MIDI controller is one of the essential pieces of your studio setup, especially if you make your own beats. You can spend months clicking around in your DAW and trying to get the feel of the melody you are making, but it's not something you can put your hands on. There is always something missing – but don't give up. Maybe all you need is a little help in the form of a MIDI keyboard.
Once you get a controller you'll see how much easier it is to jam melodies with your hands instead of trying to click them with your mouse – you'll music will get better right away. But looking for the “perfect” MIDI device is like looking for a goldfish in the ocean – every product is made for a specific customer base, certain budget and preferences, and more.
If you take a look at the available options, you can easily get confused. Perhaps I can help you. Check out my review of M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK4 – one of the most popular MIDI keyboards for aspiring musicians.
Is it the right model for you? Should you keep window shopping? Let's get into the review, and you'll see for yourself. I'll do my best to point you in the right direction. Ready? Let's go!
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK4
M-Audio is a brand that's known for going above and beyond to keep up with the latest trends in the music industry. An excellent example of the statement is our Oxygen 49 MK4 MIDI controller, that's an ideal candidate for your home studio if you are looking for something versatile, yet flexible.
- 49 Full-sized and velocity-sensitive keys
- Transport controls
- 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads to produce beats and launch clips
- 8 knobs to tweak effect up to your liking and layer them up
- 9 faders to improve and step-up your mixing sessions
- Ability to map out the basic controls without using a mouse
- Display for instant visual feedback
- Ability to plug-in the sustain pedal
- USB-bus, which eliminates the need for an external power adapter
- Enough pads for beats production which includes composing, recording, and remixing, also good enough for improvising.
- Integrating the controls with your digital application software is fast and hassle-free.
- The M-Audio MIDI device is plastic, but well-built and versatile.
- Automapping makes things easy even for a beginner producer, especially if using major DAWs like FL Studio, Ableton, Logic, and Pro Tools.
- Velocity settings can be changed if you don't like the default ones
- Velocity curve lags sometimes
- Keys are a little stiff, so they take some time getting used to
- Doesn't have a volume slider, but that's a minor flaw in my opinion
Oxygen 49 MKIV isn't the cheapest 49-key MIDI controller out there, but it's still affordable to many producers out there. Remember – you get what you pay for. It has a good number of features to get you the very first kickstart. It takes a while to get all the pads, knobs, and faders into your workflow, so why buy something out-of-this-world that will take you months to master? It's much better to spend the precious time actually working and producing beats.
While M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK4 is a portable MIDI controller, you have to remember that it has 49 keys nevertheless. If you expect it to be small enough to fit on any desk without taking up too much space, you are fooling yourself. Note that Oxygen 49 MK4 comes with full-sized keys, and pitch and mod wheels on the side, so it's a little longer and wider than your average keyboard.
That's perfectly fine for studios with a good amount of desk space. If you think that getting a large MIDI keyboard may not be the best idea and you'd rather get a more compact controller, I'll put a few good suggestions down below.
Lastly, note the 4th gen of Oxygen 49 is also on the heavy side, weighing over 6 pounds (which isn't too too bad for a 49-key controller, but there are lighter ones out there). That's perfectly fine if the keyboard sits on your desk the entire time, but once you start moving around, carrying around 6 pounds around can become a little bit of a problem.
Alright, our MIDI controller took a little L in the portability section, but it's bouncing back now. The keys are full-sized, which is a huge plus. I always recommend everyone getting full-sized keys. They are standard, and you'll feel comfortable playing on most key instruments if you upgrade. If you got big fingers (like me), you'd have a much easier time with Oxygen 49 than a keyboard with mini keys, like Akai MPK Mini. Having some extra space is always good, isn't it?
The keys are very responsive to touch, with even the default velocity curve does an excellent job. For those who don't know, velocity curves dictate how “loud” a note is going to be depending on how hard the user hits the key. If you aren't happy with the default settings, then you can always pick one out of 7 available velocity curves. If you are a beginner, I suggest to keep them default, but you can still just play around and see whether you'll like other settings better. I consider this a time-waster, but my rules aren't written in stone.
Speaking of the keys, they are soft, light to the touch, and feel great – similar to a professional synth or electronic keyboard. I prefer semi-weighted keys that have the spring action because they feel more like a real piano, but I don't mind Oxygen 49 MK4 synth-weighted keys either. Plus, you are saving some money here as well, as semi-weighted keys add quite a bit to the cost.
The 4th version of Oxygen 49 came with a pleasant surprise – 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads. Unlike previous “big hits” of M-Audio, these pads got a whole lot better soft and rubbery feel which is a lot more comfortable to tap on the rhythms. Plus, they work great. That's the most important decision factor after all, am I right? You can also tweak the pad sensitivity and tweak it up to your liking at any time, all done within the keyboard without any special software application required.
The only drawback here is that you'll have to program each pad to do its own thing to fit your digital audio workstation, which can be painful and time-consuming. The same thing actually applies to other controls such as knobs, faders, and buttons – you have to do most things manually. Luckily, it's really easy to learn (it took me 10 minutes of watching a YouTube video at most), which I suggest doing. Automapping comes in handy, but it's good to know the little things like assigning the controls manually, especially if you are planning long-term.
