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Best Portable Midi Controller


Dextroze

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Hello,

 

I'm sending back my VR-09 due to bad midi implementation (since I'm a begginer in this area).

I think that even with an external controller this might be too complicated to use ?

I need to be able to control Mainstage and Live, using soft like Keyscape, Omnisphere 2 for live usage (jazz acoustic piano trio, but I want to add new sounds, new world).

Do you know any good midi controller that would be able to have a nice keybed, and that would be very lightweight, because I don't have a car yet so I need to take the subway with it, my mac etc.

I come from acoustic piano.

I know that it is hard to find these two things combined since the keybed is almost always related to the weight !

 

Theremore I don't have much money anymore, ahaha !

I was hesitating between these three : Nektar Panorama 6, Novation 61 Sl MkII and the MPK261.

 

But maybe they are alternatives ? Which ones ?

 

Thank you guys

Nord Electro 6D / Prophet Rev2/ Digitakt / Minilogue / Keyscape -

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For non-piano stuff, the Novation SL61MkII has a great action, one of my favorites on any board. I haven't played the other two you mentioned. There is software to make it easier to set up, at http://beta.novationmusic.com/releases/sl_mkii/

 

I've never actually tried playing piano sounds from it, though, so I can't speak to how it feels for that.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Thank you, worth mentionning : I have the RD-800 but I can't carry him without a car !

It has the greatest keybed I know (in my personnal opinion!), so one day I will have it as main keyboard.

So the controller doesn't have to have the best action of the world, I won't be playing 'usual stuff' on it... But the better feel the better ... !!!

Nord Electro 6D / Prophet Rev2/ Digitakt / Minilogue / Keyscape -

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I would suggest you visit Thomman's website for a complete list of what's available. The Novation SL has a Fatar keybed IIRC but 8 sliders while the Impulse which is cheaper has 9 but has a different keybed.

 

You need to consider both the range of available controls you will want to use and keybed. Arturia also have fully featured controllers and they must be available to try in France.

 

 

A misguided plumber attempting to entertain | MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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I still think nothing touches the Arturia controllers in terms of the MIDI specs (not a subjective statement; provable via MIDI monitoring tools), and also the keybed feel but in particular the incredibly smooth and detailed aftertouch implementation.

 

Many people don't realize that aftertouch is as much (if not more) a HARDWARE implementation as it is MIDI programming/firmware.

 

The Arturia controllers have a VERY similar keybed to the Moog Minimoog Voyager, with fairly extreme flex at the ends of the keys for maximum tactile feedback and fine-grained control of aftertouch, easily producing all values from 0 to 127 (quite rare BTW!).

 

The newer versions are deeper and thus partially defeat the purpose, but my older one (61 keys) is on the bay now anyway because my computer table is so shallow that even that one is too deep for simultaneous use of computer keyboard and mouse.

 

Some of the other ones mentioned are also nice -- if more variable from rev to rev than Arturia -- so in the end, it often comes down to one's specific needs for features (e.g. the C/V on one of the Akai models) and form factor. But nothing really touches the MIDI spec of the Arturia -- except CME, which nevertheless isn't as smooth in delivering every incremental value.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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I use the Novation SL 61 MKII, and I like it a lot, with some caveats.

 

Pros:

Great feeling keybed, literally one of the nicest synth actions I've ever played. It's fast and responsive, and just a joy to play.

 

Lots of controller options, I have it controlling nearly everything on my Mainstage setup, and still have unused knobs and faders.

 

Build quality seems quite good, I've gigged with it extensively for the last couple years, and it has totally held up.

 

cons:

If you use the Automap software with Mainstage, expect to wait a few extra minutes when you launch Mainstage, because Automap has to re-scan all the plugins onboard. This can be annoying. I keep meaning to re-program the SL and my Mainstage patches to not use Automap, but it hasn't been annoying enough yet.

 

The trackpad is virtually useless. It takes so much pressure to get it to respond that it literally hurts my fingers to use it. So I don't.

 

Same with the drum pads, they require a lot of pressure to trigger, so I just use them as buttons.

 

Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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(Rant Warning)

 

This reminds me of shopping for kitchen appliances. Someone with a good experience will get your hopes up that you've found the holy grail. Then you read the reviews and see that a good percentage of folks had issues - usually the ones you're most concerned with. And if you read enough reviews you'll conclude that they all suck! Maybe they all do.

