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M Audio K88 Pro: My Impression


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Since a few people were curious about the M Audio Keystation 88 Pro and have asked about it, I said I would write about my experiences with it. Remember as I write on the K88 pro, its based on my experiences, opinions and findings. I have my likes and dislikes with it. Im finding I have a love/hate relationship with it. Its only fair to say that some of the hate relationship has to do with my learning curve and being able to understand how certain things work.


There are basically two things it has; midi controls in the form of sliders and knobs and 88 piano key like/hammer action. The controllers and knobs are a delight if you want to control your sounds from the keyboard. With VSTs or DXIs, you can setup the K88pro's knobs/switches and sliders to aid in programming sounds. Its really nice using the controls on the K88 pro. Im in the process of figuring how to do this with Colossus as I will with other programs I plan on getting. You can also layer and split the keyboard, as well as it being both midi and usb compatible. I personally really like the fact that it has USB compatibility. Once I get to know how to work these features in the K88 pro, I will be much happier with it.


The key action is a real issue with me for a number of reasons. The first things I must point out is my bias towards a heavier action, similar to my Yamaha's the S90 and P90. My other issues have to do with aftertouch and velocity. With the aftertouch issue it feels like M Audio was trying to cut corners. Why not just make the controller correctly? The velocity issues are a mess especially when playing any of the piano type sounds. When I attempted to adjust the velocity curves the K88 pro doesn't have enough dynamic range for me needs and desires. A lot of the time the K88 pro will randomly sound harder on keys you are hitting softly. The key dynamics on this are horrible to me. Now I understand since Im using a sosftsynth this may be latency issue but when I play the same sounds through my S90, the velocity curve isnt nearly the issue as on the K88 pro. Someone suggested the S90 has a superior keybed, and perhaps this is affecting the velocity info going to the PC. I tend to agree with this and it also makes the sounds seem fuller and more realistic. However all that being said, if you have a light touch or like a lighter key action, this may work very well for you.


I would recommend the K88 pro for anyone who likes a light action, and wants to control the sounds of a module, softsynth, or plug through a keyboard. If those are your main priorities than the K88 pro will work very, very well for you.


If you want a heavier action, a realistic piano action and dont want velocity issues with piano and EPs, something else may be better for you. If your in the middle like I was/am, find a way to play one and make the choice for yourself.


Knowing what I know now, its hard to say whether or not Id purchase this again if I had the opportunity. The key action and velocity issues with the piano and electric piano type sounds really bother me. The ability to have so much control of the sounds through the keyboard is such a huge plus. All I can say is at this point, I finally understand what Dickens meant when he said it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The other options I would have wanted would have cost me too much $. Remember the cost of the K88 pro is a lot less than getting many other things.

Begin the day with a friendly voice A companion, unobtrusive

- Rush

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I found you comments interesting. Although I don't share the complaint about the action with you, it may be because I just use it to pound through a rock mix. If you're doing something that is more delicate, then I can see it would be problem. I may have experienced what you're talking about though, I find I have to take down the bottom end of my module's grand piano sound through EQ, otherwise it dominates. Not sure if it is a module issue or a velocity issue, but I need to address it.


What MIDI functions have you used the controllers for? Did you use the B buttons for program and bank changes? Did you experience any reconciliation issues with program numbers (i.e. program no. from K88 does not correspond exactly to number on external module)? Any comments on factory settings for controllers? What did you use the sliders for? Did you get the thing to do EQ? Apologies in advance for all the questions.



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I used to own a Fatar Studio Logic SL 1100. I sold this unit (which I had bought for $1000) and purchased the keystation at a quarter of the cost. I am a pianist/keyboardist first and production guy second and I truly miss the action from the Fatar. I find the newer Fatar keyboards aren't to my liking but the SL100 was a great great weighted keyboards. As for functionality in the studio, th K88 blows it away. I have all the knobs and sliders running my setup. This is the reason why I went with the K88. As for the K88's action...I don't like it. The preset velo curves don't do much and I can't be half as dynamic as I could with the SL1100. I find that lower notes tend to pop randomly...ie: a note that I played softly is louder then other notes that I actually played loud. Also, the black keys depress lower then a standard piano or any other weighted 88 for that mater. With all that said, I like the K88 in my studio for its functional purposes but thats about it.I have grown used to the action and do what I can but it could have been better. Had M-Audio truly worked this board to its full potential, it could have been killer.
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