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Best portable midi Keyboard / Ambient

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  • Best portable midi Keyboard / Ambient

    Hello there,

    For my first post, I'm looking to purchase a portable midi keyboard in order to make some ambient tracks.

    - I'm totally a beginner and after reading multiple reviews, I thought I might ask people who have the same interest in this beautiful genre.

    - I need something portable and in this range of price.

    - I'll be using Ableton live, but of course if there are other more proper softwares, I'm open for recommandations.

    - I love the sound of Vangelis, Boards of Canada, Brian Eno and many others.

    - I would like it to include some drum pads cause I might foold around in some other genres like synth pop, 80'sish retro electronic music.

    - A recent top list for these kind of controllers : http://www.techsounded.com/best-mini...d-controllers/

    So here are a few models I was able to pinpoint.

    Novation Launchkey Mini

    https://www.amazon.com/Novation-Laun...techsounded-20


    Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII

    https://www.amazon.com/Akai-Professi...techsounded-20


    Thanks in advance for your support and hoping to hear from you soon.

  • #2
    I am biased: I have a grudge against inMusic brands (Akai, Sonovox, Alesis, AIR, Numark, etc) as I have experienced less-than-stellar support from some of the companies under it's banner. I have never used an Akai controller though so cannot comment on whether it's good or bad vs the Novation. The Novation does seem to have a better software package than the Akai, IMO. The Novation also features RGB programmable pads so you can custom color-code.

    I did, however, buy my son a Novation Launchkey 49 a little over a year ago. It's been good and he's had no problem with it at all.

    The keys on both the controllers you linked are the mini keys--they will be a bit smaller than normal keys and lack pitch bend and modulation wheels. Nothing wrong with that, just making sure you were aware.

    Here are two full sized 25 key controllers near your price range: the added benefit of these beyond the full sized keys will be pitch and modulation wheels, transport function (control play/record/ff/rew from the keyboard) as well as other things

    Novation Lauchkey

    Nektar IMPACT
    Last edited by aoVI; 01-11-2018, 08:28 PM.

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    • #3
      I used to have an Akai lpk25 (the MPK Mini without the knobs and pads) and hated the keyboard action. Springy to the point of being toylike and not very 'inspiring'.

      I hear good things about the keyboard on the Arturia Minilab II, also has loads of knobs (16?) and pads. Another possibility.
      Latest release: never to be repeated

      Hearthis | Soundcloud

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      • #4
        If I would buy a mini midi keyboard (and I've been considering buying one), my first choice would be the CME XKey 25. It comes recommended by Jordan Rudess, Geoff Downes, and even Roger Linn. It is light and sturdy, and comes with velocity sensitivity and polyphonic aftertouch.
        https://ablaut.bandcamp.com/ | https://hearthis.at/ablaut/ | https://soundcloud.com/ablauto

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        • #5
          Thanks a lot for all these precious feedbacks !

          aoVI : Novation Lauchkey and Nektar IMPACT look pretty good, I'd actually rather have these pitch and modulation wheels. It make sense to have them I guess even for a little extra buck.


          GaryG : Yup heard about this Akai lpk25 but it's kind of outdated and lack some features I'm looking for. The Arturia Mini Lab is definetly a nice one that I consider. Especially since its bundled with the Analog lab live software. Btw that actually a software I can use with other midi controller or its only for Arturia hardware ?

          https://www.amazon.com/Arturia-MiniL...ct_top?ie=UTF8

          Oh boy now I have no idea what to take between the Novation Lauchkey and the Arturia Mini Lab. Maybe even an other option ?

          Oh btw, is it necessary to puchase an external soundcard, or I can start making music without it ? No latency problem ?

          Sorry for the multiple questions :p
          Last edited by Nostalgia; 01-12-2018, 07:34 PM.

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          • #6
            Ask as many questions as you like; it's one of the best things about this place.

