Any new MIDI surface these days had best have its share of not just bells but whistles too. Fortunately, Edirol's latest, the PCR-500, has both in spades.
Just look at them: drum pads, rotaries, sliders and dedicated DAW controls abound. There's even a crossfader.
The 500 is the mid-range model; there's a 300 two-and-a-half octave smaller model below and a five octave 800 above. Besides the change in keys all three machines are identical with the same nine big-throw sliders, nine dials and 18 velocity-sensitive pads.
The larger two models are wrapped in a casing so heavy and chunky you'll swear they've accidentally left a synth in there too.
The build is excellent - easily showing up flimsier fare from less experienced manufacturers - and the wedge profile says 'pro' in the understated way we love.
Interestingly all the connectors are at the left side of the 'board, leaving the back completely clear for sliding up flush to your monitor/desk/whatever. Small potatoes, sure, but little things like this can mean a lot.
Further pro touches on this controller include the excellent heavy-sprung action on the full-sized aftertouch keyboard. The range of velocity curves and tried-and-tested, ripped-offa-Roland feel make this a pleasure to play, while the ability to split the keyboard and trigger different sounds with different zones makes it an ideal live all-in-one.
Getting those sliders into the party is a breeze thanks to the cross-platform editing software, which lets you map any controller value to any physical control. It's a damn sight easier than editing on the keyboard itself, which requires careful negotiation of that three-figure display.
Switching setups for different soft synths (for example) is a breeze with a dedicated button and a dial to spin. A relatively painless couple of hours invested with the editor will see your entire soft studio mapped and the mix of rotary and slider controls is ideal for making their virtual look-alikes come alive.
It's a shame then, that the drum pads don't deliver. They're just too small to hit in a hurry and too unyielding to play with accurate velocities. However, as basic triggers they're fine though and as buttons for switching through screensets, turning off mutes, loop modes and so on, they're both numerous and welcome.
And let's not forget that crossfader controller - a sideways-mounted slider that will appeal, obviously, to DJs.