Sonic LAB: 4 Channel Modular Case With Keyboard - Nifty Keyz

US And a host of other features too      19/04/22

Cre8 Audio are one of the new kids on the block when it comes to affordable modular kit. The last units we looked at where the excellent Capt Big-O (oscillator) and Mr Philter (filter, VCA, env) - both of which are designed by Richard Nicol (Pittsburgh Modular).

Just released is the  Nifty Keyz - a four octave 112HP Eurorack modular case with four channels of CV/Gate and a bunch of useful features and functions. And whats more - its affordable - at $599/£499.

Nifty Keyz has a 4 octave C to C keyboard with aftertouch and velocity, pitch and mod wheels, 112 HP of Modular space (with pre drilled mounting rails), USB MIDI interface with 4 channels of CV gate, LFO, Expression and velocity outputs, arpeggiator/sequencer.

We were sent one and immediately set to work on it - that fact that it has four voice modes, allowing polyphonic patches to be played is a bonus, but you also get a split keyboard mode which allows for various configurations of CV and Gate control either side of the (variable split) - 1 voice each side, two voices each side, 3 and 1 voice and 1 and 3 voice, plus a regular 4 voice mode which includes Chord Mode.

This is actually pretty cool for setting up performance patches and not withstanding the issues around tuning and dedicated voice control (Osc, VCF, VCA, Envelope) allows for some really complex setups to be created.

All the functions are controlled via a keyboard matrix - hit the Function Button (also shows tempo by blinking), press the relevenat key or keys on the keyboard (labelled) and set the functions you need. While this can be a little hard to know the exact status of where you currently are, its still a tried and tested method and works fine.

Nifty Features:
LFO - with Triangle, Ramp Up, Ramp Down, Square and Random waves, linked to the master tempo - depth controlled by the mod wheel.
Dedicated, attenuated Left and Right outputs - there's a master volume knob - really handy
Split and Voice modes - allow for complex configurations - though we would like to see some presets (this apparently is not unlikely)
Arpeggiator - the usual up, down, up/down, random modes, with range control and swing. each CV channel can be switched in and out of the arpeggiator. There's also a basic step sequencer mode (no rests or ties though)
Keyboard local on/off (function C0) - and you can set the MIDI channel for each or the CV/Gates
2 Buffered Mults - one in two out x2
Clock output - and a reset too

The folks at Cre8 Audio have put a lot of thought into this. Yes some costs have been cut - the toggle switches are a little shonky but there's no denying the bang for the buck here. When you compare it to the much loved and now discontinued Waldorf KB-37, there really is no contest, the Waldorf may have been built to a higher standard but the Nifty Keyz wins hands-down in features (and price).

I suspect we'll see a lot of these showing up as they represent good value and give us what we need - apart from more module space - which you will soon outgrow if this is your first case - the Nifty Keyz is a true gateway into the modular world - watch out!

Nifty Keyz should be available from now priced at £499/$599



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