My current live rig is based around an Apple Mac Mini running Mainstage and various software/virtual instruments as well as a Yamaha XS7 and Yamaha P155. I control Mainstage and the VIs from the two ‘boards, all audio being handled by a dedicated USB audio interface/mixer.
Like many, ahem, older keyboardists, I was a bit skeptical of software instruments having cut my teeth on original analog gear then a succession of dedicated hardware synths over the years.
In around 2012 I realised that my logic was really a bit flawed – any contemporary synth has some amount of firmware/software involved – so a carefully put together and dedicated computer should be just as fit for purpose as a modern hardware synth. Touch wood, the system has proven to be rock solid after a couple of years or so and a few dozen gigs. I should add that a lot of research led me to the particular hardware configuration – in that regard I follow in the footsteps of others :)
Specifics – Hardware
Computing duties are handled by a “Mac mini (late 2012)” as Apple rather unimaginatively refer to it. It’s not quite off the rack – it has the fastest available CPU option making it a build to order. Configuration as used then is;
- Mac mini (late 2012)
- 2.6 GHz Quad core i7 CPU
- 16GB RAM
- Sandisk Extreme II 480GB SSD
At the time of writing I’m using Mavericks – I’ve not yet moved this machine to Yosemite, but may do in the future once it’s reliability for music applications is clearer. My backup is sounds from the XS7 and P155 should the Mac have a bad day.
Specifics – Soft Instruments
For better or worse being something of a gearhead I do change my rig around from time to time.
- March 2016 – Swapped out the MOTU Micro Express MIDI interface for a iConnect MIDI Connect4+ The latter give me more flexible routing, doesn’t require special drivers (which were at time problematic on the MOTU) and it can charge an iPad directly – something I’ll want to make use of in the future when I integrate an iPad as a control surface.
- December 2015 – Bought a secondhand Yamaha XS7 to use instead of the Kronos X 61. Kronos definitely has better sounds – a different league frankly, but I -love- the extra octave on the ‘7 and since it’s mostly used as a controller, the sounds are less of an issue. Downside – I do prefer joysticks to wheels on the pitchbend/mod front. If only Korg had done the 76/73 note Kronos as a semi weighted!