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Weird Comparison Review: CP4, RD-2000, Spacestation...


Carl Lumma

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I recently bought a Yamaha CP4, Roland RD-2000, Korg Minilogue, and Spacestation V.3. And I wrote up this wacky review I thought y'all might like to read.

 

You may remember my curmudgeonly style from the pages of Keyboard, 2004-2007ish.

 

~~

Background

 

My home studio hasn't changed in years. I have a Kawai K5000S going through a Roland KC-300, both of which I purchased at Sam Ash in 1999. The Kawai also sends MIDI to my Mac through a Roland UA-101. All of this is in a 400 ft^2 carpeted room. I also have a grand piano upstairs.

 

The K5000 is a cool keyboard. It has a very nice synth action with textured black keys. It can do expressive (if not authentic) 'regular keyboard' sounds and juicy synth stuff as well. Many patches tend to be harsh in the treble (as older digital additive synths can be) so that's one thing I've never been completely satisfied with.

 

The KC-300 has just been solid as a rock. It sounds fantastic and earns nothing but praise from me. But when I heard about the Spacestation, I thought it would be worth an upgrade to get stereo out of a single box. Forums just gushed about the thing when it came out.

 

And I thought I might replace the Kawai with a stage piano for regular sounds and something like a Minilogue for synthy stuff.

 

I wasn't planning to keep both the CP4 and RD-2000. I live in a major metropolitan area, yet the prospects of auditioning them anywhere near me are basically nil. Buying seemed the only way to do it.

 

What I didn't expect is that I'd return ALL of this new gear. Pretty disappointing really.

 

~~

Spacestation

 

First the Spacestation. It's smaller and lighter than the KC-300, which is nice. It seems pretty sturdy, though I did have some concern a foot or something could slip in the cutouts and damage the side channel speaker. Don't know why they didn't put a grill over those, like they did on the front. It came with a removable canvas cover which seems completely useless.

 

The thing requires two phone cables for stereo. Why not TRS stereo to save me a cable or -- god forbid -- a lossless wireless connection? Why are we stuck in 1925 with phone cables? Granted, this is more a criticism of the industry than of Aspen Pittman Designs, but as a curmudgeonly ex-editor of a dufunct magazine I can say whatever I want!

 

For mono sources it sounded noticeably inferior to the KC-300, especially in the bass. I guess that's to be expected with the smaller driver. For stereo sources, well, I didn't really get much stereo effect, at least in the aforementioned large, carpeted room. The manual says the stereo effect gets better with room reflections and distance from the listener. Distance in this case was limited by the aforementioned phone cables I had on hand (6 ft or so after rounding corners).

 

I got *some* stereo sensation, but nothing like what separate speakers produce. A different room or setup might improve things somewhat, but it's clearly not worth the upgrade from the KC-300.

 

Finally, it's worth noting that the KC-300 has a built-in 4-channel mixer that's come in handy dozens of times over the years. The Spacestation just has a single input channel.

 

~~

Minilogue

 

Of all the stuff in this buy, I came closest to keeping the Korg Minilogue. And I really wanted to keep it. It's just a cherry of a synth and the price is super-reasonable.

 

And it's more than that. The Minilogue is the only item in this review that looks and feels like a musical instrument should. Heck, forget instrument. It's the only item with the build quality that people expect from regular consumer electronics these days.

 

I want to spend another paragraph on this. The CP4 is an overmolded piece of crap with some fake Tolex texturing on it and a two-line multisegment LCD. The RD-4000 has lighted bend and mod wheels meant to appeal to DJs or something but still feels like consumer electronics from the '90s. The industry has a lot of catching up to do to make objects of desire in a post-iPod world.

 

So anyway, the Korg was the only thing that didn't fall on its face there. Its OLED display is small but manages to be useful. Overall, there's personality and build quality to it.

 

So why'd I send it back? The damn keyboard. I want to say I just couldn't do the reduced-scale thing, but it's more than that. Harpsichord keyboards aren't piano-scale and I've got no problem with them. It's some combination of small size and crappy functioning.

 

I could have kept it as a synth and controlled it from another keyboard, but where's the sense in that? I'd be better off with a rack or softsynth.

 

If there were a Minilogue with a full-size 4-octave keyboard for $800, I'd never give it up.

 

~~

Stage Pianos

 

And now for the main event: CP4 vs RD-2000!

 

weight

The RD-2000 is the heavier of the two but they're both ridiculous. What on Earth is in these things? Roland gets points for making a custom stand available, which looks smartly designed. Yamaha makes stands but not one custom-fit for the CP4.

 

size

I don't need 88 keys and neither do you. They do it to mimic acoustic pianos, but there's no reason for the vast majority of them to have 88 keys either. The whole thing's a historical accident. You could get a lot more out of a spinet or console piano and still play > 99% of the repertoire with 78 keys (D1 to G7), for example.

 

The CP4 is not quite as long because it doesn't have a joystick to the left of the keyboard.

 

price

The RD-2000 currently costs 25% more.

 

main piano sound

They're both good but the RD-2000's main piano is better. It comes off as more dynamic and less compressed.

 

other sounds

I don't know why both companies feel obliged to try and fill out some notion of a complete sound bank with crap sounds.

 

action

They're practically identical to actions sold for decades by their respective manufacturers. That is to say, they both suck. But the Yamaha action is superior. It's more precise and significantly faster to reset (faster repetition).

 

build quality

The RD-2000 ekes out a win here, but neither is inspiring (see the section on the Minilogue, above).

 

personality

Roland must have told their engineers to cram as much annoying B.S. into this keyboard as possible. Yamaha wins here with a more utilitarian approach, though as I noted above, it's actually a plasticy copy of the CP1's design.

 

I guarantee nobody is getting up early in the morning because they can't wait to play these.

 

conclusion

We were close to breaking away from all this with the VAX-77 & Pianoteq. But Infinite Response went out of business instead. The founder recently ran a crowdfunding campaign for a more affordable successor and it sold out before I learned of it. I will be watching for their next run.

 

I almost included a Kawai MP11 in this comparison but I was never impressed by its forebears, and it's even bigger and heavier than the RD-2000. So I think I'd probably be returning it too. But I do admire Kawai for daring to be a bit different.

 

-Carl

 

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I got *some* stereo sensation, but nothing like what separate speakers produce. A different room or setup might improve things somewhat, but it's clearly not worth the upgrade from the KC-300.

 

Carl, your ears are clearly much better than mine.

:nopity:
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Not surprising you didn't like mono through the SSv3. Unless it's a rich stereo signal, it's basically a modest 2-way stock speaker.

 

Personally, I've liked the CP4 every time I've tried it. That being said, you seem to have your preferences so stick with them.

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Guessing you might have better luck with a Nord Stage 3-88, a DSI Pro-2, and a Traynor K4.... :idk

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It came with a removable canvas cover which seems completely useless.

Probably not useless if you have to carry it to/from the car and it's raining. Especially since, as you kind of pointed out, it's open on almost every side.

 

The thing requires two phone cables for stereo. Why not TRS stereo to save me a cable or -- god forbid -- a lossless wireless connection?

A decent stereo wireless transmitter and receiver is probably about $200, would it be worth making the unit $999 to include it? Meanwhile, there's nothing stopping you from buying one and adding it to the rig. As for TRS, seriously? What keyboard has TRS outs? Now you're talking about custom cabling of TRS on one end, and two 1/4" on the other. That's an improvement?

 

I could have kept it as a synth and controlled it from another keyboard, but where's the sense in that? I'd be better off with a rack or softsynth.

 

If there were a Minilogue with a full-size 4-octave keyboard for $800, I'd never give it up.

If you want dedicated, conveniently located, logically grouped/sized/labelled controls and a full size 4 octave keyboard at a low price--and analog to boot--I think you're looking for a unicorn. A monologue driven from another board will probably get you closer to that than a rack or certainly a softsynth.

 

And now for the main event: CP4 vs RD-2000!

 

weight

The RD-2000 is the heavier of the two but they're both ridiculous.

...

I don't need 88 keys and neither do you.

If you're looking for a lightweight and/or sub-88 piano, I don't know why you bothered looking at these at all. You might as well be posting that a Prius makes for a lousy motorcycle, and no one needs more than a motorcycle.

 

Maybe you're trolling us...?

 

 

 

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I enjoyed Carl's review. Think about where he's coming from. He has a K5000, which has one of the best synth key actions ever built, and a grand piano. The RD2000 and CP4 are current top of the crop. So have digital pianos improved over the past 20 years? Hell yeh. But from where he sits, are they any closer to cloning the experience of playing a real piano? Not really. It's just not even close. Is the Minilogue key action crap. Yeh. I don't think he's trolling, he just hasn't been caught up in incrementally upgrading his keyboards over the past 2 decades and is, given his situation, understandably horrified at discovering where things are at.

