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In-depth Feature:  SONIC LAB - 25 Key Controller Round-up
Is there a perfect 25-key controller? We find out
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No flash plug

The Edirol PCR-M1 and Novation reMOTE 25 LE
In the continuation of our search for the perfect 25 key USB MIDI controller, we spotlight the Novation reMOTE 25 LE, the Edirol PCR-M1 and the M-Audio Axiom 25.

Edirol PCR-M1
Edirol PCR-M1
First up, is the space age and space saving Edirol PCR-M1 - featuring a unique small travel S.L.I.M. (Short-stroke Low-profile Impact Mechanism) 25-key keyboard that contributes to it's incredibly slight form and super lightweight-ness (2lbs, 11oz!), which makes it the most compact MIDI keyboard available today. Featuring 16 control map locations to store the 6 assignable buttons, 8 knobs plus expression and sustain pedal inputs (using the supplied 1/8th inch to 1/4 inch adapters), the Edirol comes with it's own PCR editor for PC and Mac. There's plenty of connectivity too, with both MIDI in and out, plus 2 ports internally available for applications you can keep certain MIDI events away from the keyboard data.

Although the PCR-M1 isn't Class compliant (plug and play without the need for driver installation), it does come with driver support for almost any OS on windows and Mac. OS X and OS 9 (using FreeMIDI) are catered for as well as Windows users from Windows 98 right up to XP with all flavours in between. As you can tell, the PCR series have been around for a while and this is a Good Thing, there's a lot of pre programmed templates available for download.

The PCR-M1 ships with Cakewalks Sonar LE, which is a nice bonus for all the PC users out there, but sadly Sonar is a PC only product.

V-Link is supported for those of you with the VJ inclination, the cunning use of a shift function also means that you get a whopping 27 total programmable controls per template memory. You will need to use the supplied editor for setting these up as the front panel will is not a friendly place to do work of this nature.

Downsides? Well, aside from not being Class compliant, we found the editor to be a little clunky - it doesn't recognize the PCR at launch and has to be told which MIDI ports to communicate through, you've also got to physically set up dump and receive modes on the keyboard itself to transmit or accept patches between the editor and the unit. The unit itself does have to make some compromises to become the smallest there is. Some may find the pitch bend and modulation buttons a little alien and the knobs will be hard to grasp in the dark and frenzy of a live gig - but the PCR-M1 is a great option for the space and design conscious - it looks fab and is soooo small.

RRP: $249.99
Street: $169/ UKP99

Novation reMOTE 25 LE
Novation reMOTE 25 LE
Novations entry-level controller (see the beautiful reMOTE SL mmmm!), the 25 LE is an altogether chunkier affair than the Edirol, with a nice heavy synth-action keyboard, but without after-touch and the touchy-feely sprung pitch/mod (or assignable) joystick AND an XY pad, it's clearly geared towards performance, live or otherwise. As well as the 9 knobs and buttons (18 with the clearly lit group switch), there's a dedicated transport control (although you could program these buttons to do something else of course), 2x16 backlit LCD screen and a single sustain pedal and MIDI output.

Another major plus point is that the LE 25 comes with a serial number for Novation's Bass-Station Plug-in - VA modeled on their very own classic mono synth - this runs as VST and AudioUnits under Windows and Mac and is worth UKP69.99 ($99).

The Novation is Class compliant (under Windows XP and OS X) so no drivers are needed although there is no support for legacy OS systems. The editor is a download away on the website and went into our XP test system without a hitch, where Shorn, our reviewer found it simple to assign controllers and functions. It was definitely a thumbs-up from him, with the performance being key to the Novations layout. The knobs were large and easily tiwddled, making it a real contender for a live setup as well as in the studio.

Downsides? You know, it's quite hard to find any in this unit - the fact that for your money you also get a fully functional synth plug-in sort of makes it hard to critisize too hard, but the fact that it doesn't have an additional MIDI input could be a problem for some. That and it's only got a single pedal input - although you get the XY pad in compensation.

RRP: $199 / UKP129
Street: $149 /UKP119

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