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#2932369 - 06/12/18 06:16 AM Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018
ElmerJFudd Online   content
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Registered: 11/30/14
Posts: 6416
Loc: USA, greater NY area
Those that have had a chance to try out and gig or use in studio please chime in.

Points of interest:
VST/AU Hosts they integrate well with
VST/AU Instruments they control well
Reliable driver development and software support
Build quality
Quality/feel of action
Quality/feel of knobs and faders
Best one for synth control
Best one for organ control
Best one for orchestra/big band control
Best one for EP and AP control

Keyless
Studio Logic SL MIXFACE price unknown!
Roland MX-1 $599.99
Novation LaunchControl XL $149.99
Akai MIDIMIX $99
Akai APC40MKII $299
Nektar Panorama P1 $299.99

Key'd
Arturia Keylab stuff (88, 61, 49 - I know faders on the right?) $199,$249, $799
Behringer Motor 49/61 looks interesting $399.99, $499.99
Novation SL MkII (also discontinued?)
MAudio Code 49/61 $299, $349
Akai MPK249/261 $399.99, $499.99
Novation Impulse 49/61 $299.99, $399.99
Novation Launchkey Mk2 49/61 $199.99, $249.99
Nektar Panorama P6 $599.99
Nektar LX88+ (looks like the studiologic Numa Compact 2x, I wonder how good a controller the 2x is?) $319.99
Nektar Impact LX61+ $199.99
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KC Island
#2932385 - 06/12/18 07:16 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
johnchop Offline
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Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 2215
Loc: Georgia, US
There are the VIP enhanced keyboards:

Akai Advance 25/49/61
Alesis VX49
MAudio CTRL 49 (hard to find now... discontinued?)

I have the CTRL49. The VIP integration is the real selling point. VIP is nowhere near as powerful as Mainstage/Gig Performer/Cantabile but it doesn't have to be if you are doing no more than 8-part multis. It's a shame the sliders and buttons underneath cannot be mapped to MIDI CCs (limiting usefulness for organs). Aftertouch is hard to enagage. Obviously 49 keys isn't going to cut it for a lot of scenarios, but I guess it helps you "stay in your lane" sonically. smile I use the DAW control features with Ableton and Studio One (and have tried with Tracktion, and Cubase) with no problems.

Not sure where -- if anywhere -- MAudio is going with this product line. If it died, I'd get another a VIP keyboard without hesitation (Akai Advance 61).
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#2932409 - 06/12/18 09:24 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: johnchop]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
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Registered: 11/30/14
Posts: 6416
Loc: USA, greater NY area
Off site from colleagues I am hearing good things about the Nektar P stuff with regard to the homework they've done on being "native" with the hosts, keeping things as "plugnplay" as possible. The LCD is nice and although I haven't touched one yet, the build looks better than what we typically get from MAudio (of course a little more expensive). Lots of stuff on youtube about use with Reason and Mainstage/Logic.
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Home: Rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k

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#2932468 - 06/12/18 04:27 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 3089
Loc: Australia
There are also controllers available from Native Instruments.
_________________________
MainStage | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P
"He helped me onto the bottom rung as a musician, from which, I might add, I never ascended" Glyn Johns - Sound Man

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#2932476 - 06/12/18 05:45 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: Phreakay]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
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Registered: 11/30/14
Posts: 6416
Loc: USA, greater NY area
True, I did see them, but they only have a row of encoders, no faders. Most of the players here at least would like faders, preferably 9, to use with B5, Logicís Vintage Hammond, etc.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88, S61, S49
$999. $699, $599

And if youíre just controlling acoustic piano libraries you have the VPC-1.
Lots of the listed models would be real nice up on top.

_________________________
Live: Yamaha S90ES, Roland VR-700
Home: Rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k

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#2932514 - 06/13/18 04:28 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
A topic Iím passionate about and have had lots of pro gigging and studio experience with two different controllers. The Novation SL MK2 61 and Nektar Panorama P6.

As a great feeling playable instrument the keybed on the Novation is much preferred but the P6 having real wheels & 9 faders (drawbars) wins for playing with those.

