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Cheaper keyboards - any recommendations?

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This may or may not warrant its own thread, but I'm going to take a risk and do it anyway.

I've been tinkering with the idea of getting a keyboard and trying my hand at remixing for a while now. I think it's about time I give it a shot. Problem is, I have no idea what keyboard to get. I'm operating on a relatively low budget - probably no higher than $250... you guys know how the whole college thing goes. Anyway, I've been casually looking around tonight at some different keyboards and I'm kind of overwhelmed. At this point, I don't think I can be too picky, but I don't want to pick something that is so budget-friendly that I'm missing out on some important features.

For example, the Yamaha YPT-300AD is being sold on Amazon for ~$130. Definitely within my price range, but I'm afraid it's probably much too basic. Any help on the matter would be much appreciated.

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I know this makes things difficult, but I really don't have any specific features in mind.

I suppose part of my concern is deciding the features that I should be focusing on as a beginner. I have decent experience with music: I played the trumpet for about 8 years, so I can find a melody by ear pretty well and obviously can read sheet music. It's fairly common that I'll be laying in bed and think of a neat little tune, then writing down the notes on a piece of paper so I can come back to it whenever it is that I get a keyboard. But my understanding of music is completely limited to the fundamental aspects. When it comes to music hardware and software, I'm pretty much a total beginner.

For that reason, I don't need anything terribly advanced. I just need a keyboard that will allow me to conjure up some decent sounding songs. I'll worry about the fancier stuff later.

Does this help, or should I do some more research on different features and find out more specifically what I'm looking for?

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The first question is really: do you need to have built-in sounds or are you going to make music with your computer anyway? If it's the latter, spend the cash on both an E-mu 0404 or similar (cheap) soundcard (M-Audio Audiophile 2496) and get an Xboard 49 as a controller.

For $250 you can get a fancy keyboard with speakers on board, but ask yourself:

- are you going to use the computer as a sound source anyway?

- do you really need the built-in rhythms (chances are that they can not be 'translated' properly to a software sequencer)

lowaim: do you really need the compact size? You're going to notice it while playing. Edirol is pretty okay, but it makes no sense to get something like that if you don't have a laptop and travel much.

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A Soundblaster or Audigy card is great for gaming or just listening to mp3s. If you want to use it for music production, it falls short. First, the inputs/outputs of an audio interface are of a higher quality, and offer the connections you need.

Second, there's latency. Latency is the time it takes between pressing the key and hearing the sound. On a regular soundcard without ASIO-support this takes a while (half a second sometimes). For playing live, this is unacceptable.

The problem can be solved sort-of by using other drivers; the kX project drivers if you have an Audigy, or www.asio4all.com for all the others. You could use this as a temporary solution.

With my E-mu 1212m I can get 3ms of latency; it makes it feel like you're playing an actual hardware synth.

Still, I recommend getting an audio interface.

I have the Xboard 49 myself. The keys play nicely, and the unit is light-weight but solid (no wobbly knobs). The display shows what you're doing without the need for a software configuration tool.

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