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I've been using this keyboard controller for over 2 years, so I thought I'd write this M-Audio Hammer 88 review.
I’ve been using this keyboard controller for over 2 years, so I thought I’d write this M-Audio Hammer 88 review.
I’ll be telling you what I like and what I don’t like about this 88-key fully-weighted keyboard controller. We’ll also be comparing it to other MIDI/USB keyboard controllers in the same category.
Lastly, I’ll be answering some frequently asked questions and giving you my verdict on the M-Audio Hammer 88.
Is the Hammer 88 right for you? Let’s find out!
- What I like about the M-Audio Hammer 88
- What I don’t like about the M-Audio Hammer 88
- M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Yamaha P125
- M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Studio Logic SL88
- M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Native Instruments Komplete Control S88
- M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Roland A-88 MKII
- Included software with the M-Audio Hammer 88
- M-Audio Hammer 88: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Summary: M-Audio Hammer 88 Review
What I like about the M-Audio Hammer 88
The M-Audio Hammer 88 is one of the most important tools in my studio.
Minimalist design and maximum playability
When I look at this MIDI/USB controller, I am immediately drawn to it by its simplicity. The M-Audio Hammer 88 includes everything this type of controller needs.
- Pitch Bend Wheel
- Modulation Wheel
- Master Volume Fader
- +/- Buttons
Can you find other keyboard controllers with more functionality? Definitely!
However, I much prefer having the essentials. In reality though, you really don’t need more than this and the fact that everything is nicely spaced out increases the playability.
The pitch bend/modulation wheels are large and feel great.
I personally use the +/- buttons to navigate through presets which can be assigned using the M-Audio Hammer 88 Preset Editor (which we’ll talk about next).
Something else that I really enjoyed about the Hammer 88 is the integrated sheet music stand.
I actually used it to hold my computer’s screen for quite some time (I don’t anymore)…
Complete customizability using the preset editor
The included M-Audio Hammer 88 Preset Editor makes it possible to completely customize the layout of your keyboard controller. You can even divide it into up to 4 different regions.
In other words, you can use your Hammer 88 to control 4 different MIDI channels.
As I mentioned, it’s also possible to assign the different buttons/sliders/wheels to any parameter.
Lastly, you can even adjust things like…
It’s great to have this much control and to be able to save these presets for quick use!
Connectivity that supports every type of pedal
One of my favourite things about the M-Audio Hammer 88 is that it allows you to connect up to 3 pedals.
I’ve seen LOTS of 88-key keyboard controllers that only include the sustain pedal input.
And remember… Anything you connect to the Hammer 88 can be assigned to any parameter using the preset editor.
For example, you can actually connect another sustain pedal (the soft pedal) and assign that to the “record” parameter. Essentially, you can start controlling your DAW with your feet.
However, the expression pedal input is SUPER important.
It adds incredible functionality to your workflow and the Hammer 88 is one of the few ways to connect such a device. That’s one of the main reasons I recommend the Hammer 88 over other keyboard controllers.
M-Audio even included a 9V DC outlet if you prefer to power the keyboard that way, but it’s also bus-powered.
Just keep in mind that the DC adapter isn’t included, but I personally just use bus-power (why not?).
Rugged construction and professional-grade keys
So, this thing is HEAVY!
The M-Audio Hammer 88 feels like something you’d bring to your next gig.
Most of the keyboard is made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), but the cover is made of metal. If you ever need to make repairs (which I did at some point), it’s also fairly easy to dissassemble.
You’ll also notice that the keys feel very close to an actual upright piano.
That’s because the M-Audio Hammer 88 uses hammer-action mechanisms to suspend the keys.
I can’t say that it feels EXACTLY like a real piano, but it’s realistic enough to make me feel like I’m playing the real thing. The amount of resistance is well-balanced and makes longer sessions pleasant.
Now, the keys are RELATIVELY quiet compared to other keyboards.
BUT… You can obviously expect them to make SOME noise (the “hammers” need to hit something).
What I don’t like about the M-Audio Hammer 88
To be 100% honest, the only thing I don’t like about the M-Audio Hammer 88 is the customer support.
When I accidentaly tore off the USB port, I needed to email them THREE times before getting a response.
It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll need to pay for return shipping if you want to get your keyboard services (which is pretty expensive).
I decided to go in there and fix it myself (which IS possible and easily done).
If you ever need some assistance with that, maybe I’ll make a video one day!
So, I personally wouldn’t count on M-Audio customer support to assist you with this purchase.
