Which MIDI / control keyboard you're using?

I’ve been fiddling with Renoise for years and finally decided to get more serious with my music-writing.

One thing I found though is that regular PC/laptop keyboard is terrible to quickly get the ideas down and changing parameters of FX/VST/VSTi with mouse is imprecise and cumbersome. Thus I started looking for control keyboards, likely with good velocity-sensitive keys (in 2-3 octaves), few programmable knobs, pads and faders.

Few that caught my eye, are from respectable firms and are within the budget (say up to equiv. 200-250EUR):

https://www.muziker.pl/en/alesis-vi25

https://www.muziker.pl/en/novation-launchkey-25-mkii

https://www.muziker.pl/en/m-audio-code-25

https://www.muziker.pl/en/arturia-keylab-25

Anyone have experience with those?

If you’re using anything else what is it and how well it interfaces with Renoise?

I’m not looking to playing live or jamming, just basic editing and recording (ambient / down-tempo / trance / house, etc.), so that I could for example record the notes and then play with parameters - effects, instruments - and record them on the fly.

Personally I never would buy again a 25 keys keyboard. Minimum ist 49 keys, because you can play bass, too - which is important for composition. But which devices are compact and good quality, I don’t know.

Personally I never would buy again a 25 keys keyboard. Minimum ist 49 keys, because you can play bass, too - which is important for composition. But which devices are compact and good quality, I don’t know.

Yeah, I’d love something bigger - 49 would be optimal - but I don’t really have room for it.

Being a 40yo family man with 3 kids I don’t have much space for a dedicated “studio” so it has to be portable, i.e. 25 keys :slight_smile:

Yeah, I’d love something bigger - 49 would be optimal - but I don’t really have room for it.

Being a 40yo family man with 3 kids I don’t have much space for a dedicated “studio” so it has to be portable, i.e. 25 keys :slight_smile:

Had the same reasons, but at the end, IMO all 25 keys devices somehow suck. I tried a quite a lot. Maybe something like this would be a much more elegant and useful alternative:

https://wooting.nl

Could also reused for various scenarios…

Had the same reasons, but at the end, IMO all 25 keys devices somehow suck. I tried a quite a lot. Maybe something like this would be a much more elegant and useful alternative:

https://wooting.nl

Could also reused for various scenarios…

Thanks, but attaching external keyboard to a laptop would look rather awkward :slight_smile:

After going through number of reviews & articles I’m actually leaning towards M-Audio’s Code 25, which seems to have everything I need (although 4 more knobs would be ideal). If anyone has experience with it (or its bigger versions) I’d appreciate a feedback.

Regarding the size I need to actually see & try it in a real shop, because it’s difficult to get a feel for its real footprint off of YouTube videos.

Hey, but did you realize that the wooting one has analog keys, so velocity, and actually seems to be very precise?

No pots or sliders, yet good mini keys in a reasonably compact format (25,37,49 or 61 keys + a bluetooth connected variant)

http://www.korg.com/us/products/computergear/microkey/

(I’m also a space challenged dad - trying to survive with just a nanopad2)

Hey, but did you realize that the wooting one has analog keys, so velocity, and actually seems to be very precise?

Yes, apparently that is its main differentiating feature :slight_smile:

No pots or sliders, yet good mini keys in a reasonably compact format (25,37,49 or 61 keys + a bluetooth connected variant)

http://www.korg.com/us/products/computergear/microkey/

(I’m also a space challenged dad - trying to survive with just a nanopad2)

Yeah, I can feel your pain but I really need those knobs / sliders, so if I were to choose Korg I’d go for something like this:http://www.musiccenter.pl/korg-taktile-25/6188/

Hey. An 49 key keyboard with pitch and mod to the side is about +/- 80cm wide. A 25 isn’t so wide, but clunky as well if it features controllers and such. You always need space for the stuff. On the average desk, between display and pc keyboard/mouse a midi thing of this width should always have space, or are you cramped into a grot below the kitchen table with a laptop and back pains? Have your family respect your hobby, I’d say, now a midi keyboard isn’t a horse kept and fed in the living room you wish to ride along the corridor at 4 am, damnit!

