Sunday 14th January, 2001
The PC-300 USB keyboard comes in a large box - and, unlike other large boxes you may have unwrapped at Christmas, this one isn’t just full of styrofoam peanuts. Given that the keyboard is roughly 80cm x 17.5cm x 8cm in size, this shouldn’t be too surprising.
As well as being a four-octave (49-key) keyboard, it also doubles as a USB-to-MIDI interface. The keys are full size and, despite being a little springy, are velocity (touch) sensitive. This means when playing you can capture dynamics/attack as well as pitch. As with most standard MIDI-controller keyboards, it also provides octave up and down controls and a data slider that you can assign to MIDI controllers for, say, reverb, pan or volume.
There’s also the ubiquitous Pitch/Modulation wheel, so guitar-riff fanatics can mimic a whammy bar to their hearts' content. A port on the back for plugging in sustain and hold pedals (for example, a Roland DP-6) is also provided. The unit comes with an AC adaptor, but you’re also offered the choice of running it from USB power.
Of course, the main reason for buying this keyboard over other models in the series (the 32-note PC-160A or the 49-note PC-180A) is the USB port. Installing the USB drivers and connecting the keyboard to your Mac is straightforward, but, as seasoned Mac MIDI users will know, to get a Mac-based music program to talk to a MIDI device you need to patch it using either Free-MIDI or Opcode OMS. Thankfully, both are supplied on the accompanying CD. If you want to use any application other than Opcode’s Performer or Digital Performer, then chances are you need to install OMS.
The installation process is a little less straightforward than point and double-click. To this end, Roland has provided two manuals. A 20-page manual shows how to set up various hardware configurations, then a 14-page manual outlines the process you need to go through to both install OMS (and the relevant driver), and configure OMS.
Patch it up
Sadly, this second manual fails to mention the fatal flaw with Opcode’s OMS system: you need to download a patch from Opcode to get it to work on the Mac.
Once installed, the keyboard works fine. Of course, since it doesn’t have a built-in sound module, and even with the QuickTime Musical Instruments patched in, you’ll still need intermediary software to actually get any sound out of your keyboard. Thoughtfully, Roland has included Steinberg’s Cubasis software.
All in all, this is a great package (keyboard, software, MIDI and USB cables), especially if you’re a first-timer looking to dabble in MIDI editing or composing on your Mac. The included software is good for starting out, and OMS compatibility means you can make use of other shareware and freeware, such as Igor Engraver.
The keyboard itself is rather springy, but what do you expect for £119? As an entry device it’s all you really need, and the small footprint (80cm x 17.5cm) means you can keep it on the desk next to your Mac, instead of having a full-blown keyboard stand taking up floor-space. Roll over Beethoven.
As any five-year-old willtell you, there’s something about unwrapping a large box that gets the adrenaline pumping.
|Get Further Info|
|Pros||USB-to-MIDI interface + Velocity-sensitive keys + Small footprint|
|Cons||Installation can be fiddly + Springy keyboard action|
|Originally Published||MacUser, Volume: 17, Issue: 01, p34|