The Best 88 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

The Highest Rated 88 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards
Sweetwater

Sponsorship Announcement

This gear guide is sponsored by Sweetwater and you can click through to their website to read customer reviews, check prices, or make a purchase, however all of the recommendations below have been made by the Gearank team.

88 Key MIDI Controllers are usually seen in larger studios with the extra space needed for a full-size piano layout. Where smaller sizes prioritize portability, an 88-key controller makes it easier for piano players accustomed to the instrument to seamlessly transition. With some models offering fully-weighted, hammer action keys, piano players are given top priority.

For this June 2021 edition we observed an increase in rating sources up to 2,600 from the last edition's 2,100. This led to some new recommendations based on user satisfaction. The Doepfer LMK4 Plus has been knocked off the list by three new additions to the top picks from M-Audio, Arturia and Native Instruments for this edition.

The Best 88 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of nearly 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3

The M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3 is a streamlined MIDI Controller with 88 semi-weighted, full size keys and controls for volume, transport and octave.

It also features a 5-Pin MIDI out and jacks for sustain and expression pedals. The Volume fader can be assigned to a custom MIDI parameter.

Bundled with the Keystation 88 MK3 are ProTools First, Ableton Live Lite and MPC Beats along with a suite of virtual instruments.

Key Features:

  • Keys:8 8 Semi-weighted, Full-sized
  • Zones: No.
  • Pads: No.
  • Controls: Volume fader, transport and directional buttons, Octave up and down buttons
  • Automap: No.
  • Power: 9V DC 500mA power supply (sold separately) / USB bus powered
  • Connectivity: 5-Pin MIDI out and USB MIDI., 1 x 1/4" TS (sustain), 1 x 1/4" TRS (expression)
  • Dimensions: 54.24" (L) x 8.52" (W) x 2.88" (H).
  • Weight: 13.75 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, MPC Beats
  • Compatibility: macOS 10.13 or later, 64-bit/Windows 10 or later, 64-bit

Pros

The Keystation 88 MK3 gets praise for its ease of use and simplicity. Many users who bought it just wanted a simple, 88-key MIDI Controller with nothing else to clutter up the already large 88-key format.

Cons

Very basic feature set. If you're looking for a more feature rich MIDI controller, look elsewhere.

Overall

The Keystation 88 MK3 gets high marks for its simplicity and ease of integration. For folks who want a straightforward full-size MIDI Controller with none of features you won't use, the Keystation 88 is for you.

Here's a demo and review of the M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3:

Nektar Impact LX88+

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$320
Nektar Impact LX88+ MIDI Controller Keyboard

The LX88+ may be light in terms of its weight, but full-featured in terms of its DAW controller functionality.

It provides deep DAW control including your virtual instruments. This upgraded version has standardized assignments for 100 popular VSTi plugins.

And weighing in at only 18 pounds, it's certainly light enough to carry around fairly easily.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 88 velocity-sensitive semi-weighted keys.
  • Zones: Can send on up to 3 zones simultaneously.
  • Pads: 8 velocity sensitive pads with 4 colors of LEDs sporting note learn and 4 velocity curves plus 3 fixed.
  • Controls: 9 30mm faders, 9 assignable MIDI buttons 8 potentiometers, MOD and Pitch wheels, 6 dedicated transport buttons, 5 preset locations store control settings and Page button (for Nektar DAW Integration only).
  • Automap: It maps to the following software: Bitwig, Cubase, Digital Performer, FL Studio, Garage Band, Logic, Reaper, Reason, Sonar and Studio One. A comprehensive list specifying mapping for each DAW can be found here.
  • Power: USB bus power or optional AC adapter (not included).
  • Connectivity: 5-Pin MIDI out and USB MIDI. It also has a MIDI assignable 1/4” TS jack foot switch input. It connects to the iPad via the optional Camera Connection Kit.
  • Dimensions: 50.25" (L) x 11" (W) x 3.5" (H).
  • Weight: 18 Lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track DAW.
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.7 or higher and Windows Vista, 7 & 8 or higher.