Live Iíve used both with Apple MainStage on a Mac Mini. I was able to get feedback to both controllers although the Novation Automap route was way less flexible and a lot more work to set up. I made some videos on Novation integration. Just look up my Jaminajar YouTube page and youíll find those.

In this area of computer software integration and screen feedback the P6 was a delight and streets ahead.

Both controllers always sit on top of a weighted controller for piano stuff so no interest in talking about how either play those kinds of sounds.

In the studio I donít rely on control surface features of either having a large Mackie Control setup for this so here the Novation wins for its keybed but the P6 wins for its wheeels.

My ideal unweighted controller would be the keyboard and touch sensitive controls auto updating the screen of the Mk2 SL Novation coupled with all the other software integration, real pitch/ mod wheels, colour screen and 9 faders of the Nektar Panorama P6.

Kind regards
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Paul Najar
Jaminajar music production
www.jaminajar.com

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#2932515 - 06/13/18 04:36 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
One more thing. I agree with you the Behringer Motor look interesting but if you rely on text feedback on your controller my research could not tell if the controller was capable of this even though itís capable of led ring updates around encoders and of course the motor faders updating.

I think what good is that without knowing what each control is mapped to per patch via an associated updatable text label? YMMV
_________________________
Paul Najar
Jaminajar music production
www.jaminajar.com

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#2932519 - 06/13/18 04:49 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 12802
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
My ideal unweighted controller would be the keyboard and touch sensitive controls auto updating the screen of the Mk2 SL Novation coupled with all the other software integration, real pitch/ mod wheels, colour screen and 9 faders of the Nektar Panorama P6.

Maybe you could get 90% of the way there by putting a P1 on your Mk2? I think it's too big to fit completely on the free panel space of the 61, but it may fit "enough" that velcro could keep it in place, even if it overhangs...?
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#2932521 - 06/13/18 05:03 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
Phreakay Offline
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Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 3089
Loc: Australia
"Intergration" with a host is non-issue. Provided the controller sends class compliant midi for all sliders, encoders, buttons and pads they will work with any host or DAW.

Taking MainStage as an example, the work flow is to map your controller to MainStage, setting up virtual visual version of each slider, encoder etc. in layout mode in MainStage. MainStage includes many template layouts that can be used to minimise the time it takes to do this.

Then you map each control in your layout to each of the AU's used in each patch in that Concert.

A one to one relationship between a slider or encoder and an AU only works where you have one AU per patch. As soon as you have more than one AU per patch, for example a split with B-5 in the left hand and a synth on your right hand, you have to decide which function you want each slider, encoder etc. to control in each AU or effect in that patch.

There are virtually unlimited possible combinations of AU and effects and it would be a waste of time for any controller manufacturer to invest time in building templates to cater for these scenarios in MainStage, and also for Cantabile and Gig Performer.

Akai and Arturia may do this for their AU's but going down this path locks you into their interface. As soon as you want to mix and match their AU's with others you have to run a host and the Arturia AU's for example, inside the host.
_________________________
MainStage | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P
"He helped me onto the bottom rung as a musician, from which, I might add, I never ascended" Glyn Johns - Sound Man

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#2932525 - 06/13/18 05:41 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 12802
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
Live Iíve used both with Apple MainStage on a Mac Mini. I was able to get feedback to both controllers although the Novation Automap route was way less flexible and a lot more work to set up...In this area of computer software integration and screen feedback the P6 was a delight and streets ahead.
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
I agree with you the Behringer Motor look interesting but if you rely on text feedback on your controller my research could not tell if the controller was capable of this even though itís capable of led ring updates around encoders and of course the motor faders updating...I think what good is that without knowing what each control is mapped to per patch via an associated updatable text label? YMMV

Particularly with a (presumably headless) Mac Mini based host, the value of something indicating what each knob/fader is controlling is obvious. I haven't seen a Motor in the flesh, but the manual does not indicate that there is any way to display a screen of the current assignments. And there's not enough panel space even for for an iPad Mini, but I'm thinking you could come up with something that would work even with a smaller iPhone (or iPod Touch) if need be. For example, I could imagine using Set List Maker to call up a song where it would send a MIDI Program Change to tell Mainstage and/or the Behringer what sounds and controller assignments you wanted, and then let you display a PDF you'd create that would list out the controller assignments for that song. It's not as nice as having the labels actually where the controls are, but it could still work pretty well, I think. In addition, if most of the time you're using a given knob/slider for one of 2 or 3 functions (i.e. you have some banks of "standard" assignments you use all the time), You could print out a paper template that you could attach to the board with those 2 or 3 functions listed (say, in different color groups), which would let you put those labels right at the controls.
_________________________
Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our new video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out!

