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M-Audio Key Rig


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I reviewed Key Rig in the October issue, and still have it up and running, so if anyone would like to know anything about it that you didn't get from writing the review, here's the place.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Plenty of clips here:

 

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/KeyRig-main.html

 

Wow! I was really impressed by the GUI and the audio samples. The B3 and E-piano sound especially good. Is this a potential Electro killer? If only there were a Clav emulation...

 

Thanks for posting the topic, I had no idea about this product. THe price is right too :)

hang out with me at woody piano shack
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Electro killer? Doubt it. The Electro is built for easy live use and rules in that venue. This application does sound nice though and would be a good studio tool to have.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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Originally posted by DanL:

Electro killer? Doubt it. The Electro is built for easy live use and rules in that venue. This application does sound nice though and would be a good studio tool to have.

Key Rig seems more suited for live use than any other VST I've seen yet. Drop this into a laptop, add suitable controller with interface, makes it's own sauce. All the basic sit-in band-gig needs are covered. Key Rig also seems ideal for the live one man band gig too if you add some kind of SMF player to it... that's one omission I would like to see - a simple SMF player to go with the GM module so you only need one application for everything - but I guess there's a lot of ways to handle that.

 

My laptop stays with me pretty much all the time anyway... now it seems like with one relatively inexpensive swiss-army-knife application I can have a good basic ready-to-jam keyboard rig also. Key Rig seems almost too handy not to have. :love:

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If you already have a laptop you are using and a controller keyboard that will offer the realtime controls to do things like change drawbar settings, etc, then this makes sense. For someone in the market for a keyboard or other live performance solution, there is a considerable startup cost involved with a robust enough laptop/sound card/keyboard controller/software application setup. Any number of hardware based keyboards can offer the same solution in one box for a good bit less cost. Also, not everyone is willing or savvy enough to use a laptop in a live situation. Do I think this is a good product? Yes, for sure. But I don't think it will kill the Electro or any other vintage key hardware.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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I'm new to the concept of using softsynths live so please bear with me. Currently I use a Kurz K2600XS live in the (former) grand Jordan Rudess style. I play everything live and it's mostly classic funk, R&B and rock.Most of what I do live needs piano, organ, Rhodes, clavinet, basic synth pads and leads, horns and strings. I use a lot of layers and splits and need to change quickly from song to song which I can do on the Kurz with the touch of a singe button thanks to the Quick Access banks. Can I do this with Key Rig and a suitable controller? And can someone reccomend a suitable weighted action 88-key controller? And how about latency?
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Originally posted by rce1:

I'm new to the concept of using softsynths live so please bear with me. Currently I use a Kurz K2600XS live in the (former) grand Jordan Rudess style. I play everything live and it's mostly classic funk, R&B and rock.Most of what I do live needs piano, organ, Rhodes, clavinet, basic synth pads and leads, horns and strings. I use a lot of layers and splits and need to change quickly from song to song which I can do on the Kurz with the touch of a singe button thanks to the Quick Access banks. Can I do this with Key Rig and a suitable controller? And can someone reccomend a suitable weighted action 88-key controller? And how about latency?

This question is worthy of a small thesis, so these are just some brief cursory answers.

 

Dedicated hardware synths won't be replaced by softsynths anytime soon for realtime performance, but we're getting closer all the time.

 

Whether Key Rig can be used on stage in the same way a hardware synth can depends on the program's MIDI implementation. Perhaps Stephen can elaborate on that.

 

One of the most watched and highly rated 88-note controllers out right now is the CME UF8. Latency is a matter of the audio interface and drivers used to get sound from your computer. Many options are available for low latency. The UF8 I just mentioned offers it's own optional Firewire audio interface.

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Wow... a lot of replies overnight! :D

 

Pro, other that at the M-Audio website, I'll be sending some in to www.keyboardmag.com as soon as I get a couple of articles I'm working on handed in. I'm certainly going to highlight the synth and the organ a lot.