            I use an Arturia Laboratory 49. It's held up well but there were some issues:
            • When it arrived it had a loose piece of plastic left over from manufacturing that kept 2 keys from moving. Rather than ship it back, I opened it up and removed it myself.
            • One of the other key's plastic covering became detached from its metal base--a bit of epoxy solved that.
            • The USB port is loose and becomes unplugged every now and then.
            • The sliders and knobs are on the cheap side--they work fine but feel cheap and are not tight
            Other than that, it's performed well. Arturia may have tightened up their quality control since I ordered mine (2011). On the plus side, it is metal with wood cheeks. I don't know the finer points of keyboarding, but the keys themselves feel nice and can take some beating (or hard aftertouch)



            Analog Lab is a sort of sampler of the various synths Arturia offers. There are presets from all of them, and some are multiple instruments layered. The tweak-ability is slightly limited until you purchase the synth. It's a decent instrument unto itself though. Despite it being set up for Arturia brand, it will work fine with any controller.

            You can start making music without an external interface if your expectations are realistic; you'll bump into the limitations of your system a lot quicker using onboard audio processing rather than a dedicated audio interface, but it should work. There are a lot of good used interfaces available on reverb.com or ebay.


            And if you will indulge me, a bit of advice about buying music-making software as you start out:
            • What you already have inside your DAW will probably be just fine, especially just starting out.
            • Demo any and every product before you buy it.
            • Almost everything will go on sale at some point. Wait for the sales.
            • Beware becoming a collector rather than a creator.

            except for reverbs and delays--you have to have ALL of those

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Nostalgia View Post
              Yup heard about this Akai lpk25 but it's kind of outdated and lack some features I'm looking for. The Arturia Mini Lab is definetly a nice one that I consider. Especially since its bundled with the Analog lab live software. Btw that actually a software I can use with other midi controller or its only for Arturia hardware ?
              I can't say but would be surprised if it was locked just to Arturias, not how stuff works normally.

              A little thing to watch out for, the Mk 1 Minilab came with a different version of Analog Lab that had 5000 presets, the version with Mk 2 only has 500, $30 to upgrade. You need the full version for full editablilty but you still get a few parameters to tweak.



              Oh btw, is it necessary to puchase an external soundcard, or I can start making music without it ? No latency problem ?
              I tend to work purely on my laptop and don't have a set space (just slump wherever I'm comfortable ) and generally don't bother plugging my usb interface in; I find my laptops headphone output fine for most things, get ~10ms or less latency easily with windows wasapi drivers. I know some trained pianists will say they can feel this but it's never been an issue for me, especially doing ambient.

              This is of course when I'm only using virtual instruments or audio editing, when I play guitar or want to mic something then the trusty tascam interface is called into play (don't get the impression that's a priority for you?). I also tend to do my final mixes/mastering with the tascam, have it in my head that it's output is just a little better somehow (more solid...?) than the laptops.

              So, TL;DR - if you're using VSTis, samples etc and don't have a problem with the sound of your laptop, I don't think you need an external box at this stage.
              Latest release: never to be repeated

              Hearthis | Soundcloud

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              • #8
                The Arturia Mini Lab will work fine with any DAW or midi keyboard..it's not locked to use with just the Arturia one.

                I've had bad experiences with the 49 key Arturia midi keyboard..bought one, which died and then had it replaced..only to have the replacement die on me, too. When I say they "died", what I mean is both started sending phantom midi signals to every vst in any project I used them on..which, in effect, made them totally useless. Arturia support were just as useless..totally ignored my posts for help over on the support form. in fact, somebody there even moved one of my posts and ignored it thereafter..and that happened to others, too.

                Having said all that..and to be fair..the units I had were some of the first they produced and I read since that they had "issues" that have since been addressed. These days, it seems folks generally have only good things to say about those controllers..and that doesn't really surprise me, as when the two I had were working, they were really the best, as the level of control all the assignable knobs gives you is incredible.

                One thing though.. as aoVI touched on already..the USB socket / plug tends to "wiggle" a bit after a while..and I suspect that may have had something to do with the issues I encountered..plus the knob pots weren't the best and it was hard at first to correlate what was happening on screen and off, when you turned them on the unit, as they tended "over-shoot" on screen. But even that was only a small thing, as I got used to it really fast and didn't even notice it after a short while, automatically accounting for it when using the unit.

                I'd still recommend their controller to you, but suggest you read around a little more, just to see what the general consensus is these days..before you actually spend your money on one.

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