Nowadays, more and more studio bods are seeing the light and sacking off the soul-destroying QWERTY keyboard and mouse methods and upgrading their home set-up with a MIDI keyboard to punch in their beats. But with so many available, the question is, which one to choose from?
The Key Control 49 XT is brought to us by German company ESI, who are popular suppliers of reliable and reasonably-priced home recording equipment. This solidly-built unit is at the top of its game when it comes to low budget MIDI controllers.
At first glance, its classic white and silver finish comes across as a little bit tame. However, do not let this put you off, as its build quality is second-to-none. The Key Control 49 XT’s robust exterior frame is constructed from aluminium, with thick plastic edging making it an ideal candidate for any live stage set-up, as well as the studio.
Straight out of the box, the Key Control 49 shines. Its plug-and-play functionality makes getting started a doddle, as there is no need for discs or driver installation. The 49 full-size, velocity sensitive, semi-weighted keys feel great, and are a touch for a product so cheap.
Considering the size of the top panel, it’s a little bit disappointing to see it only has four knobs and one slider to offer the user, but being MIDI controlled, the user can assign these knobs and buttons to whatever function they like, and it does have the usual octave shift and pitch bend wheel down the side.
A handy feature is the pan and volume settings, which come in very useful during the mixing stage, allowing the producer to have more hands-on control of their sequencers or synths.
The Key Control XT also comes in a smaller 25 key version. Both the Key Control keyboards are USB-powered, meaning they will work straight off your computer’s power, but they can also be plugged into the mains via a 12v cable. Along the back panel are the essential connection sockets: a MIDI out port, which enables you to hook the XT up to other MIDI-enabled products, the USB port and a jack input for an expression pedal. Simple but tidy.
|Ease of Use||9.0|
|Value for Money||8.0|
|Hype||An easy to use plug-and-play midi keyboard, boasting 49 semi-weighted keys and a robust aluminium finish at an extremely affordable price. Also comes with a copy of Cubase LE 5 to get you started.|
|Gripe||Lacks additional sliders, buttons and knobs for a keyboard of its size|
|Conclusion||All in all, ESI have given us a solid bit of kit at a very affordable price. Although lacking in knobs and sliders, for this price you cannot be picky. Its tough aluminium casing and 4.5kg weight make it the perfect gig companion, as well as a very useful addition to any studio, both home and professional.|