The iRig Keys family is a staple here at ANR (see our iRig Keys Pro review as well as our iRig Keys I/O review) and we’re happy to hear IK Multimedia has a new, improved version shipping right now. According to the Italian company, the iRig Keys 2 series offer new ways to connect and control, updated compatibility, and a sleek new look.
Full-Size or Mini Keys?
The iRig Keys 2 Pro offers 37 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, and the iRig Keys 2 features 37 velocity-sensitive mini keys for backpack portability or use in restricted spaces. Each model comes equipped with a variety of convenient top panel performance controls plus MIDI IN/OUT for use as a stand-alone MIDI controller.
In addition to offering laptop and desktop compatibility, these ultra-slim MFi (Made For iPhone) controllers connect directly to iPhone/iPad and most Android models*. They also include a dedicated audio output to connect speakers or headphones – especially useful for the owners of newer iPhone models.
For instant inspiration, a selection of powerful music-making apps is bundled with each controller, as well as an assortment of cables.
Onboard MIDI input and output enable users to control stand-alone gear such as IK’s UNO Synth and UNO Drum, other synths and drum machines, and more. While being used with a computer or mobile device, iRig Keys 2 controllers can also act as a MIDI interface to streamline an entire rig.
Each controller can be powered by a computer or mobile device, USB power supply, or USB battery pack, for reliable control whether in a studio or classroom, during a performance, while travelling, or even outdoors.
For additional musical expression, the rear panel also features an external pedal input. Unfortunately, no CV options (we were hoping in a Keystep competitor!). Also, both models adopt the (somehow annoying) 2.5mm TRS male to MIDI female adapter. I know this allows to save on manufacturing costs, but on the Pro version I would rather have standard MIDI I/O connections rather than a breakout cable.
Top panel customization and control
This is where the new series clearly wins over v.1. Controls for programming and performance are easily accessible from the top panel. They include modulation and pitch bend wheels, volume control, octave up/down buttons, a data push encoder, and a variety of other function buttons. Custom settings can be programmed to four assignable knobs for easy access to favourite performance parameters.
A convenient Edit mode lets users personalize the controllers and easily recall preferred settings with the touch of a button. Options include keyboard transpose, touch sensitivity customization, MIDI channel change, customized knob assignments, and more. All changes can also be saved into Sets using the Set button, for instant recall.
Still no display, but overall a much more usable panel (again, this is meant to be an ultra-affordable controller, hence compromises are needed).
Plug It Anywhere
Compatibility was a key factor of the previous iRig Keys version. Nothing has changed in this regard, actually, there’s an interesting extra feature (an audio output) that might come in handy.
Both iRig Keys 2 models work directly out of the box with iPhone, iPad and Mac/PC, and are compatible with most Android devices (requires micro-USB to OTG or micro-USB to USB-C cables, sold separately).
The new headphone output can be used for silent practice or composition, especially while using newer iPhone models. The audio out can also be used to connect speakers for increased volume and audio quality that surpasses a device’s built-in speakers.
For instant inspiration, iRig Keys 2 controllers come complete with IK’s award-winning Mac/PC sound and groove workstation, SampleTank 4 SE, which offers more than 2000 sounds to create cutting-edge tracks.
It also includes free apps like SampleTank FREE for iPhone and iPad, iGrand Piano FREE for iPhone, iPad and Android, and iLectric Piano FREE for Android.