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#2932530 - 06/13/18 05:56 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2886
Loc: NYC area
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
A topic Iím passionate about and have had lots of pro gigging and studio experience with two different controllers. The Novation SL MK2 61 and Nektar Panorama P6.

Looks like the Novation is discontinued.

I did some googling and also found posts on other forums praising the keybed but trashing the sliders, pads & x/y pad.

I'm always keeping an eye out for something that might replace my A800 Pro when it bites the dust, so thanks for your post Ė those are probably the two models that have the feature set closest to what I might need. But they all seem to have a few negatives that make it hard to choose.

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#2932532 - 06/13/18 06:06 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
Reezekeys Offline
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Registered: 02/07/11
Posts: 2886
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Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
Behringer Motor 49/61 looks interesting $399.99, $499.99

Looks interesting so I searched and the first thing I saw was this video. It could have been half the length, but I slogged through. It's possible the issues shown here were caused by shipping damage Ė but I would be very wary of buying one of these without seeing more positive reviews.


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#2932563 - 06/13/18 08:22 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
burningbusch Online   content
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Registered: 10/22/00
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Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
True, I did see them, but they only have a row of encoders, no faders. Most of the players here at least would like faders, preferably 9, to use with B5, Logicís Vintage Hammond, etc.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88, S61, S49
$999. $699, $599

And if youíre just controlling acoustic piano libraries you have the VPC-1.
Lots of the listed models would be real nice up on top.



The NI Controller S88 is on my short list for my main studio controller. I can't remember the last time I used organ on a track, so faders to replicate drawbars is a non-issue for me. How well NKS works in the real world is something I'd have to test for myself. But in theory, it looks to be wonderful and a huge advance over the manual mapping that you traditional have to go through. I don't use Mainstage; don't play live. I need something with a flat surface on the left for PC keyboard and mouse. The Kawai is huge and though I have an Argosy console, that 16.75" depth would cause it to overhang.
The Kawai action is top notch, but that's it. The S88 is about half the price, with far more functionality (NKS) and will fit in my space.

Busch.

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#2932572 - 06/13/18 09:27 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: Reezekeys]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 12802
Originally Posted By: Reezekeys
Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
Behringer Motor 49/61 looks interesting $399.99, $499.99

Looks interesting so I searched and the first thing I saw was this video. It could have been half the length, but I slogged through. It's possible the issues shown here were caused by shipping damage Ė but I would be very wary of buying one of these without seeing more positive reviews.

It could be why there is a source for so many refurbs on eBay. (There's a listing with 20 sold, and "more than 10" available.) But who knows what percentage actually have problems.

BTW, check the settings pop-up on youtube videos, you can watch videos at 1.5x or double speed, a great time saver for stuff like this!

Conceptually, I really like this board. Besides the endless encoders with rings I already menioned, the idea of motorized drawbars/faders is great, too. Whether for controllers, or any keyboard that uses recallable presets which put the controls out of sync with the sound. (The choice between "jump" or "catch" when moving a control is a choice between two unfortunate compromises.)

Depending on the action (I've never played one), if there were a 73 key Motor controller with some definable function display mechanism, that would be pretty ideal.
_________________________
Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our new video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out!

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#2932580 - 06/13/18 10:20 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: AnotherScott]
tfort Offline
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Registered: 05/06/16
Posts: 262
The new MIDI-Capability Inquiry protocol adopted early this year should allow for a next generation of controllers to emerge. I personally believe hope the impending adoption of MIDI-CI is what has kept instrument manufacturers from releasing new controllers for so long.

