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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Adan] #3003435 08/16/19 02:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Adan
Originally Posted by Marzzz
They suck, period.
I'd say it depends what you're trying to get from it. To me, the most common application is where you're on a trip, let's say, and you're sitting in an airport for 2 hours, or on the plane itself, or a long bus ride, etc . . . Busting out a minikeys, you're not going to improve your chops, but you can nevertheless engage your mind and fingers in a keyboard mode, and that might be a great way to spend time that would otherwise be spent reading, sleeping, or just contemplating. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with reading, sleeping, and contemplating . . .
This is, of course, a valid point. In that regard, I would love a smallish keyboard with full size keys to use with my laptop at my desk so I can play around with softsynths and not have to power up my entire studio; I haven't had to travel with a laptop in years (use iPhone instead). I was interested in the McMillen K-Board Pro 4 with the full sized keys, it was very playable when I tried out a proptype at NAMM the last couple of years. But $895? I don't think so...

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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003482 08/16/19 01:58 PM
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However, this may be an intriguing possibility:

Roli Lumi

Slightly smaller than full-sized keys, polyphonic aftertouch, and you can snap a couple of them together to get a larger range. At the Kickstarter price you could have a very portable 4 octave keyboard for under $400. The lights can be annoying, but I guess they can be disabled? Oh, and did I mention PolyAT? smile

Last edited by Marzzz; 08/16/19 01:59 PM.
Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003683 08/17/19 05:00 PM
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I have a strong dislike for mini-keys. Would guitarists find it acceptable to be limited to buying certain models of the latest Les Paul or Strat that only came fitted with a ukulele neck? I don't think so. They'd riot in the streets if that was the case. Why should keyboardists be forced to compromise?

One gripe I have is the fact that some otherwise interesting mini-key synths are only available in that Hobbit sized format. Why not make an alternative table top/rack version?

That said, there are finally a few choices in that regard, but for the longest time that was not the case. Even those slightly shorter, narrow keys that Roland insists on using on some of their synths these days irks me and turns me off from buying any of them. (Not to mention their Boutique series that require tweezers to operate. They could've made them rack width at least.)

Each to their own, and I get the "must fit in my backpack and weigh almost nothing" trend these days, but for me I want full size keys.

Rant over.



Last edited by Konnector; 08/17/19 05:01 PM.
Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Konnector] #3003699 08/17/19 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Konnector
Would guitarists find it acceptable to be limited to buying certain models of the latest Les Paul or Strat that only came fitted with a ukulele neck? I don't think so. They'd riot in the streets if that was the case.

There are 3/4 sized guitars and other variants. But perhaps even more relevant, even on a regular guitar, the frets are wider on the headstock side of the neck and get narrower and narrower as you move toward the heel. So guitarists are actually used to altering the spacing between their notes all the time!

Originally Posted by Konnector
Even those slightly shorter, narrow keys that Roland insists on using on some of their synths these days irks me and turns me off from buying any of them.

I'm not sure about Roland, the ones I've used have all had standard widths, but Yamaha has done that on all their "full-size" non-hammer actions for as long as I can remember.


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003712 08/17/19 07:08 PM
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Mini keys go way back to baroque times. the Regal was a reed stop on the tracker pipe organ; sometimes they were attached to a "mini keyboard" and meant to be played in chamnber groups,.

Last edited by analogman1; 08/17/19 08:20 PM. Reason: spelling errors

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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: AnotherScott] #3003726 08/17/19 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by AnotherScott
Originally Posted by Konnector
Would guitarists find it acceptable to be limited to buying certain models of the latest Les Paul or Strat that only came fitted with a ukulele neck? I don't think so. They'd riot in the streets if that was the case.

There are 3/4 sized guitars and other variants. But perhaps even more relevant, even on a regular guitar, the frets are wider on the headstock side of the neck and get narrower and narrower as you move toward the heel. So guitarists are actually used to altering the spacing between their notes all the time!

Agreed...totally different instrument though. The difference between mini-keys and full size keys is quite dramatic. Some like them, that's fine with me. I mostly don't like not having a choice with some synths.

Originally Posted by Konnector
Even those slightly shorter, narrow keys that Roland insists on using on some of their synths these days irks me and turns me off from buying any of them.

I'm not sure about Roland, the ones I've used have all had standard widths, but Yamaha has done that on all their "full-size" non-hammer actions for as long as I can remember.



FA-06, System 8 for example. They are a little shorter - not a big deal for a synth as they typically are shorter than piano keys, but those skinny rounded black keys they use these days are not my favorite....nor is the action, but that's another subject altogether.

Last edited by Konnector; 08/17/19 09:49 PM.
Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: analogman1] #3003738 08/17/19 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by analogman1
Mini keys go way back to baroque times. the Regal was a reed stop on the tracker pipe organ; sometimes they were attached to a "mini keyboard" and meant to be played in chamnber groups,.


