The announcement of the MP8-II was met with great curiosity on my part, and prompted me to go out and try it to compare against my Kawai MP8. I've been very happy with the MP8, having upgraded to it from a Yamaha P250. I also own a Steinway concert grand so I'm one of those that is constantly seeking the most authentic piano feel for my main controller (in the studio).
First, I have nothing but good things to say about the Yamaha P250, or what's evolved from that line. I opted for the MP8, however, because I really prefer the heavier feel, and to me, the MP8 simply matches up like nothing else to a real piano - again, not talking about the sounds. I don't bother with any of the onboard ROM libraries expect for "sketching out" ideas - for me piano come courtesy of either various Giga libraries or Ivory.
The one thing I miss about the P250 is the faster response in higher registers than the MP8, but overall, the MP8 has better MIDI controller facilities and simply feels much closer to a real piano... so no regrets.
The announcement of the MP8-II therefore was met with hope namely because others posts suggested that the repetitive key strike issue had been improved with the AWA PRO-II action... so I took it for a test drive the other day after a solid workout on the MP8 beforehand.
MP8-II: Big disappointment in the new action. The new action is faster, but it is also much lighter and this, in turn, degrades the overall feel. I would liken the new AWA PRO-II action to be much closer to Yamaha's S90 action, definitely not even on par with a P250; at least that's what it felt like to me. Not sure if this was specific to just the unit I demoed, but the surface of the keys also felt strange; hard to describe but the MP8 key surfaces have a VERY nice high quality finish and there's very little slippage when you strike at high-speed. Not so with the MP8-II... it's a big step back in my opinion, and I didn't go into this hoping for or anticipating this experience.
Whilst reviewing other MP8 posts, I happened upon many that praised the special FATAR action found in Doepfer controllers. Happens that the US distributor is located here in LA so I took a drive over the try out the high-end model, the LMK4+ I thought I'd share my thoughts since many of you might be interested in this unit (especially if you play live, which I do not). In a nutshell, it's a great board! It feels VERY VERY close to the P250 action, and of course, you have the advantage of exceptional MIDI control (8 zones!) and much improved portability over either the P series or MP8/MP8-II. If I were a live player, I would definitely use this controller.
However, the LMK4+ still falls short of the MP8 in terms of overall feel and weight of the keys, and other Doepfer models apart from the higher end LMK4+ aren't in the ballpark (in terms of feel).
Final analysis (of "feel"):
- If you are looking for a master controller with the absolute closest piano feel, have reasonable MIDI controller requirements, and don't require portability, the MP8 is my recommendation. But stay away from the MP8-II. NOW, seems the right time to acquire the MP8 since everyone has recently lowered their price and new units won't be around for very long (once the MP8-II hits distribution). Should add that MIDI control capabilities have been improved in the MP8-II, but the degraded feel more than offsets the new features.
- If you are looking for a stage piano with excellent feel, faster key speed, but at the expense of the level of authenticity (feel) provided by the MP8, but with the best onboard sounds, I'd probably have to say Yamaha P series or the newer line wins out here. Not the most portable, but still lighter than the MP8.
- If you are looking for the best feel with maximum portability (in a controller), I would have to recommend the LMK4+ My impression of the LMK4+ is a portable MIDI controller version of the P250; they feel nearly identical!
Hope this helps, and preface that everything herein is one person's opinion...
My complaint with controllers are that when one does have a more controllable action, it lacks performance features. These companies are just making money off of the same regurgitations over, and over.
I will spend a nice chunk of change for a controller that controls, and has closely emulated action. But the keys must be a good foot long to do that. I currently use those cheaply made KS-88's. They have top notch MIDI CC controls, but the action was so-so. I did the old Yamaha KX-88 trick and lined it w/ piano felt. It actually works fairly well. You have more control over the softer dynamics, and since my piano libraires are mostly 16 layered, it's good enough.
The LMK4+I sounds tempting, but I think I will wait for this model. After all, when I want to play other instruments than grand piano, PAT and performance features are what I need.
2 things happen when playing 88 note digital piano action boards. The action could be O.K., but if you hear the dynamics responding to your touch, that's what it's all about. I am sure most of us have played several different keyboards and real pianos before. Your cooridination makes it work, not the fake half length " Balsawood" keys. Heavy action comes from real wood, with a little weight and heavy ironwood key covers, not plastic.
