Best portable hammer action masterkeyboard

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Hi everybody!
My beloved 20+ years old Studiologic SL-1100 master keyboard decided to die.
Being that it would be too difficult/expensive to fix it, i am going to buy a new one.

Since I like the Fatar feel of the keys, my first idea was a Studiologic SL88.
I am considering both the Grand (with a TP40 Wood keyboard) and the Studio (TP100 L/R).
Apart from the mechanics, the two gears are identical, and I like them both, for the rugged body, the complete MIDI interface and the minimalist look. I don’t really like the 3 joysticks, while I’d prefer a couple of more traditional modulation wheels, but that’s not a big deal, because i would use it mainly for piano sounds.

Of course the best thing to do is to try myself, which thing I will for sure do whenever the Covid situation in Italy would do more safe to go into my favorite music store. In the mean time I’d like some opinion by anybody that tried the two gears.

My old SL-1100 has a TP20 mechanics, and I used to like it. I imagine that, compared to it, the TP40 Wood improved a lot. I know the TP100 L/R is a compromise to make the mechanics lighter.

While my main concern is the piano feel of the mechanics, also important to me is the weight, for using it on stage. The SL88 Grand is 20kg, very similar to my old SL-1100 (23kg), while the SL88 Studio is only 13kg, so, if the mechanics of this last one is reasonable, i would choose this.

Of course I am considering also other brands. For example one that I like is the M-Audio Hammer88. I like the look and the modulation wheels. But it is also 20kg heavy, and I don’t know anything about its mechanics.

Any opinions of yours?

Thanks, everybody!

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Hi Dario,

I have the SL88 Grand in my second band’s rehearsal room. Generally a good keyboard - the action and texture is very piano-ish. What I don’t like it for is glissandi - must have something to do with a combination of the action and the shape / finishing of the keys; I tend to get blisters when doing long finger slides.

I agree with your criticism of the 3 joysticks - not the best implementation, and a bit fidgety in the heat of the battle.

I’ve tried the Studio, and it didn’t feel as “piano-ish” to me, so I went with the Grand. Definitely a better feeling keyboard.

Still, my favorites are my good old Kurzweil PC3x and PC3K8 - The Fatar TP40L is the best compromise of piano-feel and ease of playing for me. And glissandi don’t hurt so much…

With the same keybed, there is also the Viscount Physis K4 as a less expensive alternative - a pretty cool masterkeyboard with an incredible number of MIDI / USB ports, pedal jacks, wheels, faders, pots etc - a super controller for Cantabile. Plus, it’s BLUE…

Cheers,

Torsten

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Thanks so much, @Torsten for the hint about the piano-ish feeling suggestion, which is exactly what I am looking for.
Thanks also for the suggestion for the Kurzweil and Viscount models (this last is really cool in that blue body!!!). But I have to say that they are a little over the budget (I’d like to spend no more than 1000€). I have the feeling that a big part of their price is given by the sound generators, which actually I don’t need, being that i will keep using the VST programs on Cantabile.
But when I will try all the options I will for sure consider your hint and put my hands also on a TP40L keybed, so, I wonder if there is any “mute” master a little more affordable.
I have the feeling if the only important thing to consider is the mechanics of the keybed, the best deal would be a Studiologic, being that it’s the same brand of Fatar.

Ciao
Dario

I have a SL-880 which I LOVE. Got it for $110 at a pawnshop and it is in excellent condition. I gather they are a crapshoot though, seems like many quit working early. Probably if you find one now though that works it’s good and will keep working. I think the action on it is stellar. The old Yamaha KX88s also feel fantastic.

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I bought recently an SL73 Studio. I love it but I am not a piano player (only synthesizers in my life).
Maybe 88 versions are not so often sold, but I bought my SL73 on Amazon Warehouse for 200 euro and it is mint new.
I am Italian too, check Mercatino Musicale for ads…

Did you buy the SL73 Studio for about half of the street price, with the warranty of Amazon Marketplace? Amazon-amazing. :frowning:

Well, if you’re in the market for the TP40 Wood, the StudiologicSL88 Grand is definitely one of the best value-for-money options there is.

