For those using software keys, I'd love to hear what you're using. We've been 100% software for about a year now, but have slogged through many headaches to get here. I'm sure there's plenty we could be doing better. Here's the current setup:
Roland RD700 (controller only) >
M-Audio Axiom 49 > Logic Pro 9>Mainstage>Internal outputs>DI for each keyboard
Studiologic VMK 161 plus>
AU - Native Instruments Vintage Organ
Native Instruments Alicia's Keys
I had hoped for a little more activity from your post, Josh. I'm a PC/VST guy and have never been happy with hardware reliability... I have no confidence to take my laptop on the platform. I have heard that Mainstage is a great tool for using virtual instruments and I love Native Instruments stuff, including B4 and Vintage Organ.
Please share your Mac model and OS, and if you're comfortable, your experience with crashes and your backup. Thanks!!
"Rock On" (Matt 7:24-25)
I had hoped for more activity as well!
We 're running a stock iMac, nothing terribly fancy, and have had great success (with only a couple issues that I'll mention below). The ability to add effects, layer sounds, sync temps, and UPGRADE has been utterly fantastic. Tweaking patches is also extremely easy and very visual.
When we first made the switch to software we used Reason. It worked very well for synth patches, but didn't provide AU/VST support to run other programs like the NI stuff. Mainstage has proven to be the best of both worlds - great sounds and tons of flexibility/expandability. At first we ran just one keyboard (M-Audio Axiom) and under those conditions we had ZERO crashes. The system was extremely stable; so much so that we often ran with no backup (and we place a huge value on production).
As often happens, we thought "If we can run one keyboard, why not three?!" So we now run three keyboards (2 players) off one iMac. This has introduced a few difficulties, mostly in terms of mapping & MIDI assignments. Also, the buffer size becomes an issue when all three keyboards are playing sampled patches. It's just a lot for one system to process. Our solution has been to be very choreographed in our transitions. Ideally, another iMac should be used on the 2nd keys rig. It's a testament, though, to the quality of a Mac/Mainstage setup - that it can even drive 3 keyboards. Sometimes we have a Rhodes or other hardware keyboard on stage, but most often we run with no backup!
Honestly, I have more faith in the keys rig than I do in the tube guitar amps & wireless mics, lol.