I will complain as many others have here about this, but one day somebody will get it right.
These guys have definately got my attention. I know this for sure, it will play the multi layered libraries we all have very well. PAT is a very good weapon when emulating serious dynamics, as well as Pedal Steel, and other complicated sampled content.
Did I mention it will have an iPhone interface, half the size of the Open Labs Neko's?
Looks really interesting! The only thing is, they limit it to 77 keys so it can fold up and go on an airline. (And most of us need 88 keys to utilize keyswitching, splits, and the full range of sounds.) Also, the software is PC only. If they expand those options, it could be a dream come true.
I wish they would incorporate that actually. I use all of the keys myself, but for real PAT and a high quality keybed, it might be workable.
I will watch them anyway, as I am sure many people will think the 77 note design is inadequate. I could care less about the folding actually, they seem to think it's marketable.
The guys at Open Labs had a great 88 note model at first then decided to go with the smaller keybeds also. I'm glad they did, or i might have bought one and been dissapointed like the people I know who purchased one. Serious heating issues w/ the AMD Opterons, and P4's.
I couldn't agree with you more. For now, the closest thing to that endgame is the MP8 (mark I). But always room for improvement! It's surprising to me that the manufacturers continue to aim mid-market - no one seems to recognize that people would be more than willing to pay a premium price for a such controller - and it sure wouldn't be a tremendous stretch for either Yamaha or Kawai, no?
It's a buyers market, and their ROI is the main driving force.
I lay awake at night often dreaming of the perfect controller w/ PAT, 88 real long wooden keys w/ HEAVY action, updatable LCD's about 20 thank you very much.
My ancient Oberheim Matrix 12 / XPander combo is stuffed w/ updatable LCD's. I have never seen anything close to that since. But there again, the action was the worst action ever released on a keyboard in the HISTORY of keyboards. They move slightly sideways, and hug your fingers so closely that staccatos become a major effort. But the control of Modulation sources and sound still has no equal. John Bowens Solaris in hardware shall finally put my Oberheims away. As they deserve a proper burial in my project studio.
Hang In There Gents, Someone Will Surely Hear Our Plea's.
MP8-II: Big disappointment in the new action. The new action is faster, but it is also much lighter and this, in turn, degrades the overall feel. /QUOTE]
Fastonkeys, here's a post from the Digial forum on PianoWorld: "A note on the weight on the AWA Pro action vs AWA Pro II. I just talked with 2 Kawai technical representatives on the phone yesterday. Both of them told me the keyboard action's weight on the AWA Pro II & AWA Pro are exactly the same. What's different is the friction when each key is being pressed down. We didn't get into more detail than that but my guess is that this might have something to do with the responsiveness of the keyboard."
Informative post, thanks. One thing you didn't mention was how the board senses velocity, and how that translates into the useable resolution when playing.
I've had my MP9500 for a couple of months, replacing an LMK4+. Nice as the Doepfer felt, it used the same rubber contact method of velocity sensing as is usual for MIDI keyboards of all kinds, and the resolution while playing was at best +/- 12 or so (out of MIDI's 127). You had about five dynamic levels you could play into with any level of control.
The Kawaii's hammer/struck sensor approach, at least on my MP9500, works much better, especially at lower velocities. The playable resolution is about double that of the Doepfer, or other keyboards I've used.
This is what I was hoping for in making the switch (purchased on eBay never having played a Kawaii), and it's worked out to be one of the best purchases I've made. Such a pleasure being able to play with real expression.
I would really appreciate a favor from you though if you ever have the time or additional hardware required.
I am more concerned about it's ability to send the levels of control, as well as play, but I have a vast library I have built since 1999, and 15 years prior to that of Emu, Sample Cell, and Akai. These libraries alone are not awe inspiring anymore, but I have mixed them in Editors to create or replace other layers to make some nice custom performances.
The ability to send the same level of control is very important to me. I guess I could drag my racks to a local store for a demo. But I have been pulling doubles lately and lack the drive. one gig is great, but then the other gig I am forced to listen to a female singer who looks great, but the vocals and music are destructive to my ears. Thank God the pay is good.