Desktop vs full keyboard synths

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KBD_TRACKER
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Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:29 pm

I have been debating between a desktop synth and the keyboard synth version. Specifically, between a virus TI desktop and a virus polar (3 octaves).

Like in a (US) political election there are 2 Parties here:
Party A:
Why paying for a keyboard if you got a MIDI keyboard already ? Also eventually you can switch keyboards or choose a MIDI keyboard with as many octaves as you want. Also a desktop is easier, more compact to move, etc.

Party B:
Nothing beats the proximity and convenience of the controls next to the keys in a full synth. Also usually the key bed quality in a synth like a virus is pretty nice as compared to an average MIDI keyboard. And the number of octaves is not that critical due to the transpose function.

As an indication, in Europe the prices for new gear are 1700€ for a virus TI desktop, and 2000€ for the Polar version.

So my questions:
- What other factors if any should one consider before making a choice ?
- Feeling-wise during playing and programming, did you notice a major difference between a full synth or the desktop+MIDI keyboard version ?

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by moodorf » Fri Jan 01, 2016 6:19 pm

my opinions/answers to your questions.

-The factors you should consider before making a choice are:

1. how much space you have in your studio? do you have enough for a(nother) full sized keyboard?
2. how well you can play a piano keyboard? if you are mostly sequencing stuff via computer than having a kb attached to the synth is less useful.
3. your overall budget--every desktop module is cheaper than it's kb counterpart.
4. your MIDI situation--do you have a midi keyboard/midi equipped synth or device that converts MIDI to USB? If so, then the keyboard option is less relevant.

-When it comes to "feeling-wise" and programming, IMHO there's a right way and a wrong way to make a compact desktop synth.

Here's a couple examples of the wrong way:
Image
Image

Notice how both of these synths ^ have attempted to graft dozens of parameters onto one synth with less than 10 knobs? Menu-diving gets really old really quick with the mopho desktop, and less quick with the blofeld. BTW I have owned both of these synths at one point, so don't think i'm hating on them.


Here's a couple good examples of the right way to make a desktop synth:
Image

Image

Notice how there's essentially one knob for every function with these two ^ . Sure, they aren't as modulation-rich as the other two synths above, but the accessibility more than makes up for this shortcoming.
At the end of the day, the synth you'll end up loving and using the most is the one that has the best interface. Luckily most desktop synths are, interface-wise, identical to their kb counterparts. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS of course, like the mopho, but uh yeah....there ya go.

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by groy » Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:08 pm

Like moodorf said, your MIDI situation is important. If you have one master keyboard, just make sure you can switch between gear easily without unplugging MIDI cables, otherwise a desktop/rack synth does become a bit more of a chore to program and integrate into a set up than one with keys.

For this reason, in my set up I've found having keys on a piece of gear helps me program and audition patches and it also helps it feel more like an instrument I'm inclined to want to interact with.

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:09 pm

moodorf wrote:my opinions/answers to your questions.

-The factors you should consider before making a choice are:

1. how much space you have in your studio? do you have enough for a(nother) full sized keyboard?
2. how well you can play a piano keyboard? if you are mostly sequencing stuff via computer than having a kb attached to the synth is less useful.
3. your overall budget--every desktop module is cheaper than it's kb counterpart.
4. your MIDI situation--do you have a midi keyboard/midi equipped synth or device that converts MIDI to USB? If so, then the keyboard option is less relevant.

-When it comes to "feeling-wise" and programming, IMHO there's a right way and a wrong way to make a compact desktop synth.

Here's a couple examples of the wrong way:
Image
Image

Notice how both of these synths ^ have attempted to graft dozens of parameters onto one synth with less than 10 knobs? Menu-diving gets really old really quick with the mopho desktop, and less quick with the blofeld. BTW I have owned both of these synths at one point, so don't think i'm hating on them.


Here's a couple good examples of the right way to make a desktop synth:
Image

Image

Notice how there's essentially one knob for every function with these two ^ . Sure, they aren't as modulation-rich as the other two synths above, but the accessibility more than makes up for this shortcoming.
At the end of the day, the synth you'll end up loving and using the most is the one that has the best interface. Luckily most desktop synths are, interface-wise, identical to their kb counterparts. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS of course, like the mopho, but uh yeah....there ya go.
Thanks for your reply !
Just a couple of questions: my MIDI keyboard is not equipped with usb, but the virus desktop accepts MIDI in through a normal DIN plug. Why did you mention usb as a factor to consider ?

Also the virus TI desktop has all the knobs and controls of the full synth. So this is good (no blofeld/mopho situation :mrgreen: ).
But my question was about the ergonomy of desktop+MIDI keyboard vs full synth: my MIDI keyboard has not the area to put the desktop on top of it (the virus desktop is quite large), so I'll need to put the desktop somewhere near of course, but at "some" distance from the MIDI keyboard. I was wondering how those who have this situation deal with it: day in day out is it a pain, or is it just not a problem ?

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:19 pm

groy wrote:Like moodorf said, your MIDI situation is important. If you have one master keyboard, just make sure you can switch between gear easily without unplugging MIDI cables, otherwise a desktop/rack synth does become a bit more of a chore to program and integrate into a set up than one with keys.
Thanks ! Well I have only one MIDI keyboard, so maybe a MIDI hub might be necessary. Getting a 2nd MIDI keyboard is an option, but would negate the price advantage of a desktop.
groy wrote:For this reason, in my set up I've found having keys on a piece of gear helps me program and audition patches and it also helps it feel more like an instrument I'm inclined to want to interact with.
This is an interesting comment: assuming desktop and full synth have exactly all the same controls, I am sort of concerned that one might be more inclined to "feel"/interact with the full synth than with the desktop+MIDI keyboard.

