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Joined: Jun 2015
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Hi everyone, this is my first post here.

I'm looking to buy something that will give me both a built-in realistic piano sound and a good built-in synth sound and functions. I have studio monitors and don't really need built-in speakers although they certainly couldn't hurt. I'll be using this to add piano and synth to songs, and maybe to write piano/synth-based songs, but not for learning purposes.

I was able to try the Roland VR-09 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=031eWLdgyLM) in a store and was highly impressed by their piano and synth sounds. However, it's a bit out of budget for me and I don't think I would use the organ section much. Does anyone have recommendations for something with similar piano/synth functionality? I only use a DAW for recording purposes and don't have any other software so I'd only be using the built-in sounds.

Thank you so much in advance!

Last edited by jkim4007; 07/01/15 01:22 AM.
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Hi. Welcome to the forum.

I'm not a synth man but I see the VR-09 is just over £500 here in the UK. I'm struggling to think of anything with decent piano and real synth capabilities for less money. By synth do you mean the ability to create new sounds/textures etc onboard, or do you mean something that has some synth sounds on it but with minimal ability to manipulate them?

You can get some synth sounds on cheaper Yamaha and Casio keyboards but I don't think anyone could call them synthesisers!

Good luck,

Steve

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At that price, I would consider a controller for around £350 ( http://www.thomann.de/gb/master_keyboards_up_to_76_keys.html?oa=pra&viewMode=block ). There are cheaper options but you can get 76 key (studiologic) at that price and 61 keys for much less and use software sounds which may be already included on your DAW.

Last edited by Col.B.; 07/01/15 06:33 AM.
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IMO, best would be to get a controller to your liking and get somethig like Pianoteq and a powerful synth plugin like Sylenth1 or such.


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But jkim4007 says that the keyboard will be the only sound source, implying the DAW has not sounds or that they are no good.

If it is only sounds - and not synth programming capability that is needed, and not piano action, I would look at Yamaha/ Casio keyboards with large numbers of sounds, but no programming capability, apart maybe from some outboard sound processing. These are much cheaper. However, I'm not sure how good the piano voices are - they may be very good, or barely adequate.

On the other hand, as Col.B says, a controller keyboard (no sounds) plus computer based sounds (VSTi) is the best route - but it probably takes more work, and needs a fast computer to run.


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I have a laptop with not a lot of free disk space and my DAW is Garageband (no sounds), so unfortunately I don't think a controller would be right for me.

I'm also looking for some ability to manipulate the synth sounds (add reverb, overdrive, delay, etc.) and tweak parameters.

Appreciate all the answers so far.

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If you are impressed by the piano sounds and other patches, and you want some programming capability, the VR-09 looks very hard to beat. If you don't want to go for VSTi for the moment, I agree with EssBrace that you may have found the keyboard you need already. IF it is £500, it looks like a pretty good deal to me. You just need to prepare to spend a bit more.


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What's your budget?

You may want to look at the Casio PX-5S. It's a stage piano, but it has a lot of synth options. You can't create your own sounds, but you can tweak a lot of the parameters which may be enough for your purposes now. Plus, you get a decent piano action and 88 keys.

If you really want a workstation, then the VR-09 is a good choice. Also you may want to check out the Korg Kross which may be a comparable price. Yamaha has the MOXF6 which is out of your price range, but you may be able to find the previous rendition, the MOX6, in the used markets. Personally, I'm not overly fond of the piano sounds it has, but some people like the Yamaha piano sounds.


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Quote
I have a laptop with not a lot of free disk space and my DAW is Garageband (no sounds), so unfortunately I don't think a controller would be right for me.


There are sounds in their look at the 'Library' and enable 'Smart Controls'. But since you have a Mac for only $29 if you download Mainstage 3 you will get:
Three grand pianos, a Bosendorfer, Yamaha and Steinway. You also get several synths that have controls for sound design as well as electric pianos, organs, drums and orchestra instruments. It really is amazing what they give you, it will also let you play to tracks and allow you to layer sounds and use 3rd party instruments.

There are also several plugins by UVI, Sonivox and others that are cheap or sometimes free. I have a VR-09 it is a nice instrument, though it has its quirks. And it doesn't have the greatest keybed, its very springy. But it can't compare to the amount of capabilities you can get with a decent controller and your computer for the price. Though the costs can add up over time! Since there is always new software coming out at some point you look back and think wow I've spent over $2k in software, just not in one shot!


Last edited by Kbeaumont; 07/01/15 10:01 AM.

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Originally Posted by jkim4007
I was able to try the Roland VR-09 in a store and was highly impressed by their piano and synth sounds. However, it's a bit out of budget

For less than the VR-09's $899, look at:
Roland Juno-DI $699 (should be largely similar sounding to the VR)
Korg Kross $699
Casio XW-G1 $599 (this has the most real-time synth functionality)
Casio XW-P1 $499

Or, if you prefer weighted keys for piano playing, Casio PX-350 at $699, but while it has some synth sounds in it, it doesn't have nearly the synth functionality of the ones listed above.

As mentioned, you can add Mainstage and/or other computer (or iPad) based sounds. Then the XW-P1 might be the best option above because it has strong MIDI functions... not only can you easily mix internal and external sounds, but you can also use its sliders to control parameters on software based instruments.

Last edited by anotherscott; 07/01/15 10:55 AM. Reason: added more options
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. . . You may want to look at the Casio PX-5S. . . .


If you want to modify sounds (as opposed to just using the built-in sounds), the PX-350 is a poor choice. There's no sound-shaping capability except for a few reverb options.

But check out the Sound on Sound review of the PX5s, even if it's out-of-budget:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul14/articles/casio-privia-px5s.htm

This is completely off-the-wall, but you could buy a Casio PX-150 and a microKorg / mK XL / mK XL+ for less than a PX5s. The microKorg's -- for all their tiny size -- are "real synths".



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Right... I didn't mention the PX5S because it is more expensive than the VR-09 that is already over-budget. I agree that the PX350 is not a synth in any traditional sense, but it does at least have some synth sounds.

Two keyboards could be a way to go. Your PX-150+MicroKorg combo again misses the cheaper-than-VR09 target, but the MicroKorg could be combined with, say, a Yamaha NP11 or NP31 for a low-cost piano+synth combo, since weighted action doesn't seem to be an issue.

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What about Casio XW-G1/P1? It is not a digital piano, but neither is VR-09. It's cheap, good sounding keyboard. If it has the same piano sample set that PX5-S (plz make sure about that), you should be more than happy with it.


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The XW-G1/P1 (which I also mentioned above) does not have as good a piano sound as the PX5S. But maybe good enough (and especially if he can also trigger a soft piano when needed).

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I also didn't bring up the PX-5S due to its price, but if others are recommending it here, I'll give it a +1 and not just because I own one. :P


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Sorry, I missed your post where you recommended Casio XW.

When I've read OP post, the first thing that came to my mind was PX5-S. It perfectly fits his needs. I hate "spend more money" advices, but in this case it's really worth doing.

Last edited by Qaroll; 07/02/15 04:32 AM.

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