Gig keys: Hammond SKpro, Korg Vox Continental, Crumar Mojo 61, Crumar Mojo Pedals

 

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Guessing you might have better luck with a Nord Stage 3-88, a DSI Pro-2, and a Traynor K4.... :idk

 

Thanks for the tips. I'm thinking about getting a Prophet Rev2, actually (gotta be poly).

 

Minilogue is different than Monologue. Not saying you confused the two, but if you did I wouldn't blame you.

 

-Carl

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Probably not useless if you have to carry it to/from the car and it's raining.

Ah, that's a point.

 

A decent stereo wireless transmitter and receiver is probably about $200, would it be worth making the unit $999 to include it? Meanwhile, there's nothing stopping you from buying one and adding it to the rig. As for TRS, seriously? What keyboard has TRS outs? Now you're talking about custom cabling of TRS on one end, and two 1/4" on the other. That's an improvement?

You cut off the quote before where it says it's a criticism of the industry at large. Still, companies could help push things in the right direction by, for example, putting an extra jack on the thing. You're about 10x too high on the cost of a wireless chip.

 

If you're looking for a lightweight and/or sub-88 piano, I don't know why you bothered looking at these at all. You might as well be posting that a Prius makes for a lousy motorcycle, and no one needs more than a motorcycle.

Unfortunately these manufacturers do not put their flagship technology in sub-88 keyboards. As for the weight, these are supposed to be portable instruments, and I happen to know they don't need to weigh nearly as much as they do.

 

-Carl

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I enjoyed Carl's review. Think about where he's coming from. He has a K5000, which has one of the best synth key actions ever built, and a grand piano. The RD2000 and CP4 are current top of the crop. So have digital pianos improved over the past 20 years? Hell yeh. But from where he sits, are they any closer to cloning the experience of playing a real piano? Not really. It's just not even close. Is the Minilogue key action crap. Yeh. I don't think he's trolling, he just hasn't been caught up in incrementally upgrading his keyboards over the past 2 decades and is, given his situation, understandably horrified at discovering where things are at.

 

You said it better than I could. Thanks, niacin.

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A decent stereo wireless transmitter and receiver is probably about $200, would it be worth making the unit $999 to include it? Meanwhile, there's nothing stopping you from buying one and adding it to the rig. As for TRS, seriously? What keyboard has TRS outs? Now you're talking about custom cabling of TRS on one end, and two 1/4" on the other. That's an improvement?

You cut off the quote before where it says it's a criticism of the industry at large. Still, companies could help push things in the right direction by, for example, putting an extra jack on the thing.

Oh, so you meant in addition to the regular jacks, not instead of them. That's better, but an additional expense (not just the jack, but also some kind of input switching or mixing with the other input jacks). One more thing that one might consider is that it also adds another way something can mess up by having someone accidentally plug the wrong kind of cable into the wrong jack (since they they take cables with the same size ends as the regular L/R inputs).

 

I don't think it's realistic to expect Spacestation to include a TRS connector that few would ever use and there is no apparent customer demand for (current boards don't even have such an output, unless you want to use their headphone jacks, which can sometimes introduce other issues). If an industry change like that comes, I think it would have to start "at the top." If someone like Yamaha or Roland chooses to puts single stereo connectors of some sort on their keyboards and their amps, maybe you'd see other mfrs following suit for compatibiliity, but I think a Spacestation tail can't wag that dog.

 

BTW, I would not want that to become the standard/only way of getting sound out of a board, because I prefer to have the ability to pan sounds to different sides and send different sounds to different external processing/amps, and separate jacks work best for that. And a split of boards and external devices, some of which use two guitar cables and some of which use a TRS, would be an unnecessary complication in our rigs.

 

I think a better argument can be made for the stereo mini jacks some amps have these days, for plugging in an MP3 device, which also can't so easily be confused with a differently purposed jack, though that's not desirably rugged enough for gig instrument use.

 

You're about 10x too high on the cost of a wireless chip.

If you read what I wrote, I did not discuss the cost of a chip (I haven't a clue), but what the functionality would add to the retail price of the Spacestation. I don't think you can buy (at retail) a quality stereo lossless wireless transmitter/receiver for under $200. Can you point me to one? I suppose, similar to your TRS thought, you could build in just the receiver at lower (but still not unnoticeable) cost, but since no boards come with the transmitter, you'd still have to offer a transmitter for people to put on their boards, or it would be useless, for now and possibly forever.

 

Unfortunately these manufacturers do not put their flagship technology in sub-88 keyboards.

