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What's a good for midi controller for soft synths?
Old 16th October 2013
  #1
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What's a good midi controller for soft synths?

Let's say for Zebra or Massive. What does it take to be more intuitive, to get a little closer to the hardware experience?

Will i actually use 16 or more knobs on a midi keyboard, or will i still be using the mouse for the most part, just because it is there? Because if so, then i might just get a nice keyboard without any knobs or faders at all.

What's your experience with hardware/software hybrids?
Old 16th October 2013
  #2
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:O
Old 16th October 2013
  #3
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login's Avatar
For those two? IMHO Nothing, way to complex to have a "hardware experience". With more simple synths it is posible.

There aren't dedicated controllers for virtual synths, the closest are the custom made ones for Imposcar and one for prohphet like synths, but both are quite expensive.

if you have the money you could try to make your own with Hale micro or livid intruments kits.
Old 16th October 2013
  #4
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Duke Murdock's Avatar
Most software these days has midi learn functionality, so anything that sends midi data can be set up and combined to control whatever you want however you want.

I just picked up the Arturia MiniLab bc of all the knobs and buttons which are assignable. You can also create presets for the Minilab to store different settings for different instruments.
Old 16th October 2013
  #5
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NEXUS-6's Avatar
 

This is what I bought & recommend it really solid controller...

Keys feel really good & the pads are nice they light up

The automap software that comes with it could use some work
but its a freebie so no big loss..



My last one was an Arturia & it didn't last :(



Whats his face has one so u know its good right?

Old 16th October 2013
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
thewhitecascade's Avatar
 

I like the MPK49. Enough keys but not too many, 12 mpc type pads, and 6-8 (cant remember exactly) assignable faders and knobs.
Old 16th October 2013
  #7
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8 knobs? too few.

Arturia minilab has 16, that is way more usefull.

Other option? if you have an iPad make a template with otuch osc or lemur, is far better than using a generic midi controller since you can have all controls laid out logically and even color coded. One template epr synth too, no need to guees around "what knobs was cutoff for this synth on my controller?
Old 16th October 2013
  #8
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Novation SL, Maschine controller and/or Lemur - there's next to nothing you can't achieve, control or otherwise do with that lot - the SL and Lemur alone would be enough for most.

But the, you've got menu diving and such - I've seen a custom-built DIVA controller and it was gorgeous. Boutique or custom might be the way to go if you need such integration.
Old 18th October 2013
  #9
Deleted c387cfa
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Thx for the input so far. Seems like there's no good universal solution for that yet.

But what are you other guys actually using for your creative process then?
Just the mouse?
Old 18th October 2013
  #10
If you are using Cubase or Reason with your DAW, there is the Nektar P1/4/6 which have "Deep Integration" with the DAW and a number of plugs including Massive and Diva.
Old 18th October 2013
  #11
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login's Avatar
MAybe a very cheap synth with the standard controls a a Novation X-Station
Old 18th October 2013
  #12
I moved from in the box production because I wanted to stop using the mouse, which had become stale. I'm all hardware now and I couldn't be happier with the workflow now. I'm not suggesting this for you, that would be a derail lol.

But if I was gonna use the computer at this point, I'd get this one and try it first.

http://www.rolandus.com/products/details/1095/460

But, I go through a process with gear, and I rarely get it right on the first purchase. Be prepared to not be happy with your first choice in case you just aren't. You might go through 3 or 4 before you get the perfect one. I think ease of making templates would be the biggest factor, none of the key beds are that great, none of the pots and faders are super-high quality. Pick the one that lets you make more music and less setup/configuration downtime.
Old 18th October 2013
  #13
If you get the Arturia keyboards + plugins they are supposed to tie in together nicely.

I'm planning on doing this at some point.
Old 18th October 2013
  #14
Lives for gear
MKB-200 and Bitstream 3x that sits nicely on the top.
Old 18th October 2013
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slaughtrhaus View Post
I moved from in the box production because I wanted to stop using the mouse, which had become stale. I'm all hardware now and I couldn't be happier with the workflow now. I'm not suggesting this for you, that would be a derail lol.

But if I was gonna use the computer at this point, I'd get this one and try it first.

A-500PRO: MIDI Keyboard Controller | Roland U.S.

But, I go through a process with gear, and I rarely get it right on the first purchase. Be prepared to not be happy with your first choice in case you just aren't. You might go through 3 or 4 before you get the perfect one. I think ease of making templates would be the biggest factor, none of the key beds are that great, none of the pots and faders are super-high quality. Pick the one that lets you make more music and less setup/configuration downtime.
I'm liking the Roland for that price, but the Novation Remote SL looks very tempting tbh.

