Category Archives: Midi Keyboards

Kurzweil PC3K Series Keyboard Review

Kurzweil History

Kurzweil has been at the forefront of electronic music technology since 1984, when they released the K250, the first instrument to digitally reproduce the sound of an acoustic grand piano. From that point on, not only have they maintained a leading position when it comes to sample libraries, they have developed multiple series of synthesizers , offering immense operational and organizational power while maintaining a highly intuitive and musical user interface.

kurzweil_pc3k8_front

Kurzweil PC3K is the designation given to their current top-line synths, and they represent continued maturation of their Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology (VAST). VAST is one of the most powerful hardware-based synth formats going, a position it has held starting with the release of the K2000 series in 1991.

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Kurzweil PC3K Sounds

Of considerable significance is Kurzweil’s dedication to legacy sounds. Unlike other manufacturers, Kurzweil has maintained voice compatibility throughout decades of synthesizer design. The basic components of a sound originally created for K2000 are fully transferable to their subsequent K2500 and K2600 series, and will load into PC3K instruments with 99% compatibility. The trade-off for not having 100% compatibility is a more robust VAST engine in the Kurzweil PC3K, offering greater flexibility when compared to the first-generation implementation.

In a nutshell, VAST allows for any single sound (Program in Kurz speak) to be composed of as many as 32 layers, each of which can be mapped across the keyboard however one sees fit. In essence, each layer is a self-contained synth, with tone generators, filters, envelopes, and much, much more. In the current implementation, it is also possible to feed the output of one layer into the input of another layer, opening the door for even more varied sound design exploration.

As with Roland’s Performances and Korg’s Combis, Kurzweil PC3K provides Setups, a multi-zone entity allowing for different controller assignments to be programmed per zone. This mode is a very powerful way to work, even when working with single Programs, as you can affect multiple sound parameters with a single slider move.

Of particular importance to live performers is Kurzweil’s Quick Access (QA) mode. VAST instruments have always been able to store at least 1000 of each type of sound entity (Programs and Setups, along with Effects), all those objects (Kurz speak) can now number in multiple thousands. When purchased with the KORE64 expansion board (recommended), a stock PC3K will have over 1570 sounds on board to get you going.

QA mode allows for any combination of Programs and Setups to be arranged into banks of 10. The sounds in each QA bank can be accessed by using the 10-key pad, the increment/decrement buttons, or one of the 3 available switch pedals can be assigned to Data Increment so a live performer can step through sounds without interruption. VAST does implement patch remain, so, as long as there are not radical changes to the effects processing taking place, it is possible to move through a series of sounds while playing seamlessly.

There are currently three models in the Kurzweil PC3K family:

  1. The 6, with a 61-key synth action.
  2. The 7, with a 76-key semi-weighted action.
  3. The 8, with an 88-key piano-weighted action.

My personal preference is for the 76-key, as it lends itself to a wider variety of playing applications, while still providing enough resistance to develop effective piano dynamics.

Akai Pro LPK25 Review

Akai Pro LPK25 ReviewAkai Pro LPK25 – A Keyboard For Ants?

My Akai Pro LPK25 Review was inspired by this little mini keyboard that I saw the other day and had to check it out. This is the Akai Pro LPK25 Laptop Performance Keyboard and it is so cute!

Not only is this MIDI keyboard controller small, it is packed with really cool features too.

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The Akai Pro LPK25 Laptop Performance Keyboard is a smaller sized relative to the MPK series of keyboard performance controllers. This keyboard has 25 miniature keyboard keys that are velocity-sensitive, plays like a synth and is a wonderful solution for working remotely with your laptop.  The LPK25 is less than 13 inches across and weighs in at under a pound, you can put it in your laptop case, backpack or tote bag for extreme portability.

Some of the Features are:

  • USB-MIDI controller works with virtually all audio software
  • 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keyboard keys
  • Arpeggiator, sustain button, octave up and down, and tap tempo controls
  • Plug-and-play USB connection for Mac and PC requires no driver installation
  • Small enough to fit in a backpack or laptop bag
  • Four programmable memory banks
  • Comes with editor software for Mac and PC
  • USB bus powered–no additional power cable needed

Despite its looks the LPK25 is not a toy, it’s a very usable and convenient MIDI controller as you can tell by the features listed.

