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61 key synth weighted midi controller?

tapper mike
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4488 posts since 19 Jan, 2008

Postby tapper mike; Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:20 pm 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

Hi all.

As stated in the subject. I'm looking for a moderately inexpensive (not to cheap) synth weighted midi controller keyboard. Something with medium sized keys and a short throw. Velocity sensitivity mandatory Afterpressure optional.

Thanks.
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rod_zero
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2568 posts since 28 Jan, 2011, from MEXICO

Postby rod_zero; Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:47 pm Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

Roland A500 Pro, good keys and some controls.
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Mister Natural
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2097 posts since 28 Oct, 2007, from michigan

Postby Mister Natural; Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:20 pm Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

"the digital photo of that guitar just doesn't have the same warmth as an analog photo for me"
https://soundcloud.com/mrnatural-1/tracks
tapper mike
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4488 posts since 19 Jan, 2008

Postby tapper mike; Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:33 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

I'm having issues with my LP Pro. It doesn't want to connect as a control device to my software. Until it's resolved I'm hesitant about getting another novation product. If it is resolved I may just get another LP Pro.

As a standalone midi device it's great. I love the responsiveness of the pads. Having two would fit the bill nicely for me.
I'm actually thinking of offering a primer on how to play the LP Pro as a musical instrument (scales, chords etc)
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Ghostwave
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1593 posts since 1 Mar, 2010, from Paris

Postby Ghostwave; Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:37 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

You know, I was on the lookout for a nice set of semi-weighed keys to replace my dying Novation SL61.
I browsed every online I could find and read reviews. It seems that except the Nektar Panorama P6 (NI Kontrol thingy is too expensive), that's nothing else new. So instead, I bought a used SL61 MKII.
For synth-action keys, the best I found would be the Roland A500 Pro.
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rod_zero
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2568 posts since 28 Jan, 2011, from MEXICO

Postby rod_zero; Fri Dec 08, 2017 5:36 pm Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

I wouldnt consider SLmkII keys semiweighted, they are very good synth action keys . Semiweighted for me would be the ones used by Nord on the light version of the electro series, in fact real "semiweighted" keys seem really rare and honestly I haven't tried a single controller with them, maybe the old maudio Keysation with 88 keys was, but very crappy feeling.

I think manufactuerers are not using "semweighted" correctly, just a marketing term to deceive consumers.
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Mister Natural
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2097 posts since 28 Oct, 2007, from michigan

Postby Mister Natural; Fri Dec 08, 2017 6:41 pm Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

rod_zero wrote:I wouldnt consider SLmkII keys semiweighted, they are very good synth action keys..

Exactly - they are what drew me to using this model Rod. Just "feels" the best of any keys I've demo'd
There were some Akai models that felt 2nd best

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"the digital photo of that guitar just doesn't have the same warmth as an analog photo for me"
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JCJR
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2196 posts since 17 Apr, 2005, from S.E. TN

Postby JCJR; Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:03 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

Just for curiosity, is the action of an A500Pro similar or identical to the action of for instance FA-06? Or are the feels of those two keyboards entirely different?
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rod_zero
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2568 posts since 28 Jan, 2011, from MEXICO

Postby rod_zero; Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:50 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

JCJR wrote:Just for curiosity, is the action of an A500Pro similar or identical to the action of for instance FA-06? Or are the feels of those two keyboards entirely different?


They are very similar, I would even say they use the same action, but not sure. I have the system 8 and it does feels much like the a500 Pro, but with a little less travel and no aftertouch.
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JCJR
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2196 posts since 17 Apr, 2005, from S.E. TN

Postby JCJR; Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:41 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

rod_zero wrote:
JCJR wrote:Just for curiosity, is the action of an A500Pro similar or identical to the action of for instance FA-06? Or are the feels of those two keyboards entirely different?


They are very similar, I would even say they use the same action, but not sure. I have the system 8 and it does feels much like the a500 Pro, but with a little less travel and no aftertouch.

Thanks Rod. I haven't played enough modern keyboards to know, was looking for a basis of comparison based on something I'm familiar with.

I don't mind the feel of FA06 but am not real picky about synth-action keys except if keyboards are too "loose and cheap feeling".

