Pianos, and Keyboards, and DAWs (Oh My!): Newbie Needs Advice.

Discussion in 'Keyboard Purchase Recommendations' started by David88, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. David88

    David88

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    This looks like a great forum. I’ve already learned quite a bit by poking around.

    I’m another newbie looking for some keyboard buying advice.

    Purpose and situation:
    • 1 adult beginner (with a little "by ear" guitar experience) + 1 adult intermediate (with music training years ago, mostly violin, a little piano)
    • Strictly amateur home hobby use; no gigging. (Portability not an issue.)
    • Recently introduced to hands-on experience with DAWs and their (awesome!) capabilities, using a little Akai MPK-mini controller.
    • This is a long-desired, upcoming-retirement splurge. Though getting to this late in life, we’re serious (“someday when I have the time….”) and want something that will accommodate growth. This will likely be our only purchase; we don’t want to have to upgrade in just a couple of years.
    • Eclectic music tastes; not so much pop or hip hop but almost everything else including blues, folk, country, rock, EDM, “world,” new agey stuff, ambient, classical…
    • Budget is a little flexible but given my total beginner status, I have a hard time justifying spending more than $1000 or so (knowing some “extras” will add to that total). Looking for the best “bang for my buck.”

    Essential:

    • Good “piano-like” experience
      • Physically: 88 keys, weighted
      • Aurally: Good-quality piano sound
    • Versatility: at least a few voices
    • Connectivity: Ability to interface easily with a DAW (I have Studio One) for some a basic music production (for fun)
      • Record/clean up live keyboard performance recordings
      • Mix/arrange MIDI tracks with audio recordings (guitar)
      • Add tracks/VST voices/effects,
      • Create more ambient soundscape stuff.
      • Export for playback just for fun.
    Bonus: Beginner learning tools (not sure what these would be)

    Questions (overlapping):
    While I think have a basic understanding of how the terms “digital piano” vs. “synth” vs. “arranger/workstation” get used, there seems to be an awful lot of overlap. There’s the stripped-down “digital piano” (e.g. the Yamaha P 115, using sampled sound) but then there’s piano+bells and whistles under the “portable grand” category with (Yamaha DGX 660) and 88-key synthesizers, too (Yamaha MX88) Confusing. (I’ve been looking at Yamaha, primarily, but have no allegiance.)
    • Do my wants seem to suggest focusing on one category more than the others? Why? (Is it as simple as "digital pianos have higher-quality sound samples vs. synthesizers have versatility" as I read in some places?)
    I’m not clear on what the relationship is between the voices that come with some keyboards versus voices available through VSTs on my DAW.
    • Can I pipe DAW-based voices through the speakers of a digital piano?
    • Would I be better off spending my money on a quality digital piano leaving all the digital extras (many voices, multitrack stuff, etc) for the computer, rather than the onboard keyboard? Or are there distinct advantages to having some of those abilities “on board”? (Lag issues?)
    • Can “on-board” voices be updated? Can new ones be added? (I keep seeing mention that Yamaha voices are getting "dated" etc.)
    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
     
    David88, Jan 26, 2018
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  2. David88

    Biggles

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    Welcome.

    An I suggest that you undertake more research, it is your 88 keys and $1000 limit that is the issue as it severely limits the available choices to a digital piano.

    The Yamaha, Korg and Roland kit is about $1700 for 88 keys.

    As you seem to be into DAWS then can I suggest you look at a Roland A88 midi keyboard which is $999 from Sweetwater (the 49 key version is $180) and with this you can be PC or Mac based and even an iPad can be used with an App like Music Studio.

    The beginner learning tool you suggest would point to an arranger and even one at about $200 can be very a useful learning tool, a Yamaha PSR E363 has 61 keys and is a great starter arranger, you should be able to sell it on or trade it in in a couple of years.

    A Roland BK3 is a workstation that would also be a great starter and could serve for many years being supplemented by another better keyboard when you improve.

    Good luck.
     
