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Cheapest way to get classic prog keyboard sounds?

F.H. Bradley

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Messages
58
I'm looking for any advice on what single synth w/ keyboard I should look at if I want to become a prog rock wizard? Looking for Hammond organ, mellotron, and minimoog style tones primarily. Thanks for your help!
 

Jr Deluxe

Member
Messages
3,321
The only one thing that will do all those sounds is a laptop and vsts and midi controller. If anybody ever came out with a hardware board that did a good b3, mello, moog and a decent EP it would sell big time. Sadly nothing does it all. Few do any of them great.
 

DovJ

Member
Messages
13
I use a Yamaha YC61 through Strymon’s Mobius pedal for Hammond, and a Waldorf Blofeld for synth and Mellotron sounds. My Yamaha CP4 provides acoustic pianos and Rhodes. I control the Blofeld from both boards, depending on the type of sound I’m using.

I loaded the Blofeld with Analog Voltage and Monster Pack V.3 soundsets to help get me a lot of analog timbres.

Many synths that play samples and virtual analog (like the Blofeld) will get you the Mellotron and Moog sounds you need.

The Hammond is harder to get right. I learned that the key is the quality of the Leslie emulation, hence my Mobius.

It’s hard to find a single board that will do everything you need for 70’s prog, as another post said.
 

aisling

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,400
While I have a moog sub 37 and sub phatty, my go to for easy layering is reason and and a few midi controllers. My favorite creative flow, is to send midi messages to the moogs once I’ve found an inspiring progression, and modulate filters and delay effects (pedals, many). I also use ableton in conjunction with reason, but if I was just needing sounds, I start with reason…..
 
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Jr Deluxe

Member
Messages
3,321
What about Nord?
Nord was in fashion as a B3 clonewheel for awhile but its pushbutton drawbars and not quite up to par leslie and chorus has it left behind. I dont know if the mellotron is good enough or not. Also the OP asked for low cost. That ain't nord. Meanwhile b3x organ, streetly mellotron, moogs own vsts ect would cost under $200. it would run on a 2 year old ipad and a $200 midi controller.
 

twoheadedboy

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Messages
12,845
Nord was in fashion as a B3 clonewheel for awhile but its pushbutton drawbars and not quite up to par leslie and chorus has it left behind.
If that is true, why do I still see Nords on pro stages all the time? Also, the Nord Stage 3 has proper draw bars, not buttons.
 
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Jr Deluxe

Member
Messages
3,321
Few to almost nobody at the Keyboard Corner mentions nords as the top clonewheel. Those guys are all working prolevel musicians. Nord was the flavor of the month last year. This subject comes up as often as TS9 chips do at this website.
Nord isnt bad, just not the best anymore.
 

Allthesound

Member
Messages
584
You might want to have a look at the Kurzweil PC3 They can be had used for under $1K. They have a B3 engine and 9 drawbars a nice key bed with after touch, have good prog sounds wurli's , rhodes, mellotron, Farfia , Vox organs and a VA engine for Moog and other analog sounds. Also has some of the best orchestral sounds you will find in a synth.
 

anotherscott

Member
Messages
318
The only one thing that will do all those sounds is a laptop and vsts and midi controller. If anybody ever came out with a hardware board that did a good b3, mello, moog and a decent EP it would sell big time. Sadly nothing does it all.
Actually there are quite a few possibilities for "Hammond organ, mellotron, and minimoog style tones primarily" (as well as the EPs you mention, though OP didn't ask about them, and they aren't as widely used in prog). Boards with dedicated clonewheel and VA synth engines along with a sample engine with mellotron sounds include these (with the caveat that I haven't heard the mellotron sounds on all of them):

Hammond SK Pro - probably my pick for the OP

Nord Stage 3 - another good choice, but pricier, and the organ, while very good, lags behind the Hammond IMO

Korg Kronos/Nautilus - Kronos has the 9 sliders for easy drawbar manipulation, Nautilus is cheaper. Not as directly knobby as the first two for the synth work, if that matters, but synth editing is still very accessible. I'd say organ lags the first two, but isn't bad, esp. for prog. Separate outs make it easy to add a Neo Ventilator pedal for nicer Leslie/overdrive if needed.

