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"Big 3" frustratingly behind 2013 technology


Josovoino

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Hi all

 

I'd like to share my thoughts about Korg, Roland and Yamaha workstations/synthesizers and why I have a hard time enjoying myself when I'm using their top-of-the-line instruments. Hopefully the "big 3" are reading, too.

 

The concepts behind Kronos and Jupiter-80 are strong. Dedicated, high-quality engines, lots of power to stack sounds, big sample libraries, well-built hardware. Great features and most of the sounds are really good (some are really bad, too). Bottom line, this is exactly the kind of power-tool we need as keyboardists.

 

However, this is what I have a problem with:

 

1 - the user interface design / operating system

2 - the color touch-screen feel and responsiveness

3 - the under-the-hood processing power and how it's utilized

 

It's 2013 and the iPad has been out for years. The technology is current. Look at the new NI Maschine Studio and how cool those color displays look. Now, my point is that these "big 3" manufacturers are failing in creating fast, responsive touch screens with a clear, intuitive and good looking user interface.

 

The Kronos' OS is definitely functional but the Triton had a similar interface back in the 90's. That's 20 years ago, Korg. If FEELS like 20 yeas ago! It takes two-plus minutes to boot the instrument (see point # 3, it's a total bummer when you just want to PLAY and it makes you wonder about the processing power and how it's utilized) -- then you have to deal with this old, convoluted system with a very small font-size that makes it painful to spend hours squinting at the screen.

 

I want to LOVE that screen just like I love using the most basic App on my iPad! Jupiter-80 is slightly more advanced, definitely a better concept but still not executed the way it could or should be.

 

And the "touch" technology is also WAY less accurate and responsive than most smartphones and tablets. There's a noticeable delay from the pressing of a button to the screen's reaction. It just shows these boards might be underpowered. Even the "old-school" Motif XF has a frustratingly slow-reacting screen.

 

When you touch the iPad, it goes to the desired App/screen/function immidiately. That's 2013 technology that we use every day. It's on our phones, in our pockets. But my instrument, my main axe, a board I paid 3-4 thousand dollars for does NOT incorporate this modern technology. No, it takes forever to boot, the screen looks ugly, it's hard to read, I touch it and it doesn't respond nearly as quickly or as accurately as my phone.

 

The development of these technologies in top-of-the-line keybords is undeniably behind. Whichever of these "big 3" can come up with: great hardware (Jupiter-80), great engines (Jupiter and Kronos), great samples (Kronos) PLUS a well though-out, fast, responsive, great looking, great feeling user interface and touch screen is gonna blow the competition out of the water.

 

Of course this is all very subjective but I'm wondering how you guys feel about this.

 

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Well it really makes no difference in how well any of us play. You can get caught up in technology too much and in the end people do what they want to do.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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There are some things to understand. The iPad is marketed to a much wider consumer base and sells many many more units, which brings down the cost of that technology. I'll bet due to economies of scale, the korg touch screen costs them more than the iPad screen costs apple.

 

That said, maybe the answer down the road is to dock an iPad and use it strictly as the user interface while having the processor and software built into the keyboard.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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According to sales figures I was able to find (which may or may not be completely accurate, but I think still make my point):

 

iPad sales through Oct. 22, 2013 - 170 million units

 

Korg M1 (which I believe is the all-time best-selling keyboard) sales all-time - 250,000 units

 

Does that answer your question?

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I'd assume it's because the major manufacturers realize that an electronic keyboard is first an foremost a musical instrument. They've wisely decided that most of the processing resources should be used to generate as many high quality voices as possible with a distinct sonic personality, and they should respond instantly and predictably to player input. That's why we buy them. It would make no sense to bog down the processors with CPU-hogging graphics that would compromise its usefulness as an instrument. When's the last time anyone spent big bucks for a vintage synth because of its cool display? :laugh:

><>

Steve

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While I share some of the OP's frustrations, I think top-of-the-line keyboards are just not the sound business case they used to be. I suppose you could introduce one as a loss-leader/halo-model, but I keep hearing that the market is bad, and even a behemoth like Yamaha is taking a hit.

 

Here in LA I see a lot of guys replacing their Motif ES with a MOX8. I hardly ever see anyone with a Motif XF. Many feel the difference in performance is not worth the difference in price.

 

Maybe it's a chicken/egg situation. There is not enough incentive to really shell out big $$$ for the R&D needed to create a killer instrument. At the same time, if it's not killer but rather similar to lower-tier siblings, why should customers pay more for the high-end model?

 

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I am encouraged by seeing Mackie's 1608 mixer with an iPad interface. I don't know how the processing power is shared or if the iPad is just an interface (I suspect that is the case). Brett, I don't think Mackie has to pay Apple anything, though I don't really know.

 

Just recently, I learned that a Muse Receptor can be controlled from an iPad if you have a WiFi router attached, so out comes my old Receptor Rev.C. This could be interesting.

 

Does anybody know how many MIDI channels/voices an iPad can deal with? Does anybody take just a MIDI keyboard and iPad to gigs? If tablets get powerful enough, that may be the future of do-it-all, top-of-the-line keyboards and the big three know it.

Kurzweil PC3-76
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if it's not killer but rather similar to lower-tier siblings, why should customers pay more for the high-end model?

 

Build quality comes to mind. I recall a post from someone here awhile back saying he was concerned about doing a palm smear with his new Yamaha MX keyboard... afraid to end up with a pile of broken keys. I feel the same way about Korg's "lower tier" keyboards. My Triton and M3 are much more solid.

