Roland A-88 - 88-key MIDI Keyboard Controller (Discontinued)
Roland bill the A-88 as "The Portable Controller That Plays Like a Grand" - perhaps that's a bit of marketing overstatement, but it's clear that many musicians have been impressed with their purchase after buying one of these.
The keybed uses Roland's Ivory Feel-G weighted keyboard which is found in their high-end digital pianos.
It's designed to be light weight and portable - it can also be used with the iPad (except the first-generation) via the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit, however it doesn't take batteries so you will need to use the AC power adapter when using it with an iPad.
It's unique selling point in this class of controllers is the D-Beam controller which is an infrared beam you interact with by waiving your hand over it - you can assign this controller to any parameter such as volume or pitch.
- Keys: 88 hammer-action keys - Ivory Feel-G keyboard with Escapement.
- Zones: Yes - you can control the split point.
- Pads: No.
- Controls: Buttons for Octave, Transpose, Split, Up, Down and Function. It also has 2 assignable knobs and 2 switches. It allows for 3 foot pedal controls - Damper, Sostenuto and Soft. Finally it includes Roland's D-BEAM controller which also doubles as a Mod lever (instead of Mod Wheel).
- Automap: It has a button for mapping to Roland SuperNATURAL synths and sound modules.
- Power: USB bus power + AC adapter.
- Connectivity: 5-Pin MIDI out and USB MIDI. It also has 3 TRS 1/4" jacks for foot pedals.
- Dimensions: 56-13/16" (W) x 4-10/16" (H) x 10-3/4" (D) .
- Weight: 35 lbs. 1 oz.
- Bundled Software: Cakewalk SONAR LE.
- Compatibility: Windows & Mac OS X.
This video from Roland provides a good overview of the A-88:
Many reviewers positively commented on its low weight, portability and the feel of the keys. Many customers said that it feels like an acoustic piano, a comment which came from classically trained pianists and piano technicians. The vast majority of people who have bought the Roland A-88 are very happy with their purchase.
Some people complained that it's not plug and play - you have to install drivers from the CD-Rom (included) on your computer before you can use it - this doesn't apply if you're directly controlling hardware without a computer in the loop. A few people also complained about it having a mod lever instead of the traditional mod wheel.
If you need a MIDI controller which has the feel and playability approaching that of an acoustic piano but also want it to be light and easily portable then this is your best option if you can still find one for sale. To see what the best alternatives currently are please read our guide to The Best 88 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards.