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MOTM-650 vs Encore Expressionist vs Kenton Pro2000 MkII
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Author MOTM-650 vs Encore Expressionist vs Kenton Pro2000 MkII
haricots
I'm in the market for a proper MIDI-CV converter and was wondering why one would choose either the Encore or Kenton unit over the MOTM-650 which is $100 cheaper. I have a MOTM-950 coming any day now so I'll have the +5v covered. Any opinions?
russma
Good question. As is my custom, I'll respond despite a profound lack of practical experience with any of these devices...

At a very quick glance, it looks like the Kenton Pro 2000 has 10 outputs, the Encore Expressionist has eight and the MOTM 650 has four. So, the first question is, how many outputs do you need?

Next: the Kenton has two LFOs, the Encore has four; the MOTM currently has none, maybe added in an upgrade later.

The MOTM has dual arpeggiators, which neither of the other two have. Nice bonus.

The Encore has 100 user setups, the Kenton has 24, MOTM has 32.

All three have control over portamento, pitch bend, etc.
paults
Errr...the MOTM-650 has 16 outputs if you are comparing apples-to-apples. Like the others, the outputs are a mixture of fixed and assignable.

Also, only the MOTM-650 uses true 16-bit CV path (voltage reference/op amps/summers/output stages) and the pitch outputs use a special 'cable driver' topology to drive long (over 12ft) of cable with zero output drop.

Just sayin'
haricots
Thanks for the replies. Yeah, I'm definitely leaning towards the 650. I don't have tons of CV gear so 4 cv/gate outputs would suffice - and the arp looks like a feature I would use a lot. This would make a great 40th bday present to myself!
Paul, are these ready to ship?
sunsinger
paults wrote:
Errr...the MOTM-650 has 16 outputs if you are comparing apples-to-apples. Like the others, the outputs are a mixture of fixed and assignable.

Also, only the MOTM-650 uses true 16-bit CV path (voltage reference/op amps/summers/output stages) and the pitch outputs use a special 'cable driver' topology to drive long (over 12ft) of cable with zero output drop.

Just sayin'


Ok Paul, So how do you get the other 12 outputs to spit out pitch data, each channel pitch controllable? One channel per output. That would make my day. 8_)
paults
a) these ship in 1 - 2 weeks now.

b) there are 4 dedicated pitch outputs that are true 16 bits. There are 4 dedicated GATE outputs, and then there are 8 100% assignable outputs that are 10-bit accurate. These are assigned by scrolling through the menu and selecting what a particular output is to be.

The '650 is a *4-voice* MIDI-CV, and each voice can have pitch, gate, and 2 assignable CV outputs.

c) the Kenton is a 2-voice system with 2 assignables. The Encore is 8 Pitch/8 Gates (no assignables) but is it even available anymore?

d) certainly, you can drive VCOs with assignable CV outputs. I have seen several 8-pitch patches running off a '650 (using MIDI sequencers) that assign Velocity in the track, then "patch out" of the '650 into VCOs to double-up the voices.
megaohm
haricots wrote:
I'm in the market for a proper MIDI-CV converter and was wondering why one would choose either the Encore or Kenton unit over the MOTM-650 which is $100 cheaper. Any opinions?


What will you be using with the MIDI to CV?

Download the manuals and find out how they work. I couldn't find a manual for the 650 on the MOTM site.

I can't give much advice about polyphony. I have a PolyDAC but I don't like how it is implemented so I rarely use it for poly. It's great to have a variety of poly modes so you can choose which one behaves according to your playing style.
Some converters have only 'new' note priority and it's better to have a choice between Hi/Lo/New note priority when in mono mode.
Also, make sure you have a choice between retrigger and legato play as far as the gate outputs go.

Narrowing it down to these three is a good move on your part.
MIDI to CV converters are something that I'm willing to buy instead of DIY.
In a few months I will be choosing one out of these three, too. I'm leaning toward the Kenton. In fairness, I haven't revisited the Encore manual lately so I'm a bit foggy on all it's details.

PaulS, is there a manual available or a detailed thread in your Yahoo Group? I'd like to consider yours (I'm a sucker for arpeggiators!) but I need more/specific info to do so. No rush, I'm still a few months away from being able to buy:)

p.
ach_gott
Peng, here it is.
SynthBaron
paults wrote:
The Encore is 8 Pitch/8 Gates (no assignables)


Hmm, I didn't know it wasn't programmable. Just read the manual and it seems to confirm what you say here. That sucks.
paults
If you look here:

www.synthtech.com/m650

there is a rough manual and a menu flowchart. There is also 2 little movies to watch.
megaohm
paults wrote:
If you look here:

www.synthtech.com/m650

there is a rough manual and a menu flowchart. There is also 2 little movies to watch.


