Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Quik-Lok Monolith Keyboard Stand

This season, I've been exploring keyboard stand options. For many years, I used an Ultimate Support Apex stand. Ultimate Support used to have great customer service, but in recent years, my experience has been less positive. One of the support arms on my Apex broke at a gig a while back, and when Ultimate quoted me $60 to replace it, I decided to try some other stands, to see if they might better serve then the Apex, which I had some other issues with (see below).

My most recent experiment has been with the Quik-lok Monolith single-tier stand, which I've used for most of my gigs this season. Amazon has the stand here.


Before I share my thoughts on this stand, here, in no particular order, are the features I'd like to see in a keyboard stand.

1) Reliability
2) Portability - needs to fold into an easily transportable shape.
3) Design - looks good/presents well on stage.
4) Able to easily adjust height for playing while sitting or standing. (up to 36" high)
5) Does not obstruct my view of the audience
6) Cable management - allows for cables to be made unobtrusive to the audience
7) Wide enough to support 76 and 88 key keyboards.
8) Stable - no rocking, swaying, or bouncing.
9) Accessories (if any are available) that make sense/work as advertised.
10) Small footprint
11) Room for proper positioning of foot pedals
12) Not too heavy
13) Leave room for the player's legs while seated, so they won't be pressed up against a crossbar.
14) A carrying case.

It is surprising to me that no one seems to make a stand that fits all of these criteria. (It's also surprising that most local stores do not carry any of the more interesting stand options, like the Monolith, necessitating ordering on spec. Since these stands are heavy, it's not generally worth returning them, as it can cost $40 or so in shipping.) Most stores carry the Apex, and some variations of X-stands, all of which are less then ideal, due to all of the weight being focused onto the retaining pin, which can easily collapse.

To illustrate, my old Apex stand failed in the following ways.

1) It was less stable than I would have liked. Especially when playing outdoors on grass etc.
2)The mic boom attachment picked up keyboard noise and amplified it.
3) The keyboard would bounce/shake when played hard, or when an 88 key board was used.
4) The feet made it impossible to place pedals in ideal position.
5) With time, I started to feel like it was a barrier between me and the audience. My current preference is for a more "open" feeling setup.

After using the Quik-lok Monolith on quite a few gigs (it's been a busy season), here are my thoughts.

1) This stand is simply the most stable keyboard stand I've played, and I've tried quite a few. Unless I actively try to get some swaying going while playing, the keyboard stays solidly in place on the stand. And even if I try to make it sway, the give is minimal and totally playable.

2) It is relatively easy to adjust the height, making it possible to say, play a cocktail hour and wedding ceremony while seated and then raise the stand to play for dancing.

3) It looks good visually. However, to me it looks better (more visually balanced design-wise)  in seated position that when raised for standing. In either position, it feels open.

4) It folds easily/simply for moving on offstage, but does not fold into a convenient form for carting around. If I needed a house stand at a venue, and be able to store it nearby and move it on and offstage as needed, I'd highly recommend the Monolith. However, for moving in/out of cars, loading on carts, etc. the Monolith is less than ideal. It folds into an awkward shape that does not balance well on a cart, it is wider than most doors, and the legs don't lock closed, so they tend to swing open while you are lift in/carrying the stand.

5) There is no cable management system with the stand, and its open design means that all of the cables coming out of the back of your board are visible and disorganized. It's possible to snake them along your keyboard and the legs, but that takes some doing and a lot of jury-rigging. On the Apex, this was a non-issue, because the column hid cables easily.

6) There is plenty of leg room, for playing while seated and for positioning pedals properly. No worries about banging your knee or shin here.

7) There are no accessories available, apart from an optional second tier for another keyboard.

8) The stand is solid, and heavy, but not too heavy to lift/carry.

Boottom line, I wouldn't recommend the Monolith for a gigging musician who needs to move the stand between venues, frequently in/out of cars, etc. as I did this season. It makes for occasionally awkward load-ins. However, if you're looking for a solid keyboard stand that is very stable and looks good for home or studio use, or for a permanent installation, the Quik-lok Monolith is well worth a look.

I kind of wish they'd shaped it a bit differently, so that it'd sit on a cart for easy transport and fit through doorways. (And so that it could be put in a case.) Also, that they'd put a lock on the legs so that they could be locked closed for travel. Perhaps Quik-lok will make an updated tweaked version. If so, I'd likely give it another shot. For now, my Monolith will be used for the nome studio and the very occasional gig, where the load-in and visual needs of the gig make it sensible to use.

In the meantime, I'm going to order another stand none of the local dealers carry.... probably the Hercules KS400B which I have no experience with and which I haven't been able to find locally.

Amazon has that one here:

To sum up:

The Monolith is a great looking choice for either a home studio setup, or a stage setting where the stand needs to be moved on/off stage often. It's easy to adjust and VERY stable, with plenty of room for proper placement of pedals. I would highly recommend it for those uses.

However, it is not portable for constant gigging  because it folds to an odd shape that does not easily stack on my Rack N Roller cart in a way that will fit through that average doorway. Also, it doesn't lock closed when folded, which is not a big issue when moving it a short distance, but is again a pain when loading in/out of the typical club-date venues.