Another midi controller thread

Discussion in 'GEAR Talk Forum' started by Dewdman42, Jan 28, 2019.

  1. Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    I am going to get a new midi controller to sit on my main DAW desk for all manner of music production, including orchestral mockups, but not exclusively. Looking for recommendations for what is out there. There is nobody within 1000 miles of here that carries this stuff to try it out. :-(

    My needs
    1. Decent playability
    2. physically quiet
    3. ideally 10 inches deep or less, shorter keyboards could be slightly deeper. Might be able to adapt if I have to though.
    4. 61+ keys
    5. Extra assignable faders/knobs would be nice
    Now all that being said, I have to my left a very nice fully weighted Kawai digital Piano that has wood keys and great action and I can always use that for recording in a piano part. To my right I have a Roland JP-80 which has about the best semi weighted synth action I have felt in a modern keyboard in the past 10 years, and remarkably quiet to play also. Below it is another fully weighted keyboard, a Yamaha S90.

    So the point is, if I really need to record a stellar midi performance I can use some of those keyboards to the side for laying down those parts. The keyboard I seek now is something that sits in front of me while I look at the computer screen and enables me to play in simple parts, or use it together with step entry, easily handle key switches, programming drum parts, etc, etc, etc. The playability does not need to match the others I have mentioned to my left and to my right...but I do want the keyboard to be physically quiet. I have some older 49 key midi controllers from Edirol and Korg that are noisy as ___, clackity, clackity...ick. So yes I'm fussy about playability for sure...and I'd lover for this keyboard to play reasonably well, it would be a dream if it played like my JP80, but unlikely......a lot of the controllers I've tried in recent years play lousy by my standards, whether weighted or semi weighted. But I don't have a lot of space here on the desk either. For example a KKS61 would probably play to a level that I would enjoy, but I can't fit on the desk I'm using most likely..

    So anyway, what do people recommend or have to say about any of the following or others for my use case:
    • Studio Logic Numa Compact 2/2X
    • Nektar LX88+
    • Nektar Panorama P6
    • Novation SL61MK3
    • NI KK S61 mk2
    • Alesis VI61
    • NI KK S88
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
  2. charlieclouser

    charlieclouser Senior Member

    1,142
    3,123
    Dec 20, 2009
    I use the M-Audio Keystation 88es, and the Alesis Q88 is just a rebadged version of that. I chose this model because it is the smallest in both the front-back (depth) and top-bottom (height) dimensions. The keys are not weighted, which is also a big reason I chose it. They are synth-action and not too noisy / clacky. But it does not feel luxurious by any means. Another big point for me was that the top panel is completely smooth and blank with no knobs or faders to get in the way. I put my computer keyboard above the music keyboard, so the top of the music keyboard is basically my wrist rest.

    The Nektar LX88+ has similarly compact dimensions, but I don't need or want all the sliders, drum pads etc. - and I played it briefly at NAMM last year and the keyboard feels even cheaper than the Keystation / Q88, which I didn't think was possible. Still, it's compact and has lots of sliders and stuff if you want that.

    The Novation and NI keyboards feel much much better than either of the above, but in order to make full use of the knobby features there is additional software that needs to be installed - in the case of NI, if you want the key lights and smart knob controls to work as shown in videos, you pretty much need to be using Komplete Kontrol software, which is a plugin that you instantiate, and then load the actual instrument plugin you want to play inside that. I do not like this approach, as it means that you wind up with Komplete Kontrol as the plugin you see on every single channel as you scan you eyes across the mixer in your DAW. You can make some use of the knobs without using KK, but they won't intelligently display parameter names grabbed from the current DAW channel / plugin. They do make a very nice feeling, if a little heavy, 88-key version but it is not nearly as compact as some, and annoyingly the knobs and such are dead center - so I crossed that off my list.

    In the case of Novation mk3 keyboards, I was unable to get a straight answer from the staff in their booth at NAMM about whether it used its own software in between the keyboard and the DAW (not an ideal scenario), used a "control surface profile" that could be installed into Logic (better), used Logic's built-in Mackie Control Universal capabilities (best case scenario), or used the dreaded AutoMap v4 from Novation (absolute worst case scenario). They simply couldn't tell me and couldn't find anyone who could. So I walked. The keyboard did feel nice and expensive though. Five octaves is the biggest they make though, no 88-key version.

    I believe the Nektar Panorama series does use the Mackie Control Universal protocol, so working with Logic or other DAWs should be more graceful, software-wise, than the previous two situations. They are not nearly as compact as the Keystation / Q88 / LX88+ though, and also no 88-key version. The knobs and display feel a little cheap-o as well, but they are not very expensive for what you get.

    StudioLogic Numa series is certainly nice and compact, but they are also standalone stage keyboards, with a lot of organ drawbars and other crap that would get in my way, so I have not investigated further. At one point I think they made a MIDI Controller-only version with a blank top panel, but it is no longer on their website.
     
    ptram and Jaap like this.
  3. whiskers

    whiskers Perpetual student

    1,788
    2,202
    Sep 5, 2018
    US
    Nektar LX88 seems like a good choice if you don't mind semi-weighted keys. That's probably what I would have chose if I didn't get fully weighted keys.
     