Kurzweil - PC4-7 (among others) - lower priced than any of the above. Organ lags but again, isn't bad for many uses, and it again has the separate outs for the external Leslie pedal if need be. Though IIRC, percussion routes through the chorus/vibrato, which it shouldn't (though prog arguably doesn't rely much on C/V anyway). Synth is more complicated to program than the ones above, though.

possibly Roland Fantom - the latest update added a clonewheel engine (which I haven't played yet), and you can load the "vintage keys" expansion which gets you mellotrons. Like the Hammond and Nord, it has dedicated front panel controls for the VA synth, which is nice.

possibly Roland FA - getting a little farther from ideal here... it does have a clonewheel organ engine, but more awkward drawbar control (via menus) and no chorus/vibrato, and also more awkward synth controls (again, via menus). Again, the mellotrons would come via the downladable "vintage keys" expansion. And it has assignable separate outs.

possibly Vox Continental - it has the (Kronos-derived) clonewheel and VA synth engines, and mellotron sounds, but the clonewheel and VA engines have less editability than the others mentioned (and no assignable out or even sound panning to easily improve Leslie/overdrive with a pedal).

Arguably possibly the Casio MZ-X500... clonewheel engine can really use external help, but at least sounds can be panned so it should be easy to effectively add the Vent or whatever. It has a solo synth section, though I'm not sure how close to true VA it is. (They call it Bass Synth, though it is not limited to bass sounds.)

Numa Compact 2X is a low-cost model with clonewheel and VA engines and mellotron sounds, so on paper it sounds like it could fit the bill, and it's certainly a strong value. But its VA synth isn't very "minimoog-like" - it's single oscillator, with no mono mode with portamento, etc. (Also, like the Vox, the lack of assignable outs--or even the ability to pan different sounds to different sides--limits your ability to improve Leslie/overdrive with an external pedal, and the Numa could really benefit from improvement there.)

But anyway, while I disagree with the assertion that "only one thing that will do all those sounds is a laptop and vsts and midi controller," I do agree with your other post that the cheapest route to these sounds is probably an iPad and controller with some apps (which technically are not VSTs, but I know what you mean). There are pros and cons to taking that approach vs. using a keyboard that has the sound built in, and the OP did ask for a keyboard, but this alternate approach is also worth considering.

BTW, most of the boards I listed above also include strong MIDI controller functions, meaning it's easy to create a "hybrid" approach of internal sounds and sounds from an iPad, run in many cases from a board with controls that work well for these purposes (like real drawbars and/or dedicated synth controls that are well labeled and arranged for their purposes). Also many of these boards allow you to load custom samples, which could be another way to improve mellotron sounds if need be.
 

Jr Deluxe

Member
Messages
3,321
Actually there are quite a few possibilities for "Hammond organ, mellotron, and minimoog style tones primarily" (as well as the EPs you mention, though OP didn't ask about them, and they aren't as widely used in prog). Boards with dedicated clonewheel and VA synth engines along with a sample engine with mellotron sounds include these (with the caveat that I haven't heard the mellotron sounds on all of them):

Hammond SK Pro - probably my pick for the OP

Nord Stage 3 - another good choice, but pricier, and the organ, while very good, lags behind the Hammond IMO

Korg Kronos/Nautilus - Kronos has the 9 sliders for easy drawbar manipulation, Nautilus is cheaper. Not as directly knobby as the first two for the synth work, if that matters, but synth editing is still very accessible. I'd say organ lags the first two, but isn't bad, esp. for prog. Separate outs make it easy to add a Neo Ventilator pedal for nicer Leslie/overdrive if needed.