 

I've gone down this road several times looking for the ideal synth action controller only to be disappointed again and again. Enough so that I now use fairly decent synths for midi controllers. In fact I bought a mid priced synth (used) last year strictly for use as a midi controller after getting fed up with the cheapo controller I had. Only I'm finding that the keybed they use in this synth is also kind of sub par; uneven midi out velocity, especially between the white and black keys, aftertouch not so smooth etc. And just yesterday I found that this manufacturer is using this same keybed in some other very high end synths -Uggh! For the synth's internal sounds this can be compensated for by the velocity curves. But new to me was that the velocity curves do not affect the midi out data. Obviously this is not the case for a dedicated controller .

 

I owned the Novation SL and the MK 2 version. Great controllers feature wise and it does feel great to me. But the velocity response is sporadic, enough that on certain type sounds you can not play evenly. Some people will never notice; Maybe they're using sounds that don't responds to velocity or maybe it's their playing style. Of course this is all subjective.

 

SL MK 2 Velocity Issue

 

I guess it comes down to trying each controller out for yourself until you find one that meets your requirements. This shouldn't be this difficult. I imagine the keybed is a costly component of the total synth/controller.

 

 

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Don't forget the excellent Yamaha CS6x, which predated the MOTIF series and was its initial prototype but had way more direct control.

 

They can be had quite cheap, and can also host analog and FM plug-in boards. I was quite successful in using mine as a controller for many years.

 

Personally, I didn't care for its keybed, and certainly the MIDI values weren't as smooth as on an Arturia controller or something from Moog (or Dave Smith).

 

Nevertheless, a good quality synth can often serve as a good controller, and usually has fewer quirks and long-term compatibility issues.

 

They rarely have templates for other stuff though.

 

The E-Mu Proteus 2 series also had a fair amount of direct control that could be programmed for other purposes, as did Kawai's excellent K5000 Additive Synthesis keyboard (if you find the one with the "programmer" hardware addition of knobs).

Eugenio Upright, 60th Anniversary P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico SS Bari, EXL1,

Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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I owned the Novation SL and the MK 2 version. Great controllers feature wise and it does feel great to me. But the velocity response is sporadic, enough that on certain type sounds you can not play evenly. Some people will never notice; Maybe they're using sounds that don't responds to velocity or maybe it's their playing style. Of course this is all subjective. I guess it comes down to trying each out for yourself until you find one that meets your requirements. This shouldn't be this difficult.

I imagine the keybed is a costly component of the total synth/controller.

 

 

I totally agree with you that keyboard feel/response is very subjective, but I've never had a problem with inconsistent velocity response with my SL 61 MK2. I did have to learn to play with a lighter touch when I got it (it was replacing an Axiom 61, which was semi-weighted and was nowhere as nice a keybed), but the velocity response on mine seems to be predictable. As noted above, I have found other issues with it though.

Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow

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I still think nothing touches the Arturia controllers in terms of the MIDI specs (not a subjective statement; provable via MIDI monitoring tools), and also the keybed feel but in particular the incredibly smooth and detailed aftertouch implementation.

 

 

I absolutely love my Arturia Keylab61 Black Edition.

 

It has been rock solid. The MIDI control center software that let's you create different setups, as well as keys, aftertouch, etc.. have made it a wonderful tool to use with Mainstage.

 

 

David

Gig Rig:Depends on the day :thu:

 

 

 

 

 

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Personally, I didn't care for its keybed, and certainly the MIDI values weren't as smooth as on an Arturia controller or something from Moog (or Dave Smith).

 

The PolyEvolver, Andromeda and Voyager all use the Fatar TP9S and I find these to be the smoothest keybeds - both velocity and aftertouch. I've never tried the Arturia or the CS6x so I can't comment.

 

In investigating this (just yesterday by coincidence) I learned that the OB-6 and Prophet 6 also use the Fatar TP9s. I'm not certain it is exactly the same TP9s as the older board using this keybed but some have reported that they feel great. The other DSI synths use a keybed made by the same "over-sea's manufacturer" that make the Mophox4 keybed. My testing yesterday confirmed this (same uneven white vs black key velocity), at least on the synths I tested before I called DSI.

 

 

 

 

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I owned the Novation SL and the MK 2 version. Great controllers feature wise and it does feel great to me. But the velocity response is sporadic, enough that on certain type sounds you can not play evenly. Some people will never notice; Maybe they're using sounds that don't responds to velocity or maybe it's their playing style. Of course this is all subjective.

