Choosing synth or midi keyboard

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I'm currently using an 88 key Casio Privia. It has been great for practice but I'm getting bored of the small selection of sounds.

I'm unsure if I should get a midi controller or a synth. I'm not interested in things like drum pads or looping features. I want to play with drummers and use the keyboard as if it were a regular piano just with more sounds.

I would like it to have a pitch shifter and preferably 88 weighted keys. I would like to be able to take a sample of any sound and have it available at every pitch along the keys. Like if I wanted for example to take the specific 'intruments' used in a snes game and have the keyboard use those sounds.

Im leaning towards a synth as it would be nice to not need a computer with me. Looking to spend around 1000$ Canadian.
 
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happyrat1

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What model Privia? Does it have real MIDI ports or only USB?

If it has real MIDI ports then you could pick up a synth hardware module and plug it in and use the Casio as a controller.

What kind of music do you want to produce? Modern electronica and dance or do you want to emulate the synths of the 80's and 90's for a cover band?

A few decent synth modules that come in under your price tag include the Behringer Deepmind 12D or the Waldorf Blofeld Desktop.

https://www.amazon.ca/Behringer-DEEPMIND12D-BEHRINGER-DEEPMIND-12D/dp/B071XHM99Y/

https://www.tomleemusic.ca/196907

https://www.axemusic.com/93584/Keyboards/Synthesizers/Behringer/Deepmind-12D-12-Voice-Polyphonic-Desktop-Synthesizer.htm

https://www.axemusic.com/2528/Keyboards/Synthesizers/Waldorf/Blofeld_Desktop_Synth.htm

https://www.long-mcquade.com/2528/Keyboards/Synthesizers/Waldorf/Blofeld_Desktop_Synth.htm

https://www.tomleemusic.ca/catalog/product/view/id/67897/s/128310/

These are all Canadian prices from Canadian dealers. No cross border shipping or US Dollars involved.



BTW, the Blofeld can load sampled wavetables with the optional license patch you pay extra for. The Deepmind has no sampling capability.

Gary ;)
 
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Thanks for the info, great idea!
I dont remember the model and I'm currently at work.

I'm less interested in repetive stuff like electronic or dance. Don't wanna do the one man show looping thing. I want to play all sorts of genres with other musicians. I guess alternative rock/pop might be a good term. I just want lots of options for sounds.

Thanks again, I'll look into those synths when I get home.
 

happyrat1

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You're very welcome.

I own both a Blofeld Desktop and a Deepmind 6, the keyboard little brother of the Deepmind 12. I'm very happy with both of them and each one brings a different texture to the table.

BTW, even if your Casio doesn't have real MIDI ports, you can always use your computer as a MIDI router if it has class compliant USB MIDI.

And you can always use one of these gadgets to to turn a Class Compliant USB MIDI port into real 5 Pin DIN MIDI ports.

http://compasflamenco.com/midi-c-3/usb-host-midi-2-p-6.html?zenid=lafobzyJj3Oz2blaZXWGi0

http://www.kentonuk.com/products/items/utilities/usb-host.shtml

http://www.hobbytronics.co.uk/usb-midi-converter

https://www.lab4music.it/index.php?lang=EN

Gary ;)
 
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As happyrat1 said, you already have a controller in your Casio 88, and besides working with a computer or synth module as he mentioned (the latter possibly requiring another device if your Casio is USB only), you can also connect to an iPad which is something you may find more convenient to use here than a regular computer. But there are other reasons this may not be the way you want to go. Most Casio 88s are limited in their MIDI control functions which can make it, if not impossible, at least more complicated to do many of the things you might want. For example, you may not have the pitch bend control you want. Or maybe expression pedal control. Or you may not find any easy way to pick a different piano sound on your 88 without also undesirably changing the sound on your attached module. This may no be an issue if you're using the Casio strictly as a controller (i.e. getting all your sounds out of a computer/iPad for example), but if you go with the kinds of modules happyrat1 talked about, you may find that they have the synth sounds you're after but not the basic piano sounds and similar you'd still have to get out of your Casio.

If you want to replace the Casio with another 88 that will have everything self-contained (including the mentioned ability to play custom samples), look at the Roland Juno DS88.

If you want a dedicated 88 key controller, the Studiologic SL88 Grand probably has the nicest action in your price range, the SL88 Studio is lighter and cheaper.