Kurzweil - PC4-7 (among others) - lower priced than any of the above. Organ lags but again, isn't bad for many uses, and it again has the separate outs for the external Leslie pedal if need be. Though IIRC, percussion routes through the chorus/vibrato, which it shouldn't (though prog arguably doesn't rely much on C/V anyway). Synth is more complicated to program than the ones above, though.

possibly Roland Fantom - the latest update added a clonewheel engine (which I haven't played yet), and you can load the "vintage keys" expansion which gets you mellotrons. Like the Hammond and Nord, it has dedicated front panel controls for the VA synth, which is nice.

possibly Roland FA - getting a little farther from ideal here... it does have a clonewheel organ engine, but more awkward drawbar control (via menus) and no chorus/vibrato, and also more awkward synth controls (again, via menus). Again, the mellotrons would come via the downladable "vintage keys" expansion. And it has assignable separate outs.

possibly Vox Continental - it has the (Kronos-derived) clonewheel and VA synth engines, and mellotron sounds, but the clonewheel and VA engines have less editability than the others mentioned (and no assignable out or even sound panning to easily improve Leslie/overdrive with a pedal).

Arguably possibly the Casio MZ-X500... clonewheel engine can really use external help, but at least sounds can be panned so it should be easy to effectively add the Vent or whatever. It has a solo synth section, though I'm not sure how close to true VA it is. (They call it Bass Synth, though it is not limited to bass sounds.)

Numa Compact 2X is a low-cost model with clonewheel and VA engines and mellotron sounds, so on paper it sounds like it could fit the bill, and it's certainly a strong value. But its VA synth isn't very "minimoog-like" - it's single oscillator, with no mono mode with portamento, etc. (Also, like the Vox, the lack of assignable outs--or even the ability to pan different sounds to different sides--limits your ability to improve Leslie/overdrive with an external pedal, and the Numa could really benefit from improvement there.)

But anyway, while I disagree with the assertion that "only one thing that will do all those sounds is a laptop and vsts and midi controller," I do agree with your other post that the cheapest route to these sounds is probably an iPad and controller with some apps (which technically are not VSTs, but I know what you mean). There are pros and cons to taking that approach vs. using a keyboard that has the sound built in, and the OP did ask for a keyboard, but this alternate approach is also worth considering.

BTW, most of the boards I listed above also include strong MIDI controller functions, meaning it's easy to create a "hybrid" approach of internal sounds and sounds from an iPad, run in many cases from a board with controls that work well for these purposes (like real drawbars and/or dedicated synth controls that are well labeled and arranged for their purposes). Also many of these boards allow you to load custom samples, which could be another way to improve mellotron sounds if need be.
Yes there are boards that have selections of all the sounds. My point was that there isnt a board that has the best B3 that also has a top notch mello, moog, EP and let's include clav, acoustic grand. All the boards you mention have some representation of most of these sounds that range from pretty good to just useable. But my recollection is the op wanted the BEST of all sounds. And for the least money to boot. I was bemoaning the fact that no company that made a top notch clonewheel also included the very best of the other keyboard food groups.
 

DovJ

Member
Messages
13
If I had to buy one single board to cover all of these sounds, I would choose a model that has aux outputs. If you can redirect a voice to another pair of outputs (or even a single mono output), you can use outboard gear to make up for shortcomings in the soundset.

Sure, the acoustic and electric pianos in the common boards vary greatly in quality. It doesn’t seem to matter all that much in most band settings.

To my ear, the weakest element (when played in a live context) in most boards is the B3 sound. You can fix almost any poor B3 clone with a great Leslie pedal like a Ventilator or Strymon Lex (or Mobius as I use for my Yamaha YC61).

I have nearly every well known soft synth available for the iPad. Some of them are very good (like B3X). That said, I find that the “feel” just isn’t there for too many sounds. Also, under certain conditions there is latency with softsynths that doesn’t seem to happen with properly configured hardware. This could be an issue with the iPad’s midi implementation (I like using an iPad for live performance but not an actual Mac or PC). Never the less, I find iOS softsynths great in theory, but not in real world music production.

