Editable Gigging Machine?

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So, short version:
I'd love a simple, compact keyboard that is easily editable and upgradable for gigging with cover/pop-rock bands.

Long version:
I'm not sure that the thing I want exists. I'm looking for real-world solutions, so feel free to recommend things that aren't exactly what I'm describing, but would get the job done without breaking the bank.

I currently have a Kurzweil PC2X - it's an 88-key fully weighted monster that sounds awesome, and I've used in the studio to great effect. But now I'm gigging a lot more, and it's an absolute PITA.

I'd love to have something simpler and lighter - like a semi-weighted (or even just velocity sensitive) midi controller, except the idea of using a computer live seems like disaster waiting to happen - and indeed, I have seen it bring live shows to a screeching halt. Loading up a VST onto a keyboard without a computer seems like something that is not yet technologically feasible.

I've been out of the keyboard game for a few years - when last I took a keyboard on stage, USB ports were only on computers. Seeing their ubiquity now, I expected to find that synth players had abandoned the idea of built in sounds - after all, with USB connectivity, we can just upload whatever sounds we want, right? Maybe a keyboard comes with some sounds to get you up and running on unboxing day - but ultimately we'd be reaching for our favorite sound library....only it doesn't seem to be that way. For reasons I don't understand yet.
Is there a keyboard that makes this easy, and is there a commonly-agreed-upon "best" sound library - or perhaps two or three argued-over libraries?

Ideally, I'd like something compact and simple - controllers beyond a pitch and mod wheel being entirely optional - that I could edit to my own desiring and put just what I need on it in terms of sounds for a given gig. A good interface for said editing - perhaps in the form of PC software - being preferable.

I'm intrigued by the new AKAI Advance series - but it would involve using a laptop live, which I am loathe to do. If anyone could speak to the stability of using a laptop live, I'd love to hear that as well.
 

happyrat1

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The ability to load samples remains a higher end upscale feature on most keyboards these days. Remember, compared to state of the art computers, keyboards still tend to be 5 to 10 year older technology as a rule.

I'd suggest taking a look at the Casio PX-5S stage piano. It's a fully weighted 88 key stage piano weighing in around 25 lbs and you could always assign it for use as a 4 zone controller for laptop samples or a sampling rack module on stage without too much effort.

It also has decently tweakable sounds and it won't break your bank account either, priced in around $999 USD street price.

Gary ;)
 

happyrat1

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BTW, if yer interested in looking at VSTis that load onto hardware take a look at the Muse Receptor line of modules.

Gary ;)
 
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Wow, the Muse Receptor looks very very interesting, but perhaps out of my budget for the time being. Depending on how well this gigging season goes (my area is tourist-y and very seasonal) that may happen at the end of the beginning of next season.

And I'll look into that Casio, as well. After only being exposed to their budget line, I had a bad idea of the name Casio - but I got to play a Privia recently and was greatly impressed. It actually feels better than my Kurzweil, and the piano sound is not as good by only a small margin - definitely gig-worthy.
 

happyrat1

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Muse licensed their technology to Peavey who also sell the Peavey Musebox.

It's stripped down Receptor technology and you can't load additional VSTs into it, but it contains 8 gigs of premium sounds built in.

Sells for about $1K

Gary ;)
 
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Budget?

How many keys minimum?

I personally wouldn't risk using a laptop live (I use a tablet computer for my charts, and that gives me enough grief as it is), but I guess that's a personal preference.
 
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I haven't nailed down a firm budget. The $2k Muse Receptor is out of the question for the moment, and it is very close to exactly what I asked for - so I'd say that's a hard cap.

And number of keys is a good question - 88 is actually perhaps too large, I'd like some more portability. So 61 or 76 would be ideal - with consideration to 88 if it has a minimal control surface (but not less than mod and pitch wheels) and not-fully-weighted keys.
 

happyrat1

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Kurzweil announced the Artis LE last December with 76 keys if you are feeling any brand loyalty there. Released it at Winter NAMM 2015 and it should be out on the shelves in a couple of months. Supposed to have a Killer German Grand Piano in it too.

I wouldn't recommend 61 keys as your primary keyboard. Too limiting.

Gary ;)
 
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I have zero brand loyalty - as awesome as the sounds in my Kurzweil are, for anything other than the most basic editing, it's a royal pain.
Want to make the foot CC controller wah on this patch? Too bad, cus wah's already assigned to the mod wheel - looks like you're going to have to use a wheel to scroll through 27 layers of menus, assign the mod wheel to something random like vibrato, and THEN scroll back through 27 layers of menus to assign wah to the CC pedal....and that's if you even know where to look, which is anything but obvious.

