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A few people have asked me for my opinions on the Oberheim MC3000 MIDI controller. Here is a summary of my views. Of course, if you want to you can still email me for more information.
The photo above is my MC3000 controller keyboard which arrived 7/02/01. It has 2 MIDI ins and 8 MIDI outs, a patch bay, 8 zones (+ 8 auxilliary zones), 48 sysex tables, 8 pedal inputs, three wheels, 8 control sliders, programmable velocity and aftertouch curves and a superb weighted 88-note keyboard. It's a fantastic piece of kit and I can't believe it's only £799. It blows the Fatar/Studiologic controllers out of the water on a £/feature basis. If you want one (or the reduced spec MC2000, Turnkey in London are the only UK supplier).
One warning: it weighs in at 27.4 Kg! I had to get a new QuickLok stand to accommodate it!
I've had it three years now and am very pleased with it. It has a good action and is very programmable. I even have one MIDI output reserved solely for my Behringer effects unit whose reverb I can turn on and off with one of the sliders.
There are some limitations:
- It's VERY heavy, so if you're wanting to gig a lot you might want to consider something lighter or getting some roadies!
- It doesn't have real cross fades. On my old Roland D20 I have one zone assigned to a string patch which starts to fade out just above middle C. A second zone fades in just below middle C with a bell sound. when layered with a piano on an external module you get nice deep string accompaniment on the low notes and brighter sounds on the higher notes. You can't do this on the MC3000 and thus must have a sound module that can do it. You can still assign zones on the MC3000 that match the cross fade zones, but you can't put a velocity curve across the zone.
- The MCC3000 sends an all notes off message when you change program which means that you can't keep your foot on the pedal to sustain one sound, change program, and start playing the new sound without a break. This is an annoyance.
The above criticisms not withstanding it's an excellent piece of kit. If you want to add an internal sound module though you'll have to go for the lower spec MC2000 which has a daughter board slot.
I bought mine 'blind'. I tried some of the Fatars out in shops and then read the review of the MC3000 in Sound On Sound (see http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/nov99/articles/oberheim.htm) I've not been a fan of the Fatars. I was going to buy one originally until I tried them out in a shop. Their actions seemed a bit lightweight and unless you went for the SL1100 and above you get a very awkward interface with a small display and little flexibility. The Oberheim is really solid and the keys have a good heavy weighted action (though not as heavy as a full grand piano). On one of the keys you can hear the spring pinging when the key comes back up but that's not distracting when playing, and I'm sure it doesn't apply to every individual keyboard. My dad has a Korg SP100 which also has a nice action but still feels a bit light and toy-like. The Oberheim comes pretty close to a real piano feel. I've let a couple of semi-pro people play it and they are very complimentary of the action.
The screen on the MC3000 is great and very clear. You may not use all the programmability (I don't) but it does offer the ability to set up complex patches for home studio work. It even has a MIDI monitor (so you can debug MIDI messages coming down the wire) and a MIDI patchbay which is quite useful.
It's great for a home studio set up. If you don't need the 8 MIDI outs and the 8 pedals and the 1024 memories, then consider the MC2000 which has 4 MIDI outs, 4 sliders, 4 pedals and half the memory for a couple of hundred quid less - I believe the action is the same.
I bought mine from Turnkey without having seen one first and loved it the moment I got it out of the box. The problem is I now find it nearly impossible to play a sprung synthesiser keyboard anymore as I'm so used to the feel of heavy weighted wooden keys.
You can read my and other people's reviews at http://www.harmony-central.com/Synth/Data/Oberheim/MC-3000-01.html