Pros

As you can probably imagine, the LX88+ has received a lot of praise for its comparatively low price while still having all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a full-featured DAW controller. In his review for Music Radar, Jon Musgrave said, "Despite the number of features, the LX88+ is reasonably compact ... light enough to be portable. What’s more the keys feel good and the mechanical noise is quite low (both factors that are often lacking in more affordable keyboards). ".

Cons

There were a few people who reported dissatisfaction with the semi-weighted keyboard not feeling as realistic as hammer action keys, but that criticism seems misplaced given that it's not marketed as having piano-like keys and synth players were typically quite happy with the keybed. Of more concern is a small number of reviewers who were unhappy with the velocity curves either not suiting their playing style or saying there were inconsistencies between the velocity sensitivity of different keys - this is something we see regularly on reviews of popular keyboards that are at the lower end of the price range.

Overall

Although the semi-weighted keys may not be to the liking of traditional pianists, those who are looking primarily for a DAW controller will find this upgraded version an excellent addition to their recording setup. Get it if you're more used to using controllers with synth action keys. There are better options at higher price points if your goal is to have more expression with regards to feel and response.

Here's a demo of the Impact LX88+ in action:

Arturia KeyLab Essential 88

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$379
Arturia KeyLab Essential 88

When people hear or read the word "essential" they tend to expect something similar to "stripped down", "minimal" or "basic". The Arturia Keylab Essential 88 however, still looks like a full featured MIDI controller.

Arturia's idea of essential still includes a whole suite of controls and software for music making, streamlined to make the learning curve more accessible and doing away with features that are rarely used.

Features include backlit performance pads, assignable knobs and faders, and semi-weighted keys.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 88 Semi-weighted Keys
  • Zones: No
  • Pads: 8 x Back-lit Performance Pads
  • Controls: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, 9 x Rotary Knobs, 1 x Clickable Jog Wheel, 9 x Faders
  • Power: USB Bus powered / 9V DC positive center power supply (sold separately)
  • Connectivity: 5-pin MIDI out, USB MIDI, 1 x 1/4" (sustain),
  • Dimensions: 49.59" (L) x 10.26" (W) x 2.48" (H).
  • Weight: 18.7 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Analog Lab, Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.10 or later, 64-bit / Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit

Pros

Many users that own the KeyLab Essential 88 have it as the heart of their studio. They describe the unit as central to their workflow. The action was noted to be just right. One user who has had surgery done on his hand and couldn't play heavier weighted keys loved the keys on the Keylab. Other comments were about how the build quality was top notch and how the unit felt "professional".

Cons

A user noticed that the white and black keys have different feeling action with the black keys triggering higher velocities with the same touch. It's important to note that this was only observed by one user. Another user mentioned they had trouble using Garageband with it.

Overall

If you're in the market for a full featured MIDI Controller with everything you need to produce music and control parameters in virtual instruments with assignable knobs, the Arturia KeyLab Essential 88 is the full-size MIDI controller for you.

Here's an overview of the Arturia KeyLab Essential 88:

M-Audio Hammer 88

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
M-Audio Hammer 88

During a previous edition, we mentioned that "Back in 2017 we included the M-Audio Hammer 88 as a special option when it first came out even though we only had a handful of mostly incomplete reviews to analyze - the full software hadn't even been released at that time."

A few years down the line and the M-Audio Hammer 88 has grown to be well-loved by the music production community.

Hammer-action keys are usually seen higher up in price point but music producers and piano players alike have found the M-Audio Hammer 88's keys to be a great equivalent to acoustic pianos.

As expected, the keys are velocity sensitive but they don't have aftertouch. However you can use 3 pedals with it; sustain, soft, and expression - some players prefer pedal expression over aftertouch.

