midi keyboard, vs audio interface keyboard vs digital pianos

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Member Since: Aug 25, 2008

So, as of now iv been getting into recording band music (er i should say trying to haha), and i love it..

but i can only play the drums, and i always find myself wanting to make music..

for band music, im into the new genres of metal, and also some alterantive/pop stuff, but im also into the one man compositions! like micahel froh, and owl city isnt bad at all...

soo getting to the point,

iv pretty much mastered midi, in sonar and fl studio, using my typing keyboard, as a music keyboard, and triggering vst, and vsti's

but i wanna make stuff easier for myself, and maybe get some type of keyboard!
as in the title of this post, whats the difference between them?

im probably wrong but so far i think

midi keyboard has no built in sounds, audio interface keyboard has built in sound banks, and digital piano might not even connect to computers?

thanks and sorry for the off topic stuff

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Since: Sep 30, 2009

Jan 22, 2010 12:51 am

A lot of digital pianos do have usb outputs actually. Just check before making a purchase decision. Really i wouldn't look soley at what they're "classified" as. Look more into what a certain keyboard is geared towards, playability, and price.

I think you're right, midi controllers are just controllers, no sounds. Audio interface keyboards? not sure what you mean there but it sounds something like the line 6 KB37, which is mainly an audio interface (analog to digital conversion, mics and 1/4 line jacks) with a built on midi controller. I could be misunderstanding you however.

And digital pianos (like mine) do have built in sound banks (most of which are pretty much junk for anything besides mucking around)

Now that the classification is out of the way (kinda, i probably didn't do the best job there :P) here's what i think is important in your keyboard for recording (if you need it live too that will change priorities a bit)

-MIDI/USB out, this one is the only requirement. If it has one, it'll work. Keep in mind if you get only a MIDI in/out out you'll have to buy an interface ($40ish) to get to your computer via usb, unless you're using firewire or like a PCI card or something.

The rest of these aren't requirements, just a list of things kinda ordered in what i find most important.

-Mod wheels, pitch benders, other cc information. My Yamaha has a pitch bend, thats it. I hate it, every time I play the keyboard i wish i had access to at least a mod wheel or something to control the parameters in my VSTi's. From what i understand, some midi controllers can control multiple parameters, volume, even program changes right from the hardware. Which would make things flow much more smoothly. Clicking a mouse might seem to only take a second, but you click that mouse a lot when working with music :\

-Octave range. Pretty self explanatory. Most controllers allow you to transpose to whichever octave you want to play in, but still. Its never fun to be playing something really nice sounding only to realize that perfect resolution you want to hear is just 2 notes out of your range.

-Weighted keys. Again, every time i play my keyboard i wish it had a little heavier keys. My keyboard doesn't play badly at all, actually i think they do somehow put some tension on the keys. But i went into Guitar Center a few months ago and played a keyboard in a similar price range as mine with weighted keys, HUGE difference. It felt just like a good acoustic piano.

-Sound bank. Least important IMO. In the studio at least. Still it is kinda nice when you have your monitors off to be able to play around for a second on some old fashioned General Midi piano :] If you're playing live often, i might consider finding one with a good soundbank however, so you don't have to rely as heavily on your computer. That model i played at guitar center was incredible. Weighted keys, had usb outs. >400 bucks. And the sound bank was actually very realistic sounding. only 25 sounds, but each sound was high quality and distinct. I'd take 25 highly useful sounds over my 450 junky, repeated sounds any day.

Hope this helps!

Since: Jun 08, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 01:02 am


I'm sure some of the better informed members will give you a more comprehensive answer, but I'll start you off.

Most (but not all) Midi keyboard controllers have no inbuilt sounds. I'm not sure about the audio interface keyboards, but I think you're right.

Some digital pianos will have USB connections, all will have Midi. You can connect your digital piano to the computer via an interface. In my case, I have a Roland RD170 digital piano connected by Midi to an Edirol UA25 audio capture (it also has audio connections) which is in turn connected to my computer via USB. Digital pianos vary greatly in the range of inbuilt sounds they offer, e.g. my Roland offers 64 sounds, more than half of which are things other than "keyboard" type sounds, eg guitar, strings, brass etc.

My guess is that you will end up need ingsomething like the Edirol (plenty of other alternatives) that offers both midi and audio - I'm assuming that as a drummer, you'll want to be able to record audio.

Things to take into account when making your decision about which way to go - cost; whether you want a weighted keyboard or not; how happy you are with the quality of the VST sounds vs the quality of the inbuilt sounds; whether you want an instrument you can play away from the computer; portability; whether you want to control other aspects of the VST from the keyboard (e.g. the keyboard controllers usually have much more to offer in that regard).

One tip from my own experience, if you get a digital piano, get one that has a pitch bend/modulation wheel. Mine doesn't (didn't think I'd need it at the time) and I miss not having it.

Plenty of gear to look at out there...good luck!

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Jan 22, 2010 10:11 am

As an alternative you can get something like a Line6 KB 37 www.zzounds.com...item--LINPSKB37 that is an audio interface for microphone and line level inputs, amplifier and microphone and preamp simulator/modeler as well as a MIDI controller keyboard.

As stated above, it has no sounds itself, it connects to a PC via USB and uses software synthesis, but it covers a lot of bases, and does it well, in one reasonably priced package.

