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Another go with a new all-in one board, or transition to a laptop rig thread.....


ABECK
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I’m looking to update my gig rig and I find myself caught between the usual internal struggle – do I go with a dedicated “all-in one” solution, or transition to a laptop based rig?  I plan to keep my DMC122/Gemini combo, so I’ll always have that as an option for gigs that only need organ (or some Rhodes/wurli/clav, etc…)   Or for larger gigs where I can bring multiple boards.  I typically play classic rock gigs, where I cover a variety of parts, including the usual suspects (Hammond, clav, EP) and occasionally strings, horns, synth leads.  I never need temp based FX, slicers, fancy automated panning, etc…

Right now, here’s where I’m leaning for possible solutions:

  1. Roland Fantom-08
  2. Arturia Keylab 88-2, Macbook Air, Small USB audio interface.  (for software, Analog lab, Arturia Piano, Arturia EP.)

 

Thoughts/concerns

Roland Pros: 

  • Not all gigs have a lot of setup or breakdown time, so a clean, fast setup is a benefit.  Put it on the stand, plug in the pedals, audio, power, done. 
  • I like the UI and integration between hardware and software.  I’ve owned several Rolands, including an FA-08, and found the workflow to be efficient and fast.
  • I loved the FA weighted ivory action.
  • Sounds are “good enough”
  • Sampling option could be useful

Roland Cons: 

  • The Fantom-0 is about as exciting as a hammer.  While it’s not the most exciting tool in the box, it does what it does very well. 
  • For Hammond, I would need to connect my Vent.
  • There are expansion options, but for additional $$ 

 

Laptop Rig Pros:

  • Sounds are better than “good enough” and ultimately more expandable
  • Keybed on the Keylab is supposed to be very good.
  • Mainstage would ensure ultimate flexibility in setlist setup and config

 

Laptop Rig Cons:

  • More to setup – controller, laptop w/power, usb hub w/power, audio interface w/power, laptop support platform, THEN the pedals, audio connections, etc…  Not exactly an F1 pit stop.
  • I had a macbook air rig about 8 years ago.  I had a few crashes during different gigs and could not isolate the cause (I had plenty of RAM and wasn’t pushing the processor.  Def has made me sour on the reliability factor.)  I found the setup to be a pain in the ass.  I was weary about having a laptop out in the open at bar/club gigs.  It doesn’t look very rock-n-roll and I was worried about someone walking off with it.  With an all in one board, that’s never a concern. 
  • On the software side, I ended up always wanting one more plug in and as a result, my drive filled up, so I couldn’t add anything else.  I could have bought an external drive, but damn, that’s another peripheral to setup!!  The other downside is, with SO many options, I spent way too much time dicking around with software trying to find the right patch as opposed to just starting from scratch and making it myself (which is what I’ve always done with my Rolands).
  • Given enough time, every PC eventually becomes a boat anchor. 
  • And lastly, in a loud band situation, the benefit of having better samples for piano, Rhodes, etc….really didn’t translate.  I fretted over whether the Italian Grand would be better than the German Grand only to find neither really cut through the mix. (while the far inferior Roland samples always seem to work in a live context). 

 

I dunno – I guess I’m trying to find someone to talk me into a laptop solution because it’s new and different and potentially exciting, but as I write this, it really seems like I don’t need or necessarily want that.  Lol. 

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3 minutes ago, ABECK said:

 

 

I dunno – I guess I’m trying to find someone to talk me into a laptop solution because it’s new and different and potentially exciting, but as I write this, it really seems like I don’t need or necessarily want that.  Lol. 

To be frank, as a laptop user who also does hardware only and mixed rigs… I love software. However, your excellent description of your situation suggests that we talk you OUT of a laptop. Going completely into software in one step is unwise in any case.
 

Hardware is good. It has never been better. 👍👍

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As a hardware dinosaur, my vote would be Fantom 08 especially if it sounds "good enough" and has the right FTEC.  The easier load in/out is a bonus too. 😎

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

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I'm making the move back to hardware FROM a PC based setup because of reasons you have outlined. Sound quality drops, as I do not believe any hardware 'board can outclass VST's (I am talking quality ones here not the "freebies) in the pure sound category, but they can and do in operational aspects.

I am keeping the software rig, JUST in case I cannot put up with the sound but I've got to say, at this stage, the Fantom 08 is nailing it...after a shaky start it is definitely growing on me. Coupled with the Blofeld, it's working out to be a nice combo.