It also has re-assignable pitch and modulation wheels.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 88 velocity-sensitive hammer action weighted keys.
  • Zones: Can send on up to 4 zones simultaneously.
  • Pads: None.
  • Controls: Pitch bend, modulation, volume and ± button.
  • Automap: No.
  • Power: USB bus power or optional 9V DC 800mA adapter (not included).
  • Connectivity: 5-Pin MIDI out and USB Type-B MIDI. It also has 3 1/4" inputs for Sustain, Soft and Expression pedals.
  • Dimensions: 55.9" (L) x 11.9" (W) x 5" (H).
  • Weight: 38.5 Lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Mini Grand virtual piano, DB-33 Tonewheel Organ, Velvet virtual electronic piano, Eight-Eight Ensemble (a 9-foot CD327 Steinway piano emulation), Skoove (interactive piano lessons) and the Hammer 88 Preset Editor.
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.8 or later. Windows 7 SP1 or later. It is Class Compliant so it works with the iPad via the Apple Camera Connection Kit..

Pros

Obviously the stand out feature is the hammer action keybed and this is the most popular feature discussed positively in forums and user reviews. In his review for Sound on Sound, Nick Magnus said, "I found the Hammer 88 playing experience enjoyable, with a pleasing action that belies its low price." When speaking to the build quality Jon Regenmay wrote in Electronic Musician, "It could be the centerpiece of a studio or live rig; it’s that well-constructed."

Cons

Some players, particularly those used to synth-action keys, found the transition to fully weighted keys to be a bit difficult often describing the keys as 'too heavy'. A small number of people also thought the keyboard was too heavy overall at 38.5 lbs.

Overall

We once said that the Hammer 88 is on it's way to becoming a classic. As of 2021, it has almost achieved this status several years down the line. With M-Audio showing no signs of halting production and them giving continuous updates, the Hammer 88 is easily the best value option for an 88 key controller with hammer action keys. For those more used to the feel of a real piano, this is a good pick for not that much money. If portability and weight is a concern, you may find that the feel is worth the compromise.

Here is a review from a pianist's perspective:

Studiologic SL88 Studio

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Studiologic SL88 Studio 88 Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Having 'Studio' in the name is a bit of a misnomer because this is widely used as a gigging keyboard and doesn't come with transport controls or all the pads and buttons usually associated with DAW controllers.

Unlike the heavier (and more expensive) SL88 Grand, Studiologic have designed the SL88 Studio to be lighter and more portable for easier use gigging as well as in the studio and this has helped it to win over many a gigging keyboardist looking for hammer action keys.
.
This has been achieved without sacrificing ruggedness as it has a metal case and special impact resistant synthetic end-caps to help protect it when transporting and setting up on stage.

The Fatar Keybed with hammer action keys is a feature usually seen in higher end Electric Pianos and controllers.

Key Features:

  • Keys: TP/100LR Fatar keybed with 88 weighted hammer action keys with velocity and aftertouch. Programmable sensitivity: Soft, Medium, Hard, Fixed. 6 Editable user velocity curves with SL Editor.
  • Zones: Can send on up to 4 zones simultaneously.
  • Pads: None.
  • Controls: 3 Programmable joysticks, rotating encoder with navigation controls and 3 function buttons. 2 x 1/4" switch + 1 x 1/4" continuous + 1 x 1/4" universal.
  • Automap: No.
  • Power: 9V DC power adapter which works with 100-240V mains power.
  • Connectivity: 2 x 5-Pin MIDI out and USB MIDI (Type-A) + 1 x 5-Pin MIDI In.
  • Dimensions: 41" (L) x 12.2" (D) x 4.9" (H).
  • Weight: 25.3 Lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Only the Mac and Windows compatible SL Editor as a free download.
  • Compatibility: The exact OS versions aren't specified for Mac and Windows.

Pros

Most of the keyboardists who reviewed it were talking about using it for live performance and the most often cited positive was the build quality with the word 'rugged' coming up frequently and the Fatar keybed featured in that praise many times. In his review for ANR a few years ago, Andy Dollerson said, "The Studiologic SL88 studio controller is a fantastic weighted 88 note keyboard for the money. It’s a great attempt at providing the feel of a hammer weighted keyboard for about half the overall weight of other controllers."

Cons

A few players mentioned that the joysticks took some getting used to because the SL88 Studio uses these instead of the more traditional mod and pitch wheels. Newer reviews mention them feeling a bit flimsy or loose after continuous usage and touring.

Overall

If you don't need to control DAWs or if you need a solid gigging MIDI keyboard without spending too much money, then get yourself a Studiologic SL88 Studio. Compared to the other items on our list, it is one of the lighter controllers which makes it an excellent choice for touring and nightly gigs.

Here is an overview of the controller:

Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$999
Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller

At publication time this was the Highest Rated 88-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard.

This high rating is an impressive feat and it's the first time any model has out-ranked the Kawai VPC1 since we published the first edition of this guide back in April 2016.

The Keylab 88 MKII is the second iteration of the model and it carries over several loved features as well as the bundled Analog Lab software: virtual versions of synths such as the Mini V, Modular V, CS-80 V, ARP 2600 V, Jup-8 V, Prophet V, Prophet VS, SEM V, Matrix-12 V, Solina V, B-3 V, Vox Continental V, Farfisa V and more totalling over 5,000 available sounds.

It still comes bundled with UVI Acoustic Grand Piano which is a Steinway Model D Concert Grand model and Piano V which has 9 acoustic piano models.

What's new is in the layout and hardware with several new improvements over the previous version.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 88 note Fatar TP/100LR keybed
  • Zones: no
  • Pads: 16 RGB-backlit performance pads
  • Controls: 9 clickable encoders, 6 transport switches, 10 DAW Command buttons, 1 modulation wheel, 1 pitch bend wheel, Octave/Chord/Transpose encoders, 3 Pad mode buttons, 9 multipurpose faders, 7 Transport buttons and 3 control buttons
  • Automap: Automatically maps to KeyLab but you have to use the MIDI Learn feature for custom mapping.
  • Power: External AC adapter
  • Connectivity: 5-Pin MIDI in & out and USB MIDI. Pitch/Gate/Mod outputs, Aux 1/2/3 Pedal Inputs, Expression Pedal Input, Sustain Pedal Input, CV In
  • Dimensions: 50.9" (L) x 12.7" (W) x 4.4" (H).
  • Weight: 32.4 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Software
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, 64-bit/Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit

Pros

Like its predecessor, the Keylab 88 MKII scores high marks from users for its sheer amount of software sounds bundled in. It's still compatible with many of Arturia's hardware synths as a controller. Other than that, the build quality and aesthetics are said by users to have improved over the previous version. The new layout feels more intuitive to use. The included sheet music stand and integrated laptop shelf were implemented well.

Cons

Though the keyboard has improved over the previous version, some users still found it different in feel compared to a real piano. One complained of the action being "spongy" like the keys were on top of memory foam.

Overall

The Keylab 88 MKII is still the best way to control Analog Lab software and Arturia's hardware synths. If you want something more close to a piano in terms of feel without completely letting go of how regular controllers work with aftertouch, get it. If you need something more realistic in response, The Kawai VPC1 is still worth a look.

Here is an overview of the controller:

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1049
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 is a specially designed piece of hardware that goes hand in hand with their KOMPLETE software and audio library. Don't let that fool you though, since the Kontrol S88 MK2 is still versatile enough to work with other software including DAWs.

The Fatar keybed adds great feel and response to the controller, and is tuned to feel weighty with a fast recovery for repeating synth lines.

Hardware integration via MIDI enables you to control synthesizers while having piano-like feel.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 88 Fully hammer-weighted, velocity sensitive Fatar Keys with aftertouch
  • Pads: no
  • Controls: Pitch bend, Mod Wheel, Touch Strip Controller, 4-directional push encoder
  • Automap: All of Native Instruments KOMPLETE software, Ableton Live, Cubase, Nuendo, Logic.
  • Power: External AC adapter
  • Connectivity: 5-Pin MIDI in & out and USB MIDI. 2 x 1/4" (sustain/expression, assignable)
  • Dimensions: 54.7"" (L) x 13.6" (W) x 4.5" (H).
  • Weight: 29.1 lbs..
  • Bundled Software: Komplete Select, Komplete Kontrol (downloads)
  • Compatibility: MacOS 10.12 or later, 64-bit/Windows 10 Anniversary Update or later, 64-bit

Pros

Fans of the Native Instruments ecosystem were pleased to have a Keyboard controller that feels like a piano. Having weighted keys added to the expressiveness of many software instruments according to one user. They noted that there are just some things a preset velocity curve can't do.

