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Deckard's Dream, Polyphonic Aftertouch and Keyboard Controllers
Old 18th October 2018
  #1
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Deckard's Dream, Polyphonic Aftertouch and Keyboard Controllers

So I recently picked up a Deckard's Dream, which I am really digging. I was hoping to be able to take advantage of the polyphonic aftertouch, but unfortunately my keyboard controller (NI Komplete Kontrol S88) doesn't support it. I really like the Komplete Kontrol, so I don't want to replace it or anything... I was just trying to figure out another way to accomplish what I was hoping to accomplish... So my proposed "solution" is to pick up a Keith McMillen QuNexus. This little thing is affordable and very small - will fit on top of my Komplete Kontrol (the Deckard's is located right above that), so I could play the S88 keyboard and then when I need a little Poly AT expression, use the QuNexus... Are there any glaring flaws with this plan? Or does this sound like a pretty good "next best thing?"
Old 18th October 2018
  #2
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🎧 10 years
I don’t know about the qunexus, but i have another KM product, (their mixer), and while it is a very cool product, there was some deception about it’s midi add on product, being fully functional, without a computer. It can send midi through this add on, but it can only recieve midi, while connected to a computer. Just keep this in mind, if you are thinking of feeding midi through the qunexus.

I understand the advantage of polyphonic after touch, being that each individual key can have an added control, by adding additional pressure on the keys, but that is actually not all that conducive to playing so much as holding notes down. Maybe consider something like the Touche, in which you can assign different midi cc’s to it’s different directions. I’m sure the quenexus would have even more options, since its fully programmable, but that’s not really a polyphonic keyboard either.
Old 18th October 2018
  #3
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carbon111's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Something like the Linnstrument or Roli boards might be a better fit?
Old 18th October 2018 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mildheadwound View Post
I don’t know about the qunexus, but i have another KM product, (their mixer), and while it is a very cool product, there was some deception about it’s midi add on product, being fully functional, without a computer. It can send midi through this add on, but it can only recieve midi, while connected to a computer. Just keep this in mind, if you are thinking of feeding midi through the qunexus.
Connectivity is certainly an area where there are a few things to watch out for.

As you indicate, in this case there are two things to watch for: If you dont want to use a computer, you have to purchase another bit of hardware (the midi expander) to actually get traditional midi out from the qunexus. And you need a plan for how you are going to combine the midi from the qunexus with the midi from your main keyboard.

The roli devices have similar issues, in that you only get midi out via usb, and extra solutions are required if you need good old 5 pin midi din plugs. I will make another post about this part of the puzzle later. The Linnstrument does have proper midi out, although you still need some way to merge that midi with the midi from your Komplete Kontrol (I dont know anything about that keyboard so dont know if it can send everything from its midi input to its midi output).

Another thing to watch for is the precise detail of what sorts of midi messages the device will send, and what the Deckards Dream responds to. I see from the qunexus manual that poly aftertouch is mentioned, and its channel rotation mode also sounds quite a lot like MPE, both of which the Deckards Dream supports. Lack of manual for the Deckards Dream is a bit of a pain here as I do like to get nery about these details and dont have a Deckards Dream of my own to check with.

I suppose the other thing to watch out for is how the device actually feels to use. I know very little about the qunexus in this regard. I'm usually tempted to suspect that these devices are not amazing because of how little talk I hear about them on the net, but this is not a reliable way to judge really.

Personally I have both a Linnstrument and a range of different Roli devices. Some of these are very far away from the price you would spend on a qunexus. Personally in your situation I would be very tempted to start with 1 Seaboard Block, because that might still fit on your controller keyboard, and although it is more expensive than the qunexus, its not as big a difference in price as the other options, and you will get full MPE. And you could add a 2nd seaboard block later if you decided you loved that side of things and wanted to add more octaves. Still need to allow for a bit more spending if you want to use the setup without a computer though, and I shall return to this bit later. In an ideal world you would be able to feel and try the seaboard block and the qunexus before reaching a decision since this is where the largest difference is to be found, but thats easier said than done.
Old 18th October 2018
  #5
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🎧 5 years
So, regarding both the usb midi -> din midi issue, and midi merging, in theory right now the following sounds absolutely perfect, ticks all the right boxes:

