Old 01-03-2015, 03:19 PM   #1
carbon
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Default 61 Key MIDI Controller?

I'm looking something to replace my decade old 49 key Roland PC-180A as a synth controller in my home studio.

My wishes are:
* 61 keys, aftertouch, semi-weighted or piano action
* lots of encoders (not knobs)
* good integration with reaper and/or easy mapping of controls to VST parameters.
* Not too big (width/depth)

My initial choice was Arturia Keylab, but upon seeing lots of bad experiences with the keys on the internet, I'm not so sure anymore.
I like the looks and small width though.

The contenders are:
1) Arturia KeyLab
http://www.thomann.de/gb/arturia_keylab_61.htm

2) Akai MPK
http://www.thomann.de/gb/akai_mpk_261.htm

3) Nektar Panorama
http://www.thomann.de/gb/nektar_panorama_p6.htm

4) M-Audio Axiom Air or Axiom Pro or 2nd gen
http://www.thomann.de/gb/m_audio_axi....htm#bewertung

5) Novation Impulse
http://www.thomann.de/gb/novation_impulse_61.htm

Any experiences good or bad with these?
Which has the best keys, which is the most convenient to control VST-s?

Maybe something is missing from my list?

Thanks ahead!
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Old 01-03-2015, 06:14 PM   #2
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I have a Nectar P6 and I love it. There is full integration coming for Reaper (its in beta at the moment).

The quality is very nice, works as advertised!

Enjoy.


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Old 01-03-2015, 07:32 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluzkat View Post
I have a Nectar P6 and I love it. There is full integration coming for Reaper (its in beta at the moment).

The quality is very nice, works as advertised!

Enjoy.


Sorry to cut in but how are the keys on the Nektar Bluz? I read the black keys are much stiffer than the whites and consequently throws playing off. I've put off buying it for that reason.
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Old 01-03-2015, 08:11 PM   #4
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I like my Axiom a lot.
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Old 01-03-2015, 09:05 PM   #5
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The Reason users rave on Nectar and I'm stoked to hear that Reaper use is happening.
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Old 01-04-2015, 01:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Brown View Post
Sorry to cut in but how are the keys on the Nektar Bluz? I read the black keys are much stiffer than the whites and consequently throws playing off. I've put off buying it for that reason.
I haven't noticed that, but I'm a guitar player!

Probably need a more experienced keyboard-type person to answer that one.


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Old 01-04-2015, 08:19 AM   #7
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I have the AIR, so far it has been fine. I skipped on the KeyLab also because of key complaints and actually touching one in a music store.

Quote:
I'm looking something to replace my decade old 49 key Roland PC-180A as a synth controller in my home studio.
LOL, I just tossed mine yesterday. It's been in my closet for years, got it back in the 90s IIRC.
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Old 01-04-2015, 01:56 PM   #8
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Good to hear your experiences.

I have started to lean towards the ones that are smaller in the overall depth to give me a bit more mouse/alphanumeric key space on my desk.

So this probably rules out the axiom air.

Do you guys know how's the quality of the keys on the 2nd gen Axiom 61 and now probably discontinued Axiom Pro 61?
http://www.thomann.de/gb/maudio_axiom_61_advanced.htm
http://www.m-audio.com/products/view...1#.VKmLJXuQx8E
http://www.m-audio.com/products/view...1#.VKmolXuQx8F

Are there any known issues with the Axioms?
Do they still sell the Axiom Pro 61 somewhere? I like the looks of this one, but looks only go so far...

Perhaps I'm being too cautious with the key quality as compared to the Roland keys, any one of these might be an improvement.
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Old 01-05-2015, 08:56 AM   #9
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I'm using a P6 with the beta Reaper integration and it works very well.
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Old 01-05-2015, 11:08 AM   #10
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Found this post, that makes me a bit concerned about the Axiom 2nd gen:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/8631285-post2.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox
Axiom 2nd gen: Keys clanked when bottoming out, which I didn’t like. Also, they are smaller than the 1st gen Axiom keys.
Can anybody confirm the smaller than full key size?
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Old 01-06-2015, 12:14 AM   #11
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You really should try to make it to a big music store and try them all. You will be surprised. I wanted an Akai MPK but when I tried a Novation Impulse I fell in love with the action of the keys and never looked back. Unfortunately there is no one overall best so you need to find out which is your personal best.
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Old 01-06-2015, 02:34 AM   #12
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I confess I am not a piano player...but I love the Nektar P6. So I am with you Bluzkat.
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Old 01-06-2015, 06:38 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carbon View Post

My wishes are:
* 61 keys, aftertouch, semi-weighted or piano action
* lots of encoders (not knobs)
* good integration with reaper and/or easy mapping of controls to VST parameters.
* Not too big (width/depth)


I've had an Axiom 49 for several years. It's just the regular Axiom not the Pro or Air. Guessing it's one of the 1st gen but not sure. It's also the first, and only, controller I've owned. I should also say I'm not much of a keyboard player nor programmer.

