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?



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Oct.13.2005 @ 3:45 PM
Suit & Tie Guy
that's cool. i can see getting sick of it after using it _that_ long.

which means i'll probably be sick of it in another 3 years. i'm down to one, i used to have two of them.

my favourite keybed of all time is the Hammond organ. man ... there's some shit going on with those keys that is just like nothing else. the pivot is like _way_ back there, so you can dig real deep into the blacks and still have plenty of throw.


Oct.13.2005 @ 5:33 PM
D' MacKinnon
I have a yamaha DX21 (which is sort of like a cheaper DX7). The case is metal and very sturdy, I've dropped this thing a ton of times and it still works. No aftertouch though, which is why I stopped using it as a controller after like 1998.

Have you thought about getting something like a used Fatar controller and running the midi through a MIDI to serial cable? I picked one up at one point from a compusa or radio shack or something but never used it after I bought a midisport 4x4


Oct.13.2005 @ 5:52 PM
"I've dropped this thing a ton of times and it still works."

They make these things - cases, keyboard stands. Never seen/used them myself, but I hear they work wonders for that sort of problem. ;-)

You're right, though. The DX series is pretty beastly. Only the 11 and the second-gen 7 have touch sensitivity, afaik (vintagesynth.com).


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