4×4Pole: Doepfer MKE vs Novation KS Keybed

March 21, 2013

Amongst several boxes of goodies to arrive today was the Doepfer MKE. I took a bit of a punt on this, as I wasn’t certain that my scavenged Novation KS4 keybed would work. There’s a surprising dearth of information about the Novation keybeds. But all the clues pointed to it being a Fatar keybed (Diode matrix, Aftertouch strip, 16 Micromatch connectors), and thus fully compatible with the MKE.

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I thought it would be an opportune time to pick-up a Doepfer DIY synth for the next project – the slide into Modular with Little Dieter. For now, let’s focus on the MKE….

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It came with a 9v power supply. Overall it feels pretty well-built and sturdy. The LCD is adequate, but those buttons have gotta go. Yuck.

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I wanted a quick test so I hooked-up the wheels, with MKE spitting data out to MIDOX.

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Modwheel and Pitchwheel are recognised, however the range is extremely narrow. The MKE manual makes mention of these inputs being tailored towards Doepfer’s own ‘accessories’:

‘…the voltage range ~ 0 … 1.6 Volt corresponds to the Midi data range 0 … 127. The reason for this limited voltage range is the rotating angle of the wheels we offer as spare parts. An output voltage range of ~ 0…1.6V was measured for these wheels if they are connected to GND and +5V as they do not cover the complete rotating angle because of the end stoppers.’

This is going to need some research, so another day. But what about the keyboard?

First I needed to make cables using 16-strand flat ribbon and 2×8 pole male Micromatch connectors, and thus saving myself a small fortune.

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With both keyboard cables connected, I could immediately see the notes being received by MIDIOX, but the zones were reversed. A quick swap of the cables remedied that.

Keyboard working! And with a smooth velocity response 😎

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And so to Aftertouch. I was most uncertain about this one working. The Fatar cable has four pins, but the MKE only accepts three. After a while of random and fruitless jumper-switching I hit upon the brilliant idea of reading the MKE manual (doh!). There it was, in the appendix, the key to success. Only two connections are needed, necessitating a little hack using header pins and a dexterous disposition …

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My scepticism came crashing down as the pressure signals appear on screen. A quick change of settings from the crappy-but-adequate interface and aftertouch working perfectly. What’s more, the aftertouch curve seems just fine, so no messing with switching resistors. Yeeeehaaaw…

😀

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Right, I am feeling pretty good now. Just mod- and pitch-wheels to calibrate and I’ve got myself a very nice, expressive master keyboard.

Is niiiice, I like-ah.

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