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Joined: Dec 2003
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Dan M Offline OP
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Hi,
I just received a Doepfer PK88 keyboard. I bought this for the most realistic digital piano I could find in a portable package.

http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

I have a wonderful new 6' 4" grand in the house, but got this for late night/early morning and travel practice. I wasn't able to see it before hand, but if I don't like it I can return it, and the reviews I read were very favorable. I promised a review, here are my initial impressions.

This is a minimalist system - just a keyboard (not even an on/off switch) which is claimed to very closely mimic a real piano. They even have the option that a very slow press of the key will not send a note to the synth - just as a real piano won't sound if you press a key too slowly. I had owned a Yamaha Clavinova before, and wanted something without internal voices, and not so good built in speakers.

First off this thing is built like a tank. You could hurt something if you dropped it. It's very compact, but heavier than I expected. Totally solid and sturdy. My only wish could be that it was a little lighter, but on the other hand it has a lot of mass which is nice when really playing hard.

Next - how is the action? Simply great! Better than the Clavinova. It has the same static mass on all the keys top to bottom, but has varying intertial mass, as like a real piano. It somehow mimics the feeling of a hammer going up and down quite well, I did a double take and looked at the keyboard and wondered where they put the hammer.

Tomorrow I'll have it working with Bardstown Bosendorfer and Gigastudio - I'll let you know! So far it seems like a winner.


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Congratulations,

Took a look on their website, and seems like you have an interesting instrument.

If I understand right many people have written on this forum looking for a digital piano with a good action but without all the functions. (less cost) So maybe this is a solution for them..

As for weight, probably 20 kg is one of the lightest stage piano's around. (Atleast numbers I read here on this forum are usually twice as high.) But 20 kg is still too much to carry around by yourself often. (for instance if you are a performer.)
My Viscount Viva-X is also a bit heavyer. (Website says around 25 kg) And I can only carry it for about 20 meters before I've to let it go. eek

Stan

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PK88 was designed especially for the requirements of the "mobile pianist" who needs a high class and easy to carry keyboard but is able to dispense with extended MIDI features. First of all the PK88 was made to combine it with an expander or software synthesizer - especially for piano sound generatirs. The PK88 uses a 88 keys high quality keyboard with patented real hammer mechanics. The hammer mechanics used in the PK88 does not compare to low cost hammer mechanics offered by some competitors (not only a simple metal lever beyond each key). The case used is a rugged and easy to carry black flightcase with handle and removable lid that shows its advantage especially during live events.
this is quoted from their site about Pk88. when they say it has 'patented real hammer mechanics', what does it mean? do they have some sort of 'spring' mechanics with the key action?

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Dan M Offline OP
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Hi Stan,
Yes, I think it is a great option for those (including myself) who are looking for a no-frills high quality solution. Total I'll have spent more than for just a P90 or P120 say, because with this you need (for a SW solution) a good computer, gigastudio, libraries, and a sound card. But then you also get much higher quality sound.

The mechanism does have an interesting feel to it. The Clavinova style extended lever felt like that, simply a lever of varying length which goes up and down. This one has the feeling, more like a piano, of a two lever system. Meaning that, in a piano, you push a key which pushes the hammer, which is otherwise disconnected from the key. This feels similiar, it seems like I'm pushing the key which is pushing some other free moving hammer like thing. On key release especially it feels like the real thing.

The only unfortunate thing is that the built in flight case apparantely isn't appropriate for sticking into a cargo hold. You need the original box or a custom case. On the other hand, given the weight I'd rather have a case with wheels anyhow so ...


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Dan M Offline OP
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I haven't tried to open it up, but it feels like there is a spring which is attached to some kind of disconnected lever, as I said in another post. Releasing the key it seems like the key comes to rest separately from the 'hammer'.

It's nice, because it's rather sloppy. A real piano has a crazy mechanism behind there, and the art comes in by learning how to control a mechanism which has all these connected/disconnected parts. Anyhow, a real piano is rather sloppy in this way, not just a key simply going up and down. This seems to mimic that pretty well somehow.

I had hoped they emulated letoff, which is the point at which the hammer physically leaves the mechanism. They don't seem to - on the other hand, while my teacher tells me to 'play to letoff', I can't actually feel it in real playing. Letoff is so close to when the key bottoms out the two are effectively synonomous, at least on my piano.

