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Help needed: keyboard brand/model recommendations

Dpoirier

Power User
Background: my cover band lost its keyboard player; now the second guitarist wants to buy a good (used) keyboard and develop his dusty skills on keys si that we don't need an additional member. It could be a useful compromise.

Tge problem is that he has no idea what keyboard to look for. The criteria is simple : used (to leverage not-too-old tech at a lower price); great sounds (we don't wanr any cheesy Casio tones); simple to use (he's not very tech savvy); and with availability of downloadable patches (need the synth sound for Separate Ways? Download it for free and avoid having to approximate or create your own)

Can anyone here help out? A few model suggestions would be great and would help us look for a used one. Thanks!
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
Would you consider a midi controller and using a laptop, iPad etc as a sound source or do you want built in sounds ?
 

Dpoirier

Power User
Hmm, hadn't thought of that... As long as it meets the main criteria (killer sounds and availability of free downloadable presets), then I think it would be wise to consider a controller and laptop with (I assume?) a soft synth?
Would you consider a midi controller and using a laptop, iPad etc as a sound source or do you want built in sounds ?
 

Geezerjohn

Fractal Fanatic
I have a Yamaha Motif XS8. Great keyboard. It has weighted keys which I prefer. Just wanted to be clear about that.
 

Jeries

Power User
So first- I don't think virtual instruments is a good route for you...
It's cheap but requires a lot of knowledge, gear, it can be unreliable and cause issues/latency/etc

So
To me, there's 3 keyboards
Korg
Yamaha
Roland

Roland is my favorite brand in general but my least favorite keyboards- so- I wouldn't recommend it

So while your 'download preset' idea works for guitar
The keyboard world- doesn't really work like that- and the presets I've seen COST MONEY and TONS OF IT

So there's no Keyboard Axe-Change and between the brands things don't really work out- however most have 'knock off' song presets etc

The industry standard for decades is a KORG TRITON
They make many kinds- studio/le/classic- it's probably perfect for anything/everything

Between all these keyboards you got the same keyboard size 61/76/88

I prefer an 88 keyboard with weighted keys
BUT I know people who don't have the keyboard/piano experience that can't play on them- and prefer 'synth action' keys which you find on the 61/76

My keyboard of choice is the KORG TRITON EXTREME
Korg made all these expansion memory packs for $200 each... for the basic tritons
The EXTREME is basically the triton with almost all the expansion packs built in.

Yamaha makes the MOTIF
They make cheap ones, and expensive ones- I've owned them all- I prefer the expensive ones by far

The ES is the cheap one and XS is more expensive

AN option for Korg and these Yamaha's are RACKS
You can find them cheaper- they're easy to gig with and you can plug in any midi controller you want

The Yamaha Motif XS is REALLY good for a coverband because most of the 80s songs are Yamaha DX7's
And all those sounds are in it- and there's some knock off sounds for that stuff built in

A lot of resources online and samples you can hear BUT you're not going to find free presets
There's $200+ packs for 80s sounds for Yamaha keyboards

Why am I shooting for the worlds most expensive keyboards? because used you can get them for a steal

My Keyboard was $3300 new ($3899 the first year they were released)
I've seen them sell well under 1000 and in the 600-800 range same thing with the Yamahas
And all the racks.

There's plenty of good stuff in between- cheaper rolands/yamaha/korgs/nord etc

But def get yourself a WORKSTATION level keyboard not like a player keyboard or a live keyboard - you want a workstation

I've personally owned everything keyboard wise you can thing of...
Newer and a few old Moog Synths
Triton Extreme, Triton Racks
Yamaha XS rack ES Rack, 88 key XS Keyboard (I found a steal on a 61 key xs i might pickup because I need those DX7 sounds)
And I've owned 2 roland phantoms- the least impressive of everything

If strings are important or orchestra- nothing beats the korg stuff

If you do see a kurzweil k2600 for cheap you can probably get by with that- but while it's an impressive keyboard- it's def the oldest and only non workstation keyboard you can get by with

I also have to brag- my keyboards screen broke and touch screen stopped working (my fault not the keyboards fault)
And I successfully took it all apart and replaced it myself for only $50 - which is amazing because I have no skills.
 

Dpoirier

Power User
Wow, thanks y'all! Very very useful info.

