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NI B4 vs VK-8M


JeffLearman

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Well, not really "versus".

 

I play NI B4 and love it. Except that I don't have drawbars, and the computer is a bit of a hassle for playing live, which I do about once a week.

 

I've never owned a real Hammond, though I've played 'em from time to time whenever I got the chance. But the last chance was long ago, and I've learned a lot more about playing 'em from the B4 than I remember from those chance opportunities. So, my expectations are playability like B4, not like a real Hammond. Not that I wouldn't prefer the real thing, of course.

 

I'm thinking of getting VK-8M for live use. Am I likely to be ecstatic that I can use drawbars (even with B4)? Or am I going to be disappointed? I particularly like the way the NI B4 emulates the voltage robbing and the way a palm swipe sounds with scanner & leslie going -- you just don't get that from a synth or any of the older clones like OB3.

 

I play blues mostly, btw. So do you guys think I'd be happy with it? It'll be a bite out of my toy budget. (I play for fun, not money.)

 

Oh, in case it matters: I play through a powered stereo mixer, with two trusty old EV floor monitors (2-way 12", pretty flat, great little keyboard rig). I generally don't even bother going through the board, just place the floor monitors strategically to sound good for me, band, and audience.

 

Thanks,

Jeff

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Native Instruments now makes a controller for the B4. Since you already have the B4 & I presume a laptop, maybe this is the route to go. Here's the link.

http://www.native-instruments.net/page.php?l_src=b4_us&tsr_id=4821&id=b4d_us&type=1

I have both the B4 & the VK-8. I prefer the B4 for sound, but I prefer the VK-8 for it's Leslie sim & of course the keys/drawbars. The B4 sounds a bit squirrely on the fast speed.

Steve

 

www.seagullphotodesign.com

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Yeah, I know. But I'd like to not have to tote the computer. And the soundcard breakout box. And the MIDI interface. And the computer's power brick. And the extra cables. Not to mention the extra stage space it takes.

 

If I don't go for a VK-8M or similar, I'll probably end up getting the B4D. But that adds stuff I gotta set up rather than reducing it.

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Though I can perfectly understand why you wouldn't want to bring a laptop to a gig, there are some things that would ease it. A midi interface like M-Audio Uno is just a cable with the interface integrated in between, so that saves some cabling. An Echo Indigo soundcard doesn't have a break-out box and actually, the build-in integrated soundcard might be good enough for live. (Use Asio4All to add ASIO to the build-in soundcard.)

 

The power brick adds some weight, but I assume the VK8 does have some power adapter too.

 

Do hammond players actually change the drawbars constantly while playing or do they have a dozen of settings they always get back to? In that case you could just program some presets and trigger them from the keyboard; no extra controller needed! That's what I do, anyway. I can also push all the b4 knobs and switch the lesly with the lowest keys of the keyboard. I really like it.

 

Just my 2p.

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Originally posted by learjeff:

Yeah, I know. But I'd like to not have to tote the computer. And the soundcard breakout box. And the MIDI interface. And the computer's power brick. And the extra cables. Not to mention the extra stage space it takes.

 

If I don't go for a VK-8M or similar, I'll probably end up getting the B4D. But that adds stuff I gotta set up rather than reducing it.

Get the VK-8M. I think it & the VK-8 are the best sounding Hammond clone on the market except for the new Hammond XK-3.

Steve

 

www.seagullphotodesign.com

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OK, thanks. As it turns out I might be about to spend a chunk on something else -- a ZR76 to replace my MR76 at home, so I could keep the MR at the club where I play. That should help my rotator cuff heal!

 

Yeah, Fisheye, we love to grab a fistful of drawbars and play 'em -- it's part of playing the instrument, along with turning the Leslie on and off and using the Swell pedal. I hear guys with new NIB4 cut tracks (at an internet collab site I frequent) but pick one preset and use it without any change throughout, and it makes me cringe. Makes it sound NOT like a hammond. Especially with keyboards pretending to be what they're not, the way you play it matters more than the subtle details of the sound. Play great sax or violin licks with a relatively cheezy synth sax or violin, and you can pull it off. Play keyboard-player licks with the world's best imitation, and it leaves much to be desired.

 

Does ASIO4all actually lower the latency for the builtin soundcard? I didn't expect that. The builtin doesn't sound great but it's good enough, except for the 45 msec of latency which I can't tolerate. My timing's bad enough as it is!