The other ones I don't like are heavy-sprung non-weighted actions with fairly deep travel (similar to what classical organists seem to prefer). When I briefly had a 61 key korg kronos, the action seemed too deep and stiff for my taste. Maybe could have got used to it with practice. Maybe with shallower action the resistance would have been tolerable. Or maybe with lighter springs the depth of the action would have been tolerable. But the combination of stiff and deep was hard to like on first impressions, though maybe with time I'd have grown to like it.
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fluffy_little_something
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10119 posts since 5 Jun, 2012, from Portugal

Postby fluffy_little_something; Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:54 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

Weighted basically means piano-like, right? Must feel strange with most synth sounds such as pads, brass, bass, strings...

Roland keys feel good and they are relatively quiet, not like some of those used in YT videos where you have that loud dong dong sound which might disturb sound design.
Having said that, I have had two Roland keyboards now, and both have had defects. The Pro simply ceased to work, repair would have cost more than buying a new one. And on my A-49 the pitch bender delivers arbitrary bend ranges.
So, no more Roland for me. I will get a Korg Microkey 2 instead. It also has two wheels instead of Roland's integrated modulation/pitch lever.
JCJR
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2196 posts since 17 Apr, 2005, from S.E. TN

Postby JCJR; Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:37 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

fluffy_little_something wrote:Weighted basically means piano-like, right? Must feel strange with most synth sounds such as pads, brass, bass, strings...

Maybe depends on skill and preference. I would much rather play bass on fully weighted keys. Going back to the years I played bass on Fender Rhodes Piano Bass. On strings, brass and pads sometimes weighted keys are better for me, especially strings or any patch that changes tone/volume fairly radically with velocity. I'm heavy-handed and can more-reliably control velocity on a weighted action.

The main things I like synth keys, unweighted or "semi-weighted' are organ and most pure synth tones, especially if some of the notes must be played fairly fast-- Because I'm a clumsy player and fast playing is easier on a light shallow keyboard. Especially patches that are not programmed very velocity-sensitive. If a patch tone and volume doesn't drastically change with velocity, then accidentally slapping too-hard on a fast shallow key doesn't sound so ugly and gappy.

The above considerations possibly irrelevant for players with better finger control.

Though it doesn't help Mike any and qualifies as thread drift, it seems long ago that some of the light-action keyboards felt pretty good.

Long before "hammer action" was a thing on synth keyboards, it was often a game of springs, lead weights, and sometimes hysteresis in the hinges, where it takes more force to start a key hinge moving but less force to get it all the way down to the bottom.

My old weighted actions, each key had a lead weight bigger than my thumb.

I can't recall models, but some old "semi weighted" actions were fairly descriptive-- Yer basic short spring-loaded hollow plastic molded keys, not a real deep key movement to the bottom, and SMALL lead weights on the keys. I guess the small lead weights must have made a difference or why would they have bothered? OTOH they were not very big, I remember seeing little lead flats maybe 3/4 inch square, maybe 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick, glued under the keys. Never weighed one but figured what, a half-ounce or an ounce? Or less? Possibly use a bigger lead weight than that rigging a fishing pole for fresh water bottom cat-fishing.

I think most modern "piano-style actions" moved to fake hammers, is that gravity and leverage of the fake hammer is cheaper and lighter than the old-style "real strong springs offset by lead weights bigger than yer thumb". If you want a 20 pound 88 rather than an 80 pound 88, one thing is to get rid of all that lead!

Similarly, wonder if anyone makes "semi-weighted" anymore with springs and small lead weights? Maybe they try to get the same thing with leverage and eliminate even the small lead weights. Same dealie, even with small lead weights, if you are trying to make a 10 or 15 pound 61 key synthesizer, then even the small lead weights might be a problem reaching a weight goal.

Another factor of which I'm ignorant-- There are so many laws about lead nowadays, wonder if a keyboard manufacturer might have legal hurdles selling keyboards containing many pounds of lead slugs?
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fluffy_little_something
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10119 posts since 5 Jun, 2012, from Portugal

Postby fluffy_little_something; Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:44 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

Hehe, never heard of that Fender Rhodes Piano Bass thingy before, but just heard it on YT, sounds unspectacular.

