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In-depth Feature:  SONIC LAB - 25 Key Controller Round-up
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No flash plug

M-Audio Axiom 25, Oxygen 8 V2 and Behringer UMX -25

M-Audio Axiom 25
M-Audio Axiom 25
This ones a bit of a beast, I mean that in a good way, the lack of compromise on the keys, knobs and pads means that its the most weighty of all our units. Featuring 8 rotary encoders (the only one that does), 8 velocity sensitive pads and a transport control, plus sustain and expression pedal inputs, it's got a complex and flexible operating system. Bus or mains powered, not batteries for this one, you also get MIDI in and out. The keyboard really is the most luxurious with a semi-weighted action and after-touch its most playable - although perhaps on a 25 key version you'll not fully appreciate its charms.

The Axiom is Class Compliant - you also get the Engima editor for both Mac and PC (OS X and XP) which so far looks to be the best editor of the bunch, to tweak and store your 20 template memories. There's no Shift function here to double the number of controls, but the 3 available zones mean that you can split the keyboard into three distinct ranges and have the knobs and pads transmit on independent MIDI channels. However you do get the pads, which can also perform switch duties as well as note on and transmitting pressure control data - although not at the same time, it's either or. Jumping octaves is a piece of cake with the large dedicated up/down octave buttons - the large blue display also gives you clear idea where you are in the range.

Downsides? Well it is big and heavy (I use this in relative terms - no 25 key keyboard is going to give you a back problem), but that can be seen as an advantage too - it wont jump around when you beat it. Its the most pricey we've looked at but there's little expense spared to cut costs. Some may find the operating system a little over-complex for their needs.

RRP: $239.99
Street: $179.00

M-Audio Oxygen 8 V2
M-Audio Oxygen 8 V2
The current incarnation of the first mini USB MIDI controler from M-Audio. An entry level controller, it features 8 knobs plus a transport control with quick access to octave transpose, program change and template select. You get 10 template memories, sustain pedal input plus external power supply input (like all our units, not supplied). The transport buttons can of course be programmed to behave as standard buttons with various options of latch, momentary and dual values - though I wouldn't want to tackle this without the aid of the Enigma editor.

The Oxygen 8 v2 s fairly basic, although still Class Compliant and comes with the Enigma editor, there's not much more to it in terms of complexity - the pitch and mod wheels are also assignable and its nice and light.

Downsides? No extra MIDI input, single pedal input and no shift to double the controls. Perhaps a little pricey when compared to the Novation.

RRP: $179.95

Behringer UMX-25
Behringer U-Control UMX25
Here's a very late contender for the 25 Key Controller Round-up and guess what ? It doesn't cost much at all. This "no frills", sturdy, silver USB control keyboard features: 25 full size velocity-sensitive keys, 10 programmable MIDI controllers plus 8 user-set buttons, sustain peddle input socket, and MIDI It comes with a U-Control UCA200 USB Phono Stereo In/Out interface. Both the UMX25 and UMA200 are class compliant (plug and play without the need for driver installation).

Also, you get Ableton Live Lite 4 (Behringer Edition) and a c.d. of some free/share ware VST instruments.

On the upside it is super inexpensive well built and nice to play. The free USB Audio interface is certainly usable and is a nice bonus.

On the downside there is no screen, no transport control, no software editor, and the VST instruments are nasty sounding and there's only a few for mac.

RRP: $129.99, 130EUROS

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