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Thinking about starting over and going all virtual


Jasonbass32

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Fist off, I'd like to thank those regular contributors who provide insight, assistance and opinions to newer keyboard players like myself. This is one of the best musician forums on the net.

 

My main keyboard is a Fantom X6 (with SRX 03, 07, 11, 05). I've had it since 2008. Love the board, it has been great. Love the action, can't find anything in the music store that compares action wise in IMO (except G6). My primary issue withe the X6 is the piano sounds (even with SRX 11) the pianos are subpar. I can play piano fine from the board but 61 keys is not enough, especially in the low register. The PCM sounds are also getting dated, although I still like many of the synth sounds.

 

About 9 months ago I purchased a Nord Electro 4 SW73 to complement the Fantom. My primary goal was to use it for piano. I went back and forth as to whether to buy the Electro 4 SW73 or Nord Piano 2HP. After reading that a lot of people did not like the heavy action of the HP, I went with the electro SW. After 9 months I have realized that the electro is just not for me. I cannot get used to the waterfall action for piano. I find it too "springy". I'd much rather play piano from the Fantom as the semi weighted action is just a bit firmer and smoother IMO. I also have been disappointed with the samples available for the Electro and how you cannot listen or audition them before downloading. The mono polyphony is also a bit of a drag but I knew that going in. With that said, the piano sounds in the Nord blow the Fantom away. They are fantastic.

 

So I am thinking about selling both of my boards and going with controllers and virtual instruments. I already have fully loaded MAC mini, interfaces, logic, and MainStage. I was thinking about getting a quality 61 key controller like the Nektar Panorama P6 and an 88 key controller like the Casio PX5s. Using these controllers with MainStage, a good piano VST, and a good synth VST. I am currently not gigging so thats not an issues. I figure if I'm gigging in two or three years i'll buy a good performance board at that time.

 

I will miss those Nord Piano sound though.

 

What do you guys think?

 

Thanks

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Keep the Fantom, if only for the action that you love to control the softsynths.

 

Sell the Electro and get a Kawai VPC1 and a virtual piano to cover your piano needs.

 

For a non-gigging player, I think this would be a pretty ideal set-up.

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My studio rig has been all virtual for many years. Lots of benefits there, including being able to reload an old project & have all the instruments right there, loaded, mixed & ready to go.

 

I have a Roland A-88 & a Trapkat percussion controller. 'Pretty happy with both.

 

If the Fantom has the controller functions you want, then it makes sense to keep it since you like the action. Most non weighted synth action controllers are pretty lame. I'm sure there are some good ones, but I don't know what they are. You could also add a Nanokontrol if you need a few extra knobs, sliders & buttons.

Custom Music, Audio Post Production, Location Audio

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What D-Bon said. I have an MP8II at home that I use to control My NE3's sounds...it's a great combination, and the Kawai action destroys anything produced by Fatar.

 

However, if you're considering the PX-5S to use as a piano controller, I'd save some money and go for the PX-150 instead. It's the same keyboard action, and unlike the PX-5S supports half-pedalling.

 

Cheers,

James

x

Employed by Kawai Japan, however the opinions I express are my own.

Nord Electro 3 fan &

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Don't buy a used MP-8II because you can't. No one parts with their Kawai. Great products.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I looked into that kawai controller. It's probably a little too much for my needs and probably more than I would want to spend on just a controller. It's also very large if I recall. What interested me more with kawai was the recent price drop on the mp6. Watched a few videos online and that seemed like a good option.

 

I may end up keeping the fantom and still get a synth controller. I was looking into a controller that would integrate a little better with logic and mainstage. Fantom x drivers are not available for os mavericks. I tried the novation 61sl mkii which felt pretty good. The nektar is supposed to be even better quality. Reviews are excellent on the nektar especially in regards to the Keybed quality. I thought it might be worth a try.

 

The casio px150 doesn't have standard midi connections which I would want at least as an option. The 350 does but I have no use for the built in speakers.

 

Another controller that interested me was the studiologic acuna series. Again, there is just nowhere to check these products out.