M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Yamaha P125
Let’s compare the M-Audio Hammer 88 with the Yamaha P125…
|M-Audio Hammer 88||Yamaha P125|
|Type of Action||Hammer-Action||Graded Hammer-Action|
|Sound Engine||No||Pure CF Sound Engine|
|Pedal Inputs||Sustain, Soft, Expression||Sustain|
|Included Accessories||Music Stand||Music Stand, Sustain Pedal, AC Adapter|
M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Studio Logic SL88
Now, let’s look at the Studio Logic SL88…
|M-Audio Hammer 88||Studio Logic SL88|
|Type of Action||Hammer-Action||Graded Hammer-Action|
|Pedal Inputs||Sustain, Soft, Expression||2x Sustain, 1x Expression, 1x Universal|
|Included Accessories||Music Stand||Sustain Pedal, Power Adapter|
M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Native Instrument Komplete Kontrol S88
How does the Native Instruments Komplete Control S88 compare against the M-Audio Hammer 88?
|M-Audio Hammer 88||Native Instruments Komplete Control S88|
|Type of Action||Hammer-Action||Hammer-Action|
|Pedal Inputs||Sustain, Soft, Expression||2x Universal|
|Included Accessories||Music Stand||Power Supply|
M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Roland A-88 MKII
Lastly, let’s look at the Roland A-88 MKII…
|M-Audio Hammer 88||Roland A-88 MKII|
|Type of Action||Hammer-Action||Hammer-Action|
|Pedal Inputs||Sustain, Soft, Expression||Sustain, Soft, Expression|
|Included Accessories||Music Stand||Cables|
Included software with the M-Audio Hammer 88
To be completely honest, I haven’t even downloaded any of the plug-ins included with the Hammer 88. I have nothing against any of them, but I personally use Arturia’s V Collection 7 which has everything I need and more.
If you haven’t equipped yourself with some decent software instruments (grand piano, electric piano, electric organ), you’ve got nothing to lose by trying them!
Here’s a brief description of the 4 software instruments you’ll be able to download from your M-Audio account:
SONiVOX “Eighty-Eight” | A sampled virtual instrument that emulates the character of a 9-foot CD327 Steinway grand piano.
AIR “Mini Grand” | A sampled virtual instrument that gives you access to the sounds of 7 different acoustic pianos. Complete with re-pedalling technology, built-in room simulation and equal/stretched temperaments.
AIR “Velvet” | Emulate the sounds of 5 legendary electric pianos from the 60s and 70s including the Fender Rhodes Suitcase, Fender Rhodes MK1 and MK2, Wurlitzer 200A and the Hohner Pianet-T.
AIR “DB-33” | Recreate the sounds of classic tonewheel organs such as the Hammond B3, complete with rotary cabinet and tube overdrive emulation. It includes 122 presets to provide you with hours of material to work with.
M-Audio even included a 2 GB sound library called Touch Loops, a free 3-month subscription to Skoove (online piano lessons) and their proprietary Hammer 88 preset editor.
I personally don’t use sound libraries, but I checked it out nonetheless. It wasn’t that great (compared to Apple’s sound library) and the “free” subscription to Skoove still requires your credit card number.
The one piece of software that I still enjoy is the Hammer 88 preset editor.
I managed to find an excellent demo of the software for those who are interested…
Lastly, the Hammer 88 also comes with M-Audio’s version of Pro Tools (it includes more sounds) and Ableton Live Lite. If you haven’t purchased a digital audio workstation (DAW) yet, these two programs can certainly get you started.
If you’re already set like I am though, you’ll most likely never end up using them though.
I think it’s great that M-Audio has included everything a beginner could need and the Hammer 88 preset editor for more advanced music producers. There’s something for everyone!
M-Audio Hammer 88: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Here are some commonly asked questions about the M-Audio Hammer 88…
Does the M-Audio Hammer 88 have speakers?
NO. Either way, there aren’t any internal sounds/patches on the M-Audio Hammer 88. You need to connect it to your computer and use sample libraries and/or software instruments to get sound.
Does the M-Audio Hammer 88 have aftertouch?
NO. The M-Audio Hammer 88’s keys don’t have aftertouch.
How do you transpose the M-Audio Hammer 88?
You’ll need to use the M-Audio Hammer 88 Preset Editor OR have your +/- button assigned to that function.
Summary: M-Audio Hammer 88 Review
So, what do YOU think about the M-Audio Hammer 88?
Considering that it’s the most affordable option in this category AND that it doesn’t cut any corners, it’s a NO-BRAINER for me. However, our needs may not necessarily be the same.
That’s why I wanted to compare the Hammer 88 to some other 88-key weighted keyboard controllers.
If you just need the essentials though, it’ll actually be to your advantage to pay less and do more!
Please share your thoughts in the comment section and feel free to ask me any questions that haven’t already been covered as well. I hope you found this M-Audio Hammer 88 review insightful, thanks for reading!
The Hammer doesn’t include a sustain pedal. I personally use this one…
If this review has helped you find what you were looking for, please consider passing it on. What do you think about the M-Audio Hammer 88? Let us know in the comments!