In use for a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ('93 UK Tour). This setup is using our laptop running Pianoteq with an optional remote screen, an Octapad for non-tuned percussion and an ME-1 personal monitor for occasional click tracks.
The Xylosynth set up on a keyboard stand with a couple of Mackie SRM350s underneath. Why not?
A close up of the controls.
It's a work of art, not just an instrument!
Xylosynth information will added soon.
Any musical keyboard with a MIDI OUT socket will do (i.e. practically all of them) but ideally you need an 88-key one. The reason for this is that the bottom two keys are used to change sounds and the top two to change songs. These settings can be changed but if you’re using a shorter keyboard you may run out of notes. You’re welcome to use your own or we can supply either a normal synth keyboard or a master/controller keyboard.
This is a Studiologic Numa Nano - a controller or master keyboard. It doesn't have any sounds or speakers so is cheaper than a fully-fledged synth. However I didn't like the action on it so sent it back.
A VAX 77 from Infinite Response - the world's only folding full-sized controller keyboard.
The RMS sound samples and effects are very high quality – however most laptops and desktops have basic sound hardware which may sound fine through desktop speakers but can sound hissy and thin when amplified. And if you use the headphone/line out from your computer you might also pass on the computer’s beeps and sound effects! Again you’re welcome to use anything you may already have (or your sound company may have) instead of our equipment if you wish.
You will also need a MIDI IN interface for the computer to plug the keyboard into – this can be a separate USB device (which we don’t supply) or a part of the sound interface (which we do). Alternatively keyboards which support MIDI-over-USB should also work, for example our Roland and Yamaha ones.
We offer the following interfaces which are top end professional units. Both are USB (our laptops don’t have a Firewire port) and each take up just one USB port.
The RME Fireface UC – this supports one or two MIDI INs via a breakout cable and up to three pairs of L/R balanced audio outputs (which you then DI into the sound system). It will also work in mono but stereo is always preferred. ADAT and SPDIF connections are also available.
It is built like a tank and is a very nice piece of kit. Full details are available from the RME web site.
The RME Babyface – this supports one MIDI IN and one pair of L/R balanced audio outputs via the breakout cable. ADAT connections are available too.
The Babyface is powered from the USB port so does not require a separate power supply. It may look a bit plasticy, but it is actually very well built and powder-coated in metallic blue.
Full details are available from the RME web site.
This is the most important part of the setup as it takes the information from the players (playing the keyboards), processes it into sound and sends the sound out to the amplification system. Laptops are more convenient but you could use a desktop computer if you like. Both PC and Mac systems are supported by RMS however we only supply Windows laptops. It's not essential but we recommend at least a 1600x900 resolution screen if using two or three keyboards from one machine if you like having all the windows open. You could always run a duplicated slave monitor off the laptop to make it easier for everyone to see the screen. Matt screens are also better to cut down reflections, especially useful if the band is on stage.
There are two crucial things to look out for and unfortunately you will likely have to 'suck it and see' if your own computers will work (use the demo RMS software). To avoid crackling and noisy sound and/or dropouts in sound the computer must have a good DPC latency and very good USB (or Firewire) hardware if using external audio interfaces. DPC latency can be checked by either/both of these:
These are both for the PC, Mac hardware is usually fine as it’s based on Linux which is designed with this sort of thing in mind. Anything which shows in red (large spikes or warning text) might result in random noise, bangs etc.
If using an external audio interface, your USB/Firewire hardware must be fairly recent and efficient. Firewire chips should ideally be Texas Instruments ones and USB hardware based on ICH8, 9, 10 or later (e.g. Sandy Bridge). Some useful information is here - http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_fireface_uc_systems.php?page=content/products/en_uc_general
At Liquid Productions we have a high-spec, expensive three year old gaming laptop which is more than capable of running everything... but has terrible USB issues and gives constant crackles. On the other hand we also have a fairly cheap off-the-shelf low power laptop which has no USB issues at all. Typical!
The laptops we hire out for RMS use are custom designed to a very high specification using i5/Sandy Bridge hardware. They have very nice 15.6" 1920x1080 matt screens so you can see everything clearly and are tuned to running streaming audio. You can run up to three keyboards from the one machine, line of sight and space permitting.
Assuming you're running a show which uses three keyboards (Les Mis, Aida etc.), you can plug them all into the one laptop as shown here. These are the USB 2 ports and have the mouse and Babyface plugged in.
On the other side we have a USB 3 port - this has the Fireface plugged in. It's best to do it this way round as the USB 2 and 3 controllers are separate which helps to minimise any timing issues or conflicts (potentially resulting in random noise and pops) as best as possible.
The picture below shows the connections at the other end. The Babyface has a single USB cable going to the laptop for data and power plus a 'breakout cable' which contains the MIDI, audio and headphone sockets. The Fireface has a separate power supply with a breakout cable for the MIDI but this time dedicated audio connections. See the 'Audio Interfaces' page on the left for more information.
Shows with fewer keyboards work just the same way but with fewer connections.