 

Thanks for the feedback, guys :)

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Originally posted by learjeff:

Does ASIO4all actually lower the latency for the builtin soundcard? I didn't expect that. The builtin doesn't sound great but it's good enough, except for the 45 msec of latency which I can't tolerate. My timing's bad enough as it is!

Yep, Asio4All lets me use my on-board Intel AC'97 soundcard at 3ms latency! Unbelievable, but true. Since it's software based (obviously), it will depend on the whole system you are using it on.
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Drawbars!

 

I think the wave the hand over thing is cool but what a bummer to have to pick up your right hand to change the leslie speed.

 

Anybody ever change the speed with aftertouch? Seems like that could be magic...

A WOP BOP A LU BOP, A LOP BAM BOOM!

 

"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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The problem with using aftertouch for Leslie is that for things like glissandos, you may want the Leslie to remain on...not physically easy to pull off if the only Leslie switch is aftertouch. A momentary footswitch might be a good alternative, since you could hold it down for this type of application.
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I've used sustain pedal, aftertouch, and mod wheel. Currently I use mod wheel because NI-B4 does that by default. On my MR76 with weighted keys, aftertouch is great; I rarely kicked it on or off by accident. But it's not easy to get NI-B4 to do that -- they should add it as a feature. It is great, except that sometimes you want to change right in the middle of a palm swipe, and I can't manage to apply the pressure without it changing the speed of the swipe. Sustain pedal is great, the biggest problem being I can't tell whether it's fast or slow with the swell pedal all the way up, and I know I want to come in at slow speed. A left-hand button with light would be great as far as I'm concerned.

 

I also tried momentary pedal, thought that would be great. But it turns out that I don't want to have to stand there with my foot on the sustain pedal during a long passage. Especially if I need to use the swell pedal too. I set my kb up and have a bar stool so I can sit or stand -- I like to stand up a lot especially later in the night.

 

The best bet would be multiple controls. I'd dig momentary and push-on/push-off pedals, and also aftertouch, with the option to enable or disable each control individually. And while we're at it, allow mod wheel or those 'control 1 through 4' things, whatever they are.

 

BTW, I'd put the control module on top of my keyboard at the far left, where I have velcro attached for purposes just like this. That's where I currently put my soundcard breakout box, so I can easily get to the volume knob. Or when I'm doubling on guitar, I put my Genesis3 there. (I'd have to find a new spot for that with a drawbar module.) I'd never set it up so I need to use my right hand to switch the Leslie or the drawbars.

 

Oh, while I'm dreaming, I'd like a control to engage Leslie and turn on the vibrato with one touch. I generally don't like fast Leslie without vibrato. Maybe that's just an NI-B4 thing ("squirrely").

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Originally posted by learjeff:

Oh, while I'm dreaming, I'd like a control to engage Leslie and turn on the vibrato with one touch. I generally don't like fast Leslie without vibrato. Maybe that's just an NI-B4 thing ("squirrely").

Since I'm a typical control dreamer too, I'm writing my own program to manipulate incoming midi data before it is send to the VST host. Great for things like controling vibrato and lesly add the same time, pushing knobs with the leftmost keys, rerouting sustain pedal, etc.

 

My current screen looks like this . A bit of a mess, but gets the job done.

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Maneye, you da fish! Asio4All works great -- I get a latency of 17 msec (including any MIDI latency, I measured it by miking the keyboard and recording, and checking the distance between click and note. Helps that I have that clacky middle D!)

 

Whuzzat app? Looks very interesting! Also reminds me of a screenshot I saw, but I don't remember what it was.

 

Also, thanks for getting me to thinking. I just realized I have another footswitch input (sostenuto), which I could use for vibrato. Gad, another piece of kit to set up :-/ ...

 

But then, I no longer have to pull my MOTU 828 out of my studio to play live! :thu:

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Drawbars!
Any cheap midi controller will do. I bought a Edirol PCR-50 to control B4. I use its 8 slide pots and one rotary to control the upper manual drawbars and the remaining pots and buttons to control vibrato, percussion and drive.

I think the wave the hand over thing is cool but what a bummer to have to pick up your right hand to change the leslie speed. Anybody ever change the speed with aftertouch? Seems like that could be magic...
Since I got my start 35 years ago with a Leslie 147, I prefer a foot switch/pedal. It was very easy to change the PCR's B4 presets to use a foot pedal for Leslie speed.