Quote
Originally posted by signa:
Quote
PK88 was designed especially for the requirements of the "mobile pianist" who needs a high class and easy to carry keyboard but is able to dispense with extended MIDI features. First of all the PK88 was made to combine it with an expander or software synthesizer - especially for piano sound generatirs. The PK88 uses a 88 keys high quality keyboard with patented real hammer mechanics. The hammer mechanics used in the PK88 does not compare to low cost hammer mechanics offered by some competitors (not only a simple metal lever beyond each key). The case used is a rugged and easy to carry black flightcase with handle and removable lid that shows its advantage especially during live events.
this is quoted from their site about Pk88. when they say it has 'patented real hammer mechanics', what does it mean? do they have some sort of 'spring' mechanics with the key action?


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it sounds as if there is some kind of escapement mechanics as in an acoustic piano. i know that grand pianos have 'double escapement' mechanics.

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Dan M Offline OP
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Hi Folks,
OK, I got it working with Gigastudio and Bardstown Bosendorfer (I was waiting for a sound card). It's quite good! After I adjusted to it, I was able to go between the grand and the digital, and they both felt roughly equivalent, from a touch perspective. Partially I'm sure my 'auto adjust' skills just compensated, but after a while it didn't seem any different. Later I played an upright at my teachers house and that WAS a big difference between the other two.

On the down side, I'm not too pleased with Gigastudio. Maybe I just need to get some settings right, but the attacks are way too much. There's far too much dynamic range, a real piano's action would saturate far before what Gigastudio will allow. Also there are goofy things that it does, many little things here and there that tell me it's fake. But given that, the technology has still come far.
I'm a little disappointed that the piano sounds the note, not 1/8" above when the key bottoms out as it does with a real piano, but usually about 1/2 the way down. Also, unfortunatly, there's a fair amount of variation with this from note to note. They claim that they try to mimic the piano as closely as possible, but with this it basically mimics a really badly regulated piano.
Additionally, the online manual states that you can flip a switch internally that makes it so it will not sound a note below a certain velocity level, just like a real piano. Well, they turned that feature off in 1999, according the manual that came with it. Presumably I can enable it in software, but it would be nice to just flip the switch.
So overall, so far, I'm pleased with it. I love the totally solid, 'no extra frills and junk' approach. With some better speakers I'm getting I think the sound is really good, the best I've heard for a digital. And with a few caveats it seems to perform very well for the purpose.


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Dan,

The Doepfer sounds like a desireable keyboard, but the variation in when the notes sound is troubling. Any chance that you could contact the manufacturer, to learn if the contact point can be adjusted?

DavidH

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Dan M Offline OP
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David,
I spent some more time on it tonight - the contact point variation seems to be an issue only when playing a note artifically slow - so slow that a real piano wouldn't even sound. When playing normally it seems that the it sounds about when it should: the note sounds, and a fraction of a second later the key bottoms out. That's what I would expect.
Like I said, in practice it seems very close to my grand. Especially on key release. On key press there's a bit more of a 'mechanical' feel to the grand. But hey, not all grands feel the same either.
Seems like a winner.

Dan


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Dan M Offline OP
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Oh I should add - what I'm saying above is that they DID emulate letoff as it turns out - just acoustically, not mechanically. Meaning you don't feel it from the action, but it does mimic it very well from a sound point of view (it sounds a bit before it bottoms out).

And I'll admit that, when playing normally, I don't mechanically feel letoff on my grand either.


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Dan,

The mechanism really does sound good. The one and only reservation I've always had about my Yamaha P80 and P200 boards is that they really do feel like your pressing a simple lever.

When I first played my Bachmann GRPT 140, which has the action from an acoustic upright, I was continually stopping to check the feel. It felt so loose at first, and pleasant once I got used to it.

I, too, use a computer, sound card, and Bosendorfer samples (from Bardstown Audio), but with Cubase SX/Halion.

Art Vista will soon release a sampled Steinway B. (A demo version is included with GS3.) The comments on the Northern Sound forum sound like these samples will be a winner.

My one remaing reservation is that the PK88's external jack doesn't have a sostenuto function. I've never heard a digital sustain that didn't sound garbled, and prefer to use sostenuto.