Thank you! Actually, I had a few other people, tell me that. wink


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003742 08/17/19 11:21 PM
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Fine for pads.

Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003820 08/18/19 02:44 PM
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I'm not here to defend mini-keys, but it's a little puzzling that some people get so distraught over them. As a cyclist, I would draw an analogy to having a few different bikes in the garage. You might even have a little folding bike with tiny wheels. You'd never do a serious ride on it, but it will go places a regular sized bike just won't go.

Mini-keys are like any other instrument, the more time you practice, the more gratifying it will be. I think there's a tendency to play one a couple minutes, get frustrated, and put it down. You have to fight through that to get anywhere with it.


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003906 08/18/19 11:21 PM
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I'm with Dr. Metlay about the CME XKey. Its an odd fish, but its mostly flat (and responsive) action suits my hands. They seem pretty hardy, as I have three that are holding up like old-school Rolands. Every company assumes the risk of a product that falls flat, but the business is big enough now that even unlikely-seeming items such as the Seaboard and MicroFreak can be winners. I still roll my eyes at mini-keys a bit, but first, a lot of it is about sales borne in part by the novelty. People will buy more Volcas than Quantums. Second, part of it is about drawing in the "the kids" because many of them are the flagship buyers of the future. They'll want Much More™ like we did. Last, my CZ-101 was always 98% sound module. I only used the keys when programming it. The choices now are both vast and weird. Watch the left-hand work of GLASYS. Case closed, eh?
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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003912 08/19/19 12:10 AM
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I should mention, I own a KEYSTEP controller keyboard from ARTURIA ( need to get The Firmware update), and I don’t mind the MINI keys. Although, it would be nice if it came in 61 key length board, and was more compatible with an iPad, but we all have our crosses to bare.

When, I think micro, I think of the MICROKORG, or the Microstation, or even the early small and portable keyboards made by CASIO and YAMAHA in the 1980’s. I think it all depends on your needs, as a keyboard player? I don’t see a piano or organ player benefiting from mini and micro keys. Synth players on the other hand, depends on what you are creating and or playing.


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: David Emm] #3003914 08/19/19 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by David Emm
I'm with Dr. Metlay about the CME XKey. Its an odd fish, but its mostly flat (and responsive) action suits my hands.

The CME XKey was pretty decent, but I thought the aftertouch was a bit too off/on when I tried it out awhile ago. Have they improved it??

Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Marzzz] #3003947 08/19/19 08:52 AM
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^^^^^
THIS

After touch is either on or off, no nuance.


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3003948 08/19/19 09:03 AM
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The problem is that most mini-key boards/controllers have a simply appalling action. (Reface is actually an exception, I found it quite playable). But accordion keys have been around for a long time now, and I don't see accordionists being limited by their smaller size.

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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3004262 08/20/19 10:44 PM
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I've had good and bad experiences.

Generally Yamaha does a good job. I have an old CS-01 which has perfectly playable mini keys, and I have a reface CS also with perfectly playable keys.
I also still have a Yamaha KX-5 keytar which has short keys, but of standard width. (I have posted a few times I think the reface line should have used the same keys as the KX-5)

I've had a couple Casios back in the day with little keys that were pretty terrible, and the Korg stuff with mini or 80% keys I have generally hated the feel of.
For example I much prefer the reface keyboard to the minilogue keyboard, even though the reface keys are smaller.

I think it depends on what you are playing on them too. Playing piano is an entirely different thing from playing organ or synth or orchestral pads.
Anyway, I have no issues with the reface CS keys, but I have mostly used it as a mono synth, and a bit as a midi controller for sax, flute, that sort of thing. A bit of organ though and it was fine aside from no big palm glisses due to only three octaves.

I think I would have been more impressed if for example the Moog sub-phatty had three octaves of reface keys, than two octaves of full sized keys.

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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Marzzz] #3004273 08/21/19 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Marzzz
Originally Posted by David Emm
I'm with Dr. Metlay about the CME XKey. Its an odd fish, but its mostly flat (and responsive) action suits my hands.

The CME XKey was pretty decent, but I thought the aftertouch was a bit too off/on when I tried it out awhile ago. Have they improved it??


It's very much a matter of settings. Problem is, the companion software for iOS and mac/PC is improving with every rev, but it can still be really, really hard to get a good usable aftertouch curve. What you want is a definite threshold before aftertouch kicks in, and then a gradual increase that's comfortable to the fingers without being too easy or hard. Because of the way the app lets you draw aftertouch curves, this is difficult to impossible as of now.

The problem is much more the middleware than the actual hardware... which makes no damn difference to the player. Sigh.


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Marzzz] #3004274 08/21/19 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Marzzz
They suck, period. I had a McMillen QuNexus and I just couldn’t get used to playing it.


