Boy, with all of these incredible pianos coming out,...... it seems to me that if you own a few of them, you best have a really good feeling controller, otherwise its like buying a Hummer with a 4 cylinder engine in it.
Any opinions as to the "creme de la creme" as well as some "best buys"?
Pat, suggest you visit a store with a large selection of keyboards and see how close you can come to matching the weighting of your favorite piano. A few years back I was buying one for my wife and went with a Kurtzweil PC 88 because it's 43 cent action was a perfect match for her Steinway console. The Yamaha and Doepfer were very close, just a hair lighter in touch.
I'm using a Yamaha P250 as a controller. Great action, I can save 32 user "performances", plus heaps of great on board sounds ... Very happy with it, but heavy to lug to gigs.
Before that I had a Roland XV88, but prefer the Yamaha
I'm happy with my PC88 (Fatar Inside) at home, but when I have the opportunity to play real pianos I realize how light the PC88 action really is. Also, the keys are a bit longer than for many pianos, and the action goes deeper.
Anyway, it's good to approximate the real thing, so when you come across a real piano you don't play it like a total wanker. (I wish I could turn the volume way down on acoustic pianos, so I could warm up in private before playing for all to hear!)
Here's another little difference. When I laid my roll of pennies on the end of a Steinway console's white key, 39 of them pushed it to a sticking point about 3/4's of the way down. Took about another 4 to push it the rest of the way over the hump to get the hammer to hit. None of the midi pianos I tried behaved like that.
Once at a piano competition I saw Julie McClarey practicing off in a corner on an upright piano. Odd thing was I could see the keys going down but she wasn't making a sound. Later I asked her about that. Said she had young children at home and her only practice time was at 5:00 am so she trained herself to play without pushing the hammers all the way to the strings. Took 1st, btw.
There was a huge thread on this forum quite recently about piano actions. Lots of very good information and opinions in that so worth searching out.
My own preference is for Kawai's AWA Grand Pro action (the MP9500 is their controller model with this action). I'll be honest. I don't think any of the other actions come close and that includes the Yamahas (with the exception of their Grantouch pianos). Match the Kawai action with a quality and expressive sound source (I use a GEM Promega3) and you have a digital piano that is a complete joy to play.
Concerning definable or variable velocity curves, I think these can be dangerous. I don't think you should ever adjust these unless there is something completely wonky in the way they are set up. Use the middle or default setting and then practise and learn that. If you use a velocity curve to compensate for a defect in your technique, then you simply propogate that defect. (It is similar to sustain pedal usage. If you find yourself using the sustain to correct fingering errors or just lazy technique, then take your right foot off the pedal!) Remember, how many real pianos have adjustable velocity curves?
So, Kawai for the best (but a little expensive). Fatar inside keyboards are good and you can do a lot with them but sooner or later, you will start to find the limits and once those limits impose themselves on your technique, you are in trouble.
after looking for 1.5 sad years and almost buying either the Yammy P250 or S90 (to get off the KX2500's toy action), this MP9500 is making me practise again for hours per day...bec you can actually practice (I mean sweating and forearms aching).
Sure the sampled piano sounds are not incredible compared to some of the virtual synths coming out these days (e.g., Ivory) and sure it doesn't look sleek but this is one dynamically expressive board...I will use it exclusively as the master keyboard for the studio...
and sure maybe the Yammy Grandtouch is a little better in the action dept but its more than double the price and has only one piano sound which is too bright and real killer....no wheels...