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MIDI Keyboard Review: SL990XP vs. Yamaha KX8 Keyboard Controllers
Old 4th September 2008
  #1
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MIDI Keyboard Review: SL990XP vs. Yamaha KX8

I have been researching and planning my keyboard purchase for several months now. I drove up and down California and went to about 10 different music stores trying to find various MIDI keyboard that I was interested in, but of course, nobody had any of them.

So, I looked at the specs and features, price, and decided to order my two favorites according to paper and try them out side by side, returning the one that I liked least. MusiciansFriend.com has a 45 day, no questions asked return policy that made all of this possible- nice dealing with them. Here are the results:

Yamaha KX8:

Quality: The keys feel very realistic, though the keys feel a little on the lighter side. Almost feels like a Piano that has been worn in a bit over time. The keys themselves are decent, but when I first saw them, I was a bit disappointed in that they have that very plastic composition (as in, when you play them, sometimes they squeak against the friction of your fingers). This squeakiness subsided as I played and as the oils from my hands got on the keys. The Pitch and Mod wheel have a good resistance, not too much, and they have grippy grooves to help you move it around without having to keep your finger in the dimpled spot. One complaint I had for the KX8 was that the case looks very sturdy and solid in pictures, but its actually just a basic black plastic cover. It doesnt look very elegant and you can hear the lack of solid parts when you play hard (you can hear the plasticness of it sometimes). It is a very light keyboard though, at about 40lbs. The bottom of the keyboard is made of some sort of cardboard/wood stuff that I never like seeing. I prefer my keyboards to be encapsulated, I dislike the wood stuff on the bottom of gear, but thats just a personal thing.

Features: There are not many features on this keyboard, it has a nice little built in menu, but aside from adjustments for the ARP function and a selection of 5 velocity curves, there wasnt much else to do in there. I actually prefer the lack of features, less things to break or accidentally press. There is an interesting place in the menu where you can choose which DAW you are going into. It includes Cubase, Sonar, Logic, and a couple others. One thing I particularly liked about this keyboard is that it has USB and is capable of being bus-powered. So I just plugged it into my USB hub and away I went. Only thing to note is that this keyboard only has one pedal connection which isnt an issue for me, but might be for others.

Overall: I liked the Yamaha because it was very simple (though not as simple as the SL990XP), it had a nice comfortable key feel (though a bit lighter than I would like, which leads to me being more apt to accidentally brush a key and have it sound unintentionally- and yes, this is in part due to my needing to brush up on my chops). For the price of US$700 Shipped from musicians friend, if you like what you hear, its not a bad keyboard. The things that I didnt like about it were the cheap plastic of the case, the slightly undesirable key texture, and the key feel itself being a bit too light.

SL990XP:
Quality: I was surprised. It is mostly of metal construction, the keys have a much better texture- more of a flat black consitency if you can imagine that- more realistic in terms of texture. Now, the keyboard FEEL itself is much more rugged and solid. Almost too solid. The keys dont feel quite as realistic as the KX8, But you feel very secure and very "sure-footed" when you play. The Yamaha KX8 would let you accidentally brush notes, this keyboard will not. Your fingers feel a little more confident when playing this keyboard, it seems more like only the notes you want to play are going to be played. Again- good pianists wont have this issue, but I consider myself to be of moderate skill. The Mod and Pitch wheel feel about as good as the Yamaha but lack the grooved edges, so it seems a little easier to slip if you are sweaty while playing a show or something. The grooved edges would have been nice. Alas, the bottom of this keyboard is metal (yay!) and overall it feels more solid. the only non-solid feeling thing about this keyboard is that the 4/5 buttons on top that you use to change banks and what not, they are pretty loose and if you really get banging on the keyboard, they can jingle and sound chatty. I may just run a peice of tape over them if this becomes more of an issue, but it only happens occassionally. Not a deal breaker by any means.

Features: The SL990XP has no features.

Ok just kidding, but seriously... 2 MIDI, 2 pedal connections, power, and a few buttons that I will probably never use. It also has only one fixed velocity curve, which is actually set pretty nicely to where you will probably only ever get to the velocity of 125 hitting it really hard.

The SL990 is BAREBONES, but solid. And, for half the price of the Yamaha KX8, I decided to stick with this one to play Ivory in my DAW.

KX8: US$700
990: US$350

Aside from a small hiccup in that the SL990XP modwheel (it wouldnt only transmit up to 99, instead of 127), the SL990 I preferred on several levels. The modwheel issue is being currently resolved by Fatar. I received a response from Italy a day after sending my question and now they are sending me a new assembly free of charge with instructions on how to install it- simple. I like that they were so quick to help me and no questions asked, are sending me a new free unit. Didnt ask me for warranty info, didnt ask me when I bought it, just fixed it- now THAT's customer service.