I guess the question now shifts to when instruments with MIDI-CI will become available. Since the manufacturers have been so involved in the development of MIDI-CI, I believe it will be sooner rather than later. I'm guessing NAMM 2019, but I have a glimmer of hope that something may be announced/leaked at Summer NAMM 2018 in a couple of weeks. I'd wait at least until then to decide on buying something new, or buy something cheap knowing that the "new wave" of controllers may start coming out in a year or so.

https://www.midi.org/articles-old/midi-m...i-specification

https://www.midi.org/articles/midi-capabilties-inquiry-presentation-at-adc

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#2932627 - 06/13/18 03:23 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: AnotherScott]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Yes I had thought about the P1 but it just ends up being one more piece of kit and I still donít get the wheels.

Since the Novation uses the Fatar TP9 keybed I did for a short while go looking for any controller that used that keybed with the idea to team that with a P1 but I quickly discovered that my Prophet 12 keyboard (which I donít take out live) has the TP9 and feels significantly different to the SL Mk2.
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Paul Najar
Jaminajar music production
www.jaminajar.com

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#2932628 - 06/13/18 03:31 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: Phreakay]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Originally Posted By: Markay
"Intergration" with a host is non-issue. Provided the controller sends class compliant midi for all sliders, encoders, buttons and pads they will work with any host or DAW.

A one to one relationship between a slider or encoder and an AU only works where you have one AU per patch. As soon as you have more than one AU per patch, for example a split with B-5 in the left hand and a synth on your right hand, you have to decide which function you want each slider, encoder etc. to control in each AU or effect in that patch.

There are virtually unlimited possible combinations of AU and effects and it would be a waste of time for any controller manufacturer to invest time in building templates to cater for these scenarios in MainStage, and also for Cantabile and Gig Performer.

Akai and Arturia may do this for their AU's but going down this path locks you into their interface. As soon as you want to mix and match their AU's with others you have to run a host and the Arturia AU's for example, inside the host.


It seems like youíre looking at this differently to me. Yes youíre right to map hardware controls to screen controls but from there on Iím not looking for 1 to 1 relationship for each AU. I simply want to assign whatever AU voice controls within each patch via the screen controls and simply have that value and text assignment update at the controller. Assignments could be different for each patch which is why you need to have a controller that receives feedback from the host when you change patches so you know the current value and paramaeter assignment.
_________________________
Paul Najar
Jaminajar music production
www.jaminajar.com

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#2932630 - 06/13/18 03:39 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: AnotherScott]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Originally Posted By: AnotherScott
[/quote]
Particularly with a (presumably headless) Mac Mini based host, the value of something indicating what each knob/fader is controlling is obvious. I haven't seen a Motor in the flesh, but the manual does not indicate that there is any way to display a screen of the current assignments. And there's not enough panel space even for for an iPad Mini, but I'm thinking you could come up with something that would work even with a smaller iPhone (or iPod Touch) if need be. For example, I could imagine using Set List Maker to call up a song where it would send a MIDI Program Change to tell Mainstage and/or the Behringer what sounds and controller assignments you wanted, and then let you display a PDF you'd create that would list out the controller assignments for that song. It's not as nice as having the labels actually where the controls are, but it could still work pretty well, I think. In addition, if most of the time you're using a given knob/slider for one of 2 or 3 functions (i.e. you have some banks of "standard" assignments you use all the time), You could print out a paper template that you could attach to the board with those 2 or 3 functions listed (say, in different color groups), which would let you put those labels right at the controls.


Just in case I was not clear Iíve not touched a Behringer Motor either. Itís pretty easy to get a mount for your iPad if you want to go that way. Iíve played around a lot with the IOS app Lemur to add text per patch. In Mainstage you simply create an external channel strip per patch which allows you send an assignable program change when that patch is selected. In Lemur (on an old iPhone in my case) you create a lemur project with each page of the project being for one patch thatís selectable via the PG sent from MS and put all your text labels in there. This is the ideal way because if you reorder the patches in MainStage the program changes sending to Lemur donít get mucked up.

I use this exact same system to select charts on my iPad.


Edited by paulnajar (06/13/18 03:50 PM)
_________________________
Paul Najar
Jaminajar music production
www.jaminajar.com

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#2932631 - 06/13/18 03:45 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: Reezekeys]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Originally Posted By: Reezekeys
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
A topic Iím passionate about and have had lots of pro gigging and studio experience with two different controllers. The Novation SL MK2 61 and Nektar Panorama P6.

