I bought this primarily for home studio use and for the occasional gig to pair with my Nord Electro 5D. It's a relatively light 88 key weighted controller with an uncluttered layout with a bright, clear colour screen. It's unusual because it has very few programmable controls - so there are no faders or programmable knobs and switches. What you get instead are 3 joysticks - more on this later. It has excellent MIDI and USB connectivity and features 4 connections for foot pedals.
The instrument was very well packed and came with a manual on CD, a PS-100 sustain pedal and a universal power adapter with plug attachments for various countries. The SL88 has a clean uncluttered design with a metal chassis, plastic end cheeks and looks great. The keybed is the Fatar TP/100LR with aftertouch which is the same one Nord uses in the Electro HP. Despite reading a few negative reviews of the TP/100 action I have to say that I like the action, it's close enough to a real piano action for me and is a perfect match for the Nord pianos. It's not too heavy or sluggish compared to the Roland RD64 which has the Ivory Feel-G keybed.
In use I was able to get the right keyboard response just using the preset velocity curves. There are another 6 user setups. This is programmed using the SL88 editor which installed and ran with no problems. You can also adjust the key balance of each note independently and the key balance between black and white keys - so you can have a lighter touch on the back keys and heavier on the white. I suspect this might be similar to the software Nord use when setting up their keyboards.
At first the supplied SL88 software seemed the best way to edit the controller but there are some features that need to be improved. On the Global/MIDI setup page you have to manually select the USB port to connect with the SL88 - it does not auto sense that it's there. You then discover there are 2 USB ports for the SL88 and you must connect to port 2, nothing in the manual about this. This setting is not stored and you have to set it up every time you start the editor. It is very quick to program the four zones except for the key zones which can only be changed using the on screen knob. It should be possible to play a key to set upper and lower limits! Syncing your setups could also be improved as you have to transfer and save them to the computer first, then sync them back. You can't simply edit the setups you have copied from the the SL88. You can't even rename your setups - you have to edit them, then drag and drop using organise then re-sync them with the hardware. I gave up with the software and now do everything 'live' on the SL88. So big thumbs down unless they update it.
OK then so what it's like editing the SL88 directly? In a word, counter-intuitive - er that's two words. Even though there are only 3 main buttons I found I was always pressing the wrong one. There is also a button on the entry data entry stick but it is not that obvious what it does at first. Now it might just be me but I have no problems getting around a Nord Electro or even a MOXF. I am pleased to say the having stuck with it for 2 weeks I can program setups very quickly but it was very frustrating at first. It still amazes me that you can't program key zones by pressing a key on the keyboard but the colour screen helps.
The 3 joysticks (which are small) are completely programmable per patch but many players will miss the standard pitch and mod wheels. They have tried to make them as flexible as possible by having fully sprung, half sprung and not sprung at all. However, in practice the fully sprung one is best used like the Roland Bender - which means you can't leave the Mod (Y-axis) in the sweet spot. So you might decide to use Mod (controller 1) on the second joystick but I found as this is sprung along the X-axis and has a tendency to jump back to the centre position unless you are very careful. The unsprung stick is excellent if you need to control an X/Y pad like the vector control on a Wavestation.
And finally, to the connections on the back of the instrument. There are 4 sockets that take a range of foot switches and pedals. The switch inputs are auto sensing but you must plug them in before you switch on. I had no problems with a Yamaha FC-7 and an M-Audio EX-P expression pedals in input 3. Input 4 is universal and can be used for a triple pedal. Each zone can be set up to respond or ignore these inputs. The MIDI setup is interesting as there is a MIDI input which can merge incoming data and send it to one, but only one of the four zones - would have been useful to be able to merge this to 2 or more zones at once. Standard messages such as volume, program and bank changes are easy to setup and each zone can be programmed to output to either USB, MIDI 1 or MIDI 2.
Great keyboard action Only weighs 13Kg and looks great Good MIDI implementation Bright TFT colour screen Setlist option, you can have many setups for different bands/projects
Interface is not intuitive Joysticks don't cut it for me - would prefer Pitch and Mod Wheels as well Software is not good enough Manual could be better
Verdict: an excellent controller once you learn how to program it.
I bought this controller mainly as a weighted option to use with my Korg Kronos 61 keyboard. I did not require many physical controllers on my master keyboard. After trying the Studiologic 88 with my Kronos, I do not regret the buy. The keybed of the Studiologic adds so much life to the great piano and Rhodes/Wurlitzer sounds of the Kronos. The keybed itself has a rather authentic piano feel. Some people may find it to be a little on the heavier side. It is in my opinion very pleasing to play. The Studiologic 88 is very simple and intuitive to operate. There are very few buttons and controllers on the keyboard but each of them serves its purpose very well. The joysticks seem to be of good quality and I like the fact that they differ between being spring loaded and free moving. Connectivity is very good: 1 USB port, 2 Midi out ports, 1 Midi in port. 4 controller ports which differ in functionality. It also has a power connector and comes with an included power supply. The user interface is very user friendly. I have not had any reason to read the manual because of the easy operation. Also, the controller software is very easy to use and aids in quick editing of programs/patches. The only thing I can fault with the software is the fact that I had to manually select the USB port within the software to connect with the SL88. Regarding build quality, the controller is very well built (Metal chassis with rugged plastic end caps) but yet is lightweight and easy to carry around. For the application I am using the SL88 for, it is hard to beat the price/performance factor and I am extremely satisfied with my purchase.
One more thing not related to the keyboard itself, excellent service from Thomann.
Pros: Price Great keybed Build quality Ease of use Good controller software Good I/O (Midi+USB, Controller pedals) Power supply and foot switch included
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