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X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

Building organ consoles for use with Hauptwerk, adding MIDI to existing consoles, obtaining parts, ...
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organsRgreat

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X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostThu May 04, 2023 11:25 am

I’m thinking of using X-keys to provide extra pistons on my console, but I can’t find out whether the switching mechanism is silent. I’ve emailed the manufacturers, but not yet received a reply; so has anybody used these, and what are your impressions? I understand that they have to be programmed to send a signal Hauptwerk can recognise, but that seems quite straightforward. My Hauptwerk installation is strictly for home use, so any click would be distracting – I always turn off the noises provided with sample sets, as in my opinion a perfect organ action should be entirely silent. All thoughts welcome – thanks!
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larason2

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostThu May 04, 2023 3:17 pm

It looks like they use the cherry-mx style switches, so they could be silent. You may have to replace all the switches if it doesn't come with silent ones (there are silent ones available). It would be a good idea to check with them to make sure the switches are replaceable. Some manufacturers solder the switches in. If you have a soldering iron and can disassemble the board, they may still be replaceable, but you may wish to avoid that!
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IainStinson

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostFri May 05, 2023 3:29 am

Have you considered using a Stream Deck device? https://www.elgato.com/en/welcome-to-stream-deck
They are silent and the button can have graphics and / or text configured to remind you of their assigned function.
There is a midi plugin
https://trevligaspel.se/streamdeck/midi/index.html that works well: you can assign any of the HW functions using autodetect. There are various sized devices. I’ve been using a 32 button device for a while and am pleased with it, though you may think the buttons a little small.

Iain
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organsRgreat

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostWed May 10, 2023 5:26 am

Ideally I’d like my extra pistons immediately below the keys, for quick access, which is why X-keys would be ideal if there’s no noise. Plan B would be an auxiliary device immediately to the left of the bottom manual. Since Hauptwerk can respond to a QWERTY keyboard (I just double-checked), that would give a large number of extra controls; and I’d discovered that Cherry keyboards with mechanical switches do include ones with silent switches.

Around 1970 I was happy to solder onto veroboard with holes 0.1 inch apart, and circuits I built then worked well. But when an Echo Audiofire sound card failed several years ago, and Francois recommended replacing a capacitor, I discovered that modern PCBs are much more crowded and difficult to work on; so I’d rather not have to replace switches. X-Keys appear to have a UK division trading as Keyboard Specialists Ltd; as they haven’t yet responded to my email query I’ll try them by phone and see what I can find out.

I had considered StreamDeck, but thought there was a click, so it’s very helpful to know that there isn’t, and that Iain is pleased with his. Thanks for the MIDI link too Iain.
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jerrymartin

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostWed May 10, 2023 11:50 am

I use an x-key strip to add pistons to my console and am very happy with it

Regarding 'noise' - they are almost silent - they are essentially computer keyboard keys so they make a similar noise to most modern computer/laptop keyboards.

Regarding that - they have a very short travel distance - depending on where you mount them, if you are not careful, they are very easy to strike (I have become accustomed to mine, placed below the swell, above the great, but when friends visit I tend to disable them to avoid aggravation for them)

This video (and timestamp) will show you how I have mine setup

https://youtu.be/T-yDoO0CX04?t=159
Jeremiah Martin,
Portsmouth, Ohio
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magnaton

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostWed May 10, 2023 1:46 pm

organsRgreat wrote:Plan B would be an auxiliary device immediately to the left of the bottom manual.

Maybe consider a Launchpad Mini. The MkII versions on the used market are very reasonable, at least here in the US. Here is one mounted in custom drawer under the keydesk available from Drew Worthen:
https://www.drewworthen.com/product-page/the-lp-junk-drawer

Danny
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organsRgreat

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostMon May 15, 2023 12:39 pm

Jerry Martin – Thanks for the clear explanation and helpful video. Usually some piston changes need to be quicker than others, so as X-keys are small and have very little travel, it would seem sensible to reserve them for changes when one has a bit more time to think. What your video brings out is that a strip of them will fit into very small spaces, which seems a fair trade-off for having to aim accurately.

I’d not heard C S Lang’s sonata before – it sounds an interesting work, though potentially complicated to play. If you like British organ music, are you aware of the organ works of John Ireland? They vary considerably in difficulty, and unfortunately some of the more interesting pieces are beyond me technically, though you might well manage them. Plenty of examples to listen to on youtube, and they’re all published in one volume by Novello e.g.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/144555081774 ... =137596852

I must admit I love Ireland's music, and consider him under-rated; three of my advanced piano pupils have learnt some of his pieces and very much enjoyed them - so please excuse the plug!

magnaton – If I decide on Plan B – an auxiliary device beside the bottom manual – I should certainly consider Launchpads. Are they reasonably quiet?
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damuehlbauer

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostTue May 16, 2023 8:52 pm

One person's opinion, or caution, on the X-Keys. I purchased a strip a few years ago with the same intention. I found the keys to be too 'wobbly' for my taste. And they are very light touch and short travel.
David Muehlbauer
Mesa, Arizona USA
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organsRgreat

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Re: X-keys as pistons - are they silent?

PostTue Jun 06, 2023 7:17 am

Thanks David – negative comments are as helpful as positive ones, especially as X-keys are rather expensive. I’ll probably start off with a qwerty keyboard and see how I get on with that – they’re very cheap, and it’s always useful to have a spare one. Although I’ve bought the console it isn’t installed yet, as I need to rearrange the room to make space for it. This will be my first experience of pistons on a home organ; I use Hauptwerk mainly for its theatre organs, and that style of playing needs a LOT of piston changes! We shall see . . .

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