Akai Professional Mini Play by twinreverb
This was my first keyboard. A little background: I went to college primarily for piano for 3.5 years and accomplished a good junior piano recital. Definitely not my first rodeo. So when I saw how cheap this is, I decided to buy it. I did so because, even though I am primarily an electric guitarist at this stage in my life, I have dabbled in pads to help my church improve its sound. It's time for me to have my own way to help.
Out of the box, it has a good electric piano factory preset, as well as a couple decent pad, string, and bass presets. Of the 128 factory presets, really the only ones that are usable for live music are about a dozen of them. The rest, focusing on simulating real acoustic instruments like flutes, guitars, etc, aren't worth using in my opinion because it's like they're trying to hard to simulate the real instrument but their budget doesn't match the level of complexity required to simulate it. Or maybe the onboard electronics aren't of sufficient complexity to be able to handle it.
Now you can do a lot of cool modifications to the patches it contains and save those to presets. I found 8 user presets to be more than enough. However, you don't have the level of control you would have with a real synth.
As a MIDI controller, it works as advertised. I couldn't figure out how to get the knob positions to be transmitted over MIDI, but all the keys work fine.
Interestingly, this thing has complete 128 polyphony as advertised. I doubted that, so I tried holding down keys and sure enough it wasn't a lie, that I could tell. As I added keys, I could still hear the ones I had previously pressed, which makes me think this might not be a synthesizer internally, but instead more of a "recorded audio but with the ability to filter" kind of setup.
The keyboard is really what annoyed me the most. I have sausage fingers, which means a real piano (like I trained on for years) works, but miniature keyboards do not. To be fair, I'm not at all expecting the Mini Play to feel like a real piano, much less a Steinway. (Dang those things are perfect, by the way.) But my big fingers mean I need to take non-ergonomic poses and/or reach over (with an electric guitar strapped to me) with both hands and assume a weird two-notes-per-hand policy. I can tolerate full size keyboards with no feel, like some older synths. I can tolerate the Yamaha "I want to feel like a piano" action of some of their keyboards, even though (to be honest) it sucks a lot in terms of being too stiff. The Mini Play keyboard is both too small AND too stiff.
What's more, it has the worst acceleration response of any keyboard I've used. Basically, it doesn't even register your fingers until you hit it medium hard (mezzoforte). If you hit it less hard, no sound. If you hit it any harder (forte), most patches (and especially, depressingly, the pads, which is why I bought it) take on a nasal quality. So playing live, it was like playing on eggshells.
All in all, sure, I can't complain too much about a $140 keyboard. But the keyboard was so bad that I can't even justify using it as a MIDI controller.
I am not a laptop + MIDI controller fan. I am not judging anyone if they are, but it's just not me (due to other factors). I want a keyboard with a bunch of knobs, just like my guitar processor (Boss ME-70, lots of knobs). I want to be able to tweak while live. This keyboard doesn't offer a lot of that, the patches aren't so good, and the keyboard isn't very good. But for $140, if you just want pads for church, it's hard to complain. That is, if you don't mind the keyboard.
Finally, the battery bay spring is way too long, causing major problems. Seriously, it would need someone to open it up, compress the spring, and apply solder to shorten the spring. Given all the other problems, I wasn't interested in doing this.