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Thread: Synthesizer / Home Studio Advice

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    Question Synthesizer / Home Studio Advice

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    I want to build a modest home studio to channel my own creativity, but I really don't know where to begin and the advice I can find online is either way too general or way too specific.

    I own:
    MacBook Pro 15'' 2017

    What I want is a keyboard/midi set up where I can use the keyboard as a piano at times and also use a synthesizer to create different sounds and beats - and then record everything on my laptop (and through my laptop). I've considered buying something like the Roland A-500Pro along with something like a Korg Micro Sampler - or skip the midi controller and buy something like a King Korg, but I don't really understand the advantages and disadvantages and I don't even know if either will do what I want it to do. I can't go into a store and discuss this with the clerks because they either don't speak English or they aren't very knowledgable. And most of the items will have to be ordered, so I can't even try them out.

    Any suggestions or advice?

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    Assuming the Mac has a USB input (do they still fuss with such archaic things? ), you can buy just about any midi keyboard that has a USB output/connector. Your bigger question IMO should be 'what software do I need to buy'. Getting the keyboard signal into the laptop is the easier part. You'll need to choose a DAW (Reaper is free to try) and some software packages that emulate piano and synthesizers. If budget isn't an option, you could go with a package deal like Kontakt Komplete which will have drum sequences and numerous instruments to choose from.
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    The current MacBook Pro line up (and my unit, specifically) only have USB-C ports, but I have a USB Hub that has the more ubiquitous USB-A ports. I think my biggest question is what should I buy? I have some limits since I live overseas in Asia - and I'm not really near a very large city, but many options can be ordered from larger brands such as Roland, Korg, and Yamaha. As for software - that isn't a big issue because I can buy most of it online and download. The question stumping me at the moment is whether to buy a separate midi controller and synth or an all in one package... and if so, what? XPS-10 and 30 are available - as are the previously mentioned Korg and Roland devices. There are others - and if you can give me some suggestions I can ask my contacts here - but I'm just not sure which direction to turn.

    As for budget - I'd like to keep it under $1,500 USD, but that isn't a hard cap.

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    Both a midi controller and synths send midi data out, so whichever you choose can be used as a controller for Virtual instruments or other synths in the computer or out. The upside of the synth, no computer necessary to play, just plug in some headphones. If you want to record you would need to get one that either sends audio out USB(not all do), or a separate audio interface. If you are not planning to record any voice or sources needing a microphone would mean an interface would be an extra expense. A controller does not generate any sound so it requires a computer or sound module. Most controllers can be found bundled with either recording software with some VI's or some sort of virtual sampler or something to get you started. Nowadays the major software synth manufacturers also sell hardware that operates there software natively which can be very handy. You can get very complex controllers that have assignable switches and knobs or just something basic. I think if you are just starting out I would say go with a basic model of either korg or roland synth or a bundled controller with say, Ableton live lite or se or whatever they sell.
    Win 7 Ult Dell i7 4core 6700ghz 32 GB, 1,2x2, 4 Tb Barracuda HD's running Pro tools 12.8 20-30 software synths, lotsa plugins through Allen&Heath Qu-32

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    So, if I planned on adding a mic and voice later - or an acoustic guitar - are you saying I should buy a separate controller? What is the point of a controller if a synth already sends midi data out?

    I think I understand that a keyboard controller does not generate sound - which is why I thought about something like the Roland A-500 along with the Korg Micro Sampler. I'm not THAT worried about the software, since that seems far more interchangeable than the hardware - maybe I'm being naive about that point.

    Can you give me a hypothetical set up (actual hardware recommendations) that would work/make logical sense with my laptop?

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    By the way, thanks for the help! I really appreciate it. It seems like most of the info I've found online has either been way too specific to not really apply to my situation or way too general to be of any actual use, so you have all been great help.

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    Since you will be using the computer for sound out, and eventually recording with a microphone, you should invest in a good audio interface. At least two inputs, more if think you will have a need. Most get by with just two channel.

    On the keyboard/controller, unless you really are a good keyboard player, then I would think a complete controller would be the best option. Main item on the controller would be, how the keys feel. I have an older controller, I am not a keyboard player, so I don't really care too much about the feel. My daughter on the other hand is a keyboard player and she wanted a full keyboard and weighted keys. You might want to keep that in mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DM60 View Post
    Since you will be using the computer for sound out, and eventually recording with a microphone, you should invest in a good audio interface. At least two inputs, more if think you will have a need. Most get by with just two channel.
    ^^ This. You need to decide if you are definitely recording live vocals/instruments or not. Buy an interface if you are, but you can still plug the keyboard directly via USB if needed. You don't need an interface with a Midi input, and there's no technical advantage to using midi direct through the audio interface or through USB. Most keyboards are USB 2.0, and USB C is backwards compatible so a non-issue there.

    You can buy an interface later on if you decide you want to record vocals or guitars. It won't change your current keyboard needs.
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    Ok. So, I think I'm going to start with a polyphonic synth and then build from there as this is becoming too complicated.

    So, if I'm looking for a multi purpose poly synth that I can plug into my MacBook and use Logic Pro - not less than 61 keys...any suggestions? I seem to be honing in on either the Roland Juni Di or the King Korg. Any suggestions or recommendations?

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    You mention using a USB hub with our Macbook - not everyone has luck using a hub for audio work: dvices not talking to each other, or not enough juice coming through the hub. Just a caution.
    Mike B My new album on CD Baby: Fact and Fiction
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