Since: Aug 25, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 01:11 pm

thanks everyone,

after a bit more research the "audio interface keyboards" are exactly as labelled, keyboards with built in interfaces ex mic input

i was just looking at the 3 sections that m-audio offered...

it seems weighted keys jacks the price up alot so il probably stick with non weighted...


i am leaning towards just a midi controller keyboard since it will pretty much just be for at home.

but, do i have to worry about pitch bend on midi controllers?

er as long as there is a wheel that i can assign to the pitch bend controls on a vst i should be good, right?

thanks again

any recomendations for unnder $200?

im looking at the m audio oxygen 49 right now

thanks again everyone!

Since: Aug 25, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 01:14 pm

oh btw, i have a audiophile 2496 interface right now which has midi in, but im planning on getting a delta 44 interface which doesnt have midi, but i have a midi to usb adapter..

will i be ok with a midi to usb adapter? or will latency start to be a problem?

er actually i think that oxygen 49 is usb haha but if i went with a midi keyboard, would i be ok with midi to usb adapter for latency issues?

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Jan 22, 2010 01:17 pm

The Oxygen is USB so no adapter needed...if you get a MIDI keyboard, and your computer has a typical stock sound card, the joystick port generally doubles as a MIDI interface so it's just be a MIDI to joystick adapter.

I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Jan 22, 2010 01:41 pm

The EMU Xboard MIDI controller keyboards have the best keys in the price range, but the tradeoff is that they have probably the cheapest chassis in the price range. But if you're not gigging and your keyboard is just going to sit in one place and not be moved or abused, the XBoard can be a great value.

I have the XBoard49. It has synth-action, velocity sensitive keys with aftertouch. It has a pitch bend wheel, data bank selector wheel, controls for several MIDI-related functions, and lots of assignable parameter dials. Lots of features and excellent keys for a good price. The lightweight plastic chassis is really the only drawback. Plus it comes with an incredibly large library of high-quality samples (drums, world percussion, piano, synths, strings, noises/effects, and more). The VSTi it comes with is Proteus X2, which is OK but not the best sound module. But for bundled software, its pretty darn good.

I'm not going to say that the XBoard is the best MIDI controller out there, but I think its the best bang for your buck in an entry-level MIDI controller keyboard. It's a USB keyboard and I have zero latency issues with it, either as a stand-alone unit or as a VSTi in a project in Cubase or Reaper.

Since: Aug 25, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 01:41 pm

is it okay to have onboard enabled with an interaface installed?

Since: Aug 25, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 01:44 pm

thanks tadpui, that looks like a much better deal than the m audio, oxygen 49

I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Jan 22, 2010 01:45 pm

I keep my integrated sound card enabled even when I have my PCI interface installed. I don't have any problems doing this, but there have been cases where having them both active at the same time has caused problems/conflicts. There should be no problems, but if there are, you can always disable your integrated soundcard via the BIOS menu.

Since: Aug 25, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 01:57 pm

ok wow, thank you iv been missing 5.1 surround because iv been converting the right and left out to the three 1/8 inch jacks that my speakers plug in with

just because i assumed you couldnt have both! ahah

Since: Sep 30, 2009

Jan 22, 2010 05:32 pm

Ya i use a midi to usb adapter sometimes when i'm messing around on my roland drum kit, works fine. From my understanding, its more about the driver you're using, and the sound card (or audio interface) than the midi interface.

Prince CZAR-ming
Since: Apr 08, 2004

Jan 22, 2010 07:20 pm

i have a audiophile 2496 interface right now which has midi in, but im planning on getting a delta 44 interface which doesnt have midi

why not use both? I'm pretty sure the 2496AP and D44 fall into the 'use more than one device with one asio driver' that maudio sports.

Then you can have 6 inputs / outputs, plus MIDI. Not too shabby, i'd say.

Course you'd need PCI slot for each, which is hard to find these days.

Since: Sep 30, 2009

Jan 22, 2010 07:28 pm

6 inputs. Sounds like a good drum micing setup mate :] If youre looking for another audio interface however, i'd really suggest the line 6 gear. Especially if youre going to be doing any audio recording at all. Pod Farm has some really nice processing, and the drivers are incredibly fast. The D44 is probably pretty fast too, idk which is better.

But ya, the KB37 would give you a decent little 3 octave keyboard and audio interface in one package.

Just another option to consider! the keys you were lookin at look pretty nice too.

Since: Aug 25, 2008

Jan 22, 2010 11:39 pm

well, my mother board has 2 pci slots

normally i hardwire interenet, (when my computer is upstairs),

but for recording i bring my computer downstairs, huge hassle i know.

but hopefully sometime soon, il be moving everything (incl. re wiring ethernet cable) to a room thats just been ripped apart.

so right now, i use a wireless internet pci card, and then my 2496.

when i move to the new room, il also be wiring cable, because i have an un used dual tv tunner pci card.

so if i use the tv tuner, id have to switch the 2496 out with the delta 44...


ok so, that line 6 kb37..

it has 2 line inputs, so i could use my mixers pre amps..
and 2 mic ins with pre's...

and its around $290

im thinking this may be better than a delta 44 + maybe the xboard 49 that would total to about $280 if i got lucky and the d44 has no pre's

does it matter that i will be using this interface for alot of audio recording?( aloot of drums )

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