This past weekend I was able to make it to my local Sam Ash store after a hiatus of a few months and I was able to try out a few things I had been looking forward to seeing.

The first of which was the much anticipated duo of the Casio XW-G1 and XW-P1. Although I didn’t get as much time to play them as I would have liked, I would like to dispel much of the criticism about their build quality. First and foremost, they are extremely light and I think this is why people are considering them to be cheap and or flimsy. They are so light that you can easily hold either keyboard with just two fingers on each hand.

However after firmly pressing down on the case from various angles, it was quite apparent that there was a support substructure underneath it as the case did not bend or flex in any way. Indeed, I even grabbed the end caps and tried to twist (torsion) the case and it felt quite solid with no hint of flexing at all.

The only weak spot on the whole synth, in my opinion, would be the keys. They felt a little loose to me, but they were quite playable. And as with any keyboard, the thing I would be worried the most about would be the keys taking a direct hit. But if you’re also worried about it not surviving a gig, I think that you’re worried a bit quite unnecessarily as I’ve seen a number of twenty year old Casio keyboards turn up at garage sales and thrift stores in excellent working condition. I don’t see why the life expectancy of these would be any different than those or any other light weight board currently on the market.

Speaking of keys, I’ve come to the conclusion that you just aren’t going to get a really stellar action from any of the MIDI controllers currently on the market. I like the action on my M-Audio 61ES semi weighted the best and even for that, there’s a bit of a klunk to it.

While I was there, I also tried out the Novation Impulse semi weighted 61 controller. I’ve been quite interested in it as it’s tailor made for working in Ableton Live. I thought about getting it for performing live, but I like my M-Audio quite a bit and I think now I’m considering just getting a Novation Remote as they run for half the price of the Impulse.

But anyway, I just wanted to mention one more thing for those of you that may also be tired of the status quo as far as keys on controllers go. Used, Sam Ash also had two digital pianos for sale that featured 88 fully weighted keys with an action that was smooth as silk for only 200$ a piece. One was a Roland digital piano and the other an M-Audio pro keys and keep in mind, digital pianos tend to run a bit large. But if you have the space for them and you can score an older unit for about the same price, you’d be getting a huge step up from the quality of the current controllers. Both were also large enough that they had a bit of a “deck” behind the keys that was large enough to hold most MIDI control surfaces. And quite possibly, even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t even need a desk for your computer based setup as you could just put the monitor and mouse right on it. Had I had the room, I most certainly would have bought one.

As always, I’d like to thank the Sam Ash here in Tampa, Fl and in particular, Greg who works in the keyboard department and whom it’s always a pleasure talking to.