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Advice on Korg M3 88


andrewto

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Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum--active on a few guitar forums but I've just gotten back into keyboards over the past year. I got my first Hammond (a '35 Model A with Leslie 147 - for free!) and learned how to restore and rebuild that as well as the CV and Leslie 21H that spent a few decades languishing in storage at my church, and are now in their rightful place--under my fingers and feet!

 

I posted this on the Korg forum as well; I'm hoping to get your opinions here as well. I'm starting to get hired as a keyboard player now, so I'm looking to buy my first professional keyboard. I have a 61-key MIDI controller I use with my computer but I'm going to need 88 keys; I also don't want to have to rely on a laptop. As of now, I'll mainly be using it for 2 things: playing musical theatre gigs in a pit orchestra and gigging with a rock band.

 

Right now I have ~$1000 to spend on a board (either new or used), not including amp, accessories, etc. Keyboards is a secondary instrument for me, otherwise I'd budget more. (I mainly play cello and guitar)

 

There's an M3 88 listed on my local craigslist for $1000, but it's an hour away so I want to be prepared when I go try it out.

 

From what I've read in the manual and online, the M3 88 has all the features I'm going to list. Please let me know if I am wrong on any of these and feel free to recommend other keyboards that might suit me.

 

For theatre gigs I need to program a sequence of up to 4-500 combis (~2 patch changes per page of 200-page book) and use a footswitch to advance to the next combi. I need a wide variety of good sounds including pianos, EPs, organs, strings, winds, brass, synths, etc. with RAM expansion and aftermarket programs/combis being an option. I'd like to be able to save time by setting up the combis/layers/splits on my PC.

 

For the rock band I mostly play Hammond, piano, and EPs, with some '80s synth sounds for the Rod Stewart tribute set they do. I would buy K-Sounds Organimation sample set since I'm used to playing real Hammonds at home and church, and I might get their piano samples eventually, depending on how I like stock piano. It would be awesome to just take the module from the M3 and control it with my MIDI controller for gigs where I'm not playing a lot of piano. I play guitars as well with this band, and it would make loading in/out a lot easier.

 

Right now, I'm using the band's Kurzweil stage piano for piano and their original Triton for everything else. I've programmed a few combis with splits and layers on the Triton--the M3 interface looks pretty similar.

 

One thing I'm not sure about is the ability to hold a sound with the sustain pedal, change patch, and have the old sound sustain through the patch change. I gather this was not possible when the M3 first came out, but now you can use a Karma scene to seamlessly switch--although that's limited to 4 patches, correct? All the posts I saw about this were from a few years ago; has this been addressed in any software updates from Korg? I'm not sure how important this feature will be to me and whether or not it will be a deal-breaker.

 

The other keyboard I was looking at was the Roland Fantom G8. Guitar Center has an old demo model on clearance for $1199. The only advantage I can see is the patch remain feature, as I was not impressed by the stock sounds, the organs in particular. I would not enjoy lugging that behemoth to gigs... Am I right in going for the M3, even if it's a little more money with expansion RAM+sample sets? Sequencer/arps, etc. don't matter as I won't be using them except to maybe make backing track loops to practice with.

 

Any help you can give me will be much appreciated.

 

Thanks!

Andrew

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I use kurzweil 2600 for theater gigs, and got it for around that price- It was the gold standard of broadway pits for years. Not only is the patch sustain with a footswitch completely seamless, but it's got enough sounds to cover anything- anything it doesn't do, my NE3 can do. The KB3 mode isn't bad for organs, and you get the full slider/drawbar control- You could probably get a good deal on a pc3x if you want a more modern version without getting a pc3k new. It's got all the sounds you need without needing organimation samples, and from what you're describing it seems like that fits your feature wishes a little better than the M3. That craigslist deal is tempting, but I'd try to find a kurz.

 

 

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I use kurzweil 2600 for theater gigs, and got it for around that price- It was the gold standard of broadway pits for years. Not only is the patch sustain with a footswitch completely seamless, but it's got enough sounds to cover anything- anything it doesn't do, my NE3 can do. The KB3 mode isn't bad for organs, and you get the full slider/drawbar control- You could probably get a good deal on a pc3x if you want a more modern version without getting a pc3k new. It's got all the sounds you need without needing organimation samples, and from what you're describing it seems like that fits your feature wishes a little better than the M3. That craigslist deal is tempting, but I'd try to find a kurz.

