In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Have you got the right music equipment to help you showcase your talent optimally? For many artists who play piano—or want to learn how to—the 88 key keyboard is the perfect solution. It’s more compact than having a traditional piano in your home and it’s portable. Let’s find out which one will suit you.
On our list of the best 88 key keyboard models on today’s market, we share information about seven different products. For us the Editor’s Choice, the M Audio Keystation 88 II, came out on top because it’s a good mix of features. The keys are at least semi-weighted and the keyboard is much more portable than some others, thanks to its weight. And of course it looks modern & stylish so you can use this on stage to impress the audience visually too. For this and each of our seven featured models you’ll find a detailed review below so you can ascertain how it fits with your preferences for buying an 88 key keyboard for beginners or even experts. We cover it all.
Top Seven 88 Key Keyboards Review 2020
In our research we looked at dimensions, because portability and size are some of the most prominent reasons consumers and musicians purchased these. Of course we also mentioned features, polyphony, the type of keys and accessories because these will tell you whether it suits your unique application. If you’re used to a normal piano, the weight of the keys will determine how comfortable you feel playing on your new device. And don’t forget to look at the number of voices that provide you with options during music production. We discuss it all.
Now, all you have to do is browse our comparison chart, read the reviews and study our buying guide to ensure you shop like the music pros. Let’s make sure you get value for money.
At the top of our list of 88 key keyboard reviews we give you the impressive Keystation from M Audio, a trusted brand in the music industry.
This model can work for novices or pros, because it’s easy to use, but has many advanced features such as the transport and directional buttons: their interface makes it easy to control DAW and Virtual Instrument details. It means you don’t need your mouse or your track pad while you’re building your tracks. The buttons are large, making it easy to make adjustments while you play.
It’s much lighter than some other models on our list, so it’s reasonably portable. Once again, this is a plus for newbies and experienced players: if you often tour with a keyboard this one won’t weigh down your gear. And if you have to carry this to keyboard classes it’s of a manageable weight.
The feel of playing this keyboard is impressive. It doesn’t have the fully weighted keys, but a semi-weighted keyboard that’s velocity sensitive is still a wise investment.
The brand has one more benefit for all who try out this keyboard: production software that can be used on a Mac or a PC.
This model comes with 2GB of sounds in its library, which means you have over 500 options to choose from.
The keyboard has an input for a sustain pedal but note that the pedal is not included.
This is a customer favorite weighted 88 key keyboard and therefore it comes in as our number two on this list. Part of its attraction is that the lower notes and higher notes play differently: The weighted action will be heavier when you play low notes, which is close to what you’ll experience when playing an acoustic piano. That makes this a popular choice for those who are used to playing on traditional pianos. Take note that the dynamic range isn’t exactly as an acoustic piano so you may take a while to get used to the new equipment.
Other features make it attractive to the modern market, such as the Dual Mode which empowers you to hear two audio tracks at once. Mix piano and strings, play them at the same time and enjoy the rich atmosphere the audio creates.
This one has at least a 64 polyphony rating, so it’s more impressive than some.
The advanced piece of equipment is surprisingly easy to operate: with one ‘Function’ button you can adjust metronome, voices and demo sources settings.
The Yamaha brand looked at the finest details to create a pleasurable experience: the black keys’ matte finish prevents your fingers from slipping.
It’s not very heavy, but not the lightest on our list either. If you plan on traveling with this, make sure you have a bag or case you can easily carry.
The piano does have a sustain pedal included but note this component can be improved on; and it doesn’t have a huge effect on the audio you produce. Some users also feel the keyboard’s own speakers aren’t loud enough. But if you plan on performing for others you’ll always have sound equipment at the ready, right?
From LAGRIMA comes this model with multiple features that place it near the top of our best 88 key keyboard reviews list. We love the structure with three built in sustain pedals. It empowers the player to do so much more and is ideal for those used to playing on acoustic pianos. The next thing that comes close to the acoustic instrument feel is the weighted keys.
The keyboard has advanced technology incorporated too, such as the buttons on the left hand side of the keyboard. Here is where you’ll change all your settings, use transpose functions or pick the sound you want the keyboard to mimic. The LCD display screen makes it easy to see what selection you made, but there are no numbers. We feel number buttons would have made it easier and faster to pick a sound according to the provided audio list. The buttons’ size make them easy to work with, even while you’re playing.
You have a wide selection of options with 960 timbres and 200 rhythms to pick from, which is why it’s our Best Timbres model.
This one is a little more expensive than some others on our list, but since you’re getting a stand and pedals too the price shouldn’t be a deal breaker. The stand is sturdy so you’ll feel comfortable playing.
The sound may be a little more electric than truly acoustic, so if you’re planning on live performances where piano sounds are important you may want to consider a different model. Therefore we suggest this as one of the best 88 key keyboards for beginners, rather than the pros.