Here are what some owners say:

Samuel says:

The LPK25 has a good build quality. I travel often and it’s perfect for that. Still, there are two major annoyances so I can’t give it five stars.

It feels like an instrument more than a toy and it is possible to play expressively, though for me it requires much concentration to hit the keys hard enough to make a sound yet soft enough to avoid running out of velocity response. I could not find any evidence that it is possible to program the velocity curve.

There is room for improvement but it is still the best in its class.

Review paraphrased for length.

G.J. Oshea says:

I use FL Studio 10 on a laptop that i like to bring around with me to friend’s houses, the laundromat, etc. The LPK25 is the perfect edition to my traveling studio! It is a great price for the quality…it does not feel like a cheap toy (like some other MIDIs in the same price range) the key sizes are perfect, and it still fits in my backpack with my laptop. It’s perfect for easily, and effortlessly trying different riffs, and progressions.

Any downsides? Okay, fine…the keys have a pretty decent reaction to velocity, but you do have to be a little aggressive to get it the loudest, or to react as highest velocity.

Review paraphrased for length.

I use it with my 13″ Macbook Pro and Apple Logic Pro and I love the ease of use and portability. One of the biggest complaints is that the velocity response is not great. This is not really an issue for me because it does not replace my studio keyboard and if I am doing a keyboard part I will use the studio keyboard.

I hope you enjoyed my Akai Pro LPK25 Review. If you like to get out of the studio and work at a coffee shop or somewhere a little more interesting, this is the perfect little mobile MIDI controller. Keep in mind that the Akai Pro LPK25 is a controller and has no sounds inside its cute little brain.

Yamaha YPG-535 Review

Yamaha YPG-535 Review

Yamaha YPG-535 ReviewMy Yamaha YPG-535 review will cover the basics of this keyboard. The Yamaha YPG-535 is a very good starter piano. The reason that this is one of the best midi keyboards that is good for piano players is that it has 88 keys and a Graded Soft Touch keyboard.

The Graded Soft Touch keyboard is a step down from the full weighted keyboard and feels a little different, less like a piano but better than a touch sensitive keyboard. When you get to the ends of the keyboard the keys are a little stiffer but not a big deal to me.

I like the sound of the piano, it is equipped with the Yamaha Live! Grand stereo sample. There are also multiple instrument sounds like clarinet, trumpet, flutes, saxes, electric pianos, organs and orchestral strings.

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With the Yamaha YPG-535 you also get the Yamaha education suite which helps new players to learn with 30 songs internally and 70 more on the CD-ROM that is included when you buy this midi keyboard.

I use the USB connectivity features to connect to my computer. I can then use the Yamaha YPG-535 as a midi keyboard controller. There is also an internal 6-track sequencer so you can compose and record right from the keyboard.

  • Here are some features of the Yamaha YPG535:
  • Piano Centric Features
  • USB Connectivity
  • Lyric, chord and notation display
  • Ease of Operation
  • Yamaha Education Suite
  • 6-track recorder
  • Excellent Sound Quality
  • Full Keyboard Mode

I hope you enjoyed the Yamaha YPG-535 Review. This is a great midi keyboard for the beginning to advanced player. If you are looking for a real piano feel this would not be the one to get. You should look at something like the Yamaha DGX-530. If you are looking for some great features and a good quality keyboard for a reasonable price then this is a great midi keyboard to consider.

Midi Keyboards – Experimenting With Sounds

A midi keyboard primarily refers to a musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) keyboard which is just like an electric piano only but offers more features than a piano. A midi keyboard is used in recording studios as well as live performances. Some of the more popular midi keyboards are made by m-audio, akai, yamaha, casio, and korg. An electric piano has 88 keys whereas the midi keyboards have a variety of keys making them more appropriate for studio and high end technical recordings.

