Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

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Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 11 Jul 2014 20:46

Sorry sorry sorry if this isn't the correct board, I have a tendency to assume I'm getting it right, and not (though I'm relatively certain this would be it).

Anyway.. Okay, have a job lined out (First one, starting this Wednesday!), and aside from saving up for necessities like transportation and the like, I'd love to put a little back for a synthesizer. Nothing super flashy, but not something I'll be putting away once I become more learned. So I want it to have plenty capabilities, as long as it doesn't take more than a couple months to fully wrap my head around it. Or mostly wrap my head around it.

I mess with.. Erm, a slightly illegal copy of Ableton (Full intents to buy, even before I actually do anything with it, I simply "Obtained" it to see how it works, and love it. So yeah), so I'd like it to integrate fairly well with that.

Figure I should get the keyboard first, so I actually know what I'm doing with it by the time I legally own the DAW, opposed to jumping straight in and purchasing the DAW, making something I'll regret once I actually have some theory under my belt (Which I see a lot of - maybe without the regret, though). I know the basics of theory, it's just tough to get any more than that when i have to hit X or Z to go up or down an octave in Ableton.. Plus, ya know. Computer keyboards suck.

Sorry, off track here. As well as all of that, I'd like something I can easily use away from the computer as well. Not sure how well-off keyboards that can be plugged in, as well as battery powered are, so if anyone can enlighten, that'd be nice.

Sorry for being a bit.. Unknowing, just wondering and all. I have some in mind already, I'd just like to know what others might recommend. Hoping for something in the Six-Hundred dollar area, though anywhere up to around Fifteen-hundred is alright. I can wait, if it's worth it.

Thanks in advance, lemme know if I've gone and left some important specification out.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby itroitnyah » 11 Jul 2014 22:24

Erm, a slightly illegal copy of Ableton
irrelevant, all we really needed to know is that you use Ableton.

bunch of stuff about keyboards and using the synthesizer away from the computer
I'm not a synth expert so I can't say that there are hardware synths that you can really use away from the computer, since most don't come with speakers attached. I'm sure you can find some, but probably not without some sort of premium price tag. Some may have speaker connections but I strongly doubt that you'd find a synth with a battery to power it so using it away from a computer wouldn't be much different, and may be inefficient.

Alright, so after taking a quick look at some hardware synthesizers, I can suggest the Novation Bass Station II, which I believe I recall a user on this forum stating he owned one and liked it, so it seems like it'd be a decent choice, and then the Roland AIRA SYSTEM-1 PLUG-OUT which after a quick skim over looks like it has a few more controls than the Bass Station. Both are within your price range as well.

But once again, I'm not a hardware synthesizer genie or anything, so if somebody like ACSII comes onto here, aka anybody who's done more research than me, they'll probably be able to give you better explanations and provide some other good choices for hardware synths.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 11 Jul 2014 23:01

itroitnyah wrote: irrelevant, all we really needed to know is that you use Ableton.


Noted. Have been asked whether or not I used legitimate software by friends before, given that I'm generally unemployed, though I take it based on the state of this community (Personally know.. Three people, with pirated copies of FL, acquainted with a few others), it's not important to anyone. So I won't bother mentioning again.


Onto the actual hardware.

Only issue I have with these two, and I knew I was forgetting something, is the small keybed. Should have specified that I looking for something with 61 keys. Can't stand small keybeds, personally.

And regarding the portability issue, I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting. Might just be keyboards with massive soundbanks from the get-go, lacking actual in-depth synthesis that I'd be able to tote around. In which case, if someone has a recommendation there, I'd also be happy to listen.

Okay, if it's capable of making noise, tweaking noise with a modest degree of depth, as well as some level of portability, I'd love to hear about it. Assuming it's recommended.

Again, have some general keyboards I've been looking at, would just like personal recommendations.

And if I'm being obscure in some regard, happy to try and clarify.

Thank you again.


EDIT: Upon personal investigation, I've found most Keyboard Synths to my liking to be more around 2k.

Hm

Well, hey, if it's worth it.. Still not out of consideration, I guess.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby eery » 12 Jul 2014 05:35

I'm not really sure if its just a midi controller you want or an actual synth. A midi controller can work as a simple piano interface, that wont emit any sound on its own, but will control the synths inside ableton. They're usually way cheaper, and software synths are also cheaper(or often free, even.) Of course, you might not want to go for something like it, since you won't be able to use it without having ableton open. If you don't have a dedicated ASIO drive, things like output lag might also be a bother.

Most synths really dont come with a intense 61 keyboard either, a lot of them come without it (Most modular stuff, granted), and expect you to have a midi controller yourself.