RK-005 USB MIDI Hub - Retrokits

Before really recommending it I would like to actually own one of these, and I havent tried to get one yet but since it is now available I shall get one ASAP. But in theory it should do the job for both the qunexus and various roli devices and could also be useful in some other scenarios.
Old 18th October 2018
  #6
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Very helpful, guys, thanks! I will check out that Roli Seaboard. It will indeed fit on top of my keyboard - I checked the dims. I do have a MIDI interface with USB inputs. Do you think I could just go through it? It's a mio10. Would be nice to not have to buy yet another piece of equipment, obviously.
Old 18th October 2018
  #7
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Would you guys recommend picking up the ROLI Touch Block too?
Old 18th October 2018 | Show parent
  #8
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
Very helpful, guys, thanks! I will check out that Roli Seaboard. It will indeed fit on top of my keyboard - I checked the dims. I do have a MIDI interface with USB inputs. Do you think I could just go through it? It's a mio10. Would be nice to not have to buy yet another piece of equipment, obviously.
I havent tried the mio10 myself but looking at the spec and features it does sound like it should do the job, because it has a usb host port and plenty of midi merge/thru functionality. I dont have time to read the manual online to look at the devilish detail though, but it looks very promising.

I have also been reading that the Deckards Dream midi port does support host mode. This wasnt obvious to me because there is no manual, and the USB port on the back is a type B, which usually means only device mode, not host mode. But apparently it is a host port, you just need to mess around with slightly unusual usb cabling/adaptor combinations to get the right sort of connection. But then I also read that there are problems with the seaboard becoming unresponsive when used in this way with the Deckards Dream, so they recommend finding a way to connect it using the traditional midi port on the DD.
Old 18th October 2018 | Show parent
  #9
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
Would you guys recommend picking up the ROLI Touch Block too?
Depends what use you want to put it to. I have both the original lightpad block, and the improved lightpad M block. I didnt like the original, the sensitivity/amount of pressure required to trigger it and the feeling of the surface were not great for me, and is much improved in the M version. They have their uses, eg if you want to use one as an x-y controller to control a couple of additional parameters on the DD. You could use them to play notes too but as usual with this stuff it varies from person to person as to whether they end up liking the device for that sort of thing.

But I dont love them as much as I love both the seaboard rise and seaboard block. And you might find that with the polyphonic stuff the main seaboard block gives you, you dont feel the need to adjust more stuff on top of that, especially as you are using another controller already as well.

If it were me I would probably just start with the seaboard block, and see how you get on. Its very personal as to whether people love the seaboard stuff or not, or other MPE controllers. Some people are so amazed by this stuff and it adds so many extra dimensions to expressive playing that they cant believe the world has not gone completely crazy over this stuff already, others are far more lukewarm about the whole experience and what it brings to the table. And there are tedious technical details with MPE and how different instruments support that stuff that can sometimes get in the way of a perfect experience. On that note, I'm not sure how well the Deckards Dream will work with using a normal midi controller on one channel and an MPE controller in full MPE mode at the same time, since people with MPE controllers tend to be using them on their own. In theory the MPE spec keeps midi channel 1 free as a global midi channel that isnt tied to the MPE notes (which use the other midi channels) but since the DD has no manual and plenty of quirks, I couldnt vouch for quite how that will work on that synth. And if you did find some reason to have to use the seaboard block in non-MPE mode, I have this feeling I remember recently struggling to get it to transmit standard polyAT midi, and most of the instructions for doing so seemed to relate to the seaboard rise 25 or 49 and not the seaboard blocks. But I could be remembering wrong or be otherwise confused about something on that one.