Yet another possibility could be to keep the Casio 88 and add a second board above it, like the Juno DS61, which would give you a combination of hammer and non-hammer actions. The Casio MZ-X300 and MZ-X500 are other smaller boards that include the ability to load and play custom samples.
 

happyrat1

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He mentioned a budget of $1000 CDN.

That rules out a Juno DS88 ($1450 CDN) And a Studiologic Controller would run him most of what he'd spend on a module.

Likewise the Casio MZ line are arrangers without hammer action and still not cheap.

He COULD afford a Juno DS61 ($999 CDN) as a second board but it would be synth action with 61 keys and it would still basically be a ROMpler.

An aftermarket MIDI pitchbend and mod wheel might be added on at a later date as budget permits without having to spring for an entirely different keyboard.

For the time being however, I think the most useful, budget minded, single piece of kit he could add to start is a module.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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Here's a website on a DIY project for a standalone Pitch/Modwheel controller that's not too difficult to set up.

http://travisthatcher.com/portfolio/custom-midi-wheel-controller/

There are a few other controllers out there that can be adapted to this purpose.

An Arturia Keystep has a couple of slider touchpads with the functions built in that could be adapted to control these parameters as well.

It has USB, CV, and MIDI outs so it can be adapted multiple ways without blowing out the budget.

https://cosmomusic.ca/controller-arturia-keystep.html

All together a USB MIDI Host, a Keystep and a Deepmind would come in right around $1000 CDN plus taxes.

Gary ;)
 
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He mentioned a budget of $1000 CDN. That rules out a Juno DS88 ($1450 CDN)
Ouch, yes, didn't realize it was so much more Canadian. I think that means the answer to the question of "within budget, what self-contained 88 weighted board can I get that I can play user samples from" is... none.

And a Studiologic Controller would run him most of what he'd spend on a module.
...but if he goes with a controller to trigger sounds in his computer (or perhaps iPhone/iPad if he has one), he doesn't have to spend on a module. Using a computer may not be his preference, but he is open to it, and at budget, compromises will have to be made.

Likewise the Casio MZ line are arrangers without hammer action and still not cheap. He COULD afford a Juno DS61 ($999 CDN) as a second board but it would be synth action with 61 keys and it would still basically be a ROMpler.
DS61 and Casio MZ would both work fine as second boards above a Casio 88, to provide a much wider range of sounds, pitch bend, the ability to play his own sampled sounds from the keyboard, plus the advantage of having hammer and non-hammer actions. I was suggesting these as adjunct to (rather than replacement for) the 88. Though if 88 weighted is not a must, yeah, he could play with just the 61. (He did say "preferably" 88 weighted keys, so it sounds like there is some flexibility there.) Juno DS is also available in a 76.

Based on budget, yes, DS61 is more viable than Casio, but in general, don't let the arranger moniker fool you, you don't have to use the MZ arranger features, it's still a very capable performance board.

An aftermarket MIDI pitchbend and mod wheel might be added on at a later date as budget permits without having to spring for an entirely different keyboard.
Do you know of anyone who currently makes such a thing?

For the time being however, I think the most useful, budget minded, single piece of kit he could add to start is a module.
I think you're assuming he wants "synth" sounds, whereas you can also read his post as simply wanting a wider range of rompler or "bread and butter" sounds. Summary: He wants...

...to "use the keyboard as if it were a regular piano just with more sounds"
..."pitch shifter" (I'm assuming he means pitch bend, and not transpose.)
..."take a sample of any sound and have it available at every pitch along the keys"

Assuming his Casio 88 does NOT have a pitch wheel, no module fits the bill. If he does have a pitch wheel, then Blofeld might work. But if he wants a wider range of typical rock/pop gigging sounds, I'm not sure Blofeld is the sound source of choice. Also, without a keyboard with real controller functions, real-time patch selection on the Blofeld might be an issue. Also, if he intends to still use the Casio 88 for some sounds, integrating the two could cause complications (i.e. changing a sound on the Casio may send an undesired patch change to the module).

Looking beyond those three items, there are also these, which seem not required but preferred...

..."88 weighted keys"
..."not need a computer with me"

This gets trickier because, in budget, I think you can get one or the other , but not both.

...You can get the 88 weighted keys with pitch bend, but to get a wide range of sounds and the sample playing functions, you'll need a computer (or iPad/iPhone).

...You can avoid taking the computer with you if you choose the Roland DS, but now (within budget) you no longer have 88 weighted keys. Unless you use that AND the Casio 88.
 