There are more choices around the TP100 LR, although from a pure price perspective the Studiologic SL88 Studio is definitely a great deal. Also take a look at the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII (white or black) - it has the same keybed, but a lot more controllers, pads etc, if that’s relevant for you.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a Studiologic offering with the TP40L, otherwise I’d have long gotten one as a backup for my Kurzweils…

Cheers,

Torsten

I have the SL88 Grand at home and for gigging, and the SL88 Studio in rehearsal, there is a huge difference to me in the feeling, I prefer the Grand any day - but it was a little over budget to spend that kind of money on the spare keyboard. I have added the SL Mixface to get all the controllers I needed for drawbars etc., works like a charm. I do agree that the Grand is heavy, but I accepted that as the price to pay for getting the good feeling. Torsten is right that the glissando is not that easy, but that is not essential to me.

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@Torsten & @TorstenH. Thanks for the contributions.
I have seen the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII. I like the white one!!! :slight_smile:
But a part from the color, there is nothing really attractive to me more than the SL88 Studio. I need some sliders, but I already have a Korg Nanocontrol2 which makes the purpose.
Moreover I like to have the right half of the keyboard empty, to put my second “organ type” keyboard (Icon iKeyboard 5). Unfortunately with the SL88 there is not enough space to lay the small keyboard on it as i did with the SL-1100 - i have to find another trick! (I was already considering to pull out the knob in the middle :slight_smile: - if possible - at the end I need one keyboard that sends signals on MIDI channel #1: all the settings will be made on the Cantabile songs).
In other words, the SL88 has all the controls I need, and I don’t want more. As said before the only thing I don’t really like is the joysticks - but that’s minor.

The choice between the Studio and the Grand is given by the piano-ish feeling versus the weight. On this last point of view the Studio is the winner. But I think i will privilege more the touch and I’ll probably choose the Grand. I have to try myself, but thank you for your suggestions.

I am still considering a keyboard with a TP40L keybed - I’m still looking for the most convenient for my needs - or any other kind of piano-feel keyboards from other keybed producers

Hello Dario,

Here is another option.
I’m using a Casio PX-5S for my 88 note controller (5 years now). I personally like the keybed feel and weight for piano playing. But it’s not good for organ smears and fast synth leads. The keys have an ebony texture to them that feel really nice on the finger tips (not slippery). There are 6 sliders, 4 controller knobs plus pitch & modulation wheels on the left side. There is an open spot on the right side to place another small controller. It has real MIDI din jacks as well as USB connectivity. The colour is only available in white for this model. It’s only 25lbs (9kg) and can be battery powered too.

The PX-5S also has decent piano/synth hardware built inside with 256 note polyphony. A good back-up solution in case the computer dies.

Best advice from me is for you to try before you buy. Good luck.

Correction Edit - Weight is close to 25lbs (11kg)

Thank you too, @Dave_C, for the suggestion.
I have never tried a PX-5S. Though, I have tried several other Casio models, and I have to say that I don’t like the response of the keyboard.
As said I don’t need a lot of stuff more than the keyboard itself and the MIDI usb/5pin din connections. I don’t need sliders and other controls, I don’t need sounds generators.
I like that it is that light, though that small weight is kind of suspicious (a proper hammer action has to have a certain weight for each key.
Anyway I don’t discard that option, I will get informed better and I’ll try to put my fingers on it too.
Of course, since the touch on the keys is the main thing for my needs, I won’t buy anything before trying it. But any suggestion is welcome. Thank you

Hello Dario,
I have a SL880, i got it for free. The outside became sticky, I stripped it and painted it red and now its a very nice (nord looking) keyboard. But its not my main keyboard. I have 2 Doepfer keyboards the old LMK3 and a new LMK2+. They have both fatar inside with aftertouch en hammerklavier. The nice thing with the doepfer is, they are in a flichtcase. I used to have a Keylab 88 but i didn’t like the feel of the keyboard.
Cheers,
David

Hello @Goldy.