Cons

People who aren't used to weighted keys found the keys difficult to play fast synth runs. Volume slider placement was noted to be prone to accidental tweaks.

Overall

This is it. If your composition and workflow revolves around the Native Instruments Ecosystem and you want a controller that feels closer to a piano, there are no alternatives to the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 for pure integration AND feel.

Here is a demo of the Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2:

Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1849
Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller

The Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller has been designed specifically for pianists who want a piano feel and action in a MIDI controller.

There is little more to be said about it since it's manufacturer, Kawai, is known as a classic and legendary acoustic piano brand.

It provides only the controls found on a piano with 3 grand piano style pedals and a keybed which Kawai says "delivers the most realistic playing experience ever found in a MIDI controller".

Key Features:

  • Keys: 88 wooden keys with Ivory Touch key surfaces and RM3 Grand II Graded hammer weighting + counterweights - Triple-sensor key detection - Let-off simulation. You can see an interactive demonstration of the key action here.
  • Zones: No.
  • Pads: No.
  • Controls: 3 grand piano pedals - Damper, Sostenuto and Soft.
  • Automap: No.
  • Power: USB bus powered (1.0 W) or .AC adapter powered (3.0 W) - both USB cable and power adapter are included.
  • Connectivity: 5 pin MIDI in & 5 pin MIDI out + USB MIDI
  • Dimensions: 54 ⅓" (W) x 16 ¾" (D) x 7 ⅓" (H).
  • Weight: 65 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: VPC Editor - this lets you edit touch curves, edit individual key velocities, and change MIDI routing with the settings stored in one of the VPC1s 5 internal memory slots.
  • Compatibility: VPC Editor runs on Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 and Mac OS X 10.8+.

Pros

As you can probably imagine, with such an expensive MIDI keyboard with such a high Gearank rating, the vast majority of reviews from musicians and experts are all very positive. One comment that is often repeated is that the action is the closest to an acoustic piano of any MIDI controller they've played. Many reviewers compared it favorably to high-end digital pianos such as the Roland V-Piano - these reviewers included classically trained pianists. Several reviewers were also impressed with the quietness of the key action - there is a demonstration of this in the video below. Another plus that we've seen is how the keys themselves are actually silent: a plus for those wanting to immerse themselves in the sound from speakers.

Cons

Although there were some negative comments there weren't any issues that were consistently reported. One person said that it was too big for gigging but no one else we could find had an issue with that. One person said the gaps between the keys were uneven on their unit but again no one else reported that problem. Two people said they didn't like the curve on the top surface because things might slide off, but as you can see from the video below not everyone has this problem.

Overall

If you're a pianist who wants a MIDI controller with an action very similar to an acoustic piano, then this is definitely the best option for you. It previously sat at the top of our rankings for over 4 years for good reason. If budget and mobility isn't an issue, abandon all hesitation and get it. Still no hints of Kawai discontinuing or offering an update but IF this gets discontinued, expect them to be hard to acquire.

The following video review provides an excellent overview of the Kawai VPC1:

Things To Consider When Buying An 88 Key MIDI Controller

  • Key Size, Weight & Action. Nearly all 88-key controllers currently available have full sized keys. Only some have hammer-action keys and weights that feel like an acoustic piano. If you're a pianist who's not used to synth-action or semi-weighted keys then you should select one with full weighted hammer-action keys.

  • Number of Zones. One of the features of full sized keyboards is that you can split them into multiple zones so that different zones send on different MIDI channels. For example you can do your best Ray Manzarek impersonation by splitting the keyboard so that your left hand is playing a bass synth while your right hand is playing an organ synth.

  • Transport Controls. If you will be controlling DAWs frequently then you'll speed up your work-flow by getting one with transport controls because these let you stop, play, record, pause etc. on your DAW without having to use a mouse or trackball.

  • Pads, Mod Wheels, Aftertouch, Motorized Controls. These features are important for computer based musicians but not necessary for pianists who primarily want to control virtual pianos.

