Sunday, June 21, 2009

Keyboard Quality

My son was at a game last night, so I had a couple of hours to kill.  I ended up popping into the Albuquerque Guitar Center for some of that time, just to see what they had in stock.

It was all the "mass market" stuff, mostly workstation synths.  I was hoping they would have a Radias, but no dice.

What I have to post about, though, is just how awful the keyboard quality was.  Lately, I've been getting more and more disappointed in my KeyStation Pro 88's feel... it just isn't nearly as satisfying as my old Yamaha EX5.

Only the Motif keyboards were acceptable to me, and even the synth-action model was pretty crappy.  Of course, the Motif I liked was $3500, which is a bit more than I'm willing to pay for a nice keyboard and AWM synthesis.

Worst offender of the bunch were the Rolands, particularly the Juno, which reminded me of Will Smith in MIB: "I feel like I'm gunna break this damn thing!"  (For the record, it sounded okay.)

Okay, actually, the Korg MicroX was pretty barftastic, too, but you kinda expect that from a mini-keyboard.  ...It was a big step down from the MicroKorg, though.

There was one weighted keyboard (I forget which, I think it was a Korg M-series, maybe it was the Fantom) that had a particularly loud, deep "THOK!" everytime you hit a key.  Annoying.  (Even thought it was a reasonable feel, you could never use one in a studio.)

So I went over to the digital pianos.  ...They were better.  But still not good!  I didn't see how anyone accustomed to a half-decent piano could stand playing any of these. Light, plasticy, and a little too fast. ...Fortunately for me, I'm not used to a nice piano, so to my touch, they were a step up from the KeyStation.  Still, that's $600 I don't have, and I sure as hell don't need the piano sounds they come with.  : )

Very very disappointing.  I can't imagine why keyboard quality is so hard to get right, especially with such nice keyboards just ten years ago from all the major players. Perhaps they are trying to make a feel that's (barely) playable, but feels cheap, so the user will think "at least they didn't waste any more money on the keys, I wouldn't want to pay for that!" Is this market research speaking?  Are most buyers ignoring the feel of the keys on synths these days?

I maintain that a person is far better off buying a vintage synth, if only to use it as a controller for software synths, than buying any of the shitty, over-priced marketing ploys the major synth-makers are shipping these days.  For example, you can buy a clean DX7 for $300 and Omnisphere for another $475, and still have $1200 to spend on a kick-ass computer to host it, and you've spent less than you would have on a mid-line Motif, and you've got just about as good a set of sound (better in some cases, but with a little less diversity, maybe).  ...And now you've got a classy computer, too.  ; )

/me doesn't get it.

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