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Synth + MIDI controller - Ultranova, Mopho x4, Virus?
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Clonkified
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23rd October 2012
Old 23rd October 2012
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Synth + MIDI controller - Ultranova, Mopho x4, Virus?

Hi everybody,

I currently have a Novation SLMK2 49, which is a great MIDI controller keyboard. However, I don't use the Automap functionality and Maschine / Avid Artist Mix has made me realize how much I enjoy the tactile feel of something when creating music. So, I was thinking of replacing the Novation with a synth that could also serve as a MIDI controller. I have a ton of great soft synths and frankly, find them to be just as good in the mix as analog. I've had a Moog SP, a Virus TI desktop, and a Tetra before - I liked all of them but didn't have a workflow set up that made them easy to integrate into my creative flow. I'm hoping having a keyboard version will make this easier. I don't want more than 49 keys (don't have space).

The options I was thinking of are:

Novation Ultranova
- Seems like a very flexible synth engine, which is appealing
- Has a vocoder
- Novation keybed (which are great in my experience), but only 37 keys
- Interface for programming from the keyboard doesn't seem too bad (better than the Korg R3 or something)
- Inexpensive

Dave Smith Mopho x4
- 44 keys, which is nice from a controller perspective
- I liked the Tetra sound when I had it - if I was getting an analog, I want a poly
- Interface for programming seems pretty good and easy
- Limited sound?

Virus Polar Keyboard
- Only 37 keys
- Great interface for programming - lots of knobs
- Lots of sound options
- Very expensive

I know all of them come with a software editor too, but I'm hoping to program as much as possible on the hardware, so that needs to be easy. In addition, I want to use as much of it as a MIDI controller as possible (including the knobs).

What do you all think of the choices? Should I throw a Nord Lead 2x in there (like Armin van Buuren uses)? Is that sound still decent compared to newer options? Has 49 keys.

Thanks everybody!
Clonkified
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24th October 2012
Old 24th October 2012
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Bump - any thoughts? I do mainly indie pop music with some electronic elements. I've been going back and forth between leaning towards the Mopho x4 due to the number of keys and having a distinct sound to something like the Virus TI Polar (lots of knobs and versatility but it is a "soft synth" in a box). Checked out the GAIA demos too, but I didn't like the sound of it. Heard the Ultranova only sounds decent drenched in effects?
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25th October 2012
Old 25th October 2012
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From MIDI controller perspective, IMHO I wouldn't go less than 49 keys. I use a Blofeld right now and find it just about perfect in terms of compactness and usability from playing POV. Downside is only a few knobs, so it's not good for editing.

The TI would be good from a knobby perspective, but IMHO not as much with keys.

Of your choices, I'd probably go with the Mopho x4 if only because it has more keys, has the knobs, and cannot be duplicated in software.
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25th October 2012
Old 25th October 2012
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Thanks! I've actually been looking at the Blofeld keyboard now as well. How do you like the sound? Is the programming that bad - their matrix seems to be pretty well laid out for the main functionality and from a sound perspective, seems pretty versatile compared to the Mopho x4.
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25th October 2012
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I really like the Blofeld. The sound is somewhat 'cold' and digital, although it has a character I happen to like. It's really good for pads and FX.

Compared to DSI synths, it's apples and oranges (I have a P'08 as well). Blofeld might be more versatile, but there isn't a whole lot of overlap, imho.

Programming it is really intuitive. Even though it is limited in terms of knobs, the matrix is well laid out and the large LCD gives a nice visual representation of certain parameters (i.e. OSCs and filters). I do wish the matrix had maybe one or two more categories, but it's good for what it is.