I had the same problem of sticky surface with my SL1100. I think the body is pretty much the same, though i believe the SL1100 is a little older. I washed out the rubber sticky paint with some solvent. It was a stinky and dirty job, but it worked for several years. I didn’t paint because the metal underneath had still a black paint. I hope the problem is solved with the new model SL88Grand/Studio.

Thank you for opening my eyes on the Doepfer - actually I didn’t know that brand. The LMK2+ is a little over the budget, but I found there is an even more minimalistic model: the PK88. It has the same keybed Fatar TP40/GH, which looks more promising than the TP100/LR and a little lighter than the TP40/wood.
Unfortunately this PK88 doesn’t have modulation wheels nor aftertouch.
I have to say that usually I play with both hands, therefore i cannot use the wheels. Also I found out that the monophonic aftertouch that I had on the SL1100 is not really very usable… Anyway I am planning to buy also a Tecontrol BBC2 (https://www.tecontrol.se/products/usb-midi-breath-bite-controller-2), which, I hope, would make both the wheels and the aftertouch useless.
Anyway, what I like of the PK88 is the price (very similar to the SL88 Studio, but with a better keybed), and also the weight (less than the SL88 Grand). And it has the flghtcase!

Since the main thing, to me, is the feel of my fingers on the keys, I want to try all the keybeds that look promising: TP40/wood, TP/40/GH, TP100/LR (this last is really very interesting because it’s very light in weight).
The problem is that I cannot find a shop around my area where to try the Doepfer PK88 - I wonder which other more common keyboards have the TP/40GH, that makes me easier to try.

In this moment the most promising is the SL88 Grand. I can’t wait to put my fingers on it and the other two.

Damn Covid!

Cheers
Dario

My synth-action M-Audio 88 (just a bit harder than a synth), is about 7kg. PX-5S is 9kg with a “hammered” keyboard? How is that possible? Anti gravity? :open_mouth:

Reading the specitications, M-Audio 88 (7kg) is not hammered. M-Audio hammer 88 is hammered, but its weight is 20 kg. PX5S (9kg) is not. PX5S Pro (11kg) is.
By the way the SL88Studio is hammer action, and the weight is 13kg. Which is really very convenient, if the touch feeling is good enough to me. I doubt, because a good weight feeling of a key needs to be heavy. But I’m going to try to put my hands on it. It’s cheap, light, good quality (i trust in Fatar-StudioLogic). So, if I like it, it’s mine.

Thanks for correcting me Dario on my bad math.
Yes, the PX-5S is 25lbs = 11 kg (not 9kg) as I previously stated. :wink:

Dave, I wasn’t correcting you nor Dario. I meant 9kg (or 11kg, no matters) is a lightweight for hammered, or pseudo-hammered keyboard 88. Same for the SL88 Studio, with its 13kg. My Kurzweil K2661 is about 14kg. And I had a K2600, a pain in my back every gig!

No worries Paolo, I know what you mean by pain in the back. I use to man-handle a Yamaha PF80 that weighed in at 33kg. Actually still have that piano. Not very good piano sound but the keybed is nice & solid. My Casio PX-5S is a bit lighter action than the PF80 but is still a decent scaled hammer keybed. Casio make their own keybeds.

My only complaint about the PX-5S keybed is the keys are a bit clunky (noisy) when you depress and release the keys. There is a bit of bounce when the keys are released. Casio should have done a better job dampening the keys. But overall, the PX5S delivered for my needs as a portable hammer action master keyboard. My back is happy now!

Dave.

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I own a Roland A88 and Casio PXS1000. The Roland as a great touch but imo is too heavy to easy carry around. The Casio has built in sounds.They are ok but Cantabile-VST combination is better. I agree with Dave_C about the Casio keybed. I don’t think the PXS1000 keybed is any different that the PX5S I previously owned, which was no different than the old Casio digital pianos I’ve owned. It’s very noisy and the keys feel loose. But it still has a nice touch and good velocity sensitivity and it’s very reasonably priced.