I would highly recommend the SL990XP, or you can go 100$ more and get the SL990PRO which has I believe one LESS pedal connector, but many more velocity curve choices and so on.

Please ask any questions about things I may not have covered. I'll update this thread if I recall anything I missed.

Note: Neither of these keyboards have aftertouch (what a shame), but I believe both have graded hammer action (which means that the keys feel lighter the higher up the keyboard you go, like a real piano would).

Old 4th September 2008
  #2
Gear Nut
 

I appreciate this review, ive been considering the KX88 for a little while.
Old 4th September 2008
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red_venom View Post
I appreciate this review, ive been considering the KX88 for a little while.
Thank you- Though be careful with the KX88 and the KX8, the Yamaha KX8 (reviewed here) is the newer one that just came out this year, while the KX88, I believe, is a much older model- though still very much loved in this community it seems.
Old 8th September 2008
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkEcho View Post
Thank you- Though be careful with the KX88 and the KX8, the Yamaha KX8 (reviewed here) is the newer one that just came out this year, while the KX88, I believe, is a much older model- though still very much loved in this community it seems.
Is there any affordable keyboard with the lovely feel you ascribe to that Fatar that has aftertouch? It makes no sense to me that you could buy a real piano and tune it into beautiful playability for less money than it takes to recreate that experience in keyboard form...
Old 8th September 2008
  #5
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkEcho View Post
Thank you- Though be careful with the KX88 and the KX8, the Yamaha KX8 (reviewed here) is the newer one that just came out this year, while the KX88, I believe, is a much older model- though still very much loved in this community it seems.
ah yes sorry i meant the kx8.

anyone have any thoughts on the best 76 key non-weighted on the market? Seems everyone bickers about all the CME stuff, ive tried 2 versions out and they felt ok.. but if the drivers suck and they break I am a little hesitant.
Old 27th September 2008
  #6
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Red_venom View Post
I appreciate this review, ive been considering the KX88 for a little while.
This is rerally interesting! I, too, have been devating with myself between the KX 8 and the StudioLogic.

I have been working with the DPM-C8 for sixteen years now. Apart from what I (jokingly) call a design flaw, the machine has worked flawlesly.

The "design flaw" is,that the back up battery was too close to the mother board, so it juiced onto the MOBO.

When the resultant malfunction happened, the dealer contacted Peavey and I had a new, free MOBO in a week (I was in Barbados). thumbsup

The absence of aftertouch is not a dealbreaker for me. I am learning to draw conroller info into sequencers now, so ....

I am/was curious about the arpeggio function in the KX, but that was all that would have steered me in that direction.

Thanx for the review, DarkEcho. You have made my decision an easy one.
Old 27th September 2008
  #7
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I'm glad this is helping a few fellow keyboardists.

Update: I got a replacement Modwheel assembly from Italy (mine would only transmit to 99, vs 127) I replaced it in a few minutes, it was as easy as taking out a few screws, opening the case (which opens with a cool piano hinge BTW) and then swapping out the assembly via 4 screws and unclipping a connector. There is almost nothing in there as far as electronics, which is fine with me, less to break. You have all the mechanical hammer action components, then you have a little board and thats it.

One more thing to note about the SL990XP is that the buttons are black plastic and they can wiggle around in their holes and lightly tap the sides of the metal case surrounding them. the result is that it sounds like you have a screw loose inside the case somewhere, which can get annoying. Luckily this is only a problem if you are banging on it like a deaf Beethoven. I tried to figure out an easy way to silence the buttons but came up empty handed. Of course, I haven't heard the noise since. I imagine that if it got really bad, I'd just throw a strip of masking tape over it, because I have yet to touch those buttons anyway.

It would be nice for Studiologic to provide some sort of foam insert that holds the buttons in place so they dont wiggle around, but for the price of this board, I still cant complain.
Old 23rd November 2008
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for the post. I am kind of in the same position as you were with the added obstacle of not touching a keyboard for the past 10 years. Allot has changed !

Looking at the SL specs it does not appear to have a USB port. Is that correct?
Old 7th March 2009
  #9
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Thank you for the review !

Now I'm go for Studiologic. I have had the S90ES and I have loved his action-key but the keyboard of the KX8 is the same of the CP33 and I don't love it. <- Nope, see my next post.
I have never tried the Studiologic but from what you write it surely has a keyboard better than the VX8.
I'm a pianist and which is most important for me is the key-touch-feeling.

Thank you again, all the best !
Old 11th March 2009
  #10
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
Thank you for the review !

Now I'm go for Studiologic. I have had the S90ES and I have loved his action-key but the keyboard of the VK8 is the same of the CP33 and I don't love it.
I have never tried the Studiologic but from what you write it surely has a keyboard better than the VX8.
I'm a pianist and which is most important for me is the key-touch-feeling.

