Just what the world needs right? Another flippin' mini MIDI controller - we’ve had a slew of them. And though perhaps they started off a little shaky, this particular area of tech is improving. Thats why we’re looking at the new M-Audio Keystation Mini 32, a bag friendly, USB powered (via mini USB port) keyboard with pitch and modulation buttons plus a single knob. And of course, the real immediate difference being that it has 32 keys - yes that’s seven more than most and actually makes what is usually a pretty unplayable device, somewhat more musically useful. But first things first, at around an iPad and a half long (in landscape mode), or about two inches wider than a MacBook Pro, the 32 keys (two and a half octaves) are small, with short travel but with a pleasant damped feel - reminds me of the old Edirol PCR-M1, but smaller. There’s also no exposed key edges to catch and break on stuff - important when tossing into a bag with your other kit. Top Of The Class Needless to say its class compliant, assuming OS X 10.4.8 and later, or XP SP3 and up (Vista, Win7)- but c’mon you really should be considering an updgrade by now.. Also, its coreMIDI savvy, meaning with an Apple Camera Connection Kit and any device running iOS 4.3 or higher, you can hook it up to your iPad to use with coreMIDI Apps.
Backlit Buttons Right, very simple operation, seven buttons - from the bottom up: PB +/- pitch bend (assignable - defaults to pitch bend) Mod - modulation (assignable defaults to control 0) Oct/Data- large backlit -/+ buttons colour changes with shift of octave Sust - sustain pedal equivalent - backlit blue, easy to get to, toggles. Edit - enter edit mode for assigning values to PB, MOD and Knob Knob- small knob, assignable - defaults to control 7 (volume)
It uses a simple edit system familiar to many M-Audio controller products. In Edit mode, hit keyboard with corresponding value - eg: VEL ( Lower G key), then a value from the keyboard - in this case to select a velocity curve from 1-4, then ENTER (top D key). Simples. All are backlit, which makes them easy to see in dark places - although to use the keyboard edit system, you’ll need some more light.
Whats Up Dock? Not much to say about this device, its built well enough, it performs its function - the position of the buttons are pretty easy to get to with a spare finger while playing. It allows for velocity curve changing - eg: drum curve has a more compressed velocity curve for more consistent volume. Actually its quite playable - though of course you wont be practising your scales or Rachmaninoff workouts, at least you can get closer with those extra 7 keys.
Overall, quite a delight to use and something I could easily find myself reaching for when without the full size equivalent. Nicely done M-Audio.