This is the M-Audio Oxygen PRO25. It also comes in other sizes including a mini version and 49 and 61 key versions. This keyboard aims to do a lot including giving you hands-on control of Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic, Studio One, Reaper, PRO Tools,
Cubase, Garageband and more! And while I do have a couple of things to complain about I think they’ve delivered a lot. So does it live up to the hype and is it right for you? And how does it compare to other keyboards at this price? You’ll find out in this article.
Alright, first of all I’m going to be demo-ing the features on the 25 key version which has full size semi-weighted keys with aftertouch, just like the 49 and 61 key versions. The mini version has mini keys without aftertouch but the mini version has 32 keys which I love. I always find that 25 keys are a little too few but with the 25 key version you also get more pads. If you move up to the larger 49 or 61 key versions you get more knobs and faders. Slightly different button layouts if you want full size keys. My advice is to go for the 49 key version at least is it worth it for the keys. Yes, I really like the feel of the full size keys on the 25, 49 and 61 key versions of this keyboard. The key feel exceeded my expectations at this price range. This is one of two winning features on this keyboard. I’ll get to the other one a little later. The keys are semi-weighted so don’t expect a piano like feel but still the touch is comfortable, playable and no annoying springy sounds, I’ve complained about the springy sound of the keys on the Nectar keyboards but these are quiet and premium. So how’s the build quality overall? Well it’s good. The knobs feel decent, the buttons and faders feel fine, the buttons do have a loud clicky sound when you press them, I don’t like this but some of you prefer the click. The screen is bright and useful, the pads feel good and remind me a lot of the response on Akai devices not the top tier Akai stuff but still good.
You’ve got pitch and mod wheels even on the mini version. I really prefer the wheels to joysticks or strips. Very nice. On the back you’ve got USB out, a pedal port and a MIDI port to connect to synths. By the way this keyboard really packs a lot of features for beginners including scale and chord functions. I’ll get to those in a bit. But first, I want to cover the second winning feature of this keyboard. DAW control. If there’s one thing that so many keyboards don’t get right it’s DAW control. Things like play, stop, record, buttons, mixer control and more especially in the budget price range. The M- Audio Oxygen PRO got it right and delivers awesome control for so many DAWs. I tested this keyboard with Ableton Live, FL studio, Logic PRO, Studio One and Reason. And everything worked. Well almost everything. By the way these keyboards also provide DAW control for PRO tools, Reaper, Cubase, GarageBand, Bitwig, and NPC beats. If you heard your DAW in this list you’re gonna be happy. Now some DAWs have more control on this keyboard than others but the core features are kind of covered for every DAW and there are even shortcuts for save, quantize, view and undo. Some DAWs will give you control of the pan and send it. It’s very rare that a keyboard covers so many DAWs.
Now I should mention that I had some trouble with small things like the play button in FL studio and device control in Ableton, but I believe these are things that can be fixed with software or firmware updates in the future. Now I have one issue with the marketing of the Oxygen PRO keyboards. They advertise these with one touch DAW auto mapping, making it sound as though you just select your DAW on the keyboard and you’re ready to go. But in reality there are several more steps you need to take in your DAW to get it right. Granted this is a one-time setup and most of us just use one DAW, but still just keep that in mind. You’ll be spending several minutes getting this set up right. Anyway let’s move on. You’ve got faders and knobs to control different features. The knobs are not endless like so many other keyboards on the market today. From Native Instruments, Akai and Arturia, I do prefer endless encoders because the keyboard keeps track of where the corresponding knob or fader is in your daw. But on this keyboard you’ll have to turn the knob back and forth to find its place. The inclusion of faders on the mini version and the 49 and 61 key versions is really nice. Faders will let you control multiple tracks with one hand. Again you won’t find this on most small keyboards M- Audio also allows you to control the included virtual instruments with the knobs which is innovative but the execution of this is not optimal to control. Expand 2 for example, you have to press the DAW preset button then hold down the same button to enter a menu then select expand from the menu and then you’re good to go. That’s a lot of steps to take for virtual instrument control. If you use Ableton you can get to device control much faster by pressing shift and selecting the device pad. By the way these keyboards come with a bunch of free software. I’ll get to that in a second.
Now more small keyboards are including screens these days and this screen is quite useful.
You can navigate features, check out your arp scale, and chord settings and more. You’re not going to be looking at it a lot but it definitely gives you good information on the more advanced features and the screen is larger and easier to read than the screens on the Native Instruments and Novation keyboards. The screen is especially useful when you start using the performance features, pressing shift plus, chord or scale or arp, lets you access more options. Let’s take a look at the performance features next.
If you’re new to music theory turn on chords, set a scale and you’ll have chords corresponding to that scale on each key. Very useful when you set a scale. The M- Audio keyboard eliminates the wrong notes, well actually the scale function doesn’t really eliminate wrong notes, but duplicates the correct notes which is a little confusing if you ask me. But I grew up playing the piano so this layout actually might work for you. The arp feature is quite extensive, not as good as the Novation keyboards, but still good enough for most. You can set octave range, movement, gate, and swing. Now the latest novation keyboards feature more randomizing features like DV8 which are very creative. If you want the very best arp features check out those keyboards. The Oxygen PRO keyboards also feature note repeat which is super fun to use for drums.
So what else do you get with this keyboard? Well software, all versions of this keyboard come with PRO tools. First MPC beats and Ableton Live lite and they’ve included very nice instruments from Air including Hybrid 3, Velvet, Mini Grand, Vacuum, Boom and DB33. If you’re starting out this is a pretty good collection. Alright so how does this keyboard compare to other keyboards out right now? Well I think it does very well. They’ve delivered on all the performance features and the dock control is top notch for all the most popular DAWs. That’s a huge feat. Now if you’re a hardcore Ableton user, Novation will deliver tighter integration and a couple extra features on their Launchkey MK3 keyboards. And if you really want solid virtual instrument control, Native Instruments and Arturia will give you much better integration with their own virtual instrument collections including the ability to select presets. Also Native Instruments uses the NKS standard which means better control of more plug-ins from more plug-in companies. Thank you for reading. Hope it was useful.