Caveats dealt with I've never been thrilled with the Axiom. The keyboard Velocity & Aftertouch seem inconsistent and regardless of vel curve adjustment you have to slam the crap outta the keys to register any higher than 60.

Moving on to programming. Tried that a couple times, always gave up after several wasted frustrating hours. Way too complicated for me. The deal breaker was that after I finally figured out what, where, & how I wanted to do whatever the Program I thought I was saving to, or the parameter, or both, had inadvertently changed. THIS, of all things, was consistent.

That said, I didn't really expect alot for the price. I would have hoped for better key tracking. The programming thing is abysmal. At least for me. Oh, and the USB thing? Forget it. Buy a power supply & MIDI cable. But still, I find it usable for now. Next time however I'll look for a real instrument, not a toy. And expect to pay for it.

Last thing. The OP says he's going from a 49 key to a 61 key. I find myself feeling cramped with 49 keys at this point (knew I would sooner than later). I guess I'm thinking here that I'd be less concerned about how much space the unit needs than the amount of space ** I ** need to work it. My 0.02.
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Old 01-06-2015, 07:34 AM   #14
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You could always get one like this:


This pic isn't mine but, but my Xk is still going strong since I got it in '85(?).

Been a reliable lump.

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Old 01-06-2015, 07:40 AM   #15
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I have several previous axioms and axiom air, not seeing the issues above but not sure why.
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Old 01-06-2015, 02:16 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DigiDis View Post
You really should try to make it to a big music store and try them all. You will be surprised. I wanted an Akai MPK but when I tried a Novation Impulse I fell in love with the action of the keys and never looked back. Unfortunately there is no one overall best so you need to find out which is your personal best.
Unfortunately there are nothing besides Axioms and Novation Launchkeys that I can try out locally, everything else has to be ordered.
I've read other people enthused about Novation keys.

What about the Novation Remote 61 SL MKII, I wonder if it has the same keys that the Impulse has. I like the layout better. Might not be worse, since it's higher priced. Has LED rings around the encoders to indicate position etc.
http://www.thomann.de/gb/novation_remote_61_sl_mkii.htm

One thing that I've started to second guess, are the encoders in general.
So far I've always thought they would be the way to go, because potentiometers don't reflect the actual position of the arbitrary controls.
But recently I've read that it could be inconvenient to do fast filter cutoff adjustments for an example, since depending on the encoders you might need to do several times 360 before you get from 0 to 127.
What has your experience been?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Softshell View Post
Last thing. The OP says he's going from a 49 key to a 61 key. I find myself feeling cramped with 49 keys at this point (knew I would sooner than later). I guess I'm thinking here that I'd be less concerned about how much space the unit needs than the amount of space ** I ** need to work it. My 0.02.
I just have limited desk space, but if needed be, I could probably come up with a different arrangement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ReaperMadness View Post
You could always get one like this:
This pic isn't mine but, but my Xk is still going strong since I got it in '85(?).
Not seeing an image here. Jaguar XK?
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Old 01-06-2015, 04:42 PM   #17
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I own the Keylab61. Purchased it last year after being in almost the same situation as you. I was looking to replace my ancient mid 90's Korg X5 and Korg PadKontrol with an all-in-one, compact solution. I ended up buying sight unseen as I live in the sticks and the nearest guitar center is 2 hours away. I would say I am 80% happy with it.

The good:
-Key feel/Aftertouch - No problems for me, but I collect 'toy' casio and yamaha keyboards and would gladly use controller with mini keys if I could find a 61 key version with aftertouch. AT works just as well as Axioms or Rolands I have tried in the past
-Plenty of knobs and sliders for plugin control
-Striking appearance - in a world of black and grey plastic controllers, the wood and metal construction stands out. Heavy like the hardware synths of yore. You could probably bludgeon your bassist to death with it and still have it working
-Nice compact dimensions - So many other controllers have ugly plastic side pieces that do nothing but take up space for sake of making the controller look beefier than it really is. The Keylab's wooden sides only add 1 inch to either side of the keybed. Fits my studio desk perfectly.

