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The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
#3008277 09/16/19 04:12 PM
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In a thread on KC, someone asked about the KBP4 and how it behaved. Here's my shortish answer in more detail than I gave over there.

First off, I moved this long note to CL because the KBP4 is not a keyboard in the traditional sense, even though it looks like one. It's an MPE controller that uses a traditional keyboard layout to help players focus on new playing techniques without learning new fingerings. It occupies a space between what traditional keyboards can do and what a full-on MPE controller can do, although it's much more close to the latter.

The keys on the KBP4 are made with KMI's patented "Smart Fabric". This is a very sturdy pressure/impact/position sensing material that can be cut and implemented in various layouts, under key-shaped surfaces made of lightly textured (not very slippery) silicone. They have a slight give under the fingers, but there is no mechanical movement. In fact, the KBP4 has absolutely no moving parts to break, not even a power switch.

Connections include two minijacks for pedals (adapters included), micro-B USB for computer connection, and mini-B USB for KMI's little MIDI Expander box so the KBP4 can be used standalone with hardware.

The keys are ever so slightly shorter and narrower than those on a traditional synthesizer: if you were to hold a KBP4 up against a standard MIDI synth (as I've done), you would find that the KBP4's 48-note keyboard (C to B) is about as wide as 44 notes (C to G) on a conventional keybed. There are four assignable ribbon controllers across the top of the KBP4, which can be assigned to functions like pitch bend (global vs. the per-key control), modulation/CC, octave selection, or program parameters.

While the top panel and base are plastic, the actual chassis is solid metal and fairly heavy. This turned out to be a vital element in the design, as the KBP4 requires an extremely rigid frame for the keyboard to perform reliably.

The companion app to edit the KBP4's settings runs on Mac, PC, or on any web-capable device using a browser-based editor. You can set up the performance of the device, map multiple commands to multiple surface, and fine tune the behavior of each key if you wish. The patch management system is a little bit funky, and I'm still wrapping my head around precisely when program changes are saved and/or transferred to the hardware from the software. It all works well enough, but there's an order of operations that I don't quite get yet.

In terms of playing, the KBP4 has a very interesting feel. It's not as squishy as the Joué or ROLI Seaboards, not as stiff as the LinnStrument or Morph, and very sensitive to the touch. You can (and must!) play with a very light touch, and of course you can't rest your fingers on the keys without activating them unless you set the action thresholds appropriately. A friend of mine who has RSI and arthritis has become very intrigued with it, as it may allow him to play keyboards without further damaging his hands.

It's not a perfect solution -- some folks will miss the ability to do long pitch bends up and down the keyboard rather than simple side-to-side wiggling for vibrato, which is ideal on this action -- but it shows a lot of promise, and I plan to get more into it as my schedule permits.

Please feel free to hit me up with any other questions!

mike


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3018576 12/05/19 07:06 PM
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I have one in my possession as well as a ROLI Seaboard 49 and have to say that as a traditional keyboard player, the K-Board is a lot easier to approach. Working on a video of what can be done with it and the Animoog app (as it's a very mature MPE-capable iOS synth) and will post here when I'm done — hopefully by late next week.


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
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Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Stephen Fortner #3019130 12/11/19 05:31 AM
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looking forward to that, Dr. Fortner. 2thu


that was then and this is now
Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3019335 12/12/19 11:41 PM
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As am I!


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
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Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3019387 12/13/19 04:56 PM
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Update: The folks at McMillen also want me to include a K-Mix mixer in the video, so I'm waiting for that to arrive. Then we're gonna make some noise!


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3019573 12/15/19 01:22 PM
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So it's a keyboard with alternative layout (smaller) and different travel/switch. Nice gimmick, but canit do polyphonic after-touch ?

T

Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3022248 01/06/20 12:28 PM
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Not my first post here - had to register with a different user name as I changed emails.

Anyway, to answer the post above; Yes, it can do Poly AT.

I have almost the full set of Roli (Rise 49, Block, Block M) and the K-Board Pro 4, with the Osmose on order.

I do find it much easier to play chords on the Pro 4 as compared to the Roli. I think the issue with the Roli is the extra spacing between the B/C and E/F keys. It plays fine when soloing but gives me some issues with chord accuracy. Not so with the Pro 4. I do find that the Pro 4 complements the Roli very well as the Seaboard Rise is great for pitch glides and bends.

I do hope that the build quality of the Pro 4 proves to be more robust than the Roli. I'm now on my third Rise 49. It does appear to have issues due to it being two Rise 25's joined together.

Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Stephen Fortner #3042018 05/04/20 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
Update: The folks at McMillen also want me to include a K-Mix mixer in the video, so I'm waiting for that to arrive. Then we're gonna make some noise!