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by synthroom » Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:22 pm

I generally prefer the immediacy of having a keyboard attached. But then most of the things I have are from the era of when you often only had a choice of the keyboard version...

Maybe another thing to consider is what kind of work area do you work best in? Is it a desk with a lot of stuff all in close proximity or a more spread out area? Maybe looking through the section with photos of people's setup would be helpful? There's a wide range of studio layouts that are possible and there's a lot of photos on this site showing the diversity of various studios.
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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by moodorf » Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:23 pm

What I meant when I said "midi to usb" I meant do you have a device than can take information from your computer and turn it into a midi signal? like one of these: Image

This, combined with a compatible DAW is what I use to get MIDI sequences from my laptop onto my various MIDI-accepting hardware.

There are many devices that can do what the Midisport UNO does......IMO having a device that does this operation should be essential to any serious electronic musician.

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by joeboy » Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:47 pm

I feel like I have one too many keyboards. It's a question of space. I'd trade either my sy35 or jx-8p for their rack equivalents if I could.

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by Rick N Boogie » Mon Jan 04, 2016 10:12 pm

Of course it all boils down to personal preference, but I like a keyboard synth almost exclusively. Even my tiny JP-08 was purchased with the keyboard. I like the immediacy of a self-contained instrument. Perhaps if I ran out of space, or if it were more convenient, a rack or desktop module would make much more sense.
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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by Percivale » Tue Jan 05, 2016 1:11 am

Why is Waldorf Blofeld an example of "wrong way" ?

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by abruzzi » Sat Jan 09, 2016 5:28 pm

Percivale wrote:Why is Waldorf Blofeld an example of "wrong way" ?
Its the knob per function vs overloaded functions. I find the Blofeld very easy, but you do have to select the correct row before twisting knobs, and there are some more parameters hidden in the menu. A lot of it has to do with how you use the synth. Knob-per-function is far more useful for tweaking sound during performance. If you program a sound before performance, and during performance, you hands stay on the keyboard, not the knobs, it becomes less of an issue, assuming it still is easy to program. The mopho doesn't look to have a well designed interface, though I've never used it.

(interestingly, the two examples of the "wrong way" can save and recall patches and the two examples of the "right" way can't. This isn't always the case, though synths that are not knob per function will pretty much always allow patch saving because they already have to maintain parameters in memory.)

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by shaft9000 » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:01 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote: - Feeling-wise during playing and programming, did you notice a major difference between a full synth or the desktop+MIDI keyboard version ?
ime polysynths suffer more from interface cut-down into a desktop form factor. monosynths not so much as they are often suited to being interfaced more readily to sync or slave to other units.
so yeah a major difference - BUT it depends on your style. I like to adjust params as I play, but others may be set&forget and just play melodically/harmonically and not mess around with timbre.
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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by zaphod betamax » Wed Sep 21, 2016 4:52 pm

You did notice that the Blofeld is polyphonic, so the comparison for the Blofeld "wrong way" should also show a
poly done the "right way" for completeness.
The right and wrong is all personal taste anyhow.

I actually find the Blofeld quite easy and the mod matrix logical.
All personal taste.
moodorf wrote:my opinions/answers to your questions.

-The factors you should consider before making a choice are:

1. how much space you have in your studio? do you have enough for a(nother) full sized keyboard?
2. how well you can play a piano keyboard? if you are mostly sequencing stuff via computer than having a kb attached to the synth is less useful.
3. your overall budget--every desktop module is cheaper than it's kb counterpart.
4. your MIDI situation--do you have a midi keyboard/midi equipped synth or device that converts MIDI to USB? If so, then the keyboard option is less relevant.

-When it comes to "feeling-wise" and programming, IMHO there's a right way and a wrong way to make a compact desktop synth.

Here's a couple examples of the wrong way:
Image
Image

Notice how both of these synths ^ have attempted to graft dozens of parameters onto one synth with less than 10 knobs? Menu-diving gets really old really quick with the mopho desktop, and less quick with the blofeld. BTW I have owned both of these synths at one point, so don't think i'm hating on them.


Here's a couple good examples of the right way to make a desktop synth:
Image

Image

Notice how there's essentially one knob for every function with these two ^ . Sure, they aren't as modulation-rich as the other two synths above, but the accessibility more than makes up for this shortcoming.
At the end of the day, the synth you'll end up loving and using the most is the one that has the best interface. Luckily most desktop synths are, interface-wise, identical to their kb counterparts. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS of course, like the mopho, but uh yeah....there ya go.

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Re: Desktop vs full keyboard synths

Post by DesolationBlvd » Wed Sep 21, 2016 5:21 pm

For a while, my Voyager RME fell out of favor. I couldn't figure out why, until I had the chance to compare a keyboard Voyager to the Model D reissue. No, the Model D did not curbstomp the Voyager.

When I got back home, I figured it out - my Voyager RME was just too far from my fingertips to be able to tweak and enjoy, sitting in my rack. I needed controls at my fingertips. I got a three-tier A-frame stand, and put the Voyager right above my DX7. "Problem" solved.

To answer the question: Keyboard vs. module, it doesn't matter as long as I can still reach the controls. Better to have a full 61+ keys, than short keyboards (except on monosynths) or mini-keys.
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