I've had this midi keyboard for over a month now and have tried out many of its features and think I can give somewhat of a review now. Keep in mind that this is my first midi controller and I've only played guitar before this. I will write out a short pros/cons and give a detailed review below that.
- Good ableton integration
- Pads are nice and sensitive
- Faders on this model compared to the 25/37 model which don't have them
- Relatively good keybed
- Nice additional software/plugins
- No on/off button and no way to turn off the lights when idle
- Comes in the "vegas" RGB mode stock which is really annoying
- Have had some double tapping issues on the drumpads sometimes
- No endless encoders
- No aftertouch on keys (pads have polyphonic aftertouch however)
- Small pads (not the best for fingerdrumming but do work
- Encoders are hard to see at night because they don't light up
I've been playing around with this keyboard for a few weeks now and I really like what it's capable of at its price point. For me, a beginner, this is everything I need to start producing and playing live. It has made it very easy for me to record/play something in live compared to just having a mouse and keyboard. Hook up a foot pedal and you can also trigger effects or record when playing a different instrument.
The keybed is a weird one. It's not weighted so they have to rely on spring resistance for that "heavy" feel. It just feels very springy to me compared to a normal piano, but you get used to it. It hasn't really hindered me in any way. The initial key sensitivity is a bit low so I had to crank that up to the max to make it work for me (I'm not heavy handed).
The drum pads are nice sensitivity wise and have RGB color coding for each track and features. This makes it very easy to keep track of where what is and what it's doing. The pads are on the smaller size and the way they're arranged isn't the best but you can definitely make it work. Because it has 16 pads it fits the full drum rack without having to go into additional menus for them. I do sometimes have an issue with the pads registering double inputs and it happens randomly as it seems. Other people on Reddit have also reported the same issue.
Ableton integration is great. I have almost every feature I would want on this controller. You can even navigate the instrument rack from the midi controller itself. There's only one function that I'm missing and that is "redo undo". There is an "undo" button but I was hoping that shift + undo would redo an undo (confusing, right?). I've sent Novation an email and they said they'll pass on the feedback, so hopefully that will come in a new firmware update.
Quality wise the fader sliders feel a bit inconsistent but they do the job. The encoders all feel the same which is nice, it's just a shame they're not endless and have no lighting to indicate their position. The whole keyboard is made out of plastic and is light, but doesn't feel cheap.
The software that comes bundled with this keyboard is also enough to get people up and running. You get Ableton Live lite, a few plugins, samples and instruments and Novation has this collective thing where every few weeks they release a plugin for free. This month for example you get the Zampler bundle pack that's usually €99 for free! I also really like the Addictive keys that are usually bundled with Focusrite products. Most higher end stuff usually doesn't come with software bundles or plugins so if you're a beginner it's definitely something to consider.
There are a few things which just annoy me and make no sense however. You can't turn off the lights on the drumpads or display or turn the controller off. The light even stays on when my computer is turned off! The only way to do this is by unplugging the cable, which in the end is going to lead to a lot of wear to the USB port. Buying a USB cable with a switch in it will solve this issue, but it shouldn't be neccessary. Continuing with the lights, the default for the drum pads is this RGB wave pattern that starts playing whenever the keyboard has been sitting idle for a few minutes. It's the most obnoxious thing I've seen. Luckily you can turn it off in the settings but this should've been turned off by default.
All in all I'm happy with this purchase and it fits my needs as a beginner perfectly. I'm not sure how this will play out with Ableton 11 but I can imagine they have thought about that since this is a new product that is probably here to stay for a couple of years before it gets another update.
If you're a beginner, and you're thinking about producing from home, get this 49 key or the 66 key version. Having the extra octaves helps immensely. I sometimes find myself missing an extra octave on this one when trying to play something. If you're on the move often the 25 or 37 key makes more sense, but you will not have the faders and track select buttons. I haven't really talked about the arpeggiator, it works nicely and has some cool features and apparently can be used as a standalone to drive synths. If you want a really great overview of all the features of this midi controller you should check out the review by Loopop on Youtube. He can explain everything much better than I can.