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OVERWHELMED! Buying keyboard for sister


Bunnee

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Hello all. I've spent several hours reading your posts and suggestions. I'm looking to buy a keyboard for my sister for Christmas and I'm overwhelmed with the possiblities. Please address and suggest:

 

1) Forgive my ignorance, but what's the difference between a digital piano and a synthesizer?

 

2)My sister is an intermediate player, wants something of quality featuring several tracks, and is looking to produce something professionally when her skills improve.

 

3)Weighted keys are a must.

 

4)She's a computer guru, so I'd like it to be able to hook up to her pc.

 

5) She's into bells & whistles and the latest technology.

 

6) I would not like to spend more than $3,500 -- unless you can persuade me otherwise.

 

Please help. Christmas will be here soon. Thanks

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Well, a Digital Piano is pretty much dedicated to, ta da, piano sounds, though they will often have a few electric pianos, organs, harpsichords, and mallet instruments as well. They are not really programmable (can't build and save your own sounds on them) and they often have onboard speakers.

 

Synths are, well, different. Usually have hundreds of preset sounds covering all the bases of instrument emulation and synthesizer sounds, they are programmable (each in its own way), and they don't have onboard speakers. And most all of them can connect to the computer for various purposes.

 

For 3,500 you can get one whale of an 88 weighted key synth, but it would be wise to have your sister spend some time on them to see which one she likes the feel and sound of. Off the top of the noggin', some contenders:

 

Roland: XV-88, RD-700. The first is more of a full featured synth, the second more a piano, but I think the 700 has quite a few sounds and programmability as well. They're both well under 3k, right everyone?

 

Yamaha: Motif 8 and S80. The Motif might be of special interest because it has an onboard sequencer, but if your sis is computer savvy, she'll probably want to sequence on her computer.

 

Kurzweil: K and PC series.

 

Gotta go.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Originally posted by Bunnee:

I'm looking to buy a keyboard for my sister for Christmas and I'm overwhelmed with the possibilities.

 

When you say your "sister", do you mean your actual blood related sister, or a black woman, or a nun, or perhaps some combination of the three??? Or is it for a woman that you classify as a sister in the universal "we're all sisters" sense???

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What type of music does she like? I'd personally suggest a Korg Triton ProX for it's decent keys and fabulous sounds. The Triton is a good example of a synthesizer. A synth in my mind is a keyboard that gives you realtime controls over virtually every parameter of the particular sound you are using(an analogue or virtual analogue is a type of synth that does this really well). These are good for all kinds of music, but she might not find them useful for, say, classical for example. They are commonly used in techno and new age because of the ability to create orginal sounds. Virtually all synths have the ability to hook up to a computer and work with it.

Also, the Roland XV-88 IS a really fine choice(in my mind it has better new age and classical than the Korg-again, it's a personal preference). It is also a synth.

Magpel provided a good definition for a digital piano:they commonly have built-in speakers and don't supply many, if any at all, realtime controllers and such. They also provide MIDI for computer connections too. Their sound banks are usually not wide(though my Roland KR-757 has about 500), their piano sounds are generally very good, and so are the keys, as far as weights. The KR-575 is sort of out of the price range, though, and a problem I've encountered with it is that you can only use specific sounds, a standard sound set called GM, or General MIDI sounds.

So, I think that a synthesizer would be a good way to go, it just really depends on what sort of music she's looking at composing. And, as usual, you should take her down to a music store and have her look over some of the specific features available in the synths. I reccomend a look at both the Korg Triton and Yamaha Motif, but also look at the Kurzweil K series, as Magpel said(they are really complicated though and provide a lot of extra, often uneeded features). The synth you buy has to be a personal preference.

"Bach is ever new"-Glenn Gould
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Bunnee:

You do need to clarify just a bit more. Do you need speakers to go with this? Have you thought about the context the speakers will be used in?

 

See, if you do, then your budget drops dramatically. Speakers are the most important thing. A fabulous synth will sound terrible though junk speakers, and a mediocre synth (or digital piano) will sound better if put through great speakers.

 

That opens up a whole different can of worms. There are professional speakers for playing out like the Mackie SRM-450 and the JBL Eon G2, but you're looking in the 1400-1600 dollar range just for those. (You need 2 if your sister is going to run the system in stereo.) See what I mean about the budget dropping? That then leaves you with 1900-2100 for the synth. If you're just looking for something to reproduce the sound at home, then a pair of reference monitors might do the trick. Alesis M1 active monitors are in the $500.00 range for a pair, and another brand I've heard great things about are the Event PS8, but I don't know their price range.

 

Not to worry. There are still a bunch of synths that are incredible in that price range: The Yamaha S80 is $1599(ish), the Alesis QS8.1 is $1299.00(ish), the Roland RS9 is $1000(ish), and so on. A note about Alesis: They have been going through some hard times lately, and might not survive. They were recently bought out, and no one knows their future. They do make a great synth, though...