Anyway I dont want such tedious technical tedium put you off, I think you are quite right to want to unlock the polyphonic expressiveness of the Deckards Dream, it seems well worth it. And in theory MPE controllers take that several steps further. I just wanted to warn you that sometimes it takes a few attempts to find the right combination that suits a person or particular setup. Either because of how the controller feels to a person, or how they get on with playing it, or some technical reason that affects compatibility. It doesnt help that pretty much all of the hardware synths that actually support MPE at this moment in time, of which there arent that many, tend to be either lurking in small niches or have their quirks or flaws. I wish I had a Deckards Dream so I could speak with greater technical accuracy on some of these details, I've collected so many different MPE controllers over the last few years that I would kind of like to expand on and then make greater use of my knowledge and ability to test stuff using these devices.

There are several further options when it comes to fairly small MPE controllers too, but so far these are even more niche, and for example it is usually a lot harder to find out how well they are working with a synth like the Deckards Dream or for musicians in general. Examples include the Joué and the Sensel Morph. And so far when it comes to 'controllers starring alongside the Deckard Dream in youtube videos', the Linnstrument is the boss, though that is a different level of pricing and not a piano key type layout.
Old 18th October 2018 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
Very helpful, guys, thanks! I will check out that Roli Seaboard. It will indeed fit on top of my keyboard - I checked the dims.
Since I already used so many words going on about stuff, I may as well spend a few more being tedious about the name of the device. If you just call it the roli seaboard, some people will assume you mean the larger seaboard rise instruments, so best not to miss out the word block when talking about the seaboard block. Similar story with the lightpad blocks, people often dont use the lightpad part of the name, and if the older version of the lightpad block (without the M in its name) is still for sale then thats another area where people could end up talking about different devices, let alone the seaboard block also having block in its name.

Oh dear, I sound like some kind of mad librarian pedant stalking the halls of MPE! Even nerdy me did not used to sound this tedious but since these days there are multiple Roli products with seaboard in the name and multiple products with block in the name, I find myself droning on!
Old 18th October 2018 | Show parent
  #11
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveElbows View Post
Since I already used so many words going on about stuff, I may as well spend a few more being tedious about the name of the device. If you just call it the roli seaboard, some people will assume you mean the larger seaboard rise instruments, so best not to miss out the word block when talking about the seaboard block. Similar story with the lightpad blocks, people often dont use the lightpad part of the name, and if the older version of the lightpad block (without the M in its name) is still for sale then thats another area where people could end up talking about different devices, let alone the seaboard block also having block in its name.

Oh dear, I sound like some kind of mad librarian pedant stalking the halls of MPE! Even nerdy me did not used to sound this tedious but since these days there are multiple Roli products with seaboard in the name and multiple products with block in the name, I find myself droning on!
Yes, the ROLI Seaboard Block. That is what I was referring to - the one with one octave... Anyhow, I do appreciate all the input that you've given. I've put in an email to the folks that make the Deckard's Dream and also the guys that make mio10 as well, so we'll see what they have to say. Hopefully it'll work.
Old 18th October 2018 | Show parent
  #12
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
Yes, the ROLI Seaboard Block. That is what I was referring to - the one with one octave... Anyhow, I do appreciate all the input that you've given. I've put in an email to the folks that make the Deckard's Dream and also the guys that make mio10 as well, so we'll see what they have to say. Hopefully it'll work.
Cheers. Actually its two octaves, but small keys. I like mine so much that I bought a 2nd one so that I could have twice as many octaves, thanks to its expandable nature (although a side effect of that is that they have 24 keys, not 25).
Old 31st October 2018
  #13
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Well, just to update... I got the Seaboard Block. I kind of like the squishy little keys from purely a tactile standpoint, though as a keyboard player, I'm not really getting on too well with them. They're just too squishy and smooshy. ... More to the point though, I'm having all sorts of issues getting the Seaboard Block, mio10 and Deckard's Dream to all play nice and understand one another. In order for me to utilize the ROLI Dashboard, I have to have the Seaboard Block plugged directly into my Mac. It can't detect it if it's plugged into my mio10. So that's annoying, having to swap USB cables in order to adjust something in the Dashboard and then switch back to being able to play. Secondly it seems as though true polyphonic aftertouch is NOT supported by ROLI for the Seaboard Block. MPE, yes, but not poly AT. So that's frustrating too. Also, when set to MPE on the ROLI Dashboard and with the Deckard's Dream to Poly AT (this way I can at least get aftertouch, but it's not polyphonic), if I play my original controller (Komplete Kontrol S88), the notes become truncated and jittery. I can't hold out long legato chords for instance.