I'm sorry, but WHAT? The QuNexus is a slab of plastic topped with rectangular slabs of plastic that look vaguely like keys if you squint at them sideways and have a few beers, that don't move when you touch them and can't be played with ordinary piano technique. Judging all mini-key keyboards by that thing is really unfair, especially when what few functions it has barely work anyway.

A KeyStep or an Xkey is never going to replace a good full-sized synth keyboard, but they, and many other mini and micro keyboards of their ilk, are way better than the QuNexus, which was only ever intended as an ultra-portable and mostly-indestructible way of generating MIDI messages in a hurry for cheap. KMI even sells it that way: "Send notes and control signals over DIN (with the adapter), USB, or CV with a controller that fits into a backpack and is nearly impossible to break."

The K-Board Pro 4 is an entirely different beast (see my next post)....


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K-Board Pro 4 (was Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards) [Re: Marzzz] #3004275 08/21/19 01:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Marzzz
In that regard, I would love a smallish keyboard with full size keys to use with my laptop at my desk so I can play around with softsynths and not have to power up my entire studio; I haven't had to travel with a laptop in years (use iPhone instead). I was interested in the McMillen K-Board Pro 4 with the full sized keys, it was very playable when I tried out a proptype at NAMM the last couple of years. But $895? I don't think so...


OK, punchline first: this post will end with an offer to sell you one for way less than that. Moving on...

The K-Board Pro 4 is a very interesting and playable keyboard, in my opinion. I was one of the very early Kickstarter backers, and I spent three years at NAMM shows trying the prototypes and growling at Keith, who (as Keith does) steadfastly refused to release them before they were damn good and ready, no matter how angry people got at the wait. He got burned hard by the problems in the QuNeo and has elected, ever since then, to make folks wait and get it right no matter what. This paid off bigtime with the BopPad, which is a phenomenally good percussion controller, and IMO even more so with the KBP4.

For those of you who haven't tried one, the K-Board Pro 4 is an MPE-capable keyboard with keys that are ever so slightly smaller than those on a conventional piano or organ (I can post a picture if anyone wants, but basically 48 keys on the KBP4, C to B, are as wide as 44 keys on a conventional keyboard, C to G.). Like other KMI products, it uses KMI's "Smart Fabric" technology, which means that while the keys may look like conventional piano keys, they sure as heck ain't. They don't move (the thing has NO moving parts on it), and are instead responsive to velocity, release velocity, aftertouch, side to side movement across the surface, and forward/back movement up and down each key. Think of a ROLI Seaboard, but with keys that are more clearly defined, a bit stiffer to touch, and a lot less slop in tiny movements. (Oh, and no top and bottom surface for horizontal slides.)

The idea of the KBP4 is to offer full MPE compatibility (what ROLI calls the "Five Dimensions Of Touch" --- gotta love marketspeak) in a form factor that is instantly familiar to anyone with traditional keyboard technique under their belt. There's a trick to playing it; because the keys have just a little give to them and don't actually travel, you have to play with a very light touch, but once you get the hang of it, you can play very very VERY fast runs with accuracy and a surprising amount of nuance. I like to think of it as a Seaboard for people who think Seaboards feel like sex toys and want something that doesn't make them cringe to play it.

The KBP4 can play any MPE-capable synth or app right out of the box with very little tweaking; in fact, I think it plays ROLI's Equator software way more expressively than a Seaboard does, but that's just me. If you pound on it, you'll hurt your hands... so don't pound on it. It wasn't designed for that, any more than a Chapman Stick was designed to be played with drumsticks.

I love mine and would never sell it. I think it's incredibly expressive and sensibly designed, and I plan to get way into it in the coming months and years... not counting the LinnStrument, which is a very different playing experience and has its own merits, I think I have found my all-in MPE controller of choice. However, I don't need two of them, and two of them is what I have at the moment.

When the Kickstarter originally launched, the KBP4 was going to be built on a tubular aluminum frame with built-in carrying handles. I thought this design was dead brilliant and really really wanted one, but Keith noted that for every person with that opinion, there were two who said, "Love the idea. HATE the handles. Wasted table space and they look idiotic." So Keith put a poll up in the Kickstarter, saw a 2:1 vote in favor of leaving off the handles, and decided to offer the no-handles version for retail sale and make the ones with handles just for the Kickstarter. I could see the value in both designs and I ordered one of each.

Of the three years that it took to get the KBP4 to market, over half that time was trying to mass-produce the version with the handles and end up with a workable product. The handles and tubular construction made the device flex a tiny bit... a fraction of a millimeter, enough to totally screw with the touch response. So Keith reluctantly canned the idea and focused entirely on the no-handles version, which eventually shipped. As a special thank-you to Kickstarter backers for their patience, he commissioned a very nice road case for the KBP4 and added one to every Kickstarter reward, free of charge. The case would not be sold at retail.