This is one of the innovative pieces of equipment where one can see how brands utilize technology to benefit the owner: this model can help you learn to play piano even if you don’t know anything yet. That is thanks to the keys that can light up to show you what to play. To aid in this process the brand developed an app so you can use your iPad or various other mobile devices to learn to read sheet music. Just make sure your device is on the list of supported Android and iOS devices. Note that you have to pay for the songs you want to download and learn to play, so it does require some capital investment if this is your method of learning piano playing. Good news is that the setup also works with Synthesia. This will allow you to download MIDI files and the notes will light up and help you learn to play.
It does have various inputs so you can connect Jack cables, a pedal and more. Just note that the sustain pedal is not included in your original purchase.
Although many features benefit newbies, advanced players can also get value from this keyboard because the weighted keys provide a comfortable playing experience. With the large number of tones and audio options you can also use this in music production.
Overall it uses advanced features, but the simple layout without too many features ensures it’s not overwhelming for new players.
This model from Alesis impresses with its quality hammer action keys as well as the fact that it can help new players learn piano.
The keys are impressive because you can actually adjust the touch response. If you’re used to an acoustic piano you can make changes until playing on this model feels comfortable and familiar.
Your skills in piano playing will be thanks to Skoove: you get a three month subscription to learn the basics of keyboard playing.
It’s also a practical design for those practicing at home because you can plug in headphones and the audio will be channeled there instead of being played via the speakers: no need to bother anyone with your sounds.
This model can accommodate a sustain pedal, so everything a professional player needs is possible. Thanks to the 12 built in voice options that include organ, strings and synth, most of the sounds the pros use will be easily accessible.
We appreciate the user friendly layout. With all the buttons spaced out across the top of the unit it’s easy to press what you need, even during a performance.
This model impresses with its 128 polyphony.
You may also be impressed by the battery driven option: if you’re playing an open air show or forgot the power supply, simply pop in 6D cell batteries!
Casio is another respected brand when it comes to music equipment and this Privia shows you why. With such a high number of polyphony you can be assured of quality audio.
This purchase includes all you may need to get started and play comfortably since you get the stand AND a bench. Yes, it comes with a higher price tag but it gives you all you want in one go.
When you buy this, once again the brand helps you improve your skills with free lessons included in the purchase. There’s even a book to help and a DVD with instructions.
The black structure looks stylish so you can make this a permanent fixture in your home without spoiling the aesthetics.
The three pedals will appeal to experienced players and the brand even gives you a polishing cloth to make maintenance easy.
Some nifty features include the fact that you can connect two headphones at the same time: play your audio for someone without disturbing others in the room. You can also opt for the DUET mode which changes the pitch of the notes to simulate two keyboards with fewer keys. That makes this an ideal investment for piano teachers because you and you student can play together: teach by asking them to copy your actions. Or play duets on the same instrument.
Setting up the instrument can be a hassle, so you may need assistance from a handyman if the instructions don’t make sense to you.
Limited budget? Don’t fear. You can still get a quality model on our list of best 88 key keyboard reviews. Our best budget 88 key keyboard is a roll up version so you can easily take it anywhere! As it weighs under 5lb you can now take your instrument wherever you go. You don’t need other equipment because there is a built in speaker.
Of course, this one can’t give you the authentic feel or pressing down on piano keys, and it may take some time to get used to and gauge exactly how hard you have to push for the silicone note to register; it can take a little more effort than pushing down on synth keys. But if you don’t have space for one of the best 88 key keyboard models to become a permanent fixture in your home and you really want to start playing piano, this is an innovative way to do it. Just roll it out and play.
Just because it’s our budget option doesn’t mean you’re left with mediocre features: this one has a polyphony of 128 which is rather impressive.
It can also connect via Bluetooth, can accommodate a sustain pedal or a microphone and has USB connectivity. There are many features to help you create a setup that works for you as a pro music producer. As a teacher that offers lessons in various places around town, the portable setup makes it easy!
Of course, one of the main draw cards is that it is battery operated so you can play anywhere.
Doesn’t feel like normal piano
Requires effort to produce sounds
Modern technology gives hobbyists and musicians new ways to enjoy the art of music. Use our buyers guide to make sure you invest in the best 88 key keyboard for you: that means suitable for your budget and use.
Features to consider while choosing keyboard with weighted keys
To make sure you get value for money for the unique way you’ll be using your 88 key keyboard, learn more about all the different features of these innovative products. With this knowledge you can vet yourself which of our models will bring you the most pleasure in years to come? Will it be the Alesis Recital Pro or the Yamaha P45? Read on and shop like a pro.
Type of keys
The type of keys your 88 key keyboard is one of the most important aspects of your shopping process. It will be one of the following and each one performs differently in terms of feel. This has a huge impact on the kind of sound you’re able to generate. After all, you’ll only give your best performances if you feel comfortable playing.
The other name for this type is ‘synth’ keyboards. You can easily distinguish these from most other keyboards because the keys are often thin and rounded compared to the blocked look of traditional piano keys and more weighted keys that we’ll discuss below.
You get a springy movement of the keys thanks to a spring-loaded device. When your band needs synth background music or you’re creating backtracks where you need to transition fast between notes, this make for easy playing and great audio.