So overall it's just a real mess. Anyone want to buy a ROLI Seaboard Block? I think the only option for me will be to buy a whole new 88 key controller that has poly AT. I've seen videos of the Kurzweil Midiboard, but those aren't easy to find... Why are keyboard controllers with true Poly AT virtually impossible to find?
Old 31st October 2018 | Show parent
  #14
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Moonwhistle's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
Well, just to update... I got the Seaboard Block. I kind of like the squishy little keys from purely a tactile standpoint, though as a keyboard player, I'm not really getting on too well with them. They're just too squishy and smooshy. ... More to the point though, I'm having all sorts of issues getting the Seaboard Block, mio10 and Deckard's Dream to all play nice and understand one another. In order for me to utilize the ROLI Dashboard, I have to have the Seaboard Block plugged directly into my Mac. It can't detect it if it's plugged into my mio10. So that's annoying, having to swap USB cables in order to adjust something in the Dashboard and then switch back to being able to play. Secondly it seems as though true polyphonic aftertouch is NOT supported by ROLI for the Seaboard Block. MPE, yes, but not poly AT. So that's frustrating too. Also, when set to MPE on the ROLI Dashboard and with the Deckard's Dream to Poly AT (this way I can at least get aftertouch, but it's not polyphonic), if I play my original controller (Komplete Kontrol S88), the notes become truncated and jittery. I can't hold out long legato chords for instance.

So overall it's just a real mess. Anyone want to buy a ROLI Seaboard Block? I think the only option for me will be to buy a whole new 88 key controller that has poly AT. I've seen videos of the Kurzweil Midiboard, but those aren't easy to find... Why are keyboard controllers with true Poly AT virtually impossible to find?
The Roli was not good for me either.

You might want to check out Touchkeys? Or certain Ensoniq keyboards with poly AT.
Old 31st October 2018
  #15
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GregkoNYC's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
So I recently picked up a Deckard's Dream, which I am really digging. I was hoping to be able to take advantage of the polyphonic aftertouch, but unfortunately my keyboard controller (NI Komplete Kontrol S88) doesn't support it. I really like the Komplete Kontrol, so I don't want to replace it or anything... I was just trying to figure out another way to accomplish what I was hoping to accomplish... So my proposed "solution" is to pick up a Keith McMillen QuNexus. This little thing is affordable and very small - will fit on top of my Komplete Kontrol (the Deckard's is located right above that), so I could play the S88 keyboard and then when I need a little Poly AT expression, use the QuNexus... Are there any glaring flaws with this plan? Or does this sound like a pretty good "next best thing?"
KP - In your research have you come across this yet?

TouchKeys | expressive multi-touch sensing on the piano keyboard

A bit of a DIY job (and not cheap) but you can put it on your current 88 - or any keyboard for that matter...

Take care!

Greg
Old 31st October 2018 | Show parent
  #16
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonwhistle View Post
The Roli was not good for me either.

You might want to check out Touchkeys? Or certain Ensoniq keyboards with poly AT.
Wow, Touchkeys looks amazing, at least conceptually. I love the fact that I'd be able to use my existing master control keyboard (which I really like). I'll have to read up more on them. Thanks.
Old 31st October 2018 | Show parent
  #17
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by GregkoNYC View Post
KP - In your research have you come across this yet?

TouchKeys | expressive multi-touch sensing on the piano keyboard

A bit of a DIY job (and not cheap) but you can put it on your current 88 - or any keyboard for that matter...

Take care!