 

konaboy... Electro killer? Depends what your main sound needs are. For B3 simulation, the Electro's rotary effect is far superior, although drawbar by drawbar, Key Rig has done a damned fine job on the organ itself. The acoustic pianos in Key Rig are way better than what the Electro 2 offers, but for EP's, Electro still has a comfortable edge. Key Rig's aren't bad at all, certainly better than a lot of entry-level, sub-$1000 workstations I've played. The synth module in Key Rig is something the Electro doesn't have, and isn't supposed to, so that's neither here nor there IMHO.

 

As for the issue of Key Rig + laptop + controller vs. hardware keyboard for live performance, it's not as though Key Rig negates any of the usual issues, which one could indeed write a dissertation about. But with an M-Audio keyboard and the MIDI control assignments worked out for you, plus the common sense with which they designed their user interface, it'll remove a lot of the fuss factor of going the laptop route.

 

The MIDI implementation is very good. I liked in particular that you can do things in the "channel strips" you normally would program on a controller, or leave it alone and let your controller handle it.

 

It'd be going too far to say this product makes a case for someone used to hardware keyboards to switch to a computer-based live setup, but I'd say the same about more expensive integrated software like Reason. For someone already in the computer world, or who's mainly a studio cat who does the occasioal live gig, it's all the meat-n-potatoes you might not have covered with other software... and it streets for around a hundred bucks. That's what I thought was remarkable about it... professional, great-sounding, well-thought-out product for, literally, a stocking-stuffer price.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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Good post Stephen, on top of an excellent article.

 

It's interesting that the discussion about softsynths and hardware synths oftens gets into a polarized either-or debate: "switching to a computer-based setup" for example. Actually there are many degrees of gray here, from using a hardware synth as a controller for softsynths (especially when using line-blurring synths such as the Novation X-Station or Access TI) to having a regular hardware keyboard system for stage use and also having a laptop-based Key Rig system for home practicing and/or recording. That's not to mention using actual VST stage instruments like the Muse Receptor and the Open Lab's nEko both live and in the studio. So many possibilities! This is a time we could only dream of not so long ago. I think laptops are going to be part of keyboard player's lives for some time to come anyway so who couldn't use another practice rig or a spare jam system? Key Rig is definitely going in my cart.

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It is truly remarkable that you are getting similar sounds to a $1500 Electro or any other workstation for a mere $100.

 

I like that all those instruments and sounds are all integrated into one program and one window instead of having to install and configure several VST instruments. Furthermore it's standalone so you don't even need the extra fuss/expense of a VSTi host.

hang out with me at woody piano shack
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I had the time to play the Key Rig it in a music store, yesterday, and i would like to post my impressions...(i used the 88 M-Audio controller)

* The acoustic pianos are quite good for rock/jazz/r'n'b - but not for solo piano gigs or even more classical! There are some muddy and some brigth pianos, a nice honky tonk piano, an uprigth and so on. The honky tonk piano was nice, IMO. The grands are more than playable in a group context.

*The Wurlie and the Rhodes pianos are very very good IMHO. With a bit of effect, i thing the Rhodes is even better than the Lounge Lizard, but that's soooo personal... Excellent for rock/funk sounds.

*The B3 simulator is really very very good, and you have to play in a very high standard PA to understand the differences between this and, let's say, B4 or any other "specialized" b3 sim(allthough, there are...).

*Synth section, well... it's kind of poor, but has some bread-and-butter sounds one may need in a gig.

The good thing about the Key Rig is that all the effects are handy, in front of you, so you can call quick changes. It seems that one can cover different needs with just one VST open (even as a stand alone, without having to use a CPU consuming host) is quite catchy. The street price here in Athens is around 110 euros.

Allthough I have the "kings" (B4, Lounge Lizard, The Grand), i'm about to buy it as a quick "second hand" poly-VST.

Just my oppinion

Regards

Yannis

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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Does KeyRig support VSTi plugins? I.e., could I use it as a host for szf and NIB4 in addition to its own sounds? The price is pretty low, actually less than most VSTi host programs.

 

Thanks!

 

BTW, I use NIB4 & soundfonts live once a week. I've had very good success, but I'd strongly recommend the use of a synth or epiano rather than MIDI controller with no sounds -- because computers aren't 100% reliable. You can get a blue-screen in the middle of a song, so it's important to have at least some fall-back sounds.

