Recommend me a good keyboard to work with Cubase under £300 ($500)?

Discussion in 'Keyboard Purchase Recommendations' started by lordofthepie, Oct 15, 2014.

  1. lordofthepie

    lordofthepie

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    I have recently got myself a Cubase setup with Audiobox USB interface. As my Technics keyboard has recently died, I am looking to purchase a replacement, but I have some specific requirements and hope someone can point me in the right direction within my budget.

    My shopping list is as follows:

    I would like it to integrate it as seamlessly as possible within Cubase 5.1. Possibly any keyboard which you have installed the drivers and is recognised by the software is much of muchness, but as a newbie I don't know. I hope to do most of my arranging/sequencing/recording within Cubase so I don't particularly need this on the keyboard. As I am teaching myself Cubase with a couple of fat manuals, I would like the use of the keyboard to be simple and intuitive as much as it can be.

    A large range of sounds. The sounds I like particularly are vintage Hammond, certain traditional instruments (strings, flute, harpsichord, piano), and I also love more exotic flavours from the Middle East and Asia. What would be ideal is if the keyboard natively supported a good range of sounds, with the option of importing others. I am not looking so much to try create and programme my own sounds any time soon, as that would be too much of a time consuming distraction. I am looking to use the keyboard BOTH as a midi controller, and also as an audio instrument to record through a Microphone.

    The quality of the sounds. I have seen a Casio CTK-7200 for £279 which seems a good deal for all the abundant features, but someone suggested that for the same money I'd be better with the lower specced Yamaha psr-e443 - the idea being that I would not use many of the additional features on the CTK-7200 and many people think the Yamaha has better quality sounds.

    A nice to have would be a pitch bending wheel, which is totally unnecessary but I thought a cool feature on the old Technics keyboard, and I would prefer to not have less than 61 keys.


    Please note, I am not expecting something all singing and all dancing on a pittance. I am just stating what I would like, in the hope of getting as many of my desired features within my budget.

    Thanks for reading!
     
    lordofthepie, Oct 15, 2014
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  2. lordofthepie

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    I have a PSR-E443 and am happy with it. It's definitely a lower-end keyboard-- i.e., it isn't as capable as the next-higher PSR-S650 (which costs a lot more)-- but it's the highest of Yamaha's low-end keyboards, and paradoxically it has some features not found on the PSR-S650 and some of the other high-end arrangers, namely "patterns" (similar to "styles" but not the same) and a pair of assignable "live control" knobs for modifying the cutoff frequency, resonance amount, reverb depth, chorus depth, attack time, and release time as you're playing. Although the PSR-E443 certainly isn't a synthesizer, the two live control knobs essentially make it an "almost-synthesizer."

    I don't have a CTK-7200, but I'm definitely interested in it, and I was severely torn between buying the PSR-E443 or the CTK-7200 when the PSR-E443 came out earlier this year. The CTK-7200 has more features than the PSR-E443, and one of the features I'm especially interested in is the set of sliders for modifying the drawbar organ sounds. The sliders are also used for other things-- e.g., adjusting the volume and panning of the various MIDI channels-- but I'm not sure whether they can be used to adjust cutoff, resonance, attack, and release. In any case, the CTK-7200 might be a good choice if you're especially interested in organ sounds.

    Both keyboards have a pitch bend wheel, and the CTK-7200 also has a modulation button (the PSR-E443 doesn't have a modulation wheel, but does respond to modulation events under MIDI control). Both keyboards should function well as MIDI keyboard controllers for playing virtual instruments on your computer, and you can map some of the keyboards' controls in your DAW. For instance, even though the PSR-E443 doesn't have organ drawbars or sliders, you might be able to map its live control knobs to organ drawbars in a virtual instrument.

    As for the quality of the sounds, I think my PSR-E433 and PSR-E443 definitely sound better than my old CTK-710 or my nephew's WK-810, but I haven't heard the CTK-7200 yet so I can't compare them to it. If you're seriously interested in the PSR-E443 and CTK-7200 then I recommend you try them out side-by-side (if one of your local music stores has both of them set up) to see how their sounds and features compare and which one you like better.

