Have you ever wanted a keyboard that really worked? That was quick to load in and out? That had piano keys, waterfall organ keys, velocity sensing, aftertouch, breath control, organ drawbars, lots of buttons and controls laid out sensibly, reliable pedal set, awesome sound, reliability, and good looks?
I started with an ORLA Jamkey Hammer Black. They said it had touch sensitivity, but I found it had no aftertouch. I liked the basic controller quite a bit - nicely made, and well designed. Still, if I was going to get it to do what I needed it to, I had my work cut out for me.
I added a Gator G mix 22 x 46 case - no point in building it if I couldn't bring it with me. It was a perfect fit (after making space for the knobs in the top half of the case.)
Next, I had to add aftertouch. I ordered two used Fatar 76 key aftertouch strips. I was going to install them in the existing keyboards, but I wasn't too excited about the piano keyboard spanning E to E. I was going to rearrange the keys on the Fatar TP100 keyboard, but it's not designed that way. So I got a Studiologic Stage SL88I Grand, and surgically removed the top octave of the TP40W keybed so it would fit in the Jamkey chassis. (The dimensions of the Fatar TP40W are quite similar to the TP100, but the TP40W weighs about 10 pounds more. I feel the improved touch is worth the extra weight.) I also removed the 1 key wide cheek blocks in the Jamkey so I could go from the original 73 keys to 76 - A to C. (It's necessary to "read" the circuit board and the foundation to assure that only the right parts are removed.) The Studiologic came with aftertouch, so I didn't have to modify the keybed any further. I installed the controller card that came with the Studiologic keyboard, because it had three sensors per key, not two. (There's nothing plugged into the original piano keybed jacks on the JamKey controller card now.)
I moved the waterfall Fatar TP7O keybed over to the right edge to match it with the keybed below. That left a large space on the left side of the keys. Some friends of mine set up the top of the Studiologic keyboard with the three joysticks, and it went in the gap. I only had provisions for one aftertouch strip on the Studiologic controller, so I hooked the other one to an extra control pedal jack with a pull-up resistor.
Each keyboard controller card has its own configuration software on the computer, so the USB-midi messages and hardware are fully programmable.
The whole thing looked and worked so nicely that I decided to install a set of reverse colored keys for the organ keyboard. Now the upper keybed has all black keys on it.
(There is a Deopfer keyboard in storage with all white keys...)
Internally, there is a USB hub with a TEC breath controller on it. The air pipe is plumbed to a through hole on the back panel of the SuperBlack.
The stand is a modified Ultimate V Stand. The cool thing about the stand, besides the look, is that it folds up into a half-size package, much smaller than other keyboard stands. The top supports are braced to angle back at 15 degrees, making it possible to maintain good hand position either standing or seated. The tilt also allows the keyboard to be lowered a couple of inches, resulting in better stability. Threaded into the bottom of the keyboard supports are vertical braces that stop the flexing bounce of the stand. It's almost as solid as an upright piano. The stand is attached firmly to the bottom of the keyboard, the pedals, and the Lithium Ion powered UPS. This makes it possible to set up offstage, and carry the whole thing onstage in under a minute, ready to go. (The UPS prevents power failures which would necessitate a reboot - almost 5 minutes to reboot.)
I used Yamaha rocker pedals. They're designed to attach together - very nice. I added a switch for the Leslie effect to the right hand pedal - it's a little tab that sticks up. When you bump it with the side of your foot, it operates a pushbutton under the pedal.
There is a mic jack on the top surface of the SuperBlack that is wired to one on the bottom surface. The small cardioid condenser mic on the gooseneck is equalized to sound like a Neumann U47, with IK Multimedia's Mic Locker. No need for a separate mic stand and wiring.
In addition, there are luggage handles under the front edge to assist in moving the SuperBlack. The SuperBlack is attached to the stand, and then the handles are used to rotate the whole assembly upright. Very handy if there is no one to help you set it upright. The idea came from Yamaha's CS80. The CS80 weighs 225 pounds, but one person can set it up.
Thus, the Hammer Black becomes the SuperBlack.
A quick note on how it sounds: awesome! The foundation is either MainStage 3 or Logic X. (Mainstage 3.3 runs very nicely, unlike some earlier versions. No microprocessor spiking, and reasonable loading.) Added in is IK Multimedia's Ultimate Studio software and Arturia V software, Meldaproduction effects and drums,plus a Universal Audio Apollo Quad with some marvelous modeled studio equipment plug-ins. Software runs on a loaded mid 2012 MacBook Pro. The MacBook connects to the Apollo with the Thunderbolt port.
The reason for all of this? The SuperBlack can be pre-configured with the controls set to do almost any job, from controlling an orchestra to synthesizers to heavy metal guitar. Moving to the next patch allows a complete instant configuration onstage. Whatever sounds you can imagine a keyboard rig doing, this compact setup can do in style! Basically, I wanted a system that would be an environment where I could create, and then present live, with full power and detail.
The first photo in the gallery shows SuperBlack in SuperPhat mode, with custom pedalboard and modified monolith keyboard stand. The pedalboard was made out of an Elka 13 pedal midi box, with 4 rocker pedals on top, and 5 additional jacks on the back panel for extensions. The whole thing runs off of a Korg NanoControl, mounted inside the pedalboard box.
When it comes to the keyboard stand, the sound might rock, but SuperBlack doesn't budge! The keyboard stand was modified in-house by MoseLeslie - an ergonomic think-tank/maker studio.
The 4-rackspace unit on the left side contains a Universal Audio Apollo Quad, Universal Audio Octo unit for 12 total Sharc processors, four Line6 receivers, a Behringer ADA8200 8 channel IO, a Thunderbolt interface, power supplies, and a USB hub with a 64GB recording drive on it - pretty much an entire studio.
I trimmed the steel keybed chassis in two carefully with small Dremel cutting wheel.
I "read" the circuit board, and didn't remove anything I would need later.