I wish i could just go all hardware, but you can't beat a Zebra for that price. But let's see how it all turns out over the time...
Old 18th October 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grovestand View Post
If you get the Arturia keyboards + plugins they are supposed to tie in together nicely.

I'm planning on doing this at some point.
I had the Arturia Minilab just a few days ago and didn't like the keyboard at all. So stiff to play, it was actually work to press them lol.
But apart from that it's a really nice, and rather lovely looking, controller. Liked the feel of the knobs, but what's it worth when i don't want to play with it
Old 18th October 2013
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

I am using the impulse 49 but the knobs feel aweful (to me) but I use mostly hardware synths. The keys on the other hand, I really like them. The pitch bend is a major part for me as well. If I am not doing electronic music for hobby sakes by myself, I am using the impulse to control the Minitaur as the bass player for my band, (the pedal board and synth are sitting over top of all the extra midi controls that I dont use) the keys have a good punch to them while still being spongy enough to do more velocity based playing that would be considered more "keyboarding" than "piano".
For soft synths like massive, those are more of a sit down and build with the mouse kind of program. The knobs you can assign are more over "performance macros" that you would spend a few hours setting up to do some sort of live performance feature. Like operating cutoff or something more complex like transforming an entire array of parameters with one knob to completely decimate the sound. These are cool, but its not the synth exploration experience I think you are looking for.
My roomate, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoys creating instrument surfaces. He uses the ever simple akai mini that I lent him along with a few knob and slider controllers. He programs reactor synths with a bunch of macros and seems to make some rather interesting intuitive stuff with it. Again though, he spends hours doing the initial setup. It has never been a plug and play experience.

As for the Impulse having 8 knobs, you can flip through pages, so the amount of parameters is endless as far as I can tell. It works with ableton out of the box which was damn fantastic, especially when I was just learning and didnt have time to run into technical issues every time I have an idea.

Last edited by Ortikon; 18th October 2013 at 07:40 PM.. Reason: wait i forgot the..
Old 18th October 2013
  #18
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flowthrough's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by coffee View Post
MKB-200 and Bitstream 3x that sits nicely on the top.
This would be a very sexy looking setup indeed.

Retro look
Knobs
Sliders
Joystick

well played
Old 18th October 2013
  #19
Gear Nut
 

Maschine and/or iPad would be your best options imo due to the ease of mapping/automapping and the amount of visual feedback you get from the actual controller.

Maschine already comes with a MIDI control template for Massive. I use Maschine both in MIDI controller mode and also with Maschine software as plugin host. Maschine's hardware basically makes using any software through it feel like you're using standalone hardware. You can even open and close plugin GUIs using a button and it can even eliminate the need to touch a mouse or stare at a computer screen. And it comes with an excellent Controller Editor for making your own custom MIDI controller templates for using it in MIDI controller mode.

Maschine lets you browse and load all your plugins from the hardware, and even browse all NI plugin presets from its own hardware displays, without even having to load the plugins first (You can have your own custom or third party presets in there as well).

Maschine's software also automaps to all plugin parameters by default and you can customized the default mapping as well. I prefer it to Novation's Automap software because there's no need to "wrap" plugins before they automap like you have to do with Novation controllers. Here's how it works with Massive loaded as a plugin inside Maschine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZwyU2oyJaE&t=01m59s

iPad has all kinds of controller options like touchOSC and Lemur: Control Massive With Your Mobile Device Via Touch OSC - Native Instruments Massive tutorials | Native Instruments Massive tutorials
Old 18th October 2013
  #20
Deleted c387cfa
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I'm actually sitting in front of an iPad right now. But i really don't want to stare on or touch another display when working with a synthesizer. It's the physical feedback that i want, but at the same time i don't want to miss the opportunity to use some of the great soft synths today.

I've been using the iPad for about a year now and enjoyed creating sounds with it pretty much. And even though i can actually touch the sound i am working on in completely new ways, it somehow lacks something very important, to me at least.

I believe it's the actual feedback on your fingertips or the fact that you just can't close your eyes even though you're using your hands in such an immersive way.
The iPad is fantastic for what it is, but it can't replace the hardware experience for me.

