Alesis' surprisingly portable QX49 Keyboard Controller
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-01-16)
It's still taking me a moment to fully wrap my head around just how Alesis packed all of this into a keyboard this size. The features on the QX-49 49-key wonder easily top M-Audio's FULL size MIDI controllers at a tiny fraction of the size and weight. Just looking at it, it doesn't remotely make sense that all this (including all the drumpads, programmable knobs, playback controls, tonewheels, 8 sliders, and even a backlit screen), should be capable of fitting onto the tiny 49-key keyboard, and yet it all does. Not only that, it doesn't even need a power cord. It gets all the power it needs from a USB port off of your PC or Mac. And, if you don't already have the software to take full advantage of having a MIDI controller, it comes with a Lite version of Ableton. The whole package deal is so many leaps and bounds ahead of Alesis' previous Q-series of controllers it's almost unreal. As Art Tatum would say, "That's hip."
Since the sound comes from the software, MIDI controllers are mostly about compatibility and buttons, and the QX49 is loaded in the best sense of the word. Starting from the front we find 49 velocity-sensitive keys that span the entire length of the keyboard. The keyboard itself can be split into several sections to control multiple instruments at once as well. Controlling those, we have to the left a modulation wheel and a pitch wheel, as well as octave up/down buttons and program change buttons. Program changes can also be mapped to the keys, if you so desire. Also boasting arpeggiator controls, 8 assignable sliders, 4 backlit drumpads, and 8 assignable rotary knobs, the QX49 does not disappoint in the least. The playback controls are also a welcome addition to the QX49, especially for composers who want to quickly hear what they've written and edit as they go.
The compact controller features USB-MIDI and traditional MIDI jacks for easy connection to Mac, PC and MIDI hardware. The QX49 also has two traditional MIDI jacks: one for sending MIDI data directly from the keyboard and the other for routing MIDI data from a connected computer. When not using a computer, the QX49 can also be powered using a wall power adapter (sold separately) to perform and control MIDI hardware. A footswitch input is also included on the back panel.
The QX49 comes with a copy of Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition software for performing, recording, and sequencing music right out of the box. Alesis is touting full capability and programmability no matter what program you use, as well. So give it a shot. Attach it to another keyboard via MIDI and set it for program changes or to play other patches. However you use it, it's still an impressive piece of hardware.
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He will be spending the Fall and Winter months working on playwright Frank Gagliano's Voodoo Trilogy and Bodoni County Songbook.
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.