Though there are a variety of midi keyboards available in the market, it is important to have some basic understanding about the keyboard and its features. Most electronic keyboards offer midi capabilities which means there are more choices and the more choices the more the confusion. Midi keyboards are known to offer perfect quality sound in terms of harmonies, scales and effects. These keyboards are known to bridge the gap between computer generated audio and perfectly refined tunes.

It was in 1983 that MIDI was developed and the concept of midi keyboards captured the market by storm with many amateurs trying their hands on the system and trying on offering varied and differential tunes to cater to the music market.

Considering the choices available in the market it can get quite confusing as there are some basic to extra features which would not only make a huge difference to the sound quality but also render a satisfactied feel to the composer. However, the budget is one of the key factors which should be taken into account while buying a midi keyboard. If you have a restricted budget then it is important to opt for a keyboard which offers the best feel and then later can be upgraded to offer more enhanced sound quality.

Handling skills in the form of number of keyboards that one is comfortable using is another point which must be kept in mind while choosing the keyboard, as one can choose from a 25 to 88 length key board system.

If you are more of a classical musician then you should opt for an 88 keyboard system or else you can also opt for a 76 keys board which is more popular. Fewer keys on a keyboard are always recommended for amateurs as they need to get a feel of how the keys need to be used and how can they improvise on offering better quality sounds. Thus knowing about the sound and the functionality of the keys and the board at large would offer better sounds and would also help the individual in growing with every innovation.

Why The M-Audio Axiom 25 MIDI Controller Is A Great Buy

The M-Audio Axiom 25midi keyboard reviews

The M-Audio Axiom 25 MIDI controller is a great combination of production power and performance. You can get the most from any music software with this MIDI keyboard.

The Axiom 25 features semi-weighted keys which is important if you like the piano feel. Large dynamic trigger pads make programming beats easy and also allow for one-shot sample triggering and the encoder knobs and buttons are real-time controllers for the music software.

With M-Audio‘s DirectLink mode you have control of common DAW functions such as transport, track pan and the mixing features, as well as many virtual instrument parameters. Some of the compatible DAWs are Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Live, and Reason.

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I like that you can use the fader and encoder knobs to fine-tune the mix. This is a great feature that allows the user to get away from the mouse occasionally. You can also use the transport buttons to navigate through the session.

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The Axiom 25 controller’s Instrument mode is really cool. This allows for  a single button to instantly map the fader, buttons, and encoders to any virtual instrument within your DAW. You can directly access parameters such as filter cutoff, LFO rate, and envelope settings.

The M-Audio Axiom 25 is very compact and lightweight and is powered directly from your computer’s USB bus. This is one of the most important features for me.

Here are the M-Audio Axiom 25 Features:

  • 25-key velocity-sensitive semi-weighted-action keyboard with assignable aftertouch
  • DirectLink mode automatically maps controls to common DAW and virtual instrument parameters
  • Dedicated Instrument mode button lets you instantly switch between controlling mixer and virtual instrument parameters
  • 8 assignable trigger pads
  • 8 assignable rotary encoder knobs
  • 1 assignable fader
  • 6 dedicated transport controls
  • class-compliant with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X
  • powered via USB or optional power supply
  • built-in USB MIDI interface including standard MIDI In and Out jacks
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M-Audio is one of my favorite MIDI Keyboard manufacturers out there. I like that the products are high quality and easy to use. I also have M-Audio speakers and a larger keyboard and I have not been disappointed yet. If you need a good compact MIDI keyboard controller the Axiom 25 is a great choice.

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Do Not Buy The Korg PA3X76…

Unless you are serious about writing, arranging and performing music at the highest professional level.

The Korg PA3X76 is an amazing new product from Korg and has so many features it is hard to cover them all in a short review. This keyboard is Not for everyone!

