M-Audio or E-mu cheapie 61-key USB MIDI controller?
January 4, 2008 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I want a cheap 49 or 61 key USB MIDI keyboard for under $300. M-Audio Oxygen or E-mu Xboard?

I'm looking for a USB MIDI keyboard for recording at home and playing out a bit (probably 61-key for also learning to play piano in the process) and for price and features' sake, I think I'm down to the Oxygen, and the E-mu Xboard (I've read of several accounts of 2-3 keys dying on Edirols after a year, and CMEs are more expensive, and allegedly partly made of plywood?).

While M-Audios seem to be the "default" brand for lower-end MIDI controllers, I hear a lot of people complaining about their products. I've read a lot of reviews talking about them seeming very plastic (I grew up with Casios, so from what I've tried of them, the M-Audios seem entirely tolerable), but the Oxygen 61 also has sliders, and buttons specifically for playing/stopping/rewinding tracks, which seem like they could come in handy. I've also read about people having driver issues with the Xboards, and I'm unsure to what degree I should or shouldn't be worried about that if I'm not using the E-mu software, and just sticking with MIDI functions in FL Studio. Nevertheless, if the Xboard does indeed feel better, and might last longer, it's a consideration. Any thoughts?
posted by stleric to Shopping (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've got a few-year-old M-Audio Keystation61 (not the new 61es), which seems to be similar to the Oxygen 61, except without the transport buttons. The keys and action are pretty plasticky feeling, and the pitch wheel is a little tight, but it's a serviceable keyboard. Just plug-and-go. I didn't use it much on Windows--I had a really old PC that bogged badly on just about anything--but it works great on OS X (once they ported the drivers to UB). Faders work fine, knobs work fine, the octave-switching is great.

If you really want to learn to play piano, though, get something with 88 keys. If it's your only keyboard, you can skip weighted keys (I wouldn't want to input a drum sequence on weighted keys), but playing pieces meant for an 88-key piano on a 61-key controller is a pain in the neck.
posted by uncleozzy at 2:01 PM on January 4, 2008

We've had an M-Audio Keystation 49 for a couple of years and have no complaints. I can't say anything about the Oxygen, though. But, based, on the Keystation, I'd say you'll do fine with the M-Audio gear.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:02 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: IANAP, but the boyfriend (whose pianos are so many that they're on stacked stands in my apartment) says you should consider buying the Edirol PCR300 32 key PCI/MIDI keyboard at Sam Ash. My link shows it at $249 but you can get it at Sam Ash for $150.

Korg Pro-Grade 3950 Kontrol 49 exceeds your budget at $400 but has lots of dials and assignable pads. If you're doing sophisticated real-time recording you need to do that, but it seems like a lot of work to be running faders and other things while you're playing.

M-Audio Oxygen: really worthless keyboard. Doesn't stand up to transport at all.

He suggests that if you don't get the Korg, you get the Xboard or the Edirol.
posted by arnicae at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2008

Best answer: MIDI-assignable knobs are very fun and useful in progs like FLStudio.
posted by knowles at 6:08 PM on January 4, 2008

Response by poster: Got the Xboard. Couldn't be happier, and the fact that it came with one of the key weights dangling off of the bottom of a key notwithstanding (I superglued it back on), it feels infinitely more sturdy than the M-Audios I tried, and it works like a dream in FL without even installing the drivers. Plug-and-play in the truest sense of the word.
posted by stleric at 9:45 AM on April 4, 2008

« Older How Can I Best Deal With Working Around a...   |   Help me find fun plates and cups. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.