 

 

For theatre pit work a PC3 series keybaord is hard to beat (IMO). Still widely used in the UK (along with virtual instruments/effects).

 

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I think a PC3K8 would be your best choice. I think most of what you want to do is possible with the M3-88 as well, but I'm not 100% sure about the patch advancing with a pedal. There is no patch remain in the M3, the sound will cut off when you change patch. The Kurzweil is better than this, but if it has to change effect algorithm it will make a sound, IIRC, so it won't be completely seamless. I think the Roland Fantom-G is the only keyboard that has completely seamless transitions from one multitimbral sound to another - but maybe the Korg Kronos as well, not sure.

And yes, you can do a lot of things with Karma, but it's a bit complicated to program. It's not nearly as flexible as moving from a multitimbral setup to the next in a Kurzweil.

Another problem with just about any Korg workstation is that there are only three pedal inputs, where one is always a sustain pedal, one is a programmable switch type pedal and one an expression. Kurzweil is more flexible in this regard.

 

You should also know that an M3-88 with even just a gigbag is a beast to move around - it's bulky and heavy. Of course - it's a nice touch to be able to disassemble the M3 and just take the M3-M module when needed. However this requires a screwdriver and it's not as easy as you would hope to remove it. A Kurzweil PC3 is both smaller and lighter - I would definitely try to find a PC3K8 at a reasonable price.

Nord Stage 3 sw73, Yamaha CP88, KeyB Legend Live, Kurzweil PC3K7, EV ZXa1 + sub. K&M stands, Hammond E112, Leslie 3300, EHX V256, Roland SE-02, Yamaha EX5R & TG77, Novation Nova desktop & much more...
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+1 to the above. PC3/88 gives you the the theatre/pit soundset, plus the organ from KB3. You might find a PC3LE8 or SP4-8 or 5-8 sufficient as well - they little/no on-board editing on the SP, and lesser rotary sim on both (but a Vent or Burn can cover that off).

 

Cheers, Mike.

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PC3 will let you advance program changes with a footswitch.

 

As the current owner of a PC3 and former owner of an M3, sounds like the PC3x would be the way to go unless you absolutely need sampling.

 

Pros for the PC3x: better keyboard action (IMO) than the M3 88, better orchestral sounds overall, better organ emulation (FWIW, I thought the M3 organs were fine in a band context), patch remain, stellar MIDI control and setup(combi) flexibility. Plus... everything (all songs and sounds) is available at power up, and it boots WAY faster by comparison.

 

Pros for the M3: great VA synth with the RADIAS expansion, nice piano (available with RAM expansion), nice EPs, better orchestral woodwinds and brass in many cases. Comparatively easier to use.

 

-J

I make software noises.
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Pros for the M3: great VA synth with the RADIAS expansion, nice piano (available with RAM expansion), nice EPs, better orchestral woodwinds and brass in many cases. Comparatively easier to use.

 

Much easier to use in my honest opinion. Unfortunately, I've never been a fan of the Kurzweil user interface.

 

 

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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M3 will not do seemless transition. Kronos will.

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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Thanks everyone! I've spent the last 2 days researching and I'm now starting to consider taking the hit and getting a Kronos 88, either used or financing a new one. I've booked a few more gigs with the rock band, including some decently high-profile ones, and I want to get something that I'll be happy with for a long time.

 

The music director/keyboard player that I work with often, and who hired me for this musical, said that seamless sound transition is pretty essential for modern theatre productions. That pretty much eliminates the M3 for me. He uses a PC3K8 mostly to control MainStage (with some 3rd party sample sets), although for smaller gigs and church services he just uses the Kurz. I've never been impressed with his sound, although I'm sure most of that is the mono Roland amp he runs through.

 

I have some experience with the PC3x (which I believe is basically a PC3K minus sampling). My church has one that I use occasionally for services and I also borrowed it to play the Guitar 2/keyboard book for Rent. While neither a technically difficult book nor complex to program, I did get familiar with the UI and basic editing. (I didn't use a footswitch to change patches as I was able to get away with just punching in the numbers) I used a stereo amp and 2 floor monitors. The piano sounded fine, and everything else sounded alright. I spent probably 2 hours or so total over the course of the show fine-tuning a KB3 patch (leakage, key-click, etc.) to get closer to what my Hammond at home sounds like, and I was pretty disappointed with the Leslie sim. That plus the small screen would discourage me from getting a Kurz.