 

If speakers don't enter into it, I would suggest the Kurzweil K2600X, in the $3300 range, and the Korg Triton ProX in the same range. Slightly cheaper is the Roland XV88 at $2500(ish)

 

These are all synthesizers. All have piano sounds that will rival any digital piano, and in fact, many of them share the piano sounds with the digital pianos by the same manufacturer. The Kurzweil probably has the deepest programmability, meaning she will be able to manipulate the sounds with an incredible array of tools, and the Triton probably has the most bells and whistles in the way of sequencers, effects, and a whiz-bang touch screen. The other, less expensive synths are still very capable, but they usualy sacrifice some of the functionality. (But not the sounds.)

 

The only thing I would caution you on (and I may be wrong on this so you would have to check) is the Roland keybeds. Most of the others are using a company called Fatar's keybeds, and they are damn good. Yamaha uses their own and are also damn good, but I have never like the Roland keybed. They make their own (or used to anyway) and I never thought them very piano-like in feel or response. Your sister (if possible) should try them to see which she likes.

 

Hope that helps. (And I hope I didn't confuse you more.)

 

..Joe

 

PS: With a blood relative like you willing to spend like that on a sister, want to adopt a nice Italian boy???? I have a birthday coming up in February. (I'll take the Kurz... Hint, hint.)

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Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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Joe: Sure! I'll adopt you. . .though you may have to wait a while until I come into some money for your Kurz. Sorta defeats the purpose, hunh?

 

Thanks for the information on the speakers. Guess I'll have to up my budget a little. For now, (in her apartment) she'll be using the keyboard for home. But within about a year and a half, she'll probably be doing more with it. Eventually, when she buys her house, she wants to build a music room featuring several keyboards and other instruments. She plays the trumpet and drums. Recording a CD is one of her personal goals for next 2 years, too. So I'd rather spend a little more $ now and get some quality than to get something "okay" and by next year or, she'd have to buy something else anyway.

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I second the K-2600XS. That would keep her busy for a long time and I like the piano sounds better than the Korg (I have a Triton too so I'm not biased on this). For compact, high quality, apartment friendly speakers, you might want to check the powered Mackie HR-824's, which are very, very nice. Roland
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Thank you all so very much for the excellent advice. You all suggested pretty much the sames things, so I definitely trust your judgement. Would you all agree that the Kurz 2600 would be the best choice for her? She's a Roland fan from years back, but hasn't really checked out the competition lately. Also, you can load the Roland sounds into the Kurz, right? She's never had a workstation before, but is very technically (and, of course, musically) inclined. Would the Kurz be too much for her?
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Originally posted by Bunnee:

Thank you all so very much for the excellent advice. You all suggested pretty much the sames things, so I definitely trust your judgement. Would you all agree that the Kurz 2600 would be the best choice for her? She's a Roland fan from years back, but hasn't really checked out the competition lately. Also, you can load the Roland sounds into the Kurz, right? She's never had a workstation before, but is very technically (and, of course, musically) inclined. Would the Kurz be too much for her?

 

If she's technically inclined, she'll really love the Kurz. Go with it and you can be assured she'll love it. Roland patches aren't compatible with Kurzweil, though the Kurz can read several sample types, if you're talking about samples. It's easy to play and pull up presets on so she won't be overwhelmed by it, but if she wants to get into it she can get very deep into to programming it. It can grow with her for some time. Roland

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Originally posted by kcbass:

I cant go against any of the suggestions you already have, but $3500.00 on your sister. Would you be willing to adapt a 44 year old kid as your brother? I play keys too. Casey

 

KC:

I got dibs. Go up 6 posts!

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Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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Yeah, Casey, Joe's right. No cuts in line. How 'bout I open up an adoption agency? Hee-Hee.

 

Seriously, though, if your sister had done as much for you as mine has for me down through the years, sacrificing for something she really, really wants is not an issue. Y'know?

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Update:

 

Was out with my sister yesterday and when she spotted a music store, in we flew. She went right over to the Roland section. She's familiar with Korg and Yamaha, but I don't think she even knows about Kurz. I think she might change her mind if she layed her fingers on one, though. How is the Kurz sound different from Roland? How will she know she has something just as good (if not better) than her cherished Roland? I really would like to keep this purchase a surprise for Christmas and asking her to compare them would pretty much be a dead give-away.

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Well, Kurzweil is not a household name. It's one of those that all pro musicians know as top of the line. To give you an idea of the Kxxx series...

 

If you listen to Pink Floyd's PULSE album, the song "On the Run" (from "Dark Side of the Moon") has a bazillion synth parts happening all over the place. All of that song's synth parts were performed on 2 K2000's. A programmer at Kurz recreated that sound as an experiment, trying to break the K2000's operating system, using just about everything the K2000 had to offer, and could not do it. The Floyd boys were so impressed, it prompted them to use a whole bunch of (and only) K2k's on both "The Delicate Sound of Thunder" Tour, and PULSE. Here's the article about that on the web: http://www.keyboardmag.com/demos/kurzweil/floyd.shtml

 

Now, a lot of people nag at the Kurz K2600 because it only has 48 voice polyphony in this day and age of 128-voice instruments. There's a catch, though: On the Kurz, (with the sampling option) you can use a device called Resample after you have created a multisound, and it will then be digitally recorded using only 1 voice, bringing you back to full 48-voice polyphony. For example: Let's say she layers a piano with strings, brass, and a bass sound. That would bring the instrument down to a total of 6 notes to play at any given time. Using the Resample, it would then be a 48-voice version again of this same program. Do that on any other synth, even the 128-voice puppies, and you have a 16-voice instrument.