 

So, rather than get a brand-new MIDI controller with no sounds, spend less and get a used, slightly over-the-hill synth or stage piano, and be safer. (Though probably with fewer slider controls.)

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Does KeyRig support VSTi plugins? I.e., could I use it as a host for szf and NIB4 in addition to its own sounds? The price is pretty low, actually less than most VSTi host programs.

-------------------------------------------------

 

I don't thing so, but i'm not sure. You've better mail them to have the right answer...

 

As fas as softsynths instability, i totally agree with you. That's why i use my Nord Electro not only as a primary sound source but as a laptop controller as well. I run the lap from the Electro and i swich between the internal and the lap's sounds all the times (when i need a rhodes or hammond sound with delays or any other effect there are'nt on the Nord, or when i need a descent piano - see: The Grand).

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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I would NEVER take a laptop on a gig anywhere.

 

For soft stuff, my friend tonysounds reported recently that he was totally blown away by the Muse Receptor:

 

Muse Receptor

 

It's the first thing about softsynths that has impressed me in a long time!

 

I've started a new topic about this, please reply there.

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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After rereading, I see it's a plugin, not a host. Still, if it sounds good, it's quite a value.

 

The Muse Receptor is a nice form factor, but it's like buying a pig in a poke -- I don't see anywhere that it says what the CPU and FSB are, or MOBO chipset. Nice, though, that it has soundcard and software for small panel display built in.

 

Also, I'd miss my screen.

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You may be right, but... what do you do when you allready have a lap full of VST's?

I never had a problem using a laptop live - never. The truth is that i use the lap WITH a "real" synth (as i wrote, a Nord Electro), so i don't push the CPU way up and minimize the dangers...

The Receptor is a good solution for giging musicians, but i thing for now, it's market goes towards:

a) people with no laptop in their rig

b) people with money to spend (1500 euros, or so) for a third another solution along their laptop and their synth(s)

Personally, i would like to have reports from serious professionals (in Keyboard Mag for instance) before i put my hand in my pocket, as i do not belong to any of the above categories :)

Regards

Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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I think it does, allthough i don't know how realistic is that expression pedal feel when you play... IMO, don't wait TOO much from a 140 $ emulation :( (to say the least, i have problems finding the right expression pedal for my much more expenssive Nord Electro)
Be grateful for what you've got - a Nord, a laptop and two hands
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FYI - I found a bug when running Key Rig with Sonar 5 PE. Seems the VST configuration program sets the edit window just a bit too small, and this produces crackles and other audio problems. These go away if you minimize the GUI. The solution is to go into the VST config wizard and increase the edit window size by a few pixels. You can read more about it here:

 

http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1044512

 

The part about using Key Rig starts towards the middle of page 5.

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Originally posted by rce1:

I use a lot of layers and splits and need to change quickly from song to song which I can do on the Kurz with the touch of a singe button thanks to the Quick Access banks. Can I do this with Key Rig and a suitable controller?

This is where computers fall down. Not only does the software need to have the mutli-layer capability, but so does the controller. You aren't going to find that.

 

The confusingly popular buzz about the CME unit is not for live applications. It has only one layer/split and no memory.

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Originally posted by Prague:

Originally posted by rce1:

I use a lot of layers and splits and need to change quickly from song to song which I can do on the Kurz with the touch of a singe button thanks to the Quick Access banks. Can I do this with Key Rig and a suitable controller?

This is where computers fall down. Not only does the software need to have the mutli-layer capability, but so does the controller. You aren't going to find that.

This is where assumptions go wrong. Check out Brainspawn Forte\' .
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An adapted version of Forte is used for the Open Labs neKo soft synth host (they call it Karsyn) and it's indeed very stable and flexible - enougb to make up for not being able to channelize from your controller, certainly. There's a bit of programming at the beginning to get the splits and layers you want from your various soft instruments, but then again, a similar thing can be said about creatng multis/setups/combis in a hardware keyboard.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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