    Neither the PSR-E443 nor the CTK-7200 can load new sounds (wave samples). Of course, if you use them as MIDI keyboard controllers for playing virtual instruments then you'll have access to a nearly limitless number of sounds. The PSR-E443 does have a nice selection of "world" instruments, by the way.
     
    SeaGtGruff, Oct 18, 2014
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  3. lordofthepie

    lordofthepie

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    Thank-you for the absolutely fantastic, comprehensive posting. I could have hardly asked for a much better one. I have ordered the PSR-E443 as I have got a good deal on one. Does it do a convincing early 70s Hammond sound? That is one of my favourites.

    I think you are right to get a keyboard with the best sounds in its price range rather than one with more features that you might not use. Might stray on your goodwill further to ask you a couple of more questions when I have had time to digest this a bit more.

    Thanks again, you are the man.
     
    lordofthepie, Oct 22, 2014
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  4. lordofthepie

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    Were you able to try out either the PSR-E443 or the CTK-7200 first? I wouldn't want you to order something purely on my (or anyone else's) recommendation without being able to try it out yourself beforehand to see if it's going to fit your needs and wants-- including things like the feel of the keys and the key action.

    Remember, the PSR-E443 doesn't have organ "drawbar" sliders like the CTK-7200 does. I believe the CTK-7200 also has a variable-speed rotary speaker effect, which again the PSR-E443 doesn't have. The PSR-E443 does have a few "drawbar organ" and "rotary organ" voices-- plus many other organ and related voices, e.g., accordion and harmonica voices (58 or 60 in all, depending on how you count them)-- but you won't be able to modify them the way you could on the CTK-7200 (you can modify their attack, release, cutoff, resonance, reverb, and chorus settings, but not their drawbar settings or rotary speed).

    But if you're going to use it as a MIDI keyboard controller for a DAW that has plenty of virtual instruments, you won't be limited to the keyboard's internal voices.

    I'm including a list of all 60 of the organ and related voices on the PSR-E443. The list is arranged in order by the Program Change and Bank Select numbers (which I haven't shown), rather than in the order the voices appear on the keyboard, so that "similar" voices are grouped together in the list. Two of the voices-- the ones I've put an asterisk in front of-- aren't "unique" voices, but are really duplicates of the voices that precede them in the list but with additional components, as I've noted in square brackets. Thus, the "Reggae Organ" voice is actually the same as the "Click Organ" voice but with one of the Arpeggio types added to it, and the "Full Organ" voice is the same as the "16'+4' Organ" voice but layered with a second voice-- actually, it's two copies of the "16'+4' Organ" voice layered together but with different octave settings, such that (if I'm not mistaken) it's essentially equivalent to a "16'+8'+4'+2' Organ" voice. Most of the voices on the PSR-E443 are "unique," by which I mean they have unique Bank Select and Program Change values; but there are also several voices which are actually duplicates of certain unique voices, but layered with a second (Dual) voice, or with one of the keyboard's Arpeggio or Harmony effects added to it. You can layer any of the unique voices together, or add an Arpeggio or Harmony effect, not to mention tweaking the attack, release, cutoff, resonance, reverb, and chorus parameters-- so even though there are "only" 58 unique voices in the "organ/accordion" category, you can create many variations of them.

    As I said in my other post, it's a "lower-end" keyboard-- it's marketed toward beginners (the "E" is for "Educational," as it includes the built-in "Yamaha Education Suite")-- and someone who's gotten used to playing a higher-priced (and sturdier) arranger keyboard might not be happy with it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it when it arrives!