There is no luck - luck is simply the confluence of circumstance and co-incidence...

 

Time is the final arbiter for all things

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I started down this past over a decade ago.  I previously had two keyboards, a 72 pounds 88 key stage piano with weighted keys and a 76 key counterpart with synth action for triggering hammond and synths.  Neither one had a great hammond/leslie so I ended up with using a Voce coupled with a Motion Sound leslie solution.  As I got older it became apparent that I couldn't continue with bulk, weight, setup time, yada yada.  I looked for a reasonably priced all-in-one solution, so first thing was which keyboard had the right keybed that allowed me to play synth, organ, and piano reasonably well.  The TP-8 seemed (at the time) to make the most sense.  It eventually drew me to the Kurz PC3, that seemed to do everything pretty well and had the TP-8 keybed that allowed me to use one keyboard to do it all.  I went that way for a couple of years and somehow added as I went along.  I now use a M-Audio 11 pound keyboard as a 2nd keyboard to trigger stuff from a Gemini module which has sneaked into my mix as well.  If I look at the market today and say what keyboard does everything fairly well (may not the best at anything but fairly well at everything) the Nord Stage 3 seems to fit the bill.  The price is out of line for me.  Next would be the SKPro but its non-organ sounds are average at best.  Not sure what the right answer is here, something that I've been chasing for a decade; I'm reasonably satisfied with my PC3, M-Audio and Gemini module but setup is not quick and lots of stuff to pack/unpack.  I liked the idea of the JamKey which was a dual manual controller, one 61 keys and synth action and one 73 keys and more of a piano type action. https://reverb.com/item/43887786-orla-jamkey    Three sets of drawbars, C/V, percussion controls for hammond and other controllers for other instruments.  Could slap a Gemini module on it and setup/breakdown quickly.  Problem was it was nearly 60 pounds an $2500 just for the controller.  Like you, the search continues.

 

 

57 Hammond B3; 69 Hammond L100P; 68 Leslie 122; Kurzweil PC3; M-Audio Code 61; Voce V5+; Neo Vent; EV ELX112P; GSI Gemini & Burn

Delaware Dave

Exit 93 Band

 

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As a full time recent laptop convert (tried at least 3 times in the past!)…

My rig is one power cable to a rack, captive USBs outta there into one or two Arturia Keylab mkIIs, captive USB C to MacBook, pedals.
Done. As many XLR outs (well, up to 8!) as the sound guy needs.

Very very happy with the sounds, the Arturia sounds are cool, use a lot of the Roland ZEN stuff for the covers stuff. And, also IK MAX something that I thought might be a good idea - but haven't ventured into SampleTank much apart from an Alan Parsons piano which I do like a lot. Not sure why - but it's really playable. Also some UVI stuff that was free with my Korg i3!

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The question of questions these days.  MI has to react to this.  Either they make their actions available in great controllers or they open up their instruments up to loading  more sounds as needed with great user interfaces- setlist, split and layer functions, fx routing, etc. that you get with a MainStage rig.  
 

Cost wise for us, I think it’s a wash.  Computing devices are not inexpensive, arguably have shorter life spans, desktop and mobile device OSes are updated often and depend on software developers to continue support long after purchase.  To deal with this software developers are shifting to subscription models.   

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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1 hour ago, ElmerJFudd said:

........... To deal with this software developers are shifting to subscription models.   

 

Yes, undesirable to the end-user however in this day and age, it's probably the only way smaller designers can keep going! Perhaps even some of the bigger ones also??

There is no luck - luck is simply the confluence of circumstance and co-incidence...

 

Time is the final arbiter for all things

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2 hours ago, Tusker said:

 However, your excellent description of your situation suggests that we talk you OUT of a laptop.
 

Hardware is good. It has never been better. 👍👍

 

+1.  I'm still firmly in the hardware camp and @ABECK's list of pros/cons reads to me like someone who wants to stay hardware.  The water's still just fine here.

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14 minutes ago, ABECK said:

The model is more and more like how we consume media, isn't it?  We don't buy CDs, we buy time on Spotify.  We don't buy DVDs, we buy time on Netflix.  We don't buy software, we rent it.  

More about the big corporations don't want us to own anything anymore they want that monthly income, they don't like waiting for us to buy when we want to.   Grocery stores are experimenting with subscription basis,  car makers are talking about subscription cars you just call for one when you need it and leave it when done.  You name it they are working on trying to make it subscription based. 

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A steady stream of income is a functioning business model.  Well, certainly less stressful!