 

SL MK 2 Velocity Issue

Good point about the sounds making a difference. As I mentioned, I never tried using it for a piano sound... though now that I think of it, the same action is in the Kurzweil PC361 and I didn't like that for piano. Velocity control is not an issue for organ, and generally not much of one for synths, and I think, even a lot of other acoustic instruments (strings and the like), while needing velocity control, don't need the kind of fine control, the subtlety and nuance that you need for piano playing. So yeah, the sounds you're controlling probably do make a difference in how you feel about the board's response, apart from the feel itself.

 

But also, there was some great info in that link... If you're going to be using the controller to control a computer-based system (as most people probably would today), you can fine tune the velocity response on the other end, too.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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But also, there was some great info in that link... If you're going to be using the controller to control a computer-based system (as most people probably would today), you can fine tune the velocity response on the other end, too.

 

Maybe - depends on the issue. If the black keys are putting out a substantially higher velocity than the white keys then there's not much you can do. I even explored some VST plugins this evening but none of them would fix this issue.

 

BTW when I say piano sounds it not necessarily piano/electric piano but various synth sounds that have a piano type envelope - fast attack and fairly quick decay on the filter. I usually set these up to be very responsive to velocity.

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I have an Emu Xboard 61 with full size keys that I've been using for years and still do, but I recently got an Arturia Keystep with slim keys that I'm using most of the time now. For a smaller keyboard, it feels great and its sequencer/arp is really nice. It has USB and DIN MIDI and CV and gate outputs that make it a good controller for analog gear.
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Maybe - depends on the issue. If the black keys are putting out a substantially higher velocity than the white keys then there's not much you can do. I even explored some VST plugins this evening but none of them would fix this issue.

 

Mark are you referring to the note-on midi value sent by black key compared to a white key for the equivalent playing force, for example the black key sends 127 but a white key 100?

 

A misguided plumber attempting to entertain | MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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Yes ! Thank you for all of these advices :)

Lots of content here, and good content !

 

So to the list I can had the Arturia KeyLab, the Roland A-49 (maybe to small). The Novation 61 Sl MkII seems to be quite appreciated even if some of you talk about some velocity issues.

I don't know about the keybed of the MPK261, do you guys know ?

Have you heard about the roland A-800 ? The Nektar Panorama 6 has great reviews everywhere, do you know is keybed ? (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PanoramaP6/reviews)

 

And just a little question, do you think that if I keep my VR-09 and that I add an external controller with nobs and faders I'll be able to easily control the VR-09 via Mainstage or Live ?

 

Thanks again I feel that I'm getting close to be able to choose !!!

Nord Electro 6D / Prophet Rev2/ Digitakt / Minilogue / Keyscape -

New video :

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Maybe - depends on the issue. If the black keys are putting out a substantially higher velocity than the white keys then there's not much you can do. I even explored some VST plugins this evening but none of them would fix this issue.

 

Mark are you referring to the note-on midi value sent by black key compared to a white key for the equivalent playing force, for example the black key sends 127 but a white key 100?

 

Yes. Well at least I assume I'm applying the same force to both. As I indicated none of my other boards have this issue, fully weighted or synth type.

 

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Have you heard about the roland A-800 ?

Yes, I ordered a Roland A800PRO a few days ago ($359 from Amazon). Delivery is scheduled for Friday.

 

I had a tough time selecting a midi controller because there doesn't seem to be an easy way to try the action. So, I choose the A800PRO for a couple of reasons:

1) A forum member, Reezekeys, uses it and is happy. I heard a jazz recording of him playing a software acoustic piano triggered by a Roland A800PRO which sounded great. Of course first and foremost he's an excellent player, but since he could express himself so well on the A800PRO I thought it might be a good choice for me.

2) Years ago I did many gigs using a Roland JV90 triggering a Roland MKS20 and was able to express myself well. It wasn't as good as playing a weighted keyboard but was a satisfying compromise between action and the weight of the keyboard. So, I figure the Roland folks have an approach to non-weighted action that's agreeable to how I play (i.e., I practice almost exclusively on an acoustic grand).

 

I'll share my thoughts after I receive the A800PRO on Friday and play it a bit.

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Have you heard about the roland A-800 ?

Yes, I ordered a Roland A800PRO a few days ago ($359 from Amazon). Delivery is scheduled for Friday.

 

I had a tough time selecting a midi controller because there doesn't seem to be an easy way to try the action. So, I choose the A800PRO for a couple of reasons:

1) A forum member, Reezekeys, uses it and is happy. I heard a jazz recording of him playing a software acoustic piano triggered by a Roland A800PRO which sounded great. Of course first and foremost he's an excellent player, but since he could express himself so well on the A800PRO I thought it might be a good choice for me.

