Midi controllers with 4+ zones?


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I'm in the market for a new midi controller, and there is very little info on which ones can split into more than 4 or more zones, unless I comb through user manuals!

I currently use an Axiom Pro, which despite it's widely reported issues has been ok for me because when I perform I only use it as a midi controller for an external sound module. Since I haven't had a computer up until now, the need for software integration hasn't been an issue.

I do have a computer now and want to upgrade to a better keyboard with software integration so I can start incorporating it into performances, but still want the same functionality from a MIDI standpoint that the Axiom Pro has!

Here's what I need from the controller:

First and foremost, it HAS to have 4 or more zones, so I can layer tones from my sound module in the same way that I'm doing it now.

49+ keys, 61+ would obviously be preferable

Lots of presets, like more than 20 if possible

The ability to program sustain and expression pedals to do more than just sustain and volume...ie cutoff/resonance filter settings, portamento etc.


I know this probably narrows it down to only a few choices, and the new M-Audio ctrl 49 probably fits the bill the best, since it's basically the newest version of what the Axiom Pro is supposed to be. However, knowing how many problems the Pro has, it makes me hesitant to purchase another m-audio product. Also it only comes in a 49 key version.

I've also seen that the Nektar Panorama series splits into 4 zones, but don't have much other info about it. I think the Behringer Motor also splits into 4+ zones.

Any recommendations? Or other solutions anyone might have? I know having a computer can resolve some of these needs, but since I'm not adept with it yet, I'm not going to be incorporating it into performance for awhile, and need the controller to have these functions while I'm transitioning.

Thanks in advance!
 
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happyrat1

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I can't address your specifics directly, but the top names in controllers include the Akai MPK series, Studiologic, and Arturia Keystations.

Any of these brands would be an instant step up from the M-Audio line of controllers.

Gary ;)
 

Fred Coulter

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Just curious. If you're moving to a computer based approach, couldn't you use the computer to set up zones, etc.? I know that there are MIDI processors out there that will take a MIDI signal, split it, process it, do all sorts of cool things with it, and then send pieces to separate programs. (Or just change the MIDI channel of different notes and send it to the same software.)

Also, how the heck to you play four separate zones in four octaves? Aren't you cramped for space? Or are some of the zones really just one note wide to trigger certain sounds or pre-programmed chords? And if that's the case, I'd look at a controller with built in pads, too.
 

SeaGtGruff

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As far as I know, keyboards that have "zones" let you define their channels, octaves, key ranges, etc. So basically, a zone can be used with a split, with a layer, or both. Also, there isn't a "split point" per se, because the boundaries of each zone define where the "split points" are.

For example, with four zones you could have one zone that spans the entire keyboard, plus a second zone that spans just the bottom half of the keyboard, plus a third zone that spans the middle of the keyboard, plus a fourth zone that spans the top half of the keyboard, such that the keyboard is split between the second and fourth zones with no overlap, but the third zone overlaps the top part of the second zone and the bottom part of the fourth zone, and the first zone overlaps all of the other zones.

You're correct that software can create all sorts of splits and layers. I think the only real advantage of being able to do it on the keyboard controller itself is that the controller can send patch changes to the sound module(s) on the appropriate channels for each zone, rather than having to manage the patch changes with software.
 

Fred Coulter

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I'll bow to your superior knowledge. I was thinking that you'd merely set the split point, not that you could create overlapping zones, etc.

Still not sure how much room you've got to work with on a four octave keyboard, but I suppose it could be done.
 

SeaGtGruff

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Actually, zones can very useful, because if you define four different zones, each spanning the entire keyboard and playing a different voice on a different channel, you can layer any two or more of them together, or you can switch back and forth between each of the four voices at will-- sort of like four different registrations, except you can use them in layers and/or splits if you wish. :)
 
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happyrat1

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Other uses for zones include control functions. For instance you can set up a zone of a single key to toggle a riff or loop for accompaniment and as Michael has already mentioned you can also set up zones to overlap as well as set various splitpoints so you can create some pretty rich mixes.

Gary ;)
 

SeaGtGruff

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Yes, you can usually set the various controls (wheels, sliders, buttons, knobs, pads, etc.) to different types of MIDI messages for each zone. They can be very powerful and useful! :)
 
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I have the Nektar lx88+...it has 3 zones and splits...however, the panorama I'm sure will fit the bill nicely. Everything on it is pretty much assignable and can be changed and customized...including the pedals.

Further, it has pads and sliders that you can easily assign to various controls. The pads can even be set to another MIDI channel aside from the keys to give you an additional sound source....possibilities are truly in your hands. And keys feel nice too...

If you want weighted...the SL88 studio is perfect. 4 zones, each one completely independent of the other OR they can all work together. Like having 4 layered controllers in 1. Each zone can have it's own velocity setting as well as pedal setting. Pretty good stuff.
 

SeaGtGruff

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Getting back for a moment to the usefulness of zones, another benefit-- aside from creating splits and layers-- is that if you've got multiple sound modules or instruments, each programmed to respond to a specific MIDI channel, each zone can be used to play a different instrument, making it quick and easy to switch back and forth between them by toggling the appropriate zones on or off. Registrations or memory locations can also be set up for different channels, such that you can switch to a different instrument or sound module by recalling a different registration.
 
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Getting back for a moment to the usefulness of zones, another benefit-- aside from creating splits and layers-- is that if you've got multiple sound modules or instruments, each programmed to respond to a specific MIDI channel, each zone can be used to play a different instrument, making it quick and easy to switch back and forth between them by toggling the appropriate zones on or off. Registrations or memory locations can also be set up for different channels, such that you can switch to a different instrument or sound module by recalling a different registration.

You don't need zones to switch global midi channels. My controller can do it by assigning the octave up/down or transpose buttons to the global channel. One zone.
 
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SeaGtGruff

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I hadn't even considered the global channel, so that's a good point! There are multiple ways you can switch between different sound modules using one controller. I was focused on zones because Fred had wondered why one would need that many zones on a 49-key controller.
 
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I'm in the market for a new midi controller, and there is very little info on which ones can split into more than 4 or more zones, unless I comb through user manuals!

I currently use an Axiom Pro, which despite it's widely reported issues has been ok for me because when I perform I only use it as a midi controller for an external sound module. Since I haven't had a computer up until now, the need for software integration hasn't been an issue.

I do have a computer now and want to upgrade to a better keyboard with software integration so I can start incorporating it into performances, but still want the same functionality from a MIDI standpoint that the Axiom Pro has!

Here's what I need from the controller:

First and foremost, it HAS to have 4 or more zones, so I can layer tones from my sound module in the same way that I'm doing it now.

49+ keys, 61+ would obviously be preferable

Lots of presets, like more than 20 if possible

The ability to program sustain and expression pedals to do more than just sustain and volume...ie cutoff/resonance filter settings, portamento etc.


I know this probably narrows it down to only a few choices, and the new M-Audio ctrl 49 probably fits the bill the best, since it's basically the newest version of what the Axiom Pro is supposed to be. However, knowing how many problems the Pro has, it makes me hesitant to purchase another m-audio product. Also it only comes in a 49 key version.

I've also seen that the Nektar Panorama series splits into 4 zones, but don't have much other info about it. I think the Behringer Motor also splits into 4+ zones.

Any recommendations? Or other solutions anyone might have? I know having a computer can resolve some of these needs, but since I'm not adept with it yet, I'm not going to be incorporating it into performance for awhile, and need the controller to have these functions while I'm transitioning.

Thanks in advance!
Casio Privia Pro PX-5S - has 4 zones, great piano action, and 88 keys.
 

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