My M-Audio Keystation 88es review – THE Best USB MIDI Keyboard

I will be discussing my 5 year long use of the best USB MIDI Keyboard.


Cory Lavel And His Midi Keyboard
Cory Lavel And His Midi Keyboard


Explanation for beginners:
MIDI = Musical Instrument Digital Interface
A software language that is needed for your keyboard to
communicate with your PC / Mac / Linux system.
DAW = Digital Audio Workstation
Instead of a big physical studio, you have a software
studion in your PC. Like everything this has advantages
and disadvantages


My advice to you – from back then for a future perspective.

I started a long time ago with making music. About 12 years ago to be somewhat precise. Very soon I realized

that I needed to express certain melodies and lines with a USB MIDI keyboard and not with a PC keyboard


or via my mouse. Sometimes you need a little more human feeling in your songs or you just wanna jam

and play. You have various velocitiys and as soon as you start to play you might loose track of time. So

watch out for it’s addictive features.



I looked here and there and everywhere.

My main focus was 88 keys, since many pianos have the same amount of keys. No need for unnecessary

knobs that wouldn’t be used anyway. So I stumbled over the M-Audio Keystation 88es. I watched a lot

of YouTube videos in regards to other musicians that used the same keyboard. Every one had great


reviews and words about it. So I gave it a shot after 3 years of saving or so. It’s just plug-and-play.

Simple as that. As soon as you’ve plugged it in you are good to go.

I don’t regret that decision any day. It is still functioning. It endured a lot in the meantime.



The beauty of MIDI at your grasp.

Instead of buying a “real” keyboard with a limited amount of sounds, you can have the full range.

And with full range I mean FULL RANGE!!! Basically you’re limited to the content the internet has to offer

in regards to MIDI Keyboard sounds, programs, VSTs, patches, presets and so on. There are more sounds

out there to try out for free or for a paid program than your life lasts. I mainly tried out the NATIVE INSTRUMENTS


KOMPLETE 8 – 11 ULTIMATE stuff. A little bit here and there with FL Studio plugins. The keyboard was never the problem.

If I wouldn’t have had that keyboard yet, I would probably still be clicking with my mouse or playing stuff into my DAW with

PC keyboard. What you also have to consider is: The later you start to get into MIDI keyboards and the longer you play with

your PC keyboard, the more you’ll mislearn information that you can’t relearn freshly and good. Your muscle memory will be


screwed up. That won’t be a simple routine by then to learn properly. You will have twice as much trouble to learn songs for

piano or childish and cheap keyboards. Even though I’m highly promoting the M-AUDIO Keystation 88es, you can

alternatively choose between many other different types of MIDI keyboards. My first one l²-Control 25. It felt nice to play and

had a lot of knobs. But only 25 keys! You had to pitch up and pitch down with the 2 buttons to get to the next range. Now


imagine recording 10 instruments like this. You will see what kind of pain this is and how this interrupts your workflow. You

have the melody on your lips or on your mind. Just wanna record and quickly as possible jam it down, but then you have to

press around and fumble around to get it right at many more takes. The more songs you make or the more you demonstrate

various keyboards the more you count those seconds. Every second wrongly spend with a slow software or half-broken


keyboard, is a second that strays you further away from getting to your own personal sound. And at the end of the day that is

exactly what you want. Isn’t it? I bought this thing when it cost me around 300,00,-€ plus a bag and a stand, which makes

around 400,00,-€ or so. You can get ’em at the time between 70,00,-€ – 150,00,-€. If this stuff made for me back then sense

then it should make 4 times more sense to you know. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not paid by M-AUDIO or anything. I just want


to write down my personal experience with this piece of hardware that never failed me over the years. I feared it might break

down, since newer hardware tends to break faster because of planned obsolence. I suppose with this model they explicitly

fought against that concept. 2 nice features that are also worthy of mentioning are:

#1 It comes with a free version of AIR – IGNITE. A very basic, yet powerful way to captivate song concepts. I like its minimalistic touch.

#2 Ableton Basic version included as well. Heard great things about Ableton. Not a big fan of it myself, but I follow a big bunch of musicians that used it for live performances.



Not limited to keyboards and pianos.

I’ve played a lot of stuff into my songs. From Indian bongos to electric guitars up to looped-up car-wrecking sounds,

violins, cellos, guitars and basses. I got around a beautiful range because of that keyboard. It’s only limited to your

imagination. There are even videos about there of people that modify things like that. So if you got the knowledge and the

hunger for experimentation, you’ll be good to go.



Joe Paradiso's Modular Synthesizer ARS Electronica 2004
Joe Paradiso’s Modular Synthesizer ARS Electronica 2004



MIDI keyboards won’t grow old as fast as normal ones.

If you take a simple 88 keys keyboard like me, or a fully fledged with equalizer faders and drum pads and other nice

gimmicks is up to you. But the 88es did it for me. I know I can always purchase a cheap keyboard and drum pad afterwards.

Only the USB slots are a problem. But if you’re into computers, you’ll know: USB slots are always a problem. There a never

enough. You can also program the MIDI functions in the keyboard itself if you want. I never tried that method, but there are


tutorials out there on how to do it. I think it’s quite amazing that you can digitally re-work your instrument into a totally new

thing. The corelation of programing and welding makes it aswell more interesting, as mentioned before.

I also need to mention that they released a MK-II version of the keyboard. I simply won’t buy it yet, since the MK-I version

still works to good.




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