Thought I'd share an SL88 Grand review I have posted a while back on a composer site… still very few SL88 Grand reviews out there. I've had the SL88 Grand for over two years now, and wanted to share some tips and observations because all of my questions are now answered (obviously, lol). When I was searching 88's it was hard to get input on this elusive controller. BTW, this is coming from a piano player, not a pianist... I've earned some classical pieces, lot of ragtime, some jazz and could easily be in a wedding band. Having said that, here you go:
The feel of the Keybed
Of COURSE it doesn't feel like a grand piano... not any more than a really really good string library sounds REAL... a great library sounds like a really good RECORDING of a string library and after you listen for a while you get lost in it. The SL88 is that same way, doesn't feel like a real grand but it's a good keybed for piano, and after you play a while with a good piano library like Garritan CFX in a good set of cans, you get lost in the piano experience and you forget it's not a real piano. The amazing mind adapts as needed and that comes into play here. I get up from playing after a while and feel like I have a grand piano in the house. So the feel is definitely good enough.
The Speed of the Keybed
The triple sensors really come into play here. On the standard velocity curve, even though I can play Angry Young Man on a real Grand, I struggle on the SL88's DEFAULT velocity curve, but when I put this SL88 on a constant velocity value (I think 100) and Angry Young Man was TOTALLY doable. This controller has a LOT of capability, you just need to experiment with velocity settings to work out the feel you like. The SL Editor software gives a LOT of flexibility there.
This keybed is surprisingly easy to play in legato string and brass lines because the SL88 doesn't have escapement, I believe that's why it works well. I don't miss escapement (the feel of the key releasing on a real piano), I can still play piano but also synth patches and anything orchestral.
As stated, you get a Utility to manage zones and velocity and all that, and I say USE IT, much easier than the control panel. Most of the time I'm just running the stock curve, it works for me, especially for Garritan CFX. Actually VSL CFX and Bosendorfer play fine as well. NOTE: You can't be connected to your DAW and then fire up the SL Editor software, it won't connect. Start SL Editor first before opening your DAW, and in the SL Editor, go to the Global page and click Connect, and then your SL88 will be programmable.
They're weird. You can probably get used to them, some do. Not me, I'm a big fat Italian guy with huge hands (3XL mountain bike gloves), those joysticks are too short-throw and wiggly. I actually disabled them in the editor because I have a separate 4-fader CC controller with 100mm faders.
The reported issues of doubled notes
It's the 001 Preset... StudioLogic "helps us out" with this preset supposedly for a Grand Piano but it has all 4 zones activated! Some have no trouble, others get duplicated unison notes and sometimes notes THREE octaves higher. That's what happened to me. Others have posted this fix but I'll include it here: Make your own default preset with the software utility. I chose 250 because it's one click to the left, easy access. That preset has zones 2-4 turned off and all Joysticks disabled. I load that at startup and I'm on my way, no doubled notes.
The Control Knob/Display
I don't need the display, actually cover it with my StreamDeck. One of the main reasons is how bright it is. There used to be complaints about the LCD going dim in a year, and also some keys not working, but these post-Covid units have been stellar, I really believe SL took the time off in 2020 to revisit quailty issues. Anyway, the knob COULD be useful because it's a joystick/rotary selector/enter button all in one, but when you try to press the button down for Enter, to get the click isn't always easy, it's SOOO wiggly and you sometimes change a parameter right before it clicks. I cover that whole section, don't need it. I load up my preset I made with the software and that's what I use when I turn on the controller.
USB Bus Power
YES, IT IS BUS-POWERED. The manual says it's NOT, no idea why. I leave the power button pushed in, the thing starts up when I boot up my tower. I do have a good shielded USB cable going straight into the mobo, not a USB hub, jsyk. Get the Tripp Lite on Amazon with Ferrite Chokes, it's RF shielded and reliable and cheap. SL doesn't give you a cable but the last thing we need are more cheap bundled cables, lol.
The keyboard comes with one, yet when you see the SL88 listed on websites they often show a pedal as a needed accessory for some reason. But it's just On/Off. I play VSL pianos that support half-pedaling, and the Roland DP10 pedal is GREAT for that... You lift the pedal halfway and it triggers the samples in the VSL pianos of the dampers starting to hit the strings. Love that. Annnnd... Yay StudioLogic for putting the jack markings on the TOP of the case so we can see where to plug in USB and Pedal cables when standing over it! If you get the DP10, use the Continuous Controller jack, not the Damper jack, or you'll just get on/off sustain. In your preset with the SL Editor, you'll need to enable the #3 port so that jack works.
I suggest a Z stand like Knox and others make. I also put a 48" x 12" premade shelf across the stand and set the SL88 on that, and there is NO sag. This SL88 is almost 50 pounds and it's a tank.
Hope this info helps!