Don’t Have A MIDI Keyboard For iGrand Piano? Get iRig KEYS – Hands-On Accessory Review

IK Multimedia is one of the most prolific music accessory makers for iOS on the market. Not only are they constantly coming out with new gadgets for your iPad, but they also make musical devices that are easy to use for non-techies. Most of IK Multimedia’s music accessories are basic plug-and-play gadgets that only require a quick app download. iRig KEYS is one such gadget.

Unlike the majority of IK Multimedia’s other releases, the iRig Keys is a full-fledged instrument. (I guess you could call the iRig MIC an instrument, but singers would argue that their voice is the instrument.)

The iRig KEYS is a 37-key keyboard that is about 20 inches long and not much heavier than an iPad mini. It plugs directly into your iPad using a MIDI connector-to-30-pin connector cable. All you need from there is an app that is compatible with the iRig KEYS, like SampleTank or iGrand Piano.

Once you are plugged in and ready to go, iRig KEYS becomes the instrument that your app could never be. That is, it has the same feel and tactile sensation as a mini keyboard. It is like the difference between typing with a touch screen and typing with a keyboard. Pianists will love the way this device turns digital taps into a more realistic musical experience.

There are two octave shift keys that allow you to adjust the keyboard’s octaves from the existing C2-C5 setup to anywhere between C0 and C6. That means, you can adjust the keyboard to cover the entire piano range.

There is also a pitch bender wheel that allows you to adjust the pitch of individual notes and chords. Honestly, the only time I could actually hear a difference in the pitch when I used this feature was when the keyboard was playing guitar sounds. I must be missing something here.

The Modulation wheel that sits next to the pitch wheel lets you change the vibrato or tremolo of a note. Again, I couldn’t hear any difference with this feature either. I think it has more to do with the virtual instrument you choose than anything else. In real life, you can’t change the pitch of a note on a piano, but you can on a guitar just by bending the strings.

There are also program keys that let you add your own instrument sounds or MIDI plug-ins. There are four different custom configurable preset buttons that will let you quickly change to whatever sound and octave you like.

The keyboard is lightweight and easy to take with you. It can fit into a backpack or gig bag without taking up much room. It is great for the pianist on the go. It is also an ideal instrument for songwriting. You don’t have to set up a full keyboard and you can literally take both your iPad and the iRig KEYS with you everywhere.

What really makes this little gadget shine is the iGrand Piano app. It makes this tiny little thing sound like a warm and rich wooden piano sitting in a perfect acoustic room. Maybe that is an exaggeration, but it really sounds great. SampleTank is amazing, but iGrand Piano turns the iRig Keys into a beautiful instrument. It comes at a hefty price of $19.99, but if you think of it as part of the cost of the keyboard, it doesn’t seem that bad. You can also download the free version, which comes with one piano option. Even the free app is worth downloading for the sound quality you get out of it.

I actually had a very difficult time getting the iRig KEYS to work. There is a chance you will have the same problem I had. Unfortunately for IK Multimedia, it is Apple’s fault. The good news is that the problem is easily fixed if you follow these instructions:

First, plug the iRig KEYS into the iPad. Then, open the SampleTank or iGrand Piano app. Then, start playing. If you don’t hear any sound coming from your iPad, unplug the 30-pin connector from your tablet. It is important that you leave the app open when you do this. Leaving the app open allows it to reset the proper code so that the two will work properly. Everything should be fine after that.

Now, not everyone will have this problem and it may go away entirely by the time you get your iRig KEYS delivered. Apparently, the problem started with iOS 6.0 and IK Multimedia has already put in a request to Apple to fix the problem.

Before I forget, the iRig KEYS is also compatible with your computer. It comes with a MIDI-to-USB connector so you can plug right into your desktop or laptop, too.

What I liked: I love how lightweight and small it is. It feels like a toy, but plays like a full-instrument.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. This keyboard rocks!

The Verdict: If you are looking for a nifty gift for the musician in your life, this is a no-brainer. If you are a songwriter and love to take your instruments on the go, you need this device.

  • Name: iRig KEYS
  • Manufacturer: IK Multimedia
  • Price: $99.99
  • Score:
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About Lory: Writer of all things app related, traveler of the space-time continuum, baker of really great cookies. Follow me @appaholik