Thanks for the link guys. Movies? Nice!

I tried posting a long message but it somehow didn't get through. Bummer!

My typing finger is all worn out so hopefully it will appear later.

p.
megaohm
Found my post by using excessive back button clicks! Seems I only previewed it.
paul, the video you did is very helpful.

ach_gott wrote:
Peng, here it is.


Thanks for that.


So, I just got through reading all three manuals and...I'm still undecided.
Actually, I'm a bit MORE confused! It would be great to be able to sit down with each one. I live in Chicago and would love to meet others in the area and check out their MIDI to CV (any one of the three). I could bring party favors, food (my lady is a damn good cook), or modules for you to check out in exchange.

I found all three converters to have many strong points. Some features may be present in the others but it can be hard to decipher from a manual alone. The 650 has a functional depth that I find appealing.
I like the poly voice allocations of the Encore (specifically Rob Hi and Rob Lo) but the 650 may be capable of the same thing.

Good thing it will take three months until I have the funds because it will probably take me that long to decide!

Truthfully, I haven't looked at prices yet. Even if the 650 is more expensive, it includes an arpeggiator which, in my book, is worth an extra $100-$200.

I suppose the the part I am having the most trouble with are the poly modes. I'm used to the PolyDAC poly mode which is 'round robin' style(i.e: keep hitting the same note and the CV will be output channel 1, then 2, then 3, and so on. I THINK that I would prefer a mode that always assigns the lowest held note to channel 1, the highest held note to Ch 2, and middle notes to Ch3 and/or Ch4. Then again I'm not sure. I do know that I don't like the round robin style much.

I also seek Duophony. I have achieved this by using two mono MIDI to CV converters and setting one to high note priority and the other to low note priority. I think any of the three converters I'm considering are capable of this but...I'm not positive.

In any case, if anyone in the Chicago area would like to meet up sometime, send me a PM.

I'm sure I will be posting a million questions to this thread in the coming months.

p.
megaohm
SynthBaron wrote:
paults wrote:
The Encore is 8 Pitch/8 Gates (no assignables)


Hmm, I didn't know it wasn't programmable. Just read the manual and it seems to confirm what you say here. That sucks.


No velocity!!!

That rules the Encore out.
SynthBaron
Velocity and aftertouch only seem to be routable to the internal LFO's and to pitch bend, lol. Good thing I didn't buy one, jeez.
suitandtieguy
ya no shit. go for the MOTM!
haricots
megaohm wrote:


Truthfully, I haven't looked at prices yet. Even if the 650 is more expensive, it includes an arpeggiator which, in my book, is worth an extra $100-$200.


The 650 is cheaper than the other two which makes it even more appealing.
paults
Note that the '650 requires a +5V rail (the 6-pin MOTM connector). So you will need either:

a) MOTM-950 power supply
b) a MOTM-995 if you have a .com already
NV
I went through the exact same inner debate some time ago when upgrading to a quality MIDI-CV converter. I had narrowed it down to the same options - Kenton Pro-2000, Encore Expressionist, or MOTM-650. Here were the conclusions I came to, which of course are entirely subjective to my own needs blah blah and so forth...

The Expressionist seems best suited to basic conversion needs on a large scale. In otherwords, if you are hoping to run 8 channels of simple MIDI-CV note conversions (which is honestly rather unlikely) then it can't be beat, but if you're hoping to do anything more complex with it then either the Kenton or MOTM would probably be better. I ruled the Expressionist out fairly quickly after studying the manual and reading various personal thoughts scattered about.

The Kenton and MOTM were in close competition with one another. While there are a number of differences between them, here are the key "pro" points I considered important for my own uses:

Kenton Pro-2000:
- Standalone unit (no need for mounting or additional power supply)
- Hz/V conversion option (only applicable to synths like the Korg MS10/MS20, Yamaha CS5/CS15, and the Wretch Machine)
- 12-bit assignable outputs over MOTM's 10-bit
- 6 freely assignable outputs over MOTM's 4

MOTM-650:
- Four voice channels instead of Kenton's two, each with a 16-bit CV output again over Kenton's two
- 4 Velocity/Trigger outputs in addition to the existing 4 freely assignable Aux outputs (the velocity setting can act as assignable outputs through proper external MIDI channel routing)
- Two arpeggiators (which aren't otherwise available in a modular without using a computer) that can be clocked internally or externally
- $100 less than the Kenton

The Kenton has extras like LFOs, portamento, and a clock output and the MOTM also has portamento as well as tuning tables, but I considered these to be extras that weren't entirely crucial to my decision. Even so, I didn't imagine using the LFOs and clock output of the Kenton as all of that is in my modular and more flexible that way anyhow, whereas the MOTM's tuning tables were a much more interesting extra with unique capabilities. Also note that the differences between 10-bit, 12-bit, and 16-bit are debatable in terms of MIDI-CV conversion; 16-bit's 65,536 steps would theoretically be 16x smoother than 12-bit's 4,096 steps and 64x smoother than 10-bit's 1,024 steps, but in application using the 128 step MIDI protocol the differences would be realistically negligible.