  • Auto-Mapping. This is another feature very important to computer based musicians. If you're mainly going to be controlling DAWs, Plugins and other software then pay close attention to the specifications to see if the keyboard you want has auto-mapping for the software you use. If it doesn't have this feature then you'll have to manually set your assignable controllers such as knobs and pads.

  • Connectivity. Using MIDI over USB is only applicable when using your controller in conjunction with a computer, if you are going to be controlling other hardware directly without a computer then you must ensure your keyboard has a 5-pin MIDI Out port.

  • Power Supply. Although many can be powered directly via USB you will need an external power adapter if you're going to be controlling hardware sound modules or synths without a computer - you'll also need one if you intend to use your keyboard with an iPad.

Best 88 Key MIDI Controller Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on June 14, 2021.

We looked at all the 88-key MIDI controller keyboards widely available from US retailers and put 13 of them on the short list for detailed examination - you can see them in our Music Gear Database. We then collected reviews and feedback from retailers, YouTube, major publications and forums, and data that was used by the Gearank Algorithm to produce the Gearank Rating scores out of 100 for each one - over 2,600 sources were processed. Finally, we selected the highest rated options to recommend above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of nearly 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII and Kawai VPC1.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation.

Comments

Publication of our June 2021

Publication of our June 2021 Edition resulted in the following keyboard coming off the recommended list above, but you can still see our analysis of it: Doepfer LMK4+.

Is there any 88 keys

Is there any 88 keys Controller that Comes in the Middle
in between the Heavy piano Keys and the Light Keyboard Feel
with High Quality manufacturing ?

I wish you asked me about the

I wish you asked me about the Doepfer. Like many other composers I bought one because you can take it out of its flight case and build it into your desk. I have one (wish I didn't) but it has been a disaster. The velocity output from the black notes is higher that that of the white notes and you can't fix that in a meaningful way. I don't know the Kawai but Roland and Yamaha 88 notes keyboards are brilliant. The LMK4 was the worst purchase I've made since buying a Prophet 10 in the last century!! (PS don't read anything into the fact that HZ uses one - he has the same issues as the rest of us!)

I think Kawai VPC1 is an

I think Kawai VPC1 is an excellent piano, but pants as a midi controller especially for DAW set up. I think if this came out as up the list then your demographics are just wrong. All others have the NI S88 and Arturia at the top with StudioLogic a few places behind. Studiologic grand uses the top TP/40 Wood, slightly higher than the Doepfer mentioned. So I would question your pool of voters or where you perceive this data comes from

There may be some confusion

There may be some confusion here over the term 'controller'.

We agree that the Kawai VPC1 is 'pants' as a DAW controller because it's not made for that purpose and has no DAW controller features.

However when it comes to being a controller that sends MIDI note information that can be used to trigger sounds generated by hardware or software, or used for recording MIDI, then it is an excellent keyboard.

The special mention wasn't

Special Mentions, Author's/Editor's Picks and Additional Items aren't part of our main recommended lists and are included in our guides sometimes when we think they offer something the recommended list doesn't.

In this case we didn't think we needed to re-include the special mention of the Korg D1 which can be used as a MIDI controller but is really a digital piano.

Just a couple of comments on

Just a couple of comments on the above list.

I had a Nektar LX88+ briefly last year but sent it back after noticing the keybed was sloped upward toward middle C like a wave. I wasn’t confident in the quality control of the company to order a replacement. One thing to mention is that you can buy a unit that will allow for a dual pedal but I believe it needs to be plugged into the USB port.

I decided on a new Arturia Keylab MKii 88 which I have a love-hate with. For all the buttons and switches, there are not enough modifiers for assigning to effects such as Tremolo and Chorus on a Rhodes sample. Instead you have to enlist a pad that’s on the other end of the keyboard. I play grand pianos for a living so I’m less than satisfied with the action – although it’s the same as in my former Studiologic SL88 Studio, it feels slightly more responsive. However, I’m currently looking for an 88 controller with lighter action than the Fatar TP100 LR but heavier than semi-weighted. Starting to think I should pick up a used Yamaha DGX-660 which seems to be the right all around feel – but then it’s a digital piano with a ton of other sounds, which kind of mitigates all the work it takes to use MIDI in the first place.