@Jeries : how "bad" is it to tone it down (for budget) from a Triton Extreme to <next-model-down> or from a Motif XS to <highest-of-ES-series> ?

Huge thanks again!
 

Chewie5150

Experienced
or find an older used Yamaha like the MO8 or the MOFX8. Yamaha just released some new keyboards in the mid price range so those models should be a bargain price used right now. Great bang for the buck.
 

lqdsnddist

Axe-Master
I personally love my Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol Keyboard. I have the 49 key as I'm not a huge key player, though I also do have a weighted 88 key I can hook up as well. The NI keybed feels fantastic, and it comes with a version of their Komplete software suite. This has a tone of vintage keys, synths, virtual analog synths, real world instrument samples etc, and you can navigate all the sounds via the keyboards color display, knobs and buttons. Easily browse by sound type, instrument type etc. It runs of a computer but you don't need to look at the computer.

Also really cool is that it has light guides on each key, so you can map chords and scales, play in any key etc. Really useful for folks who aren't super good at piano keyboard but that want to play backing parts and such.

Its a great mix of hardware and software, really with the strength of both. Reasonably priced too, at least compared to the larger workstation style keyboards, and I think with a much wider range of possible sounds. It would be my choice, and in fact is my choice. I've gotten rid of all my others keys and synths, and work with mine as my controller for darn near everything.
 

Jeries

Power User
Wow, thanks y'all! Very very useful info.

@Jeries : how "bad" is it to tone it down (for budget) from a Triton Extreme to <next-model-down> or from a Motif XS to <highest-of-ES-series> ?

Huge thanks again!
Oh it's not that bad

Between a Motif XS and down to an ES in a cover band position not that bad at all

And even between the tritons a step down to a LE/Studio/Classic etc is fine

The extreme is not necessary although my point to all of this- if you can find a steal on the high high high end ones- take it- they're out there. I'd rather you get a steal on the best one than pay top retail used for a lesser model.

What you're missing out on is really the breadth and depth of samples/sounds

Me as a piano player- I did feel like the ES motif wasn't that great and the XS was a big difference

And I'll say- keep in mind- a rack is a good option always

In the studio I like having all the sounds out there- but you can surely make do fine with a lower end

My biggest complaint is I see people go to piano stores and music stores paying $1200 for a digital piano when they could get a real workstation
 

Rich G.

Experienced
I personally love my Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol Keyboard.
Been watching this thread as I'm interested in possibly adding some keys. I'm intrigued by the A25. I love that it's so compact! To use it live I imagine it will require bringing a laptop to run some software and some sort of plug in for sounds... I'm really new to all this keyboard stuff (Although I have an Ensoniq ESQ1 still around). Is there anything like the A25 that has sounds built in where you don't need all the extra outboard gear? Can an A25 be used to play sounds on an iPad?
 

vangrieg

Power User
I was in a similar situation except I’m the one who needs to play keys sometimes.

Before that, we had a band member who had a Roland FA “workstation” keys. I’m awfully lucky that he did because if he didn’t, I probably would have bought these or some other “workstation” because on paper they sound like a good deal.

Well, they aren’t. They have sequencers that are a huge pain in the butt to use. They have rigid awful pads that are next to useless. They have samplers that can’t time stretch samples or change their pitch. So you have to use a computer to create/edit everything. But then what? You upload them to the workstation and barely can use them. They have uneditable arpeggiators. And so on. Oh, and they also function as crappy audio interfaces with 44.1 kHz only or some such nonsense, so of course it’s a pain in the butt to use them together with your Axe-FX.

So.

Unless you know EXACTLY what sounds you’re looking for AND you know that a specific keyboard has these sounds and you won’t EVER need anything else, my advice is - get a good MIDI keyboard.

I myself ended up getting a Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2, with Komplete Ultimate software and Ableton. I wouldn’t exactly call this setup “cheap” - all these thing add up, and you of course need a computer, but the flexibility and usability is so much better with software.

I also added a Maschine Jam, a Maschine Mikro and a Komplete Kontrol A25 later, but that’s another story.