Greg
TWO votes for TouchKeys... Sounds like it may be a winner. Going to do some reading now. Thanks to both of you.
Old 1st December 2018 | Show parent
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mule View Post
I think the only option for me will be to buy a whole new 88 key controller that has poly AT. I've seen videos of the Kurzweil Midiboard, but those aren't easy to find... Why are keyboard controllers with true Poly AT virtually impossible to find?
Depending on what country you're in, but they are around here in US. Look in Craigslist and EBay. There are currently 4 of them. Price varies quite a bit, but one guy just picked one up in San Francisco for $360 (insane). Good prices for good condition are around $500-$800. Look for Made in Japan models that have a better keybed, and one that has Ver3 firmware.

The aftertouch on the Midiboard is extremely responsive, and the sensitivity can be adjusted with a slider on front panel. Playing Deckards (and Xerxes) with polyAT feels like the keyboard is alive. Nothing else really gives you this kind of experience.
Old 1st December 2018 | Show parent
  #19
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pandomonium View Post
Depending on what country you're in, but they are around here in US. Look in Craigslist and EBay. There are currently 4 of them. Price varies quite a bit, but one guy just picked one up in San Francisco for $360 (insane). Good prices for good condition are around $500-$800. Look for Made in Japan models that have a better keybed, and one that has Ver3 firmware.

The aftertouch on the Midiboard is extremely responsive, and the sensitivity can be adjusted with a slider on front panel. Playing Deckards (and Xerxes) with polyAT feels like the keyboard is alive. Nothing else really gives you this kind of experience.
I'm here in the states. I just checked eBay earlier and saw two MIDIboards, both were pick up only (neither near me) and both were in the $1300-1500 range.

I think what I've decided to go with - after all consideration, research, etc. - is the TouchKeys system. Just need to save up a little money. I've spoken to two folks who have installed TouchKeys on a NI Komplete Kontrol S88 - it is a bit of a challenge, but can be done. I tried the ROLI Seaboard Block, but just couldn't get used to the feel of it. And it seems the TouchKeys are much more capable than any other solution I've found, with several different types of expression being possible.

So, while I'm not loving the fact that I'll have to throw down nearly $1500, and I'm not especially looking forward to the installation, I think it's the best option available to me. Being able to keep the S88 is a big plus, because I use it with my Komplete sampler. And I like the action of the keyboard. It's nice to be able to keep it where it is... So we'll see... I am still open for suggestions though, so feel free to chime in!
Old 2nd December 2018
  #20
Gear Addict
 
Don't give up, Midiboards come and go quite frequently on CL. I'll keep my eyes open, and I've helped 5 DD owners out already. Which state are you in?

I've never tried touchkeys, but Mb is amazing.
Old 2nd December 2018 | Show parent
  #21
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pandomonium View Post
Don't give up, Midiboards come and go quite frequently on CL. I'll keep my eyes open, and I've helped 5 DD owners out already. Which state are you in?

I've never tried touchkeys, but Mb is amazing.
OK, I'm happy to hold off a bit. I'm in New York City. If you do hear about or see one, please do let me know.

Is there anyone here who has played both a Midiboard AND TouchKeys? Would love to hear some first hand comparisons.
Old 2nd December 2018
  #22
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Bobswans's Avatar
Xkey 37 could get you up and running while you wait for something superior. You can use them over usb or with the midi breakout cable they come with.
I have been using one with my Prophet 12 for a couple of years.
Old 2nd December 2018
  #23
DGL
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🎧 5 years
Or look for either a GEM S2/3 or one of the ELKA MKB controllers, both have poly aftertouch.
Old 2nd December 2018
  #24
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks, Bobswans & DGL. I will check those options out as well.
Old 20th February 2019
  #25
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Well, here's an update for anyone interested... After a lot of researching and pondering, I decided to try the TouchKeys option.

Absolute DEBACLE.

First let me say that Andrew is a swell guy - super nice and very quick to respond to my questions (which were plentiful). I had read that installing TouchKeys on the Komplete Kontrol S88 was a pain to do. That the space inside was tight and it involved a lot of tedious work. Now, I am the first to admit that I'm not Mr. DIY, and that I was pretty worried about tackling this project. But with a little encouragement (some by Andrew, admittedly), I took the plunge and spent the $1600 for the kit, which arrived in early January.

