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I am into music and music creation, around a year ago I was looking for a controller keyboard and was looking at a few options, there was the oxygen 49 key controller on the slightly cheaper side of the market and the novation range of controllers on the more expensive side of the market, it came down ultimately to how many keys I wanted, and as experiencing a 29 note behringer controller keyboard had been quite unsatisfactory due to lack of ability to play chords and anything beyond simple baselines and leads decided to go for a 49 key controller, as novation was out with my price range I decided to go for the Roland keyboard because of its pads and assortment of controllers which outstripped the oxygen V2 49 by quite some distance at around 200 pounds it was quite a lot cheaper than many of the other professional level 49 note controller keyboards.
The Keyboard is quite well designed with a modulation/pitch controller joystick to the Left of the keys and transport controls (stop, play rewind etc) in an easily accessible place, and the 8 rotary faders are quite robust with so far good use out of them and no signs of them coming off. The 8 sliders are useful to control either a mixer track or a virtual instrument in a digital audio work station. There is a special act button which is "supposed" to make it easier to control parameters in software though my experiences of it are limited. The new impulse controller keyboard, also from Roland by comparison is a little bit better again with the transport controls being moved slightly to the right to make them even easier to press and the knobs positions being switched with the sliders.
Compatibility with software:
Here it is slightly disappointing in that, it seems, you actually have to read your vsti manual to find what controllers it responds to and then read how to change the assignment of controller messages on your keyboard, it does seem really hit and miss with some instruments responding to the knob that is assigned to resonance or filter cut off quite well with many others not acknowledging them at all. Bizzarley the act function worked briefly with the supplied Sonar LE software before deciding to pack it in.....
In reaper the record button seems not to work that well with reaper as it has to be held continually down to record note input data unless you assign record mode from default to "relative" with relative 2 seeming the most stable but like all the other relative modes this seems to introduce hanging notes with certain badly behaving VSTI'S, really badly behaving vstis introduce random no response to key presses (they don't happen often but cost you time when it happens just as you are about to ace a particular part....) whilst you could reassign another button to record, they are not as handy as the record button and are just counter intuitive.
I also own FL studio and it is here that this keyboard seems most compatible with record being preconfigured (unlike in reaper where I had to assign the controllers manually via midi learn)of and faders controlling the mixer, I am quite new to FL studio so will have to learn that software more but it seems here that this controller can also deal better with badly behaving synths often by simply bumping the asio sample size up stops issues such as hanging notes. Some people would just not use those synths but as my vstis are all free (excluding any included with the programs) the badly behaving ones are often ones with the most "pro" sound such as genesis cm (which for some bizarre reasons spikes my cpu whilst multiple instances of poizone from FL can be run fine)
The keys are just perfect nice and soft and more than responsive enough for my needs, they far outstrip the behringer model I had before and the Casio home keyboard, its here that this product for me excels as I believe you wouldn't get much better if you spent a lot more on products such as the genuinely professional novation range of controller keyboards.
Unlike a lot of other controllers in this price range it features a standard 5 pin midi in and out port and can be powered by a psu not just USB bus power, this means it can be used either as a standalone controller for a rack synth or groove box or if you use the midi merge function you can send midi messages from a music app such as FL studio to an external sequencer to play back the midi note data etc. This is usefull for freeing up CPU cycles as it reduces the number of virtual synths you have to load, all though the audio data genertated via this method would need to be recorded into the same sequencer in order for the project to be exported as a wav including the sounds produced via external midi gear. It does not have audio inputs or its own asio driver so can not be used as an external sound card/audio interface but this is to be expected at this price point. There is also an editor software for remapping the continuous controller messages and other midi parameters (the other parameters dont intrest me yet!) should you need to however I have not used this editor yet as I am not at the software/musical level where such reprogramming and fine details are essential, but is useful for the more experience or professional musicain rather than the hobbyist.
Value for money:
I'd say in a lot of ways its great value for money but the impression given that you don't need to read manuals etc to get the most out of this product is wrong, the act function does not make it very easy to control certain software as that function seems to only for a little while before breaking. I think mainly sonar isn't a very good daw (at least in terms of its out the box easeability) so its not entirely the products fault, I think that with the quality of the keys, the good looks of the product and the mass of knobs, sliders and additional buttons (Such as transpose, the B1 to B4 buttons) it's definitely a product to buy if you're on a budget although I'd get the new impulse model as presumably it's a bit less hit and miss and has a slightly better layout again from the pictures I have seen of it.
So in summary I'd say this is the ideal keyboard to get for your software if you are tight for space but still want enough keys to play actual songs, not just base or leads, and it also has the potential to be a very useful controller for someone more inclined to read and reread manuals repeatedly, I have read the manual but at over 80 I am not the kind to read back over it too much and its not possible to store all the info in your head permanently. If you have 300 or more pounds I'd avoid it and if you're not willing to spend a decent amount for a controller I'd opt for the oxygen series instead as they are a bit cheaper but don't have the same key quality I have also been informed from various people in music shops.