CME Xkey 25-Key Portable MIDI Keyboard Controller

Editor rating

4/5 on Sep 27, 2015

User's rating

54 reviews

PROS

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Standard-sized keys
  • USB MIDI compliant
  • Great value
  • Plug and play

CONS

  • Pressure-sensitive pads instead of knobs and sliders
  • Feel of the keys
  • Clicking noise

VERDICT

The CME Xkey 25-Key Portable MIDI keyboard controller is a compact, robust keyboard that offers professional options at a value-packed price point. It provides a quality user experience with standard-sized keys and USB compliance, as well as a convenient plug-and-play interface. The design, however, rejects conventional knobs and sliders, so it may require an adjustment period for the performer.

Features:

  • 25 standard-sized keys
  • 8 velocity-sensitive pressure-sensitive pads
  • Octave Up and Octave Down buttons
  • Controllers for pitch bend, modulation, and sustain
  • USB bus power
  • Polyphonic aftertouch

Compact and Lightweight

The Xkey 25-Key Portable is an ultra-slim MIDI keyboard controller that literally fits into your backpack as you head out to a jamming session. It can even fit into cases for laptops or mid-size iPads. Plus, it is small enough that you can always keep it by you for quick data entry for step writing or editing.

This CME device has a lightweight precision-cut aluminum frame. The material makes it robust rather than flimsy. It weighs only 1.32lbs so never worry about it being a clunky addition to your music gear.

Standard-sized Keys

Unlike many competitors, the compact Xkey musical keyboard does not size down its keys to accommodate its smaller size. Instead, you get 25 standard-sized keys, so you don't get that uncomfortable cramped feeling. Stretch out your hands instead and enjoy the room. Plus, the keys are designed to depress evenly, which makes for great playability.

USB MIDI Compliant

Get all the convenience of USB MIDI compliance. The CME Xkey 25-Key controller is fully USB bus powered too, which makes it a cinch to power up when you want to create new sounds or play live. There are no external batteries to worry about here. The firmware is updatable too, via the included USB cable.

Great Value

It is tough to beat the price of about $100 for a robust, lightweight 25-key MIDI keyboard controller with several professional features included right out of the box. You get professional velocity sensitivity, high-res pitch bend, as well as dedicated octave and sustain buttons.

It has an impressive 128 levels of sensitivity, so you can truly customize your music! Plus, few other keyboards of this same size offer polyphonic aftertouch.

Plug and Play

The keyboard has full plug-and-play compatibility with the Mac, PC, iPad, Android tablet, Android phone, iOS phone, and the Microsoft Surface Pro. For connection with your iOS device, just use the Apple Camera Connection Kit. Plus, the Xkey uses little power so you won't have to keep recharging the batteries on your laptop.

Some of the drawbacks of this CME MIDI keyboard controller are:

Pressure-sensitive Pads Instead of Knobs and Sliders

The design is not a traditional one for a MIDI keyboard controller. Rather than moving knobs and sliders to adjust pitch bend and other controllers, you use pressure-sensitive pads. A limitation of this style is that it does not allow you the same precision as the more traditional setup.

While the pads are not unusable by any means, they do put limits on what the musician or producer can bring to fruition within a pressure sensor type of environment. As well, the pads offer little visual feedback so you may not be aware at first how much pressure to put on them to produce the music you want.

Feel of the Keys

The low-profile keys may not provide comfortable playability for everyone. They feel similar to computer keyboard keys and are, therefore, significantly different than real piano keys. It can take a while to adjust to the keys, particularly if you are used to weighted ones on other keyboards.

Clicking Noise

Along with feeling like computer keyboard keys, you also get a clicking noise like when you are typing at the computer. If you hit the keys with a moderate level of velocity, you will notice the sound is fairly pronounced. This noise will not be an issue if you are recording in your bedroom, but likely will be problematic if you perform live or work in a quiet area where you are close by people.