I'd consider your options and budget, and your need for mobility and how much you need something to make noises outside of the computer. If you're thinking about getting something for practise, used keyboards(like samplebased ones, not synths) are usually supercheap.

hope this was of at least somewhat help.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 12 Jul 2014 06:04

I'm aware (At least generally, I guess) of the differences in keyboards. More-so learned in Midi and "Sample-based" than Synthesizer though, so I've just been needing help finding decent pieces. I just have a thing about personalized responses over reviews..

I've been messing with VST Synths, and the goal here is to find something I can mess with, learn what all does what, and just mess around with when I'm not actively learning, while I'm away from the computer. Synthesis is something I've reeeeaaaaallly wanted to better understand, and I've just figured that having something physical to fiddle with while I'm not able to use the computer (Technically my older brother's - He's encouraging me to get something I can actually design sound with as well. If only so we can have someone who actually knows how in the family) would be great.

But it all depends. If something in the 61 area does wind up being unreasonable, something smaller is alright. Though I'd prefer to avoid the two-octave beds.. Suppose since anything 61 seems to be ungawdly expensive, 44 would be fine as well.

I might go for a midi controller if I had a computer at constant access, but seeing as I don't, eh. No, something I can simply plug my headphones into and use in more than one spot might be a little better for me. And in the event actual production doesn't go well (doesn't seem to for quite a few), and I feel the need to ease up, having something fun to simply play with away from Ableton, and the inevitable shame that would be manifesting would prooobably be nice.

Rambling.

I'll go with something with Sound-Banks in a last resort situation. Heck, I, for some reason, received a phonebook's worth of gear advertising from Sweetwater a while back. Seeing a few fairly well priced Synths here that might do well. Just wanting personal recommendations on top of everything else.

And again, awful rambling, I hope anyone reading can follow to some degree.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Acsii » 12 Jul 2014 18:37

Okay so you want a synthesiser :3 good choice. First of all roughly how much are you willing to spend, as a budget will allow me to tailor the choices more. One point though, don't get the Roland system-1 it is terrible.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby itroitnyah » 12 Jul 2014 22:40

Acsii wrote:First of all roughly how much are you willing to spend, as a budget will allow me to tailor the choices more.
Hoping for something in the Six-Hundred dollar area, though anywhere up to around Fifteen-hundred is alright. I can wait, if it's worth it.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby JayB » 13 Jul 2014 00:28

My first thought went to Roland. Their synths usually have a really nice interface, is you look e.g. At the JP-8000 or the GAIA, however, they all have less than 61 keys. A synth with a very decent sound (in fact, the sound is one of the best I know) and with 61 keys is the Yamaha AN1x, but the interface is not the simplest.

Hmm...

Novation, Arturia, all synths with a nice interface, but only few keys, like 25 or something. I suppose you don't want to get into the world of digital waverom based synthesizers? This would make it far easier to find something with 61 keys - and interfaces with many menus to step through. ^^
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 14 Jul 2014 17:28

Sorry for the late reply, crazy couple of days.

Ascii - What itroitnyah said, though I suppose I it's absolutely worth it, the most I'd be willing to pay is around two-thousand dollars.

JayB - The Yamaha An1X does look appealing, though after a quick google, they aren't being sold in many places. One on eBay for around 500 USD, but I'm not seeing anything else on the immediate results.

JayB wrote:I suppose you don't want to get into the world of digital waverom based synthesizers? This would make it far easier to find something with 61 keys - and interfaces with many menus to step through. ^^


Not sure if I'm not just getting this, or if it's oddly worded. Mind telling a little bit about "Digital Waveform-Based Synthesizers", and what they offer? I'm primarily just looking for something that sounds nice, and something I'll be able to get a decent amount out of. Don't mind what type, as long as it fits the criteria I'm hoping for. Or is just in the area, even.

Thanks again!
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Acsii » 14 Jul 2014 19:04

Okay next question do you want a monophonic (one note at a time) or a polyphonic (More than one note at a time) synth?
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 14 Jul 2014 20:23

Acsii wrote:Okay next question do you want a monophonic (one note at a time) or a polyphonic (More than one note at a time) synth?


Most definitely polyphonic.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby JayB » 14 Jul 2014 23:19

Auburn Skies wrote:Not sure if I'm not just getting this, or if it's oddly worded. Mind telling a little bit about "Digital Waveform-Based Synthesizers", and what they offer? I'm primarily just looking for something that sounds nice, and something I'll be able to get a decent amount out of. Don't mind what type, as long as it fits the criteria I'm hoping for. Or is just in the area, even.

Thanks again!


Not waveform, but waveROM. That means that the basic sound is not generated in real time (e.g. virtual analog synthesis), but is based on samples which are then tweaked using subtractive synthesis. These are the synths are can also do acoustic instruments like piano, guitars, strings etc. They usually don't have a user interface that's filled with knobs and sliders.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Acsii » 15 Jul 2014 00:18

Auburn Skies wrote:
Acsii wrote:Okay next question do you want a monophonic (one note at a time) or a polyphonic (More than one note at a time) synth?