    Biggles, Jan 26, 2018
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  3. David88

    David88

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    I don't follow. All three offer digital pianos--or, as I note, synths--in the $1000--or less--price range. In fact, the challenge I'm facing--and the reason I'm looking for some guidance--is that there are too many choices, not too few.
     
    David88, Jan 26, 2018
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  4. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    Assuming your budget is $1000 US Dollars, then the Roland juno DS88 is made to order for your needs priced in between $899 and $999 USD Street prices.

    http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2016/05/20/roland-juno-ds-the-best-budget-keyboard-on-the-planet/



    https://www.amazon.com/R-JUNO-DS88-Roland-88-key-Synthesizer/dp/B016133LAK/

    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1186585-REG/roland_juno_ds_88_88_note_synthesizer.html

    It has 88 weighted hammer action keys, great instrument voices with over a thousand to choose from plus it is expandable with free downloadable sounds and samples from Roland's Axial Website.

    Pianos are also great and this synth is currently one of the best bangs you get for the buck.

    It's classified as a perfomrance synth but I consider it to more of a workstation without a built in MIDI sequencer. It does however, have a built in step sequencer for composing rhythmic loops.

    It also has the usual arpeggiators and as a bonus also has a built in vocoder.

    It is USB MIDI Class compliant so no problems hooking it up to a DAW.

    So you mentioned extras.

    A few items you will need.

    1) Sustain Pedal (Recommend M-Audio SP-2 for $20 USD)

    https://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-SP-2-Universal-Electronic-Keyboards/dp/B00063678K/

    2) Double braced X stand with SOLID locking mechanism. $25 USD

    https://www.amazon.com/Adjustable-Double-Braced-Style-Keyboard-Premium/dp/B019DAGY2U/

    3) Stool. A typical wooden bar stool would be adequate. $5 at a yard sale.

    4) Powered speakers. You can actually hook up a pair of powered 2.1 computer speakers or a pair of powered monitors as a very decent stereo output. Outputs are line level compatible so all you require is the correct cabling to get it working.

    I'd recommend these speakers $100 USD>

    https://www.amazon.com/Edifier-R1280T-Powered-Bookshelf-Speakers/dp/B016P9HJIA/

    And this cable $8.50 USD>

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000068O18/

    Plus these speakers accept two stereo sources of input simultaneously so you can hook your computer thru them at the same time for backing tracks and VST sounds.

    And a decent cardioid mic so you can use the vocoder $11 and change>

    https://www.amazon.com/Professional-Unidirectional-Microphone-Connection-PDMIC58/dp/B003GEBGA0/

    So for $1169 USD plus taxes and shipping where applicable you are ready to go with a very nice little setup of pro gear.

    Gary ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
    happyrat1, Jan 27, 2018
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  5. David88

    Biggles

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    David

    The 88 keys does limit your choices and top quality kit costs, if you open up the choices by removing your 88 key requirements you would then have a vastly greater choice, that is what I am saying.

    As Gary suggests the Juno DS88 is at your budget and a great piece of kit, it is not like an arranger with their vast range of inbuilt styles and if that is important then you need to look elsewhere, if it is not important then this is the one to put at the top of your list.

    As another option to Gary’s suggestion can I suggest you consider getting two keyboards, a cheaper 88 key digital piano and the Juno’s smaller 61 key brother.

    A Yamaha P45 digital piano is about $450 and a Juno DS61 is $700 so if you increase the budget you have two great keyboards. If you include the stand, stool, leads, pedal and powered monitors etc and buy all as a bundle you should get a healthy discount.
     
    Biggles, Jan 27, 2018
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  6. David88

    David88

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    Thanks.
    My wife's primary interest is a piano-like experience, thus the 88-keys. Also, I was under the impression that the digital pianos' sampled sounds gave significantly better sound quality than synthesized sounds, so I didn't go down the synthesizer path at all. But thanks to you I'm re-examining that assumption and now have more to learn. :D

    I also see a short road trip to a music store in our future soon to just listen and feel the differences.
     
    David88, Jan 27, 2018
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  7. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    Electronic keyboards are divided into two main categories these days. Waveform Synthesizers and ROMplers.

