M-Audio has released a USB controller keyboard with a difference. The four-octave KeyStudio 49i features not just a 2-in/2-out audio interface, but also a built-in piano sound.
The piano - a sampled version of a Steinway grand - was developed by Digidesign's Advanced Instrument Research Group, and its presence means that the KeyStudio 49i can be used independently of your computer as a songwriting or performance keyboard. A bank of General MIDI sounds is also included, though rather than being built into the hardware, this comes as a software application for Mac and PC.
The 16-bit/44.1kHz audio interface offers XLR, 1/4-inch instrument and RCA inputs, plus a stereo line output on 1/4-inch jacks. There are also two front-mounted headphone jacks, while the built-in 'mini mixer' enables you to balance input sources.
The KeyStudio 49i comes with a copy of Ableton Live Lite, but it should also be noted that it's also compatible with version 7.4 of Pro Tools M-Powered (available separately).
The KeyStudio 49i is available now priced at £179/$299. You can find out more about it by clicking here.