Anyhow, as for the installation, I had trouble at every step of the way – getting the S88 open in itself is not easy. Tons of screws to take out and then removing the lid involved having to remove the key bed as well. Even then, getting it completely off was an ordeal – lots of wiggling and nudging, etc. Preparing and affixing the adhesive keys was the easy part, though that was a little nerve-wracking too as the adhesive is very strong and if you get one on that is misaligned, it isn’t easy to pop it off. But I got everything on there pretty cleanly and the keyboard looked fine. Lots of problems getting the control boards assembled, connected to the keys and then installed behind the keys. Those tiny ribbons sliding into the connectors and then closing with those infuriating little brown plastic doors, which broke off more often than not and were then very difficult to reseat (or replace – Andrew was kind enough to send me a few more). Getting the boards to sit in a good position that would allow the keyboard to be closed up properly was no small task either. And here’s where I began to make a real mess of things. In trying to position the boards, I had to do all sorts of wrapping them in the cables, tucking them in various nooks behind the keys, and then watching as they would inevitably pop out of place. The boards would pop up, individual cables would pop out of those little connectors, the stupid brown plastic doors would pop off and fall between the keys, causing me much consternation and stress… I finally got everything into a position that looked like it might work and I was ready to close up again. Which is when I realized closing it up was even harder than opening it. Especially with all this extra stuff now inside. Lots of wiggling and wrangling took place. I snapped two of the ground wires, which I had to sort of rig to get them back in place. It took probably 45 minutes to get the damn thing closed… But it wasn’t closed. I couldn’t close it with the Touchkeys boards in their current position. So I had to reopen, rearrange, break a few more little plastic parts inside the S88 (including the ones that act as center brace and guide for the two ribbon connectors that go from the keyboard to the top panel – god damn it!). Another long period of rearranging and I figured out a better solution, which allowed me to close the keyboard. But of course after that, the Touchkeys didn’t work. Clearly something had come loose. So I had to open it again, fix the issue (a connector had popped loose – surprise surprise), close it again, and this time without installing all the screws.

I don't know if anyone else has had this much trouble with this particular install. Probably not. I tend to specialize in this sort of thing and do it like nobody else can.

Anyhow, sorry for the ramble, but suffice to say that after all of that, there were still connectivity problems and TouchKeys is not operating as it should. There’s no way I’m going to open this S88 up again so I’ve got to figure out what to do next. If anyone in the NYC area would like an S88 that needs a little TLC, PM me and we can work something out. I guess I’ll have to either get a Kurzweil Midiboard or wait and see if some other 88 key controllers with poly aftertouch come out soon. This quest for poly AT has been a nightmare. Ridiculous.
Old 21st February 2019
  #26
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🎧 5 years
Sorry to hear that didnt go well. If that happened to me I think I would be trying to find someone in the NYC area who might be able to rescue the project for you.
Old 21st February 2019 | Show parent
  #27
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveElbows View Post
Sorry to hear that didnt go well. If that happened to me I think I would be trying to find someone in the NYC area who might be able to rescue the project for you.
Thanks. Yes, I don't think I bungled it beyond repair. Just beyond what I'm able to do!
Old 21st February 2019
  #28
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
The new microFreak has poly-AT. Find a store with a demo model to see if it agrees with you. It's flat key with no travel, but I can't imagine it's any worse to play than the McMillens, which I just didn't get along with because of the wonky pad feel. As a bonus, there's some sort of synth-like thingy included... (I can't find a manual for it yet, but I can't imagine it wouldn't send aftertouch and it sure looks like a hell of a lot of fun as a thing in itself!)
Old 21st February 2019
  #29
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The Mule's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Yes, I saw that and it looks cool. But what I’ve found is that I really need a regular keyboard, preferably 88 weighted keys.
Old 21st February 2019
  #30
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SandyS1's Avatar
The Ensoniq VFX, VFX-SD, and TS-10 all have polyphonic aftertouch, and are pretty affordable. The SQ-80 also has poly-AT, but the mechanism tends to be very loud and liable to get worse over time. Some don't like the action of the Ensoniq keyboards, so YMMV. But they're fairly plentiful and inexpensive.
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