 pushes the budget a bit, but the CDP-S350 I mentioned earlier is cheaper and has the same arranger features. But the PX-S3000 isn't too far over, and it adds a knob you can use essentially as a modulation wheel (vibrato, as the OP put it). (Note the Korg Xe20 has neither pitch nor mod controls.)
 

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