MIDI keyboard module

Recommendations

I currently have an Alesis Nano Piano which is a MIDI device that offers me piano, organ, and other sounds. I’d like to get something else which has better piano sounds in it. Does any body have any recommendations on a different, more robust module?

If you can find an old MR Rack from Ensoniq, they’re very good. I have an MR-61 that I love. Of course, for piano sound, you can’t beat a Korg Triton Rackmount. There are a few around on Ebay and stuff that you can get for less than $1000. Of course, I don’t know what your price range is, but as far as I know, that’s about the normal pricerange for a module.

Are you only talking hardware Mike?

If not, then I’d say go for a computer and soft synths.

Hypersonic does great piano, as does The Grand.

Or use a sampler like Halion, Sampletank, Kontact, etc.

As far as ‘robust’ is concerned, that all depends how robust you build it, and if anyone can do it, I’m sure you can. :)

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Of course, I don’t know what your price range is, but as far as I know, that’s about the normal pricerange for a module.

Right - I forgot to mention my budget but the reference to the Alesis should give you a clue. A $1000 is way more than I could/would spend. I just want the sound module, because I already have a MIDI keyboard.

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Are you only talking hardware Mike?

Yes - I was. I haven’t tried the software versions of these technogies. I assume that you still can use the keyboard even with a VST app?

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Yes - I was. I haven’t tried the software versions of these technogies. I assume that you still can use the keyboard even with a VST app?


Sure thing Mike, they’re all standalone VSTi’s, you just load them up, select your Audio and Midi ports, and away you go.

And even if some of the freebies VSTi’s aren’t standalone, there’s several “rack” hosts that will hold them.

PS

The only potential problem Mike is latency.

But, the midi delay, either using USB or the midi UART, ain’t worth bothering about. And as far as audio latency is concerned, with my Audigy and using the asio4all driver and a 2 Gig celeron, I can comfortably use a latency of less than 4 mS, and that ain’t worth bothering about either.

The only time I’ve had to increase buffers is with some of the Native Instrument VSTi’s, but with the Steinberg ones, never a click or pop or anything.

And remember, if you’re using the PC as purely a sound module, you can tune it to be a lean mean music machine. :)

You can always still use your nano piano for the live playing feel when recording and then plug the midi into a VSTi afterwards.

(Or were you talking about live use ?)


W

If $1000 is way out of range, then, I’m sorry to say that you are going to have a hard time finding something of a higher quality than what you have. The nano is what it is: a cheap piano module. It sounds good (I’ve been told) for $150, but there is a huge gap in price with modules, as far as I can tell. If you are wanting quality in that range without buying another keyboard (though you could always buy a keyboard with good built-in sound and link it up via midi to your current keyboard), then softsynth is the way to go. If you have decently up-to-date hardware and a quality soundcard (which, seeing as it’s your job to assemble such systems, you should), then you should be able to set up a soft-synth arrangement with no perceptible lag. Now, you’d need to not try to run too much else while you’re doing it, but I’m sure you know all that. :;): You can always run it using n-Track “live.” I’ve had good success with my setup. Get you a decent softsynth and go that way. If it’s live you are wanting, this will still work. You’d just need to decide if you want to lug a desktop to a concert, or if you had a laptop fast enough to use or what. Again, I don’t know what you’re desired use is, but there are ways to do a setup in that range using softsynth. Modules are such an elitist product that they are going out of style quickly. Notice that neither of the modules I recommended originally are still avaliable. The softsynth market is taking over quickly. Perhaps one day they will make a version of the muse receptor or the plugzilla that isn’t super-expensive.

Being the cheapskate that I am, I have spent considerable energy trying to get a synth setup at the lowest possible price. But what I have ended up having sounds first class to me.

The midi setup is basically set up to play soft synths through a dedicated amp or through a P.A., so that it can be used as a real-time live instrument. When I use it for recording, I sometimes mic the amp, sometimes use DI, sometimes jsut pick up the midi signal and record that. Here is the setup that I have settled on.

Keyboard: An old Technics digital piano with midi out (and weighted keys and good touch sensitivity)). It was non-functional when I got it (given to me as junk). Orange juice had been spilled into the keyboard, which dissolved the traces on the underlying circuit board. I rebuilt the boards by redrawing the traces using a conductive ink pen. Works great now. Total cost $15. for the conductive ink pen.

Sound generation: A cast off Pentium II computer with Sound Blaster Live sound card. kX drivers for the sound blaster.

I use Chainer (free demo version) as a stand-alone host for the VSTi plug ins. It is VERY lean and efficient and very easy to use. Using this set up I can run any single plugin VSTi with no audible latency, and can chain 2 or 3 other VSTi plugins together and still have no audible latency, and no pops and clicks.

Total cost: $30. (SB Live $15 off e-bay, cables specifically for SB midi hookup $15. Computer free.)

So my whole setup cost me about $45 bucks. And don’t dismiss the SB Live in this application. To my ear it sounds quite good, either through my P.A. or through its own amp (although you might question the value of my ear). There is a huge selection of free high quality VSTi plug-ins out there. New plugs come out so frequently I can’t even keep up with trying them. But I’ve got a set of favorites that do most everything I can dream up anyway.

What’s to lose from trying to set up a rig like this, considering the low cost? If I remember correctly you have a line of audio-optimized PCs that you put together. I’m sure you could put your hand on an older castoff PC to use for free - and in this application the doggy old hard drive won’t matter a bit.

T

Thanks for all the info!

I hate to sound ignorant but I really don’t know much about softsynth’s. Where would you start to learn about them?

Yes - the Alesis Nano Piano is actually very good for the price. However, I thought perhaps that there might be others, such as Kurzweil or Oberheim, that have better piano sounds that some of you might be familar with.

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You can always still use your nano piano for the live playing feel when recording and then plug the midi into a VSTi afterwards.

How would this work? I record MIDI notes with my keyboard & then play them into a VSTi.

If it is for recording you set N-track to record midi (and not the output from your nanopiano). (That is if midi go through your PC and not directly to the nanopiano).

Then when you have the midi inside N-Track you will have to create a new VSTi (like SFz with a piano soundfont in it, or another soft piano) as an instrument track and then right click the midi track and output it to the new Vsti track.

It is complicated to get your head around it first, so if you’ve never done it, don’t go this way just before you need to use it.

:D

I’ll see tomorrow at the office again if I can find any other notes on it…

W