M-Audio Hammer 88 Review | Music Production, Mixing and Mastering

best 88 key weighted keyboard
best 88 key weighted keyboard
best 88 key weighted keyboard

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Reason Studios Reason 11 Review

That's why I wrote this Reason Studios Reason 11 review.

Editor's Rating:

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

The M-Audio Hammer 88 is one of the most important tools in my studio.

I put lots of thought and research into finding the right keyboard controller for the job.

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.

best 88 key weighted keyboard

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)…

Untitled design 2 - Decibel Peak

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…

  • Transposition
  • Sensitivity
  • Range

It’s great to have this much control and to be able to save these presets for quick use!

best 88 key weighted keyboard

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.

  • Sustain
  • Soft
  • Expression

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.

best 88 key weighted keyboard

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 88Yamaha P125
Type of ActionHammer-ActionGraded Hammer-Action
Sound EngineNoPure CF Sound Engine
Pedal InputsSustain, Soft, ExpressionSustain
MIDI OutputYesNo
Included AccessoriesMusic StandMusic 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 88Studio Logic SL88
Type of ActionHammer-ActionGraded Hammer-Action
Sound EngineNoYes
Pedal InputsSustain, Soft, Expression2x Sustain, 1x Expression, 1x Universal
MIDI OutputYesYes
Included AccessoriesMusic StandSustain 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 88Native Instruments Komplete Control S88
Type of ActionHammer-ActionHammer-Action
Sound EngineNoNo
Pedal InputsSustain, Soft, Expression2x Universal
MIDI OutputYesYes
Included AccessoriesMusic StandPower Supply

M-Audio Hammer 88 vs Roland A-88 MKII

Lastly, let’s look at the Roland A-88 MKII…

M-Audio Hammer 88Roland A-88 MKII
Type of ActionHammer-ActionHammer-Action
Sound EngineNoNo
Pedal InputsSustain, Soft, ExpressionSustain, Soft, Expression
MIDI OutputYesYes
Included AccessoriesMusic StandCables

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…

This video is courtesy of musykujkropkacom’s YouTube channel. Make to like the video and subscribe to his channel if you enjoyed the demo!

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 best 88-key weighted keyboard…

This is the keyboard stand I use…

The Hammer doesn’t include a sustain pedal. I personally use this one…

I also use this expression pedal…

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!







Picture of Stefan Chamberland

Stefan Chamberland

Stefan is a highly proficient sound professional who specializes in sound for picture. His journey into sound production began at the young age of 16, where he initially produced music that went on to feature on local television. Today, Stefan utilizes his extensive expertise to record production sound and lead the audio post-production process for a variety of projects in the TV, Film, and New Media industry. Driven by his passion for sound for picture, Stefan founded Decibel Peak, a platform designed to empower and support emerging sound professionals while contributing to the growth of the industry.

12 thoughts on “M-Audio Hammer 88 Review | Music Production, Mixing and Mastering”

  1. I have originally purchased a StudioLogic SL88 Studio. My initial thoughts were that the action was unnaturally, sticky? As if you spilled coca cola on it and let it dry. The return was very slow so fast repeated key strokes are impossible. I called Sweetwater and was told I just needed to break it in. 1 week later, 4 keys died. I wanted to return it but Sweetwater refused and would only give me a replacement option. Again, 1 week later, 1 key died on the replacement unit, also has sticky keys. I had to call my bank and dispute a chargeback. I then decided to spend more, thinking I would get a better product. I purchased an Arturia Keylab 88 MK2 from a different vendor. It suffered the same sticky keys. Later on I found out it had the same exact key mechanism and that is why they felt the same. Thankfully that return was a breeze. I was ready to give up on midi keyboards until I was recommended the M-Audio Hammer 88. I was hesitant because I read on this website called Reddit that M-Audio products are terrible for pianists. I took the dive but this time I bought it from my local Guitar Center. It was a demo unit that has been on display for years. It was very dirty but we were able to test it out. I was also able to try other keyboards. One that stood out was this Roland FP30x, which had a fantastic action that felt like a grand piano, and this Yamaha CP88 that had a great light key touch that felt like a baby grand but it was very expensive if I was just to use it for midi functionality. I was going to purchase that FP30x on the spot, however, they were able to offer me a great price on that used Hammer 88. They keys weren’t graded but the actuation was consistent across the board. So thats my experience going through the pain of picking a good midi keyboard. Now I’m on a hunt for a secondary keyboard. I looked around for any new competitors but it seems the Hammer 88 is still the ideal choice and I’m completely baffled how affordable it is for the quality you get. I might purchase the Roland FP30x. I tried a Roland A88 MK2 yesterday and it felt strange. It had this awkward short key travel. Might have been just that specific unit. What I did like was this Roland Juno DS88. It felt very similar to the Roland FP30x. The dilemma continues!

