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Thread: 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)

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    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?

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    I'm not sure midi really has anything to do with this nowadays, unless you have a collection of old synths to connect, but bearing in mind I never used beats, loops and don't do dance style music or modern stuff like that ever, I can comment on the voice of keyboard styles. I'm a self-taught keyboard player, and I'm not a pianist, like my collaborator. I'm luck enough for my work to have 2 88 note weighted keyboards, 61 note synths and controllers in semi weighted and totally unweighted varieties and a 49 note synth. I now use one. The kontakt 61 note mk 2 because it gives me access to sounds quickly. Once you start collecting vst instruments they grow hugely. Many are cripplingly expensive and lots free. I use them all. Finding them is possible. So you use favourites. The kontakt enables a little sample of each to be heard instantly and if you search for say Synth pad, you still get too many, so you can search a bit more cleverly and then you find wonderful sounds you didn't even know you had, you just never spent three hours loading in every sound. The Zanzibar patch in the list you never ever discovered. On the key bit, some sample patches use key switches, so if you need to swap these patches you end up shifting octaves down, but then you can't play high notes. 61 is for me a tiny compromise, but space meant the 88 note version was out. 61 lets you play chords high and bass low at the same time. I never play the 49 note, it's just too small for two hands, fine if you never need to use both hands, and that's down to your music. I have a swissonic 88 note from Thomann and it has pads, but my music doesn't need them. You could find this great? All my stuff now connects via USB, so midi cables are a rare thing for me now, just the old stuff, but even there I've got virtually all my old synths in the computer as vsti sources now. If I was starting now from scratch, I'd have a kontakt keyboard, cubase and a kontakt instrument package. This is what my colleague has, with cubase artist because he just wants to record and I do the editing cleverness, and we swap files all the time. Neither of us now use midi at all.

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