We take so many of things for granted nowadays. Who would have thought just 10/15 years ago, that I would own an ultra-compact MIDI controller (11.2 ounces/345 g, 3.3″ x 12.8″) – that can be used with a computer, with an iOS device AND analog synthesizers/gear?
The Keith McMillen QuNexus is all this and more (I’d recommend checking the official site for all the geeky details).
I was late to the party, but this little controller has quickly become a best friend of mine since I’ve started using it over the past few months.
Why I love it
*Portability – The QuNexus is basically the musician on-the-go’s wet dream. It’s slim and impressively light, but at the same time carefully designed. For a super minimal setup, I can throw my iPad and the QuNexus in my backpack and I’ll still have lots of space left for other needs.
Also, sometimes my desk tends to be pretty full of stuff, so it’s really handy to have such a tiny device that can fit almost anywhere.
*Sturdiness – After some bad experiences in terms of construction quality with other mini controllers, I was surprised at how sturdy the QuNexus is. I’m a bit clumsy at times, so I need to have stuff that can make up for that. With the QuNexus I feel safe. I know if I drop it or put some other device on it that it will keep working just fine.
If you don’t trust me, this brilliant video will change your mind.
*2 in 1 – With the QuNexus I’m getting a 2-in-1 controller. Its piano-like layout makes it easy to control synths, but at the same time its pressure sensitive pads work great with my drum-machines plugins and percussion libraries.
The default sensitivity settings are pretty good, but if you feel you need to adjust them to your playing style, just open the QuNexus Editor (free download from KMI) and start customising. The device comes with 4 presets, which can easily be overwritten.
*Tilt – A really unique feature: by tilting your finger backwards and forwards you can perform pitchbend or modulation on individual keys. You can also use downward pressure to produce the same, and these actions can be assigned separately.
Now, at first this may feel a bit weird. It takes time to master these new techniques, and it may be more helpful and useful for certain instruments/patches than others. Again, don’t forget you can customise the whole thing using the software editor (a free download from the KMI website, OS X/Windows only, still no iOS version, unfortunately).
*Polyphonic aftertouch – If you have apps or synths that support it, this is a huge plus. It simply takes your expressivity to the next level, and you don’t need to be a synth master like Vangelis to be able to use it.
*Past&Future Proof – Got some analog synth or CV-compatible gear in da house? Good! QuNexus supports control voltage, thanks to 3 jacks located on the sides of the unit. This means that you can play notes (CV and gate) from the first output and control two parameters from the second output. The third CV jack is an input that allows you to send CV into the QuNexus, to convert CV signals to MIDI.
I haven’t had a chance to test these features extensively yet, but this page and the video here below should give you a better idea
Ready for a new challenge?
I’m essentially a keyboard player (and a bad piano player), so the QuNexus with its unusual keys-pads was quite a new challenge for me.
I see the QuNexus as a feature-rich controller that can complement my other devices in the studio. I wouldn’t use it to play my piano sample libraries (I like the action of my master keyboard for that), but I love its feel when it comes to synth pads, for instance.
With proper settings on the controller and on the instrument (try for example Animoog, Diva, Matrix-V, etc), I’m able to get expressive results that I wouldn’t achieve otherwise with a regular MIDI keyboard. The following video is a good example.
What I would like to see in a QuNexus v.2
As said, the QuNexus is a impressive device as is. I don’t know if there will ever be a new version, but here is some feedback for the KMI guys.
I’d be curious to see a slightly different arrangement for the pads. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure the spacing between the two rows is the best possible option. Playing chords with my usual fingering, for instance, can be quite challenging.
Also, I’d like to see a different pitchbend. This one is so tiny that it’s not very usable.
Last but not least, it’d be great to have some knobs (8?), even though I realize it would make the device slightly wider and more expensive.
At the time of writing, you can get a QuNexus for $149 / £135 / €185.