 

Thanks

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I dont think you will find a better 88 note controller at the price than the PX-5S or its lesser siblings with the same keybed.

 

Also there is nothing available that auto maps to MainStage, my experience with "automapping" such as that offered by M-Audio for Logic is that it is very limited and of little benefit given you will inevitably want to customise it.

 

You face a trade off between lots of knobs, buttons and faders OR a decent keybed. If AP is important focus on getting a good 88 keybed for AP complemented by a synth action controller with all the controls that can be mapped to MainStage and Logic.

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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I dont think you will find a better 88 note controller at the price than the PX-5S or its lesser siblings with the same keybed.

 

Respectfully disagree.

 

While you may or may not like the Casio's action (personal preference), a great controller ought to have expression pedal input, easily mappable controls (and agree, you'll want to customize MainStage's mapping rather than default to any flavor of auto mapping) and multiple assignable zones. Not sure the PX-5S does any of this, but from previous threads I seem to recall that it doesn't. Please correct if I'm wrong.

 

Arturia's new line looks interesting, and concur the Kawai MP series are very capable controllers (more so than the Casio), albeit at higher price and more weight.

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Well, then, enlighten me, Kenny. I've spent hours w/ the PX-5S and was not personally impressed. But that's just me.

 

Having used two Kawais as MainStage controllers, my anecdotal gig experience was quite positive (with the Kawais, not MainStage v1.)

 

Not sure how many more caveats and disclaimers I can post around my limited PX-5S experience...and would love you to elaborate since you own one.

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I see so many here making excuses to 'put down' the PX-5S. Anyone who is actually interested in it, would have looked into the various resources Casio has provided (Facebook Group, Casio Music Forums, PX-5S Newsletter), which specifically addresses problems people seem to have with it (on this forum, and elsewhere). For example: no dedicated exp pedal input? There are now three different solutions to address it.

Now, some may say that something like that is a must in a keyboard, and I don't completely disagree with you...but at the same time, there are aspects of the PX-5S that just blow away other current keyboards (the action, 256 polyphony, ect..). Nothing is always as it seems.

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I understand.

 

I'm not trying to summarily dismiss the PX-5S, I simply respectfully disagree that "you won't find a better 88 note controller" around that price point.

 

Not that it matters, but it came out when I was looking to upgrade off my PX3, and I really, really wanted to like it for several reasons - price, weight, improved feature set, better and more samples / sounds, etc. etc.

 

I spent several hours over multiple sessions trying to vibe onto it. At the end, I went another way (CP4), but that was just personal choice.

 

So please don't count me among those who just want to shit on it. I realize there are MIDI solutions boxes to hook up an expression pedal (and other ways too), and those are viable fixes - but it's tough to say "no better 88 key controller", when you gotta go 3rd party fix. Add to that my anecdotal experience with the Kawais and their controller capabilities, and well, I don't want to belabor the point.

 

Sorry if I came off as one of the guys hating on it for no reason.

 

Tim

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a great controller ought to have expression pedal input, easily mappable controls (and agree, you'll want to customize MainStage's mapping rather than default to any flavor of auto mapping) and multiple assignable zones.

 

Just to address the questions at hand: :)

 

- Expression pedal options are outlined here .. if being used with a computer the MIDI Expression USB adapter option is very simple and elegant.

 

- The knobs and sliders are fully assignable to MIDI CC - in fact each one can have 2 targets. Very flexible.

 

- There are 4 completely assignable zones - no rules - splits or layered. Again, very flexible.

 

Hope this clears things up.

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I think the Nektar controller uses the same action as the M-Audio Axiom Pro. I wouldn't choose it over the Fantom.

 

And for the weighted 88, perhaps the OP should clarify what controller capabilities he needs. If all he's going to do is play a virtual piano sample, there's little need for knobs, sliders, mapping, expression pedal, etc.

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My main keyboard is a Fantom X6 (with SRX 03, 07, 11, 05). I've had it since 2008....Love the action, can't find anything in the music store that compares action wise in IMO....

