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Need help picking equipment (midi keyboard w/ pads vs. buy pads separately)

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Need help picking equipment (midi keyboard w/ pads vs. buy pads separately)

Postby isealbz » Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:25 am

I want to start producing my own music. I already own Ableton Lite and basic equipment for recording guitar (tube amp, recording interface, Shure SM57). But since I listen to a lot of metal with a keyboard element (Neurosis, Cult of Luna) as well as industrial/noise (Street Sects) and electronic (Nils Frahm), I'd like to bring synths and beats into my music.

My budget is around $300-350. Since I don't already own a DAW controller, I suspect that it would be best to buy some sort of midi controller. But I'm having a hard time deciding between the options.

Part of the issue is that I'm not sure whether 49 keys will suffice for my purposes or whether I'll miss having less than 61 keys. It would be preferable to have more keys so that I have the option to play some piano pieces.

The bigger issue is that I'm not sure whether I'm better off trying to get everything in one (a midi keyboard with built-in pads) or buying a keyboard and pads separately, investing more in pads and spending the rest of my money on whichever midi controller has the best feeling keybed.

There are a dizzying array of all-in-one options:

  • Akai MPK249 (over budget new, but someone is selling one used on Facebook for $250)
  • Alesis V
  • Arturia KeyLab Essential
  • Arturia KeyLab MKII (over budget new, but maybe within budget used)
  • Nektar Impact LX
  • M-Audio Oxygen
  • Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol (lacks pads, but perhaps the best option if I buy pads separately?)
  • Nektar Impact LX
  • Nektar Panorama T4
  • Novation Launchkey

And the main contenders for pads seem to be:

  • Akai MPD218
  • Korg PadKontrol (seems to be discontinued but maybe available secondhand/used)
  • Maschine Mikro MK2 (seems to be discontinued but maybe available secondhand/used)
  • Maschine Mikro MK3 (but I've heard that the MK2 is actually better)
  • Maschine MK2 Groove Production Studio (over budget new, but maybe within budget secondhand/used)
  • M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro (seems to be discontinued but maybe available secondhand/used)

I'm leaning toward the Akai MPK249 if I can talk a seller down to $200.

On the other hand, since I've heard mixed things about the pads on the Akai MPK249, and I've heard amazing things about the PadKontrol, Maschine Mikro MK2, and Maschine MK2 Groove Production Studio, I'm wondering if I should try to find one of those used instead. But if I did that, what midi controller would I get for keys/DAW control?

What would you do in my situation?
isealbz
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Re: Need help picking equipment (midi keyboard w/ pads vs. buy pads separately)

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jun 02, 2020 10:53 am

The Behringer Deepmind 12 is capable of being used as a Midi controller, and it has a great selection of sounds, and great editing potential, a secondhand one can be picked up pretty cheaply.
Regarding stand alone controllers, I’d avoid ones with just a USB output, for flexibility you’re better off with a hardware Midi out as well.
All of the names you mention are OK, the only one I’d be wary of is Arturia, the key action isn’t to everyone’s taste, they may have improved that now, but don’t buy without trying first.
There are a lot of answers to your situation, so look forward to a lot more replies!

:)
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Re: Need help picking equipment (midi keyboard w/ pads vs. buy pads separately)

Postby The Elf » Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:00 am

The Roland A-800 I have for my live rig is a pretty good combination of keyboard (with channel aftertouch) and control surface. 61 keys, so you won't get that feeling of frustration when you reach for left-hand bass.

The A-800 has two 'virtual' MIDI ports arriving over USB, so you can effectively separate anything you need to send to other synths, versus anything you would like to use as a DAW control. To all intents it is two devices in one.

Bus-powered and light as a feather, if that's of any benefit. The pads aren't super-sensitive, but I've yet to play ANY pads on ANY device that aren't pretty much 'hit and miss' - missed notes and spontaneous full-velocity hits are the norm for all pads.

https://www.roland.com/uk/products/a-800pro/
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