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Hi everyone.

About a year ago started playing rock - pop piano more seriously so I decided to buy the overall very good for the price M - AUDIO HAMMER 88, since I only use my PCs for sounds.

After playing and practising on it as much as I can (more than an hour daily) I 've realised that there is something about its action that doesn't suit my fingers very well. I like its key action weight very much since it's not heavy, nor very light but I feel that the keys are slightly short for my taste and fingers size and when I play high towards their end (especially between 2 black keys) I haven't got the control I need. I think it's a matter of pivot length since I face no such problem when I'm using acoustic upright pianos.

Sound quality (or sound existence) and control knobs etc. are really irelevant to me, since I 'll never be a gigging piano player (at least any time soon) and I have more than enough daw and synth control surfaces.

My price range is under (or around) 1000 euros in Europe.

What I'm looking for is a weighted controller or digital piano, with:

1. a quite light fully weighted (not semi weighted) action and decent long keys.
2. with velocity controls etc and good overall midi implementation (M - Audio's editors are really good) and connectivity (either through usb or midi in-out)
3. decent construction

I 've heard brilliant things about Kawai's ES 110 and ES 520 (VPC 1 seems very expensive to me and people say that its action is really heavy). Is there any real difference between the 2 ES models, action (feel) -wise to justify the huge price difference (double price). What about their midi and connectivity capabilities?
I've also heard really good things about Casio PX 5S (or similar TSSHAI II action keys). I know its midi connectivity is really good, but there are many controls on it I don't care about since I have my much better surface controllers. Anything simpler in the same PX family of casio keys with good midi connectivity capabilities?
Ideas about older used model that would fit my bill are also welcome.

As I said I'm quite happy with the Hammer 88 - the Medeli K6 action feels really good to me, comparing to many other more well known actions out there- but if there are better options (according to the standards I've set) that can make a difference on playing comfort and quality I would like to know them.

Thanks in advance

Last edited by tedsorvino1; 05/17/21 03:07 AM.
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We tried to collect verified pivot lenghts here, but it's a very incomplete list: http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...ngth-validation-thread-lets-do-this.html

Finding photos or diagrams of actions isn't that hard, but then you only get a rough eyeball estimate.

Anyway, if the main reason to move away from the M-Audio (and apparently a Medeli K6 action?) is the pivot length, then those Kawais would be a small improvement at least. I don't remember people complaining about those. Casio would be a marginal improvement too if you avoid the CDP-S and PX-S models (with the "S").

Ones to avoid would be Yamaha GHS and Fatar TP/100. Those are quite short, quite similar to the Casios without the "S" I guess.

Anything from Roland and Korg will have a longer pivot. And any Yamaha beyond the GHS. Fatar TP/40 and TP/400 also are longer.

I suppose you are after a stage/portable piano? Or are ones with a full cabinet okay?

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Thanks for the reply.

Yes well built stage piano or controller is what i'm looking for. Cdp or px-s 1000 or cheap fp 10-30 or p 45 - 125 etc. are not for me. I think medeli k6 key length is 17cm, kawai es 110 is 20cm and Casio Px 19cm. I don't know the exact size of es 520 keys.

The Medeli K6 action weight is perfect for me and the Hammer 88 construction and connectivity are pro comparing to most cheaper digital pianos.

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We're waiting on word of es120, so, hold off if you're going es110.

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You asked about es520 vs es110 - not to trigger anyone but JPS just put up a comparison video:

<YouTube link I posted seems to point to wrong video!>. Will try to fix later!

Came down to the higher-end boards may not have the value for money of the 110, and if you intend it as a MIDI controller you may not care about the sound improvements.

He does talk about the action quite a bit so may be useful to you.

Last edited by MoltoDiletante; 05/17/21 09:31 AM. Reason: YouTube link broken
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I would look at Studiologic SL88 and Korg D1.

As for Casios that use the same action as the PX-5S but for less money (i.e. without all the controls, etc.), you could look for PX-360, PX-350, PX-160, PX-150. These do have deeper pivot point than the newer "S" models.

For controlling VSTs, if you don't care about control surface (knobs/sliders etc.), there's not much MIDI difference among any of the boards. They all have either USB or 5-pin MIDI connections (if not both). Velocity curve manipulation is something you can always do in software. Having front panel buttons you can use to call up the sounds (or combinations of sounds) can be a difference, but also sounds like something that would not be required here. From a piano perspective, support for half-damper sustain pedal and triple pedal might be desirable, though if your otherwise perfect chocie doesn't have them, there are ways to add that. For non-piano use, it might be nice to have well located pitch/modulation controls.

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Originally Posted by MoltoDiletante
You asked about es520 vs es110 - not to trigger anyone but JPS just put up a comparison video:

<YouTube link I posted seems to point to wrong video!>. Will try to fix later!

Came down to the higher-end boards may not have the value for money of the 110, and if you intend it as a MIDI controller you may not care about the sound improvements.

He does talk about the action quite a bit so may be useful to you.