 

I've been looking at the Organimations samples, and I was blown away with the M3 and Kronos demos (not so much with the Kurz). I've listened to demos of the Ventilator and other sims, and the only thing that came close was the Motion Sound amps with the rotating horn. (I did hear a great demo of the Vent, but that was with a real B3) Organimation is a lot cheaper than a Vent...

 

As I mentioned before, I'm familiar with the Triton interface, although I'm not sure how much resemblance it shares with the Kronos. I'm going to test out the Kronos tomorrow so I guess I'll find out. I was OK with the PC3 interface, and I'm sure it would be OK with a destop editor, but the screen is just too small.

 

So now with the Kronos I'm looking at better sounds in general with more use of samples and room for expansion, the EP modeling system among others, and the awesome-looking Live Set feature, along with seamless sound transition. It seems more future-proof to me, which is important since I won't want to replace whatever I get anytime soon. I'd hate to shell out the cash for the Kronos just to have it eclipsed in a few years by cheaper and better-sounding software... although I suppose you could say that's already happened...

 

However, if I'm spending that much money, especially if I buy new, I could get a pretty nice computer based system with a MIDI controller. The main drawback for me is that MainStage is becoming the standard in the theatre world, and I've been a PC guy all my life, with very little experience with Mac. I'm pretty computer savvy, but I'd rather learn a workstation than an OS, along with all the extra software and hardware. There are some solutions for PC like Brainspawn Forte and Open Labs Music OS (which I just found out about) but there's more configuration and possibility for error that goes along with that...

 

I saw Roland's new FA-08, which has patch remain and seemingly decent sounds, for significantly less money. The obvious difference is the lack of sliders; I haven't been able to find a manual yet so I don't know if it supports individual drawbar control.

 

Any thoughts? Should I still be considering the PC3K anyway as well as the Kronos?

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Well, bad amplification is going to make most workstations sound bad, so as you say, it is hard to judge. Not sure if you played a PC3 with the latest OS, which includes an improved Leslie sim. It's not on par with a dedicated sim like Ventilator, but it works nicely in context. I can tell you that the PC3 desktop editor still has some issues, so it's not going to solve the issue with the screen being too small.

 

Sounds like you're leaning towards the Kronos anyway, and that's not necessarily a bad decision. My own issues with it are the LONG boot-up time, the weighted key action (too heavy for me) and the font size on the screen. (The bigger screen doesn't do much for me if I can't read it easily!) But yeah, sonically, it's a beast. It's a TON of features for the money, and it's all integrated, unlike a software solution.

 

I'd also say relax about things becoming "obsolete." :) Everything will. Give it two years, the next great thing will be out there. But the thing you bought? Provided it still powers up and plays, you should be getting your money's worth.

 

 

-John

I make software noises.
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Thanks John. I'm sure I wasn't using the latest PC3 OS, as I didn't update my church's PC3x that I borrowed, and I'd be the only one that would know how.

 

Could you elaborate on the issues with the PC3 desktop editor? I'd be using that to program a sequence of 500 or so patches for the show I'm doing this summer. I would not look forward to doing that on its own display.

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I should have qualified my comment about the editor: that's based on other's reports on the now closed sonikmatter forum, for folks doing deep editing.

 

I have personally used it as a patch librarian (deleting, reordering patches), and for that purpose, it's been just fine.

 

I think the mantra would be "save often". :)

 

(BTW were I shopping for a new sub-$2000 workstation board and didn't need one immediately, I'd hold out for the FA08 and at least try it.)

 

-John

I make software noises.
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SL Editor - do "everything" backups on the PC3 frequently - NOT using the SL ediror, but using the PC3's native backup process. Then, if something crashes, you can reboot and interrupt startup to do a quick restore.

 

My use of the editor: read-only - good for looking at things, then make the actual adjustments directly on the PC3 (the screen is not that hard to read). then update the SL editor for that patch (it will not pick up the change without updating it). This method has worked without problems. Trying to do deep editing within the editor has hit various bugs in the past. I do admit that I haven't tried deep editing with the most recent version of the editor.

 

Howard Grand|Hamm SK1-73|Kurz PC2|PC2X|PC3|PC3X|PC361; QSC K10's

HP DAW|Epi Les Paul & LP 5-str bass|iPad mini2

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Jim

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OK, I finally got a chance to test out the Kronos X today for a few hours at Guitar Center. I brought my Grado headphones and boy do they make a difference over the studio monitors they use. I also spent a few minutes with a Motif XF8; unfortunately this store didn't have a Kurzweil.