2) Years ago I did many gigs using a Roland JV90 triggering a Roland MKS20 and was able to express myself well. It wasn't as good as playing a weighted keyboard but was a satisfying compromise between action and the weight of the keyboard. So, I figure the Roland folks have an approach to non-weighted action that's agreeable to how I play (i.e., I practice almost exclusively on an acoustic grand).

 

I'll share my thoughts after I receive the A800PRO on Friday and play it a bit.

 

Thanks ! This might be a good option, could you share the recording ?

Nord Electro 6D / Prophet Rev2/ Digitakt / Minilogue / Keyscape -

New video :

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Maybe - depends on the issue. If the black keys are putting out a substantially higher velocity than the white keys then there's not much you can do. I even explored some VST plugins this evening but none of them would fix this issue.

 

Mark are you referring to the note-on midi value sent by black key compared to a white key for the equivalent playing force, for example the black key sends 127 but a white key 100?

 

Yes. Well at least I assume I'm applying the same force to both. As I indicated none of my other boards have this issue, fully weighted or synth type.

Pity I was considering getting one but I am now inclined towards the Nektar Panorama P6. Comes premapped for all the Logic plugs but have yet to try the keybed.

A misguided plumber attempting to entertain | MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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I'm finally making the jump to Mainstage after getting ProSoloVST and VB3 running on my MBP via 32-Lives (thanks to their $79 sale).

 

I've been watching out for a good deal on either an A-800 PRO or the Novation Impulse 61 but now I'm more interested in checking out the Arturia KeyLab 61. I don't really need a lot of knobs, sliders, pads and buttons with the stuff I do, but it apparently has 3 (THREE!) pedal inputs, which I do need.

Korg Kronos 61 (2); Kurzweil PC4, Roland Fantom-06, Casio PX-350M; 2015 Macbook Pro and 2012 Mac Mini (Logic Pro X and Mainstage), GigPerformer 4.

 

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I've been watching out for a good deal on either an A-800 PRO or the Novation Impulse 61 but now I'm more interested in checking out the Arturia KeyLab 61. I don't really need a lot of knobs, sliders, pads and buttons with the stuff I do, but it apparently has 3 (THREE!) pedal inputs, which I do need.

 

I'm heading over to GC in Fairfax to see if they have one I can check out. Will let you know.

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Thanks, Mark. The chances of them having anything larger than the 25-key version are pretty slim...you might call first.

 

I haven't been there in months...what time are you going over?

Korg Kronos 61 (2); Kurzweil PC4, Roland Fantom-06, Casio PX-350M; 2015 Macbook Pro and 2012 Mac Mini (Logic Pro X and Mainstage), GigPerformer 4.

 

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Sorry Bill - made a quick dash over there. They did have one out on a rack - at least 4 busted keys; 2 were of the pop-up variety and the other 2 were sort of stuck from going down. Another key felt like it was interfering with the one next to it. Such is life on the floor at GC. I could tell that the feel was just too light for my taste although I wish I could have hooked it up to something for a real evaluation. They do have another that was returned - no software and so it is discounted.

 

So no go for me but if you decide you like it there is a black one that looks to be in very good shape on Reverb.com. Think I'll wait 'til NAMM.

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Thanks, Mark...I don't care about the software (I have all of Arturia's stuff already). I might run over and see about the returned one.

Korg Kronos 61 (2); Kurzweil PC4, Roland Fantom-06, Casio PX-350M; 2015 Macbook Pro and 2012 Mac Mini (Logic Pro X and Mainstage), GigPerformer 4.

 

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There have been several post over the last week or so regarding midi controllers so I thought this long reply might interest some of you. If you haven't been following I expressed my frustration above regarding what I see as far from spectacular choices in this area.

 

I bought the Akai MPK249 this week. Not perfect but it was the only thing that met all of my requirements.

 

Feel: Not my favorite but acceptable. This is not my primary controller but is needed position-wise in my setup - more on this later. I prefer the feel of the Novation SL series which uses the Fatar TP9s. Btw I believe the Native Instrument Komplete Controller is the best feel of any synth type controller - ever. The MPK249 has an increasing resistance as you play more on the insides away from the edge. This has an unnatural feel to me but I think I can work with it and it's way better than their previous generations which I thought were terrible. Also the keys are a bit shorter than my other synths (maybe 1/4 ") which puts you further inside.