Looks like the Novation is discontinued.

I did some googling and also found posts on other forums praising the keybed but trashing the sliders, pads & x/y pad.

I'm always keeping an eye out for something that might replace my A800 Pro when it bites the dust, so thanks for your post Ė those are probably the two models that have the feature set closest to what I might need. But they all seem to have a few negatives that make it hard to choose.


I discovered a while back in another thread here that the Novation keybed is a Fatar TP9. As mentioned in another post in this thread I explored finding a basic controller that had TP9 keybed and maybe marry that with a Nektar Panorama P1. Problem was. Soon found out that the keybed in my Prophet 12 is a Fatar TP9 and feels way lighter and less positive to play than the Novation MK2 SL so I scrapped that idea simply because I could not get to play every interesting model around here and would have to guess. Currently the compromise is to play the Nektar Panorama P6 with an inferior keybed. Itís not a terrible keybed by any means, itís just not as positive as the Novation and has a slightly longer throw.
_________________________
Paul Najar
Jaminajar music production
www.jaminajar.com

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#2932688 - 06/14/18 02:14 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
Phreakay Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 01/28/12
Posts: 3089
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
Originally Posted By: Markay
"Intergration" with a host is non-issue. Provided the controller sends class compliant midi for all sliders, encoders, buttons and pads they will work with any host or DAW.

A one to one relationship between a slider or encoder and an AU only works where you have one AU per patch. As soon as you have more than one AU per patch, for example a split with B-5 in the left hand and a synth on your right hand, you have to decide which function you want each slider, encoder etc. to control in each AU or effect in that patch.

There are virtually unlimited possible combinations of AU and effects and it would be a waste of time for any controller manufacturer to invest time in building templates to cater for these scenarios in MainStage, and also for Cantabile and Gig Performer.

Akai and Arturia may do this for their AU's but going down this path locks you into their interface. As soon as you want to mix and match their AU's with others you have to run a host and the Arturia AU's for example, inside the host.


It seems like youíre looking at this differently to me. Yes youíre right to map hardware controls to screen controls but from there on Iím not looking for 1 to 1 relationship for each AU. I simply want to assign whatever AU voice controls within each patch via the screen controls and simply have that value and text assignment update at the controller. Assignments could be different for each patch which is why you need to have a controller that receives feedback from the host when you change patches so you know the current value and paramaeter assignment.


I find Perform mode invaluable in providing my set list in the left pane, my split points and layers on the keyboard and the position of the drawbars, percussion, overdrive, CV selection on screen when playing B-5 for example. I don't see how any text based alternative could work for me, and many others I suspect, given the time Apple have invested in the "Perform" GUI.

The MainStage GUI and the information available on screen while performing was the primary reason I switched from Cantabile/Windows to MainStage/OSX.

But being able to use MainStage in a headless environment shows how flexible it is in being able to tailored to each performers personal requirements.

Controllers that can respond to bi-directional info from the host to controller would be ideal, in my case with option of sliding a tablet into a built in holder that would mirror the master machines screen. All over one USB or Thunderbolt connection. But given the glacial pace of technology adoption, let alone innovation, in the MI industry that will probably remain a dream for many years to come.
_________________________
MainStage | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P
"He helped me onto the bottom rung as a musician, from which, I might add, I never ascended" Glyn Johns - Sound Man

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#2932689 - 06/14/18 03:41 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: Phreakay]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Quote:
[/quote] I find Perform mode invaluable in providing my set list in the left pane, my split points and layers on the keyboard and the position of the drawbars, percussion, overdrive, CV selection on screen when playing B-5 for example. I don't see how any text based alternative could work for me, and many others I suspect, given the time Apple have invested in the "Perform" GUI.

The MainStage GUI and the information available on screen while performing was the primary reason I switched from Cantabile/Windows to MainStage/OSX.

But being able to use MainStage in a headless environment shows how flexible it is in being able to tailored to each performers personal requirements.

Controllers that can respond to bi-directional info from the host to controller would be ideal, in my case with option of sliding a tablet into a built in holder that would mirror the master machines screen. All over one USB or Thunderbolt connection. But given the glacial pace of technology adoption, let alone innovation, in the MI industry that will probably remain a dream for many years to come.

