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So, I picked up one of these last night, over at Guitar Center (pausing to admire Joe Satriani's exceptionally *shiny!* transparent guitar):

49 velocity-sensitive keys, USB powered, and even comes with a version of Reason - not bad for $99! Worked immediately with Garageband 2, too.

I'm not promising I'll be turning out anything listenable, though. ^_^

Edit: seems M-Audio's running a promo until the end of December - buy one of their keyboards, get three Reason ReFill packs free! But which to go for? The selection is:

Sonic ReFill Vol. 1: Synths 1
Sonic ReFill Vol. 2: Synths 2
Sonic ReFill Vol. 3: Rhythm Section
Sonic ReFill Vol. 4: Pianos and Organs
Sonic ReFill Vol. 5: Symphonic
Sonic ReFill Vol. 6: OmniSoundz GM
Sonic ReFill Vol. 7: Reality Drums
Sonic ReFill Vol. 8: Monster Drums
Sonic ReFill Vol. 9: Vintage Drums
Sonic ReFill Vol. 10: Instruments of the 60s-70s
Sonic ReFill Vol. 11: Retro Keys
Sonic ReFill Vol. 12: Acoustic Folk
Sonic ReFill Vol. 13: World Percussion
Sonic ReFill Vol. 14: Ethnic Instruments
Sonic ReFill Vol. 15: Film Orchestra
I picked up one of these about a year ago from Apple, and within about 3 months, I was getting dead-keys :\. Had used it pretty often and tried to baby it as much as possible.. M Audio has been extremely un-supportive of trying to get this repaired..

Hope you have better luck!
Erk! That's definitely not good going. Why on earth would M-Audio stall replacing something like that anyway? It'd hardly put them out of business, unless they're simply contemptuous of someone electing to spend that little, rather than a much more lucrative model.

And I'll need mine to survive being packed in checked baggage, too.. ^_^;

Oh crap.
And here I was recommending this to my brother.
Maybe we should spring for the larger, more expensive model, like the 61-key model.
Or go with a different brand.
The keyboard is mostly gonna be used in conjunction with an M-Box2.
We'll see what West L.A. Music has in stock when we go buy the M-Box2...

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Satriani has his own line of guitars through Ibanez, as does about two dozen other guitarists.
Can you find that one? It's possible it was one that's seen personal use, as it was within a sealed display case - or they just regard him highly.

Completely clear and colorless, comfortably rounded, fairly traditional shape otherwise. (There seem to be translucent red and black easily available)

Since Guitar Center has a fairly liberal policy of letting people touch guitars, they tend to keep their higher-priced models out of grasp. The Ibanez Joe Satriani JS guitars sell for upwards of $1500-$2200, I think. Though, it could've been a personal guitar since he does live in the Bay Area.

Physically, the Joe Satriani models look identical to the Frank Gambale FGM
guitar, also named the Ibanez Sabre. I lucked out and found an late 80's one for $200 at Starving Musician. Unless you pay $1500 for a new Ibanez, you aren't going to get the quality of an 80's Ibanez, sad to say.

Which is kind of odd, considering that Ibanez is a Japanese company that produced clones of Gibson guitars in the 70's - they just happened to do a very good job of it and now Ibanez are held in much higher esteem than Fender and Gibson.
Good Deal!

We have a little 25 key version here.
I was tempted by the smaller one too, I'll admit - if I turn out to have any kind of ability with this, I might go for one in addition, simply for the portability.

Have you turned out anything we can listen to? ^_^
What is the San Francisco Guitar Center like? Horribly loud just like all the other ones I've been to. I've been to the San Jose one a few times and there were like 20 guitarists all playing terribly at top volume.

Cool deal about the keyboard! Can't wait to hear what you come up with, and taking a look at Garage Studio 2 myself. Maybe bring along FL Studio Producer to show you, along with Sytrus which I just bought as an add-on synth. I wonder if GS2 supports VST plugins. If so, you might look into some soft-synth offerings from Steinberg and Native Instruments.