  4. Jdiggity1

    Jdiggity1 Stroking The Frog

    1,484
    1,426
    Jan 31, 2012
    La La Land
    I was using a Keystation 88 Mkii (black one) and found it to be too noisy. Not so much in a clunky keys way, but the springs inside got squeaky on certain keys. It became unbearable, so I swapped it for an LX88+.
    It's not a stellar board by any means, but I do prefer the Nektar over the M-Audio. It's quieter, a little thinner, and feels better to me. Not just the action, but the wheels, faders, etc.
     
    whiskers likes this.
  5. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    An awful lot of people speak very highly about that LX88+, except for the alleged white key, black key velocity disparity. Sure can't beat the price and its also pretty slim.
     
    whiskers likes this.
  6. whiskers

    whiskers Perpetual student

    1,788
    2,202
    Sep 5, 2018
    US
    how would you describe the action? I know that's a rather qualitative/subjective answer, but always been curious on how those semi-weighted actions feel.
     
  7. markd

    markd New Member

    I've been using the M-Audio 61es for a few years and I just bought the LX88+ about a week ago. The LX88+ is a MASSIVE step up. The quality, feel of the keys and features are so much better. I highly recommend it. And it's really easy to program.

    I'd say the action is really great - solid feel and a good balance between synth and light piano action.
     
  8. gpax

    gpax Senior Member

    661
    350
    Oct 22, 2013
    It’s always good to hear from people that recognize how different keyboards are sometimes not about finding one magic bullet. I just added an Arturia Keystep for quick note entry on my desktop, as I wanted the smaller foot print. My Komplete Kontrol S61 sits to my left now, and my fully weighted 88 Fatar Grand to my right.

    With all respect to Charlie...

    You are not beholden to run the Komplete Kontrol software with the Komplete keyboard. Of course IF you are loading instances of the software, then the NKS integration does take control of the hardware bells, whistles, and parameter controls. And of course, this is its principle design.

    But it is also an assignable MIDI controller, and swaps between the two modes when moving between tracks that mix these two different approaches (and, when controlling levels and automation of audio tracks, of course). Or, if you load just instances of Kontakt directly, it’s arguably no less functional a controller than of the others mentioned - just a pricier one.

    At least with Logic, the Native integration of Komplete keyboards (MK2) means also having access to Logic’s mixer via the knobs and color displays. Again this is irrespective of running the Komplete Kontrol software for select libraries, and gives hands on access to Logic.

    Perhaps another way to see it, compared to other options, is that the KK keyboards do double/triple duty if/when needed.

    I find that I instantiate about 25 - 30% of the time in Komplete Kontrol, for various functionality.
     
    ptram likes this.
  9. MrLinssi

    MrLinssi A glorified bedroom musician.

    755
    493
    Oct 1, 2016
    Finland
    I have the original Impact LX88, and if the keybed is the same in the new version, I wouldn't recommend it if you can afford something more expensive. It's too noisy for my needs and there is indeed an imbalance in sensitivity between the black and white keys. It has served me quite well ever since I bought it (3-4 years ago) but I'm hoping to upgrade next year...
     
  10. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    what specifically is better that is more expensive? what do you think you will upgrade to?
     
  11. AdamKmusic

    AdamKmusic Active Member

    458
    277
    Dec 30, 2016
    I've got the Nektar Impact 88+, had it for about the past year and it's definitely worked without any hitches. Haven't noticed any velocity issues and it's not too clunky sounding. I'm looking to upgrade to a fully weighted controller when the right deal comes along!

    I'd also recommend the Alesis VI61, loved the feel of that keyboard moreso than the Impact 88! Quite a lot of knobs on it but that wasn't an issue for me as the keyboard would sit under my desk leaving just the keys showing.
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    I'm so concerned about clackity keys that I'm even considering just making my Roli Rise my primary DAW midi controller in front of my monitor. I do find it a bit mentally straining to play though, because your fingers have to hit the little ridges so precisely, maybe I'll get more used to it,.....but its DEAD QUIET. I can always turn to my left or my right to record something more elaborate on my full size keyboards with excellent action.

    What is impressing me about the LX88+ from what I'm reading is the Logic DAW integration, which is not as elaborate as the Nektar Panorama stuff, but there is elegance in the simplicity behind it. You can easily put it in a mode where the knobs at the top are mapped to LogicPro smart controls, for example. Transport buttons, including UNDO and setting cycle points...very handy. The product manager for Nektar that has been doing all the you tube presentations over the past 4-5 years impresses me also, I can tell they are putting some really good design thought into that kind of stuff and the Impact series is something that is not as complicated or deep as the panorama stuff, but maybe plenty deep enough for most of us, so long as the semi-weighted keyboard action is ok.