I saw the video, Oh man, JP's gonna get an earful from the kawai reps. grin

Quote (paraphrase from video):

Kawai is losing track of what they're doing.

The es520 and the es920 just don't inspire me.

Buy es110, it has the best pianistic response" gringrin

Last edited by EinLudov; 05/17/21 09:59 AM.
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Thanks for the replies

MoltoDiletante can't find the video link on your post. Could you please repost it?

Anotherscott M- Audio Hammer is way better than SL 88 studio action wise (for me) and construction wise similarly robust. The SL 88 grand is still much heavier (a no go for me) and much more expensive. Korg D1 i've heard is sluggish. Haven't tried it.
I totally aggree with you about the PX series, but I have to mention that very plastic construction and lack of normal professional connectors is a no go for me. And I think the cheapest models are the same. The same may apply for the ES 110. Haven't come across one yet. Maybe I have to wait for the ES 120 to see if there are any improvememnts.

The keyboard velocity curves on the other hand have really helped me on shaping the way the keyboard reacts to the software velocity curve changes. For example Hammer 88 has 7 velocity curves and if you combine for example a soft keyboard curve with a hardish kontakt sample curve, then the results are great for me. As I said M - Audio software keyboard editor is great. Casio has an equally (or better one) for the PX 5S. All of the boards I own have this facility - even very old 80s ones- and I can't imagine myself owning a board without different velocity curves.

Last edited by tedsorvino1; 05/17/21 10:30 AM.
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Originally Posted by tedsorvino1
Anotherscott M- Audio Hammer is way better than SL 88 studio action wise (for me) and construction wise similarly robust. The SL 88 grand is still much heavier (a no go for me)
Ah, yes, I meant the Grand, not the Studio.

Originally Posted by tedsorvino1
the PX series, but I have to mention that very plastic construction and lack of normal professional connectors is a no go for me. And I think the cheapest models are the same. The same may apply for the ES 110.
I'm not sure what you mean by "normal professional connectors" except that the PX-150 doesn't have 1/4" line outputs, all the other models do... but if you're using it as a controller, you wouldn't be using those connectors anyway.

Originally Posted by tedsorvino1
I can't imagine myself owning a board without different velocity curves.
AFAIK, all these boards have selectable velocity curves, albeit to different extents. What I meant was that, since you're using a computer anyway, the computer side has tons of adjustability for velocity, which makes the amount of adjustability in the keyboard less of a factor. One thing that may come into play is that Casios support high resolution MIDI velocity. There have been discussions here about whether or not there is really value to that, but it is something to be aware of. IIRC, people using Pianoteq liked it. Regardless, while the argument against it was that "127 values should be enough," one of the arguments for it could be that it might permit more adjustability when it comes to custom velocity curves. Typically, if you take the 127 standard values and "skew" them so that, for example, there are more gradations at lower velocities (as some curves do), you will necessarily have fewer gradations at higher velocities (they have to come from somewhere), and that could possibly be where a wish for more total velocity values could come into play. Though I don't know off-hand to what extent any of the velocity manipulation tools on the computer side take advantage of high velocity MIDI, maybe someone else here can chime in on that.

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Thanks a lot for all the info Another Scott. I was talking about the lack of proper Midi IN-OUT (a THRU is optional) and USB, 1/4'' connectors (optional) on some entry level DPs by Casio and KAWAI. It's good to know that Casio supports different velocity curves.

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Originally Posted by tedsorvino1
I was talking about the lack of proper Midi IN-OUT (a THRU is optional) and USB, 1/4'' connectors (optional) on some entry level DPs by Casio and KAWAI.
Ah. The Casio PX-150/160 are USB only, the other Casios I suggested (i.e. the non-S models) have 5-pin MIDI and USB both. The Kawai has only standard 5-pin MIDI (Korg D1 the same).

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Originally Posted by MoltoDiletante
You asked about es520 vs es110 - not to trigger anyone but JPS just put up a comparison video:

<YouTube link I posted seems to point to wrong video!>. Will try to fix later!

Came down to the higher-end boards may not have the value for money of the 110, and if you intend it as a MIDI controller you may not care about the sound improvements.

He does talk about the action quite a bit so may be useful to you.



Here’s the video this time.

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
...Regardless, while the argument against it was that "127 values should be enough," one of the arguments for it could be that it might permit more adjustability when it comes to custom velocity curves. Typically, if you take the 127 standard values and "skew" them...

Hi another scott, what are you telling us here?
You don't mean MIDI standard has done away with the 0-127 , do you?


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Thanks MoltoDiletante. Seems like an honest video opinion.
The problem I see on most (maybe all) cheaper DP comparing to the same priced 88 piano key controllers - even VPC 1 is in that price range- is that they seem not to be made for the studio musician (even if they work). By cheaper I mean around 1000 euros max.
DPs seem to be centered around the practicing piano player or casual live player. No mention of dedicated editing software, no expression pedal inputs and very cheap construction. All these things are better on all controllers from 450euros upwards.
And maybe the midi message transmission -DAW communication is not so great, because of not so well constructed drivers.
But if the actions are way better they may worth a place in a studio. If the difference is not so obvious they may not.

