Device Reviewed With: new iPad, iPhone 5
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IK Multimedia might be trying to take over the music peripheral world. The company has a wide range of apps, instruments, and support items that could, in theory, be used to build a band entirely out of iOS instruments. The latest offering from this prolific manufacturer is titled iRig Keys, a super portable iOS keyboard with 37 velocity-sensitive keys, modulation and pitch wheels, low power consumption, and core MIDI compliance. The iRig is aimed at the portable musician, the composer on the go, the backpack virtuoso, and as such, it succeeds brilliantly.
The manufacturer offers the free version of iGrand Piano or SampleTank, both IK Multimedia, as the apps to use with the iRig Keys, but this unit will work with any MIDI app on the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It comes with an included USB cable to plug into a Mac or PC as well, opening up the use of any core MIDI compliant app on a laptop. I was able to make the keyboard work with iGrand, SampleTank, and GarageBand. The setup was as simple as plugging in the keyboard via the 30-pin dock connector and firing up any one of the keyboard apps on my iPad 3. I didn’t notice a significant battery drain while using the iRig Keys unit, either.
The small size of the iRig Keys is the killer feature, of course, as it can easily fit into a backpack or even just carried by hand. It’s small, light, and the controls and keyboard keys all feel well-made. The keys are indeed velocity sensitive, and the handy data send/volume knob feels solidly attached. The octave up/down buttons don’t feel chintzy at all, and the two expression wheels don’t wobble when used. All in all, the iRig Keys shows a superior build quality that should help it hold up over time as it moves from place to place, in and out of backpacks and shoulder bags.
For on-the-go composition, song recording, or piano practice, iRig Keys works well for an attractive price. The unit is powered by the included iOS or USB cables, but does not draw excessive amounts of power to drain the iPad or iPhone attached to it. The keys are easy to play, feel solid enough for mobile use, and will allow musicians at any level to create and record music as inspiration strikes.