Best Midi Master Keyboard?

Maybe it has been asked before, but what is the current Midi Master Keyboard in use with your hardware synths (DIY or otherwise)?

As I have been setting up my home studio, and being an absolute noob on these matters, I have seen an enormous variation as to keyboard size and type.

I currently have an M-Audio 49 and an Alesis Q25. Both have been bought cheap, and up to now have been useful enough not to feel I made a bad choice, but I am yearning for something better.

Right now, I am betting on getting a Novation Impulse 61, but I have no clue how good it could be with our MI stuff. It does have plenty of faders, pads and a very well regarded semi-weighted key action including aftertouch, but I don´t know if it is too geared towards DAW´s and soft-synths. Would my money be better spent elsewhere?

I plan to test one more thoroughly today.

Oh boy, this is a big one. Depends on what you want it for. I have two controller keyboards, a Roland A37 and Roland A90. The A37 is cool because it is light, has two MIDI outs and is really easy to use. The A90 has a nice feel, has 4 MIDI outs (very handy) and is the EX model so it has a synth built in. But, my 'druthers are different than yours most likely. I’m a piano player, so I wanted a good action, and I’m old school, so I didn’t care about USB or controlling a DAW. I just wanted something solid to control multiple synths.

I would not buy either of these again 'though. Both of these spit out a constant stream of MIDI messages, can’t remember which one, but it is completely unnecessary. And the A90’s feel comes from some metal filled plastic counterweights under the keys, which are now full of hairline fractures and need to be replaced. All 88 of them.

If I were to do this again, I probably wouldn’t buy another controller. I bought both of these because of the multiple MIDI outs, and admittedly these are very handy. With the A90, I have the keyboard split, and one out controlling a Shruthi ladder for bass, then the right hand side of the keyboard has one out controlling four other Shruthis, another out controlling an iPad and the final out controlling a PreenFM.

What I would do is buy a synth I like that actually makes sounds, and a separate controller box thingie to control other stuff, such as DAWs, drum machines, bird calls or whatever else suddenly becomes popular and more or less useful.

Its active Sensing… 0xFE… old Roland “Feature”

Personally i route everything thru my Sequencer wether it be a DAW or some Hardware Thingie, so i dont care as much for Controllers as i care for the Keyboard. Currently im using a ESQ-1, but my favourite Synth Keyboard is the WaveStations. But im a Piona Player as well so dont truste me :wink:

double post…

I use a Kawai K5000s as it has a high-quality Fatar mechanism. It’s a bit fast (synth-ish) and a medium-to-light key feel for fast runs. Better players like @piscione would probably prefer a more weighted action.

The synth is nice, and sports a few knobs that send cc:s. Plus, the arpeggiator is killer and sends MIDI too.

Once I thought that the Ensoniqs that send Polyphonic AT were the bees knees, but those felt very plasticky to my hands. Poly AT is nice though.

The setbacks of the NDVR gang trying to reintroduce Poly AT (I don’t count the horrible, buggy low-cost thing from CME) show that today’s crop of low-cost USB MIDI keybeds are cheap and flimsy. There might be good options, but then it becomes expensive. Protip: Go play something before buying it!

The old semi-weighted Novations are also good IMHO.

@Pichione thanks for the input.

The Novation Impulse 61 has only one midi out, and I was also wondering how I would go about using 1 master keyboard and not having to plug-unplug each time I wanted to use one synth, or have multiple synths connected with just 1 midi out on the keyboard.

Are there any cable-magic or box-magic things I could buy/make to have this “patching” and only one midi cable coming from the keyboard?

That’s it, thanks Frank! There is also no way to turn it off.

My MIDI setup is kinda simple but kinda complex at the same time. I run everything into a MIDI patchbay so I’m not pulling cables all of the time. If you get a small MIDI patchbay, particularly one with patch memory, you don’t really need multiple MIDI outs. You can run a single MIDI in to multiple outs. Search for my name on YouTube (Randy Piscione) and have a look at my most recent, although long-winded as usual, studio tour.

I use this:

Gee, thanks J! +1 on the Kawai actions, I had a K3 for many years and loved the action. Might partly xxplain why the thing weighed so much considering it’s size.

Before anything: - 3000 for klonky klong Novilation implosion 61. Their Midi Remote´s are +/- in terms of keybed, but don´t expect too much, they are playable, but not great.

If you know how you like most to play, what you would like to do and wasn´t able to so far, knowing this will, help (you) in pin down what kind of model of masterkeyboard you need/want.

My main concern wouldn´t be faders and controllers, but the keybed in first place, then keyboard split zones, midi channel switching control, dual midi out, onboard multitrack sequencer, some rotary encoder, maybe an arpeggiator.

My favourite non-hammer action keybed is the SQ80, followed by XP-30 and QM Cyber6, on these I can express most of my playing. After this only hammer action keybeds can “help” me.

The SQ80 has a good keybed with polyphonic aftertouch, very rare, but then to control different midi channels…well, not so master keyboard.

