Review: iRig Keys I/O from IK Multimedia
With the iRig Keys I/O series, IK Multimedia delivers their most ambitious offering for mobile musicians to date. Combining a capable MIDI keyboard with a powerful audio interface that supports iOS, Windows and Mac platforms, the iRig Keys I/O has all the makings of a real all-in-one mobile music creator’s solution.
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Review: iRig Keys I/O from IK Multimedia
iRig Keys I/O sells for $199.00 for the iRig Keys I/O 25 or $299.00 for the iRig Keys I/O 49 from IK Multimedia
IK Multimedia has long been a leader in the mobile music marketplace. Revolutionizing the ability to connect the iOS platform with keyboards, guitars, basses and microphones to name but a few. This time around on offer is the fusion of a fully functional 24 bit/96 Hz audio interface and a MIDI controller sporting the same instrument and microphone connectivity mentioned plus pedal input as part of the package. With the ability to connect to a plethora of iOS devices, as well as Windows and Mac computers, iRig Keys I/O brings a best-of-breed solution that goes anywhere a mobile musician may go from the beach house to the hotel room to the stage.
iRig Keys I/O offer a fully functional 24 bit/96 Hz audio interface and a MIDI keyboard controller in one.
From the time that it was announced, I have watched the social media reaction and followed along where the groupthink went and where it split. To address the elephant in the room, the iRig Keys I/O does not have a five pin MIDI interface, it does however support MIDI through USB. I know that point has been somewhat contentious but personally I have not found it to be an issue as USB MIDI allows me to use the same set up I am already using with a laptop and external hardware. Optionally, you can always connect it to an external device that supports USB and MIDI if you feel the need to travel with a modular.
The first place that I think that the iRig Keys I/O really shines is in the ability to pair a MIDI controller with full-size piano keys and a high quality audio interface. The price of an audio interface alone is in almost all cases comparable or more expensive than this entire unit. Looking at it from a purely iOS perspective, I only need my iPad and my iRig Keys I/O along with a pair of headphones to record high quality music from the bevy of synthesizers and pianos that I have installed. It makes for a much simpler solution. The same thing really holds true with connecting it to a laptop although I really feel like the strength here is more weighted to the iOS platform as you are able to connect directly to your iPad or iPhone by simply using your iRig Keys I/O in battery mode. The same thing can generally not be said of larger MIDI controllers that require a wall-wart.
The keys themselves are full-size piano keys, constructed of plastic and very similar to the keys that you will find on any MIDI controller in the price range. These are not semi-weighted but they feel good are velocity sensitive and I found no difficulty in playing as the overall dynamic of the keys is very similar to some of my other MIDI controllers.
I was initially a little bit skeptical about the touch sensitive sliders for pitch-bend and modwheel. Color me a skeptic no more. They actually are really comfortable to use and particularly with the modwheel I felt like I had a really interesting ability to make very small adjustments that typically feel a little bit more cumbersome on a large wheel. Immediately to the right of these controls you have octave shift, program change and transport controls which double as preset controls and are also touch sensitive.
With the touch sensitive sliders for pitch-bend and modwheel I felt like I had the ability to make very small adjustments
The keyboard comes with four factory preset modes along with 99 user modes to store your favorite configurations. Continuing along the top of the keyboard you have a data knob which can control volume, send CC messages, or browse presets in supported programs. Finally you have eight velocity sensitive pads. There is a fair amount of functionality packed into this relatively small footprint and I would encourage you to explore the online manual to see just how much capability the iRig Keys I/O really has. I was also happy to see that IK Multimedia have released the custom gooseneck Mic to plug directly into the back of the iRig Keys I/O. There is also an optional case for either the 25 or 49 key version.I should note that the greatest amount of direct integration out of the box will be with some of IKs applications like Syntronik and Sampletank.
Looking at the back of the controller it feels this is where the innovation really comes into play by combining the features of the traditional iRig Keys, iRig 2 and the iRig I/O into a more streamlined and upscale package. What I mean by that is one device to carry around. The ability to connect a sustain pedal for me is a big plus here, especially with a MIDI controller that can be connected to an iOS device without providing AC power. You also have your standard microphone or gutar/bass input, a gain control, balanced stereo TRS outputs, a headphone jack, USB port and the option to connect an AC adapter (not provided) for longer life when using a non-charging solution like your iPhone.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the quality of the build
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the quality of the build, the feature set and the sound of the audio interface. Like I said earlier, if you are looking for semi-weighted or hammer weighted keys you won’t find them on this unit but you will find a great all around portable solution that allows you to make music virtually anywhere. If I have one overall gripe it is that the length of the proprietary connection cables for iOS and USB is rather short. This was easily rectified by a quick trip over to Amazon to order extension cables which are very inexpensive. Often times I have used the keyboard in very close proximity to my laptop or iPad but there are couple of situations where I have wanted to be a little bit further away from a computer set up with the unit and the length of the cable provided simply doesn’t accommodate that need so simple extensions do the trick.
If you’re in the market for a great little MIDI controller with a high-quality audio interface I don’t think you can go wrong with iRig Keys I/O. I think the 49 key version is a better option because there’s more real estate to play on without having to change octaves constantly but if you need the smaller footprint the 25 key version is basically the same unit. The fact that IK Multimedia has bundled so much software to get you started means even if you’re a beginner you’ve got some applications to make immediate use of your new keyboard.
iRig Keys I/O 25 sells for $199.00 or $299.00 for the iRig Keys I/O 49 from IK Multimedia