Z-key 88


This is my review of the CME Z-key 88. My previous post should give you a sense of the build quality of this instrument. And while it’s possible for someone to destroy any instrument, this one makes it easier. The internal connections are engineered a little on the light side. I suspect it is all meant for quick assembly, but it falls below the curve of what is acceptable. I love the spartan design. The clean lines and uncluttered control surface immediately caught my eye, and played into my aesthetic for simple function. It seemed like a steal at one seventh of its MSRP, but clearly it is over priced as a retail item. That being said the savvy DIYer could soon have a fun box available on the used market. And these guys will hit the used market sooner than others.

What is the target audience for this machine? I think it is meant to appeal to home recordists who are moving up from the M-audio Keyrig 49, or similar controllers. People who don’t want full DAW control but are tired of the octave limitations of the smaller keyboards. The look of the Z-key series fits nicely into a home studio, and offers the appearance of a full piano keys.

The promo material touts a new technology called Zenith, that is alleged to have the feel of a standard piano keyboard. No. This keyboard feels much more like a Keyrig 49 than a Steinway. I was going to say it feels more like a little Christmas organ  (the kind with a little electric bellows, that kind of wheezes out notes), but that would’ve been more for effect since I can’t really remember the feel. It’s been a while.

Why would anyone want one of these? Here’s why. It offers larger keys than the standard minimal controller. There is some slight weight to it. There are seven octaves immediately available, (it’s fun to stretch two arms out over the playing surface). And it is fast. The action is faster than many of the more professional true weighted keyboard. I guess less weight equals quicker movement. Yamahas seem piano like (but not as wooden as say a Steinway – which is lighter beneath the finger and heavier toward the hammer), Rolands are a bit thicker, heavier; concrete. The Zkey is not in the weighted class, but it is a fun hybrid and the adaptable player could find it a gas to play.

Look for used ones. The retail price is laughable.