The XP-30 keybed is as good as the SQ80 but has only monophonic aftertouch, the plus is you get a ton of sounds extra, and the XP30 sounds good, as full as a xv5080 not like a thin jv2080. You can switch between 16 parts/midi channels quite good, but not really masterkeyboard like.

The Cyber6 has a great keybed and the best control over multi channel midi, please read up on it on the net. (((On a QM Sirius is where I sketch most often than not in no time my musical ideas together. Keybed is simple, only dynamics, no AT, not klonky, but it has the best performance/seq/arp control bundled with a +/- soundengine. On a side note: I hate computer sequencer.)))

From those 3 or 4, the Cyber6 as a (no-hammer action) master midi controller is unbeatable, unless you build your own (eierlegendewollmilchsau) controller . . . but then you spent lots of time to plan and building instead of making music and having fun, well planning and building is fun too :slight_smile:

If you are up into full hammer-action keybeds, Casio might sound cheesy in first place, but they actually have very good feeling actions, not equal to a Rolaundry Digi Piano for $10-15K, but for around $1000 top hammer action+8Track-sequencer+master keyboard controller functions: PX5s.
Or Rolaundry xv88 or A90 also played them until they gave up, sold years ago.

I don´t know!
It depends on what I wrote in 2nd paragraph and on how much you would like to spend on it.

Best all around, not too expensive, very easy programmable (over Combutar), good keybed, would be anything from Novilations Remote series, mk2 or mk1 both good, great for multiple control templates available through rotary encoder, for VST super easy, for my hardware synths I have to program more of them into the my Remote 37 SL.

Other alternatives: Yamihuha KX series, Edipopel PCR series, the new Rolaundry A800pr0 or A 88

For midi out problems build an easy midi thru x5

Or Hotchk155´s midi thru here
and midi splitter here

An easy midi router / switcher: look for Kawai midi patchbays

Also what Jojelito said: best is to try it out before buying :wink: (theres is so much crap out today: m-audio full weight plasticbrick, cme, and what not)

I’ve had a Novation SL25 for some time and while the construction was a bit plastic and the knobs a bit fiddly, the keybed wasn’t bad. It’s the standard synth action Fatar keyboard you find also in many synths. It has a motherload of controls, faders and buttons, I had everything on the shruthi mapped to it… though then I never really used the mapping :slight_smile: in the end I have a harder time remembering where everything is on the controller than flipping through some pages on the Shruti. But maybe that’s just me.
Of course if you want a real keyboard, maybe something with hammer action look elsewhere. You could get yourself a Studiologic/Fatar Numa and add some controller like the Novation ReMote or a Behringer BCR on top of that…

and +1 for the through box. it’s really as easy as that :slight_smile:

The old roland master keyboards were really nice, you could set up presets will all sorts of complicated midi routings and they had poly aftertouch to boot. I had an a-50 I liked a lot which was the 73 key version, the a-80 was the bigger one.

Most of the modern midi controllers feel like crap to me and I’m hardly a great player. I’d take pretty much any old synth or sampler from the 80’s over the shit they churn out these days.

Back in the day I sometimes saw the old Yamahaha KX-88 and such. I was addicted to the synth as a sound source so I kinda never got sold on the master keyboard idea. Plus, being a teen I didn’t exactly have lots of money haha. Today I’d pick up an old Yama, or similar in a New York minute.

Some old synths have very nice keybeds! The old Wavestation came with something really HQ from Yamaha. My Chroma Polaris has a really nice woody feeling semi-weighted action as a bonus to the fantastic-sounding synth engine onboard. If I ever got to learn playing for real I’d probably dig it even more.

Well, I tend to use an AKAI MPK 61 for the computer. I tend to use whatever synth I am currently in love with as the controller for the hardware.
The nice thing about using a DAW with the MPK is that the DAW will remember all of the mappings for the knobs and sliders. I also like how all the knobs on it are smooth rotary encoders + one clicky one. The response of the keyboard is pretty good too. I’ve been using mine for a long time now and it still works like new.
If you want a keyboard with “hammer weighted action”, I would recommend the Alesis QS 8. It is around 300$ and has a pretty cool synth and drum machine inside. No knobs, but great if you need that piano action.
Also, having a synth with some empty space will give you a great pace to sit a Shruthi or two.
+1 on the midi thru box.
+1 on the K5000S because I really like it.

Who needs a Polaris AND a VS - NOW GIVE IT TO ME!
Or else i claim you have chemical mass destruction weapons - at least when you cook Stockfisch or something…


DX7ii or DX7S. Fantastic action, good left hand section, breath input, sustain pedal. Dirt cheap, built extremely well. The default velocity curve is very natural to me, and it really makes you play well. Believe me, I have a Grotrian piano. The dx7s is my favorite synth action. if you don’t need a left hand mod section, a cheap Yamaha digital piano can be a good kx88 type thing.