If your goal is primarily recording in a DAW, none of the above applies.

Of course, the most important element in any keyboard rig is you, the musician. If you feel good about your rig, you will perform well.
 

anotherscott

Member
Messages
318
But my recollection is the op wanted the BEST of all sounds.
Scroll up, he never said he wanted the BEST of any of these sounds. I guess the goal would be the cheapest board that passes his threshold of "good enough" for these sounds, so now at least he's got a list of things to consider. ;-)

But I agree with you, no single board does give you the best of everything. And it's the same with software... the companies who make the best B3 emulations aren't the ones who make the best VA synths who aren't the ones who make the best pianos... people/companies just have their expertise (and possibly proprietary technologies) in different areas. Though of course, with software, you can assemble your own combinations and run them on the same platform.

In hardware boards, I don't actually bemoan that no board gives you the best of everything, because after all, there's no action that's best for all of them. So regardless of the sound, it is inheherently impossible for any single keyboard to give you the best piano experience and the best organ experience anyway. So you're relegating something to secondary use no matter what. And I think lots of boards give you a very high quality something and at least very good the rest, if you know what I mean.

So then getting back to the OP, he asked about organ/synth/mellotron, no pianos/EPs, so it may even be he already has his piano/EP board, and is looking for his ideal non-hammer-action companion board.

If I had to buy one single board to cover all of these sounds, I would choose a model that has aux outputs. If you can redirect a voice to another pair of outputs (or even a single mono output), you can use outboard gear to make up for shortcomings in the soundset.
Yes, I alluded to assignable outs in my list as well, (or at a minimum, the ability to pan different sounds to different sides, which turns your stereo out into dual mono out), it is a great way to fix a weak organ sound, as you mentioned . But that voice redirection does not do much to fix any of the other sounds we've been talking about. If you need to improve synths or mellotrons, assignable outs won't help, but other features I mentioned can... a good MIDI implementation that allows you to easily integrate a supplemental sound from an iPad, laptop, or external module can potentially give you better anything; sample memory into which you load additional sounds can be another good route for expansion of things like the mellotron sounds.
 

DovJ

Member
Messages
13
a good MIDI implementation that allows you to easily integrate a supplemental sound from an iPad, laptop, or external module can potentially give you better anything;
That’s in fact my solution. I run my Yamaha YC61 through a Mobius for the Leslie emulation. If I am not taking my primary board (Yamaha CP4), I split the keys and use the master keyboard function to drive my Blofeld. I really like the Wurlitzer sample I have on my Blofeld and find even the grand piano sample playable enough. Voila, great B3 AND other sounds to boot, and the Blofeld is tiny and weighs nothing and does so many other things.

In other words, seconding anotherscott’s point.

Keyboardists who want to approach perfection without a stack of boards have to be engineers!
 

DovJ

Member
Messages
13
it is inheherently impossible for any single keyboard to give you the best piano experience and the best organ experience anyway
It’s possible to play piano sounds (for rock, not classical or jazz) on an organ keyboard. The opposite is not true - a weighted hammer action keyboard will not do at all for Hammond playing. You’ll break your fingers trying!
 

DigitalTube

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,296
I'm looking for any advice on what single synth w/ keyboard I should look at if I want to become a prog rock wizard? Looking for Hammond organ, mellotron, and minimoog style tones primarily. Thanks for your help!
For that same needs I got a GSI module called Gemini, ( 1 rack space) with all the Free sound samples, can’t think of a better B3 sound in a module, it has plenty of electric pianos, clavinets, string machine sounds, a virtual synth that’s pretty decent not exactly a Moog, but very nice, they just added a very decent acoustic piano sample.. I play guitar mostly these days, but was in Prog band for a long time, where my set up was a Hammond C 3 with a Leslie speaker, a Minimoog, a Real Mellotron, Oberheim Matrix 12, and an ARP/Rhodes Chroma mainly, so I‘m trying to get similar sounds, so besides this GSI module I added an IPad Pro to have the option of just using an Ipad based system, and run both the Moog Model D App, and the Arturia Minimoog App, + the Arturia SEM App also added the SWAM Solo Strings bundle Apps, so I pretty much cover all the Prog sounds I need, for Hammonds both the IK B-3X, and GSI VB3M sound great, Ravenscroft 275 for acoustic pianos, Streetlytron Pro for Mellotron sounds etc.. of course you’ll need a keyboard controller for either the module or IPad apps, but I’m very happy with the results .. :). just some suggestions for you.. of course not exactly cheap, but worth the investment, it’s very hard to get these sounds for peanuts.. :)
 
