Today we are taking a closer look at the new iRig Keys 2 from IK Multimedia. Known for its affordable music production gear, its recently released controller works with all of your favorite devices and has a few interesting tricks up its sleeve. Head below for our full iRig Keys 2 review.
iRig Keys 2 Review:
IK’s new iRig Keys 2 comes in at an affordable price tag while bringing back a more familiar pitch and modulation wheel setup. You’re looking at 3-octaves of velocity sensitive mini keys that are ready to take care of all your basic MIDI controller needs on iPhone, iPad, Android and Mac/PC. (Note: This review only covers the Mac and iPhone integration).
Connectivity was simple and seamless with everything working as expected right out of the box using the included micro-USB to USB-A and micro-USB to Lighting cables. You’ll need to supply your own micro-USB to USB-C connection (or one of those adapters) if you’re using any of Apple’s newer MacBooks, which seems a little out of place considering this thing just released.
There are three power options for the iRig Keys 2 as it can run via USB one the connected device (mobile or otherwise), a USB wall charger, or one of those power banks. Everything seemed to work just fine in this department during my hands-on time thus far.
iRig Keys 2 Audio and MIDI I/O
IK Multimedia did get slightly creative here with MIDI I/O and an interesting headphone output. Not something typically found on big-name MIDI keyboard controllers, IK has included the ability to connect speakers or a pair of headphones to your mobile rig via the included 1/8-inch headphone jack. While not something most home studios will make any use of, it is a nice little feature to have on the go.
The MIDI input and output — which work independently of the USB/MIDI connection to your host device — allow the iRig Keys to control standalone gear like a synthesizer or drum machine. Those with extensive external hardware instrument setups likely won’t make much use of something like this on a regular basis. But it worked great for me with a lighter, more mobile-focused rig (one external synth and a drum machine). It is certainly a welcomed addition for those just beginning their journey in the world of hardware instruments as well.
It’s All About the Keys
When it comes to basic MIDI controllers like this one, the main questions are usually about the keys themselves. Providing connectivity is seamless and easy, it’s all about the keys. In this case, we are talking about mini keys. Every company seems to have its own version of what that means exactly, despite the term seemingly being thrown around as though they don’t. Here we are talking about very mini keys, both in terms of width and height. That makes for an extremely portable and space-saving device, with a bit of a sacrifice on the performance real estate. Squeezing your fingers in between the black keys is a bit tight and the throw on the black keys is quite short. I for one am not overly sensitive about this kind of thing, but I can certainly see how some might be slightly turned off here.
Compared to something like the comparable Native Instruments M32 keyboard controller, which is slightly more expensive, iRig Keys 2 is quite a bit thinner and slightly longer. But its keys aren’t quite as spacious.
MIDI Controls/Edit Mode:
IK Multimedia has kept the extra knobs and sliders to a minimum here while packing in most of the usuals. You’ll find mini pitch and modulation wheels as well as sturdy volume and customizable MIDI parameter knobs. The rubbery-feeling buttons used for the octave switching and other MIDI controls are also quire robust feeling for a sub $130 keyboard controller.
With these controls, you can enter into an Edit mode which will allow you to access transposition, touch sensitivity levels, MIDI channels and to create custom assignments for the 4 MIDI knobs. Everything worked great for me here and it was particularly nice to be able to save these changes into sets (8 total) that can be called up instantly at a later time.
iRig Keys 2 presents a more than capable controller for all your favorite production gear in an affordable $129.99 package. IK has packed in just enough extras here — editable/customizable MIDI knobs, external gear instrument control and a handy little audio jack for mobile rigs — to make it standout over most sub $100 options. iRig Keys 2’s out-of-the-box iOS integration is phenomenal, no Camera Connection Kit needed here.
While some might not be overly impressed with the size and design and the keys, the build quality here is as good or better than anything in the price range I’ve put my hands on. It seems as though IK has specifically sacrificed some space for portability, and that it has certainly achieved. If the mini keys are concerning for you, I would also consider the iRig Keys 2 Pro, which will provide all of the same feature set with 37 glorious full-sized keys for $20 more.
For beginners in the market for a particularly thin solution, or those just looking for something they can throw in a bag for travel sessions and the like, iRig Keys 2 is definitely worth consideration. It, along with the Pro model and a couple other IK controllers, made our list of the best MIDI keyboard controllers for Mac this year.
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