Keyboard Offsite Rig for stage and studio sessions

Last Update 10-04-2013

The bands I had performed in since 1996 didn't demand much in the MIDI department so I hadn't needed a MIDI controller for gigging.  That changed when I had joined a southern rock weekend band playing piano, EPs, Hammond, and 3rd guitar.  

By then my Kurzweil MIDIBoard was firmly rooted in my studio.  When I last gigged with the MB it was a big hassle because of repetitive teardown and setup between studio and stage.  So after many years of leading a double identity as studio rat and gigging musician, I decided to design a keyboard offsite rig with the following attributes:
Over the years of performing various genres in clubs and studios, I have abstracted the minimum ideal keyboard setup into the following:
These form the "base system" which is a scaled down subset of my home studio system.  This can be expanded as the event requires:
I now needed a MIDI controller for this new band but was frustrated by the new controllers on the market.  Frankly I was spoiled by the power, flexibility, and feel of my MIDIBoard so I opted for a 2nd "road" MIDIBoard and found one in short order on the 'bay.  There were other benefits to this decision:
For the "bread-n-butter" sounds (again, zero learning curve and known reliability history) I elected for the Kurzweil 1000 romplers which can also be found cheap on the used market.  I bought a 2nd 1000PX to provide the percussive family sounds such as APs, EPs, guitars, basses, percussion, harps, vibes, and choirs; a 2nd 1000SX to provide strings, winds, reeds, brass, tympani, and other orchestral instruments.  That's pretty darn near a complete orchestral sampler system!  The 1000 units I bought did not have the latest OS so I copied the OS and soundblocks from my existing units (while I had them out of the racks, I also performed periodic replacement of the patch backup batteries).  I copied the studio configurations and patches to the road units, then modified the MIDI mapping slightly for the offsite system.  The new OS and soundblocks for the 1000SX actually comprises a 1000AX system, so I combined my 1000SX and 1000HX patches into a single library - this barely fit into the RAM capacity on the unit.

Being early generation romplers, the Kurzweil 1000 units lack DSP effects like reverb.  I prefer outboard effects for maximum dedicated processing horsepower so I chose the Lexicon PCM-60 digital reverb, which is a portable compact version of my studio reverb units - Lexicon Model 200 and Eventide 2016 reverbs.  The studio units are too big for the rack I had planned, and the PCM-60s are much smaller, cheaper, and simpler.  Piano and percussive instruments generally work best with room reverb and strings/brass with plate reverb; so I opted for one PCM-60 configured to room reverb "normalled" to the 1000PX, with a second PCM-60 configured for plate reverb "normalled" to the 1000AX.  There are songs where I alternate rapidly between piano and brass/strings, and two separate reverbs were required because a single reverb unit would produce audio gaps when toggling between reverbs.  Because each PCM-60 is a fixed configuration, MIDI control of the effects is not required.

For studio sessions, I designed the I/O panel on the rack to get the raw sounds without effects.  I also included I/O for inputs to the PCM-60s so they were available as separate processors, and inserts so I could patch pre-delays for the reverbs.  This rack generates some heat so I installed vents and fans on the rear lid.  The fans aren't quiet - not a problem on a loud stage, but for studio work I can simply remove the rear lid.

I wanted to minimize setup/breakdown time by consolidating multiple footswitches and sweep pedals used with the MIDIBoard.  My Moog Polypedal hadn't seen much use as I no longer used it with the Polymoog so I decided it would be the perfect footpedal solution, as everything I needed was in one unit and it could eliminate multiple cables with a single multicore cable.  Being a heavy road-rugged unit, it also doesn't slip away from your feet like individual pedals do.  Even though I gigged the Polypedal since 1985 without a case, I acquired a new Anvil case for it.

All configurations are stored in my Alesis Datadisk SQ, which I can recall into my home studio system to get an exact duplicate of my offsite system and thus build new patch configurations.  Once developed, data transfer is performed with a 50ft MIDI cable - without bringing the offsite rig into the studio.  Convenient!

This is the basic MIDI control system of Kurzweil MIDIBoard and Moog Polypedal
Add the "bread-n-butter" rack...
rack form the Base System suitable for studio sessions
base system
For performing, add the Moog Synamp and Bose 802 speaker
I added these four rubber glides to the top of the MIDIBoard...
...for placing a second keyboard on top...
...for those events that require Hammond organ and Leslie, adding the Hammond XK3 and Dynacord CLS-222 Leslie Simulator
For loud stage performance, a 2nd Bose 802 is required. This is the full system, not including analog synthesizers.
It all packs up into cases for transporting between events.

You can see the modularity of the system.

The monitor system consists of the Bose 802s and 802-C companion controller unit which have proven adequate for stage use.  The 802-C is a required component with the 802 speakers as it processes the signal for optimal sound reproduction in the 802 speakers - the fidelity is so good that they sound nearly equal to my home studio monitors, so my sound design in the studio translates easily to the stage.  The Moog Synamp is an integrated system with four channel mixer, 10 band graphic EQ, and two 200 watt power amplifiers each with protection circuits.  The Synamp was the first stage sound system designed exclusively for keyboards.

If I am performing left hand bass or bass guitar, then I have to add a 2x15 cabinet as the Bose 802s do not project bass frequencies very well.  In this configuration, the Synamp is configured in biamp mode and both power amps are in use.  The Bose 802-C controller in the Synamp rack also serves as a crossover for splitting into high and low frequencies.  Although the Synamp does have an onboard crossover, it is custom tailored for the Synamp speaker cabinets which I do not have (and am unlikely to ever want as they are HUGE).

A lot of planning went into this system and it works great - why didn't I think of this years ago?!?

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