October 12, 2005

A New Controller...

by Chris Randall
 

Okay, my keyboard controller (which is a no-name 4-octave thing) is not fitting in to the New Plan, and I'll tell you why. For some reason I can't fully explain, and thus won't bother, I use a controller which is powered off the joystick port (and I don't mean USB) of my PC. The reason for this is that when PCs first started getting USB MIDI interfaces, they uniformly sucked, because the USB support in Win98 uniformly sucked. Using an MPU-401 was always (and still is) rock fucking solid, so for some reason I just never switched to USB. Never saw the need.


Now, with my new console setup, I need to get a controller that has a little more juice to it. I still have no intention whatsoever of running a USB controller. I'll still use the joystick port as my main input because, even though it looks stupid when I type it, the feel/timing/whatever is better than MIDI that has come in on a USB device. I have several USB interfaces, but they're used for other computers, not my main DAW machine.


So, what works for you? It's now hard to find a controller that _doesn't_ have every bell and whistle on it. I'd prefer one with a 5-octave waterfall keyboard, but that's not really necessary. It should be noted here that, unlike most modern "electronic musicians," I can play, extremely fast if not that well. (Ho, ho, ho.) So none of this bullshit X-Factor nonsense. I don't want 46 sliders, 35 knobs, 6 x/y pads, and a partridge in a pear tree. I want a fucking 5-octave keyboard that has a pitch wheel and a mod wheel and a good action and a MIDI-out port. Nothing more. Ideas?


UPDATE: I'm actually leaning towards one of the ubiquitous 80s digitals for use as a controller, I think. Those things are built like tanks, and we'll need to travel to the stage now and again, so it would be wise to plan for same. ESQ-1? I've never owned a single piece of Ensoniq gear (and that's probably the only company I can say that about) so this would be a leap for me. Maybe even a Mirage. DX11? I had a Korg DW8000 for years, and aside from having really tired sounds, it served me well. Something to ponder, anyways. Anyone have an ESQ1 they want to ship to Oregon for a pittance?

 
 
 

23 comments:

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Oct.12.2005 @ 8:41 PM
whiteboysushi
You may be able to afford a classier controller (i.e. one not put together by Chinese orphans), but for the rest of us, those cheap CME keyboards (link [www.audiomidi.co...]">link [www.audiomidi.co...]) seem like a pretty good deal. After all, as they proudly boast on their website, "UF is the most cost effective omnipotent master keyboard available!" Unfortunately, as with most keyboard controllers I've found, you can't get hammer-action (I assume that's what you mean by "a good action") unless you get the 88-key model -- is >5 octaves a problem?
 
 

 
Oct.12.2005 @ 10:00 PM
tillthen
I use my CS6X as my midi controller, not to springy, but not to soft. I only use it to make atmos backgrounds and textured sound beds.
Some of the filter and cutoff knobs map over to my other synths, and the mod wheels too, so you dont have to spin your chair around each time you want to play another synth. I had a cheap 4 octave fatar controller that I really loved, but it died in a crazy bid to build a wireless midi keytar thing ( it was bad ) Good luck, I think Guitar center still carries those Fatar controllers.
 
 

 
Oct.12.2005 @ 11:14 PM
dm
Dude, like seriously, dig up a kawai k5. You get a tank of an controller, and possibly the worlds hardest to program synth. For the cost of one of those edirol controllers.
 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 8:00 AM
jdfan
I have a Mirage and it's nice (if heavy as hell) controller. Has a nice, not spongy, action. On the other hand, the OS loads from the floppy, so when it dies, you're SOL until you replace it :) The ESQ1 has similar problems, mostly related to the power supply. So while they're sweet looking machines, they're touchy.
 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 8:38 AM
inverseroom
My master keyboard is the Ensoniq SQ-80: an ESQ-1 with aftertouch. POLYPHONIC aftertouch. Some people hate the clicky keyboard but I love it. I've never had power problems, though I blew a fuse once replacing the OS chip.

It's a great synth, too.

 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 10:19 AM
Chris Randall
I've read that the power supply problem is easily fixed by recapping just that board, as they used particularly poor caps in the PS on those units. That operation is well within my capabilities.

But poly aftertouch? That's a horse of another color. Not many synths have that. So the ESQ-1 has real filters, but the SQ-80 has poly aftertouch. That's a tough call. Which one sounds better?

-CR

 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 10:46 AM
Chris Randall
Oh, look at that. The SQ80 has analog filters as well. Well, shit, I think this might be our victim. Now to find one.

-CR

 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 11:06 AM
synthetic
The SQ80 keyboard felt weird to me. Very clicky, and the keys bent down in a strange way. The older Ensoniqs had crummy Pratt-Reed actions. I prefer the Fatar action you find in modern stuff like Alesis, Dave Smith, etc. I have one in my Anrdomeda, though hardly an affordable controller. The Yamaha action in my old Wavestation keyboard was a close second.
 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 11:06 AM
googoobaby
Another vote for the Kawai K5. I really liked the quality feel of this keyboard.
 
 

 
Oct.13.2005 @ 11:34 AM
Chris Randall
I dunno about the K5. I had a K3 for quite a while, and while playable, I wouldn't write home about the action or anything. I bet the K3 and the K5 have the same keybed.

The Korg Z1/Trinity/Triton series have my all-time favorite keyboard actions. I assume those are Fatar keybeds, but I couldn't be sure. I also assume that all the Yamaha and Korg keybeds are intrinsically the same from the advent of the SY-77 on. However, I'd rather stick a lit cigarette in my eye than even look at a Z1 again. I'm _so_ over the Z1 and Trinity, it's not even funny.

Well, in any case, it's not like it's gonna be a lot of money to try one of these bitches out. I'll hunt down an SQ-80, and if that sucks, I'll get a K5 to make the Posse happy.

-CR

 
 

 
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