Synthesizer vs Midi Controller

I apologize for the lack of updates. I had a job interview today which went well. I have also decided I will not be working on the blog/any projects during my wife’s days off.

I still wanted to throw something up today, so I decided I would talk about an alternative to purchasing expensive midi keyboard controllers.

Just in case you don’t know the difference (as I did not) between a midi controller and a synthesizer, here they are.

Midi Controllers

Midi controllers generally do not play their own sounds. They include a number of programmable sliders and nobs to streamline your DAW, and require you to utilize sound generating VST plugins (virtual instruments) in your DAW to generate sound. Many of them include USB to USB contacts so that you can plug the controller (keyboard) directly into your laptop. Controllers also tend to be more compact as they don’t need room for tone generators and internal speakers.

Synthesizers

On the other hand there are synthesizers. Synthesizers have the ability to generate their own sounds (not very nice sounding unless you drop some cash) and can have “analog” Midi ports adding Midi Controller functionality. These are going to be a LOT larger due to the tone generating components and speakers.

The Point

Now where am I going with this? Often times you can find large older Synthesizers with Midi Controlling capabilities that are FAR less expensive than buying a new (or used) slim line Midi Controller Keyboards. I have found older, decent, entry level synths with Midi controlling capabilities going second hand for about $50, that have 61 full sized keys. Second hand 25 micro key controllers can go for as little as $60 and 49 micro key controllers seem to go for as little as $100.

A lot of people have the opinion that older synth keybeds can feel nicer than modern controllers, but you lose the portability and sliders/nob functionality.

I know that I would like to learn music theory, which requires me to have more than 49 keys. I am also more concerned about price than having programmable nobs and sliders (especially since this is an android based blog and I plan on using TouchDAW anyway). I also have a bed frame tall enough to slide a large keyboard under when I am not using it. Therefore I think a cheap synth with midi control is the best option.

Finally, do remember if you decide to go with an old synthesizer, you need to purchase an Analog to USB midi converter and download appropriate drivers for your computer. The converters seem to run $20-$30 in stores, but you can get them for closer to $6 on ebay.

Here are some visuals on the difference between a controller and a synth.

ph_ctk700

This is an old Casio 61 key CTK-700 Synthesizer. Works as a Midi Controller and goes for about $50 second hand.

korg 25
This is Korg 25 Key Midi Controller. Notice it is more slim lines and has programmable buttons. Retails new around $75

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