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stevel

Member
Messages
15,207
Yamaha MX 61. Roland Juno DS 61.

Or go more expensive in their similar offerings if you like.

Problem solved.
 

anotherscott

Member
Messages
318
It’s possible to play piano sounds (for rock, not classical or jazz) on an organ keyboard. The opposite is not true - a weighted hammer action keyboard will not do at all for Hammond playing. You’ll break your fingers trying!
I think it goes equally both ways. Just as you qualified that playing piano for classical would be bad on organ keys but rock can be okay (at least to some extent), the same kind of difference exists when playing organ on hammer-action keys. Some organ parts work fine on "piano keys." But not organ parts that take advantage of organ-specific techniques. So basically, lots of simpler piano and organ parts are do-able on either kind of action, it's when you start playing with more advanced piano or organ techniques that you really need an action amenable to those techniques (e.g. dynamic expressiveness on a piano part, smearing/palming organ parts).

For that same needs I got a GSI module called Gemini,
Nice choice. They used to make a keyboard where you could get that module "built in" (the DMC-122), and if that were still in production, that would be another candidate for the OP, but that's a small/light box that can be nicely added to any board that has a suitable MIDI/control implementation.

Yamaha MX 61. Roland Juno DS 61.
MX61 and DS61--which both generate their sounds exclusively from samples--are poor for Hammond and Minimoog sounds (where samples don't get you the better quality emulations). MX61 also doesn't have Mellotron samples, though I think DS61 has some at least in one of its downloadable expansions.

Boards with modeled tonewheel organ and reasonable semblance of virtual analog synthesis aren't so common... I listed the ones I know in my earlier post. One I didn't mention is Roland VR09B/VR730, because I don't think it has any Mellotron sounds... though also, Roland's synth editor requires an iPad, and if you might connect that anyway, you could also get your Mellotron sounds from that. Similarly, Dovj uses a Yamaha YC61 but gets his VA sounds from a Blofeld module (an iPad could serve that function, too). So there's a related question here for the OP to consider, how essential is it that the needed Hammond, Minimoog-ish, and Mellotron sounds all be resident in the keyboard? Because even without bringing an additional keyboard, it's often possible to make up a shortcoming in any of these areas with an additional piece that is quite small and portable itself, like the iPad, Blofeld module, or Gemini module that have been discussed here. But then you do have one more item influencing budget, and the question here was "cheapest"... but many people already own an iPad or iPhone, and that can make a rig that makes use of one that much more cost-effective.
 

Doutorfunga

Member
Messages
162
An old laptop, one or two (hey, it's prog) USB MIDI Keyboards and a VST Host. Any and every classic synth or organ has been sampled/emulated, many of them have free versions. Ik multimedia has an official Hammond emulation, mellotron and Minimoog samples in their Sampletank suite. Arturia has these three available in their V collection, If I'm not mistaken, Native Instruments has Komplete, and many others have their own takes on these classics. Happy search!
 

redchapterjubilee

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,389
E-Mu Vintage Keys or Classic Keys rackmount synth plus a MIDI keyboard of some sort. The VK has samples of all the stuff you are looking for, some of the samples are quite good and still hold up. I still see these modules selling used for under $200. Add a midi keyboard of your choice/price range and use all the money you saved to get a cape.
 




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