I’ve seen a range of different products from Icon over the years, as I am sure many of you have too. If you are looking for well-priced control surfaces that offer you plenty of versatility, these are your guys.
But, for all their products I have seen in the past, it was this month’s unveiling that really got me excited, as I was testing out the Icon iKeyboard 4S. Seemingly just another budget USB MIDI controller keyboard in a market that is awash with more of the same, I wasn’t too keen until I got this unit out of the box and was able to see what it had to offer. As for the price, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.
MORE THAN A CONTROLLER
This is not necessarily a new idea, but it is one that isn’t often embraced by controller manufacturers in that the iKeyboard 4S is not just a MIDI controller keyboard, but an integrated audio interface as well. It’s really quite obvious, but not often available. So, on the top panel you get a single microphone input, with two line level inputs at the rear of the device. Two line level outputs are found there as well, whilst a headphone output is found on the front. The iKeyboard 4S offers 24-Bit / 96 KHz audio recording and playback via USB, as well as MIDI and transport controls. It’s an excellent option for someone starting out in home recording, especially given that it includes Steinberg’s Cubase LE software via download as well. Aside from a microphone, headphones and a little talent, you pretty much have it all here in the one device. Transport control allows you to use less of the mouse when dealing with the computer and gives you a more ‘hands on’ approach to your music making. You also get channel controls, with Record Arm, Solo, Mute, Channel Select and Master functions and a touchpad fader, all of which can be toggled up and down through your channels or banks within the software.
A BETTER BUILD
The first thing I did notice upon removing this from the package is that Icon seem to have put a lot of effort into bringing up the build quality of their lower priced devices in recent years. It feels like it is going to last, with a sturdy chassis and a decent amount of weight to it for its size. The 37-note keyboard is touch sensitive, with a springy semi-weighted feel, although not graded. But they are fully encased keys, not just cheap strips of plastic and they do have a nice touch with a satin finish on the black keys. All of the buttons have seen an upgrade on older Icon models where spongey rubber buttons caused some issues. These are firm, and solid with a definite engagement. The Pitch and Mod wheels are not great, and the Mic Gain and Headphone Volume controls are a little finicky, being so close together. But, those two points aside, you really can’t complain with what Icon has delivered here, this is a really great product at a smashing price that deserves more attention.
For more information, visit innovativemusic.com.au.
Hits and Misses
Great bang for buck
DAW MIDI controller and audio interface in one
Compact yet sturdy build