    Drawbar Organ 1
    Detuned Drawbar Organ
    60s Drawbar Organ 1
    60s Drawbar Organ 2
    70s Drawbar Organ 1
    Drawbar Organ 2
    60s Drawbar Organ 3
    Even Bar Organ
    16+2'2/3 Organ
    Organ Bass
    70s Drawbar Organ 2
    Cheezy Organ
    Drawbar Organ 3
    Jazz Organ 1
    Jazz Organ 2
    Bright Organ
    Percussive Organ 1
    70s Percussive Organ
    Detuned Percussive Organ
    Light Organ
    Percussive Organ 2
    Click Organ
    * Reggae Organ [Arpeggio Voice]
    Rock Organ
    Rotary Organ
    Slow Rotary Organ
    Fast Rotary Organ
    Rock Organ
    Purple Organ
    Cool! Rotor Organ
    Cool! Organ
    Theater Organ
    Church Organ 1
    Church Organ 3
    Church Organ 2
    Notre Dame
    Organ Flute
    Tremolo Organ Flute
    Pipe Organ
    Chapel Organ
    16'+4' Organ
    * Full Organ [Dual Voice]
    16'+2' Organ
    Reed Organ
    Puff Organ
    Reed Organ
    Harmonium 1 (Single Reed)
    Harmonium 2 (Double Reed)
    Harmonium 3 (Triple Reed)
    Accordion
    Accord It
    Musette Accordion
    Traditional Accordion
    Harmonica 1
    Harmonica 2
    Harmonica
    Modern Harp
    Tango Accordion 1
    Tango Accordion 2
    Bandoneon
     
    SeaGtGruff, Oct 22, 2014
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  5. lordofthepie

    lordofthepie

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    Oops, sorry Michael but I took your recommendation as legally binding and if my Yamaha does not sound better than a Steinway Grand Piano, then you will be hearing from my lawyer :)

    But seriously, no I did not hear them side by side, but here in the UK online purchases are protected for 14 days in which you can return if dissatisfied. Also, although I did not hear the two keyboard live, I did look at quiet a few Youtube demos (far from perfect I know) and did quiet a lot of research online. The bottom line is that most people say that the Yamahas sound better than Casios, and even though I was looking at a keyboard with more keys and a considerably higher spec at a good price; I thought that as I will probably not use many of those features, and I paid a good price for the Yamaha too (only about £100 more than a fairly modest MIDI only keyboard I was considering), what was most important was the sound and ease of use (some say the Casio's are not very intuitive either). Although it is a subject on which my knowledge is minimal, I think drawbar sliders are generally used for manipulating your tone on the hop - which is something I doubt I will feel the need for soon, so I was not that bothered by the loss of that either. I also decided to replace myTechnics KN2600, which seem to get upset when attached to Cubase by MIDI cables, and as Yamaha own Steinberg, the Yamaha keyboard was likely to be a good match.

    I have the keyboard now and am generally happy with it, although there are a few niggles. I was disappointed that some ethnic 'tones' such as the 'Indian' and 'Arabic' were just percussive loops, the pan pipes were not convincing, and generally the sounds are no better than the Technics keyboard - a model that is 9 years old. However, this reinforces my idea that this was the right choice because if these sounds are no improvement on my current keyboard, it is likely the Casio would have been inferior to it which would have been unacceptable. I like the fact that it has 'educative' features too - are these actually of any use or just a useless gimmick like glowing keys for learning songs? Overall though, it looks a fun and useable instrument and it was a good choice which I am not going to return (short of it blowing up in the next 10 days); and I thank you for your kind advice. Do you actually use yours for Cubase? If I can impose on your patience once more, I have a few more questions. Thanks
     
    lordofthepie, Oct 24, 2014
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  6. lordofthepie

    SeaGtGruff I meant to play that note! Moderator

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    Well, it does have some Chinese, Arabic, Indian, and Cuban percussion kits, and a few ethnic arpeggio voices-- but the ethnic voices I was referring to are the ones in the "World" category, voices 198 through 234. There are four more in the "XG World" category, voices 680 through 683.

    As for the pan flutes and some of the other voices, you might want to try any corresponding XGlite voices, because they may not sound the same-- e.g., they might not have the tremolo effect.

    I don't have Cubase, but I've used my PSR-E433 and E443 with various others DAWs, VSTi plug-ins, and soft synths, so feel free to ask away!?
     
    SeaGtGruff, Oct 25, 2014
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