Sunday, March 31, 2013

XK-80 video and short review

Paddy 4.3 supports the new XK-60 and XK-80 from P.I. Engineering, makers of the trusted XKeys professional, which is used in some professional LR Plugins. The professional has been discontinued and replaced with the XK-60/80.

A video is here:

(Full disclaimer: The folks at P.I. Engineering provided me with an XK-80 - awesome support for Paddy. Thanks again!)

The XK-60 and -80 are effectively the same keyboard, the -60 is just missing a few keys. Paddy supports both, so I will now use XK-80 only as I talk about them. Compared to the professional, the XK-80

  • Has more keys (duh)
  • Has LEDs under each key (red and blue)
  • Has a smaller footprint (you can see a comparison in the video)
  • is grey instead of black
The keys are the same size as on the professional. They feel comfortable but do not have the solid "click" that the professional has. I will get use to them quite quickly I think, but there was something to the professional keys that felt more solid. The XK-80 is without a doubt more rugged overall, though - the black brittle plastic has been replaced with a softer grey housing. And while I am not a fan of the grey color, it feels nice and compact. The key caps stayed the same, and I promptly broke some. Replacements are available.

The biggest plus here is the smaller footprint on my desk - smaller than the professional for more keys. Paddy uses the LEDs under the keys to indicate the layers - e.g., you select layer 2, all keys are blue. I played around with highlighting individual keys, and it was a lot of fun, but in the end, too much work and not that useful. (btw, the additional programming work was minimal - good job there, software engineers at P.I.E)

Overall, a good upgrade to the product line. These keyboards seem expensive, but the next best things have much fewer keys for only a little less money. E.g., a Genovation 682 has 35 keys (less than half) and runs you ~$120 if you are lucky, so a load more $ per key. And it Paddy, the Genovation blocks some higher levels keys like F-14. So for a large external keyboard that doesn't "block" any keys in Paddy and is also useful in other software, I continue to recommend the XKeys. When you have a few bucks left, get the -80, it's worth it

I think my standard setup will be XK-80 with the Behringer Midi sliders on the big machine, and my Genovation With the Novation Nocturn Midi controller on the Laptop.

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