They don't make what you want, so buy from someone who does. You could look at a Kurzweil Forte 7, a Korg Kronos 73, maybe a Nord. But yeah, it is unfortunate that more high quality weighted boards aren't available in sub-88 sizes. But to buy 88s and knock them because they have 88 keys is not something I think is so helpful, even if I agree that it would be good to have more manufacturers offering shorter boards.

 

these are supposed to be portable instruments, and I happen to know they don't need to weigh nearly as much as they do.

"Need" is an interesting word. I think it's safe to say there are no unnecessary metal weights in these boards, serving no purpose except to make the boards heavier. Everything is there for a reason.

 

High quality actions tend to be heavier, in part because the additional key depth (to support a better pivot point and weight distribution) makes for longer/heavier keys and a deeper chassis to house them. While some feel better than others, no one yet seems to have been able to make a compact, lightweight action that feels as good as the better bigger/heavier ones. If you know how to do it, there is a market waiting for you!

 

There are other ways to make boards lighter, but again, there are tradeoffs. If a board is being built in sufficient volumes, it can be cost-effective to use a plastic rather than metal chassis, but then you knock Yamaha for the plastic chassis. You could use aluminum or maybe fibre or other lightweight chassis materials, but again, you will raise the cost. You can go with an external power supply (which involves not just the weight of the power supply itself, but usually shielding required to place it that much closer to the audio electronics, and possibly a bigger chassis to accommodate it), but then people complain about the external power supplies.

 

I am about the biggest advocate around for lighter gear. These boards are actually lighter than their predecessors, but still not light enough for me. But I wouldn't order one and then say it sucks because it's too heavy. The weight is printed on the spec sheet, what did you expect?

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Next gen stuff imho should explore light weight/strong materials in the action construction itself so a great playing/feeling action need not be heavy. Obviously each key needs a counter weight or some mechanics to simulate hammer swing, so that's not going to be a place they can shave overall weight.

 

And the processing power and storage need to be more competitive with what we are getting from software developers in VST/AU. High quality uncompressed, unlooped samples with increasing velocity layers and/or hybrid modeling, etc. But specs aside, it just has to sound great.

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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I don't think it's realistic to expect Spacestation to include a TRS connector that few would ever use and there is no apparent customer demand for (current boards don't even have such an output, unless you want to use their headphone jacks, which can sometimes introduce other issues). If an industry change like that comes, I think it would have to start "at the top."

 

Apple got rid of serial ports and floppy drives even when they were at the bottom. It worked pretty well for them.

 

If you read what I wrote, I did not discuss the cost of a chip (I haven't a clue), but what the functionality would add to the retail price of the Spacestation. I don't think you can buy (at retail) a quality stereo lossless wireless transmitter/receiver for under $200.

 

The retail cost of such a product is irrelevant to the additional build cost for including this feature on a keyboard or amp.

 

Can you point me to one? I suppose, similar to your TRS thought, you could build in just the receiver at lower (but still not unnoticeable) cost, but since no boards come with the transmitter, you'd still have to offer a transmitter for people to put on their boards, or it would be useless, for now and possibly forever.

 

There's always a chicken and egg problem with anything new. Industries manage to get around it. Who would ever put MIDI on a keyboard when there's nothing to connect it to?

 

They don't make what you want, so buy from someone who does.

 

Nobody makes what I want, which was sort of the point of the post. I may start a company at some point but it won't be for a few years yet.

 

-Carl

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...to buy 88s and knock them because they have 88 keys is not something I think is so helpful

But I wouldn't order one and then say it sucks because it's too heavy. The weight is printed on the spec sheet, what did you expect?

 

I, on the other hand, think it's quite appropriate to knock both individual companies and the industry as a whole for making crappy products, which are nearly identical to those made for the past 20 years yet still inexplicably cost thousands of dollars.

 

-Carl

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Unfortunately these manufacturers do not put their flagship technology in sub-88 keyboards.

 

I should have given Nord a nod for making a 76er, and I didn't know about the Forte 7. Both use Fatar actions.

 

Though it must be said that 76 is a weird number, since it changes the location of middle C on the keyboard. For an industry obsessed with replicating even undesirable qualities that piano builders work hard to eliminate ("graded action" anyone?) the 76 standard is a real chin-scratcher.

 

-Carl

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I'm guessing how many they add or remove is based on the size of a key assembly which is probably 4 or 8. There is a guy on the piano world forums chopping Yamaha and Casio actions to order. Not the high end models yet, however.

 

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2645217/custom-keyboards-by-mck-minetti-custom-keyboards.html#Post2645217

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Casio PX-560

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The retail cost of such a product is irrelevant to the additional build cost for including this feature on a keyboard or amp.