While keys and pads are already plenty, Oxygen 49 MK4 also comes with 8 knobs. They don't feel cheap and have a nice feel to them. The knobs are endless, which means you can tweak their sensitivity to get a better feel of how effects impact the sounds. If you perform live, it's a lot easier to transition smoothly. The drawback here is the lack of resistance, which means the accuracy can be poor at times. Also note that there is no easy way to assign the knobs to the DAW functions either, as there is no bundled software included that can make the process easier for you – another reason to learn MIDI Learn functions of your DAW (don't worry, it won't take long).
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK4 comes with 9 faders, which come in handy when mixing a track or playing live. Similar to other controls, you just assign them to either your tracks on the mixer, effect, or anything else inside your DAW. The faders are fitted with soft, slightly rubbery caps, and work well.
The only negative note here is that they are a little loose (you can notice the side to side wobble), and a little short. Standing quarter-or-so inch above the top panel, there is a slight change of you bending them out of shape by accidentally knocking them either way. However, that's a common problem with most sliders that music producers just have to acknowledge and be careful.
Transport controls are one a few highlights that make our Oxygen 49 MIDI controller stand out. It's a lot easier to control the main parameters (play, stop, and record, for example) off your MIDI keyboard instead of reaching for the mouse every time, disrupting your workflow. It's so much easier to have the buttons within reach of your left hand while playing the melody with your right one instead.
There is no perfect MIDI keyboard – you have to find the one to suit your needs right now. We've discussed the basic functions of Oxygen 49 already, so you have an idea of what you should be looking for. However, the question still stands – “Why to choose Oxygen over other keyboards?”
As I've mentioned, there is no such thing as “perfect,” but there are a few competitors that can put up a good fight. M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK4 is a sweet and affordable MIDI controller, but how does it stand against its rivals? We'll find this in just a second.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 VS Alesis V49
Check out Alesis V49 Review.
If you've read a few of my articles and reviews about MIDI controllers, you already know I am a big fan of Alesis V49. It was my first keyboard ever, and I still have it. It has very similar specs to our Oxygen 49 but comes in a different design. As you can see – all the controls are on the left of the keys, which makes the controller longer, but shorter. Once again, this size may be more suitable for your setup.
Alesis V49 only has 4 knobs and doesn't offer any transport controls, which does make it a little bit painful. However, it also comes with a software application that lets you change MIDI parameters in the most hassle-free manner without the need for any complicated keyboard sequences.
Overall, M-Audio Oxygen 49 seems like it's a more flexible device with extra features, but I like the layout of the controls on V49 better. The Alesis keyboard is also slightly cheaper, which is a plus if you are on a tight budget.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 VS Novation Launchkey 49
Check out Novation Lauchkey 49 MK2 Review.
Novation Launchkey is very similar to the Oxygen series by M-Audio – they both have transport controls and come with synth-weighted keys. The biggest difference here is the number of drum pads – 8 on Oxygen and 16 on Launchkey. While this isn't the biggest deal to some producers, having more creative space for drums and FXs when playing live or during a jam session is always a plus.
The Novation MIDI controller also integrates best with Ableton Live, but you can easily assign MIDI parameters using the MIDI Learn function with any other digital audio workstation as well.
To sum up, Launchkey is slightly more expensive but comes with more functions. It's also a no-brainer if you are using Ableton as your primary DAW, as the integration makes the whole music production process a breeze. Otherwise, both MIDI keyboards are wonderful.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 VS Nektar Impact LX49+
Nektar Impact LX49+ is a 2nd generation of famous Nektar budget MIDI keyboard. Never heard of Nektar? Well, that's no wonder – the first product was released in 2012.
The controller is a powerful rival to Oxygen 49 as they share very similar functions and controls (LX49+ matches the number of knobs, pads, keys, and faders). It's a little more expensive, but its integration with audio editing software apps is top-notch, and all VST instruments are mapped to controls automatically. This alone is a gem that will save you a fair share of time.
M-Audio is a lot more established and has been around for decades, but Nektar comes with some interesting and handy features that Oxygen 49 doesn't. You can also always save yourself a few bucks and go for M-Audio, as it's around $30 cheaper.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 VS Akai MPK Mini MK2
Check out Alesis V49 Review.
Akai MPK Mini MK2 is a lot smaller than Oxygen 49 MK4, which is a plus for those who travel a lot or simply have smaller desk space. As we've concluded, the M-Audio device is best kept stationary as it's both bulky and on the heavy side.
Controls-wise, Akai comes with a similar number of knobs and drum pads but lacks faders and superior transport controls. That's a big plus for the Oxygen keyboard. I love the joystick Akai comes with, as there is no need or pitch and mod wheels, which is a clever way to save some space. It takes time getting used to, but it's definitely worth it.
Lastly, the keys. Akai MPK Mini MK2 comes with only 25 synth-weighted keys, and they are all mini. Oxygen 49 comes with 49 keys, and they are full-sized.
Clearly, the two keyboards aren't exactly similar. If you care about your desk space or hate cluttering it, getting a compact MIDI controller like MPK Mini is the way to go – it's light and easy to carry around if needed. M-Audio Oxygen 49 is better to keep in one place, as it's bulky and relatively heavy but offers more transport controls and other features.
Overall, M-Audio Oxygen 49 is a wonderful MIDI keyboard controller. It might not be the lightest or most compact, but it comes with a lot of neat features. It's a fantastic choice for a tabletop MIDI keyboard to make your beats with. Coming at just over $100, it's hard to go wrong with it.
Last update on 2020-02-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API