M-Audio Has Seen the Future and It's Wireless!
December 18, 2006
Choose a Wireless MIDI Controller or Make Your Own
|M-Audio MidAir 25
25-key, Wireless USB MIDI Keyboard Controller for Mac and PC with Ableton Live Lite 5 Software
|M-Audio MidAir 37
37-key Wireless MIDI Controller with 8 Assignable Knobs, 3-digit LED Display, and Pitch Bend and Modulation Wheels
Remember when MIDI controllers were huge, absurdly expensive and only a bit lighter than a Honda Civic? I can’t say for certain that it was M-Audio that first asked the question, “Why do controllers have to be so big and expensive?” Maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t, but theirs was the first to come to my attention. In fact, for the last five or six years, the company has been coming up with products that were clearly designed to make the process of making music just a bit easier and a whole lot less expensive.
Now they’ve come up with another innovation: The wireless USB MIDI controller. In fact, I’ve just been “test driving” their new MidAir 25. We all know (or at least hope) that eventually everything will be wireless. I mean, how fast did we get spoiled once our TVs could be remotely controlled from the couch? The cell phone industry is only getting bigger every day. And right now I’m typing this feature on a Mac PowerBook G4 that’s connected to my other two Macs and the Internet using an AirPort Express wireless network.
While the MidAir 25 only has a 2-octave keyboard, it’s an impressive first step. I’ve heard that the M-Audio MidAir 37 is just now shipping and the extra octave will make it more appealing for many keyboard players, particularly as changing octaves can be done in about a second — pretty much the same amount of time it takes for a musician to lift up his or her hand and place it an octave higher or lower. Both versions use proven wireless technology from Frontier Design Group (who make the very cool wireless Tranzport DAW controller).
I didn’t get a chance to check out the MidAir 37, but the MidAir 25 impressed me so much that I’m absolutely certain both will be hot items this holiday season. For musicians that want a controller that can trigger loops or one-shot samples, 25 notes is plenty. M-Audio obviously put a great deal of thought into ways to make the MidAir controllers very user friendly and amazingly compact, while still delivering all the functionality of the company’s original Oxygen8!
On the top panel, from left to right, you have pitch and modulation wheels, a sustain button (which is right under an indicator that lights when your wireless connection is made), octave/preset up and down buttons, then a data entry slider and an LED value indicator that’s just above a MIDI/Select button. Continuing, we have down and up program change buttons and then the coolest thing in my book: Eight full-sized, fully assignable knobs! I’ve owned full-sized MIDI keyboard controllers that didn’t have this much control. Note: The MidAir 37 adds a whopping nine assignable controller sliders!
Another thing I was impressed with was the feel of the velocity-sensitive keys. True, it’s an unweighted synth action, but each key is very responsive, popping back up like lightning after you release it. Of course the star of this show is the wireless capability. It was a blast sitting on the couch and playing the MidAir 25, which was controlling virtual instruments like the Synthogy Ivory Grand Pianos on my Mac G5 — from across the room. Plus, it’s class-compliant, so all you do is connect the MidAir receiver (included) to the computer’s USB port, power up and you’re set. You do need to be running the latest version of Windows XP or Mac OS X for optimum performance.
The Sweetwater price for the M-Audio MidAir 25 is a shockingly low $199.97, while the MidAir 37 sells for $249.97, and both qualify for free shipping!
Well, I could go on and on (and I’ll admit I usually do). But I do want to mention that M-Audio also has begun shipping the MidAir Wireless USB MIDI System. Don’t get confused, this is an entirely separate product from the MidAir 25 and 37. It consists of a transmitter and receiver that allows users to wirelessly transmit data from any device that outputs MIDI, like synths, drum machines, samplers, and so forth. You just plug the battery-powered transmitter into the MIDI out port on your controller of choice, then connect the receiver to the MIDI in port of the device you want to control. This is the route you’ll probably choose if you already have a controller keyboard you like or an electronic drum set.
M-Audio also was kind enough to ship me their Axiom 61 Advanced USB MIDI Controller for a spin. I don’t have the room to get deep into this baby since I spent a lot of time on the wireless items, but the Axiom 61 is a really classy-looking controller with 61 semi-weighted keys (with assignable aftertouch), eight trigger pads, eight rotary encoders, nine sliders, and 15 buttons that includes six reassignable transport buttons, all at the Sweetwater price of just $299.97 (and that includes free shipping right to your door). How good is the Axiom 61? Good enough that I’ve replaced my previous MIDI controller with one!
M-Audio makes lots of MIDI controller keyboards, from the 25-note compacts up to the ProKeys 88, which has real hammer action plus a really nice soundset onboard that includes a sweet grand piano and 13 other instruments, all for just $599.97 (free shipping included).
As you can tell, I like the M-Audio products. Everything the company makes seems to not only have a tremendous feature set, but also some of the most affordable price tags in the industry. Just listing all the M-Audio products in stock in the Sweetwater warehouse takes six pages on our web site. If M-Audio doesn’t make it, you probably don’t need it!
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