XKey Puts Polyphonic Aftertouch Into A Inexpensive Mobile Keyboard

At the 2015 Summer NAMM Show, we got an overview of the unique CME Xkey MIDI controller line from Virgin M.I.’s Matt Harpster.

CME introduce the original XKey at the 2013 NAMM Show and now has a version with a larger keyboard, the XKey 37.

The XKey controllers are relatively inexpensive mobile MIDI controllers, but they support a feature that’s rarely found on keyboards, polyphonic aftertouch.

See the CME site for details.

17 thoughts on “XKey Puts Polyphonic Aftertouch Into A Inexpensive Mobile Keyboard

  1. My gut tells me I’d never get past the lack of key throw. I suppose if the velocity sensing was very carefully implemented, I could adapt, but I’m not sure why I’d want to.

    Poly AT is a nice feature at that price. But again, with no key throw, they’d have to make sure it was a pretty high force threshold and perhaps somehow “muted” during the initial key contact, otherwise, we’d see lots of unintended data on attack.

    For general playing, I like the Korg MicroKey’s feel & response.

  2. I’d like the korg micro key too, except it’s usb only.

    The xkey has midi din 5 cables which is exclusive to a keyboard of this portability. Makes it a big possibility for me.

  3. I’ve tried this and it’s solid as hell but the feel playing it is no substitute for a full-size keyboard.

    They are marketing it as a portable keyboard and I think it would be perfect for that, and for entering notes into a sequencer.

    The polyphonic aftertouch is a really cool feature. I tried it with animoog and you can have control over the volume/filter-cutoff of each individual note separately. I’m considering getting it for that alone, because none of my other controllers can do that and the Xkey/Animoog combo is pretty powerful.

    1. What I’ve been wondering about this keyboard is: does it replicate moving up and down on a key like in Animoog, or does it perform that function pressure in and out?

      1. Most of Novation’s controllers support channel aftertouch, and have a good response.

        Poly aftertouch is still very rare. It’s found in the $99 KMI QuNexus, the $99 25 key CME XKey (which has been out for some time), this new $199 37 key Xkey (out for about 6 months now).

        There are a few instruments such as the QuNeo that have pressure per key, but not as PolyAT per se, but these can be mapped to PolyAT using Max or other solutions.

        Among recent build full throw key travel controllers, the now-out-of-production $3000 VAX 77 had poly, as do their new $550 6 octave and $400 4 octave VAX MIDI Keyboard Controllers. The fairly recent Rhodes Mark 7 introduced in 2007 also supported it, but is no longer in production.

        If anyone is aware of other current production keyboards that transmit PolyAT per key, please feel free to share them. Be careful though, some keyboards and controllers transmit PolyAT, but not per key. They instead allow for things such as a knob to send PolyAT for Middle C. This is not actual PolyAT. PolyAT means individually distinguishable pressure messages are transmitted polyphonically, per key.

        1. A lot of Ensonic keyboards had polyphonic aftertouch eg. the SQ-80.
          And they’re quite cheap as used on eBay.

        2. So there really aren’t any full-size keyboards that support polyphonic aftertouch available? (The VAX is still vaporware).

  4. I’ve used an XKey 25 for over a year and I’m taken with it. I’m more used to “normal” keyboards, but while the key-throw can be an issue for some people, it doesn’t hurt your technique at all. I adapted to it easily. Sometimes it can feel a tad like typing, especially since there is some clack factor going on, but its not as intrusive as you’d think. Its instrument-noise, not a glaring wart. I learned that the Poly-AT demands some tweaking to the receiving instrument, but once I used it on a string quartet, I was sold. Its really there, if you want it. IMO, the modulation and pitch-bend controls are too small to use smoothly, but for momentary moves, they do fine. No problem, as I’m not into wailing prog solos. You can download a free editor for setting MIDI channels and keyboard behaviors. Its like the one for Casio’s PX-5s piano/synth: blocky, visually unengaging and completely usable, heh. The fact that its shaped more like a traditional keyboard and breathes a little in use makes it better for me than controllers with stiffer pad layouts or semi-experimental approaches, just to be different. Its up to the individual player, but the price is silly-cheap for something so solid. I’m going to buy the 37, too. I need the added octave to more easily play M-Tron Pro, as the real ‘tron has 37 keys. You can also stack 4 of them up on one USB hub, so you mini-rig types should give it an added look. I have two workstations, but lately, XKey is what I’m using the most. With all of the either me-too or WTF controllers around, this one sits neatly in the middle. No, I don’t work for CME, but I’d sure like an XKey t-shirt so people can say “What the heck is that?” Poor fools, now I’m going to TELL them. 😛

  5. I had the smaller version for a week. Returned it back faster than I could play on it. The keys felt cheap as shit, I felt like I was trying to make music on a fischer-price toy.

    I love the slim design, but I guess that yields to a shitty key-bed. I went with a qunexus instead, was roughly the same price off eBay.

  6. People are getting bigger and fatter, instruments are getting smaller and slimmer.
    Yes, we’re living in an era where things really make sense.

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