I spent a few hours in Guitar Center yesterday, searching for a suitable 88-key master controller and demoed more monitors. Here are some observations:

They didn’t have any of the Studiologic models there, except for a used Fatar Studio 900 that’s got cigarrete burns on the keys. The Fatar’s got pretty nice action, but lacked any modern controls like knobs, sliders, and buttons. I really liked the key action on the Casio AP45 Digital Console Piano. Good keys really does inspire you to play better, and it’s so much more enjoyable to just mess around and improvise. Unfortunately the AP45 doesn’t have any MIDI related features, so it’s out of the question. The Yamaha S08 had pretty good key action, but I’m not sure if it’s got aftertouch. The onboard sounds on the S08 were horrible, but I only need a master controller so I won’t touch any of the onboard sounds anyway. I was disappointed that they still don’t have a CME UF8 on display, but I was told if I find the M-Audio Keystation Pro 88/ProKeys 88 not up to par (but already much improved to just a year ago), the UF8 would be even more disappointing. I’ll probably just bite the bullet and get the high end Studiologic model (VMK-188) at this point, as I find playing on a set of mediocre keys very uninspiring. However, since finding out that Novation has released a version of the ReMOTE SL without any keys (just the knobs/sliders/buttons, with automap), I’m very tempted to get that for all non-key controls. The automap would be a real time-saver. If that’s the case, I should pick an 88-key controller without any additional controls. Maybe the Studiologic SL-880 Pro? I’m looking at the Kurzweil PC1X and Yamaha S90 too, but I really don’t need the onboard sounds. I’d probably get a Yamaha BC3 Breath Controller as well for more expressiveness. Maybe even a Kurzweil or Doepfer ribbon controller–but I’m getting ahead of myself here. Since I mentioned Doepfer, I’m sure some of you are thinking “Why not the LMK4+?” Well, AFAIK, it uses a Fatar keybed, so not really worth it to pay more–except maybe for that cool built-in flight case.

Some thoughts on monitors:
I tested some monitors yesterday too, and I have to say, the KRK R8’s sounded better this time around, but still not on my favorites list. The Event SP8’s still sound very silky to me, but the bass still seems a bit lacking (or maybe it’s simply more accurate?). The Alesis M1’s sounded horrible–the bass was way too hyped (maybe someone messed with the settings?). I still love the sound of the Mackie HR824, but it’s a tough call. The Event SP8’s can be tweaked in the back for the bass, so maybe that’ll take care of the weaker bass problem. The JBL’s they had were the most expensive, but they don’t really sound better/more accurate to me. The M-Audio stuff still sound way too harsh, but supposedly ever since Avid bought them, they’ve been updating and improving their entire product line–as Avid doesn’t want crappy products to stain their name.