I need some advise on midi controllers

Anything about hardware musical instruments.
Blacklight
KVRist
58 posts since 17 Mar, 2011

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:32 pm

I have the need for a small, compact, portable, midi controller, that I can use to play VST's live, that allows me to tweak synth parameters on the fly while playing, and that has keys that aren't just stiff, glued in place sticks of plastic like the Akai APC Mini keyboards that are eventually going to break. I've been researching midi controllers and every single one of the small, 25 key ones that I've found has gotten confusingly mixed reviews. And it's usually people who use Ableton Live who love most of them and people who don't who hate them. Apparently these keyboards are ALL made to interface with Ableton Live and from what I gather from reviews, they all become clunky messes when they integrate with anything else or people try to use them for the purpose I want to use them for, playing VST's live and maybe some Sonar usage, but I don't use Ableton. Also I don't even know if I can TRUST any reviews because I'll see half the reviews saying build quality is amazing while the other half is saying that the thing feels like a toy. So to every musician, these things are VERY subjective. I need some help with this on a direction to go. The very conflicted reviews that I'm finding on every single product, which almost makes me feel like the products are being developed almost proprietary for certain applications, are confusing the hell out of me.
I just recently returned an Akai 25 Key Professional keyboard because the keyboard was just horrible, stiff, hurt my fingers, and the software was really clunky. It had a VERY difficult time interfacing their software with my older VST's and I had to fight like hell for two days on tech support to even get it to see them.
"What the hell is that godawful noise !?! Oh. It's just you."

Zexila
KVRAF
3089 posts since 18 Mar, 2008

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:38 pm

Your best bet is to carry your laptop with you and test them all yourself in closest audio store, as you noticed, someone's gold is other persons trash and so on.
This entire forum is wading through predictions, opinions, barely formed thoughts, drama, and whining. If you don't enjoy that, why are you here? :D ShawnG

Blacklight
KVRist
58 posts since 17 Mar, 2011

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:56 pm

That would be wonderful to do in theory, but the problem is, to get these midi controllers to interface with VST's and see how they play, you have to download their software. This also requires resistration of the product with the companies, etc.. because they're all crazy with DRM as well. None of them come with the software in box. They don't just plug in and go. So the only method is to just keep buying and returning midi controllers until I find a diamond among the garbage? The local music store is going to hate me. Haha!
"What the hell is that godawful noise !?! Oh. It's just you."

User avatar
zerocrossing
KVRAF
9293 posts since 26 Jun, 2006 from San Francisco Bay Area

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:24 pm

I’m using old Novations, which I like, but word on the street is the new ones blow, and from a short amount of time with one in a Guitar Center, I think they do blow. I’m not sure if there’s a higher end line than the one I tried, or they just now all suck. In a similar thread on GearSlutz, I saw the Native Instruments Kontrol keyboard got mentioned over and over again as being good. If my controllers die, that’d be the first once I’d look at. I’ve got a Maschine Mk1 and it’s very solid in every way. If the controllers are as good, I’m in.
Zerocrossing Media

4th Law of Robotics: When turning evil, display a red indicator light. ~[ ●_● ]~

jdnz
KVRian
703 posts since 3 Oct, 2011 from Christchurch, New Zealand

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 9:25 pm

not cheap but what about building a solution that suits you using ROLI blocks (keyboard block is 25 key and add whatever controller blocks you need)

https://roli.com/products/blocks/seaboard-block

Blacklight
KVRist
58 posts since 17 Mar, 2011

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:07 pm

zerocrossing wrote:I’m using old Novations, which I like, but word on the street is the new ones blow, and from a short amount of time with one in a Guitar Center, I think they do blow. I’m not sure if there’s a higher end line than the one I tried, or they just now all suck. In a similar thread on GearSlutz, I saw the Native Instruments Kontrol keyboard got mentioned over and over again as being good. If my controllers die, that’d be the first once I’d look at. I’ve got a Maschine Mk1 and it’s very solid in every way. If the controllers are as good, I’m in.


I was actually looking at the Novation Launchkey 25 today and that seemed like it was the absolute best of the bunch at the very top of my price range. The keys seemed to feel good. It felt decently built And of course, once I got home and researched it, reviews were all over the place and confused the hell out of me. It was 50/50. Some were praising it as fantastic. Others, saying that it was a crap, piece of junk. And this has been the case with EVERY midi controller that I've researched in this price range.
It's confusing me because I don't know if the products actually ARE junk or if it's a case that we have musicians who are really picky about their gear, who are used to high end production gear buying these things, and then writing reviews, who are used to using $400 studio midi controllers and keyboards which would explain why some would comment "This thing feels like a toy." while to someone like me, it feels sturdy.
"What the hell is that godawful noise !?! Oh. It's just you."