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All together a USB MIDI Host, a Keystep and a Deepmind would come in right around $1000 CDN plus taxes.
Our posts crossed. Anyway, that combo still leaves him without any way to play his sampled sounds, and also a whole bunch of stuff to have to connect and find a place for. A self-contained second board (i.e. DS61) would be quicker/neater to set up, cheaper, and also handle his sampled sounds. Though again, you're assuming he wants more of a traditional "synth" in there rather than a rompler-style board (which many also generically call synths).
 

happyrat1

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His best option may be to sell off his current Privia for a few hundred on Kijiji and Craigslist and add that money to the purchase of a new Roland Juno DS88 or a Casio Privia PX-560.

Either one would give him a huge range of voices and all the bells and whistles he could reasonably use in a single package for $1400-$1500 CDN. (PLUS TAX) :p

Of the two I prefer the Juno. While the Casio may have slightly better piano voicings I find their orchestral voices to be weak and toy like.

As a performance instrument in a single package I concur his best option would be to scrounge up an extra $400 and buy the Juno.

Here's the best price on the Juno currently available in Canada. $1399.99 CDN plus HST with free shipping almost anywhere in Canada. Everyone else here lists it for $1449.99 CDN.

https://www.tomleemusic.ca/184361

The PX-560 sells everywhere in Canada for a dealer price of $1499.99 CDN and lacks sampling and vocoder functions and like I said earlier, is weak on synth and orchestral voicings.

https://www.amazon.ca/Casio-Privia-PX560BE-Stage-Digital/dp/B012XHJ8OG/

Basically I have nothing against the Juno DS88, I own one myself, but it really boils down to how flexible his budget is. My only pet peeve with it is because it uses a spring loaded joystick instead of a standard MOD wheel you have to apply constant pressure with your left hand to get a steady tremolo effect. :p

But as a step up for a basic Privia PX-140 or 150 it;s light years ahead and truly a professional sounding instrument.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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One other thought.

With Xmas two weeks away, Boxing Day and Boxing Week Sales are a big hooplah in Canada.

He might want to wait and see what becomes available on the night of the 25th.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW if he lives in the Toronto area and can't find a Juno DS88 to test drive before purchase he could email me for details and arrange a test drive at my place. I'm in Mississauga literally next door to Clarkson GO Rail Station and therefore an easy commute from most of the Greater Toronto Area.

Gary ;)
 
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I agree, DS88 is a good solution, and a better one here than PX560. PX560 does have the advantage of the separate, non-spring loaded modulation wheel. Also, lighter travel weight, built-in speakers (sometimes convenient), and I think a better feeling action. But as you said, it doesn't address his sampling need. And I agree Roland is stronger on orchestral and synth sounds. Casio lacks a monophonic synth mode which Roland has, and Roland has some nice downloadable orchestral sounds too. (BTW, even though the MZ-X500 looks partially derived from the PX560, it does have sonic improvements, including a mono synth mode and a drawbar controllable organ.)
 

happyrat1

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You brought up a good point. The Roland has no speakers. Since his current rig is a Privia it likely has built in speakers and so he'll also need to budget another $150 CDN to $250 CDN for a keyboard amp or a set of studio monitors. Or he could play in the meantime with headphones.

Some suggested monitors that come in under budget include.

https://www.amazon.ca/M-Audio-Professional-Studio-Monitor-Speakers/dp/B00X741TB0/

https://www.amazon.ca/Alesis-ELEVATE-MKII-Speakers-Video-Editing/dp/B01MUY2470/

https://www.amazon.ca/PreSonus-Eris-E4-5-Powered-Monitor/dp/B00GP56OYA/

https://www.amazon.ca/Behringer-MS40-Digital-40-Watt-Monitors/dp/B000IKSIOM/

And suggested Keyboard Amps include.

https://www.amazon.ca/Peavey-KB-20W-Keyboard-Amp/dp/B004LRP56W/

https://www.amazon.ca/15-Watt-Keyboard-Amplifier-VTC-Technology-Speaker/dp/B0010KGD4Q/

https://www.amazon.ca/45-Watt-3-Channel-System-Keyboard-Amplifier/dp/B000MJ9EBA/

Any of these would be suitable for home studio practice or light gigging.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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Good work Scott!!! I think we scared him off :D :D :D

Gary ;)
 
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