Did you do a video?

Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3042087 05/05/20 03:46 AM
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Hi! This was a project that wound up on the back burner because <reasons> but I've just dug back into it. I've been exploring it a lot with Animoog, and one of the most obvious things you'd want to do it is make the Y-axis on the keys control the Y-axis of the touchscreen keys in Animoog. I puzzled over this for awhile, then a friend at Moog hipped me to the fact that within Animoog, the Y-axis of the onscreen keyboard is actually transmitting pressure/aftertouch. In the KBP4 editor software (which is available for Mac and Windows, but not yet for iPad, so you have to switch over to a computer), you can make the Y-axis do pressure and actual pressure do something else (if you want). The one thing is, you won't see the keys progressively illuminate in Animoog if you're playing it from the KBP4 — only the little "LED" dots above them. The former only shows up if you actually touch the screen. However, the effect on the sound will be the same as if you were sweeping upwards on the onscreen keys with your finger. Since nearly every parameter in Animoog is MIDI-learn-able, the sky's the limit. In the KBP4 editor I mapped physical pressure to CC1 for modulation depth. In MPE mode, of course, this is all on a per-note basis. Also, the X and Y origin positions of the central "puck" on Animoog's oscilliscope screen can be MIDI-learned, but the results are jittery and inconsistent when controlling this from any keyboard — better to just use the iPad screen for that. More to come, and yes, I am planning on getting that video done.


"I'm just a confused musician who got sidetracked into this damned word business..." -Hunter S. Thompson

Stephen Fortner
Principal, Fortner Media
Senior Editor, Music Player Network
Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

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Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3042149 05/05/20 03:46 PM
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I found a Pro-4 used and it is supposed to be delivered this week. I plan to use Equator Mac os or IOS Noise app hosted in AUM. Learning keyboard on a CME xkey air with limited key action and hoping I can adjust quickly to no key action. Have a Roli block but I don't feel that was a good choice to learn on. Don't see CME moving towards 4 octaves or I would not been attracted to the Pro-4 as it lacks Bluetooth LE. I have a PUC+ which powers the KMI 12 Step and the QuNexis so I am hoping it will do the same with the Pro-4.

Update: Received the Pro-4 and initial testing is going well but some issues. The issues were caused by power issues on the IOS side of things. I started on IOS and had no problem controlling all my apps that I use with my other controller. I tried all the IOS browsers and even the ones that said they support Web Midi did not work with the Web Editor. The ios browser called Web Midi did have a monitor screen that showed the midi commands but the Editor showed Disconnected even after I rebooted and had SysEx enabled. I tried both newer ipad mini, iphone 11 and Ipad Pro 2015.. Noticed that the unit would turn off and on reseting some of the parameters several times. Have an issue with slider 3 and 4. When tapping the right end of either one the unit turns on and off reseting the parameters. The PUC+ powered the Pro-4 we both batteries and external power but drained batteries very quickly so I am going to use it only with external power. When using MPE apps you are sliding you finger up the key and if you go too far you hit the sliders and that change your settings. Thinking I may need to put something to stop my fingers like a rubber band until I get use to it as it is annoying. Have issues with 3rd a forth slider if you touch the right side on either it shut everything and when it reset your settings on some sliders change. That was not a problem when I was connected to PUC+ and I figured out it was a power thing. Without external power the IOS device does not supply enough power. Had no issue when I used my Macbook without external power. The Web Editor worked in Chrome on Mac OS but it did not work in IOS browsers that supposedly support Web Midi. Both editors on Mac OS also worked when I was controlling software sounds so I could check the effects of changes immediately.

Last edited by 2dog; 05/11/20 01:29 AM.
Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3043444 05/13/20 01:47 AM
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I discovered that the Pro-4 Editor allows you to turn down the LED lights on the sliders and after I did that the power issues mentioned above were resolved. The Pro-4 works nicely powered by 2 AA batteries in the PUC+ for BTLe wireless midi and also wired directly to IOS without external power. I suggested that they change the Editor to allow for turning off the LED lights or controlling them via a slider option so you could check your settings and then turn them off again. After playing this for a few days now I have to give this 5 stars out of 5. I posted more on the KMI forum with details.

Last edited by 2dog; 05/13/20 01:50 AM.
Re: The Keith McMillen K-Board Pro 4
Dr Mike Metlay #3043616 05/13/20 10:29 PM
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I really need to get back into mine. I will have room for it in the rig once I...

Once I....

*sob*

...send the Hydrasynth back....

sigh


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, golly gosh) grin
Janitor and Hall Monitor, Dr. Mike's Studio Workshop

clicky!: more about me ~ my schwag ~ my radio station (and my fam) ~ my local tribe ~ my day job

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