But yes, for electric bass sounds weighted keys might make sense, emulating the strings being plucked. Not so sure about synth basses, though.

I am not a trained piano player, either, so good synth action keys are fine with me. Most modern midi controller keyboards allow the user to change the response curve (linear, exponential etc.).
JCJR
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2196 posts since 17 Apr, 2005, from S.E. TN

Postby JCJR; Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:18 am Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

fluffy_little_something wrote:Hehe, never heard of that Fender Rhodes Piano Bass thingy before, but just heard it on YT, sounds unspectacular.

Yah, but for a long time FR Piano Bass was as good as it got for playing "ordinary music" with bass on keys. For instance in the 1970's you could program many bass tones on monophonic analog synths but none were velocity sensitive. You got the same volume and tone on EVERY_DERN_NOTE_IN_THE_ENTIRE_SONG. So for anything except machine-like techno or funk bass lines, mono analog synth was "too dull an axe" to cut it if each note needed its own different tone and volume, which was the case for most music.

It was also a matter of setup, adjustment and EQ. The innards of a keybass could be screwdriver adjusted to be "mostly low harmonics" all the way up to "hardly any low harmonics" and a mix somewhere between the extremes was desirable and maybe not many people even knew they could be adjusted, and IMO they were not well-adjusted for good tone from the factory.

They also used fairly soft hammer tips, and could be made "pluckier" by gluing in harder hammer tips.

Finally, to my ear, even adjusted good it was a little too strong in upper bass harmonics and a little weak in lower bass harmonics and a little weak in high overtones, so I typically ran it thru a graphic EQ to fix those issues.

Properly used, it could function "about the same purpose" as fender electric bass, the difference being unremarkable enough that one might not immediately notice in a mix.
tapper mike
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4488 posts since 19 Jan, 2008

Postby tapper mike; Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:47 pm Re: 61 key synth weighted midi controller?

I loved Ray Manzarek's playing bass in the Doors.

People who didn't live through that era as a keyboard player may never understand what was available and how it operated in the real world. Overtones / harmonics on tines are nothing like overtones on strings. Yeah you can delve into chimey tones but only with the slightest of touch. Not suitable for having to play aggressively simply to be heard in a rock/pop combo of the 60's/70's/80's but also not suffering the drift one might get out of an analog synth like a Moog Taurus.

As I was searching youtube I came across the down the rhodes webisodes. I think it's funny that only (so far) Chic Corea talks about having to maintain a Rhodes. I know it's a big rhodes lovefest thing, but still. Yeah I love rhodes tones when they are properly set up. I love the higher end rhodes plugins more.

Getting back on track... I may be opting for a Korg Kross 61

Yes I've had an M1, No I wasn't really looking for cheap workstation.

In many ways my Ztar 6 with all of it's faults (and it has many) has spoiled me.
It has a better sensibility to velocity curves that are actually curves. You can manage velocity and volume on the unit better and store them in presets. It does take a lot of page digging through the interface to get to.

I finally sat down with my LP Pro manual and started playing around with velocity settings. It's getting better but it's no Ztar. Starr labs put a lot into velocity and volume output curves and more. It's funny because you can get all the shimmer of a soft touch to the roar of aggressive playing and still have a compressed db range. It's like a high end limiter / compressor. The pads on the LP Pro will always be stiff pads with bounce back making sure you have constant force to sustain notes rather than the ease of just resting your fingers on the surface.

I have a very bad habit of not committing to learning/playing the keyboard even with the best of intentions. I can fumble around the instrument okay but never beyond mediocre. And yet I just love Wide open chords. Solo and or trio keyboard performance.

A funny thing about the linnstrument. I'd been used to tapping on a ztar for almost a decade now. Lots of fun. My right hand almost fell right into place playing the linn as a desktop controller. The left (and mind you I have a strong left hand playing Stanley Jordan type tapping on the guitar as well as ztar.... Well that was another experience all together getting my mind around the fingers doing the exact opposite of what they would do on a button guitar.

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