What is it?
The mini keyboard controller has been with us for many a year, but nowadays there seem to be more reasons than ever to own one. There’s the rise of mobile music-making through your phone, iPad and laptop, of course.
Or there’s the lack of space after so much great hardware has infested your desktop. Or, mostly, it’s the seemingly constant falling in price of most computer music accessories.
The new iRig Keys 2 Mini is the latest in the iRig Keys range and seems to offer a low-cost solution no matter what reason you have ticked above.
First, though, let’s have a quick recap of the iRig Keys range as it can be a little confusing. iRig Keys 2 is the second range of IK’s compact keyboard controller range. Keys 2 Mini is the smallest and cheapest, with 25 mini keys.
Above it sits iRig Keys 2 (37 mini keys, €159) and iRig Keys 2 Pro (essentially the same as Keys 2 with proper keys and a €183 price tag).
Two further iRig Keys models, I/O 25 (€244) and I/O 49 (€366) offer up the full-sized keys option plus full hi-res audio interface functionality. Keys 2 Mini then is very much the smallest of all options, but no slouch in functionality.
• Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3
More of a DAW controller and excellent with Live. We looked at the bigger version last month.
• Native Instruments M32
Gets you into the Komplete Kontrol arena for a minimal outlay. A spectacular package for the price.
At 580g and just 324 x 139 x 54mm it’s light and small enough to carry around, but not so light you’ll end up pushing it around a desktop. It also features direct connection to iOS devices – no connection kit needed – another mobile plus.
Controls include a headphone Volume dial (to control volume from your apps), plus Octave Up and Down buttons that also enter Edit Mode when held together. Here you can assign MIDI CCs to the controls, change MIDI channel, velocity sensitivity and much more using the actual keyboard keys to select parameters.
There are also Prog Up Down buttons plus four assignable knobs over two banks (switchable with the 58 button), a Set button (to call up one of four Sets for different instruments or live sets) plus a useful assignable push-button Data knob.
Performance and verdict
The keyboard is not exactly a player’s dream but nor is it the almost push-button affair that other companies have produced – it’s solid and well sprung. There are no dedicated pitchbend and modulation dials and again ‘proper’ players might ind this unforgiveable, but if this is important there are workarounds when you dig deeper.
And you do this with the Edit Mode, in which you’ll have to get used to a certain set of key presses and data entries to make assignments.
To change the MIDI CC per dial for example, enter Edit Mode, press the keyboard Knob button, then the number of the Knob you want to assign, Enter and the value. That’s a lot of key presses, but it is easier than it sounds once you get used to it.
We criticised the bigger iRig Keys 2 for being a tad expensive but this more compact version offers much of the functionality of that keyboard, over a smaller footprint, with the same sized keys.
If you can live with less of them – and what’s an octave versus portability – Keys 2 Mini represents a well-spec’d keyboard controller for less cash. So if you have any of those limitations we opened this review with, it checks all the boxes, and there’s a decent software bundle too.
MusicRadar verdict: Many of the features of its big sister – bar some keys and two dials – and for less cash. A very good control package.
The web says
"While the three octave iRig Keys 2 would be my preferred choice purely because it retains the mod/bend controls and footswitch input, I can see the appeal of the iRig Keys 2 Mini for use on holiday or while travelling. It’s small enough to fit into a backpack or briefcase, it works with mobile devices as well as computers and it covers all the essentials"
Sound on Sound (opens in new tab)
"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."
9to5Toys (opens in new tab)
- TYPE: Mini keyboard controller
- KEY FEATURES: 25 mini-keys with velocity
- CONTROLS: Volume, Octave up/down buttons Program up/down buttons, Setup button, assignable data push encoder, 4+4 assignable knobs, Modulation
- CONNECTIONS: MIDI in/out, micro-USB, 1/8" headphones output
- CONTACT: IK Multimedia (opens in new tab)