 

Keybed Response: This is different from feel. I have found that some of the best feeling keybeds (at least to me) do not necessarily output acceptable velocity curves. I look for evenness up and down the board especially between white and black keys; Can I play my desired dynamics consistently, can I make turns without notes sticking out, is it under my control etc? The Akai MPK249 does this pretty well but I do have to work through that resistance I mentioned above. I find I can do this in short order and play evenly, but again it's not as natural as my Fatar TP9s equipped synths. Hopefully with more practice and breaking in this will get better. One of my favorite features of this controller is the 4 global parameters provided for velocity control; curve, gain (both positive and negative) and an independent offset for both white key and black keys; Totally cool :cool:

 

Aftertouch: just a little bit harder to initiate on the black keys than I'm used to, but not bad. And this does prevent false triggering of the aftertouch. It also works smoothly over the whole range, not just an on/off. I have not needed to adjust the AT curve.

 

Reliability: I always hated the expression "built like a tank". Have you ever been in a tank? Anyway this board is extremely solid; not just the casing which is plastic but also the keybed which feels like it can take a pounding. The knobs and sliders are also very solid feeling. The drum pads are decent although I don't have much need for them with an Akai MPD232. I suggest reading the reviews and then verify for yourself; some of these small controllers are made like total crap - especially the keybeds.

 

Size: This was the trickiest and most limiting aspect for me. Fortunately I was able to make some adjustments to my set up over the last week to not only accommodate this controller but solve some other annoyances.

 

I originally started with a cheapo 37 note A300-Pro which was awful (but as of last week my daughter is using it). Last summer I changed it out for the 44 note Mophox4 with wheels up top which actually is the perfect size. Unfortunately there are no other 44 note synths or controllers with this profile.

But as I said earlier in this thread I really got fed up with it's uneven response. Over the last few days I did some clever rearranging that solved a couple of problems and gives me more space for a slightly bigger controller (49 notes); good ole Ultimate Support Systems - you can do almost anything. BTW I could probably make 61 work but there's no need and it would be tight.

 

This is the setup after recently integrating the modular rack. But it was too far back for this old man and I couldn't see what I was connecting unless standing and bending over; Ughh! Notice the Mophox4 fit perfectly.

http://i1062.photobucket.com/albums/t490/Markyboard/IMG_1542_zpswqsfvctt.jpg

 

I now raised up the minimoog which allows for the modular up front(yay) and as a bonus allows for a longer controller. I do prefer not to shift the modular all the way to the right if possible so 49 should be perfect.

 

http://i1062.photobucket.com/albums/t490/Markyboard/IMG_2563_zpsaytt2nhy.jpg

 

And now this is what I have. Very happy from an ergonomic standpoint. Only part of the controller is covered up; I was looking for the basic functions to be on the left where the Elements synths is a bit further back then the Mini. I can easily change what's being controlled by this Akai controller by simply turning the main editing knob changing patches. With the Mopho I had to menu dive to the midi channel page which was irritating. Of course it was a known compromise being a synth, not a dedicated controller. I can pull the controller forward when I need to as I did with the Mopho.

 

http://i1062.photobucket.com/albums/t490/Markyboard/IMG_2567_zps13wyni1w.jpg

 

That's it for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I prefer the feel of the Novation SL series which uses the Fatar TP9s. Btw I believe the Native Instrument Komplete Controller is the best feel of any synth type controller - ever.

Do you know which Fatar is in the NI? Like you, I like the one in the Novation SL. I also like the Numa Compact "TP9/PIANO" action, which, as its name implies, is better for piano than the S.

 

Have you ever played the Samson Graphite 49? I liked that too. I wonder if you might prefer that to the Akai.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Do you know which Fatar is in the NI? Like you, I like the one in the Novation SL. I also like the Numa Compact "TP9/PIANO" action, which, as its name implies, is better for piano than the S.

I thought I read that it uses Fatar but I could very well be mistaken. It feels buttery smooth although I didn't get to try it hooked up to anything. Also unfortunately it's more for integration with Komplete and looks limited as a stand-alone for external synths

 

Have you ever played the Samson Graphite 49? I liked that too. I wonder if you might prefer that to the Akai.

 

I probably tried out the action unconnected at some point - can't remember. But it never made the list - no foot controller, only sustain. Also I just quickly looked at reviews from a well known distributor; 2/9 complaining about the velocity curves. Not that I take that as gospel but I would certainly be scrutinizing this aspect if it did make my list.

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