DavidH

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Dan,

It looks like the Doepfer uses a Fatar keyboard. I thought I recognized the pictures from somewhere. Also the model nomenclature is the same. For example, Kohler digitals use Fatar's TP-30 keyboard; it has five levels of touch densitivity. Does the TP-10 also have levels of touch sensitivity?

I would like to have just a MIDI controller board, but am concerned about using a Fatar action. The only one I've played was fitted to an Alesis DG-8. That board played like lead. Even the lightest of its three levels of touch sensitivity was too stiff for me.

DavidH

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Dan M Offline OP
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Hi David,
Well, my saying that it plays like a grand should tell you it's not the lightest of actions. I wouldn't describe it that it plays like lead, but that it's a normally weighted action (that is, it has some intertial weight to it!)

I can't tell you what to do, not knowing what kind of weight you want. But if you prefer the light action of say, a spinet (using piano analogies as that's what I'm used to) then you won't find it here. I will say though that this action is overall lighter and easier to play than my grand.

Get a grand - then everything else will be easy by oomparison smile


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Dan,

Does the TP-10 have levels of touch sensitivity?

DavidH

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Dan M Offline OP
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David,
What is the TP-10? Do you mean the PK-88? If so, what do you mean levels of touch sensitivity, is it adjustable in the hardware? If so no, if you want to change the sensitivity you have to do so via software.

Quote
Originally posted by FogVilleLad:
Dan,

Does the TP-10 have levels of touch sensitivity?

DavidH


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Dan,

According to a factory rep's response that I saw on the Doepfer forum, all of their 88-key boards use the same action: TP-10. "TP-xx" is the model nomenclature that Fatar uses. For example, Kohler digitals also use a Fatar keyboard, the TP-30. I think that there's also a -20 and a -40.

The Fatar I played (on an Alesis DG-8) had three levels of touch sensitity---just like the Yamaha P-series boards.

Like the Yammies, there was an adjustment button among the controls. (My P-80 is out for repair until another 3-4 hours, but I believe that the adjuster is marked Light, Medium, Heavy, None. (The "None" is for organ players;-))

Just did check the Doepfer site. http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm Saw there that, beginning with the LMK2+, their boards have *8* levels of velocity sensitivity. Yes, that's different from touch sensitivity, but on the P-80 (and, I believe, the Alesis DG-8), adjusting the touch also changes both the overall timbre and the velocity curve. So, for example, the Heavy setting has a darker timbre and less dynamic range.

I didn't see any adjustment buttons on the Doepher site photos, so it may be that their boards are adjusted by changing software settings, and that changing the setting doesn't affect touch.

I also looked quickly at the PDF manual for the LMK2+; didn't see any mention of changing velocity settings.

I tried to include a link to the LMK2+ page, but can only get the Doepfer home page.

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Dan M Offline OP
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David,
Ah, I understand. So touch sensitivity doesn't change the physical feeling, but adjusts the sound parameters? No, the PK88 doesn't have any of that, it's just a basic keyboard. What I meant by changing it in software is that I'm using it with Gigastudio, and that you can adjust it there.
Which I would really like to do. So far I'm not to happy with the sound, the dynamic range is insane, and it's rather jumpy.

Dan


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Dan,

On the Yamaha P-series boards, adjusting touch sensitivity *does* change the resistance that players feel. Unfortunately, it also changes the tone and, I believe, the dynamic range. For example, the Heavy (or is it Hard?) setting produces more resistance, but also produces a darker overall tone with less dynamic range. My P-80 didn't come back today, so I can't check this.

The problem with the jumpiness of the PK-88 may be a problem with the Fatar action. See www.harmony-central.com/Synth/Data/Fatar/StudioLogic-SL-990-01.html This controller also uses a Fatar action. Don't know which one. Some user reviews note that it's difficult to get a note to sound softly.

I haven't used Giga in so long that I can't remember if the velocity curve can be set in that app.

DavidH

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Dan M Offline OP
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David,
Flipping a switch changes the intertial weight to the keys? How would they do that? Maybe they have a piston type pickup arrangement, and they run a current through it which would increase the magnetic resistance.

No, I can get notes to sound quietly, and watching the midi values as I play shows that they are coming in where I would expect. I think it's gigastuio related at this point.


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On the Yamaha P-series boards, adjusting touch sensitivity *does* change the resistance that players feel.
Are you sure about that? I think you're mistaken. At that price point, the only change you'll get is velocity curve.


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