iRig Keys 37 Pro MIDI Controller Review (IK Multimedia)

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IK Multimedia iRig Keys 37 Pro MIDI Controller 

PROS: easy-to-use MIDI controller, 3-octave range and simple control layout are nice touches.
CONS: USB port/connection should be more solid.
PRICE: $99

So let’s start with the good. The new iRig Keys 37 Pro MIDI Controller is hella easy to use, and makes controlling software synths and virtual instruments a breeze. Simply plug it into your computer via USB, fire up your favorite DAW, and open your VI’s. We were simultaneously testing out the new Rapture Session suite from Cakewalk, and the controller responded perfectly to the array of synthesizers, pianos, percussion and string sounds available.

We also love the portability here – it’s bus-powered, and pretty compact, so tossing it in the tour van while on the road is easy as pie. Demoing tracks on-the-go and coming up with new layers for existing tracks is an ideal application. The layout will also make it easy to use if you’ve never entered the world of MIDI before – the simple keybed and pitch/mod wheel layout will feel great under your fingers, and we’ve never seen a MIDI controller with FULL SIZE keys in this small of a form factor. Jumping octaves is easy with the simple touch buttons atop the controller, and you can even save frequently used configurations with a push of a button. Did we mention it’s crazy affordable, too?

Now for the downside. And it’s a big one. On the model we tested at NAMM, as well as the demo model we were ultimately sent for review, the USB port can become problematic over time. Several instances while we were attempting to capture MIDI data from a live performance, the USB cable was jostled loose from the unit after pretty routine pitch-bends and dips on the mod wheel; the port itself seems to be the weak link in the chain, construction-wise. Our recommendation to IK Multimedia is to either re-design or beef up that problem area on the board, which mars what’s otherwise a fantastic piece of hardware for the price. Ultimately, though, it fell just short of a new go-to piece of gear for us. When it worked, it was great, but having a MIDI connection drop out mid-performance is just too big a risk for us to give this our seal of approval.

We await version 2.0 with a better USB implementation.

FEATURES

-Mac/PC compatible
-Sustain pedal input (optional)
-Volume/Data knob (assignable)
-4 configurable setups
-Octave up/down buttons
-Program up/down buttons
-Pitch bend and mod wheels
-37 velocity-sensitive keys
-3 full octaves

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