Here are some of the features that you need to be aware of:

  • 76-key semi-weighted arranger keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
  • Enhanced RX (Real eXperience) sound engine offers improved realism and new vivid sound, including pianos borrowed from the acclaimed Korg SV-1 Stage Vintage Piano, plus Ambience Drums
  • Massive internal ROM – plus up to 256 MB of user PCM data (equivalent to 512 MB) provides an extraordinarily powerful wave memory, delivering the best sound quality possible
  • PaAS High-fidelity, optional amplification/speaker bar with Korg’s own Easy Connect system (no support, cables, or additional power supply needed)
  • Improved Style and Performance selection, Over 400 factory Styles
  • Double MP3/MIDI files player and recorder with Advanced Vocal Remover
  • 120 Voices, 120 Oscillators
  • Microphone Input: Combo XLR balanced with Gain control (15 to 50 dB) and switchable Phantom Power
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One of the thing that I like about this keyboard is the sounds. Korg keyboards are known for great quality sounds but this one has some of the best sounds I have heard. Excellent piano, electric piano and vintage effects make this so much fun to play.

The looping feature is great for live performance, it allows you to accompany yourself with both drum patterns and programmed loops. If you are a singer/songwriter the microphone input is a very cool feature allowing you to sing and play without having to bring in a PA system. You can also use the keyboard to sing harmony parts without background singers.

The speaker and amp combination that is comes with can be removed and is wireless so you can put it in the most convenient location for your audience.

If you are looking for a great studio, live performance or sequencing keyboard, the Korg PA3X76 is a great investment. However at $3999.00 you need to be serious about your craft.

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Why The Casio CTK-2100 Is A Top Seller

The Casio CTK-2100 is one of the top selling piano keyboards available for a good reason. This keyboard has 61 keys, not a full keyboard but enough to play almost anything a beginner or intermediate player would want.

It sounds better than many keyboards out there because of the AHL sound source. AHL stands for Acoustic & Highly-compressed Large-waveform and basically means that the sound source is pre-programmed with digital samples of acoustic musical instruments recorded using the most advanced digital technology. The AHL sound source is capable of reproducing all of the natural smoothness of the original waveform.

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The Casio CTK 2100 also comes with step-by-step lessons which can help you to learn to play or just to get better. The lessons build on each other and makes it easy and fun to learn.

There are 150 rhythms and auto accompaniments which include several Latin music styles such as Bossa Nova, Samba, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Calypso and More.

Here are the specs:

  • Keyboard: 61 standard-size keys
  • Touch Response: 2 types, Off
  • Key Light System: Up to 4 keys can be lit at the same time
  • Maximum Polyphony: 48 notes (24 for certain tones)
  • Effects: 10 types
  • Reverb: 1 to 10, Off
  • Metronome: beats per measure — 0,2 to 6; tempo range — 30 to 255
  • Step Up Lesson:
    • Lessons: 4 (Listen, Watch, Remember, Auto)
    • Lesson Part: L, R, LR
    • Functions: Repeat, Voice Fingering Guide, Note Guide.
  • Music Challenge: 20 notes
  • Auto Accompaniment: Rhythm Patterns — 150; One Touch Presets — 150
  • Musical Information Function: Tone, Rhythm, Song Bank, numbers and names; staff notation, fingering, pedal operation, tempo, measure and beat number, chord name, etc.
  • USB port: Yes
  • Sustain jack: Standard jack (sustain, sostenuto, soft, rhythm start/stop)
  • Phones/Output jack: Stereo standard jack
  • Output Impedance: 200 Ohm, Output Voltage: 4.8 V (RMS) MAX
  • Audio In jack: Stereo mini jack
  • Input Impedance: 40 kOhm, Input Sensitivity: 200 mV
  • Mic In jack: Standard jack
  • Batteries: 6 AA batteries
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This keyboard is one of the best piano keyboards for the price mostly because of the quality of sound. If you want a great sounding keyboard the Casio CTK 2100 is the one to get for sure!

Basic Questions About MIDI Keyboards

midi keyboards reviewIf you’re into music and would like to try your luck as a composer, getting your own Midi keyboard is perhaps the best option to initially consider. You might be wondering what a MIDI keyboard really is and how it differs from the usual electronic keyboard that you have been accustomed to. It’s a piano user interface keyboard gadget that is utilized for sending MIDI commands over a USB or MIDI cable to a different device i.e. a computer that runs a digital audio workstation software.