I know, i know, i should just get the Virus or whatever then. But no, i want to use Zebra, and i want to do it in the best possible way.
Old 18th October 2013
  #21
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br11san's Avatar
 

Novation SL MKII

How is Novation SL MKII? Looks powerful.
Old 18th October 2013
  #22
Deleted c387cfa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by br11san View Post
How is Novation SL MKII? Looks powerful.
Looks really tempting. Although for that price i think i probably would just get a used Virus and use it as a controller. If i find a used SL cheaper i will think about it.

What really puzzles me though, how many knobs will actually be using with, let's say, the Zebra? Will i really assign them all and keep in mind what knob does what, or will i mainly just assign the most important ones and do the rest still via mouse?

Or do i just need to keep it simple, and try to get fully used to it with just one synth, instead of switching between many different ones? So that, at some point, i'll just know that the knob #8 manipulates the cutoff and fader #5 controls the ringmodulator. Would take a while though, i guess.
Old 18th October 2013
  #23
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geron View Post
I'm actually sitting in front of an iPad right now. But i really don't want to stare on or touch another display when working with a synthesizer. It's the physical feedback that i want, but at the same time i don't want to miss the opportunity to use some of the great soft synths today.

I've been using the iPad for about a year now and enjoyed creating sounds with it pretty much. And even though i can actually touch the sound i am working on in completely new ways, it somehow lacks something very important, to me at least.

I believe it's the actual feedback on your fingertips or the fact that you just can't close your eyes even though you're using your hands in such an immersive way.
The iPad is fantastic for what it is, but it can't replace the hardware experience for me.

I know, i know, i should just get the Virus or whatever then. But no, i want to use Zebra, and i want to do it in the best possible way.
Well, that helps to narrow it down. Definitely go for Maschine then. Works great with Zebra: NI Maschine Tip: Setting Default Plug-in Parameters for VST / AU (Modulate This! Synth Blog)
Old 18th October 2013
  #24
Deleted c387cfa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subterrain View Post
Well, that helps to narrow it down. Definitely go for Maschine then. Works great with Zebra: NI Maschine Tip: Setting Default Plug-in Parameters for VST / AU (Modulate This! Synth Blog)
What do i need the buttons for?
Old 18th October 2013
  #25
Ableton push is pretty good for this too. As long as you don't need more than 8 knobs at once (how many fingers do you have?!)
Old 18th October 2013
  #26
Deleted c387cfa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grovestand View Post
Ableton push is pretty good for this too. As long as you don't need more than 8 knobs at once (how many fingers do you have?!)
What am i doing with all the pads? I don't want to make beats that way or use it as a sequencer.
Old 18th October 2013
  #27
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted c387cfa View Post
What do i need the buttons for?
What do you mean? Are you talking about the 8 buttons above the displays?

When you're controlling plugins loaded within Maschine, the automapped parameters are controlled by the knobs. So you browse through pages of 8 parameters that you control with the knobs.

Maschine also has a MIDI controller mode that you can switch to with a press of a button which lets you make custom mappings for every control on the hardware including all those buttons, pads...etc.:

Old 18th October 2013
  #28
Deleted c387cfa
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Sorry, i meant the pads. I don't understand what i could use them for, except for triggering samples/sounds.
Old 18th October 2013
  #29
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted c387cfa View Post
Sorry, i meant the pads. I don't understand what i could use them for, except for triggering samples/sounds.
Within Maschine's software, the pads select/trigger each sound slot and if you go into pad mode, you can play the pads like a keyboard (and you can move octaves up and down). For the MKI/MKII Maschine hardware, the pads also have secondary shift functions like, nudge, clear automation, quantize, copy, paste, undo, redo, compare, split...etc.

Within MIDI control mode, what you do with them is entirely up to you. In that last Maschine/Massive video, he changes the pad mapping from chromatic notes to a different scale but you could map them to anything that's MIDI-mappable.
Old 18th October 2013
  #30
Deleted c387cfa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subterrain View Post
Within Maschine's software, the pads select/trigger each sound slot and if you go into pad mode, you can play the pads like a keyboard (and you can move octaves up and down). For the MKI/MKII Maschine hardware, the pads also have secondary shift functions like, nudge, clear automation, quantize, copy, paste, undo, redo, compare, split...etc.

Within MIDI control mode, what you do with them is entirely up to you. In that last Maschine/Massive video, he changes the pad mapping from chromatic notes to a different scale but you could map them to anything that's MIDI-mappable.
Nice, thx for the explanation. But at 500€s i think getting a really nice used hardware synth and use that as a controller would be a much better idea, no? Because then i would actually have the best of both worlds.

Or is the interface of Maschine/Push really worth the extra money?
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