Friday, February 21, 2014

Review of M-Audio's Oxygen 25 MIDI Keyboard Controller

I'm about to hit the road for another eight or nine months, away from my home and studio, so I just picked up a small portable MIDI controller to use when I'm doing production work on the road. I bought the Oxygen 25 controller that is produced by M-Audio. It's very similar to the Oxygen 49 and Oxygen 61 controllers, but more portable.


M-Audio Oxygen 25 MIDI Keyboard Controller Review

In this video, I talked a bit about the controller specs that I researched online before I bought it, then I opened up the package to see what the Oxygen 25 looks and feels like. I played with it for a bit and gave a final opinion, which was positive.

Learning the Basics about MIDI Controllers

If you aren't already aware of what a MIDI controller is, or what it is used for, this basic video will give you the background that you need. For instance, you need to know that a keyboard controller does NOT produce sounds! A synth produces sounds. A MIDI controller can produce sounds if you route its MIDI output through some sort of module (or a computer program) that produces sounds (ie. through a hardware synth module or through a virtual instrument).

Some of the key points that I noted in the Oxygen 25 review video were:

- This unit is "class compliant," which means that you can use it directly on your Mac or Windows computer without having to install drivers.
- Having said that, there are more advanced windows drivers available on the M-Audio website that are necessary if you want to use this device simultaneously on multiple DAW's or apps, or if you want to hook up more than one class-compliant device to your computer simultaneously.
- This has non-volatile memory, which means that it saves presets and controller/channel assignments when powering down. To reset to the factory defaults, hold the "-" and the "+" keys simultaneously.
- M-Audio has software patches that you can download for free which let you use the Oxygen controllers with pre-determined patches that interface well with certain DAW's, specifically with versions available for Cubase, Pro Tools, Reason, Record, Ableton, Garageband, and Logic.
- You can use a standard sustain pedal with this. I tried using my Roland pedal with it, and it worked well.
- There's a spot for a Kensington security cable, if you're worried about using one of those.
- You can set your own velocity curves for key responsiveness. There are four curves available in the menu for touch-responsiveness, and three curves which actually output fixed velocities of 64, 100, or 127.
- If you have a good understanding of MIDI and want to dig further, you should check out the manual (which you can find online pretty easily). There are about twenty pages of very useful and detailed MIDI information in the manual.
- The 25 and 49 and 61 are all quite similar, although the 25 has a couple minor deficiencies compared to the two longer controllers. For instance, the 25 only has one control fader, whereas the other two models have nine each.
- The 25 is currently priced at $99 in Canada from Amazon, while the 49 is $149 and the 61 is $199. Those are probably the same approximate prices that you'd find in the US, since our dollar is pretty close to parity.
- You can use a Device ID function on the 49 and 61 only. So for example, if you want to own three of these keyboards and use them simultaneously in a live performance, that's possible with the 49 and 61, but the 25 cannot have a unique identified in the MIDI system.
- This unit is USB 2.0 compatible, and backwards compatible to 1.1. I presume it works on USB 3.0 ports, but you won't see any performance improvements by using a 3.0 port. However, none are needed.

Here are the basic specs on the Oxygen 25:

- MIDI data from variable controllers
- MIDI control number
- Program, bank LSB, bank MSB
- Pitch bend
- GM/GM2/XG SysEx messages
- MIDI Data from buttons/switches
- Note on
- Note on/off toggle
- MIDI CC on/Off toggle
- Program, Bank LSB, Bank MSB presets
- MIDI Machine Control functions
- GM/GM2/XG SysEx messages
- 3.7" H x 9.4" W x 16.2" D
- Weight: 3.8 lb.

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