Quality budget USB/midi piano keyboard for my son?
February 12, 2014 11:14 AM   Subscribe

My son's piano keyboard broke, it was 10+ years old. His birthday is coming up, and I would like to get him a piano keyboard with midi/usb (for making music) for his birthday. It can't be too expensive - I'm thinking $80-200 range, but a little outside is fine as well - but I don't want to get him a piece of junk either. I could use some advice, since I don't know much about keyboards and would like to keep it a surprise without picking something silly.

It doesn't have to be a full-size keyboard, but it can't be too small and the keys should be full-size. I know that he makes music on his computer, he uses something called Logic, so it should have usb/midi for that purpose. Does anyone have some recommendations? I was searching Amazon, but a lot of the budget keyboards do not seem to have usb/midi and have tiny keys. Touch sensitivity would be a plus, but it might be difficult to find in this price range. Thank you!
posted by BuddyBoo to Shopping (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does it matter if the keyboard makes sound on its own, or does it just need to control Logic?

If it's the latter, you want something like an M-Audio Keystation.

The former will be hard to find in your price range.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:28 AM on February 12, 2014

Seconding BabeTheBlueOx. If he is just using it as a MIDI control station for Logic, I heartily second an M-Audio Oxygen or similar, which is in your price range.

If he wants to play it as an actual piano, that's going to be a tough price range. For something decent you're probably looking at starting at $500, for like a Korg SP170, but that's with weighted keys, and the full 88.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:31 AM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: I think he just wants something that would work with Logic (okay - just asked his brother, who confirmed that this is the case!) . I looked up the Keystation, is this what you are talking about?


Is this a good bet? Does anyone else have any better ideas? Sorry, I don't know much about keyboards. Thanks everyone!

I just checked the second response. What is the difference between the Keystation and the Oxygen? They are the same company, right? I'm so confused!
posted by BuddyBoo at 11:35 AM on February 12, 2014

Thirding the M-Audio. I bought one because I wanted to learn how to play, and it was the cheapest one with full size keys that didn't get horrible reviews. it's been wonderful so far. Like others have mentioned, it's just a USB/midi keyboard that you hook into a computer, no audio builtin -- but from what you said, your son is using Logic to do the audio anyway.

On preview: Yes, the 61-ES is correct, it's exactly the model sitting behind my chair at the moment. :)
posted by smidgen at 11:38 AM on February 12, 2014

Oh BTW, They come in different versions 49, 61 keys and 88 keys (full piano keyboard). 61 is the most typical size (compromise) for electronic keyboards. The Oxygen just has more knobs and sliders (which are also used to control things on the computer). The Keystation is the minimal version.
posted by smidgen at 11:46 AM on February 12, 2014

Agreeing with others that the M-Audio keyboards are your best bet.

The extra knobs and sliders on the Oxygen that the Keystation doesn't have are really good fun if he's using Logic to make any kind of electronic music. If he's more of a live piano/keyboard player just recording his stuff then these are not so essential.

You mention "touch sensitivity": I assume you mean the function that is more often called velocity sensitivity, where notes sound louder the harder you play the keys. This is something that both of the M-Audio keyboards do (as do most USB controller keyboards). Some keyboards have a function called aftertouch, which enables you to control some parameters by pressing down on a key after it has been struck, but this would probably not be available in keyboards in your price range. M-Audio has a range of more expensive keyboards called Axiom that feature aftertouch, but, as I said, I'd assume this is not what you were asking after.
posted by cincinnatus c at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2014

Every single person I know who does DAW(digital audio workstation, like logic) production has an m audio keyboard. I think I might actually have more than one in storage I forgot about.

They're cheap, reliable, decently well made, and just kinda the standard. My first oxygen8 is like over ten years old.

A 49 key is fine. You don't need to overthink this.
posted by emptythought at 1:22 PM on February 12, 2014

Not much of a musician myself, but my musician SO uses this M-Audio Oxygen 49 keyboard for MIDI.
posted by Aleyn at 2:40 PM on February 12, 2014

Alesis is out as the Q49 is good value and simple but lacks controller knobs, and the QX49 (which I have) has knobs, but also has a nasty LCD screen with a horrible user interface.

Towards the top of your price range, the Novation ones are very cool, E.G. the LaunchKey 49.
Lots of knobs and trigger pads, and it comes with some great synth plugins included that used to be sold separately. I'm a fan of both the Bass Station plugin and the V-Station plugin (which used to be more than $200 on its own).
posted by w0mbat at 4:09 PM on February 12, 2014

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