help with keyboard synth

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Phat Ham, Nov 14, 2001.

  1. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    The keyboard player in my band has a Yamaha keyboard (not sure of model) but it doesn't really sound all that good. So he's looking to upgrade to a better synth. He said he prefers analog, but isn't bent on it. The problem is, nobody in the band knows much about synths, and he doesn't have too much to spend. Maybe $500 max. I was thinking, instead of buying a completely new synth, couldn't he just get a synth module and plug his current keyboard into that?

    Another idea that came up was plugging his keyboard into his laptop via MIDI and getting some sort of synth program. Is this a viable option?

    Anyway, if anyone out there has any suggestions please help us out.
  2. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone.

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    For $500, you probably won't find a new keyboard synth that sounds much better than the Yamaha that your keyboard player has now.

    I recently helped someone shop for a new keyboard synth (he just wanted my ears for a second opinion), and one thing that we both agreed on was that the Roland XP-30 is probably the best bang-for-the-buck keyboard out there. However, the best sale price for a new XP-30 is about $970 (with free shipping if you buy on-line). The good news is that there is usually at least a half-dozen XP-30's on eBay, and they tend to sell for around $700 (maybe your keyboard player could get lucky and snag one within his $500 budget).

    You can click here to see some Harmony Central reviews for the Roland XP-30.

    (BTW, my friend wound up buying a Korg Triton, which costs much more than the Roland XP-30.)

    FWIW, I'm no keyboard player (I can play some chords and a few licks), but if I needed a keyboard, the Roland XP-30 is what I'd buy (but $970 would buy some really nice bass gear :D ).
  3. Nails


    Jun 4, 2000
    Austin, Tejas
    Getting a module would work, as long as the keyboard has MIDI out, which I'd assume it does. The problem with that is some modules are very specific. A few of the modules I've looked at (what can I say, I have a secret MIDI fetish) are:

    Korg TR Rack, which is basically a Trinity in a 1 rack space unit
    Korg Triton Rack, like the name implies Triton in a rack
    Roland JV-1010, 1/2 rack, 64 polyphony, slot for adding sounds
    Alesis QSR, 1 rack, 64 polyphony, 2 expansion card slots
    Yamaha EXR, the EX5 in a 3 rack unit box, samples, sequences, and has built in sounds.

    I haven't tried some of these out. The TR Rack is discontinued if I'm not mistaken, and the EXR may be as well. I haven't seen a QSR in a store, but it has the same sounds as the Alesis QS keyboards. Out of the ones I mentioned I think the Triton Rack and EXR would be more flexible. The EXR has 4 types of synthesis available to it, so I say look for one of those, or an EX5 or 7, same thing but with keys. Look used first, I haven't seen an EX in a store since I started looking at synths.

    Hooking into the laptop isn't a bad idea. I don't know how he'd get the audio out though. The headphone plug wouldn't have the best quality, and it would only be 1 out where I know of people who need 4 at the least. What he could do is get Cubase, and use virtual instruments thru that. A lot of third party companies make virtual instruments so finding them shouldn't be a problem. Then he could get a D/A converter that hooks up via USB and use that as his outs. If he only needs one out then I'm sure you guys can live with the headphone out. Also, if he has Cubase and an A/D converter he can be your traveling recording studio. I'm not sure but I'd guess that the cost of Cubase, a converter that does straight up D/A or an A/D/A converter, and virtual instruments would probably run over 500.

    I think a module would work be easiest, even though having a portable studio would be very tempting. It's all up to him though.
  4. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    The laptop option would be the cheapest. We already have Cubase, so buying a MIDI in and a D/A converter would be all we'd have to buy.

    My guitar player was looking on ebay and there are a few Roland Juno106's and JP8000 for sale. Does anyone have any info on these synths?
  5. oddentity


    Nov 20, 2000
    If it's analog sounds your friend is after...

    For $500, he can get a used Yamaha AN1x. It's a "virtual analog." It's a little harder to program than some other virtual analogs (like the Roland JP-8000), since it only has 8 knobs. BUT it sounds amazing, especially for the price.

    My housemate/bandmate has one, and it rules.

    The JP-8000 is a killer synth too, imho. It has a fantastic user interface -- possibly the best of any virtual analog. There's a knob or slider for almost every function. If you listen to Ozric Tentacles or the Disco Biscuits, you've heard the JP-8000.

    The Juno 106 would be an excellent choice as well. It's a REAL analog, sounds great, and is an excellent synth to learn analog programming. There is a knob or slider for every function. It also has midi, which is a nice feature for an old synth. The Juno 106 is a staple of electronic music.... if you've heard anything by William Orbit you've heard the 106. Since it's a "vintage" synth from the early 80s, don't expect to find any onboard effects (except for chorus).

    You can't go wrong with any of the above, imho. I would take the AN1x because I think you get the most bang for the your buck. The JP is a bit pricier. The Juno might have reliability issues, being an old and out-of-production synth.

    Synths are a lot like basses -- once you start buying them, it's REALLY hard to stop!!! Right now, I have an Oberheim Matrix-6 and a Sequential Circuits Pro-One (both analog synths) as well as an E-Mu Morpheus and a Roland R8m (digital rom-based synths). :D

    As for using the laptop to run a software synth -- he would probably need a fairly powerful laptop, as there could be some latency issues...
  6. I picked up recently a Roland JX8P with it's PG800 programmer.
    They go for around $300USD, and are MIDI-capable analog synths...stereo, (fairly poor) velocity and aftertouch, presets and some primo sounds.

    Somewhat easier to use than Junos (IMO). And it's heavy with a steel chassis - you don't find that now on the balsa-wood-weight things like the Triton and co... ;)
  7. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    Thanks for all the info guys. It looks like the keyboard player is gonna try to score a used Yamaha AN1x.