Are there any opinions on the forum by players who use Kawai ES or Casio PX boards to record pianos on DAWs using different piano VSTs (acoustic, electric, organs etc.)?

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Originally Posted by josh_sounds
Hi another scott, what are you telling us here?
You don't mean MIDI standard has done away with the 0-127 , do you?
MIDI has always has an ability to deal with more than 128 values, by using additional bytes (to turn a 7-bit value into a 14-bit value). This is how pitch bend was always handled (and a variation of this is how LSB/MSB bank messages allow MIDI to address more than 128 possible Program Changes, which became necessary once MIDI devices started being able to house more than 128 programs). The extension of this capability to velocity (CC #88) was added in 2010 though it has not been widely implemented.

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Originally Posted by anotherscott
Originally Posted by josh_sounds
Hi another scott, what are you telling us here?
You don't mean MIDI standard has done away with the 0-127 , do you?
MIDI has always has an ability to deal with more than 128 values, by using additional bytes (to turn a 7-bit value into a 14-bit value). This is how pitch bend was always handled (and a variation of this is how LSB/MSB bank messages allow MIDI to address more than 128 possible Program Changes, which became necessary once MIDI devices started being able to house more than 128 programs). The extension of this capability to velocity (CC #88) was added in 2010 though it has not been widely implemented.
hmmm... I do not know whether this is agreeing or disagreeing: I've always known MIDI 1.0 has CC values 0-127 only, to circumvent/expand this restriction/convention they used banks. So if you got 4 banks, and 0-127 values for each, you've got 128x4 = 512 possible values. Therefore giving the illusion of having more thank 128 values. At least that's what they did for soundbanks on synths which, I believe you referred to earlier as program changes. So, it's still 0-127, at its core...
Originally Posted by josh_sounds
Originally Posted by anotherscott
...Regardless, while the argument against it was that "127 values should be enough," one of the arguments for it could be that it might permit more adjustability when it comes to custom velocity curves. Typically, if you take the 127 standard values and "skew" them...
Hi another scott, what are you telling us here?
You don't mean MIDI standard has done away with the 0-127 , do you?
Anyway I guess when you said 'skew', you where taking about this right?
[Linked Image]

Thanks, looking forward to MIDI 2.0
Originally Posted by midi.org
Can MIDI 2.0 provide more resolution?

Yes, MIDI 1.0 messages are usually 7 bit (14 bit is possible by not widely implemented because there are only 128 CC messages). In MIDI 2.0 velocity is 16 bit. The 128 Control Change messages, 16,384 Registered Controllers, 16,384 Assignable Controllers, Poly and Channel Pressure, and Pitch Bend are all 32 bit resolution.


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Originally Posted by josh_sounds
I've always known MIDI 1.0 has CC values 0-127 only, to circumvent/expand this restriction/convention they used banks. So if you got 4 banks, and 0-127 values for each, you've got 128x4 = 512 possible values. Therefore giving the illusion of having more thank 128 values. At least that's what they did for soundbanks on synths which, I believe you referred to earlier as program changes. So, it's still 0-127, at its core...
"At its core" is an ambiguous phrase. Yes, standard MIDI messages are 7-bit (128 values), but there are ways to get beyond that standard when a need/desire arises, as they did for pitch bend (right from version 1.0), and as they did to standardize a method to send program change messages such that they can can address devices that have more than 128 programs in them (via MSB/LSB bank messages), and as they did for velocity in 2010. MIDI currently supports 14-bit data (16,384 values) for all of these things. That number wasn't selected because they thought that's what was needed, but because there's nothing between a 1-byte command (128 values) and a 2-byte command (16,384 values). So if there's a desire for more than 128 values, right away you get 16,384 values.

Originally Posted by josh_sounds
Anyway I guess when you said 'skew', you where taking about this right?
Any deviation from linear is skewed one way or another. But to illustrate my point, let's use that Hard 3 example. Each square of the grid represents about 16 MIDI values (127 total values divided by 8 squares). So every one of the last 30 or so values is producing the identical output. Which means you no longer have 127 values to work with that will produce different results, but instead, fewer than 100. And in this particular curve, the place you lose definition is at the other extreme (there's no velocity distinction available for roughly the first 30 values). More values triggering one area of the curve means fewer values available to trigger some other area of the curve.

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Very good indepth info about Midi 1.0 working on velocity curves. My real world example is that I've used Hammer 88 with 2 different pitch bend wheels (for electronic sounds). In order to make one work as a whole tone bend (the main wheel left set at a standard +- 2 octaves by leaving the default 0-127 MSB-LSB which is 128 steps, alone) I had to make very different settings to the other controller's MSB-LSB (not very obvious math).


But I would like to repeat my last question : Are there any opinions about the MIDI capabilities of Kawai ES DPs or Casio PX ones (or similar DP boards) to record pianos on DAWs using different piano VSTs (acoustic, electric, organs etc.)? I'm using Kontakt libraries and Keyscape.


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