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Posted on Wed, Oct 02 2013 15:28
by jmaryn
Joined on Sat, Dec 21 2002, Posts 16


What keyboards or synths work well with VSL? What keyboards/synths do you use?

It's time for a new keyboard controller or synth for VSL. Within a modest price range ($400 to $1200) what are some good keyboards or synths with good MIDI velocity that work well with VSL, other sample libraries and pianos?

Currently I have an 88-key M-audio keyboard and an M-audio 61 in the garage. There are too many HOT NOTES on the basic keyboard. This has become more apparent when playing with VSL and other samples, pianos and libraries--the playing is now unusable. I want to play in tracks with a good EVEN base velocity--the notes are even in volume--and where the velocity sensitivity works well--evenly and controlled coming out of the keyboard. I don't want to use a DAW or VSL to control the velocity after the fact, I want good MIDI velocity to come out of the keyboard as I play.

I'm not a formal pianist and thus don't need fully-weighted piano keys but I do like the feel of semi-weighted keys of the M-Audio series. I can go with synth keyboards as long as the keys respond well to velocity (hmmm). While I have been using controllers, I may now consider going to a piano-synth-arranger sounding keyboard (within price reason--can't afford the truly high-end workstations). A full-size rig won't work--the keyboard sits on a computer desk. The 88 keys hang 8" over each side with about a depth of 8". I can probably go to a depth of 12" or more. A -72 or -61 key module might be ok if I can manage key switching.

Open to suggestions and alternate solutions. Thanks all.


Posted on Wed, Oct 02 2013 20:07
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370

First off I wouldn't even consider buying a new one. 

What you may consider, is looking on EBay and typing in Kurzweil PC2 or PC2x 88 note weighted keyboard  and then asking the seller if it's near perfect. What you really want to know though is, are there any knocking sounds when the keys are pressed or hammered (played in other words). If there is, it means the pads under the keys have worn out. If not, then you will save yourself a lot of money compared to getting a new crappy make midi keyboard. 

I would not waste money on buying a new midi keyboard just for using with a computer, unless you are using it for external performances and then you would probably require something far more extensive than the ones you quoted.

Posted on Wed, Oct 02 2013 20:18
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370

There's a Kurzweil SP4 - 7 76 note semi-weighted ex demo open box in the USA buy it now for $799 right now on EBay I would look at. 

Check it out on YouTube.

Posted on Fri, Oct 11 2013 21:48
by jmaryn
Joined on Sat, Dec 21 2002, Posts 16

Hi Paul,

Sorry I didn't reply sooner. Thanks for the Kurzweil suggestions--that got me thinking that a better keyboard might be a worthwhile investment. I did see some other demo prices on Kurzweils as well. I normally don't buy used but we'll see. So thanks.

I have a temporary reprieve in that my M-audio 61 keyboard from the garage is working better with the velocity. There are some notes that are a bit off, but less so than on M-audio 88 keyboard. I don't like 61 keys anymore, I need to at least get in the 73 range.

I have to play the keyboard though. I did get to a Guitar Center here in the US. I almost didn't like any of feel of the keyboards. The closest possible was the Yamaha M0X8. They didn't have any Kurzweils. On others, either I didn't like the feel of the weighted keys or the synths were too plasticy with very little feel. Yikes. I read some nice things about the Korg Krome 88 as a synth but when I played it, it felt a little spongy. Some of the old keyboards had weighted action that you would need a jackhammer to play. Just shows that we all have different preferences

Not being a formal pianist, I would have to see how the Kurzweil feels. I know they are great keyboards.

My big concern is mostly being able to play these sample libraries so that I don't have to edit a million velocity notes. As I said, I'm not a trained pianist and so I need the moderate touch that lets you play VSL samples and get a generally even sound. I don't expect to have my fingers all play the same velocity but notes that blare out are not good. I'm also learning that samples are "sensitive" in that if I play descending third intervals softly, there may be some difference in timbre because of a velocity of a sample; play the same a little louder and other notes may be more prominent; and loud, even different again. I don't know if it is my imagination but the black keys seem to have a tendency to "jump out" even more in terms of velocity sensitivity--you play a brass sound, and one note might stick out a bit. I suspect that is actually something to do with how they build the keys.

New York has an AES (Audio Engineering Society) show next week and I may be able to get by and see Paul Steinbauer and Dietz give their demos. It's always a pleasure to see Paul do a demo. Then may try to hit one of the NY stores that might have Kurzweil's on floor display since there are likely no keyboard mfgs at the show. I used to be a NAMM regular with my old (former) job but those days are now over.

Take care, Paul. Thanks again and much appreciated.Playing high-quality samples that take advantage of velocity sensitivity is certainly an art. :-)


PS -- How do you put paragraph markers/line breaks in these forum posts?