So... when the campaign finally shipped out, I got two identical KBP4 units with road cases. I picked one at random, opened it, fell in love with it, and am using it daily... and the other one is sitting in its case, unloved. If you want it, I'll sell it to you for way less than $895, but I can't guarantee you'll love it, just that it will work as designed when you turn it on. PM me if you're interested, and if not, that's fine... consider yourself edified. blah


Last edited by Dr(!)Mike Metlay; 08/21/19 01:29 AM.

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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Dr(!)Mike Metlay] #3004423 08/22/19 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr(!)Mike Metlay
Originally Posted by Marzzz
Originally Posted by David Emm
I'm with Dr. Metlay about the CME XKey. Its an odd fish, but its mostly flat (and responsive) action suits my hands.

The CME XKey was pretty decent, but I thought the aftertouch was a bit too off/on when I tried it out awhile ago. Have they improved it??


It's very much a matter of settings. Problem is, the companion software for iOS and mac/PC is improving with every rev, but it can still be really, really hard to get a good usable aftertouch curve. What you want is a definite threshold before aftertouch kicks in, and then a gradual increase that's comfortable to the fingers without being too easy or hard. Because of the way the app lets you draw aftertouch curves, this is difficult to impossible as of now.

The problem is much more the middleware than the actual hardware... which makes no damn difference to the player. Sigh.


I turned off the XKey's aftertouch. It was just eating CPU without being appreciably expressive. The key throw is far too small for that at about 1/8". smirk Aftertouch is generally a fussy thing to get right, for both manufacturer and player. Poly AT is quite rare. IMO, that's because it takes you away from the traditions of keys and pushes you closer to something SLIGHTLY like a Seaboard, where gesture is king, on 5 axes at once. That's the subset of instruments you should aim for if you have a specific aftertouch jones. The Xkey gives very good velocity and that's most of what I need. Rule of thumb: you can easily have 1 or 2 instruments that feel especially good to you, but you'll generally have a span of those and a few controllers that each have a prominent sweet spot. Synth ownership is one of the most anal-retentive things in the world, especially if you are big on modulars. laugh


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: Dr(!)Mike Metlay] #3004494 08/22/19 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr(!)Mike Metlay
the K-Board Pro 4 is an MPE-capable keyboard with keys that are ever so slightly smaller than those on a conventional piano or organ (I can post a picture if anyone wants, but basically 48 keys on the KBP4, C to B, are as wide as 44 keys on a conventional keyboard, C to G.).

Any idea why they ended it on the high B instead of the usual high C?

(p.s. -- did you get my PM?)


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: paulkondig] #3004585 08/22/19 08:18 PM
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I've only ever owned one microkey board which I used to keep on the dashboard of my van for picking out song ideas and general noodling while driving. I never gigged one, so I don't know the answer to this question: Is it weird to play a normal sized keyboard with your left hand while playing a teeny one with your right? I can't recall ever doing this, but it seems like you'd have to retrain your muscle memory or something.


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Re: Thoughts on MicroKey Keyboards [Re: AnotherScott] #3004773 08/24/19 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by AnotherScott
Originally Posted by Dr(!)Mike Metlay
the K-Board Pro 4 is an MPE-capable keyboard with keys that are ever so slightly smaller than those on a conventional piano or organ (I can post a picture if anyone wants, but basically 48 keys on the KBP4, C to B, are as wide as 44 keys on a conventional keyboard, C to G.).

Any idea why they ended it on the high B instead of the usual high C?


I know exactly why they did it, because I asked Keith about it. The idea is to make the design scalable; the case contains two identical 24-note boards to handle C to B, set next to each other. Now that the design is working and shipping, KMI has the very inexpensive option to build 2-octave and 6-octave versions.

Interestingly, other MPE-capable devices like the Sensel Morph, ROLI Seaboard Block, and ROLI LUMI are all C to B, but for slightly different reasons. In those cases, it's because the stacking of keyboards side by side to make bigger ones is something that users can do themselves: with no wasted space on the sides, you can build up 2-octave blocks to make a keyboard as large as you want.

St00pid trivia item: if you look very closely at the Keyboard overlay for the Sensel Morph, you will see (and feel) a tiny horizontal divot in the high B key, dividing the main playing surface into top (near the A# key) and bottom. This little divot marks a dividing line between two sensor areas, so if you're using the Morph as a lower octave in a multi-octave keyboard, the whole key is a B, but if you're using one by itself or really really want that high C, you can set it so that playing the upper part of the key plays a B and playing the very tip plays that last C. It works surprisingly well, but yeah, it'll screw with your technique until you get used to it. (This isn't a new idea: the Viennese bass octave on harpsichords predates it by centuries.)

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Last edited by Dr(!)Mike Metlay; 08/24/19 01:53 AM.

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