 

Additionally, Kurzweil has about the best voice stealing architecture of anything available. Suppose you hit a BIG chord and sustain it pedally on a piano patch, and then do an arpeggio up the keyboard. The Kurz's algorithm will NOT steal any voices from the chord you're sustaining, only from those in the arp after it hits the 48th note. Pretty cool, huh?

 

Kurzweil really does upgrade and expand their systems. The K2000, the first in this series, was introduced in 1991, and was around until 1998, but has many software upgrades. I *think* the last was 3.87. The first was version 1, so you see that they make improvements. You can also get the aforementioned sampling option, hard drives, SCSI CD drives, additional PRAM, (Program RAM: from 477K to 1.5MB) Sample RAM,(up to 128MB) etc. to bring the bad boy up to warp 9.

 

You can also add what they call "Sound Blocks" to the system. These are ROM chips that add a whole bunch of new samples. Probably the most popular is the Orchestral ROM block, and there is a Contemprary Sound Block, too.

 

Additionally, there are a whole sh!tload of CDs out there with sounds specifically for the Kxxxx series, and unknown numbers of free programs on the 'net.

 

Now, I might sound like a real Kurzweil whore, but the truth is: I do not now, nor have I ever owned one. I AM saving up for one, though- A K2000r. I'm one of those anal gearheads that research everything to death, and after all I've looked at, I believe that the Kurz will be the last synth I buy for a while.

 

Here's a pic of the K2600X:

http://www.kurzweilmusicsystems.com/assets/images/K2600.jpg

 

This message has been edited by joegerardi on 10-04-2001 at 07:14 PM

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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Originally posted by Bunnee:

Wow, Joe! Forget my sister!

 

I might, but first tell me what she looks like!

(Sorry, typical pig musician's joke! http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif )

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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Originally posted by Magpel:

Bunnee, I should have added, you're a hell of a brother!

 

Magpel:

How do you know it's a man? Something like this to me definitely sounds like a sister-to-sister thing. I'm betting that Bunnee is a lady! (Well, that and he/she wrote "hee-hee" in a post. That doesn't sound very "manly" to me!)

 

Next forum hot topic: Is Bunnee a man or a woman??????

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Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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DON'T go there...

 

I was actually thinking that as I wrote that post. http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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I would be careful about getting a Kurzweil keyboard. Was shopping for a keyboard two months ago and narrowed it down to either a Yamaha P80 and Kurzweil SP88x. I was told by the sales people in New York's Sam Ash and in Manny's Music Store that there has been alot of problems with Kurzweil keyboards. They agreed that they sound good, but have a record for breaking down. They said that it was impossible to get Kurzweil's customer service department to fix the keyboards. Sam Ash even told me that they will no longer carry the Kurzweil line of keyboards. Just figure I let you know. Ask the sales people in the music stores about the dependability of any keyboard you are considering buying. And if your keyboard breaks down, do they have a loaner program.
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CP:

I think the salesman was trying to sell you a line. Sam Ash still carries Kurz. They're all over their website, and I was talking to a rep about them just yesterday.

 

..Joe

 

This message has been edited by joegerardi on 10-05-2001 at 12:13 PM

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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I thought so too, however, when I went back to Sam Ash in Manhattan, the only Kurzweils they had were the floor models. I was informed that the Manhattan store will no longer carry that line. Sam Ash website still carries the line, and the rep on the 800 number told me he had no problem with the line. You right it could have been a sales ploy, but you never know.
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Bunee - on the speakers, the Mackie SRM-450s or the JBL EON-15s are great speakers for gigs (large ones) but would probably be a bit of an overkill for your sister playing in her apartment. A pair of Mackies (stereo) puts out about 900 Watts which might not win your sister the good neighbour award if she turn em up. The JBLs are a mere 300W per side (600 Watts stereo) and are probably still a bit much for the average apartment. These puppies are capable of sound pressure levels that can make your ears bleed in a small apartment.

 

I would look at a pair of decent powered studio monitors such as the Alesis M1 Active MkII (100 Watt biamplified at approx $500/pair) or Tannoy Reveal Active monitors ($700/pair) or JBL LSR25P powered monitors (150 Watts per side at about $500/pair). At moderate levels in an apartment these will also sound great. If she is really missing the bass, put a stereo preamp with an additional mono line out or a small mixer with an auxillary send in front of the monitors and run the additional line out/auxillary send to a powered sub-woofer.

 

Unless she plans to do live gigs, studio monitors are a better solution. They also won't take up her entire apartment.

 

Don.

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong: James Bryce
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