    All of the boards mentioned in this thread so far are ROMplers.

    That means the voices are samples stored in ROM.

    The main difference between a Casio $200 noisemaker and a $5000 workstation is how much memory is used for the samples.

    The Juno DS is a ROMpler and uses sampled synth and live instrument sounds just like any electronic "piano" on the market.

    Another difference between a $200 ROMpler and a $5000 ROMpler is any acousitc modelling FX applied and tweakable by the user.

    Most of the top end Workstations combine both sampled and synthesized sound by combining two or more engines in a unit.

    In your price range the best you can do is either the Casio Privia PX-360 or the Roland Juno DS.

    These are both ROMplers offering the best bang for the buck.

    I'd advise you to audition both in a music store to help allay your fears.

    Gary ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
    happyrat1, Jan 27, 2018
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  8. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    BTW, don't get hung up on labels like "synthesizer" and "piano" and "workstation" and "arranger." Those are all pretty much marketing baloney buzzwords intended to sell hardware. 95% of all keyboards in those categories are ROMplers except for Analog and Virtual Analog machines.

    There's a lot of crossover between the categories in the real world and ultimately it's the sound thatt matters.

    For instance, Casio sells a $700 "workstation" the WK-7600 which is almost laughable compared to a $4000 Korg Kronos or Yamaha Montage.

    The Casio Privia PX-360 nd the Roland Juno DS88 both offer excellent piano sounds for the money as well as tons of other sounds for your mixdowns in your DAW should you decide to use it to compose with.

    Personally I prefer the Juno as the better sounding of the two but like I said, in your price range the pickings are slim.

    Gary ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
    happyrat1, Jan 27, 2018
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  9. David88

    Biggles

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    One of the newest (and cheapest) piano like keyboards on the market is another Roland product. The Roland Go Piano, has the Roland quality at a very low price although it does not have the 88 keys.

    I am suggesting that this keyboard may perhaps be the one to sample first and to measure the sound quality of all the others against this keyboard,

    In the music store please be aware of just how the store has the keyboard you are testing set up, is it using inbuilt speakers or their own PA system, it will make a tremendous difference in sound quality.

    As I suggested prior a two keyboard option is still there for little more than your budget, a his and hers?

    Hers a Yamaha P45


    Yours a Roland DS61
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?t=624s&v=W_4rZ5U9AgY
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
    Biggles, Jan 27, 2018
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  10. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    I watched a video on the GOPiano and checked out a few specs. I believe the keybed is 61 key unweighted synth style. There is no 88 version. This will not please a real piano player at all.

    If he's looking for weighted 88 key hammer action then the two I mentioned above fit the bill.

    He also mentioned he is looking to record with a DAW and for an instrument he won't outgrow.

    I will mention that I am biased against Yamaha simply because of their shady marketing practicesand their refusal to comply with industry standards. I refuse to buy Yamaha keyboards.

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Jan 27, 2018
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  11. David88

    Biggles

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    Gary

    If you re-read my prior post you should see that I am not suggesting that the Go Piano is suitable for David and his Wife, I am suggesting that the sound quality from one is used as the basis of comparing.

    I still think that getting two keyboards will be a more suitable option.
     
    Biggles, Jan 27, 2018
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  12. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    I'm pretty much clueless about the Yamaha p series home pianos. Do they even have proper line out jacks or do they still use that abominable headphone jack to feed the monitors? Are the USB interfaces Class Compliant these days? Can you use third party pedals with them or are you stuck buying all your accessories from them? Do they have proper MIDI out ports for expansions or are you stuck with USB only and having to hook up to a computer to handle routing with proprietary Yamaha only drivers?

    Like I said, once you enter the Yamaha ecosystem it's a closed world and you are locked into making all your accessory purchases from them. Likewise you are dependent on their drivers whenver a Windows upgrade breaks the old ones.

    And Casio Privia PX series pianos are geenerally considered by most to be superior bang for the buck when stacked up against comparable low end Yamaha models.

    And finally the scuttlebutt is among disgruntled Yamaha users that their support reps take a "my way or the highway" approach if you even dare ask them about third party compatibility.