And I’d advise you to go for 49 instead of 25. I’ve tried limiting myself to 2 octaves of my 49 once, and it didn’t work. Whatever instrument, chords, or even bass, I always found I needed the extra range, and I even often octave +/- the 49, but then not having to switch back too often unlike when only having 2 octaves. Maybe very minimalistic music can be done comfortably with 25 keys. Or entering single notes one after another in non-real-time, but then the pc keyboard would just do as well with renoise.

I also only use the keyboard for jazzing around, massively while designing sounds, and entering the notes. Often trying out ideas. No live playing, no recording notes in realtime yet. I found the jazzing really automatically improves skills after a while, and with this comes much inspiration that’s only there because of the jazzing. Also entering notes first seemed awkward with the midi, but after a while the pc keyboard seemed just too flimsy for the job, midi is much better. I don’t regret having a full size keyboard, with the while using it my skill became adequate enough so a mini keybed would already limit me in trying stuff.

Maybe you’d like to visit a store and try keybeds in mini and normal format for a first glimpse. Also: keybeds vary in resistance the keys bring, half weighted is usually already very stiff to handle for non piano players, synth action is what I like best, it is very light to push keys.

I do regret though that I bought a (budget) daw controller style keyboard. If I were to buy again, I’d buy a decent keybed with mod/pitch, and then additional fader/slider devices, and some means to connect an expression pedal. You need to take into account what you want to do with it, and prepare the means to do it. Sometimes your workflow will change with time and experience. Like some people like a physical mixer, others like knobs to tweak, others like lots of pads for sequencing or live drumming, I like having a mod wheel and expression pedal at one hand and foot for 2 parameters of an instrument, and another hand to play notes or adjust more parameters via sliders to a loop pattern playing. Also I think about using mobile phones or tablets with touch interface to do sliders, bends, xy pads or so. I think they could really shine if you get used to them, and have those car mountings stiffened to your desk, or whatever.

If you wish to tweak, take care to physically try the devices. Many knob configurations are spaced very close together, and be unwieldy to handle. Also endless encoders can suck, expecially if they feature accelereation, no way to accurately tune them in action. I think those are only useful for dialing in sounds in non-live-or-recording-situations. Unless really high quality. You’d want stuff with exact position, one wrist turn for full range, good handling for the techno tweak jobs.

Don’t listen to the ffx regarding the “wooting”, it isn’t a pc keyboard with velocity, it is a gaming board that will register how deep you have each key pressed for steering in games. I don’t know of any tool or option to get velocity running on those. And I bet it just won’t work because the sensors are too slow for velocity sensing, maybe the max you could do with it would to use each key like a pressure sensing pad, kind of. Very unprecise compared to real pressure pads or even sliders/knobs. Once you have a real midi key thing you’ll never want to get back to other experiments.

No pots or sliders, yet good mini keys in a reasonably compact format (25,37,49 or 61 keys + a bluetooth connected variant)

http://www.korg.com/us/products/computergear/microkey/

(I’m also a space challenged dad - trying to survive with just a nanopad2)

Had the Korg Microstation which has the same keyboard. It’s “ok”, the only mini keyboard you “somehow” can play with lets say 10 different velocity values. But it’s far far away from a normal 49 size keyboard.

Hey. An 49 key keyboard with pitch and mod to the side is about +/- 80cm wide. A 25 isn’t so wide, but clunky as well if it features controllers and such. You always need space for the stuff. On the average desk, between display and pc keyboard/mouse a midi thing of this width should always have space, or are you cramped into a grot below the kitchen table with a laptop and back pains? Have your family respect your hobby, I’d say, now a midi keyboard isn’t a horse kept and fed in the living room you wish to ride along the corridor at 4 am, damnit!

And I’d advise you to go for 49 instead of 25. I’ve tried limiting myself to 2 octaves of my 49 once, and it didn’t work. Whatever instrument, chords, or even bass, I always found I needed the extra range, and I even often octave +/- the 49, but then not having to switch back too often unlike when only having 2 octaves. Maybe very minimalistic music can be done comfortably with 25 keys. Or entering single notes one after another in non-real-time, but then the pc keyboard would just do as well with renoise.

