SP-5500: Minor quirks
I've had the SP-5500 keyboard for a few months now. It's a great instrument for the price, and I play it a lot. But if you're planning to get one, I should perhaps tell you that these few things will eventually start bugging you, especially if you like to play at home with the headphones on.
There's a lot of background noise in the headphones. Some of it is pulsating and some on the right channel only, so it's quite hard to ignore. Apparently the noise on the right channel is interference from wireless devices; moving my wireless modem away from the keyboard mitigated this.
The sound sample below was recorded via microphones placed inside the headphones. The high-pitched snaps are interference from the instrument's own circuitry when it scrolls the instrument name on its display. Similar snaps can be heard on button presses, pedal actions, and even key-downs/key-ups.
According to the manual, the polyphony allows 64 simultaneous notes. It is apparently halved for stereo samples, however, since notes often start cutting out with an audible snap after 32. It's very noticeable, partly because it's implemented so that even repetitions of the same note count.
Here's a comparison of two piano instruments on the SP-5500: "004 Grand Piano /W" and "001 Stereo Grand Piano 1". The latter uses stereo samples and generally sound fuller, whereas the former is just a panned mono sample. I'm playing the first bar of the first one of Rautavaara's etudes, since it has an arpeggio of 50 notes. The second sample starts cutting out towards the end, but in the first one all 50 are still playing in the end.
Warning: This sample plays a lot louder than the previous one.
The pedal had difficulties registering presses so I had to add some padding inside of it, luckily this was very simple to do:
In the settings the pedal function can be set to either Soft or Sostenuto, but neither option works as advertised. It just always works as a sustain pedal regardless of the setting.
For many sounds in the instrument list, the pedal doesn't really have any effect, but for piano it works.
Note that if you press the pedal before the SP-5500 has booted up completely, pedal function will be reversed. A reboot or physical reversal switch on the pedal fixes this.
To contrast all the negativity I must say the piano samples sound pretty great and the hammer action feel makes it pleasant to play. Despite the quirks it's my favorite piece of furniture.