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Poor man's ProKeys 88?
Old 29th January 2013
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🎧 10 years
Poor man's ProKeys 88?

Hey all,

I'm looking for a keyboard/digital piano/MIDI controller hybrid to add to my studio with a couple of features and I'm wondering what you've heard of that matches my criteria. The things I'm looking for are:
1)USB midi interface, absolutely essential
2)some degree of velocity detection in the keys. I don't care if they're weighted, or semi-weighted as long as they give me a dynamic range.
3)Dedicated pitch and modulation wheels.
4)The ability to turn it on and just play it like a regular instrument, without being wired through my whole computer setup.

The first three of these things are really easy to find together. I can pick up a basic M-Audio KeyRig 49 for around $80 and have a decent low-end midi controller. But it's useless without the computer and has no onboard sound of any kind.

On the other hand, in the c.$300-350 range are workstation keyboards like the Yamaha NPV60. These ones play on their own with decent-ish practice sound. But they have a million features I have no need for and don't really want to pay for: I don't need a graded/weighted pianolike keyboard, or 160-plus increasingly fake instrument sounds, or a built in beatbox, or the ability to do any kind of multitrack MIDI recording on the keyboard itself: that's what I use the computer for, if needed. Worse yet, most of them have a pitch wheel but not another miscellaneous mod wheel. This sounds like a small thing, but it's really important for controlling articulations on any high-end VSTi, so that strings or horns articulate like real instruments and not like keyboards pretending badly.

For some reason, to get a device that does both of these very simple things (a USB MIDI controller, with at least one onboard piano sound and speakers), one has to go for the much more expensive stage pianos. The very lowest-end model I can find is the M-Audio ProKeys 88, which has everything I need but clocks in at around $750. (I've seen them online for cheaper, but shipping something that size to Canada can actually end up making it more expensive). There are lots of keyboards that would do what I'm asking, but they go up in price from there. Keyboard is nothing like my main instrument, and I can't afford to drop close to 3 grand on a Korg Professional Arranger (though I'd dearly love to, if the lottery is kind).

Is there a bargain-basement alternative to the ProKeys 88 I've missed? I really don't need anything like the build or sound quality... just something that I can play with whether it's plugged in or not. If I can't find something similar under $450-500, I might actually be better off grabbing a cheap under-$100 MIDI controller AND a generic mickey-mouse keyboard for plinking around on.

What do you think? I've been looking at the Yamaha PSRE433 which is suspiciously cheap...again, no mod wheel, though it looks like it has a couple of extra control knobs in a much more inconvenient place.

Thanks, all, for any help you can give.
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