Most definitely polyphonic.

Okay my two recommendations are the Novation Ultranova, which is $700 from sweet water and also has a vocoder inbuilt. And the DSI Mopho X4 which is analog so will give you a better understanding of how each part of the synth is impacting the sound, however this one is $1300 from sweet water.

Or if you feel like spending closer to your max. There is the Nord Lead A1. It may be analog modelling however Nord just have a aura to them that makes them amazing. although it comes at a price as it's $1800 from Sweet Water.

The DSI and the Nord will give you the most ease of use and control over the sound, but are obviously more expensive.

Anyway Happy Shopping. :)
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 15 Jul 2014 17:13

JayB - Sorry for the typo. Not sure if it was autocorrect, or me just reading it wrong.

Although I'd much prefer something knobs, sliders, etc., if you'd personally recommend something like this, I'll certainly look into it. Where I do want something that primarily synthesizes, I did think I was cutting my losses in that I might not get any actual Piano-like sounds. If a "Waverom" Synth can fix that, I'll at least check it out. Though it might be more likely that I just pick up a regular midi keyboard, and a nice library somewhere down the line. Ivory keys, or something. Not sure. Anyway, if something in the area is recommended, lemme hear it.

Ascii - Issue I do have with the Ultranova, as well as the Moph X4, is the smaller keybeds. Both are 37, if I remember correctly? Unsure. Ultranova has still been tossed around in my mind, despite all of that. Will look into the DSI.

Nord has been a major contender since I decided to look into Synths. Have just been unsure of exactly what to go for. Despite it being a 49 Keybed, if you recommend the A1, I'll definitely be doing research on that. Definitely willing to compromise 12 keys for great sound.

Oh, and on a side-note, I've always wondered; Is there any way I could route a synth to work as a midi keyboard? Not so much all of the knobs, sliders, and the like, as those don't matter toooo much to me, but the keybed? Just wondering if it's possible, in between the time I have the synth, and the time I decide to go for a midi board.

Oh, and any immediate recommendations on that? Figure since so many popular synths are less than 61 keys, I can just grab a large-bedded Midi keyboard. Can just route the synth through it at any rate, right? Hmm. Would that open up more octaves, or would it be limited to the number of keys on the actual Synth? Can't imagine it would.

Anyway, as well as some items from M-audio, and Akai, I've been looking at Novation's SL MkII. Seems well enough, though if there's anything else out there, ready to hear it.

Thanks!
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Acsii » 16 Jul 2014 02:25

On the note of using them as a midi keyboard. Most have midi jacks on them. so you'll need a midi interface for that which also reminds me you will need an audio interface to record the synthesiser into the computer and most audio interfaces have a midi interface inbuilt. So yea it's possible.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Auburn Skies » 16 Jul 2014 07:35

Alright, wasn't sure.

Doesn't really matter anymore, though. Fired in the middle of training (literally like, thirty minutes ago), on account of not having a car. At sixteen. Sigh. And living in a kinda backwater place, not sure I'll be able to find somewhere that won't be so hard on me very soon.

So ehhhh. Sigh. Appreciated all the same. Just gonna take a liiiiittle bit longer to get anything saved up, haha.
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Re: Advice on buying a first-time synthesizer keyboard?

Postby Pulse Wave » 24 Jul 2014 23:58

61 key synth for $600, that's tough.

JayB already mentioned the Yamaha AN1x which is pretty good and underrated, but the control surface isn't exactly intuitive, no one-knob, one-function surface.

Another option would be the Novation KS5 which is wonderfully tweakable and cheap but not easy to find — few people wanted it when it was new because those on a budget bought MicroKorgs, and everyone else bought Viruses, Supernovas, Nord Leads and such —, it isn't too difficult to overload its DSPs, and it might not sound exciting enough.

Now if you're willing to save up more as you already said, you may have a look at Access Virus kb, Access Virus KC, Novation Supernova II (maybe also the Supernova I) or even the Waldorf Q (I'm not sure which of these where even available in your neck of the woods).

Sample-based synths as mentioned by my countrypony as well have a broader range of sounds and can also produce acoustic (piano, strings, horns and whatnot) and electric (Hammond, Rhodes etc.) sounds, but if it comes to real synth stuff like Moog, ARP, Prophet, Jupiter, 303 and what-have-you (for those who know zilch about 20th century synths: They work somewhat like Massive or Synth1), virtual-analogue synths like the ones I named blow them straight out of the water.

That said, $600 may even buy you a real analogue classic, a Roland JX-8P, if you're willing to go menu-diving with non-descript menus (two-digit numbers for parameters instead) or pay extra for the PG-800 programmer, and if you can live with a 30-year-old synth that will sooner or later need maintenance. Now if you go up to $1500, that might even be enough for the DSI Prophet '08 which is a real analogue, too, but only a few years old.
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