 

Everything is easier with a steady income vs. sporadic windfalls.  Rent, payroll, contracted services, utilities, taxes, etc. etc.  This is why startups tend to burn through VC money so fast.  I find it hard to see how software companies did it before subscription. Perhaps with loans and temporary employees/freelancers, scaling up and down.  How does a company go a year and a half, two, three years or more of development time gambling on if v3 is a hit?  I guess they did it by charging a lot for the new versions and offering “deals” to keep their loyal users upgrading.  
 

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want ever new monthly bills sucking at my paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.  The subscription, leasing, renting trend makes it very hard to save, and in effect makes it very hard to build wealth and retire someday.

 

But at least with running a business (if music is your gig) the predictable expense of a subscription or instrument rental is perhaps better during tax season than depreciating an expensive instrument over the course of ownership where you can’t declare the loss until you sell it off?  

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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2 minutes ago, ElmerJFudd said:

A steady stream of income is a functioning business model.  Well, certainly less stressful!

 

Everything is easier with a steady income vs. sporadic windfalls.  Rent, payroll, contracted services, utilities, taxes, etc. etc.  This is why startups tend to burn through VC money so fast.  I find it hard to see how software companies did it before subscription. Perhaps with loans and temporary employees/freelancers, scaling up and down.  How does a company go a year and a half, two, three years or more of development time gambling on if v3 is a hit?  I guess they did it by charging a lot for the new versions and offering “deals” to keep their loyal users upgrading.  
 

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want ever new monthly bills sucking at my paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.  The subscription, leasing, renting trend makes it very hard to save, and in effect makes it very hard to build wealth and retire someday.

 

But at least with running a business (if music is your gig) the predictable expense of a subscription or instrument rental is perhaps better during tax season than depreciating an expensive instrument over the course of ownership where you can’t declare the loss until you sell it off?  

Worked for a lot of software publishers and two things helped the flow other than finding new customers.   First was selling software updates.   So you paid a small amount for minor updates over the course of the year.  You got a new feature(s) and we'd release multiple updates per product during the cycle.   Then the yearly upgrade where major change came a version number bump and cost more than updates.    Now for the customer we had to come up with updates and upgrades that offered enough to make they want to get the update(s) and hopefully the upgrade.     Sure we were rolling the dice, but to me better than paying monthly.   Also part of business planning we couldn't wait two or three years for major updates.   Typically we created a schedule shooting for three updates a year and a major upgrade every year.   It was on the Product Manager to take customer feedback and come up with lists of things for adding and decide which would be considered updates or upgrades.    

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Docbop said:

Worked for a lot of software publishers and two things helped the flow other than finding new customers.   First was selling software updates.   So you paid a small amount for minor updates over the course of the year.  You got a new feature(s) and we'd release multiple updates per product during the cycle.   Then the yearly upgrade where major change came a version number bump and cost more than updates.    Now for the customer we had to come up with updates and upgrades that offered enough to make they want to get the update(s) and hopefully the upgrade.     Sure we were rolling the dice, but to me better than paying monthly.   Also part of business planning we couldn't wait two or three years for major updates.   Typically we created a schedule shooting for three updates a year and a major upgrade every year.   It was on the Product Manager to take customer feedback and come up with lists of things for adding and decide which would be considered updates or upgrades.    

 

 

 

Steady income on the books also helps when they want to go public and offer the IPO.  ;)

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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Although I am very comfortable with computers and such, I never have been tempted to put a laptop rig together.  For me, it's hard to beat the convenience of a good hardware board, and the ease of controlling it while playing.

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Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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1 hour ago, cphollis said:

For me, it's hard to beat the convenience of a good hardware board, and the ease of controlling it while playing.

There are lots of ways to "control" a laptop rig too, and one of the perks is the flexibility offered by host automation and most plugins' extensive midi assignment capabilities, combined with the typical assortment of faders, pads, knobs and buttons you see on lots of controllers. I liken it to the freedom to "write your own firmware", in effect you can design a rig to do things exactly how you like doing them. Not to mention the flexibility of choosing sound sources from different places. Tired of that Native Instruments piano? Load up a Pianoteq. Just join a band that needs hyper-realistic horns? Chris Hein has a plugin for that. Does the average bar-band player need these to gig? Of course not, but maybe they want them for the simple reason that it makes them feel good to control sounds with this extra degree of realism and expression. Will it matter to the punters in the crowd, or even his or her bandmates? Of course not! That's not why you do it.