I also only use the keyboard for jazzing around, massively while designing sounds, and entering the notes. Often trying out ideas. No live playing, no recording notes in realtime yet. I found the jazzing really automatically improves skills after a while, and with this comes much inspiration that’s only there because of the jazzing. Also entering notes first seemed awkward with the midi, but after a while the pc keyboard seemed just too flimsy for the job, midi is much better. I don’t regret having a full size keyboard, with the while using it my skill became adequate enough so a mini keybed would already limit me in trying stuff.

Maybe you’d like to visit a store and try keybeds in mini and normal format for a first glimpse. Also: keybeds vary in resistance the keys bring, half weighted is usually already very stiff to handle for non piano players, synth action is what I like best, it is very light to push keys.

I do regret though that I bought a (budget) daw controller style keyboard. If I were to buy again, I’d buy a decent keybed with mod/pitch, and then additional fader/slider devices, and some means to connect an expression pedal. You need to take into account what you want to do with it, and prepare the means to do it. Sometimes your workflow will change with time and experience. Like some people like a physical mixer, others like knobs to tweak, others like lots of pads for sequencing or live drumming, I like having a mod wheel and expression pedal at one hand and foot for 2 parameters of an instrument, and another hand to play notes or adjust more parameters via sliders to a loop pattern playing. Also I think about using mobile phones or tablets with touch interface to do sliders, bends, xy pads or so. I think they could really shine if you get used to them, and have those car mountings stiffened to your desk, or whatever.

If you wish to tweak, take care to physically try the devices. Many knob configurations are spaced very close together, and be unwieldy to handle. Also endless encoders can suck, expecially if they feature accelereation, no way to accurately tune them in action. I think those are only useful for dialing in sounds in non-live-or-recording-situations. Unless really high quality. You’d want stuff with exact position, one wrist turn for full range, good handling for the techno tweak jobs.

Don’t listen to the ffx regarding the “wooting”, it isn’t a pc keyboard with velocity, it is a gaming board that will register how deep you have each key pressed for steering in games. I don’t know of any tool or option to get velocity running on those. And I bet it just won’t work because the sensors are too slow for velocity sensing, maybe the max you could do with it would to use each key like a pressure sensing pad, kind of. Very unprecise compared to real pressure pads or even sliders/knobs. Once you have a real midi key thing you’ll never want to get back to other experiments.

Thank you! Indeed, over the last few days reading & watching videos I started to lean towards the 49-keys size. I’ll somehow find the place to store it when not in use (as you say - it’s only longer, because other dimensions will stay the same) and 3 octaves seems to be the minimum considering how often I use both letter-keyboard rows in Renoise…

So, basically it comes to choosing between those four that seem to strike a perfect price-to-features ratio for me:

https://www.muziker.pl/novation-impulse-49 - seems to be the most accessible, cleanest and uncluttered design; to be frank looks “old”

https://www.muziker.pl/novation-launchkey-49-mkii - similar styling to the above & cheaper, but instead of encoders (“endless” knobs) it’s using pots, that have a 270 degree cones and min/max

https://www.muziker.pl/m-audio-code-49 - opposite of Impulse, very modern, sharp & with lots of flashing lights, X/Y controller (which would work great with Renoise’s equivalent); but seems overwhelming & intimidating

https://www.muziker.pl/arturia-keylab-49 - a bit more pricey than the above options, but has premium build quality & design; integration with Arturia’s “Analog Lab” software (5000 fully controlled instruments!) is great, but on the other hand it results in knobs & faders alreadybeing labelled with their “suggested” functions (cut-off, resonance, LFO, etc.) so it kind of defeats the purpose of it being a general-use controller

Any thoughts on those options?

I think old devices were better:

https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-anzeige/novation-sl49-mkii/541022894-74-16771

https://novationmusic.de/keys/sl-mkii#

With aftertouch! Don’t know if those devices still work usually.

I think old devices were better:

https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-anzeige/novation-sl49-mkii/541022894-74-16771
https://novationmusic.de/keys/sl-mkii#

With aftertouch! Don’t know if those devices still work usually.