And FWIW, I like its interface better than the Virus TI, despite the TI being a "knobby" interface. Virus still has a lot of menu diving, but it's almost made worse by the excess of buttons, knobs and LEDs. Waldorf did menu-diving right with the Blofeld, imho.
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25th October 2012
Old 25th October 2012
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How do you like the Prophet keybed vs. the Blofeld keybed?
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25th October 2012
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I prefer the Prophet (it's actually my favorite semi-weighted keybed), but the Blofeld's is very good too. There's not too much difference, TBH.
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26th October 2012
Old 26th October 2012
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Thanks for your help! I checked out the Blofeld and Mopho keyboard this evening (the Mopho keyboard has the same interface as the Mopho x4 I believe or close enough). Frankly, I didn't think the Mopho keyboard's interface would be all that easier or better to program on. I think the Blofeld's matrix system is pretty intuitive. In addition, I didn't feel the Mopho yielded a particularly versatile sound - it is very "80s" if I can say that. I started to tire of it by the end.

How do you feel about the Blofeld vs. today's soft synths?
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26th October 2012
Old 26th October 2012
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In what way? I've recorded the Blofeld and I find it tends to sit in with other VSTs well (mainly I use Omnisphere, plus some Absynth, FM8 and a couple others). Although I don't tend to edit VSTs much, so in a way I probably don't have a good basis to compare the sonic palettes.

If you wanted the Blofeld sound in h/w, I suppose you could just get Waldorf's Largo VST. I've never used it, but people who have have suggested it's basically the same as the Blofeld.
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26th October 2012
Old 26th October 2012
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In terms of sound - do you feel the Blofeld sound is made redundant based on your other soft synths or can it still hold its own and provide a unique texture? Do you feel it has the depth and power of VSTs (like Omnisphere or Massive if you've used that or U-He's Zebra / Diva)? As long as it is versatile and sounds good, I think I'm going to grab it.
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26th October 2012
Old 26th October 2012
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Any of you guys compared DSI keybed with Novation Ultranova's? I'd appreciate your impressions. Also, does Blofeld overlap Micro Q, I tried the latter, didn't like it so much but I get the feeling Blofeld gives a lot more than Micro Q not to mention that the last beta 1.16 OS of Blofeld is known to be far more stable than the previous ones.

As a matter of fact I'm tempted by DSI, but don't to go buying without a try (and there's no way to try it now since they don't sell DSI in my country).

Nevertheless Novation UN feels very good for its price, very good keybed indeed. Its
sad that Novation haven't updated its OS, there are certain bugs and glitches to be fixed.
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26th October 2012
Old 26th October 2012
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I compared them yesterday evening - I didn't feel too much of a difference. It wasn't an ideal testing environment and I didn't play for that long, but the Mopho keyboard was good as was the Novation keyboard (they are known for good keyboards). I have a Novation SLMK2 right now and it is great. I play like a pianist though - not a synth player, so my touch preferences may be different than yours.
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26th October 2012
Old 26th October 2012
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Thanks for the useful info. At the end of the day I may choose Novation UN to control Mopho desktop - kind of best of both worlds?
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27th October 2012
Old 27th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clonkified View Post
In terms of sound - do you feel the Blofeld sound is made redundant based on your other soft synths or can it still hold its own and provide a unique texture? Do you feel it has the depth and power of VSTs (like Omnisphere or Massive if you've used that or U-He's Zebra / Diva)? As long as it is versatile and sounds good, I think I'm going to grab it.
I don't think the Blofeld is entirely redundant in my experience, although given its digital nature I'm sure it could be made so (after all, there is Largo).

As for comparing it to other VSTs, haven't used Massive much and haven't used Diva at all. But I think VSTs like Omnisphere and Zebra probably have more depth and breadth to them, but that's more a consequence of them being less constrained by hardware. So I don't know if it's a fair comparison in that respect. For example, the Blofeld's got something like 60 megs or so of sampling capability; in contrast Omnisphere ships with about 40 gigs or so of samples.

The biggest advantage to me is the fact that the Blofeld is hardware. I can noodle around with it when I don't feel like firing up a DAW or even my PC. And its compact form factor allows it to serve as a MIDI keyboard on my desk, in addition to being a synth.
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