The retail price of such a product is a good rough guideline for what it would cost to add to the retail price of some other device. "Cost to build it in" is irrelevant, because you can't pay "cost." Companies expect to make profit on the additional components they install.

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Speaking just for myself, most of the actions I would want to play on happen to be 88 key. As a result, I've become a user of all 88 keys of a master keyboard in splits and layers. This is often not as ergonomic as two or more smaller keybeds positioned above and below each other.

 

Some players do a ton of custom work to make the vertical rig ergonomic. Mate Stubb's rig is an excellent example. :thu:

 

If "88 key master keyboard people" (like self) are to move to the smaller keyboards, it would help if 1) the smaller keybeds are of high quality, and 2) keyboard stands were designed which allowed fine-tuning of the depth and height of 2nd and 3rd tier platforms. I don't know if the people involved in 1 collaborate with the people involved in 2. Perhaps they should?

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other sounds

I don't know why both companies feel obliged to try and fill out some notion of a complete sound bank with crap sounds.

 

These CP4 sounds do not sound exactly like crap to me:

 

 

I am sure that the RD2000 also has many good usable sounds. To me it's rather your whole review which sounds pretty much like crap...

LIFE IS SHORT, GO GET THE GEAR YOU WANT ;-)

 

 

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other sounds

I don't know why both companies feel obliged to try and fill out some notion of a complete sound bank with crap sounds.

 

These CP4 sounds do not sound exactly like crap to me:

 

 

I am sure that the RD2000 also has many good usable sounds. To me it's rather your whole review which sounds pretty much like crap...

 

Because his opinion differs with yours? Opinions are like old shoes. Everyone has a pair, and they all stink.

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My opinion here.

Having owned a CP4 and wishing I still had it.

The alternate sounds were very good. Supposedly culled from the Motif.

The piano was the first action in a very long time that was easliy transportable

on the hands. As in, you could easily move between a real action and the CP4

and not suffer for it. Maybe transitional on the hands is a better term.

 

But I sold it. Got a Forte. And will stay where I'm at.

If you can get your hands on a Forte 7 you'll be far happier.

 

A little OT but relevant I think to the tone.

 

If you have been off market for a long stretch and started looking again

now you would be a little ( or a lot) shocked at the drop in quality.

There has been little in the the way of advance in that area.

For a long time we were getting investor creep in the guts of these things

and finally they started chopping away at how we interface with them.

 

My opinion is we've been led into just accepting much lower quality for the money

and increases back to something that would have been standard are costing

us more.

The carrot was made smaller and far more flavorless on the same stick and we just let it happen.

 

The other side of all that is that things are coming back around.

People want solid kit. And are willing to pay for it.

Quality is under the microscope.

There's much said about the wiggle and wobble of this or that knob or slider.

"Don't buy it for the keyboard" or

"knock knock. Solid construction that."

 

John

 

 

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On the 88 key thing, it's not logical, I know.

 

I spent most of my life playing 88 key acoustic pianos. I know what's there, and I can rock it blindfolded. Cheap party trick, I know. Hey, works for Stevie W.!!

 

I have 76s, 73s and shorter. When I get into the moment, I forget myself, and reach for keys that don't exist. Bad me.

 

If I'm into the AP thing, it's sort of 88 for me, or don't bother.

 

BTW, the CP4 rawks. Can't diss that board.

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My opinion is we've been led into just accepting much lower quality for the money

Can you give an example where a manufacturer used to provide better quality for the same money?

 

People want solid kit. And are willing to pay for it.

Quality is under the microscope.

There's much said about the wiggle and wobble of this or that knob or slider.

"Don't buy it for the keyboard" or

"knock knock. Solid construction that."

There's a split between those who want rock solid build and those who want light travel weight. You rarely get both, and if you do, you'll probably pay a premium for it (i.e. arguably Nord, though even then, people sometimes complain about the actions).

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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My opinion is we've been led into just accepting much lower quality for the money

Can you give an example where a manufacturer used to provide better quality for the same money?

 

People want solid kit. And are willing to pay for it.

Quality is under the microscope.

There's much said about the wiggle and wobble of this or that knob or slider.

"Don't buy it for the keyboard" or

"knock knock. Solid construction that."

There's a split between those who want rock solid build and those who want light travel weight. You rarely get both, and if you do, you'll probably pay a premium for it (i.e. arguably Nord, though even then, people sometimes complain about the actions).

 

Better quality for the same money? I'd point you to the Nord downloadable samples, which have been a complete joy over the last few years.

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