Review: IK Multimedia iRig Keys Mini
In the past, we've been quite impressed with IK Multimedia's MIDI keyboard controllers for iOS, iRig Keys and iRig Keys Pro. Both of these devices provide good options for those looking for physical piano-style keyboards for iOS music creation, and although the original iRig Keys certainly already seemed to be designed with portability in mind, IK Multimedia has now taken it down a further notch with iRig Keys Mini ($80) — a shrunken version of the keyboard for those looking for a super-portable on-the-go MIDI controller, stripping out a few of the more advanced controllers while coming in at a fairly accessible price point.
At first glance, iRig Keys Mini sports the same basic design as its larger siblings, coming in with the same depth and height as the original iRig Keys (4.72” and 1.57”, respectively) while reducing the length from 19.8” to 11.5”. To get to the smaller length, iRig Keys sacrifices an octave — the keyboard is reduced to 25 keys from the 37 found on the original iRig Keys — as well as a few of the other more advanced features of the other iRig Keys units: the pitch bend and modulation wheels, and preset selection and program change buttons. On the back, iRig Keys Mini also lacks a jack for an expression/sustain pedal, and the 7-pin DIN port used for iOS device connections on the other models has also been eliminated; instead the single micro-USB connector is used for all device connections — iOS, Android, and Mac/PC. Appropriate cables for each are included in the box.
Once you get past what’s missing, however, iRig Keys Mini otherwise works in the same manner as the original iRig Keys. The 25 keys are velocity-sensitive, and despite the smaller overall size, they have the same dimensions and feel much the same as on the iRig Keys. An iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is connected using the included micro-USB to Lightning cable, and the unit will draw power from the connected iOS device; unlike its big brothers, there’s no way to supply external power separately, since the micro-USB port is now used for the Lightning cable. However, IK has now addressed this with iRig PowerBridge for users who are concerned about supplying power to their iOS device during longer recording or performance sessions.
iRig Keys Mini also still includes the volume/data assignable control knob and backlit octave change buttons, and provides the same advanced MIDI features as the other two models, minus the preset and program change buttons. The control knob defaults to MIDI volume control but can actually be reassigned to any other MIDI control change operation, the MIDI transmit channel can be adjusted, along with velocity sensitivity, and specific MIDI program changes. Of course it’s also fully Core MIDI compliant and can be used with just about any iOS music app, although IK Multimedia provides its own free versions of SampleTank and iGrand Piano on the App Store, with registered users of the iRig Keys Mini getting bonus features unlocked, as usual.
iRig Keys Mini is an interesting entry in IK Multimedia’s MIDI keyboard controller lineup. While we were impressed with how portable the original iRig Keys was, it’s hard to argue with a less expensive unit that’s no wider than a 13” Macbook and comes in at around two thirds of the price. This new unit is by no means replacing the other two iRig Keys models — rather, IK is providing users with another option on the lower end, both in terms of size and price. Ultimately, it’s all about priorities, and users who are looking for optimal portability above all else, or simply want a good small keyboard on a budget will definitely like what iRig Keys Mini has to offer.