 

About 9 months ago I purchased a Nord Electro 4 SW73 to complement the Fantom..... I cannot get used to the waterfall action for piano. I find it too "springy".....

 

I was thinking about getting a quality 61 key controller like the Nektar Panorama P6 and an 88 key controller like the Casio PX5s. Using these controllers with MainStage, a good piano VST, and a good synth VST.....

 

....The casio px150 doesn't have standard midi connections...

 

In response I am suggesting:

 

A = Decent AP KEYBED PX-5S, if half-pedalling, expression etc are important - which the OP has not mentioned - add a midi box, plus

 

B = Synth style KEYBED generic midi controller such Axiom, Novation, Arturia etc which do have 9 faders, knobs etc and sustain and expression which in MainStage could be routed to provide these functions for the AP AU/VST running in the selected Channel Strip.

 

There is of course option C:

 

A fully featured 88 note controller which has 9 faders, knobs, buttons, expression, sustain, half pedalling, polyphonic aftertouch, and an excellent AP Keybed

 

Maybe the Arturia Keylab 88?? otherwise I will leave it others to nominate controllers that meet these specs.

 

The OP says he is considering 2 controllers. So my suggestions for "A" plus "B" seem realistic options.

 

If what he really really wants is "C" then I am fresh out of ideas.

 

 

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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I think the Nektar controller uses the same action as the M-Audio Axiom Pro. I wouldn't choose it over the Fantom.

 

Apart from the majors like Yamaha, Roland it is FATAR world, or in the case of a few like Nord, FATAR with different springs.

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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Since you're planning on using mainstage on a Mac mini then a controller with feedback capable controls is super important. The only almost viable option (not available yet) is the new behringer motor controllers. They have motorised faders and led knobs all feedback capable.

 

We can only hope that the unweighted action is decent at this point but it is meant to be out by years end. If you don't mind waiting a bit and if the action is decent this controller will be a game changer for virtual live rigs.

 

PN

Paul Najar

Jaminajar music production

www.jaminajar.com

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Regarding controllers:

 

I do love the PX5S. It's got a great action (and very good sounds) for a board at that price, and it's unbelievably lightweight. The Casio support (people and resources) are second to none.

 

If you need more MIDI control, zones and re-mapping, more built-in pedal inputs, a good option to consider is a second hand PC3x.

 

As for software:

 

I highly recommend MOTU's Mach 5. It's very stable, very robust. When it does (rarely) fail, it does so gracefully and recovers quickly. My partner and I use it on all of our Broadway shows... and the players all tell me that it causes far fewer headaches than Mainstage or anything else.

 

Also I strongly recommend the RME interfaces. They are pricey, but worth it. Again, very robust, very reliable. You can drop 'em down a flight of stairs and they don't seem to mind. (Don't ask.)

 

Regarding Fatar:

 

While some of their older actions had some mechanical issues (10+ years ago), the current TP40 line is extremely reliable. And it strikes a great balance for piano AND non-piano sounds like organ, clav, synth, xylo (16th notes). Trying to play those quicker sounds on a heavier action is a bit like old people making love - slow and sloppy. :P

 

 

 

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Another controller that interested me was the studiologic acuna series.Thanks

 

Acuna uses the same Fatar TP100 action as the Nord Piano/Electro HP. I notice you were warned off the Nords due to others' experiences.

 

+1 on keeping the Fantom as a "soundless" controller. And the big questin: what controller features do you need on your 88?

- Expression pedal

- Half-pedal

- Wheels (pitch, mod)

- Sliders

- Knobs

- Breath control

- Other?

 

I like the Casio action, especially on a budget, but the TP40 that Dave Weiser mentioned is nice too but more expensive.

 

Cheers, Mike.

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I'll 2nd Dave's recommendation for a used PC3x. I'm building a Mainstage+PC3K7 rig at the moment. The PC3 series is incredibly deep when it comes to the MIDI implementation. Plus there are 2 CC and 3 switch pedal inputs and it'll also talk MIDI over USB or regular 5-pin DIN. If only Kurzweil made a range of MIDI controllers...

