Top critical review
Keybed, Pitch, Mod are Nice, Everything Else is Irritating
Reviewed in the United States on October 16, 2018
1. For "synth-action" keys, these are actually pretty nice. The tension is just right and not TOO noisy, but that "hollow plastic" feel manages to creep in when playing fast.
2. Overall compactness with full-size keys. I wasn't sure how I'd like the layout of the keyboard with the Mod wheel and Pitch bend above the low end. Turns out I actually do like it. The touch-based mod/pitch are very responsive - much better than i anticipated.
3. That little device stand ... lol, I actually like that too. It doesn't 'lock' onto the back of the keyboard, and although it is rather cheap and flimsy, it works and is very convenient. the foot slides under the controller to keep it from tipping backwards when you are poking your screen.
1. No power cable included. They want another $40 (not sure if that includes shipping) for a $5 AC adapter for an already $300 MIDI keyboard. Right now I'm using a powered USB 3.0 hub to deliver power to the keyboard when using it with an iPad. That might have something to do with #5 below, but it doesn't explain that issue when connected to a PC ... I dunno.
2. Proprietary Data Cables. Seriously? Fragile mini-DIN style cables that terminate in either USB or Lightning. Oh, and if you break or lose one of those cables ... $30 each (not sure if that includes shipping). I suspect with this being a 'portable' keyboard and those cables getting plugged in and unplugged frequently, pins are going to get bent. I thought Apple was bad about this, but at least you can buy cheaper and better cables from 3rd-parties to replace Apple cables.
3. Bright, eye-damaging blue LEDs. Please give us a firmware update that actually dims ALL of the lights on this controller. No joke, I see ghost images of the info panel and drum pads for a while after I turn this thing off. That's really not funny. I really wish companies would stop using blue lights on their gear or at least give people the option to change the color to something less blinding.
4. Can't disable the Audio Interface to use only as USB MIDI controller. Maybe they can create a firmware update for this as well. Depending on where I use this, I don't always want to use THIS as my interface, but I DO want to use it as my MIDI keyboard - like I said, the controller is actually good.
5. Audio Interface sometimes disconnects from iPad and PC. Not sure whats up with that. Note: this does NOT happen while its being actively used, but when I take a break and come back, I usually end up having to unplug it and plug it back in.
6. Registration/Passwords/Downloads ... I don't even know where to begin with this mess - an absolute miserable experience. How about just give us codes in the box to download software or apps. If you create a new account, do NOT use a password with more than 19 characters and do NOT use any special characters in your password. If you do you may not be able to login with your iOS device inside of their apps. I ended up locked out of my account for a while. I had to reset my password a few times before I figured out that their system will not accept special characters on the website (even though it let me create a password with those characters when I signed up). Also took a few password resets to figure out that SampleTank iOS and Syntronik iOS don't allow you to input a password with more than 19 characters. Brilliant!
7. Even with the latest firmware (1.0.9 at the time of this review) and the pad sensitivity set to "REG" (the most sensitive), I still have to beat the crap out of the pads to reach full velocity. Its easier to just use the keyboard keys or go back in and adjust the velocity in the DAW. Unfortunately that pretty much 'de-humanizes' the performance. I can't imagine anyone using the other 2 velocity settings.
8. The middle of the keybed bends with very little effort while playing. The overall construction really seems a bit cheap. I get it - its a $300 controller AND interface (that you can't disable). But when I compare the overall construction to an old $120 Evolution 61-key controller, I can't help but be a bit disappointed. (Before you ask, that Evolution is really old, has become 'creaky', the keys now have spring-noise, and its a bit big to travel with).
I REALLY like the keyboard itself (the keys). I am a bit torn right now. I'd rate it closer to 2.5 stars if we could give half stars. I am on the fence as to whether or not I want to return this. Some of the issues could probably be fixed with a firmware update. The bright blue lights I don't think can be fixed, so if I keep it I will probably just tape a piece of cloth over the info panel (brightest light) that I can lift up when I need to see it and probably not use the pads and just put tape over them too.
Knowing what I know now, if I hadn't already bought it, I think I would probably buy a separate controller and interface. I'm just not sure there is another compact 4-octave controller with a full-size keybed this nice. I think if I find something in the next week or two I will end up returning this.
I ended up returning it. Currently have no idea what I will get in its place. What finally made up my mind was it started dropping connections on my PC while actively using it (didn't do this the first couple of weeks, just dropped when idle for a while). For now I'm back to an old Focusrite interface (works fine, doesn't drop connection) and Evolution keyboard with noisy keys.
Completely Unrelated to This Review: @IK, thank you for adding AUv3 support to Syntronik in iOS! When can we expect it in SampleTank?