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MIDI Controller Advice?


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So, here's what I'm using right now:

1. Yamaha Arius Digital Keyboard: Not intended to be a controller, but it happens to have a MIDI output. Nice because the keys feel real (I am a piano player) and I can get really exact velocity out of it. It also has sustain pedals. No mod wheel, no other functions.

2. Moog little phatty: Using a little phatty as a MIDI controller is like using a Ferrari as a taxi. Also, it has no pedal, is awkward on my desk, and I prefer 4-5 octaves to 3.

I've been browsing the older threads on MIDI controllers and found the Axiom 49 and the Emu Xboard 49 as recommendations, but those threads are a couple of years old. I basically need something simple with a mod wheel and a pedal...but I also am still knew at controlling and sequencing, so I'm not 100% sure what other features I'm missing out on that are really nice to have. I don't do a lot of techno/electronica/chiptune stuff so I'm mostly looking for something that is a composing aid.

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I have the AxiomPro 61, and I really like it. I've played on at least a dozen different MIDI controllers, and it's my favorite. The action is semi-weighted, so it doesn't feel cheap and flimsy like a lot of MIDI controllers. It has a bazillion faders and knobs on it so you can assign a ton of knobs within your DAW to separate controllers which is something I do often for recording automation. It also has "HyperControl" which is basically predefined controller links for most DAWs which is SUPER convenient... except there's no FL Studio HyperControl, so I'm SOL there. Additionally, it has a pretty deep menu system which is totally unnecessary to learn, but it can add a fair amount of customizability if you figure it out to some degree. It has a port for a both a sustain and an expression pedal. Seems like it has everything you need :P

Oh, and it has 8 pad controllers, but they're meh.

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If feel is important to you (and it should be to everyone) then stay away from any M-Audio products (broken record here, since I always advise people to stay clear of M-Audio controllers). You need to have a slightly more specific set of parameters to make a good choice. Since you're a piano player does that mean you want piano action keys?

Also you said: "1. Yamaha Arius Digital Keyboard: Not intended to be a controller, but it happens to have a MIDI output. Nice because the keys feel real (I am a piano player) and I can get really exact velocity out of it. It also has sustain pedals. No mod wheel, no other functions."

Why is this not good enough for you? The Arius line are digital pianos, that means you won't really find a better feeling keyboard under the $1000-2000 range.

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Seems like it has everything you need

It does, and that's why I'm considering it, though I like the 49 key version for space's sake, and it brings down the cost. I'm really irritated by the fact that I have to buy a separate pedal for it though. Like I was irritated when I opened my N64 and found that I had to buy an extra cable because my old-ass TV didn't have RCA.

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Why is this not good enough for you? The Arius line are digital pianos, that means you won't really find a better feeling keyboard under the $1000-2000 range.

Oh, absolutely; maybe I wasn't clear. I will always switch the midi cable out for the Arius when I need very sensitive and realistic touch, if I am sequencing piano, for example. If it had a mod wheel, I might even just keep the Arius. But the features aren't meant for composition, you know?

Feel is not as important to me when I'm doing one-hand composition that I intend to quantize and clean up later, which is why I'm seeking a controller. If I'm thinking about this the wrong way, I'd love some course correction.

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It does, and that's why I'm considering it, though I like the 49 key version for space's sake, and it brings down the cost. I'm really irritated by the fact that I have to buy a separate pedal for it though. Like I was irritated when I opened my N64 and found that I had to buy an extra cable because my old-ass TV didn't have RCA.

Yep, but pedals are cheap, man. I just plugged in an ancient pedal that came with some oollllddd Yamaha keyboard my parents bought me maybe 15 years ago or so, and it does the trick for sustain. You wouldn't want/need anything nicer than that, and it's a flimsy piece of shit that couldn't possibly cost more than $10. I never ended up buying an expression pedal. Wouldn't even know what to do with it if I did.

As for 49 vs 61, I'd go with 61 just because I'm a pianist, and having that many keys makes it more fun to play on, though not necessarily that much more practical for recording in parts unless you're recording in piano :P Hell, 2 octaves works fine for recording in just about anything monophonic. But yeah, we both play piano, and that being the case, I'd buy the 61 key thing if I were you. I certainly don't regret doing so.

As for the feel of the AxiomPro 61, it feels great! The action isn't like that of, say, an electric piano, but it's close enough that you get a lot of velocity control out of it, especially with harder velocities. It's a little difficult to control the lower velocities, but you can always clean those up after recording. The keys also look like piano keys. They don't have that weird, vacant space underneath them like a lot of synths and cheaper controllers do. Maybe I'm weird, but that was a selling point for me :P

Edited by ectogemia
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In terms of composition I've found that the feel of the keys matters a lot, but to me "composition" means playing the keys and using the pitch/mod wheels (or sticks in my case), so if you have a different definition (like using knobs and controllers, arpeggiators and whatnot) then what you need for your compositions might be different.

The Axiom series feels very flimsy and cheap to me, the keys don't have the correct weight or bounce to them, and they feel very low quality under my fingers. Generally speaking you get what you pay for, and if you want a good quality controller you'll be spending around $300.

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And another thing, when it comes to keys I always stay away from semi-weighted. If I want weighted keys I go will full on hammer action keys (like most digital pianos have), otherwise I go with synth action (no couterweights to them). Synth action keys are very fast and they feel great to play (unless they're cheap shit).

A great quality controller I've used and loved is the A-800 pro by Roland:

http://www.rolandus.com/products/details/1096

You can probably get one for cheap on ebay. But before you buy anything, try to find a music store near you where you can try some of these out.

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I've been using Roland MIDI controllers for quite a while now. I've had the same one working for me for about 8 years now! I'd probably get this guy if I upgraded right now:

http://www.zzounds.com/item--ROLA800PRO

Another choice would be this guy. I've been pretty impressed with the keys on my Minibrute.

http://www.zzounds.com/item--ARAAELAB

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So, here's what I'm using right now:

1. Yamaha Arius Digital Keyboard: Not intended to be a controller, but it happens to have a MIDI output. Nice because the keys feel real (I am a piano player) and I can get really exact velocity out of it. It also has sustain pedals. No mod wheel, no other functions.

You could also replace that Arius with a Yamaha CP33. It has the same keybed as the higher model Arius, in fact it looks almost the same, but it has mod wheel, pitch bend, and 2 sliders to set zones which can also be set to transmit aftertouch. This is what I am using now, and I set a Korg Nanokontrol 2 on top for knobs/sliders.

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I'm a big fan of my Akai MPK49, which has decent action, tons of built-in arpeggiator features, is built like a tank, all the knobs and buttons you could wish for, and even includes some drum pads for that sort of thing. They do also make a 61-key version with even more bells and whistles.

they also make an 88 key one with weighted keys, which while its 500 something dollars, it seems to be a pretty decent keyboard. and like flexstyle said, the mpk line is built like a tank and has pretty much any feature you could possibly want, except maybe automap

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they also make an 88 key one with weighted keys, which while its 500 something dollars, it seems to be a pretty decent keyboard. and like flexstyle said, the mpk line is built like a tank and has pretty much any feature you could possibly want, except maybe automap

You have to be careful with the mpk88, search the internet for mpk88 rattle. They can be quite noisy. I looked very closely at this board before getting the CP33. From the friend I know who has one though, he has been very happy with it, so maybe they are not all impacted by this?

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