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M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 review

M-Audio’s Oxygen controller keyboard range now has a Pro division, and it is a breath of fresh air...

  • £135
M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The ‘Pro’ breathes new life and inspiration into the Oxygen range. Plus, despite some neat tricks up its sleeve, it’s still affordable.

Pros

  • Chord and Scale Modes for ‘foolproof’ musical alternative playing styles.
  • Arp and Note Repeat Mode bring sequences to life via real-time performance.
  • Deep DAW integration for all leading DAWs and generous software suite included.

Cons

  • The keyboard feels a touch ‘light’ to play.
  • Takes some getting used to.
  • Lots of great features will require familiarity and plenty of time with the ‘Shift’ button.

What is it?

For years, M-Audio’s Axiom Pro-61 was our controller keyboard of choice. It blended cost-effectiveness with immediacy and, at the time, its design and functionality felt fresh and slick too. 

Time passes and the Axiom Pro is long gone – replaced by M-Audio’s Oxygen range. So successful has this series been that the current Oxygen line-up is the fourth iteration of the brand. 

However, having checked out the features and design of some of Oxygen’s competitors, M-Audio have now returned to the drawing board and now offer a ‘Pro’ range to sit atop the Oxygen tree. These new keyboards don’t replace the current line-up but instead offer a more feature-rich alternative.

What really sets the ‘Pro’ apart is its array of performance controls

Immediately, the design feels classy; gone are the slightly rounded edges and amber backlights of Oxygen’s keyboards and in comes a more square-edged, sleekly-designed front panel. The 49-key review model manages to pack 16 back-lit pads, eight rotaries, nine short-throw faders, an OLED display, a swathe of buttons, plus pitch and modulation wheels into its frame, without anything feeling too cluttered. 

At the back, the USB/MIDI connector doubles as the bus power source, alongside a regular MIDI Out port and a Sustain pedal input. The Oxygen Pro 49 is immediately plug-and-play but to experience deeper integration, follow the specified steps to connect it to your software of choice to enjoy the benefits of auto-mapping, transport control and more.

The keyboard is both velocity and aftertouch sensitive and feels pretty good; a little too springy for our taste, but perfectly playable. The pads, however, are excellent – they respond musically to varied playing pressure, with the display updating to provide the most recent velocity setting when tapped.

M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49

(Image credit: Future)

Performance and verdict

But what really sets the ‘Pro’ apart is its array of performance controls. First come two new modes – Scale and Chord – which switch the keyboard out of a regular ‘chromatic’ piano voicing to facilitate performances within particular keys and scales. For instance, choose ‘Chord Mode’ and select C major and you’ll find playing the note ‘C’ triggers C, E and G – all three notes of a C major chord. 

Press ‘D’ and you’ll hear the chord of D minor, which keeps the notes used (D, F, A) within the scale of C major, making it a complementary chord. Scale Mode deliberately limits the notes you can trigger to a scale of your choice, eradicating ‘wrong’ notes. 

Also consider...

Novation Launchkey 37 MK3

(Image credit: Novation)

Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3
A well-built, well-designed keyboard that’s great with Ableton Live, but handy for hardware control too.

IK Multimedia iRig Keys 49
A solid production setup, combining MIDI control and audio interfacing with a knockout software bundle.

Arturia KeyStep Pro
For melodic sequencing duties and flexible hardware control, this is one of the best devices on the market.

You can choose one of M-Audio’s voicings, or customise your own. The onboard Arpeggiator generates MIDI sequences at the rate, gate and swing of your choosing whilst the pads feature ‘Note Repeat’, which is a lot of fun.

You can trigger repeats and rolls for as long as you keep a pad depressed or, in Latch Mode, indefinitely. The Oxygen Pro’s feature-set is rich and you’ll need time to recognise just how deeply it can integrate with your DAW.

Both as a front-end for extended functionality (accessing Pan dials and Auxiliary sends, as well as triggering key commands like Save and Undo) and as a performance instrument with tricks to inspire new ideas, the Oxygen Pro fully deserves its status as M-Audio’s new top-end controller keyboard.

MusicRadar verdict: The ‘Pro’ breathes new life and inspiration into the Oxygen range. Plus, despite some neat tricks up its sleeve, it’s still affordable.

The web says

”Build quality, judging from the Oxygen Pro 49 I had on test, is good. The chassis is all plastic but inspires confidence. It’s light but not too light, and doesn’t flex at all in normal use. All the controls are firmly mounted and smooth in operation, the buttons quite stiff and shallow, and the small OLED screen is clear, bright and crisp.”
Sound On Sound

Hands-on demos

John Mike

M-Audio

Specifications

M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49

(Image credit: Future)
  • TYPE: Keyboard controller
  • KEY FEATURES: 49 velocity sensitive semi-weighted keys (with aftertouch) and pads (with Note Repeat), 8 assignable knobs, 9 assignable faders, Preset and DAW buttons for auto-mapped DAW and plugin controls, Smart Chord and Smart Scale Modes, Arp with Type, Octave, Gate and Swing controls, USB bus power and MIDI connector, plus MIDI Out
  • CONTACT: M-Audio