Like the reviews of the Kawai

Like the reviews of the Kawai VPC1. However, does it make sense for composers vs. performers? Is it designed for use with DAWs like Cubase 10.0? Are it’s best features translatable when using it to compose orchestral compositions with Spitfire strings, brass or woodwinds? I love the way the piano sounds and the key action, however the piano is just 1 instrument in a multi piece orchestra. So I wonder if the Doepfer LMK4+ would be a better choice. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

Wish I had found this earlier

Wish I had found this earlier as it covered models I was considering, but were never all compared to each other in one place. In light of my use, I’m still happy with my choice of the Nektar LX+. I’m curious why no Native Instruments. However, since I already own Komplete why would I want to pay for it again? I may pick up an Akai, NI, or Keylab as well in the coming year.

And nothing about Native

And nothing about Native Instrument Komplete S series !!!
This is the best controller what exist !!!

The Komplete Kontrol S88 was

The Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk I was on our short-list but didn't quite have high enough ratings for us to recommend it the last time we performed a major review of 88 key controllers - you can see our analysis of it here: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Meta Review.

The Mk II version will be on our short-list when we next update this guide.

Though I agree fully with the

Though I agree fully with the choice of VPC1 being one of the best digital keyboard controllers, I have one negative point to add: the lacquer (paint?) layer comes off way too easy! I have my VPC1 for a few years now and only used in my home studio, so no carrying around, and still by putting now and then another keyboard or computer keyboard/mouse on the top the paint wears off. I tried to contact Kawai about this, for a way to repaint it or whatever, but they never responded.

I've owned and used a lot of

I've owned and used a lot of the controllers mentioned including the Roland A88 and M Audio Hammer. I replaced both with two Doepfer LMK2+. The Doepfer hands down has the best action plus and this is a big plus it has after touch! I ended up hating the action on the Roland A88. It felt rubbery and overly heavy and sluggish. The action on the the Hammer 88 was quite good but still not in the league the Doepfer is. Finally, I've played the Kawai several times and while the action is great I can't understand why they left off a mod and pitch wheel. That along with a rounded top which makes stacking keys problematic made it a deal breaker for me. The Doepfer is also great because you can put on the lid and it's ready for the road. My setup is two Doepfer LMK2's stacked on top of each other and a Behringer motor 61 on top. All are tied into a Steinberg midex8 going to Reaper which is the host to my VSTi's. Loving my setup.
BTW do not mix midi and usb midi using multiple controllers. I've found out the hard way they do not play nice. Just use a good Midi Controller like the Steinberg Midex 8 and forgo midi over USB.

How does the StudioLogic SL88

How does the StudioLogic SL88 Studio compare? I've heard good things about it.

Hey, you seemed to have

Hey, you seemed to have missed the Studiologic SL88 Studio/Grand. I own one and it's brilliant IMHO.

Both the Studiologic SL88

Both the Studiologic SL88 Studio and Studiologic SL88 Grand were considered but they didn't have high enough ratings at the time of publication for us to recommend them above, but if that changes we will add them to the list.

You can see their current ratings here.

The following keyboard has

The following keyboard has been removed from our recommended list above because it's been discontinued, but you can still read what we have to say about it: Roland A-88.

Hi, I'm starting a film

Hi, I'm starting a film scoring course at university next year and I'd like to have an 88 key controller with a reasonable amount of DAW control. I'm not too bothered by semi-weighted keys as long as they aren't synth action. The LX88+ seems like an ideal option, but are there any problems I should be aware of in the context I'll be using it? Thanks in advance!

Hi Ross,

Hi Ross,

When it comes to film scoring, it’s more on how much your computer system can handle in terms of RAM if ever you plan to use multiple VST plug-ins in one project (ie. scoring with the use of orchestral instruments) and not really the MIDI controller itself. The LX88+ is a good choice since it is able to integrate with different DAWs and it has the essentials you need. As long as you are able to configure and map it properly depending on the DAW you are using, you are good to go.