Thank you again, all the best !
I can assure you that the keybed of the VX8 is not the same as that of the CP33. These keybeds feel so different. I would believe that the p140 and the CP33 share the same keybed because they feel quite similar. But the VX8 feels way cheaper than the CP33. I mean way cheaper.
Old 11th March 2009
  #11
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Yes, apologize for my mistake.

The KX8 is Graded Hammer Standard (GHS), the CP33 is Graded Hammer Effect (GHE)
Old 16th March 2009
  #12
_rd
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I just received the KX8 and I love it. Although I am picky when it comes to the feel of the keys, they got it just right (= realistic) with this one.
It seems like it isn't able to send MIDI via USB and the MIDI-out port simultaneously though, which is a bit troublesome for me. But I'll RTMF to make sure I didn't overlook anything.
Old 16th March 2009
  #13
_rd
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_rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
Have you played a "real" piano for to say that ?
(Are you a pianist ?)
Of course, different pianos have different feels, so YMMV. I am not a classical pianist, but I play pianos for >20 years now.
Old 16th March 2009
  #14
_rd
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And BTW... I confirmed that the KX8 is not able to send your playing's MIDI data to both the MIDI and USB ports simultaneously.
Old 16th March 2009
  #15
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The TRUE classical pianist is most likely un-employed or working at the local car wash

Hopefully your one of the 20 people in this world who make a living as a CLASSICAL PIANIST. Your def a classical pianist as your arrogance shines bright
Old 16th March 2009
  #16
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dan p's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by _rd View Post
I just received the KX8 and I love it. Although I am picky when it comes to the feel of the keys, they got it just right (= realistic) with this one.
It seems like it isn't able to send MIDI via USB and the MIDI-out port simultaneously though, which is a bit troublesome for me. But I'll RTMF to make sure I didn't overlook anything.
Yeah,it feels good for a controller.Price is right but damn i'm having trouble running my pocket pedal volume pedal with kx8.Not enough inputs on the rear of the kx8 for control pedal input.This totally sucks and i may have to go back to my pc88 for a controller and use the kx8 at another studio i work at.


Dan P
Old 16th March 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
Yes but the classical pianist (the real one) has a technical background that allow he to valuate correctly the mechanics of a keyboard....

Then they seem all in agreement to say that KX8 is crap. It's good for keyboardists but crappy for pianist.
Everything is crap compared to a real piano.
I played plenty of classical music and a real piano works best imo.
Kx8 is fine for a controller in the recording studio and most other music.



Dan P
Old 17th March 2009
  #18
_rd
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_rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
If someone has a tech-cultural background than he is arrogant?
I'm sorry but you are completely wrong. If you haven't studied piano technically you can't valuate properly the mechanics. You only can like or dislike it. This is a fact not arrogance or frustration by keyboardist. In every thing if you don't have technical knowledge you cannot correctly valuate it.
I am not an expert of art and so I cannot valuate a sculpture properly. And of sure, I don't call arrogant who know how

I know that I can't compare a controller to a real piano, but as pianist I can compare a good mechanics with a bad ones

Concluding: the KX8 is crap and toysh and it don't feel close a piano like CP33 does. (You can like or not this but you can't cange the reality).
In the next days I'll try the Sudiologic that it seems to have better mechanics.
Wow. This is tedious.

Quote:
and it don't feel close a piano
Can you tell me where this prototype of a piano is located? In Sèvres, next to the metre?
“All generalizations are false, including this one.” (Mark Twain)

I was talking about the feel of the keys. I don't care whether the mechanics are made of bubble gum and matches if the feel is right.
Old 17th March 2009
  #19
_rd
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_rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dan p View Post
Yeah,it feels good for a controller.Price is right but damn i'm having trouble running my pocket pedal volume pedal with kx8.Not enough inputs on the rear of the kx8 for control pedal input.This totally sucks and i may have to go back to my pc88 for a controller and use the kx8 at another studio i work at.


Dan P
You could also use something like this:

MIDI Solutions Pedal Controller; Continuous MIDI Data Generator
Old 17th March 2009
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
Have you played a "real" piano for to say that ?
(Are you a pianist ?)
This is what prompted my statement. youll NEVER find any controller that will even come close to a real piano, you and I both know that. I feel your frustration with this issue, believe me. I WISH they would simply copy the mechanics of the actual piano itself. NOTHING feels like a concert grand to me, not even close. Yamaha tried this years ago with the digital piano that had strings and hammers and such, I forget the model but I played one , CP88 I think it was

To me the vast diff in the feel of all of them is crazy. We can get the sounds OK with
Ivory, Galaxy II or Quantum Leap Pianos which is great , I just wich the keyboards would catch up.
Old 17th March 2009
  #21
_rd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
We know well this. I'm surprise when someone that doesn't have knowledges in a matter and he wants to sentence and to be right, insulting who has more competence... Years of study, a professional background and more
Welcome to my ignore list. fuuck
Old 17th March 2009
  #22
_rd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkEcho View Post
Note: Neither of these keyboards have aftertouch (what a shame), but I believe both have graded hammer action (which means that the keys feel lighter the higher up the keyboard you go, like a real piano would).