Additionally, while the MOTM is $100 less than the Kenton, it also requires a power supply capable of outputting +15V/-15V/+5V as well as a way of mounting it. This wasn't an issue for me as I was planning on building a 5U modular case with an additional +5V supply anyhow, but I imagine it would be a serious issue for some others.

Ultimately I decided on the MOTM-650, primarily because I preferred its functional approach and method of operation over the Kenton and I also preferred the idea of a modular mounted MIDI-CV converter with easily accessible jacks and controls rather than an outside box, as it fits better with the way I work. The microtunings and arpeggiators were features I could realistically see myself using and appreciating, and the price of $100 less than the Kenton were bonuses that made it all a rather easy decision for me after I spent some time comparing the two.

The only reason I would recommend the Kenton over the MOTM would be for someone who did not have a 5U system nor any desire to start one, and even then I would spend some time trying to convince them to build up a small 5U system as a compliment to their Euro/Serge/Wiard/whatever. But since you not only have a 5U system but also a +5V supply on the way, I would personally recommend the MOTM over the Kenton without any hesitation.
zerosum
I have been thinking about selling my Mobius(cash in on the out-of-productiveness) and picking up a nice MIDI to CV for use with Numerology.

SO I was giving the MOTM 650 or Modcan 63b MIDI to CV some heavy thought.

I am really leaning towards the Kenton USB Solo at the moment, I wont get the polyphony that the modcan 63b and and MOTM 650 offer, but its more affordable and I like the idea of a USB connection instead of a MIDI port.
nerdware
The $100 price difference between the 650 and the 2000 probably applies more in the US than in Europe. By my very rough calculations, the Pro 2000 with the Rack Ears option should be close to £60 less than the MOTM-650 in the UK.

So this depends on where you are.
doctorvague
I've owned the Encore, the Synthesizers.com one and the MOTM 650. Of those, I recommend the 650 hands down.
Peake
Isn't the Volta 24-bit, if used with 24-bit converters? Sorry, a tad off topic, but so very, very wonderfully on topic.
paults
Audio DACs (like the Volta) can accept 24-bit data. But they are *far* from being 24-bit accurate.

DAC resolution is not the same as DAC accuracy. It's like the difference between the words 'intentional' and 'deliberate' (which in Texas penal system is a HUGE difference).

I can have an 8-bit resolution DAC that is very accurate (the error from the 'perfect' output voltage to the actual output voltage), and I can have a 24-bit DAC that has terrible accuracy.

Audio DACs are not made to be accurate (that's why they're in audio) like a standard "industrial" DAC is (like moving a valve to a specified position without feedback).

DAC accuracy is specified in LSBs and is called INL. A really good DAC is +- 1/2LSB. It is not uncommon for 18 to 24-bit DACs to have *64* LSBs of error.

Example: here are 2 "18-bit" DACs by Analog Devices:

AD5680: this is a $4 part.....looks good! Nice tiny package, too.
AD760: err....holy mother of god it's $125!!!

But look at the specs: the INL of the AD5680 is +-64 LSBs, which is 6 entire bits! So it is not any more accurate than a 12-bit converter. And they even SAY THIS on the data sheet (so why not say "Hey, look at this dandy 12-bit converter!" It's called marketing).

Moving over to the AD760, that INL is a staggering +-0.2LSBs. That means it is full 17-bit accurate (like 0.00035% accurate). And that's why it costs so much!

Do you realize that if you *really* had a *true* 24-bit, +-1/2LSB DAC that for a 1V pk-pk signal, the smallest accurate step is on the order of 200 *nanovolts* or 0.0000002V)
JohnLRice
FYI: I started a project a long time ago to break up the Synth Tech MOTM-650 video into several smaller chunks since it seems like too much to take in at once as is IMHO.

Besides doing some enhancements on the audio and video, I had planned to insert demos of some of the features and functions but . . it became a really big project and I got derailed on it many times and pretty much gave up on it. After seeing this thread I decided last night to try to finish up the project by doing the splits and adding title pages but skipping my extra demos etc.

To get it done and keep it simple I just threw them up on my YouTube site. I'll leave them up there unless Paul prefers I take them down or wants to put them up on his own site etc.


Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Part 4:
paults
Even with 'improved' audio, I sound like a squirrel on helium Dead Banana
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