You should now add the

You should now add the Studiologic SL88 studio and SL88 Grand. They both have many reviews and are worth considering. I haven't made a purchase yet but am leading toward these and would like to see them in your ranking. Thanks

Good article. Good

Good article. Good information. Just wondering what 88 note controller would be closest to the old Peavey C8. I don't see any that come close to its features and flexibility. I loved the C8. But, it has been dead for awhile and does not seem to be repairable. Thanks for any opinions offered.

Late comer to this

Late comer to this conversation. I'm not looking to do anything fancy like editing touch curves. I'm just recording / editing basic piano in my home studio. Apart from having the full set of 3 grand piano pedals, is there any advantage to spending 3 times the $$$ for a Kawai VPC1 as a midi controller over, say, a basic Yamaha P-155.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Eric

Great article, read

Great article, read thoroughly. Buhut.....was hoping to find something about the STUDIO LOGIC midi keyboard controller 88 w/ weighted action. Have owned 3 M-Audio 88es Keystations in as many years. (Not the longest lasting velocity pads there) but the price was to good to pass on. Now, 3 years later, I could have spent the $600 I spent for the three M-Audio's and gotten something with weighted action and durable to a pianists hands. Anyway....I like your outlook on these keyboards and it is a help to my research before buying.
All the best,
Wesley Lawrence Curry II

Hi Wesley,

Hi Wesley,

Both the SL88 Studio and SL88 Grand were considered for this guide but neither of them had high enough ratings for us to recommend them, although the SL88 Studio came close.

You can see all the StudioLogic keyboards we have examined, along with their Gearank scores, in the Music Gear Database.

Cheers,
Jason.

This article is not

This article is not mentionning the Lachnit MK22 Studio, the King with Fatar TP40 wood action keys, Lachnit light sensor technology, adjustable velocity curve, 4096 High Resolution MIDI dynamic with Pianoteq ... a very expensive master controller for piano softwares, but worth the investment. Each key is polished and adjusted by hand by Peter Lachnit himself. It will last a few decades in your home studio at least.

Nektar wins M audio hammer on

Nektar beats M audio hammer on faders and pads, they are needed for live performance, M audio beats nektar on the weighted hammer keyboard. Wish that M audio company would release the m audio hammer with faders and pads.

I am interested in the Nektar

I am interested in the Nektar. My biggest concern is making sure the keys at least feel like a piano. I am used to fully weighted keys.

Both the Nektar Impact LX88

Both the Nektar Impact LX88 and the newer LX88+ only have semi-weighted keys which are never going to feel like an acoustic piano if that's what you're used to.

We're about to start the research phase for a 2017 update to this guide, so I'll post back here if we find a reputable option with piano style action in a similar price range to the LX88.

thank you for all of this!!.

Thank you for all of this!!. I'd go with the Kawai for sure but unfortunately there is no way to buy it in my country. That's a huge shame. So I'm thinking on going with the Roland one. I just wonder if it's better, on piano key action, compared to my Yamaha P140.

The Roland A-88 did get

The Roland A-88 did get positive reviews for its key action so it does look like a good alternative to the Kawai VPC1 in your situation - probably not quite as good as the Kawai, but definitely acceptable compared with the Yamaha P-140 digital piano.

Thank you for the review.

Thank you for the review.

LX88 - not bad after almost year. However major problem is that black keys are more sensitive. No firmware patch available, even after latest release of the Plus model (which has the same issue). Sensitivity curve settings is not helping (well - fixed velocity helps). There is also no 'key off velocity' CC message generated.
I do not recommend.

Why is it that there are no

Why is it that there are no 88 Key SYNTH ACTION Midi controllers. The Synth Action has soooooo much better control for orchestral software.. And why do all these manufactures think 8 channels is the most you will ever use on a controller. How about 16 (slider) channels on a controller. Even if you have to go to an AKAI box...everything STOPS at 8 channels. Pretty short sighted.

Can we connect expression

Can we connect expression pedal and sustain pedal at the same time?? In Nekter LX88???

The Nekter LX88 only has 1

The Nekter LX88 only has 1 footswitch which is MIDI assignable so you can only use it for 1 function at a time.

Thanks For info

Thanks for all the information.

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