The bad:
-Pitch and modulation wheels are tiny and feel cheap and awful - This is inexcusable. There is PLENTY of room for full-size or even jumbo wheels. All other knobs, slider caps, and pads on the controller have that modern 'soft matte' non-slip feel. The pitch and mod wheels are hard plastic. Also, the metal cutout around the wheels is not beveled and is uncomfortable to slam your finger against when doing pitch drops
-Drum pad location - upper right hand corner is not ideal for a lefty like me and I do more reaching than I would like. A central or location would be better. Would have liked some bank buttons to quickly switch between pad sounds
-Software is mediocre - when it works, it sounds 'meh' at best. Out of the thousands of presets, only about 5-10% would be sounds I would keep. Could just be my taste (Reaktor and Synth1 are my go to VSTi's)
-Software is not XP compatible - It installs and runs for 1-2 minutes before freezing and crashing, often taking the whole computer down with it. Enough for me to peruse the presets and determine that I don't like 'em. Controller assignment software, which is also the way to do firmware updates, refuses to work at all. MIDI still works flawlessly and my work-around is to set up all my controller assignments on a per-preset basis within Reaper - a better option, really as I load all my VSTi's via track templates
-Company support is dildos - Crappy website. Support takes weeks to get back to you and is quite unhelpful. "Look through our forums and see if you can find a solution there," seems to be their default answer to all inquiries

If I was buying today, and going sight unseen, the Alesis vi61 would be a strong contender (http://alesis.com/vi61). Better pad location for a lefty, full-size pitch and mod wheels, compact size, plenty of controllers, and aftertouch.
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Old 01-07-2015, 01:21 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carbon View Post
What about the Novation Remote 61 SL MKII, I wonder if it has the same keys that the Impulse has. I like the layout better. Might not be worse, since it's higher priced. Has LED rings around the encoders to indicate position etc.
http://www.thomann.de/gb/novation_remote_61_sl_mkii.htm

One thing that I've started to second guess, are the encoders in general.
So far I've always thought they would be the way to go, because potentiometers don't reflect the actual position of the arbitrary controls.
But recently I've read that it could be inconvenient to do fast filter cutoff adjustments for an example, since depending on the encoders you might need to do several times 360 before you get from 0 to 127.
What has your experience been?
The Remote has different keys from the Impulse. If I remember well, they were very nice and a little harder than the Impulse, but again each has their own preferences.

I must admit I don't use the encoders all that often, as I prefer to assign stuff to the mod wheel or to aftertouch. Usually I will assign stuff to the sliders if I want more control as they are easier to manipulate while playing. But the encoders on the Impulse do 0-127 in one turn only.

One suggestion would be to get a 61 key controller just for the keys and then get additional non-key controllers to handle the rest.
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Old 01-07-2015, 02:05 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by undergod12 View Post
If I was buying today, and going sight unseen, the Alesis vi61 would be a strong contender (http://alesis.com/vi61). Better pad location for a lefty, full-size pitch and mod wheels, compact size, plenty of controllers, and aftertouch.
That is an interesting choice also, though maybe a bit too long for my space.
Thanks for the thorough description of the Keylab.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DigiDis View Post
One suggestion would be to get a 61 key controller just for the keys and then get additional non-key controllers to handle the rest.
I've been thinking about that option too, but there seems to be a lack of good quality keyboards that are just that. Usually the ones that have less knobs or none are of the lower price range and so also the keyboard is of lower quality.
The exception to this are probably the 88 key piano action stuff or the Doepfer organ keyboards.
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Old 01-07-2015, 03:27 AM   #20
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First of all let me clarify that I am a guitarist who hacks around on the boards...I love my Axiom 61 2nd Gen. Feels great to me and has taken a beating. Would buy it again.

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Old 01-09-2015, 04:34 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve36 View Post
First of all let me clarify that I am a guitarist who hacks around on the boards...I love my Axiom 61 2nd Gen. Feels great to me and has taken a beating. Would buy it again.

Steve
I'm not a piano virtuoso myself


Back once more after thinking things through a bit.
I'm a little reluctant to buy an expensive controller that either has average keys or average controls.

I'm now toying around with the idea of buying an actual analog synthesizer that has hands on controls + good keys + sounds + controls maybe.

Anybody have experience with various synth keybeds?

Prophet 8 maybe?
http://www.thomann.de/gb/dave_smith_...phet_08_pe.htm

The downside ofcourse is the cost. I would need to sell something to get the finances going.

Any takers for Axon AX 100 Guitar MIDI controller (with MK-II chip) or Nord Modular G1 Rack?
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Old 01-12-2015, 04:35 AM   #22
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On another note, going back to the MIDI controllers, the more expensive Native Instrument Komplete S seems to integrate very well with the NI stuff:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-y7vJWzfBg
Has probably good keys too.

But, how does it work with other VST-s - like a generic controller with MIDI learn?
Any NI Komplete users here?

Do the Novation / Axiom / Nektar controllers work better with all VST-s?

Regarding the question about the Novation Impulse or any encoders for that matter - the possibility of going from 0 to 127 in one turn - how good is the resolution in that case, still possible to do increments of 1?
If not then the sweeps would sound stepped/granular?
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Old 01-12-2015, 05:12 PM   #23
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Default Akai Advance-61

An interesting new one:
http://www.akaipro.com/product/advance-61
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