Here we have a universal portable MIDI keyboard from IK Multimedia which they call the iRig Keys Pro.
Built with solid and substantial materials, the iRig Keys Pro has 37 keys (3 octaves) but is light in weight and very compact. The keys are, however, full-size and all the space saved compared to other similar keyboards is through the inherent technology. The control buttons are neatly placed and have a nice soft-rubber feel. The keyboard has good rubber pads on its base to hold it firmly when playing, which is important given how lightweight it is.
Three cables are included in the box for connection to IOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad, MacBook etc (including Lightning connector), and also USB devices including PCs. There is an input jack for sustain and expression pedals, but these are not included in the package, and neither is a carrying case which can be purchased separately but we think should be included with something made to be so easily portable.
Plug and Play
The iRig Keys Pro is a truly portable out of the box plug and play keyboard to be used universally with all core MIDI devices. It takes its power from the device it's plugged into and has no inbuilt speakers, so relies entirely on the MIDI device for sound. However, the full-size piano keys immediately make your device of choice into a playable piano, ridding you of the small touch keys offered through the iPhone or iPad, and offering, through the 37 keys, a complete two-handed keyboard experience. We found the feel and response of the keys was very good and generally better than a number of other keyboards we have used within the price-range.
The iRig Keys Pro plays without the need to install extra software, apps or drivers. However, it comes with 2 free apps that can be downloaded: iGrand Piano and SampleTank for iPhone or iPad, and SampleTank 2 L can be downloaded for Mac and PC. We mainly used the keyboard in GarageBand where it worked and recorded well. The grand piano setting was a favourite, but also it was good to use with the string instruments and others too, changing the settings to suit the instrument and music.
Settings and Editing
On the left side of the keyboard there are two rotating controls. One of these alters the modulation (generally vibrato or temolo, dependant on the MIDI device) and the other allows you to bend the sound pitch.
The keys themselves are velocity-sensitive, which means they can be adjusted to replicate the pressure you would associate with a real piano, or just to suit your wishes. There are simple octave control buttons which can immediately move the keyboard up or down an octave at a time, and these, when pressed simultaneously, allow you to edit other functions of the keyboard. One of these functions allows you to transpose the keys in semitones, which is useful if you can play something in one key but need it to be in another. Other notably useful editing functions are the ability to set the MIDI transmit channel, assign a specific MIDI control change to the volume/data knob (set as a volume control unless altered), and it also has the exceptionally powerful ability to set up MIDI programme changes from the keyboard, giving complete control over the output via the keyboard alone.
What makes this a serious contender for live performers is its ability to remember the settings you have made. It can memorise up to four SETs that you have edited. That means you can save and set all your edited functions and change from one SET to another 'on the fly', giving a streamlined and professional performance. The programmes work from 1 to 4 and then the keyboard returns to the settings made before entering the memorised SETs, so in effect there are 5 possible set changes that can be available.
The iRig Keys Pro is a great portable plug and play keyboard to go with your MIDI devices. This pro version has full-size keys and is not too expensive, listed at £132.99/$149.99 and being available at around £86.00/$120.00 (although the downside is that if you want to include the carrying case it will make the price at least half as much again). It makes a great practice or tutoring keyboard, particularly if you are on the move, and has enough features to make it usable in more professional settings.