Posted on Fri, Oct 11 2013 22:56
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370

I went over to Surrey a couple of days ago and picked up a Kurzweil PC2X I bought through EBay. It's exactly the same one as I already have but in newer and slightly better condition. About $750 US. Why spend £2699 on a Nord when all these things do is sit in the studio plugged into computer.

Posted on Tue, Mar 18 2014 15:11
by slacroix
Joined on Fri, Dec 18 2009, Posts 6
I know this is an older thread but I thought I would give it a try. Like John, I am looking to upgrade my keyboard. I'm so frustrated to not have 88 keys and have been exploring options with my local dealer. Of course, the problem is that the touch and feel of a keyboard is personal, so any comments here are appreciated but I know I have to somehow find one of these units to try!

My local dealer is recommending the following:

Korg Kross 88
Kurzweil SP4-8

However, in reviewing this thread, I can see that Paul was suggesting another Kurzweil. Current model is PC3K8.

I'm okay with a major investment if that will get me what I need. Like John, I want to play in parts accurately with little clean-up, besides mixing, on the other end in Logic or ProTools. I've been frustrated to not have the full keyboard for key switches. I know for Vienna I can use the App but other programs don't offer that option. I am not looking for a portable unit to travel with.

So, five months after John's original post, any thoughts? Appreciate the feedback.

[Paul - if you're reading this I'm loving my AngelBird drive!]
Posted on Tue, Mar 18 2014 18:17
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2370

Look - what you need to understand about elctronic keyboards is just ridiculous. I have been playing the damn things since the 1960s. First a Farfisa Combo then a Hammond L100 and then a Hammond B3 and onto a Moog in 1971 and then so on through the ages.

All these keyboards have one thing in common. They're actions are ALWAYS entirely different to the last one you had.

In short, it depends on how you play, what you want to play, what you want to put into the DAW and how fast you want to do it, basically how good you are at playing.

Over the years on the internet this question comes up time and again and it's impossible to give advice to people. I see people be very generous with their time and try, but to me it's a futile excercise. Its the same as saying to someone on the internet, THESE GOLF CLUBS ARE FANTASTIC!!! GET THEM. Without actually seeing the guy ever swing a club or knowing what his handicap is.

Bottom line probably is this when it comes to keyboards used for what we generally nowadays is this.

If you're just using an 88 for inputing notes into the DAW, then just about anything fairly good will do. As already mentioned, a second hand Yamaha, Kurzweil, Roland, etc should be good to go.

If you're interested in actually sitting there and playing when you're not inputing i.e. with the headphones directly into the back of the keyboard (could be just to play Bach or actually improvising for example) then go up a notch and get a good weighted action 88 second hand and go and see it first if at all possible.

I'm not really an expert, but I like to play around with this kind of thing on a weighted 88. It's just about quick enough and only really gets slow when playing stuff like Bach or Rachmaninoff.


Posted on Tue, Mar 18 2014 19:15
by jmaryn
Joined on Sat, Dec 21 2002, Posts 16

Hi siacroix,

Thought I might give you an update on my search. Way back, I spent several weeks going to music stores and playing every keyboard in each store--either -76 or -88 piano-like keyboards, or back to plasticy synths--61 keys is the norm. The 88's had a crazy range of touch all over the place. I really didn't like the feel of anything. As I am not a pianist, I don't need true piano action. I decided to hold off.

Yes, Kurzweil's are high on the list (PC3 series is most popular among pianists demoing at trade shows) but I saw none in any stores. And I haven't explored any new keyboards after NAMM. Yamaha MOXF8 was a good possibility but I didn't quite like the feel. Same with the Korg Kronos.

After my experience, my new advice is that you really need to play any keyboard first and see how it feels under your fingers. For myself, the keyboard action (or plasticy synth keys) have to feel right for my style of playing, as PaulR says. He is right in that most would be fine. Certainly, my velocity problems would go away with a new keyboard. I also had a Farfisa for many years.

Good luck. I'll eventually get a keyboard, or maybe just a synth.  -- John

Posted on Wed, Mar 19 2014 01:36
by andyjh
Joined on Wed, Dec 15 2010, Posts 600

In order to have good control of velocity, you really need a hammer action keyboard, and to use VSL effectively, you really need an 88 note keyboard.

If a key is too light, then it is too easy to get a high velocity, which means poor dynamic control,   the best piano like keyboard is the Kawai MP10 (or Kawai VPC1 master keyboard version).  It's not the cheapest (quality very rarely is).

Other instruments from Kurzweil, Clavia (Nord) and Doepfer all use the same keybed (Fatar TP40GH) - but although they will feel the same, they have different velocity curves, so they will not react the same to touch.

Good quality semi weighted keyboards are harder to find, unfortunatley manufacturers nowadays don't seem to care about putting awful keyboards in their instruments to keep the price down.

For anyone not used  to a heavier hammer action key, I would recommend using one and once you adapt to the controllable response, you would never go back.

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