Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only

Posted by: Ray Xavier

Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/20/12 01:18 PM

Hello everyone,
I bought EWQL pianos 2 weeks ago and have not been able to use it until now. My current DAW: Cubase LE 5, with my YAMAHA PortableGrand DGX-620 as a MIDI controller and a Lexicon Alpha Studio as audio interface (plz note that my yamaha is connected via usb with my notebook). Everything seems to work fine until I start playing on my keyboard and I get a strange muted like sound that's far from the original. Also notes randomly seem to disappear and sometimes are really velocity sensitive other times not. So I think I'm going to buy a keyboard especially for MIDI and I'm thinking about the studiologic SL-990 pro in combination with the TASCAM US-144 Mk2. Everything together this will cost me around 500 euro so my question is: are there any better options out their and what's my best choice if I want a feeling as close as possible to a real piano?
Posted by: dmd

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/20/12 01:28 PM

Well, I do not know a lot about this sort of thing ... but I am wondering why you assume you need a different keyboard to make this work better.

The issue could very well be with the environment your piano software is operating within ... computer memory, hard drive speed, etc ...
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/20/12 01:41 PM

I agree that your problem has not yet been accurately diagnosed. The symptoms you describe seem to be associated with different problems, and not real common ones. If the piano works well in standalone mode, it would be very strange if it sent crazy MIDI data to the computer. If the results you are getting out are nuts then maybe dmd has a point and the issue is with your computer or setup is the problem.

Maybe try isolating the problem. For example, play your piano using the onboard sounds but recording a MIDI file on your computer (don't use EWQL) then check to see if the MIDI is in any way messed up. You can render it offline with EWQL and see if the resulting audio file sounds right.

I personally wouldn't replace any hardware or software until I was sure I knew that it was the source of the problem.

Regarding other options for a MIDI controller, have you looked into the lowest end (but new) casio models? Maybe the PX150? Probably better than that studiologic.
Posted by: Ray Xavier

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/23/12 11:59 AM

Oke, I tested my keyboard on another VST: Halion One Demo: Jazz piano. And I had no problem at all! Its seems that my problem isn't the keyboard but the software or my pc hardware.
(It's also not the usb audio interface because when I unplug it and play through my "crappy" notebook speakers, I have the same problems)

My pc has a Intel Core i5-2410M CPU @ 2.30GHZ processor and 4GB of RAM. Its an Asus notebook that I just bought last year and you would suspect that it would just work... right? Another thing ( I think ) is important is that my EWQL piano library is placed on a Western Digital My Book Essential - 2 TB / USB 3.0. Its connected via USB 3.0 and has 7200rpm so I don't think thats the problem.. (but my "music studio" knowledge is quite simple so..)

Another really important thing is that my keyboard has an inboard recording option. The recorded sound can be played back on the keyboard speakers or the MIDI file of the recorded track can be placed on a USB stick. When I play this MIDI file back in Cubase LE 5 I get the same problems as when I'm playing it live..

It also seems that the more articulations and microphone stants I load inside the EWQL pianos program the more problems I get (notes start to randomly drop out or the sound of the note I just touched suddenly just dissapears).
I hope one of you guys can help me cause I'm really hopeless on this matter. frown
Posted by: Bane

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/23/12 03:18 PM

Let me just start out by saying that I have this problem all the time. HalionOne runs very light on your computer, nothing like a sample library the size of EWQL.
Audio dropouts and missing voices are common symptoms of system overload.

So what you need to do is navigate to Control Panel/HardwareandSound/Device Manager. Under Network Adapters find your working WI-FI card to right click and disable it. If you do this right, you shouldn't be able to get on the internet until you re-enable it. 90% of the time this will fix your problem. Please let me know if this works, if not I have more tricks up my sleeve.
Posted by: Ray Xavier

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/23/12 05:59 PM

sadly it didn't work frown
Posted by: Bane

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 12/23/12 09:11 PM

Ok, run this safe checker on your system: http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml

Follow the instructions on the site.

This is a good article about optimizing your computer for heavy performance:

https://www.steinberg.net/en/support/knowledgebase_new/show_details/kb_show/optimizing-windows-for-daws/kb_back/2025.html?tx_p77sbknowledgebase_pi1%5Bkeyword_search%5D=Optimizing
Posted by: Ray Xavier

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/05/13 05:40 AM

Sorry for the late reaction, but I was very busy the past days.
I have run the latency checker whyle playing like a mad man on my keyboard but it didn't show any different peaks or movements so I guess that's not the problem.
I also performed almost every step in the steinberg article and run the whole thing again but there where no differences.
Another import thing I may have to add is that when I fully load the program I get a message saying "my free memory is low on space, and that I should abort the loading of another mice position"
It also came to my mind that my "low budget" audio interface may is causing some problems.
With a latency of 36ms to 140ms (I never adjust the thing under 36ms because this will only ruin the sound quality even more) it may be one out of many problems I am fasing with right now frown
Posted by: dire tonic

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/05/13 06:11 AM

It's quite likely I've got the wrong end of the stick but I've had my share of interface problems. If I've understood correctly, your keyboard (controller) is plugged into the laptop's usb and you're triggering the EWQL pianos inside Cubase which is acting as the host for the samples? Or perhaps EWQL pianos works as a stand-alone?