 

The actions on the Yamaha and Kronos seemed very similar to me; both felt a tad sluggish but I slightly preferred the Yamaha, not enough to make a difference though. I'm familiar with Steinway, Bosendorfer, etc. actions, but it's been awhile since I've played a really nice piano so I can't really compare them to a real piano.

 

I had trouble navigating the Yamaha interface, not a fair comparison though since I didn't read any of the manual and I've never played a Yamaha board before. I did out the default grand piano though. (I just went to Yamaha's site to look up the patch name in the manual and you have to make an account to download the manual--no thanks!) The German grand on the Kronos completely blows the Motif away in my book in terms of realism, although I could see how the Yamaha grand might cut better in a band situation, but then Kronos has other pianos that can do that. I wasn't seriously considering the Yamaha anyway though, just wanted a point of comparison.

 

I spent awhile tweaking some of the CX3 organ patches and was very impressed; I think it sounds better than B4 II or even VB3. (although granted, I didn't compare them directly at the same time) I love all the adjustable parameters, including amp noise which I feel contributes a great deal to the illusion of playing a real Hammond (sound guy might not like it though...). There's also a certain "air" or "breathy-ness" that it captures, especially with a little of the high drawbars, that I feel the software emulations miss (imo). The fast Leslie setting was the only downside; if the Organimation patches aren't much better I might consider a Ventilator down the road, but it's certainly better than anything else I've heard.

 

The EPs sound great and the clavs are pretty good, although I wish there were a few more clav programs (I can always tweak them though). Orchestral instruments were good as well, with the exception of the strings (just too synth-y and not realistic enough), although being a cellist I might never be satisfied... but I can always get a better sample set!

 

Being used to the Triton, editing programs and combis was pretty intuitive, and the Set List will be great for programming the musical I'm playing in the summer, and also for saving favorite programs and combis for the rock band.

 

Overall I think I'm pretty set on the Kronos. A Mac w/Mainstage & MIDI controller will be at least the same amount of money, maybe more, especially if I want a weighted 88-key controller. It looks like the Kronos will give me the same power and features as Mainstage (for what I'll be doing) in the standalone hardware package that I prefer. Even if I can't get the sound of a $400 sample set, I'm fine trading that for the Kronos's ease of use.

 

I still want to play a PC3K8 to confirm my decision; it looks like there's a dealer my area that I can visit tomorrow. I suppose I'll find out when I try it, but what I want to settle is ease of use (programming Set Lists) and sound quality, Kronos vs. PC3X. [edit] I forgot about the Kronos expansion and sampling capability; the Kurz will have to absolutely slay in order to beat the Kronos.

 

Anything else you think I should be considering at this point? I appreciate all your help so far.

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I had trouble navigating the Yamaha interface, not a fair comparison though since I didn't read any of the manual and I've never played a Yamaha board before.

 

Well, Yamaha isn't known for having friendly user-interfaces. :)

 

 

I still want to play a PC3K8 to confirm my decision; it looks like there's a dealer my area that I can visit tomorrow. I suppose I'll find out when I try it, but what I want to settle is ease of use (programming Set Lists) and sound quality, Kronos vs. PC3X. [edit] I forgot about the Kronos expansion and sampling capability; the Kurz will have to absolutely slay in order to beat the Kronos.

 

Definitely compare as many boards as possible, however, after your experience with Korg's user-interface, I doubt you'll like the small screen and menu diving that Kurzweil offers.

 

 

When an eel hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's a Moray.
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Yes! The factory string patches on the PC3K do sound better than the Kronos, but that's about the only advantage in my book. I can always get a string sample pack for the Kronos if I want. Overall the Kronos is just much more convenient and easy to use for me. After taking a while to get the money situation together, I ordered a Kronos X 88 today for a great price from Proaudiostar, and I'm just in time for the $300 rebate from Korg. It might even arrive in time to use on my gig next Friday!

 

It'll be nice to have one board that can do everything, but with the option of using my lightweight 61-key MIDI controller for organs and synths if I don't have to set up many other instruments or if it's a higher-profile gig.

 

Thanks for the advice everyone! I'll likely be sticking around here; there seems to be many incredibly knowledgeable people and I don't know many advanced keyboard/synth players to ask this stuff!

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