Korg Kronos 61 (2); Kurzweil PC4, Casio PX-350M; 2015 Macbook Pro and 2012 Mac Mini (Logic Pro X and Mainstage), GigPerformer 4.

 

My Genesis Tribute Band: www.sellingfairfaxbythepound.com

 

 

 

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I did quick search and could not find any info on where Avid sourced the keybed for the M Audio products when they owned it.

 

The deeper I go into velocity curves the greater the difference I find they make to the playability of each VST/AU.

 

I wonder if the issues some Nord users have with the keybed is more to do with the velocity curve setting rather than the keybed itself. Might explain why some boards using the same Fatar keybed feel 'right' and others feel wrong.

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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Some things to possibly think about on the 88.

1) Do you want a Graded (heavier in the bass lighter on top) or Balanced action (even touch throughout)? I use both to control external hardware depending on the gig. Country and blues gigs where I am primarily a piano player I use a graded Kawai stage piano. Rock, R&B, pop stuff I use a balanced Yamaha. I run all kinds of splits often with brass in the bass. I want an even touch through out.

 

2) Do you want piano pedaling, especially for virtual pianos that will mimick all your pedal articulations? Do you think you may have any interest in late Classical Or Romantic piano. One of my recording project is a complete collection of Edvard Grieg's 66 lyric pieces. You can't do some of those without a sostenuto pedal. You may also want an una corda pedal. The virtual pianos are good enough you can put these to use. Same pedal articulations can be put to good use in Jazz and other solo piano forms. For lower musical art forms this may not be a concern where such subtleness gets buried.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I wonder if the issues some Nord users have with the keybed is more to do with the velocity curve setting rather than the keybed itself. Might explain why some boards using the same Fatar keybed feel 'right' and others feel wrong.

Which Nord action are you referring to? If it's the Electro SW action, the consensus is that the spring is too tight. If it's the Electro/Piano HP action, well, the TP100 is clunky and not as smooth as the TP40. In my experience, it plays the same in the Artis, SP4-8, and Numa Piano. Also, I think it has only two sensors. So, in both cases, I think the problem is mechanical design.

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This is not a product endorsement but this does happen to be the software and controller I use at home. This is a nice presentation of elements in virtual software you may want your controller to be able to engage.

 

[video:youtube]

[video:youtube]

[video:youtube]

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Disclaimer: I'm no pro and don't have a studio...just a laptop on a desk! But back in the day I did spend a bit of time in smaller studios (jingle studio mostly).

 

I'll never go back to hardware. I still use it live, but the convenience of software trumps all (IMO of course). Mixing console, sound modules, effects units, and all the cabling that would entail is replaced by my macbook pro. I have a mackie firewire mixer (bought used for $50) that serves as an audio interface, but if I just want to sit and mix (say at work on my lunch break!) I can just fire up Logic and change patches, fx, move notes around, do some mixing etc.

 

To be able to switch songs and have everything just pop into place is so awesome. No loading patches (or even saving patches), sysex, setting fx, console faders. Of course the down side to this is I just tend to flit from idea to idea and I don't finish much (since it's so easy to start things) but that's a fault of me and not the software! When I want to save a mix, I just bounce the project down to 2 tracks on my computer, mp3 or wav, and *zoop* it goes up to soundcloud.....just that easy.

 

To me is sounds great too--convenience is nothing if the sound was bad, but it isn't.

 

Edit--that's what I get for not full reading your post...I see you are already set up with Logic. So you already have some decent sounds to mess with (Sculpture is interesting, I like the EP and organ plugins...not so hot on the pianos...).

My go-to synth these days has been Imposcar 2, but Omnisphere, Alchemy and Zebra are ones I've tried and really liked ($ forbids me just using all of them :)) I'm considering Pianoteq 5 from what I've heard.

 

 

The boards I use as controllers don't have a lot of extra controls, so I bought a little Korg nano-controller that I can map to the internal functions if I want to.

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