 

Even though I now have a real Hammond, I still make use of B4. I live in an apartment and can't fire up the Leslie very often. I use the B4 as a Leslie emulator controlled by the PCR sitting on top of the B3.

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On our A100 it's modified so the little leaner switch on the expression pedal works as a momentary switch: when the leslie is fast, it slows it down as long as you lean on it. When it's slow, it does nothing. Very expressive and beautiful, the organ tech liked it so much he did it to his otherwise mint B3.

 

We were glad to find you could do this with the XM-1, our current hammond module! Only, you have to take your foot off the expression pedal which is a compromise and awkward and jerky things can happen. I really want a momentary switch that you can activate with the same foot while that foot is doing expression pedal! That's what I *really* want- I ought to pursue it but it's custom and confusing.

 

We always have a hand switch for Fast/Slow, on the A100 or the XM-1 drawbar controller. So you can use either- yes, multiple means are the best!

 

I've never had a keyboard with aftertouch, so I don't really know what it's like to play with. We use piano-type keyboards, not organ keyboards, as we're usually doing ep and clavi sounds (or piano, on the real piano with midi), and fading in organ where desired on the volume pedal- a really beautiful thing. So I don't know how hard it would be to get aftertouch when you wanted it, and avoid it when you didn't, with that type of keyboard.

 

Fortunately the Leslie switching is custom and silent so it's not a problem to change the speed a lot- no clicks.

A WOP BOP A LU BOP, A LOP BAM BOOM!

 

"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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Originally posted by Ted Nightshade:

I really want a momentary switch that you can activate with the same foot while that foot is doing expression pedal! That's what I *really* want- I ought to pursue it but it's custom and confusing.

Can't you use one of the Ernie Ball volume pedals with a footswitch on it? Or do you really need it to be a 'midi' expression pedal?
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Originally posted by fisheye:

Originally posted by Ted Nightshade:

I really want a momentary switch that you can activate with the same foot while that foot is doing expression pedal! That's what I *really* want- I ought to pursue it but it's custom and confusing.

Can't you use one of the Ernie Ball volume pedals with a footswitch on it? Or do you really need it to be a 'midi' expression pedal?
You just made me very, very happy!

:):D:wave::love:

 

That's EXACTLY what I need! Didn't know they made that. Highly, highly recommended, folks!

 

Right now we're using an Ernie Ball for the expression pedal- I like leaving the midi volume maxed and doing it in analog, and Ernie Ball makes a great pedal...

 

Oh, man, I'm PSYCHED! :thu:

A WOP BOP A LU BOP, A LOP BAM BOOM!

 

"There is nothing I regret so much as my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" -Henry David Thoreau

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  • 1 month later...

Hi folks. This is my first post so please be gentle with me!

 

I'm really just getting into B4, using a TASCAM US-428 to control the drawbars etc. (glad I had that lying around!) This setup is pretty flexible, but I'm intrigued by the idea of adding swell and Leslie switching using an Ernie Ball pedal.

 

I'm guessing I should get the "Volume Pedal / Switch" [product #6168] described at the URL above, and put it between the output of my US-428 and the mixer for swell.

 

But how -- in excruciating detail if you can -- would I get B4 to change the Leslie based on the isolated switch circuit? Is this going to involve MIDI voodoo?

 

If it helps, I'm running B4 on a Toshiba laptop with Windows 2k.

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Sorry, Etherman, no joy. That pedal is analog. You'd have to put it in the signal path between your computer and your amp. And it's only mono, so you wouldn't get the stereo effect of GB's Leslie sim.

 

Presumably Ted knows what he's doing, and is using it between NIB4 or a real hammond and a real Leslie (though, you'd need some special gizmos to do that too).

 

In either case, the switch has to go to a jack in some piece of equipment that accepts a footswitch input for turning the Leslie rotor on and off.

 

If you had NI B4D, the controller, that would have a jack where you could plug a footswitch. But that volume pedal wouldn't be ideal because, as I said, it's mono, and you probably want the stereo output of the Leslie sim.

 

In any case, I prefer an expression pedal to a volume pedal. For NIB4, this means it's between the organ and the Leslie sim. The leslie sim includes a tube amp sim. What this means is, if you dial things up properly, the expression pedal not only makes it sound louder, but also more distorted. A volume pedal would only change the volume, not the distortion. I prefer the former, and use the fader on my mixer to adjust volume when necessary. Furthermore, at the flick of a switch in NIB4, I can disable the tube sim, so I can use it as a volume control with the sound clean all the way up and down. I like both options.

