SKB 61 Key Case For Access Virus TI2

Quick review for all of you looking for a road-worthy case for an Access Virus TI 2 Keyboard.

I’m about to move some gear over a great distance and I’ve been looking for suitable, rugged cases for my keyboards / synths. Check out my other posts on the cases and solutions I’ve come up with, but today we’ll focus on the Access Virus TI2 Keyboard.

The Virus TI2 is a 61 full size key synth measuring roughly 40″ long by 15″ deep and 4″ tall. Based on this size I decided to get the SKB Roto-ATA 61-Note Keyboard Case from Amazon since it’s interior dimensions matched the requirements and it looked rugged enough.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 10.29.38 PMFirst in terms of build quality I would say it’s a 7/10. Not bad but also not as good as a Pelican case for example. I have no immediate concerns that the case itself will break in any joints or details, but the sturdiness and thickness of the plastic is not as high quality as I had hoped for. Still, with sufficient padding it should stand up to shipping / transportation just fine.

The included padding and wedges are of high quality, but because of the tight fit it is hard to use the wedges that are supposed to keep the keyboard from sliding around inside the case. You can squeeze them in there but then there is no room for any additional padding. I opted to leave them out and instead wrap the synth in large format bubble wrap. I also added extra foam, that I had left over from a pelican case, on the sides. Last I added sheets of bubble wrap below and on top of the synth to give it some extra padding from accidental bumps and such.

All in all I think it worked out just fine, and I feel pretty safe about seeing the Virus off in this case.

Portable Sound System / Live Setup

I’m about to head out on the road for a couple of months or so which means I wont have access to my regular music making machines. All the keyboards, synths and the modular and other gear will be out of reach.

My wonderful modular ;-)

My wonderful modular ;-)

Naturally I can’t go for 2 months without making music, and so I was researching various ways of staying productive while on the road. I came up with 4 different alternative setups that I think would have worked for me. I’m sure there are others but those are the ones that felt viable in terms of what I was looking for.

Figuring there might be others looking for the same I decided to write up a short explanation of how and what I ended up with.

Scroll down to the end for pictures of the end result :).

First the Criteria:

  1. Portable
    I wanted a system that I could carry or lug around without too much effort. Pocket size was not a requirement.
  2. No Computer / DAW dependency.
    I wanted to be able to set it up and jam / mess around without having a computer nearby.
  3. New
    I wanted the setup to be a new learning experience with gear and/or a workflow that I had not used before. Also, I wanted those learnings to be relevant not just to the system at hand but for other scenarios / tech / workflows as well.
  4. Full circle
    The system had to be capable of producing a full track with all parts and sounds necessary (under realistic constraints of course).

Option 1. The Groovebox

At first I was looking at various self-contained groove boxes like the Korg Electribes and the Roland MCs. They are certainly capable boxes, but the Rolands I ruled out right away as being to big for their feature sets, and having to out-dated i/o options. The MC808/909 looks like a lot of fun, and as a future addition to the studio I think they would be great, but not for on-the-road work. On the other hand the Electribes have the perfect size but felt like they were to restricted sonically (at least for the type of music I want to create). Finally, any workflow or techniques that I would learn from these boxes felt like they would be tied very closely with the particular box and not translate well to other tools.

Option 2. The Pocket Synth

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last year or two you know about the Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth. A fantastic little instrument that is kind of like a groove box on steroids, shrunk to fit in your palm. However, the hardware has gotten a lot of negative reviews/feedback as a novelty toy, and with little to no expansion options, for the price it felt like a very limited way to go. Also, the OP-1 seemed like a dead end in terms of live, cooperative jamming. I’m all for setting up constraints to explore creativity but the OP-1 was simply to far from where I’m heading with my music.

Option 3. All Software

While certainly the most portable solution, this violates the 2nd criteria. And seriously, how fun is that?? ;-)

Option 4. The Portable Studio

So finally I started asking my self what the minimum required instruments are to be able to create the music I strive for without a DAW or any of my larger modular systems or synths. What would it take to essentially shrink down the sonic palette that I want to work with into a system that would meet the 4 criteria and also be fun and inspiring to work with.

I knew I would want some kind of percussion / drum sequencer, a dedicated bass voice, at least 1 dedicated lead voice, something to experiment with for atmospheric sounds and effects, and some way of mixing all the voices together.

Looking at what I had at hand I decided that my Elektron Analog Four should have a spot in the setup, as well as the Meeblip. For effects I could bring my Eventide Space and Timefactor pedals, and to spice things up even more I ordered a Nebulophone from Bleep Labs. Next I needed some form of note / melody source so I decided to include a Doepfer Dark Time sequencer, and for percussion a Korg Volca Beats. Also, to add another voice to the mix, and because it pairs so well with the Dark Time, I’m considering throwing in a Dark Energy synth as well. Finally to mix them all together I’ve included an Allen & Heath ZED10-FX mixer which will also allow me to record the stereo mixdown over USB to a computer.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 11.21.15 PM

SketchUp model

I figured I could build a custom, heavy duty but portable, case that would hold all of this gear so I started looking into custom ATA cases, but a friend pointed me in the direction of the Pelican brand cases instead. Those cases come in a huge variety of sizes and colors so after some measuring and careful modeling in SketchUp I decided to go for one of those.

In the end I would agree that this setup is far from the most simple or portable solution, but it feels extremely inspiring and I can’t wait to set this rig up and start exploring it.

If you have any questions about the case or any of the gear inside it please leave a comment and I will answer as best I can.

Here’s a complete list of the gear:

  • 1x Allen & Heath ZED10-FX Mixer
  • 1x MeeBlip SE
  • 1x Korg Volca Beats (to be added in Japan)
  • 1x Elektron Analog Four
  • 1x Eventide Space
  • 1x Eventide TimeFactor
  • 1x Doepfer Dark Time
  • 1x Bleep Labs Nebulophone
  • 1x Doepfer Dark Energy mkII (TBD)
  • 1x Pelican Cases 1610
The Pelican 1610 Case

The Pelican 1610 Case

portastudio1

Inside the case. The mixer is one level down.

DSC00661pFB

Jamming with the setup.

Moog Little Phatty Road Case Review

This is a short review of the Moog Little Phatty Road Case from (tada!) Moog.

It works. It fits. It’s well built. Buy it.

LPCase1Now for the details. Since I’m about to move some gear and I’ve been wanting a good case for the Little Phatty I decided to go all out and order the official Moog branded Little Phatty road case.

The case is actually made by Gator as you can see on the hatches that locks the lid in place. The interior foam however has been custom fitted to a Little Phatty, including the wedge shaped front panel.

The case also comes with 2 extra pieces of thick padding that you can move around to a position that gives you the greatest confidence in terms of securing the synth.

LPCase2

I put them behind the synth to keep it from rocking back and forth. When the case arrived they were placed in the bottom to raise the synth about 3 inches, but with this configuration the lid will not  close. If you look at the official product picture on the Moog site it shows the synth sitting level with the interior foam. This will not work as the wedged front panel will then be too high for the lid of the case to close.

Overall I think the build quality and the fit is very nice. It is not exactly a cheap case, but since the Little Phatty is an oddly shaped, expensive piece of gear I think it is totally worth its premium price.

You can buy it either at the Moog site directly, or from Sweetwater and get $20 off and free shipping. (Why Moog charges such outrages shipping prices is beyond me…)

Highly recommended!

Bleep Labs Nebulophone

In order to add an extra ‘voice’ to my mobile setup (more on that later) I got a Nebulophone from Bleep Labs. The Nebulophone is a tiny (very tiny) monophonic arduino based synth that packs a might punch and an impressive feature set.

DSC00669_pYou can read all about it at the Bleep Labs website, but suffice it to say that this little instrument sounded and played better than I imagined. I had a chance to play it at a jam session yesterday and it added some impressive sounds and textures to the set.

It has 5 waveforms that all sound very raw and punchy. The built in, programmable arpeggiator also adds a lot of fun. Even though the interface is very bare in terms of buttons and pots it’s still not complicated to grasp, and as a small, improvisational source of randomness and uncertainty it sounded fantastic.

Meeting with Dave Smith

A couple of days ago I had the great honor to meet with Dave Smith of Dave Smith’s Instruments. Dave is perhaps most famous for being one of the two inventors of the MIDI protocol, but for the last 30 years he has also been busy designing some of the most interesting synthesizers around.

image001His latest creation is the Prophet 12, a massive 12 voice synthesizer with 4 oscillators and a sub-oscillator per voice.

They are still hard to come by as the production has just started and they are all built here in San Francisco.

I had the great luck to be able to pick one up at Robotspeak at Haight Street, and through a series of lucky events Dave agreed to sign it for me.

So, with the synth still in its box I headed down to Dave’s office, where he kindly signed it and agreed to pose for some photos :)

I am now the happy owner of a signed Prophet 12, and yes the signature of course adds that extra ‘warmth’ and magic to the sound! ;-)