With this type of key you’ll have more control than what you’ll get from synth keyboards. The improved resistance also leads to a better, more realistic (piano-like) playing experience, although there’s still a lot of room for improvement. This is achieved by brands adding more weights or changing the design of the spring. The keys take longer to return to their original positions then.
There’s a market for these models because not everyone needs the weighted feel of a piano. But if you know you’ll play on a piano sooner or later, it’s best not to forget everything about how it feels, right? That’s when you try this type, and an example can be seen in the M Audio Keystation 88 II on our list.
This type is also called fully weighted and a weighted 88 key keyboard like the Alesis Recital Pro is what you’ll need if you want an experience close to playing on a traditional piano. Brands not only create keys that follow the actions of a piano’s components, but in some models they’ll even feel similar to the real thing.
The effect is thanks to a combination of small components: a hammer beneath the key ensures there’s the feel of the mechanical movement synonymous with acoustic pianos.
High end keyboards of this kind will often also have longer keys to provide the player with a larger surface to move his or her fingers on.
If you don’t play piano yet, but know you one day want to invest in a real one, this is the keyboard you need to practice on.
Grand Hammer Standard
You can enjoy an even more realistic playing experience if you have graded hammer or ‘progressive hammer action’ keys. In this case your lower notes will require a heavier touch to be played and higher notes exhibit a lighter touch. This simulates how it feels to play a traditional acoustic piano.
Some brands will even manufacture keys from wood rather than synthetic materials to further simulate the feeling of playing an acoustic instrument.
Number of polyphony (Max.)
The quality of the audio you produce via your 88 key keyboard will relate closely to polyphony of the instrument. A big word that simply refers to how many tones—or notes—your instrument can bring across at the same time. The more the better of course. Lower end models may produce 32, while 64, such as the ONE Smart keyboard featured above, is acceptable in many scenarios. For the pros that are particular about their sound production there are units that deliver 128 or 264 note polyphony.
Sound presets are often selling points and they do add value to the instrument. Having multiple instrument sounds to pick from enables you to do more with your keyboard. But will you use all the odd sounds the brands incorporate in many models? This may include practical sounds like drum mimicking, but also ‘funny’ sounds including a helicopter sound or something that sounds like a person screaming.
Even when shopping for an 88 key keyboard for beginners you may think having sounds is a primary consideration. Let’s be honest: it’s fun to play around with interesting preset sounds. But it won’t be entertaining forever and not everyone uses them on stage. So, don’t make this your number one priority.
If the available sounds help you to create instrumental backing tracks or if a sound on reverb enhances your song, it does serve you well in the long run.
Think about what you’ll use your keyboard for and see whether it’s necessary to have all those sounds.
You don’t want the learning curve with your new keyboard to be too long. That can happen if it’s too complicated. That makes the best buy 88 key keyboard one that has an intuitive interface that you’ll quickly grasp, like is The ONE Smart Keyboard.
You can have interfaces for general functioning, but also for DAW and virtual instrument controls. Make sure you get user friendly layouts for all the functions you know you’ll use a lot.
Consider the layout of the keyboard’s buttons and determine if they’re easy to use: if they’re placed too close to each other it may be difficult to make changes mid play. An LCD screen that allows you to see which selection you made also helps during a performance: you’ll know exactly what you picked, so no false notes or wrong sounds.
In digital pianos many different features determine sound quality, but key type isn’t the most important. You need to look at the audio samples the brand uses. If the keyboard has enough memory to contain high resolution sounds that sound realistic and it’s paired with quality amps & speaker components, then you’ll have good audio.
However, your key type may affect how comfortable you play and complicated pieces may then sound better, and be on rhythm, compared to playing on a different type of key.
Your cleaning schedule of your piano will depend on how frequently it’s used. When used to teach others it may have daily use, which requires weekly proper cleaning. This is because the oil in players’ hands can be left behind and affect the keys. You also don’t want fingerprint marks when your next student arrives, so a regular wipe down may be wise. Just remember no to use harsh chemicals because they can damage your instrument.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Most keyboards can act as MIDI controllers that are often used by artists or hobbyists creating digital audio tracks. These controllers send data to your computer’s software which can generate sound. You’ll control the audio via your keyboard when it’s in MIDI mode.
Every musician is different, but we suggest you look at our top three list whether you’re a newbie or a pro. Our favorite was the M Audio Keystation 88 II and we gave it a 9.8 out of 10 rating. Why? Because it’s a good mix of features and it comes at a reasonable price.
If, like many of our customers, you want weighted keys with a realistic feel, then the Yamaha P45 is a good investment. With a rating of 9.6 it impressed us with the easy operating method, basically everything is done via one button, and the fact that you get a sustain pedal with your keyboard.
As our Best Timbres option we selected the LAGRIMA 88 Weighted Key digital piano and gave it a 9.5 rating. You get over 900 timbres to pick from and the purchase includes a sturdy structure so you can have a permanent fixture in your home that looks impressive.
So, with which of our best 88 key keyboard models will you impress the crowds? Comment below to share your thoughts.