AFAIK, the 990 does indeed have aftertouch.
Old 17th March 2009
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a1236040 View Post
We know well this. I'm surprise when someone that doesn't have knowledges in a matter and he wants to sentence and to be right, insulting who has more competence... Years of study, a professional background and more
The frustration to have bought something that is not excellent, it doesn't justify this rudeness...
However, today I'll go to a store with a friend , that like me is a pianist from conservatory and teacher of piano. We know that nothing has the same mechanics of a real piano, but we can try and valuate who has the best mechanics close to piano, and who is a marketing-toy in a range by 500 to 1200 euro.

Perhaps the difference of language is a problem....

Here is the problem Im having with YOU. YOU assume that everyone on this board has no background in the classics and has no understanding of what your talking about when it comes to piano mechanics. Thats where YOU are wrong my man. Come down of your high horse theretutt. BTW, you just proved my point being professional and allfuuck
Old 17th March 2009
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _rd View Post
Got one already but cant get it to work yet.


Dan P
Old 17th March 2009
  #25
_rd
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_rd's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by shanabit View Post
I WISH they would simply copy the mechanics of the actual piano itself. NOTHING feels like a concert grand to me, not even close. Yamaha tried this years ago with the digital piano that had strings and hammers and such, I forget the model but I played one , CP88 I think it was
The CP60/CP70/CP80 had real mechanics (1 string for bass, 2 for mid and high notes), IIRC. The ones that came out later with the M suffix (e.g. CP80M) had MIDI connectors.
Old 21st March 2009
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _rd View Post
The CP60/CP70/CP80 had real mechanics (1 string for bass, 2 for mid and high notes), IIRC. The ones that came out later with the M suffix (e.g. CP80M) had MIDI connectors.
these where just real piano's. Only thing with them is that they can be disassembled quickly, are very short, have every key miked up with a piezzo element and need an amp to sound (though you can leave the lid open and still hear a piano sound, though much softer as on a real piano)
Old 21st March 2009
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rainy-taxi View Post
these where just real piano's. Only thing with them is that they can be disassembled quickly, are very short, have every key miked up with a piezzo element and need an amp to sound (though you can leave the lid open and still hear a piano sound, though much softer as on a real piano)
Back in the 80's i used cp70 electric grand with a prophet5 on top and a minimoog model d off to the side.Real keys that had pretty great action considering.The harp would swing into position with the keys and then latch up on the sides.You did have to tune it often.Great idea at the time.




Dan P
Old 22nd April 2009
  #28
Here for the gear
 

fascinating topic.

I've narrowed down my choice of Keyboards to the Fatar, CME UF80 or the Yamaha KX8. I use Cubase and have an Axiom61 keyboard already, but I'm looking for a good quality piano-style keyboard.

To be honest, the Yamaha seems to suit my needs as an all-rounder because I use Cubase and its software is fully integrated into that DAW. On the other hand, the Fatar is a bit spartan, and I've heard they have a very, very bad reputation for build quality and quality control. I'm therefore thinking of going for the Yamaha option. The only doubt in my mind is keyboard action quality - is the Fatar so much better than the Yamaha? Or is the difference between the two keyboards not big enough to matter one way or another?

Thanks for an excellent post.

Daniel
Old 22nd April 2009
  #29
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I have a yamaha S80, I considered selling it, but it is a very nice players keyboard. If you are looking for a controller, this is also something to keep in mind if you need 88 keys and a nice action for playing.
Old 27th April 2009
  #30
_rd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Polwarth View Post
fascinating topic.

I've narrowed down my choice of Keyboards to the Fatar, CME UF80 or the Yamaha KX8. I use Cubase and have an Axiom61 keyboard already, but I'm looking for a good quality piano-style keyboard.

To be honest, the Yamaha seems to suit my needs as an all-rounder because I use Cubase and its software is fully integrated into that DAW. On the other hand, the Fatar is a bit spartan, and I've heard they have a very, very bad reputation for build quality and quality control. I'm therefore thinking of going for the Yamaha option. The only doubt in my mind is keyboard action quality - is the Fatar so much better than the Yamaha?
I prefer the Yahama KX8 keyboard action to the 990 variants and the CME. If you use Cubase, for me, that would be a no-brainer. It really is built for Cubase.
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