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BTW, I've done some fiddling with MIDIOX and found a pretty good setup. Don't need the controller quite so much now, but still would be nice to have drawbars.

 

The first clue was that I don't need 73 keys. I don't play dual-manual with split keyboard (yet?) Frankly, I'd rather have a second row of keys for that, trying to play split messes me up.

 

So, I have it set up so that keys from low E to B select presets -- like the white-over-black keys on a Hammond. This makes it real easy to shift between a range of sounds during a song. Not nearly the same thing as drawbar-riding, but nice. All these settings have percussion off and vibrato on. Leslie is off for half and on for half, and match what I frequently use the settings for. Some fine tuning is still in order here.

 

And all the keys above C at the top are available for MIDI controls, too. So far, I've used two black-white pairs to control percussion and tube overdrive.

 

I also have my pitch wheel programmed so that pushing it down a bit turns off vibrato, pushing it up turns it on. Fortunately, NIB4 ignores pitch wheel otherwise. Of course Mod wheel controls Leslie speed. Sustain is a momentary Leslie, which is nice. (But I can't use it when my right foot is on the expression pedal, since it's to the right of that, and has to be there.)

 

And I use aftertouch to turn on percussion, so I can quickly switch presets with my left hand and then just push down to turn percussion back on if it was off. To turn percussion off, I just use the preset key again.

 

That leaves me with one footswitch I could use, and haven't yet. (Actually, with my MR76 I could plug in a total of 4 footswitches, including sustain). For them to be really useful with NIB4, they'd have to be push-on/push-off switches unless I want momentary controls, due to limitations of NIB4 and MIDIOX. I do have one of those switches, though, come to think of it ...

 

If anyone wants the Midiox control file, just let me know! Or my excel spreadsheet explaining what each entry does.

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Hey learjeff, thanks for the feedback. It's as good to know I'm on the wrong track as the right one. Having tried it out, I hear [literally] what you say about expression vs. volume.

 

Right now I'm using an old-ish electric piano with keysplitting to play B4, and the US-428 to control things. I have great hopes that Doepfer's B4 project will be everything I need ... if it ever materializes.

 

http://www.doepfer.de/B4.htm

 

But while I'm waiting it would be great to be able to add expression control and Leslie speed switching with my feet. Would something like the Behringer FCB1010 in combination with MIDIOX allow me to do this, do you think?

 

http://www.behringer.com/FCB1010/

 

(I don't want to spend too much more on my setup if I'm going to drop 1,000 euros or so for the Doepfer within a few months, but I'd still like to make the most of the program. When/if Doepfer arrives I could maybe move the FCB1010 over to replace NI's lame Guitar Rig Kontroller.)

 

Grateful for any views, although already very grateful for those already expressed.

 

--Mike--

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With the Behringer you shouldn't need MIDIOX. It should be programmable enough by itself. Wow, that's a lotta buttons ... you could use them for the pedal notes ;)

 

That Deopfer looks lovely!

 

To really make it cool, the drawbars should be servo-controlled, so that when you select a preset, they jump to the programmed values.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hey look! These guys have the same problems I do!

 

I'm currently using two Fatar 61-note keyboards in a wooden enclosure that I built myself, thank you very much. I have an octave of Roland peals. I run B4 on a Mac laptop, and I'm using the B4D.

 

My biggest gripe has been the lack of footswitch control things, especially rotor fast/slow. I've slogged a Peavey 1600x, and even an ART Ultrafoot to gigs. The stuff on the ground is a real dog's breakfast.

 

I've been in touch w/Bohm USA (they're the US distributor for the German company that makes the B4D), and they say, albeit in pretty bad English, that they make a swell pedal with a side switch that can be used for rotor control (and supposedly any other MIDI switching function). I have not seen this yet, and cannot directly confirm or deny.

 

This might be a nice solution to some of the problems voiced above. If the Doepfler thing happens, I may sell all this stuff anyway...

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What control jacks does the B4D have?

It should have a Leslie speed and CV input, frankly.

 

Fortunately, my MR76 has enough inputs to do what I need for footwork. Just no drawbars :(

 

While playing drawbars is important, I found that setting up the bottom keys (low E through C) on my 76-key board to work like the white-over-black "preset" keys on a hammond works well enough for me that I can wait for some cheap solution for drawbar module to become available. For example, eventually the price on an Oberheim OB3-squared should drop below $150 and I'd go for that. Cheapskate that I am!

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