 

Of course there's times I wish I could plop a keyboard on a stand, turn its power on and start playing! Actually I'm half-looking for a hardware board that's light, with a decent acoustic and EP. Something I can quickly take to small local hits where I want to save a little time with load-in, or in the case of a wedding ceremony or cocktail hour where getting in & out quickly is more important than sonic bliss. Someday.

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4 hours ago, Reezekeys said:

Of course there's times I wish I could plop a keyboard on a stand, turn its power on and start playing! Actually I'm half-looking for a hardware board that's light, with a decent acoustic and EP. Something I can quickly take to small local hits where I want to save a little time with load-in, or in the case of a wedding ceremony or cocktail hour where getting in & out quickly is more important than sonic bliss. Someday.

 

Reezekeys, I do understand your point about being able to automate nearly anything you can think of with a laptop setup.  I also understand your point about plopping a board down that has all the decent basics and just playing it.  Have you ever considered a Nord Electro?  😀

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Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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Having a «computer rig» at home I feel no need to bring all that complexity to a live gig. Of course this also depends on what you are performing and trying to achieve. My current solution is an all-in-one board on top of a weighted controller. Advantages is simplicity, keyboards almost as close as a dual manual organ and most important; a single control surface on top. Perfect for easy gigging and logistics. If playing in a famous band or for weeks in theatre considerations would be different.

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18 hours ago, Adam Burgess said:

My rig is one power cable to a rack, captive USBs outta there into one or two Arturia Keylab mkIIs, captive USB C to MacBook, pedals.
Done. As many XLR outs (well, up to 8!) as the sound guy needs.

 

Sounds amazing.  Mind sharing what rackmount audio / midi / XLR interface you use?

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5 hours ago, cphollis said:

 

Reezekeys, I do understand your point about being able to automate nearly anything you can think of with a laptop setup.  I also understand your point about plopping a board down that has all the decent basics and just playing it.  Have you ever considered a Nord Electro?  😀

 

No, probably something more like a Numa Compact. 88 keys, synth action, light, with some assignable controls.

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4 hours ago, Jon E said:

Having a «computer rig» at home I feel no need to bring all that complexity to a live gig. Of course this also depends on what you are performing and trying to achieve. My current solution is an all-in-one board on top of a weighted controller. Advantages is simplicity, keyboards almost as close as a dual manual organ and most important; a single control surface on top. Perfect for easy gigging and logistics. If playing in a famous band or for weeks in theatre considerations would be different.

 

I find it interesting what "complexity" in a rig means to different people. For me, moving and setting up two keyboards – one being a weighted controller – while not necessarily "complex", is more burdensome than the 10 lb controller + laptop I bring to my gigs. As you say, everyone is different and ultimately you do what you need to be happy playing. I'm at the outer limits of shlep-ness because I also bring my two QSCs. More/heavier boards, with or without a laptop, would push me over that edge.

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There was once upon a time I could carry everything in one trip (electro on my back, amp in hand, stand in the other hand).  That was the least complex rig I ever gigged.  Was perfect when parking was far away.  Def agree with Reezekeys.  Simply adding a second board significantly ups the schlep factor and the setup factor.  In short, I should have been a singer.

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47 minutes ago, Reezekeys said:

 

I find it interesting what "complexity" in a rig means to different people. For me, moving and setting up two keyboards – one being a weighted controller – while not necessarily "complex", is more burdensome than the 10 lb controller + laptop I bring to my gigs. 

 

I think the "computer vs. internal sound sources" and the "one vs. two keyboards" are largely different questions. Even with an entirely computer-based setup, you might want two keyboards for some of the same reasons a non-computer user benefits from two keyboards... hammer-and-non-hammer actions, more sheer key real estate so you can reduce reliance on splits and the associated problem of accidentally crossing into a wrong sound (and the additional prep time setting up all the splits entails). But to the extent that someone goes with two boards because they can't get all the sounds and functions they want in a single board, yes, a computer does increase your ability to get maximum sound and functionality out of a single board. But to use your example, I just don't know how happy I'd be playing an entire gig (including piano parts) on a single 10-lb keyboard.

 

If I were at least willing to give up the aforementioned advantages of two boards, I could pretty happily play an entire gig with my sub-20-lb Kurzweil PC4-7. But it's got enough in it that I wouldn't actually need to add the computer. Not that it might not be tempting for this sound or that, but if I were trying to keep things simple, it wouldn't be necessary.