There are a lot of software synths that sound gorgeous. And you can add, mix and match software packages, samples and what not.
 

vangrieg

Power User
Been watching this thread as I'm interested in possibly adding some keys. I'm intrigued by the A25. I love that it's so compact! To use it live I imagine it will require bringing a laptop to run some software and some sort of plug in for sounds... I'm really new to all this keyboard stuff (Although I have an Ensoniq ESQ1 still around). Is there anything like the A25 that has sounds built in where you don't need all the extra outboard gear? Can an A25 be used to play sounds on an iPad?
I’m not sure whether it can work with iPad, I never bothered to check.

Even if it does, you’d be better off to use an actual computer. Especially with a keyboard like Komplete Kontrol which is designed to work with Komplete software.

You can get a cheaper/simpler one if you really want to use an iPad. But... Just don’t. That’s like selling an Axe-FX and getting a Zoom modeler with two buttons.

Also, 25 keys are only good if you play simple bass lines, fire off samples or just record something at home for backing tracks with one hand.
 

Muad'zin

Fractal Fanatic
I used to be in a Radiohead tribute band back then and in 2012 we got offered a few gigs in Turkey and Italy. Our keyboard player couldn't make it so I offered to put in some keyboard duty in his place. I had to get a keyboard and settled on a 5 octave Yamaha CS-2X, because it was relatively cheap 2nd hand and he thought it was adequate for the job. He programmed in some Radiohead sounds and its been with me ever since. I even stuck a Line 6 DL-4 onto it with velcro tape so I could have some easy on the fly delay fun.

I have thought of going laptop with software with a controller, or a rack module with a controller, but in the end I've decided that less is more. As in less stuff to haul around and hook up on stage is better. The quicker you can set up and soundcheck on stage, the better, for Murphy sure does like to mess around with musicians just about to perform. So for me an all in one keyboard is the way to go.
 

vangrieg

Power User
I have thought of going laptop with software with a controller, or a rack module with a controller, but in the end I've decided that less is more. As in less stuff to haul around and hook up on stage is better. The quicker you can set up and soundcheck on stage, the better, for Murphy sure does like to mess around with musicians just about to perform. So for me an all in one keyboard is the way to go.
Fair point, but in our case a MIDI keyboard is definitely less. It depends on the whole band setup.

Thing is, we have a computer anyway, running some automation and backing tracks. It’s connected to a sound card also dubbing as a monitor mixer in a rack with Axe-FXes. So all instruments are connected to that rack anyway, AND that rack is the source of all signals to FOH as well, all XLRs to the main board run from it.

When we had a real keyboard, we had to have a DI box (most keyboards insist on having TRS outs). If you have a monitor mixer you also need some sort of a splitter. You need two more inputs on it as well. If you want to automate/sync effects you also need a MIDI cable. The backing track and live keyboard use the same pair of XLR outs, with patches leveled using a loudness meter. Then real keyboards tend to be bulkier and heavier.

So it cuts considerable time during setup and soundcheck, actually. And of course a soundcheck with IEMs is faster anyway, we just recall a preset and start playing songs, while FOH sets up whatever they need to setup.
 

Jeries

Power User
I was in a similar situation except I’m the one who needs to play keys sometimes.

Before that, we had a band member who had a Roland FA “workstation” keys. I’m awfully lucky that he did because if he didn’t, I probably would have bought these or some other “workstation” because on paper they sound like a good deal.

Well, they aren’t. They have sequencers that are a huge pain in the butt to use. They have rigid awful pads that are next to useless. They have samplers that can’t time stretch samples or change their pitch. So you have to use a computer to create/edit everything. But then what? You upload them to the workstation and barely can use them. They have uneditable arpeggiators. And so on. Oh, and they also function as crappy audio interfaces with 44.1 kHz only or some such nonsense, so of course it’s a pain in the butt to use them together with your Axe-FX.
As a Korg user, I can say none of this is true for the Korg stuff...
The sampler can do all of that- one sample to pitch can be used up and down the keyboard adjusted
It's very usable
The arpeggiators are completely editable- not super easy but can be done
It puts out 48k

I had a Roland Phantom- the best one they made- I was unimpressed with it. It had color screen which was cool but otherwas was last between the Tritons and Motifs.

I still own a Roland U-220 Rack which is basically has the most notable sounds roland ever did to keyboards... where as Yamaha has a much longer legacy in that department and I love Korg sounds/orchestra/strings/etc
 
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