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Synth vs. Midi Keyboard

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I hope I am posting in the correct topic for all of this but oook:

I am looking to jam with my friend's band and probably performing live.

Currently I see two options:

1. Purchase a synth

2. Use what I have (Axiom 61 Midi Keyboard)

Right now I just use the USB midi from my keyboard to my laptop and mess around in Reason 4 and Cubase. However if I were to pursue option 2 which will definitely be the cheaper option.. I need some way to amplify the sound from my laptop. I do currently have a keyboard amp which (I think).. should be fine right? How would I hook the amp up to my laptop without causing any latency problems or degradation of sound quality?

Or maybe someone here would actually suggest for me to go with option one and save up to buy a synth.

I dunno, recommendations and opinions definitely appreciated!

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Yeah option 2's alright, but it's always fun to have some actual hardware to play with ;-) If you're on a tightish budget get something like a microKorg, they're pretty cheap and awesome, or go hunting around second-hand electronics shops and see what you can find 8-)

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I'd say option 1 with an amplifier, just because laptops and axiom midi keyboards aren't the sturdiest things out there so if you're gonna be beatin on em at shows and stuff then you need something more durable.

Very true.

Assuming I won't completely beat my axiom to death, what kind of stuff would you guys recommend to have a stable and good set-up.

I don't know much about setting up live :P

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i'm not familiar with USB midi stuff at all. is there any kind of input latency? latency is going to be your biggest issue going with option 2. well, that, and basic stability.

also, are you using onboard sound? onboard stuff is almost always going to have much higher latency than dedicated hardware. depending on your drivers, hardware, and the softsynths you're running, you're not likely to get any less than 50ms latency using an onboard setup. 50ms is very noticeable. especially in a live setting. and that's just the output latency, let alone input.

you're gonna want an audio interface with low-latency drivers. ie: ASIO. just about any modern pro-audio type interface will have ASIO drivers. though as with everything, some are better than others. you can get a USB or firewire one that'll plug right into your lappy. look for one with MIDI in, and 1/4" out. with one of these you can likely cut your latency down to 5-10ms, and take a fair load off your CPU, so you can run more stuff. plus you have the added benefit of balanced outputs.

the problem with going that way is, of course, audio interfaces aren't free. if you can find a solid used synth for less than the price of a workable interface, that's the way to go.

of course, the cost effectiveness is also going to be dependent on whether you have your own amp or if you're going to be using house rigs or what. if you're going to be using house PAs everywhere you go, option 2 is your friend.

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I am using onboard sound. The strange thing is that when I use ASIO Direct X Full Duplex Driver, I get 46 ms latency. (I still haven't gotten ASIO4All to work)

When I use DX Primary Sound Driver, the latency is 92 ms.

Whenever I play on the keyboard along with music, there is a very obvious delay when I am using ASIO Direct X Duplex (46 ms) but there is a very very small delay when I use the DX Primary Sound Driver (92 ms).

I'm pretty confused about it.. but latency doesn't seem to be too large of an issue. I guess if problem gets worse I should use an interface?

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Most important to least important:

1)Latency- If you're playing live, this is a huge issue, even by a few ms. The more processing you can move off your CPU onto a dedicated piece of hardware, the better. In this regard obviously, Option 1 is ideal because a synthesizer is a self-contained unit.

2)Sound quality- Compare the sound you would get from a hardware synth to your software synth. Is there a noticeable difference in the quality of the sound? I find that software synths usually require a bit of EQ and post effects to sound on par with hardware counterparts, which then boosts the CPU load.

3)Enjoyability- Could you find a hardware synth that makes the sounds you want and is it easy to work with and use/play? What about software synths? I know I have a few software synths that I would love to use if I ever played live. But, obviously, software synths lack a physical interface, which can make switching and modifying the sound difficult in a live environment.

4)Affordability- Is there really a huge advantage to buying a hardware synth? Is there any alternatives with your setup that could afford you more power? Try to push your current setup further and see if it's really necessary to buy a whole new piece of hardware.

Just my 2 cents: Playing with hardware synths is extremely fun. Many a time I have wished I had the money for one, just to fool around with it (I don't play keyboard at all). Having the controls physically there in front of you is very gratifying and makes the experience more "real".

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