[/quote]
So I originally used to run MainStage with a laptop but after a while I found I wanted a more hardware like experience and started to consider the notion of headless for several reasons. One was a powerful quad core processor cost a lot less in a non laptop and two I really started to not trust a laptop being up where I could see the screen. I was a disaster waiting to happen.

I was already very happy and comfortable in the studio running Mackie controls with excellent text labels and motor faders and began dreaming of the same power in a live keyboard. After too many different possible ideas that werenít right I gave up on there being a feedback capable controller AND a decent action. So I just went looking for a decent unweighted action and fell in love with the Novation SL Mk2. To my surprise and after some time I discovered a way to make the feedback happen beautifully but the single drawback was you could only step through patches +1/ -1 and reordering mainstage patch order was a massive undertaking. I even lobbied Novation for a while trying to convince them to add a feature or two to Automap to no effect. So that brought me finally to the Nektar. 2 steps forward and one step back.

I agree with you MainStage is super flexible and a superb piece of kit. It was a dream come true for me when it first appeared as I was already twisting Logic Pro to my desires as a my live keyboard rack via a complex Environment setup.

To this day Logic has a feature still missing in MainStage - performance select via program change - the ability to select channel strip setups via MIDI PGís.

FYI itís entirely possible for me to run my iPad as a screen for the Mac Mini connected via USB (most reliable) as you wish for. There are two apps Iíve found and there are sure to be others - Screens which is a iPad VNC app. The best of the two and the other I tried was Duet Display which turned out to be not as flexible. Ultimately I preferred the iPad for charts but it was also easy to do the 4 finger swipe to go back and forth


Edited by paulnajar (06/14/18 03:43 AM)
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#2932727 - 06/14/18 09:25 AM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
AnotherScott Offline
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So then it is possible to use an i-device to give you dynamic labeling of your controls, albeit not directly at the point of control. I wonder if that and a Motor61 (if its action is good) may be the best compromise, because at least you can add some kind of control labeling to the Motor61 whereas you can't add 9 motorized sliders and the things you prefer about the Novation to the P6 or the things you prefer about the P6 to the Novation.

As for swiping back and forth between Mainstage (via Screens) and you charts, I suppose you could also eliminate that with a second i-device, but also, maybe a single large iPad Pro might effectively allow you to do both simultaneously, if both apps cooperate with the recent IOS split screen features.
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#2932799 - 06/14/18 03:05 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: AnotherScott]
paulnajar Offline
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Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Originally Posted By: AnotherScott
So then it is possible to use an i-device to give you dynamic labeling of your controls, albeit not directly at the point of control. I wonder if that and a Motor61 (if its action is good) may be the best compromise, because at least you can add some kind of control labeling to the Motor61 whereas you can't add 9 motorized sliders and the things you prefer about the Novation to the P6 or the things you prefer about the P6 to the Novation.
As for swiping back and forth between Mainstage (via Screens) and you charts, I suppose you could also eliminate that with a second i-device, but also, maybe a single large iPad Pro might effectively allow you to do both simultaneously, if both apps cooperate with the recent IOS split screen features.


Yes I guess the Motor could be an option but the more I think about being more dependant on multiple pieces of gear I find myself wondering if I should just go get a laptop again. If you do a lot of Hammond then the motor faders would be a big benefit. I do a bit of that but not massive. For now the Nektar is a pleasant enough compromise and the drawbar experience without moving faders is still quite good I find.

IMO the screen feedback a laptop with Mainstage on screen gives you is not as good as the kind Iíím used to on the Novation/ Nektar LCDs. Also I have only done the most basic mapping of text and values to an IOS devices using Lemur so am yet to totally feel Iíve got proof of concept there. I just know it can do it because it listens for feedback and I know that I can build a layout in MS that sends reliable feedback. There is the Logic control app but there again the section you use is the Smart controls to give you text labels for your hardware controls but this also means the layout options (for the smart controls) are fixed to Appleís presets. Also using the touch screen to do anything with a knob or slider while performing is an awful experience Iím sure most whoíve tried would agree.