Precisely what is MIDI? It is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, an industry standard protocol which allows electronic musical instruments such as the keyboard you’re thinking about buying, computers and other such electronic devices to talk to one another. Put yet another way you can imagine it as a universal language for electronics.

Are all digital keyboards MIDI compatible? Not really. Currently, when you mention the term MIDI keyboard it pertains to almost all digital or electronic keyboards whether or not they are controllers or full electronic piano keyboards. You will know if it is MIDI ready when you check out its features as it will always be indicated there. Another way of determining is by checking for the MIDI in and out jacks at the back part of the equipment.

Simply how much do they cost? All this relies on your capacity to pay. You can get a controller for a hundred and change or spend a couple of hundred or even thousands for the more advanced full piano versions. The simpler the machine you get the cheaper it is – if you want more bells and whistles then they tend to be more expensive.

Are there different sizes available to suit my work place area? Without a doubt there are and it’s typically dependant upon the number of keys – the more keys they have the larger they are. Key numbers typically cover anything from 88, 76, 61, 49, 37, or 25. Piano versions are often the 88s right down to the 61s and controllers from 49s to the 25s. Take into consideration your space when making a decision which MIDI keyboard size to have. Should you have a big studio and you can afford it then maybe an 88 is for you. If you’re trying to squeeze it between your screen and computer keyboard then 25 is the way to go. If you intend to travel a lot and bring this equipment with you, then perhaps the 25 or 37 will give you the portability you require; alternatively if you’re into live performances then the 88 works well or if not then the 76.

Which is better between the piano type and the controller type? MIDI controllers need to have a program (typically in a computer) to create the sound for them because it does not have the built-in speaker that you need. On the other hand, the full piano versions have their own own sound system but they are definitely heavier and bulkier to carry around. Is there a particular brand that experts recommend? There are a variety of MIDI keyboard brands to consider and there is no single brand being recommended although there are really companies that are known for the products they sell. Yamaha makes reliable ones together with M-Audio, Casio, Alesis and Novation to name a few.

Check out useful tips in buying MIDI keyboard. Know what other users say in the Midi Keyboard Reviews section.

MIDI Keyboards 101: How Does a MIDI Keyboard Work?

After understanding what a MIDI controller truly is, we get down to another basic concept, “How does a MIDI controller really work?”

A MIDI keyboard looks like any keyboard, but the difference is that MIDI keyboards do not send or create any sound on its own. MIDI controllers only produce MIDI info that is then translated to the PC or any other MIDI-enabled synthesizer or software.

The MIDI controllers transpose into a simple note on and note off info (1 means on and 0 means off). Your MIDI controller will record all of this data, including changes in velocity of the keys and drum pads, the level at which faders and buttons are utilized and so on. MIDI info will all be in numbers, essentially the 1 and the 0 and bunch of other numbers. Everything you’ve been doing in your MIDI synthesizers will be recorded in your MIDI controller. Then that is the time that the MIDI controller will transfer this information to your personal computer and software. And that is when you can hear the music you made.

Miguel (a thought up name, insert any name you would like in there if you like) tries to make music with his laptop. He doesn’t have any other person to play on the keyboards, drum, and guitars. So he uses a MIDI keyboard to do it all by himself. He starts by hitting the keys and incorporating some action on the drum pads. Now, these sounds would not be broadcast to the laptop and software he uses. Here is where MIDI comes in.

The MIDI controllers translate into a simple note on and note off data (1 means on and 0 means off). Your MIDI controller will record all this information, including changes in speed of the keys and drum pads, the level at which faders and buttons get used etc. MIDI information will all be in numbers, fundamentally the 1 and the 0 and bunch of other numbers. Everything you have been doing in your MIDI synthesizers will be recorded in your MIDI controller. Then that’s the time the MIDI controller will transfer this info to your PC and software. And that’s when you can hear the music you just made.