What is the San Francisco Guitar Center like?

I was quite surprised - almost quiet, actually. ^_^; Only two guitars being played while I was there, so it was possible to actually enjoy the sound, rather than needing to try persuading the brain not to leap out and wait by the door. It was coming to the end of their day, though - we left the Apple Store at eight, and GC there closes at nine. (And conveniently close to a Whole Foods Market, with their own parking. So we visited both and picked up a couple lovely beers at the same time :)

It looks like Garageband 2 only supports Audio Unit format plugins, but some googling indicates there's VST-AU bridging software around. Wonder what sort of AU plugin availability there is? It'll take me a while to explore all the possibilities just with the supplied voices, as they're all reasonably configurable.

But the possibilities.. !

Maybe bring along FL Studio Producer to show you, along with Sytrus which I just bought as an add-on synth

Definitely! I want to explore what's around (ideally, affordably :), now that I've finally got a means of bashing in something vaguely tuneful. (The on-screen mouse-operated micro-keyboard is.. ah.. it provides a means for demonstrating the qualities of the supplied voices. See? I can come up with something positive even there :)

I should caution you I know nothing about music theory, so I'm presently stumbling around joyfully "discovering" what different chords sound like - or rather, how to actually make them myself.

And it's fun! ^_^
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Probably the 60s-70s pack. That was my first thought too, was make it sound like a Hammond with the Leslie rotary speakers :D
Yep! The 60s/70s one specifically mentions Moog-like sounds, though the Sonic Refills site's a bit clumsily laid out if you're trying to gauge what's in each, let alone the actual sounds.

It's going to be quite a tricky choice, I think.. I'm leaning towards a synth-heavy mix, but I don't want to neglect the drums either. Still, there's time for all that later - first I need to explore all that Reason's capable of. Shouldn't take long. :)

I would advise _against_ going with any retro synth packs for the reason that these are some of the easiest to simulate with a piece of software. There are plenty of soft-synths that can emulate a Moog or an Arp as well as build your own sounds much like the original hardware.

It's very cool that they have a Mellontran pack, but then I'm kind of nostalgic about that sound.
Ooh, good call. ^_^ I'll have to look into what each of the packs actually contains, but I'm definitely pulled by the two synth packs, plus the 60s/70s volume - though I shouldn't neglect percussion either.

What have I got myself into.. ^_^

(Come to that, I wonder if I can come up with a vaguely Hammond-like sound just with the standard Audio Units)

Useful input? None.
Interesting side note: My mind insists on parsing 'Tenfold Loadstar' as 'Lord Toaster'. Take that for what you will. :)

Actually, if I had to pick, I'd go with Film Orchestra, Reality Drums, and Pianos and Organs. What's the key weighting feel like - realistic, or springs-back-up-no-inertia style?
Ah, semi-weighted, I see. For an extra $80cdn, you can get all 61 keys.. (muses)
I'd wondered about that, but one requirement I have is that it remain reasonably portable, especially for being stowed away in checked baggage. With any luck, working afterwards too.

Indeed, a shorter unit might be good too at some point, for ease of carrying around to friends' places, though this seems like it'd be reasonably feasible too. (I'm thinking of Muni trolleys, buses, BART, and the like) Oh dear.. is this where I start looking into a case for it?
'Lord Toaster'

The Little Toaster That Could (Destroy A Star System). Hey, there was the Star Wars Holiday Special, and Jar-Jar Binks.. better not let Lucas get wind of that.

The weighting's pretty much just snapping straight back up - there's no momentum to the key's travel. The sensitivity works, but not quite as accurately as one might expect - then again, I'm not one to judge such considerations. Yet. :) Maybe I'll wander along to Guitar Center again sometime, and see what happens when you spend Real Money™ on a controller - how much like a piano can it feel mechanically? Is that weighting dynamically adjustable to reflect different instruments or personal preference?

(Answer: probably yes, but for much more than $99 :)