 

 

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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I suspect the manufactures are well aware of the fact that they're hawking obsolete technology. Chances are, the next versions of these instruments will come with either an iPad dock or an iPad program, and the footprint will be significantly smaller. Giant keyboards weighing as much as one of the Olson twins just seem silly these days.

 

That said, I prefer buttons to touch screens. Every time I use the Galileo organ on my iPad, I yearn for a hardware interface with buttons and knobs. Lucky for the manufacturers, the "button generation" is slowly meandering over the hill, leaving the next generation blissfully unaware of the tactile satisfaction of turning knobs, flipping switches, and pressing buttons to make things happen.

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There have already been a number of cheap controllers that you slot an iPad into or that you can simply plug in a cable but I understand that's not really what the op was on about and those alone don't provide a solution or a pleasant playing experience mostly also.

 

Personally I've gone the the apple mainstage route and use my ipad as either a touchscreen midi controller or my sheet music and sometimes both with the 4 finger swipe to move between.

 

I feel the top line workstations are full of sounds I don't like or need and none present with as good a piano as Ivory, or organ as EVB3 or some of the electric pianos out there as VI's. Synth wise there's just so much choice in the VI market as well. And plugin effect processing just eats anything in a dedicated box as well.

 

What's more challenging about this approach is finding a keyboard controller that I love the feel of and is light enough for plane travel. Getting one of those last two things is easy. Getting both is hard. My latest idea is to get two shorter lighter boards rather than one 88 that's heavy.

 

Overall I love this kind of modular approach to building a rig and have no fears about its robustness. Maybe the op needs to try this approach?

Paul Najar

Jaminajar music production

www.jaminajar.com

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This comes up periodically and what it boils down to is that everyone's needs are slightly different, and no keyboard will satisfy everybody. I was extremely unhappy for a number of years with no workstation having the right combination of features. The Kronos now comes pretty close. Yes a bigger screen would be better. Being able to selectively enable/disable certain groups of parameters/menus would help streamline things. I still don't like the file system and the idea of preloading - even if you're streaming from disk, which is a great new feature. But overall, it's workable and pretty much what was in my wildest dreams years ago. I'm not complaining.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Frankly the music industry is ALWAYS behind technology, especially anything involving computer technology. Concept-to-market time is just too long, it takes a lot more effort to get an electronic keyboard to market than it does a computer. With a Windoze computer you already have the OS and you don't need the in-depth beta test that you do with a complex embedded system like keyboards.
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I recently went from the "Big 4th" workstation (K2600XS) to a stage piano (CP4). Didn't need all the extra sounds nor the sequencer / sampling capabilities (not to mention the huge weight reduction). It's only been two weeks but I couldn't be happier.
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New keyboards suck. The best keyboard I own was made in 1958.

My 1963 B3 is my favorite. I'm seriously considering something around 100 years old for a piano. Today's keyboards ain't got the same soul.

 

Sad to say, I've never played a B3. :(

 

I have played this 1887 Steinway. Wonderful experience.

 

 

http://reifsnyders.com/images/pianoswithapast/42483.jpg

 

 

 

 

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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New keyboards suck. The best keyboard I own was made in 1958.

My 1963 B3 is my favorite. I'm seriously considering something around 100 years old for a piano. Today's keyboards ain't got the same soul.

Me too ! My favorite instrument is my A105 , even when Im gigging with the Sk2, I still only use it in manual mode and adjust the drawbars accordingly, Im definetly not a computer / keyboard programmer. As said before, there's boards for everybody, and I am looking seriously at the Korg sv1, just for that reason.

"Ive been playing Hammond since long before anybody paid me to play one, I didn't do it to be cool, I didnt do it to make a statement......I just liked it "

 

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My favorite instrument is my A105

 

Curious as to what makes you prefer your '68 A105 to your '61 A100. I have a '61 A100 into a 142 (I see that's what you have your A105 playing through), love the sound, and won't be getting any more Hammond consoles unless somebody leaves it in my driveway for free, :laugh:, so I can't make any comparisions for myself.

:nopity:
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Sad to say, I've never played a B3. :(

 

I have played this 1887 Steinway. Wonderful experience.

 

http://reifsnyders.com/images/pianoswithapast/42483.jpg

 

Looks like I am not the only one who browses Robert M Sides (I played that piano too) and they do get a B3 in the store on occasion, check back again.

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The OP has a couple of good points, and there are reasons for many of the compromises that are modern keyboards.

 

My Yamaha Motif ES8 is not an up-to-date KB anymore but some of the things that I did not like were the User Interface and the small monochrome screen size, along with small fonts.

 

Yamaha's newest top of the line workstation finally has a nice color screen, and the Korg Kronos has a large screen. Its big enough and the UI is easier than Yamaha's from what I can see. These more recent workstations are an improvement over their predecessors. I like the previous suggestion posted that the ability to disable certain functions while performing could free up processing tasks and reduce waiting time.

 

One of the reasons that workstations take so long to boot is that many of the sample play-back based workstations have to load an OS and a lot of sampled sounds, as well as FX before we can play a note.

 

iPads and iPhones do not have to load all of the above things a workstation has to load upon booting up.

 

No matter what KB we are talking about, the total cost to built and bring to market are the most significant factor in what a KB has and what it costs. Mfg usually bring out offerings in a number of price points to match their competitors offerings.

 

Modern keyboards can be improved but they are much better than what we could choose from 10 years ago.

 

 

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

Mike T.

 

 

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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