CME Xkey Air Bluetooth MIDI Keyboard
The search for a portabe MIDI keyboard usually ends with something that looks and feels like a toy. Musicians and composers can adapt to tiny keys but it never really replaces the feel of full sized keys. Unfortunately, traveling with an 88-key digital piano involves lugging around a bulky and heavy instrument. These are best left in the studio but what if you want to take it with you? In terms of size, the sweet spot is 37 keys for mobility in a MIDI controller as this allows for enough freedom within the chosen octave range while staying portable. Functionality, feel and latency are all important factors but rarely does anyone mention physical weight.
The CME Xkey 37 Air connects via bluetooth or USB and is currently the worlds lightest 37 key MIDI keyboard, weighing in at just 1.5 lbs. After seeing the video of Jordan Rudess shredding on this thing, I felt compelled to try one. The Xkey Air could looks like it was built by Apple. The low profile build and aluminum construction is impressive. The Xkey Air's Bluetooth connectivity option will delight musicians who have run out of USB ports but still want ultra-low latency. Of course, there are buttons for octave adjustment, modulation, pitch bend, and sustain. The velocity sensitivity keys with polyphonic aftertouch make this a strong contender for a "desert island" keyboard.
Connecting the Xkey Air to my MacBook Pro was fast and the setup requires opening Midi Studio in OSX and select the Xkey Air to complete the pairing process. Install Xkey Plus to get the latest firmware and tweak the settings. If you need stronger bluetooth, CME also has a WIDI BUD Bluetooth MIDI adapter, which can be used as an upgrade for improved wireless connection. Although the wireless performance is impressive with no noticeable latency issues, I still went with the USB connection.
The performance of this keyboard is so good that it becomes transparent once setup. As much as I liked those little Nano key things, they all pale in comparison. If portability, weight and playability is important, then the CME Xkey 37 Air wins. It will feel different than your weighted studio piano, but your hands will appreciate the full sized keys. Being able to travel with 37 keys at this weight is such a great thing. Playing via iPhone and Android is also possible with their free apps, making practicing, performing and producing on the go a reality.