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Jan 27, 2018
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  13. David88

    Biggles

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    Gary
    I agree about Yamaha, but the P series do get good reviews hence my suggestion.

    Two keyboard players and one keyboard will only work in the short term
     
    Biggles, Jan 27, 2018
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  14. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    If they feel they need a second keyboard later on they can always add a $200 controller later on.

    In the meantime the Juno package I laid out ticks all the boxes. Future expandability at minimal cost and not prone to obsolescence for a decade or more. Easy connection to a DAW. Good piano playability with decent voices Professional keys with real MIDI ports as well as USB, even a vocoder they may not need but is nice to have to play around with in a DAW. Also proper professional line outs for hooking up an amp or monitors. A sustain pedal and a controller pedal input. 1200 individual patches. More than he'll ever need but not less. 128 note polyphpony, cpable of rendering almost any composition without dropouts, expansion memory to load additional free samples and other pianos if desired. Roland has an entire bank of additional pianos to download on their Axial website.

    This is a system they could not possibly outgrow in a decade or more and it offers easy expandability on a budget should they decide to add to it later on.

    Best of all it comes in just under budget and they don't have to make compromises that would certainly haunt them in the future if they cheaped out on two inferior keyboards now.

    It's up to them. They can overpay for mediocre piano electronics inside a pretty piece of furniture or buy a professional piece of gear that will serve them faithfully for years to come.

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Jan 28, 2018
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  15. David88

    Biggles

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    Gary
    Again I agree the Juno is awesome.

    But they can have all the functionality and tones of the Juno in the 61 key version and still have an 88 key digital piano
     
    Biggles, Jan 28, 2018
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  16. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    Believe me they couldn't find a decent digital piano for the $300 left over after the Juno DS61.

    It's not worth it to spread the money too thinly.

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Jan 28, 2018
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  17. David88

    Biggles

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    Gary
    True, however with an increase in the budget both would be happy and rapidly in duet mode without sharing a keyboard.

    The Yamaha P45 at $450, has the 88 keys and is a digital piano that sounds great in the reviews.

    Rather than get a DS88 another option would be to check out the P45 and if that is OK then get one. David could then spend a couple of years learning on the P45 before the purchase of a second keyboard by which time Roland may well have an even more awesome updated version of the Juno DS models, they have been out for 2 1/2 years so they will probably be due and update in a year or so.
     
    Biggles, Jan 28, 2018
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  18. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    Take another look at his original post. He is looking for long lasting gear that is literally "best bang for the buck."

    A $450 Yamaha budget piano does not qualify in any sense of the word. Plus it blows the snot out of his budget.

    Anyway this is not worth arguing over. We've given him the main choices and it's up to him to choose.

    I'm not going to make any more additions to this thread until the original poster speaks up and clarifies what he wants.

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Jan 28, 2018
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  19. David88

    David88

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    I appreciate the discussion; it helps make me aware of options I wasn't necessarily thinking of. I'm following closely, doing more reading, and working on clarifying things. Stay tuned. :)
     
    David88, Jan 28, 2018
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  20. David88

    happyrat1 Destroyer of Eardrums!!!

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    Well the way I see it David, is that it's foolish to purchase two inferior keyboards, neither of which fills your wishlist, rather than spend the whole budget on a single board which fills your needs perfectly.

    Like I said, if you feel the need for a second keyboard or an upgrade, you can always buy a cheap $200-$300 MIDI controller or additional MIDI rack modules at a later date.

    In the meantime, if your desire is to get up and running with a basic, but professional sounding home studio for minimum cost and satisfy your wife's piano needs at the same time, then the DS88 is the way to go. Not the DS61 which is only 5 octaves of synth weighted keys and a low end Casio or Yamaha digital piano which lacks the connectivity to make it useful for anything else other than playing a handful of sounds thru a crappy set of built in speakers with no line outs or real MIDI ports.

    Seriously, given your beginner status, I don't see you and your wife playing any duets any time soon.

    That's my take on it as I see it.

    Gary ;)
     
    happyrat1, Jan 28, 2018
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