Blacklight
KVRist
58 posts since 17 Mar, 2011

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:14 pm

Also, Ableton must have a damn near monopoly deal with these companies that make these midi controllers because every single one of them that I've seen almost seems to have have their layout and software designed for Ableton Live first and everything else as just an afterthought. There's so many of these midi controllers that just lose a lot of features the minute you switch to another DAW.
"What the hell is that godawful noise !?! Oh. It's just you."

jdnz
KVRian
703 posts since 3 Oct, 2011 from Christchurch, New Zealand

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:55 pm

Blacklight wrote:It's confusing me because I don't know if the products actually ARE junk or if it's a case that we have musicians who are really picky about their gear, who are used to high end production gear buying these things, and then writing reviews, who are used to using $400 studio midi controllers and keyboards which would explain why some would comment "This thing feels like a toy." while to someone like me, it feels sturdy.
launchkeys are pretty low-rent, the impulse line is better (but to me still didn’t feel as good as my old nocturn49). Like you said it all comes down to expectations and what you’re used to.

Novation still do a 25 key version of the SLmkII - which has a really decent action, but again isn’t at all cheap. It’s a fatar action so very similar to the NI komplete kontrol line (which I’ve tried and also didn’t mind) - but of course the SLmkII has heaps more mappable controllers than the NI

bbtr
Banned
410 posts since 21 Nov, 2005

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:03 am


bbtr
Banned
410 posts since 21 Nov, 2005

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:08 am

As a side note, I'm reading A LOT about people returning fully functional hardware because it is not working as they expected, or because it doesn't have this or that function that the buyer wants.

That's such a waste and a nightmare to be a hardware manufacturer. Guitars, TV monitors, you name it. Throwaway mentality at its finest.

SAD...

Steve Bolivar
KVRist
367 posts since 25 Aug, 2006

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:21 am

Looks nice. Also available domestically in US for about $200

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... controller

Zexila
KVRAF
3089 posts since 18 Mar, 2008

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:29 am

This entire forum is wading through predictions, opinions, barely formed thoughts, drama, and whining. If you don't enjoy that, why are you here? :D ShawnG

chk071
KVRAF
17016 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:35 am

About Ableton's "monopoly": I'd think it's the other way round. Hardware manufacturers realized that many people use Ableton for live performance, and are therefor offering controllers for use with Ableton. Plus it lends itself to controller use, more than other DAW's.

About the Launchkey: If you like it, why not go for it? I don't think there's really much choice in the price range you stated. If you'd want something better, i would have proposed the Komplete Kontrol S25 from NI, but, those are 300 € here. Also, i wouldn't base my choice so much on reviews on the net. Seriously, most of those are utter cr**, and either praise keyboards in the skies, sometimes even or the way they look, and how blinky the lights on them are, or they criticize points which in my eyes won't even matter much.

For example, i didn't read about the relatively loud noise floor on my speakers in ANY of the reviews i read about them. I only noticed it after i bought them. And those were reviews from big sites. Frankly, i wouldn't care about reviews at all.

low_low
KVRist
362 posts since 20 Jul, 2018

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:42 am

Pair w/ your favorite keyboard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFrqLm3R7XY

sprnva
KVRian
1289 posts since 16 Jan, 2013

Re: I need some advise on midi controllers

Post Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:58 am

FWIW, I looked into MIDI controllers a lot a few years back and concluded that none of them were worth the money. Even the more expensive controllers seemed to have issues going by reviews. In most cases buying an old 90s synth would get a better quality keybed for almost the same price. The downside would be the need for MIDI and power cables while a lot of the current MIDI controllers use a simple USB cable for both.

However, eventually I picked up a LaunchKey 49 and haven't had any issues with it. In the end I rarely used the knobs or sliders to control VSTs as I just couldn't be bothered mapping stuff all the time but the drum pads were handy for banging in some beats. I got it half price when the MkII Launchkeys were announced. It's not getting any use now because it's just a bit big for my current setup so I'm using a KeyStep instead. But I couldn't really fault it for my needs.
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