If that's still the state of things in keyboards, then I should go into design instead of playing. It makes gigging a chore.
 
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Dunno if this helps or not as I'm not 100% sure what perfect editing looks like for you, but I use a Korg Krome 61 as my only 'board in one of my bands. It pretty much does everything I need it to for playing classic rock covers. Very deep when it comes to changing patches around too, and it's an inexpensive 'board for what it delivers sonically. It's also light as a feather.

The 73 key version is pretty much identical. The only thing I'd say is the synth-action keybed is not fantastic which makes it a bit tricky to get great control when playing piano. There is also an 88-key version. Again, I don't love the action on this, it's fully weighted but not that responsive.

These 'boards don't have pitch and mod wheel, they have a joystick instead, and you can assign pretty much whatever you like to it.
 

happyrat1

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Personally I think his best bang for the buck is a Casio PX-5S to use as an all around bread and butter keyboard and controller and add on a Peavey Musebox as a module to totally ramp up his sound set.

Most retailers seem to have discontinued the Musebox but Peavey is still selling them directly online for $999 USD.

http://peavey.com/products/musebox/

Along with the Casio for $999 as well he'd have a kickass controller and module setup weighing in under 30 lbs total for a total cost of about $2000.

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-keywords=Casio PX-5S&index=blended&link_code=qs&sourceid=Mozilla-search&tag=wwwcanoniccom-20

If I were looking for a primary setup these days I'd probably end up with such a pairing.

I honestly think 61 keys is too limiting if you plan to use it as a primary controller on stage and unless space is a severely limiting factor in his venues he should stick with a 76 or 88 key action.

Gary ;)
 
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So, I think you all for your suggestions. Korg, particullarly the Krome line, is looking very nice right now - a good balance of sounds, portability and price.

But the more I look, the more I think the entire synth market is a little sideways right now. As much as I am loathe to take a laptop on stage*, I think that's what I'm going to end up doing. I have some VSTs on my big production computer - the next chance I get (which will probably be next weekend) I'm going to load a few on my laptop and see how it handles them.

If the Akai Advance line turns out to be less-than-promised, I may look at something like the Krome or Artis in a combo hardware synth/software synth setup.

Honestly, it's a little confusing and disappointing. I bought my PC2X when I was in college - perhaps even high school, I forget exactly - some 10 years ago, or thereabouts.
In that time, the Pod XT had only just come out - Fractal Audio didn't exist - "home recording" meant hard-disk recorders like Tascam - digital guitar effects were still mostly rackmount units (at least the ones worth using). And hardware synths were.....almost exactly like they are now, but without midi-over-usb.

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here...I just really expected to be missing something. But a few more days of research shows that, bewilderingly, no. No I was not missing anything - what I hoped I had overlooked in fact does not exist.

*ok, I already have a laptop on stage for charts. But it's not related to the sound.
 
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happyrat1

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Actually the technology you're talking about DOES exist.

BUT, it AIN'T Lightweight and it AIN'T Cheap.

The Studioblade line of keyboards are exactly what you are talking about. Hardware workstations which are really fully functional high end computers dedicated to running VSTis and DAW softwares.

Starting around 5 grand for the 61 key version though, a fully loaded 88 Key model with all the options can run up to $12K!!! :eek:

http://musiccomputing.com/

http://musiccomputing.com/studioblade-5-88-key-windows/

You're not really wrong here but you're just way ahead of your time.

Remember, while you can mass market a computer to ANYONE, a high end musical workstation has a very limited customer base indeed.

The unique combination of musical talent, ability to play, ability to pay and willingness to buy amounts to about 1 in 1000 people.

Keyboards are still priced accordingly.

Consider the low end Casios and Yamahas as general consumer units sold as "student instruments."

The pro gear though? 1 in 1000 sounds about right. Maybe even 1 in 10,000 since every idiot teenager out there usually starts off with a guitar rather than a keyboard.

Gary ;)
 
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I'm after something similar. At the moment I cart my keyboard, a lightweight PA, and I use a BOSS eBand which plays MP3 files for me. It works fine but I'd like to have it all in the keyboard. It seems that since the 80s when I first started solo gigs my kit has grown considerably. In the early 80s all I had was a guitar, a keyboard and a drum machine.
 

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