Nice, but for one it’s much more expensive and also I’m nowhere near the keys player to take advantage of aftertouch :slight_smile:

Out of the four options above, which would you choose?

Then I guess the keylab. But seems to be much more expensive here?

Then I guess the keylab. But seems to be much more expensive here?

It’s within my price range, so it’s probably gonna be it :slight_smile:

antic, did you buy that one yet? If so, what’s your experience with it? Does it play precisely and feels solid? What about the aftertouch? Thanks for feedback

I’m using a M-Audio Oxygen 61, works perfectly even on Linux.

The keys do have velocity, but no counterweight, they feel a bit “light”.

But otherwise I love it.

https://www.thomann.de/gb/m_audio_oxygen_61_mk4.htm?ref=search_prv_5

antic, did you buy that one yet? If so, what’s your experience with it? Does it play precisely and feels solid? What about the aftertouch? Thanks for feedback

I ended up getting Arturia’s Minilab:

24b0b6b3d4e6dd8034f8d302bade3984.jpg

…which is pretty cheap (EUR/$100) and for my particular needs (to light up the creative spark after 16+ years of musical inactivity) seemed to be a perfect choice, i.e. it’s a good hardware but not expensive to feel like money thrown away if it turns out I won’t come back to writing music :slight_smile:

Anyway, regarding the hardware:

  • it’s very light and compact, so exactly what I required - I can quickly pull it out and connect to my laptop and hide in the closet when not in use,

  • the key action is synth-like (no weighting), there’s no aftertouch but velocity works pretty well, although I’m not an expert as I don’t really play piano/synths - works for me to draft the nuance in sound levels,

  • integration with Renoise is great - I’ve mapped the pads to transport functions (play / stop / record / prev/next track / mute / solo), while the knobs are mapped to various instrument & FX parameters within the song and due to how Renoise handles that and the number of knobs (16!) I can basically control at once everything that I want to change,

  • the knobs are of ‘encoder’ variety, so they don’t have min/max, turn around infinitely and only increase/decrease the mapped parameter depending on how fast I’m moving it; one issue I have is that when mapping I need to manually adjust the type of received data in the dialog box (by default it would just move the parameter only by +1 / -1 no matter how long and how fast I twist it), but it’s possible I’m missing some setting either in Renoise or in Arturia’s software that comes with it; even if that’s not the case, it’s not much of a headache, because you’d usually map the knob to parameter once in the song and it takes literally additional 3 seconds to adjust the data mode,

  • build quality I’d say is OK, considering the price - overall body is rigid and solid, the keys feel plasticky (they are) and - at least in my unit - are slightly uneven (but I’m really picky - one of them stands up like half a milimetr :)) and also one of the knobs feels lighter to turn than the rest of them; but again, for the price it is fine and probably varies by unit,

Overall, I think I’d recommend it if music-writing is your hobby and you’re not planning on touring with it playing live, because then you’d prefer something more premium and less toy-like I think? Also, it depends on the type of music you create - for me (psychedelic trance) it was important to be able to manipulate as much parameters at once as possible. For others pads might be more important, or sliders, or the actual keyboard.

BTW, just few days after I got mine a MkII came out:

But the only real differences that I could spot were:

  • it’s even more toy-like design (with faux wooden stickers on the sides),

  • it’s narrower (less wide) but instead it is deeper, because of pitch/modulation touch-strips moved above keyboard,

  • two of the encoders are now clickable,

  • the pads can now be highlighted with different colours (in MkI it’s always light-blue),

  • it comes with Analog Lab Lite (as opposed to full version with MkI), although I’m not 100% sure of the difference - both are said to include 17 instruments / 5k+ sounds,

:slight_smile:

this may be better place for my first post:

https://forum.renoise.com/t/which-controller-is-best/44860

@J.B. Well, read the above as there’s plenty of thoughts on currently available hardware.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt if you explained what you need - is keyboard quality & size important (can you actually play or just want more convenient way to input notes), which control options you prefer, what kind of music you do, do you plan on performing live, etc. All of this might help us help you :slight_smile: