New iKeyDock & StudioBlade Music Workstations From Music Computing

Austin-based startup Music Computing has announced their new line of keyboard workstations.

The  StudioBLADE and iKeyDOCK are complete, portable production stations, which either include a built-in Windows 7 64-bit PC with touch-screen and DAW software and virtual software instruments, or a docking system for any PC/Mac notebook.

  • The StudioBLADE series are complete music production workstations powered by Intel processors and 64-bit Windows 7, and each model ships with a studio package with DAW (digital audio workstation), virtual instruments, mastering effects, and utilities to customize the exclusive ControlDAW MIDI control surface.
  • iKeyDOCK keyboard workstations are designed to be compatible with both Windows and Mac notebooks. The iKeyDOCK provides a dockable solution for any notebook; simply plug-in and start playing.

Details below.

The Music Computing StudioBLADE

A combination of hands-on control begins with the tilt and telescoping 10.1-inch touch panel (more than twice the size of most workstation screens), the 61-key synth action, or 88-key weighted piano action keyboard; and ControlDAW interactive knobs, buttons, and sliders, managed by GeoMIDI mapping software.

The large 64-button grid control surface, in addition to knobs and sliders, is a tool for musicians using grid-style programs like Ableton Live, or classic drum pad boxes like the Akai MPC. Music Computing’s TriggerGrid sample trigger player for drum pads turns the grid surface into a 64-pad virtual percussion instrument.

Each StudioBLADE also includes Studio One Pro from Presonus, a DAW solution with virtual instruments and mastering FX, plus 10GB of sounds. Music Computing’s included SonicSource VSTi soft-synth contains thousands of sound presets providing an 8GB starting point for both analog and digital textures.

“The StudioBLADE is one of the most powerful keyboard instruments ever built,” said company CEO, Victor Wong. Wong previously headed keyboard workstation maker Open Labs.

Pricing starts at $2599 (US/SRP) for the 61-key Intel Core2 base configuration with 24/48 audio, 2 combo XLR and 1/4-inch mic inputs with phantom power, 2 balanced outs, and headphone jack. Optional upgrades include 24/96 audio and 8 inputs, more RAM, and internal hard drives, to suit the user’s needs.

25 thoughts on “New iKeyDock & StudioBlade Music Workstations From Music Computing

  1. A loverly step in a good direction. Yeah, its pricey, commensurate with its powers, but A) many will embrace the compactness of size and function and B) it helps to hasten the day when a workable, all-but-self-contained rig will be light enough for fuller-sounding busking. Decent speakers are still the weakest link because of their power demands, but even that improves steadily. This helps bring things back to where human hands and WHAT you play matter more than the color of an analog sequencer's LEDs. In short, I like it, because it keeps getting closer to hauling a synth about as readily as a guitar, with the welcome intimacy it confers. OTOH, do not listen to me; I wear an aluminum hat after Labor Day.

  2. How is this more portable than your typical synth or workstation keyboard? For at least two decades you could take a synth with you easily without having a second person to help you. This thing changes nothing. Instead it instills doubt about Mr Wongs sanity. Didn't Open Labs have financial problems? Why do the same thing over again if people don't seem to be that interested in actually buying and using this king of device? A DAW on a 10" screen, are you mad or something? I'd rahter use a GameBoy sequencer than this thing … 😉

  3. you'd think putting his last company of ideas into bankruptcy would be a clear indication that this might not be the way to go. not only that, now he faces his old company as a competitor.

    either this is all for revenge or like it was said, it's just plain crazy. not to mention this current economic environment saturated with gear, software and yet another startup company.

    not sure why a company thinks they can survive on selling high priced items to a selected few of people. and those selected few people were already burned by openlabs.

  4. if you already use a laptop live this is a godsend. finally no more pesky laptop stands. this is going to save a lot of setup time. forget the whole built in pc. it seems like a cheaper neko. the idock however is something i've been waiting for. CME is the only other company with the ability to have a quality audio interface within the controller. no more external anything.

    Thank you music computing

  5. Everyone,

    Let me dispel some things that have been floating around the net that is simply not true. To do so, I quote from my past posting:

    I gave up the CEO title 5 years ago to concentrate on building the brand and the community around Open Labs. I was in charge of Artist Relations and Marketing. As you can see, Open Labs had a great brand and marketing brought in record number of potential customers.
    Once I gave up the CEO title, I had no check writing privileges and did not have any final say in who to pay, who to hire, what projects to green light and how the business operated. Though I was still chairman of the board, and was the “face” of the company, I was told in the last 2 years to “sit in my office and let the new management work”.

    The new management consisted of executives from DELL circa 1991 – 2001 and the CEO that replaced me. They were brought in by the investors who eventually foreclosed on the assets of the company after the money was all spent and the executives leaving, which means I did not drive Open Labs into bankruptcy.

    I fact, I took pay cut after pay cut to help keep the company alive. In the end Open Labs owed me so much money that they were willing to sign a general release, which then allowed me to form the new company. Therefore, I did not “sell out the company and took the money and ran”.
    Here is what really happened:

    We had a board meeting on May 26 to determine the future of Open Labs. Three plans were presented and I, as Chairman, along with the board, voted to keep the company operational so that it can be put up for sale, seek additional investments, or wind it’s business down in a proper manner. To accomplish this, we had to cut our budget down to almost nothing. I, along with the bulk of the employees had to be laid off. Hank and several people were kept on to keep the business going. We made the official announcement at a company-wide meeting on Friday, May 28.

    However, the debt structure that the company has now created was very large and accruing multiple five figure interest payments each month, which made it an extremely unattractive investment. This was a recent occurrence and started with the investment and the new management that installed into Open Labs by the investors.

    The foreclosure was not discussed in the board meeting. It was initiated by one of our investor groups/creditor unilaterally after I was laid off and after my resignation as Chairman. I only heard about it second hand. There was nothing I, nor anyone else, could have done about this, once that investment group decided to go down that road. This is now the same group that has proclaimed themselves “the new owners”.

    To be honest, I have kept quiet about this because words are cheap. I would rather let my actions speak and to create a company from scratch and produce the products we have in less than 6 months says a lot.

    They are not expensive. The 61-key is priced about the same as any 61 key workstation from the “Big Three”. The 88 key is $300 to $500 less, but offer way more in performance and features.

    They are also smaller than most of them. The 61 key is only 36” wide, which is 12” shorter than a normal 61 key workstation and is only 4” thick instead of 7”.

    They also only weigh about 28lbs, which is 20lbs lighter than other production stations.
    A lot of people wanted to see these products happen, and some that didn’t. You can usually tell who they are by their posts. Nevertheless they are here and I think they speak for themselves.

    So, here are the facts, I have documents to back them up, and I am glad that I am finally at a place where I can set the record straight.

  6. This is perfect. I think this is either the perfect product for laptop guys on the road and/or the perfect thing for the small/bedroom/extra studio. Not everyone likes firing up all their gear to jam.

  7. I would like to thank you for coming and setting this straight. Personally i think these are really competitive compared to your usual workstation keyboard like fantom G.

  8. Let me also thank you for setting the record straight. Until now I did not even know about the dire fate of OpenLabs, only that there was trouble in paradise so to speak.

    After reading your post I had a closer look at the product descriptions on the Music Computing website. One disappointment is that it only says you've got semi weighted keys and the keyboard does not seem to be graded. So you're aiming at organ and synth players only I suppose and losing the heavy mechanical parts necessary for a great piano action keyboard you can keep the weight down to whatever the weight might be (no metric units so all the rest of the world has to convert again, seriously this just screams manufactured in Austin, Texas).

    Looking at pictures of the StudioBLADE I got the impression that it really was thrown together in a few months. This does not say anything about actual build quality though. It looks more like a DIY project of some crazed hobbyist or a prototype. It's probably sturdy enough, but the surface is not really clean, and with knobs portruting from the back I'd be scared to handle it in a hurry unlike most other pieces of equipment which I just don't want to drop on their front.

    The iKeyDock (why does everything have to be prefixed with the small letter i nowadays although it's not even an Apple product?) might be more interesting for live use because you can use your DAW.

    This brings up the question about whether or not you can install your own operating system from scratch and if it might be possible for a "clever" person to install an illegit copy of Mac OS X on a StudioBLADE. And then there's the question: How do I backup my files? Do I use an external drive an Windows Backup in the default install like I would with any current Windows installation?

    To me the big touchscreens are more interesting anyway although I personally would not know what to use them for (as apparently is the case with the people who did the demo videos on your site).

    Let me close by saying this: When I first hear about OpenLabs' products years ago I was fascinated by the mere idea of having a PC inside a keyboard with controllers and a touchscreen. I think the idea is still great (see for instance the Korg Oasys), but the realisations to date are for some reason or another not quite there yet. There are products that let you build a control interface from single modules purchased individually, maybe this could be an idea for future iterations of the StudioBLADE so that you could for example lose the trigger matrix and get a few more knobs or faders instead. Or have some faders, knobs, buttons, and bar graphs configured as a mixing desk. I feel that often genericity gets in the way of simplicity and actually getting things done with an instrument. But probably I'm just too out of touch with the current trends because I still think the ideal setup is a mixing desk, some sound sources and processors, and a recording device all wired up in a more or less obvious way, whether it be analog, hybrid, fully digital or all inside a computer.

    I wish you and your new company all the best and that no greedy bastards hinder you and your people in what I presume is ultimately your goal: Give musicians tool they can and want to use instead of the tools already available.

  9. @Random Chance. Thank you for the comments. More pictures are coming so you will be able to get a better idea of what went into the StudioBLADE. The top cover is made out if a single sheet of high-quality anodized aluminum, and is actually much better constructed than most keyboards. The button, switches, faders are all of the highest quality and even the knobs and faders are nice molded rubber, not plastic. We decided to leave the interface on the back with the knobs because to put it somewhere else would increase the width of the keyboard by at least 8″ and add additional unwanted weight. However, we did put in a volume knob on the upper left corner. The stereo pot we used is audiophiles-grade which is very expensive, but the audio quality is great because of it. Finally you are correct. We need to put metric measurements and weights into our descriptions. We’ll get that online this week.

  10. @Random Chance.

    Thank you for the comments and encouragement. We really appreciate it!

    More pictures are coming so you will be able to get a better idea of what went into the StudioBLADE. The top cover is made out if a single sheet of high-quality anodized aluminum, and is actually much better constructed than most keyboards.

    It was cut by computer controlled CNC machines and then bent into shape, so I'm not sure how much more professional we can get, as that's pretty much the standard for making products today. That is unless you are using injection molded plastic and particle board, which a lot of keyboard workstations are made of, but we think an all aluminum construction is better.

    The button, switches, faders are all of the highest quality and even the knobs and faders are nice molded rubber, not plastic.

    We decided to leave the interface on the back with the knobs because to put it somewhere else would increase the width of the keyboard by at least 8" and add additional unwanted weight. The knobs on the back are so small, they really don't stick out that far to get "knocked off easily". In fact, unless you are aiming for the knobs if by change you are swinging the keyboard around while moving it, you would catch either corner of the keyboard itself before you get to the knobs. The only time you would really have to watch out is if you set the production station on its back spine, but since it's only 3.5" think (4" with the feet) it won't stand up that way anyways.

    However, we did put in a master volume knob on the upper left corner. The stereo pot we used is audiophiles-grade which is very expensive, but the audio quality is great because of it.

    We did not use a fully-weighed keybed because let's face it, they are monstrously heavy. The StudioBLADE and iKeyDOCK are designed to be portable, something a lot more people were asking for than fully weighted keys. However that doesn't mean we won't make products like that later. 😉

    Finally you are correct. We need to put metric measurements and weights into our descriptions. We'll get that online this week.

  11. Buried in the chatter we've seemed to have lost the importance of the situation.

    Doesn't really matter why you gave up control, as a result the company ended up the way it did.

    If this was due to poor investor selection, what's to stop that from happening again.

    Let's cut through the crap. Even though the OpenLabs idea was great back when it came out. Your second attempt to silence the crowd might come at the expense of your new investors.

    You really should have taken a real long hard look at whether these items at these prices would really attract enough customers to keep you going. It's only a matter of time, as the prices drop, China's manufacturing of cheap controllers drops and the market is saturated with new and used ebay gear.

    I've already suggested this before you decided to come at it with a new line of like gear. You need a "honda civic" in your line of "porches"… $99-$299 contoller… these are wait keeps the money flowing, customers coming and upgrades doable. You can't expect to sell million dollar homes to stay at home producers, seriously, wake up!

    Now it's time to start on the touch sensitive usb/midi controller for under $500 and you might have a winner. Otherwise it's going to be sad to see another one of your companies go to the waste side… We know you are full of great ideas… business ideas, not so much.

    "You can usually tell who they are by their posts. Nevertheless they are here and I think they speak for themselves. "

    Yes I do speak for myself, how about you?

  12. @Scottyroo [email protected]

    Thanks for your comment. First of all, I'm funding all this myself, so I'm not going to do anything at the expense of any new investors or letting them do anything to me.

    There are numerous reasons why what you suggested won't work for us or can't be done. First of all, there is already an over saturation of $99-$299 controllers. The companies making them are doing a great job and covering the market well for the low end and have established manufacturing and distribution for this market.

    The barriers to entry are high. It' not like we can just go make a controller, buy the thousands of them we need to get them at a competitive price and then sell them on the street corner, because we do not have the same distribution network as they do.

    BTW you sound like a OL tech or R&D person, so if that's the case, you already know how much something like the mix-edit cost to make and when you do the math, there is no way to sell it anywhere close to the prices you are quoting.

    It's always easy to say "hey do this" when you really don't have experience in the relevant space and when you dive into it, you do what I described in my other post.

    On the other hand, we do have controllers that we will release, but they are not going to be in that price range because we use the highest quality materials that are meant to last years, so they cost more.

    One example is the iKeyDOCK, we think it's a level above what you are seeing out there for $299, but still a great value. (see posting by third parties)

    As for the touch screen controllers, it is not possible to create touchscreen controllers and sell them for less than $500, because they cost more to make than that. That's why you haven't seen one from KORG, AKAI, YAMAHA , M-AUDIO or ROLAND.

    However, please reference our MotionCOMMAND line of products. They are in fact, they lowest priced ones available…by far.

    So once again, it's easy to ask for something, very hard to make it work in the real world.

    Finally, please reference my original post below:

    Instead of trying to getting a Lamborghini for the price of a Honda, how about a Porsche for the price of a Honda instead…because that's what we are offering. BTW..people seem to be ok. with the prices and interest in our products have been very high:

    "They are not expensive. The 61-key is priced about the same as any 61 key workstation from the “Big Three”. The 88 key is $300 to $500 less, but offer way more in performance and features."

    Example:

    Yamaha Motif XF8: $3,499
    Roland Fantom 8: $3,499
    KORG M3: $2,699
    Music Computing StudioBLADE 88: $2,999

    and finally I thought I have been speaking for myself all this time. Why would you think otherwise?

  13. I like the idea… and might seriously consider the studioblade…

    but…

    Why such a small screen? Correct me if I'm wrong, but using a DAW like ableton or logic will be horrible if using many VSTs at once… can the vga port on the back be used to have a dual monitor setup?

    How does editing work when there is no mouse for selectively selecting (lol) tracks? like if i needed to select tracks 1, 4, and 7 to group them?

    All the controllers look great, but are they auto-assigned? Musicians like myself like having dedicated controllers, but NOT when we have to constantly be switching templates and assigning things ourselves. That is NOT a replacement for proprietary hardware.

    will this come with a bunch of freeware (ie. sub-par) crap vst instruments like the Neko? Or will it be actually competitive with the instruments in a fantom or motif?

    You said that the sound quality is high… please never say that again when discussing presonus audio interfaces… I have a great deal of experience with audio gear… and to have the words "Presonus" and "Pro" in the same sentence makes me gag (unless you are talking about the ADL stuff)

    Like I said, this product looks great… but there are a few glaring issues with the product that will make it a hard sell to guys doing this professionally.

    Some advice:

    Please… no Timbaland editions. They might sell to amateurs in their bedrooms, but make studio rats like me laugh.

    If you are going to advertise yourself as the company with the most professional solution, have the products reflect this. That means better i/o and excellent instruments right out of the box.

    Use hardware that is osx compatible… and don't make it obvious… using windows is a nightmare.

  14. @ Stew –

    Thank you for the comments, we appreciate all the feedback.

    The screen is pretty big. It's actually larger than most workstations. Plus, the StudioBLADE can power 2 additional video monitors at the same time (3 total) in mirror or extended desktop mode.

    If you will look at the specs page, we include a wireless keyboard and mouse with each StudioBLADE.

    We do not include any "Free" VSTs…again, check our specs page.

    The Fantom and Motif workstations sound good, but there are some VSTs that sound very good also.

    We said Porsche for the price of a Honda, if you want a Lamborghini, we can certainly make that for you, but that's not going to be a mass market product and will certainly cost more. As you have read in this posting chain, some people are already under the impression that this is too expensive at ($2,599).

    However, most "Pros" use outboard audio i/o and connect them to their hardware DAW via Firewire or ADAT, which you can do with this. So you really get the best of both worlds, a built for purpose production station that is good enough for 90% of the people and the elite pros can use the outboard gear that they want.

    The issue is we cannot accommodate everyone's wish list and still make a product that is affordable or even coherent. Design by committee? Put everything and the kitchen sink into it? Been there, done that, and it doesn't work.

    We also have a solution for Mac OS X. It's called the iKeyDOCK. As for a Mac OS X keyboard workstation, that's not going to happen.

    FYI…years ago, Apple authorized a few company's to make Mac OS compatible computers. In 1997, my company built and sold the most powerful Macs ever created up to that point. Here is one review:
    http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/xforce250.html

    So, you now have a choice in using Windows or Mac OS, we support both!

  15. Comparing your products to top of the line performance synthesizers isn't a very accurate comparison. Plus we all know you are paying for their reputation and name when buying their proven gear. Plus not to mention years of development and content. Those performance beasts are ready to go anywhere, anytime and don't require upgrades or addition gear to work.

    I believe the ipad isn't too far off that estimated price for a touchscreen controller. If they can do it for around $500-$800, there's no reason why a simple usb/midi controller can't be done.

    The current market is shutting down giant automobile manufacturer's that have been around for years, big names like Chrysler and Hummer… selling high priced items to a small percentage of the market… maybe it's time to sell civics again…

    Good luck to you, I hope I'm wrong about my assessment.

  16. Victor,
    Welcome to the internet where teenagers sit in their mom's basement and make pronouncements about products they have never seen or touched. Experts all who "know the score". Anonymous invention assassins who expect everything to retail for $129.99.

  17. @ Scottyroo –

    Thanks again. Maybe some day we can be as big as Apple and sell 4.19 million iPads in a single quarter, but we are no where near that, so our costs are understandably much higher.

    Also, I'm not sure there is much more than 4.19 million people in the entire world that would be interested in a touchscreen controller for music. You just don't see sales numbers that high in the MI space. 🙁

    But…we will try our best to offer great products at the lowest prices with the most knowledgeable support.

  18. @ Atomic Shadow –

    Thank you, I am well aware of how there may be assessments that are hard to accommodate on an open forum like this, BUT I believe there is something to be learned from everyone.

    So we welcome kudos as much as criticisms. We need both because sometimes the criticisms sting a little 🙁

    And I want Music Computing to be a customer-centric company so we are totally cool with people's comments, whatever they are. In fact, like I have shown here, it actually give us a chance to answer questions and clear up any confusion that may have existed.

    Plus, it give me something to do on the weekends cause I'm a workaholic and even though I made the guys come to work on Sat, I can't do that to them on Sunday also. 😉

  19. Thanks for the response!

    Your products are very interesting, and I hope they do well. I unfortunately disagree with you about a few things.

    Having to use an external converter and pre (cause the ones Presonus makes are trash) completely destroys the ideas of "all-in-one", "portable", and "pro".

    Then we need to connect a larger monitor because the touchscreen is too small. This is a computer, not a motif. Your comparison doesn't really make sense. Most studios use a dual moitor setup for this very reason.

    OK… so now I've already had to buy a better i/o box and a monitor just to enjoy this thing…

    Where do I put the keyboard and mouse? well… that's not ergonomic or portable either.

    So in the end…. it is actually around the same price to buy your studioblade, just with more headaches and purchases to make it fun, than to buy a laptop and a motif xs8… even the controllers on the blade (sexy as they are) do not approximate dedicated hardware… if I want the grid to work as a controller for ableton out of the box, I'm guessing the consumer will have to set up the template…. switching to reason? there's another 30 minutes setting up the knobs… get my point?

    It is understandable that many people WILL buy this… and make some great music with it. But there are many other potential customers left puzzled as to HOW this is any better.

  20. Victor,
    I saw elsewhere that there is no more Lemur touch controller. Aren't you worried that someone will make a keyboard that just has an iPad slot in to it? Akai already have the little one that the iPod plugs in to.

    The iPad is going to make it tough for hardware development to move ahead. I am not making a comment on that being good or bad. Just that it is. Tenori-on or a $10.00 app that copies the exact function?

    I realize that your keyboard is a lot more sophisticated than an iPad, but for how much longer? As processor speed increases we are already seeing handheld devices with as much power as a desk based computer of 8 years ago.

    Yes. $2,500.00 is still a lot of money to most people. Especially working musicians.

  21. @ Atomic Shadow – We have not tested it yet, but with the new iOS MIDI, I think you can plug an iPad into the iKeyDOCK. BUT..again, we have not tested this.

    However, something like the iPad is not powerful enough to be a hardware DAW. It can do interesting things, but not full music production. In fact, even though you can process audio through it, I am not sure it has enough horsepower to run VSTs to play keyboards as a performance instrument.

    We make professional gear for music production, the iPad at it's current ability does not meet our minimum requirements.

    When the iPad or other products like that are powerful enough, I am sure we will have something for them.

    On the other hand if you are talking about the iPad as a controller, then that's a different story. But you can't compare an iPad to a iKeyDOCK or StudioBLADE. They are totally different.

    The closest thing is to use a Mac Book Pro, plus audio I/O, plus Controller (which could be an iPad), MIDI keyboard and software for comparison, but then you are over the $2,599 price we are charging. The equation looks even worse for the "piece your own" solution when you realize it only cost $175 more to upgrade to an i5 processor from us. And that's a true desktop processor running at full speed, not a scaled down version for mobile laptops.

  22. Everyone,

    I am truly sorry, but I have to yet defend myself again…so I apologize in advance for posting this.

    It has come to my attention that some people are now trying to start rumors that I do not know how to design products. So, here is a short list of what I have done in the past decade.

    I hope this will finally put an end to this silliness and everyone just goes back to doing their own thing.

    1997 – Founder and CEO, PowerTools: One of a handful of authorized Mac OS compatible computer makers. Highlights: Designed, produced and sold the fastest Mac OS computers ever built up till 1997. Proof: http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/xforce250.html and http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/pcs/15592/powertoo… Business ended when Apple stopped authorizing clone computer makers. PowerTools settled with Apple and exited the market.

    2000 – Founder and CEO, Ecommercesoft: Enterprise Internet-based business software solutions. Highlights: MetroShop, essentially an online ERP system with web-based frontend based on WebObject from Apple, was promoted by Apple as a enterprise software solution for it's clients. It was also used to power parts of Lucent Technologies online commerce as well as the LBJ Presidential Library. Proof: http://www.macobserver.com/news/00/may/000512/met… MetroShop was sold to another company and then discontinued when Apple stopped supporting WebObjects.

    2003 -Co Founder and CEO (first 2.5 years), Open Labs: Maker of computer enhanced musical instruments. Highlights: Introduced the OMX, NeKo, MiKo, DBeat and SoundSlate to the world and was endorsed by pretty much everyone. Proof: I came up with the product concepts for the OMX, original NeKo, Timbaland MiKo, DBeat, SoundSlate, Controller One and Controller II. Open Labs is currently still in business.

    2010 – Founder and CEO, Music Computing: Maker of computer enhanced musical instruments. Highlights: Introduced new affordable, yet powerful keyboard production stations, large screen multi-touch controllers and MacBook Pro keyboard production station docks. Proof: I came up with the product concept and/or designed for all the products.

    Again, I am sorry for posting this…perhaps this all can be put to rest now…

  23. Honestly, I dont give a shit about what happened with him and open labs. As long as I'm getting a Revolutionary product that will ease and expedite my recording and production process im all for it. Also, this is at least better cuz its almost literally half the price of the Neko or Miko. And LESs than other work stations like the ROland fantom G even tho its like 2ce as powerful.

  24. what about europe can we find studioblade sold in EU. countries? there were dealers for neko meko things so we need to see this gear live teast it play on it and buy it in europe…any approximate dates pls.

Leave a Reply