Opinion: Sell My Boards and Go Soft Synth Only?


Now that I know I don’t have any gigs for at least two more months… I’m thinking about ripping the band-aids off and selling my keyboards to go full MIDI controller only. I love the sounds out of my PC88, but I haven’t gone audio out of that board in over two years, and everything I do is soft synth through Cantabile. So knowing I could go to a keyboard at half the weight with all new keys and clean action is pretty enticing. Something about going MIDI-only feels hard for me to swallow, though-- like the idea that I could always just fall back on the good onboard piano if I needed to?

Anyone go this route and go back? Do you keep audio out in your back pocket just in case? Or since I’ve converted everything to soft synths already, do I bow down to my new laptop overlord and make the 200 lb slab someone else’s problem?



Most of us here went through the same feelings. I will never go back. My hard synths are packed away for around 12 yrs now. I should have sold them, but decided to gift them to local school music programs, hopefully this coming fall, if everything clears up. I took a roland module out to gigs for awhile as a crutch. I never needed it. I do take a backup laptop, but never had to use it, and leave it in my vehicle most of the time. I use it occasionally as my main laptop, just to keep it active.


Personally I would always plan for some backup solution in hardware form, even if just a basic one (piano, rhodes, basic pad etc).
In several years now I had run into a few issues:

  • a MOTU ultralite would just add vinyl-like crackling wheter I was playing or not. Luckily only one song was affected and after that I had enough time to reboot the computer. If not having enough time, hardware backup would save the day. I sold the MOTU soon and replaced with a RME Fireface which performs flawlessly now.
  • minor glitches, mainly MainStage cpu & memory bugs that are supposed to be fixed now. Not very audible but it would still crack my nervers. I have moved to Cantabile since and never looked back.
  • a recent issue with Cantabile was basically my fault but it shows how much more fragile software is - I did a simple last-minute plugin exchange but since I did it on a rack with some rack states locked, the old plugin was removed and the new one added but all the routings were lost so I was basically left with no sound. Since I had no time on this particuar gig to troubleshoot, I used the backup (an old S90ES which I use as the controller) throughout the show.
    So… when my S90ES dies, I will maybe think of ditching hardware but right now I’m glad I still use it for my controller…


My hardware synths mostly stay safe back in the studio now. If it were a very special gig I’d take some of them along, but for the most part Cantabile gives me more colours to paint with. It also makes setting up for a gig much quicker.

I have a backup laptop, but I don’t take backup hardware any more.


I am still using a Montage because I love the keybed. As time goes by my new synth presets are coming from VST.
Organs are VSTs since many years, electric pianoes now are the same.
With samplers and new synths coming out (Diva, Synthmaster, Pigments, MassiveX) I think VST are winning easily.
No comparison


I use my Korg Kronos 88 basically only for the keybed still, and as a backup. But all sounds comes from Cantabile and VSTs

I would not sell the Kronos; take it still as a backup during gigging, and use the keybed anyway.


I’d never sell the PC88 - it’s just a great piece of hardware! I still gig with my PC3, even though I don’t connect its audio; best 88 key master keyboard for my feel. If I didn’t have a master keyboard and had to invest today, I’d probably get something lighter like a Keylab 88, but I’m not 100% sure; keyboard feel is super-important to me.

But I’ve never thought about going back - I’ve converted completely to Cantabile and enjoy the power this is giving me to manage very complex setups with ease. I do carry a fully set up second laptop and audio interface, though, just in case. Never had to pull it out yet, though. If I was doing high-profile gigs, I’d probably go hot-standby - having two laptops running in parallel, with a MIDI Thru box to drive both at the same time. This way, if one fails, the audio person could just pull up the other pair of faders. But given that we play club gigs mainly, a 5 minute break for me to set up and boot up the other laptop wouldn’t hurt so much.




Same here - I switch them out regularly during rehearsals to make sure no gremlins have appeared…


Yes, I have 3 Kurzweils, M3R, misc other modules. I had a Roland sampler, but the power supply went out and I’ve never bothered (over the last 10+ years) to fix it.Even the K2500x is really banged up, but is now comfortably retired in the studio. I think what pushed me to VSTs was how dated the Kurzweil sounds were to me (nobody else ever noticed). I just wanted flexibility. For the band gig I use the big laptop, a Beheringer Motor 61 and a Novation 61 (maybe the Kurz 2661?). For the church gig, I use whatever is there and the backup laptop. Lately, the backup is getting more use than the primary. Our band’s been on hiatus while our lead singer/guitar player recovers from serious throat troubles.


More than a year ago bought a studioogic sl88 grand to start playing live with cantabile. Never had a problem… Have a korg TR76 as backup or when need extra keys, but never think of return to hardware synths… Sold all my other keyboards…


I was a PC3 user that migrated to the KeyLab88 once I went soft synth solely. PC3 is a great board, feel-wise and deep, programming-wise. I was not enjoying the weight of it even though other boards can be much heavier. The transition to the KeyLab88 was pretty smooth. I’ve been using it since early 2016 and it’s served me well.
Stay safe, be well,


Yup. All software. I keep a keyboard in the car that I could get through a gig with - something with a decent piano and some workhorse sounds (I use a Korg Kross) - just in case of catastrophe (I have a backup computer, too). I haven’t had to break out the Kross in a couple years.

I keep some hardware synths at home for recording and lessons (nothing like physical controllers for teaching). Wouldn’t dream of gigging with one.


Fun…ain’t it? :grin:


There is no keyboard that could get me through a show really, everything is so customized… I just take a backup laptop.


I’m kinda hybrid. My Nord still beats in accesability. Plus i really like the organs and pianos. I do have software alternatives but they don’t cut it in stage.
Also it’s kinda a secured for l feeling. To have a hardware synth. You never know the laptop crashes or a USB cable goes bad.

But yeah hasn’t happened so far and i think I’m gigging 5 years now with cantabile.

My only wish is for a decent road worthy midi controller, good keyboard with aftertouch, 9 faders and 16 pads. That’s all i ask :wink:

Also sold my other keyboards. Except my Roland D50. That’s nostalgia. I’ve had it since i was 16 as my first. Still love it’s keys action.

I’m so good now, 1 gig bag with Nord Stage 2, Akai mpk261, laptop and soundcard. That’s all i need for dragging around to stages and rehearsals.

Still i’d never go back to full hardware. I just love to take my laptop and get behind my desk programming new sounds just by hooking up a small midi keyboard.
Lately i even attached a cheap microphone to it to use it for vocoder effects.
And i love this community. You guys are the best and Brad is the best dev I’ve ever known!
Honestly. :kissing_heart::kissing_heart::kissing_heart:


I was solely using Cantabile in my jazz group, it was a huge complication and forced me to spend more time on the tech stuff than playing (separate NUC, rack, interfaces, etc.). While I appreciated the pianos, Rhodes, clavs, strings, etc. that came from the soft synths, I was the only one who actually heard the difference and over the drums and screaming guitars :slight_smile:

For that group I have now changed to a hybrid setup using a laptop and the VST’s for most of my synth and Hammond sounds, and the MOXF8 for meat and potatoes sounds it does well. I also use the MOXF instead of a separate interface.

For other groups I use a similar setup. It turned out this is a great backup if something happened (as it did recently when a changeover between bands took too long and I needed to start the set with onboard sounds and then loaded Cantabile while I was getting through the first song).

Note that little of my decision had anything to do with Cantabile - it was more of a decision to be more efficient.


Jazz has a different set of parameters so I can understand- wait, screaming guitars??


Get an MX88.


Not the tradition Joe Pass jazz. More Larry Carlton :smile: