eVolution MK-249C USB MIDI keyboard controller Reviews 4

For a guitarist/composer the latest developments in MIDI sequencing software with DXi and VSTi virtual instruments is the best thing that even happened. I upgraded from Cakewalk Audio Pro to SONAR 1.31 a year ago. This step virtually (:-0) changed the way I make my music. Pretty soon I was able to play my guitar along with a whole (authentic sounding) symphony orchestra. I soon realized that there must be a better way to create a masterpiece than laboring through the piano-roll view, entering each note step-by step. I needed a MIDI keyboard, but not one with any built-in synthesizers. (With the VST instruments I had more synthesizers to my disposal than I would ever be able to use). As the SONAR audio engine render music at top quality through the built-in sound card, I never bothered about buying a dedicated soundcard. This narrowed my requirements down to a USB MIDI keyboard controller. Down at the local professional music shop (name withheld for obvious reasons) it became clear that my one-hour investment in Internet research made me a kind of expert in the field. The salesman had no idea what I was talking about when I started asking questions. I was ready to whip out my credit card, but the price of R3,999 (about US$400) was a bit steep. I was pretty surprised to find the same unit at the computer mega-store (in Joburgh anything more than 20 square meters qualify as mega). The salesman knew even less about keyboards, but at least he did not pretend to know. At R2,899 (about US$280) I was convinced.

I needed a MIDI controller. The eVolution keyboard is exactly that. I bought the middle sized (49 key) model as the larger unit does not fit on the desk of my little home studio and the smaller unit really does not give you enough keys to press. I did not really look for many extras, but I soon found the 12 assignable rotary controllers a definite plus.

The software included is a weak point. This unit is obviously aimed at the professional market, but the software is aimed at primary school. The Reason demo was nice to play around with, but Sound Studio can not really be mentioned in the same conversation as SONAR. Installing the drivers was a headache. The guys at SONAR support however sorted my driver problem out and everything worked fine after I installed the MIDI Yoke and MIDI Ox drivers. The rotary controllers are nice, but I would have liked more than only two slider-type controllers.

The touch sensitive keyboard really feels professional. All controls are easy to use and a very quick read through the manual gets you on your way.

Anybody who needs a USB MIDI controller should take a serious look at the eVolution. Please be warned about USB. The drivers only work with a MIDI driver utility like MIDI Yoke. USB grabs a lot of CPU power. It is not possible to run a project with lots of plug-ins while the USB is switched on. To compensate, I had to increase my buffer size, which in turn increased my latency. If latency of about 60 ms scare you, then USB might not be the solution for you. I get around the problem by rendering the whole project to a single audio track before doing serious recording with the MIDI keyboard.

Eric Swardt rated this unit 4 on 2002-12-16.

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