Small, affordable MIDI/USB controller keyboards seem to be my review table’s flavour of the past week or so to be sure – and here’s another one to come under scrutiny. Aimed at both entry-level or expert users and bundled with a free copy of Ableton Live Lite, the Alesis Q25 is an inexpensive, no-frills USB/MIDI controller solution. However, diminutive size and a small price tag doesn’t necessary equate to an under achiever – so let’s take a look.
Body and Keys
Housing 25 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys, the Q25 has a body of 100% plastic, contoured and finished nicely to look and feel attractive. The black ‘n whites themselves have a light, ‘springy’ response to playing and feel quite reassuring for such a small device. The keyboard itself can be transposed up and down – a very respectable four octaves in either direction – which is very useful for programming purposes.
Control and Connect
Simple but necessary connections adorn the rear of this keyboard – the USB 2 connection, a standard MIDI out, a 9V DC for (optional) power adapter, [used when controlling hardware and/or not powered by a computer] and finally a foot-pedal sustain jack too.
The top panel accommodates the pitch and modulation wheels, which have a nice firm spring-back action, and smooth forward/back sweep respectively. Above these are the three button selectors taking care of octave shifting and MIDI/Select operations which have a rubbery texture, giving a positive response to the touch when engaged. A straightforward and medium-throw data entry slider completes the top panel overview.
When addressing my Logic 9 ‘song’, this slider accesses by default the active channels volume fader. I did notice it travels a short distance before affecting the gain, but thereafter handles incremental change smoothly and reasonably accurately (translating a two-step gain change throughout, as opposed to a one-step achievable with mouse adjustment).
The Alesis Q25 is a plug and play unit requiring no MIDI drivers to be installed on either a Mac or PC. Once moving this small device beyond basic MIDI control however, it starts to flex its mini-muscles as the user enters the world of more advanced MIDI control.
The keys themselves double-up as function selectors (assignments – velocity, after-touch, reverb, volume and CC note), flat/sharp note transition, standard MIDI operations (reset, channel, prog.no. etc) and numerical data entry too. Being as the Q25 is supplied with (an Alesis specific) Ableton Live Lite 8 , it certainly won’t be long before even the most entry-level users will be playing, programming and adjusting more advanced MIDI functions with ease using this, and of course other DAW’s.
As with most reviews of this type, I ran the Q25 through a few basic and advanced MIDI tasks in a test session. A reminder too though – this unit doesn’t come with some of the opposition’s [bigger keyboard] software solutions for direct, template-based DAW communication regarding advanced instrument plug-in, effects and other multi-level control options. It has no dedicated DAW transport controls or drum pads for rhythm programming either – but at this level of affordability, that’s perfectly acceptable for sure.
My ‘session’ was handled well considering the limitations of the Q25’s size and feature set, and like another review model last week, I was more than impressed at what it could do for me when in full-on programming and performance modes. The learning curve involved in user comprehension of old school [mid to] advanced MIDI techniques is a minor time investment necessary to extract the most usefulness from the Q25 however – but hey, that’s one of the you should know‘s anyway I guess?
The Alesis Q25 USB/MIDI controller keyboard – a splendid lil’ performer then and super value for money to boot. Christmas is coming and if your significant other is yearning to start getting busy with music production or, indeed, already treading a well-worn musical path, the Q25 could make for a very cool Yule.