Hi everyone! In this blog post, I want to compare two excellent MIDI keyboards I have used for a long time: the CME Xkey 25 and Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32. These are great options for anyone who wants to make music on the go, on the couch, or at the kitchen table. I’m sure many of you already own a full-sized MIDI keyboard (49 keys or larger) that doesn’t fit nicely into your backpack:) If you’re interested in getting a compact and portable keyboard for your music production needs, I’d like to offer you some advice. Let’s delve into it!
CME Xkey 25
I purchased the Xkey about 4 or 5 years ago. It took some time to adjust to the feel, but I love the full-sized keys. The CME Xkey 25 is a sleek and portable keyboard featuring 25 full-sized keys that are velocity sensitive. This means you can play with different dynamics and expression depending on how hard or soft you press the keys.
The Xkey 25 also has polyphonic aftertouch, which means you can control various sound parameters by applying pressure to the keys after striking them. The Xkey 25 is very thin and light, making it easy to fit in your backpack or laptop bag. When I say thin, I mean SUPER thin. Functional pitch-bending and modulation “buttons” aren’t as effective as Komplete Kontrol M-32’s strip approach.
It’s important to point out that the Xkey has zero software integration or built-in ability to control DAW functionality. What the Xkey has going for it is playability, and if that is priority #1 for you, this is the keyboard to choose.
There are two models, the Xkey Air and the regular Xkey. The Air connects to your computer or mobile device via USB or Bluetooth; the standard version only connects via USB. Both work with any software supporting MIDI. The Xkey 25 costs around USD 229 for the Air and USD 139 for the standard version; either way a reasonable price for such a high-quality keyboard. If 25 keys aren’t enough, you can opt for the 37 keys.
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Komplete Kontrol M32
The Komplete Kontrol M32 is another compact and versatile keyboard with 32 mini keys that are also velocity-sensitive. I’ve owned this keyboard for just over a year and I really enjoy using it with my laptop. The M32 is designed to integrate seamlessly with the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol software, which gives you access to a massive library of sounds and effects. In addition, Kontrol allows you to select scales and keys for those who aren’t keyboard players.
Like the Xkey there aren’t any faders (although knobs control levels and panning on the M-32) or drum pads on the M-32. That said, full DAW integration with Logic, Ableton Live, and Cubase are available and I really like that feature. Having the transport controls, solo, mute, pan, and fade make it a joy to work with on projects.
The M32 also has eight touch-sensitive knobs, two touch strips, a four-directional push encoder, and an OLED display that lets you easily tweak your sound and navigate your projects. With so many software vendors offering NKS compatibility for their instruments and effects, Komplete Kontrol is a breeze to find any sound you’re after.
What is NKS? It’s a super helpful tool that makes creating music so much easier. Basically, it brings all your software instruments, loops, effects, and samples together in one place. And the great thing is, you can connect it to your favorite controllers like KOMPLETE KONTROL and MASCHINE for a really intuitive workflow. Plus, it has all sorts of features like easy browsing, tagging, instant sound previews, and pre-mapped parameters. So if you’re looking to make your keyboard more of an extention of your computer, NKS is definitely worth checking out!
The M32 connects to your computer via USB, and it comes with a software bundle that includes Komplete Start, Maschine Essentials, Ableton Live Lite, and more. The M32 costs around USD 140, a bargain for such a feature-packed keyboard.
Purchase here at Native Instruments Summer of Sound Sale – CLICK PICTURE
So, which keyboard should you choose? Well, it depends on your personal preference and needs. Here are some of the pros and cons of each keyboard:
CME Xkey 25
– Full-sized keys that feel great to play
– Polyphonic aftertouch for more expressive control
– Ultra-thin and lightweight design
– Wireless connectivity via Bluetooth
– Compatible with any MIDI software
– No knobs, buttons, pads,or display for sound editing
– No software bundle included
– May require some adjustment to get used to the key action
– More keys than the Xkey 25
– Seamless integration with Komplete Kontrol software
– Knobs, touch strips, encoder, and display for sound editing
– Software bundle includes many sounds and effects
– Easy to use and navigate
– Mini keys that may feel cramped or hard to find
– No polyphonic aftertouch or pads
– No wireless connectivity
– Only works with USB
As you can see, both keyboards have their strengths and weaknesses. I love them both for different reasons. The Xkey 25 is excellent for playing melodies and chords with full-sized keys and polyphonic aftertouch. The M32 is great for exploring sounds and effects with it’s knobs and the Komplete Kontrol software. Depending on the situation and my mood, I often use either one of them. If I could only keep one of these great MIDI keyboards, I would probably lean toward the Komplete Kontrol M-32. The combination of size and functionality, given the Kontrol and NKS integration, is just too good to pass up. The fact that I own both is icing on the cake.
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