IK Multimedia iRig Keys Mini
By Phil O'Keefe |
IK Multimedia iRig Keys Mini
The closest thing yet to a playable pocket piano?
by Phil O'Keefe
What You Need To Know
- The iRig Keys Mini is a diminutive 25 key (two octaves plus one note) keyboard designed for use with iOS, Android and Mac/PC based systems. It is Core MIDI and class compliant; no drivers or other software is required - just plug and play.
- Just how small is it? It measures 11.85" W x 4.72 D x 1.57" H (301mm x 120mm x 40mm). To give you an idea of its relative size, it's a couple of inches narrower than a 15" MacBook Pro, and just a smidgeon narrower than an old 13" white Macbook.
- The housing is plastic, but it seems durable enough and means that iRig Keys Mini is quite light - about the same weight as my Microsoft wireless keyboard.
- There's a single USB minijack on the rear, and IK Multimedia includes three different connecting cables - one for Lightning-equipped iOS devices, one USB mini to USB cable for connecting to computers, and an OTG to Micro USB cable for Android devices. Owners of older Apple products can purchase an optional 30-pin cable too, so regardless of your smartphone or tablet model, it's probably compatible.
- iRig Keys Mini is bus-powered only; it receives its power from the device to which it connects, and draws very little power.
- The 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keys are laid out from C-C. As expected, they don't support aftertouch.
- You're not limited to a 25 note range. Two soft touch Octave keys (Up/Down) extend the range over all 128 MIDI notes.
- Both Octave keys are backlit, and when one is pressed, it flashes and turns red. The number of times it flashes depends on the octave you select, with one, two or three button presses and light flashes corresponding to one to three octaves either below or above the unit's center / default octave, which has the lowest C on the physical keyboard set to C3. If you have iRig Keys Mini running an octave up and press the Oct Down key, the Down key briefly flashes and the backlighting on both keys shuts off.
- A single assignable volume / data wheel rounds out the controls.
- IK Multimedia includes a variety of software with iRig Keys Mini, but what you get depends on what device you're using. Android users receive iGrand Piano for Android, as well as iLectric Piano for Android. The iGrand offers four very solid-sounding grand pianos and three uprights; additional Sample Pack sounds (including harpsichords, chorused pianos and pianos layered with strings) are optional in-app purchases.
- iOS users can enjoy a free version of SampleTank for iPhone/iPad (fully operational with 136 instruments), iGrand Piano for iPhone/iPad, (both with free bonus sounds) and SampleTank Free (23 instruments). iPad users also get iLectric Piano for iPad, a very cool EP virtual instrument that (surprisingly) includes models beyond the expected Rhodes and Wurli types, such as clavs, a Pianet, Cembalet, electric grands, and FM EP type sounds. As with the iGrand, additional sounds are available with optional Expansion Packs.
- Mac and PC users have SampleTank 3 SE, The Grid (an electronic drum kit and construction kit for SampleTank with 50 sounds), five free instrument Sound Libraries of your choice for SampleTank 3 as well as 25 Gear Credits for AmpliTube, T-RackS, and SampleTank Custom Shop.
- Of course, you can use the iRig Keys Mini with other software such as GarageBand or your favorite Mac/PC DAW.
- While its small size is one of its greatest strengths, it can also be one of its biggest limitations. It's really tiny. If you have difficulty with mini-keys, consider alternatives such as some of the other IK Multimedia keyboard offerings.
- There are no wheels for pitch bend or modulation. If you want those features too, consider the original iRig Keys or iRig Keys Pro instead.
If you're a keyboardist on the go, you'll be hard pressed to find something more compact and portable than iRig Keys Mini. It also makes a great controller for laptop/tablet producers and other mobile musicians who would rather press on physical keys than software emulations, and regardless of whether you use it with a Mac or PC, Android or iOS device, you get a really useful selection of software instruments.
While it lacks pitch bend and modulation wheels, as well as full-sized keys, those features are available on its compact, yet slightly larger iRig Keys and iRig Keys Pro siblings; iRig Keys Mini forgoes them in favor of minimizing the physical size as much as possible. Your acoustic guitar playing friends will envy your mobility! It's not really going to be a good controller if you're interested in playing two-handed parts, but it's not meant to be. For throwing down ideas and basic playing and programming on the go it's all you need in the smallest possible playable size.
IK Multimedia iRig Keys Mini ($79.95 MSRP)
IK Multimedia's product web page
You can purchase the IK Multimedia iRig Keys Mini from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.