In fact a while back I purchased the Lexicon interface myself and had a few latency issues which were quickly resolved by using ASIO4all - a freeware universal asio driver - instead of Lexicon's own drivers. I was so blown away by ASIO4all I tried it without the lexicon just using the laptop's internal sound chip and got a first-rate result at challengingly low latencies. You've got an i5 which should be well up to the task providing there are no quirks in the sound chip.

The existing drivers can all co-exist but make sure to select the asio driver in cubase (if it's hosting the sampler) or EWQL if it's stand-alone.

It shouldn't take more than a minute or two to set that up and you can easily remove asio4all if it doesn't improve matters.

An afterthought; insufficient ram could cause any number of problems but 36ms latency is setting the bar very low indeed - 140ms I would find unacceptable. Also, I'm puzzled by the reference to 'mice position'.
Posted by: 36251

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/05/13 07:00 AM

I've posted this link enough times that I think it should be a "sticky." It's a tool like the latency checker link above but this one shows you where the problems are.

http://www.resplendence.com/latencymon
Posted by: o0Ampy0o

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/05/13 07:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Ray Xavier

Another import thing I may have to add is that when I fully load the program I get a message saying "my free memory is low on space, and that I should abort the loading of another mice position"

Too many mice and not enough cheese. ;-)

Are you loading more than one mic position at a time?
Posted by: Ray Xavier

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/07/13 09:21 AM

ASIO4ALL driver didn't work frown
A really strange thing is that when I play other midi's in playback mode (just randomly downloaded from the internet) some seem to work fine.. Like no problems at all and really good quality and others act a little bit strange but far from as strange as when I'm playing live on my own keyboard.
With mic position I mean Microphone position (you can load 3 types of microphone positions in the VST plugin.) The more microphone positions you load the more RAM and problems... but the better the sound. And since I want to have the best sound, I have a problem.
Posted by: dire tonic

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/11/13 03:59 AM

- sorry to hear that.

You say you can run a midi file without problems. I seem to remember the alpha has midi in/out. If your kbd has midi out it might be worth trying that instead of usb.

Definitely get the app that 36251 linked to earlier. I've not had problems running samples inside Kontakt so hadn't undertaken any health checks but when I ran latencymon it showed a couple of the bar graphs jumping nastily into the red accompanied by a paragraph of remedial suggestions. As a result I updated the video driver and, most significantly as it turned out, disabled power throttling in the bios - I've had this notebook for over 2 years and had no idea it was enabled all that time.

Also, if you only ever use wireless for your internet, there's very likely to be an ethernet controller which you can disable. Rt-click 'Computer' on the desk top...properties/device manager. Run down the list of hardware. Click on network adapters, look for "....ethernet controller", right click and disable. (you can always re-enable it later just as easily). See if there's anything else like bluetooth which you don't use but don't risk disabling anything you're not sure is dispensible.

Each time you make a change, reset latencymon to see if the change is effective. You could also try temporarily disabling your wlan though that's probably overkill.

Then try EWQL (without other apps running, obviously) - and no point in running the monitor either since it'll probably show red across all bars.

Something else to try if you haven't already; disconnect the Lexicon interface and run the internal sound card + asio4all instead.

Beyond that there are all sorts of OS tweaks you can configure for optimising DAWs but I've never found any of them to be worth the trouble. What finally did for clicks and pops were decent performing PCs and waving goodbye to win 98.

You've probably already considered taking the notebook to a retailer and trying it with another controller kbd.

If all else fails, do a search for <your notebook model> and DAW to see if anyone else has had problems and been able to sort them out.

Best of luck...

afterthought: how about maximising your system RAM if you haven't already? If you go to the Crucial website there's a harmless scan which will indicate current memory/maximum memory and price for upgrade.
Posted by: Ray Xavier

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/11/13 12:58 PM

Oke thanks for the advise!, I'm gonna try all your suggestions and I'm also gonna upgrade my notebook to 16GB of RAM tomorrow soo..
I will let you know the results ASAP!
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/11/13 01:17 PM

16 GB of RAM for "piano only"? I think you may be wasting money.

Granted, your 4 GB might not be enough with Windows 7. (I presume your using Win 7?)

But you'd be swimming in RAM at 8 GB, and wasting money with 16 GB.
Posted by: dire tonic

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/11/13 01:43 PM

Originally Posted By: MacMacMac
16 GB of RAM for "piano only"? I think you may be wasting money.

Granted, your 4 GB might not be enough with Windows 7. (I presume your using Win 7?)

But you'd be swimming in RAM at 8 GB, and wasting money with 16 GB.


- yes, I'm sure that's right, 8gb should be plenty.
Posted by: Ray Xavier

Re: Buying a MIDI keyboard for Piano only - 01/18/13 12:27 PM

Hello everyone, sorry for the late response but the RAM update took a little bit longer then expected. I updated my laptop to 16GB of RAM, yes I know a little bit over the top but for 20 euro extra no problem to me, and No random notes dropping out anymore! So PART of my problem is fixed. smile
Also I don't really have any latency problems anymore and on that part it seems to work fine.
But.. QL pianos sounds far from what I expect and think is possible. It stills sound like I'm constantly holding the soft pedal and is just far from the original. Also My audio interfaces still sounds like it's clipping sometimes so.. I think I'm just gonna replace that one. Since my keyboard seems to be a problem to I'm thinking about putting both my audio interface and keyboard away and replacing them for better gear..
Thinking about buying a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4...