    Its interesting because I read around the net and I'd say about 30% pipe up that they think the keys are cheap and lousy, look for something better, but 60% say they like the action a lot and are kind of impressed, especially for the low cost. I doubt they compare to Komplete Kontrol, which is 3x the price and takes up more space and I doubt they compare to my other keyboards, that is for sure, but I can say that I have avoided Akai, M-Audio, Arturia and all the other inexpensive midi controllers over the past decade or two because every one of them felt like crap to me, so... if the LX88+ is basically in the same camp as that...don't know if I will find it acceptable...especially if its clackity. There is a good possibility I'd be one of the 30% complaining that you get what you pay for.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    thanks for the tip about the ales is VI61, that looks to have a nice size and buttons too, I will add that to my list for consideration. What specifically about the keys and action do you like better?
     
  14. MrLinssi

    MrLinssi A glorified bedroom musician.

    755
    493
    Oct 1, 2016
    Finland
    I'm not sure. At the moment my best candidate is probably NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MKII...
     
  15. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    So to be clear about my original question, I am definitely NOT interested in a weighted controller in front of my DAW. Many discussions on this forum about midi controllers seems to center around which 88 key controller feels like a piano. If your comment earlier about the LX88 feeling lousy was because you are wanting more of a weighted keyboard, that is understandable entirely, but how does it feel compared to other semi-weighted keyboards?
     
  16. MrLinssi

    MrLinssi A glorified bedroom musician.

    755
    493
    Oct 1, 2016
    Finland
    Sorry mate. I can't give you a proper answer since I haven't had the chance to try many keyboards, so I can't say how the action on mine compares to other semi-weighted ones. My only gripe with lx88 is the noise and the sensitivity issue with the black keys.
     
  17. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    noise meaning the keys are clackity? Roger that.... :-( that would be a deal breaker for me. Other users have reported them to be not too bad that way...so... not sure what to think, if I get one I'll probably have to buy through guitar center so I can easily return it.

    The black key issue is definitely a concern I have read about, but some people don't seem to notice it and I haven't seen any posts about it since they came out with the + version, but supposedly they didn't change anything about the keyboard in the + version either....so....

    I will say that I enjoyed very much the feel of the Komplete Kontrol S61 mk1 when I played one in a store a few years back. Fatar keybed and it plays well. However, I'm not into the whole Komplete thing really, its nearly never the instruments I would choose to work with...and they are fairly deep keyboards also in terms of size, and pricey. The S88 is not an option at all for me, it would not fit on my desk and I don't really want a weighted controller there either, but I haven't ever been able to find one to play to see how weighted it actually is. Many people say good things though...
     
  18. Jaap

    Jaap Yes, that's an alto flute

    Just like what Charlie posted, I also have M-Audio Keystation, specially for more non-piano playing, keys are easy to go on. I have this thing already for many years and just does what it does, it plays easy. There are reports that people experience broken keys and other problems, but never run into that. The downside is that it has no aftertouch.
    The other I use is the Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2 and that was one is lovely, semi weighted keys, aftertouch. I use this one primarely for my DAW work. It also fits perfectly under my desk (a customised IKEA desk) and as lovely extra its the control functions.
    On both this keyboards the noise is ok
     
  19. markd

    markd New Member

    I just bought the LX88+ last week, and before buying it, I did a lot of research on the various controllers currently available. One thing that I read from many users online is that quite a few controllers have that velocity issue with the black keys. Some controllers are more noticeable than others. People seem to attribute that issue with the physical size and shape of the black keys versus the white keys.

    I honestly don't know how true or false these claims are. All I can say is that so far I haven't noticed it on my LX88+ (keeping in mind that I've only had it for a week).
     
  20. OP
    OP
    Dewdman42

    Dewdman42 Senior Member

    1,697
    775
    Oct 28, 2016
    Well its interesting and makes me want to do some experiments with all of my existing keyboards.. the simple truth is that a black key is shorter, thus having less leverage. So that explains why a black key would feel a little more resistant then a white key... what I read about the LX88 is that the black keys are stiffer to play(less leverage) and yet produce somewhat higher velocity then the whites..making black notes pop out as louder. This is particularly noticeable if you're using a sample library that has some kind of fancy stuff that happens at different velocity levels. So I have read...

    What I surmise is that maybe people have to hit them harder because they are stiffer, thus they get a higher velocity...or perhaps Nektar tried to compensate for the fact they are a bit stiffer to play, not sure...but a lot of people have definitely complained about it and noticed it straight away, though some said they got used to it. And every complaint I read was a few years ago on the LC88, not the plus. So I don't know if its been quietly corrected. My acoustic piano has shorter black keys then white keys and while its easier to play trills at the ends of white keys then on black keys (due to leverage), I do not notice any volume differences between the keys... Based on the number of complaints about the LX88..there might be something to it...

    if you haven't noticed anything in a week, that is a good sign...
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019

Share This Page