Itís funny that I mentioned you can do the 4 finger swipe to go back and forth between charts and MainStage screen. It was more to get Markay to know there was a way to display the computer screen up next to the play position if you want it. For me, Iíve work a fair bit at getting rid of the screen/s up around me. Headless so to speak.
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#2932826 - 06/14/18 06:14 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
Redknife Offline
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Originally Posted By: ElmerJFudd
True, I did see them, but they only have a row of encoders, no faders. Most of the players here at least would like faders, preferably 9, to use with B5, Logicís Vintage Hammond, etc.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88, S61, S49
$999. $699, $599

And if youíre just controlling acoustic piano libraries you have the VPC-1.
Lots of the listed models would be real nice up on top.


It seems that most controllers with 9 sliders have the sliders distributed over a width of about a tenth keyboard interval as opposed to a Hammond-esque 9 slider layout within an octave or so. I find that the widely spaced sliders are hard to manage as an organ controller. My max span is a 10th so I can just reach but it feels very awkward to me to move the wide sliders than say a Hammond sk. For me it ends up that the wide 9 gets me only slightly closer to organ controls. I am not an organ master, though, Do those of you using a widely spaced 9 slider controller find it difficult to control organ sounds the way you want? Have you adjusted? Another way to ask is, does simply having 9 sliders check the organ controller box for most or have you also found it necessary to have narrow slider spacing like a Hammond?
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#2932829 - 06/14/18 06:29 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: Redknife]
AnotherScott Offline
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Registered: 10/19/09
Posts: 12802
Originally Posted By: paulnajar
Itís funny that I mentioned you can do the 4 finger swipe to go back and forth between charts and MainStage screen. It was more to get Markay to know there was a way to display the computer screen up next to the play position if you want it. For me, Iíve work a fair bit at getting rid of the screen/s up around me. Headless so to speak.

Ah. Then maybe that brings us back to my earlier idea of using an iPhone or iPod Touch as a display for the control mapping, in something small enough to velcro right to the board.

Originally Posted By: Redknife
It seems that most controllers with 9 sliders have the sliders distributed over a width of about a tenth keyboard interval as opposed to a Hammond-esque 9 slider layout within an octave or so. I find that the widely spaced sliders are hard to manage as an organ controller.

I agree. I much prefer something close to standard spacing. But I don't do so much multiple-bar grabbing that it really affects me much. The Roland VR09 has the opposite problem, the drawbars are oo close together. Also a bit stiff, and the board is so light, that the amount of force needed to pull or push a bunch of bars tends to make the whole keyboard move!
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#2932831 - 06/14/18 06:53 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: AnotherScott]
paulnajar Offline
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Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
Originally Posted By: AnotherScott

Ah. Then maybe that brings us back to my earlier idea of using an iPhone or iPod Touch as a display for the control mapping, in something small enough to velcro right to the board.


Be sure to tell us about your findings if you play around with this idea. Theoretically it could be about the same usability as the screen on the Nektar Panorama. My only not sure about the feasibility is whether you could actually get MainStage to feed the actual text messages to the phone display per patch (preferable) or whether you simply put the text for each patch on the iphone app - for example Lemur - and each MS patch simply selected a different page of pre written text on the phone. This second approach is kind of what I had when using Novation Automap. Getting controller value chages to display back in Lemur was easy. It was the text writing that was more of a challenge. That's what makes Nektar's approach so compelling. All the text just shows up back at the controller without any additional programming outside of MianStage.

I have a vague memory of looking into whether there were messages I could get MS to send that Lemur would accept and write text to screen or not and I couldn't find a way to do that. Don't take my word for it. It was a fair while ago.
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#2935552 - 07/01/18 12:12 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: paulnajar]
ElmerJFudd Online   content
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#2935619 - 07/01/18 06:47 PM Re: Best Key'd/Keyless Controllers for Laptop/PC Players 2018 [Re: ElmerJFudd]
paulnajar Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 71
Loc: Sydney Australia
That looks interesting.

The idea of an improved keybed is attractive and for live performance dropping the motor fader is no biggie so presumably lower cost. Also the form factor is smaller and lighter.

The only deal breaker at this point is no MainStage integration announced as yet. I'm guessing that will come later.
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