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I'm waiting for Yamaha and Kawai to offer their best actions on controllers.  I think I'll be waiting a long time. ;)

Otherwise, it would be great if they opened up their storage to third party waveforms - even if through a store they control.   At the very least, make their catalog of sounds on/off loadable so we always have what we need without any additional computing device.  

 

 

Yamaha CP88, Roland VR-700, Crumar Mojo, rebuilt 1910 Chickering 5'2", Fender Rhodes MKI 88k, Casio PX-560

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4 hours ago, AnalogGuy1 said:

 

Sounds amazing.  Mind sharing what rackmount audio / midi / XLR interface you use?

It's a shallow 4U rack. Behringer XR18 and a rack shelf on top with an OWC USB C hub and an iConnectivity MIDI4+ interface, just incase I have to default to 5pin MIDI

This hub, by the way. Works brilliantly charging phone or iPad and the Mac. So good, I bought two! The power brick is as big as the unit. Nice and beefy.

 https://www.amazon.ae/OWC-10-Port-DisplayPort-OWCTCDK10PMHSG-2016-2018/dp/B07KJSVNLG/ref=asc_df_B07KJSVNLG/?tag=googleshopp09-21&linkCode=df0&hvadid=406681219437&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8484345152641935386&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1000013&hvtargid=pla-748236265877&psc=1

I have a 1U patch panel on the rear with a couple of MIDI sockets and PowerCon in and out. USB cables are all loomed and just get wound up and put in the case.

Will take some photos when I get home.

I did have a horrible gear carry on Wednesday night, wanted to do it in one trip… so was just one mains cable (for the same model USB hub - but a different one!), USB to an iConnectivity Audio 2+, USB to the 88, and USB C for the Mac. Bonus iPad charger on the front of the hub in between sets. 2x short jacks outta the Audio 2+ to the sound guy's DIs. All fits in the case pocket with the 88 - an X-stand in the other hand - don't hate me! 

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I'm currently in simplify mode.  I'm having issues with patch leveling between the three sound sources I've been using (ipad, two keyboards).   The band has complained about it, saying it's making it difficult to set my levels out front, and that along with some other band-driven demotivators that I won't go into has put me into a "make it easy on myself" frame of mind.  So tonight's gig, a low-key one, will be the Forte only.  I still have a couple songs that I need to program for, mainly pretty general stuff like having piano and strings split for a couple songs.   I A/Bed the b3 sound with B-3X and frankly...while the ipad sounds better, the Forte will work.  Once I sell my behringer monitor mixer I'll think about putting that money toward a Lester K or ventilator if I feel the need.   As a plus with one keyboard I'll be using the Omega Pro stand, it's kind of nice to get away from the column right in front of me.

I'm very pleased with the synth sounds I'm getting from the Forte--though I suck at programming them myself--and the master compressor actually does a pretty good job at moderate level to tame some peaks without completely squashing the sound.  So hopefully that will help with the patch level issue.  I think there could be a stereo-vs-mono thing going on too--our main mix and my monitor is stereo, most of the band is mono due to using one aux send per person.   I need to go through and really compare all the patches i'm using to make sure they aren't changing drastically in mono.   Kurzweil typically is good about mono compatibility but if there is an issue it's usually in effects. That's another thing that becomes more involved with the more sound sources you have, you need to go to each one and ensure they are ok. 

Tomorrow's gig is more of a higher profile corporate one with a very long haul (on a cart) so I'll be back to the 2 keyboards and ipad.   Even tonight I'm bringing the MODX and will have it on hand as a backup.

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A lot of boards (including the new Fantom) are including audio/MIDI interfaces in their spec sheet now. Could you have one board that covers your bread and butter that has a built in USB/Audio interface, then for gigs where you need it simply being along your laptop and a cable? No need for separate interface and cables. 
 

Alternatively, the DMC/Gemini combo with a Radial Key Largo (3 x stereo input and audio over USB) thrown into the mix would give you your bread and butter sounds, with an excellent controller to use your laptop with, all going into and coming from the Key Largo. 

Nord E4 SW73

Yamaha MODX7

Mainstage 3

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^ That is what I do with my ipad and MODX.   One cable handles midi and audio.  I don't think I'd need an audio interface even without the MODX, I tested hooking up the Forte to the ipad with the camera connection kit--for midi only--and then routing the headphone out of the ipad to the external audio in of the Forte.   Sounded good to me.   In this case it's actually an advantage that the external in is 1/8", with a keyboard you'd need an adapter.  

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