    • Hey Jessica,

      That really sounds like a long and painful journey you went through!

      I’m glad you eventually got your hands on a Hammer 88. I’ve had mine for 2+ years and it’s still in 100% working condition.

      The only thing I can’t recommend about M-Audio is the customer support…

      However, the M-Audio Hammer 88 is the only decent hammer-action keyboard controller I’ve found at this price. The Arturia KeyLab 88 uses some kind of hybrid between hammer-action and semi-weighted.

      I’ll check out the Roland Juno DS88 when I get a chance. It’s a bit pricey, but it looks great!

      Thanks for sharing your experience, let me know if you ever need any assistance.

      All the best!

      – Stefan

  2. The M-Audio Hammer 88 piano will be my next buy as I was searching for someone with experience with different brands to help me to identify one of the best Brand pianos that I would find affordable. I read through your post and I get the help I needed to decide which brand I should invest in.

     The keys of the Hammer 88 will prove the best fit for me with my over half-inch thick fingers. I should ask, will the Hammer 88 be convenient for my little boy to practice on?

    Thanks for your full informative coverage of the M-Audio Hammer 88


    • Hey DorcasW!

      The keys are full-sized, so I think you’ll find it to be quite playable. They’re some of the best at this price range and truly replicate the feel of a real acoustic piano.

      The Hammer 88 is also great for beginners, so I’m sure your son will have no problem with it. However, he will need to develop his finger muscles as the keys certainly have some “weight” to them! M-Audio even includes a 3-month membership to Skoove (interactive piano lessons). You can both work on your developing your “chops” together!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  3. Hi Stefan

    I know my good friend will be interested in this review as he is a keen keyboardist. He is always telling me that he wish there was a keyboard that not only looks good but gives good quality sound. From your review I am sure he will get a lot from it. I really enjoyed reading this review as it clearly shows its many advantages compared to other keyboard. I will pass this review to my good friend and am sure he will enjoy this.

    I may be looking to start playing the keyboard in the near future and wonder if this is a good beginner keyboard?



    • Hey Antonio!

      The Hammer 88 is perfect for both beginners and professionals alike! I’m sure your friend will like the keyboard, especially if he does a lot of studio work.

      If you’re interested in learning the piano, the Hammer 88 is ideal. It really emulates the action of a real piano and M-Audio also includes a 3-month subscription to Skoove. This is basically a platform designed to teach beginners and professionals how to play the piano. The lessons are interactive and work alongside the Hammer 88.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  4. Hello, I really want to appreciate your effort in putting together this website and writing this article. I am so in love with this keyboard right now. I am a big fan of the Yamaha Montage and presently there is a Yamaha mx-88 music synthesizer in my church but this particular m-audio is the next on the budget. Thanks for your holiness review

    • Hey Benny!

      The Yamaha Montage is a great choice! However, I just wanted to clarify that the Hammer 88 is not a synthesizer like the keyboards you mentioned. In other words, it doesn’t provide sound on its own.

      Think of the Hammer 88 as a keyboard controller. You’ll need to plug it into a computer and use virtual instruments (there are a few included with the Hammer 88). It’s better suited for a home studio, but you can perform with it as long as you’ve got yourself a laptop.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  5. Hey Stefan! Very good and complete review! I feel like I’m learning and realizing many things about the keyboard. Thanks for your website (I really love it!).

    By the way, in the text above you said that the price can fluctuate. Why? Plus, how can I find out the right time to buy this product?

    Because honestly I want to buy this item as a birthday gift for my daughter in February tomorrow!

    • Hey Kylie!

      I’m not 100% sure as to why the price of the Hammer 88 has fluctuated so much. It may have to do with import/export costs, availability, etc… I’ve never seen anything like this. I bought mine for approximately 600 CAD, but I’ve seen it go as low as 500 CAD. As long as it’s in that range, I wouldn’t worry too much about the price because it’s totally worth it!

      I’m sure your daughter will love it. It’s a great keyboard to learn and grow with as it emulates the characteristics of a real piano.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan

  6. The piano looks simple yet sophisticated. I am amazed at those features. I love that the design came with the beginners in mind. I recently started my piano lessons and I am still trying to learn the ropes. Sounds like the Hammer 88 Keyboard produces really soft sounds with the balanced keys. I love that even with the minimalist design, the keys are large enough. Suits someone like me that has fat fingers. Thank you for this great suggestion.

    • Hey Carol,

      You’re right, the keys are the same size as a real piano’s. You can produce the softest sounds with them… or even the loudest!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      – Stefan


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