This inexpensive 25-key MIDI keyboard was a perfect solution to a small problem in my studio. Virtual instrument plug-ins are getting better and better these days, particularly some of the ones we've reviewed that I've used from Arturia, Native Instruments, SampleTank, and MOTU. But the way my control room is set up, I just don't have room for a MIDI keyboard to be permanently set up anywhere near the mix and Pro Tools station. This means moving a keyboard over every time I want to consider a virtual instrument. For the many visiting engineers at my studio, it's even more of a hassle as they're not familiar with the installed plug-ins. The O2 is a little bit bigger and not much heavier than a magazine (8'' by 17'', just under 3 lbs on my postal scale), yet it spans two octaves (C to C). Being small and lightweight, I can leave it at the mix position, and it's not in the way and can easily be moved. With the octave transpose button, it's easy to play just about any part you need to. Sure, for a two-fisted piano or organ part, I still need to hook up a large keyboard, but to be honest, that's pretty rare as we'll usually go for a real piano or organ track. Even so, the O2 let's me audition the sounds to make that decision quickly, and 90% of the virtual instrument parts I've used are one-handed parts. Best of all, the O2 can be USB powered and communicates via USB, so no power or MIDI cables are required. I can just plug this into my Mac keyboard and play away. On MacOS X and Windows XP, it's class compliant, which means you don't even have to install drivers! I will vouch that the install on this was pretty much instant plug-and-play. My only minor complaint? I wish it had a built- in USB hub. My Mac G4 only has two USB ports, and they are both in use, and my keyboard's extra port holds my iLok key for plug-ins. It would have been great to be able to plug the iLok key into the O2. There are workarounds of course (e.g., unplug the iLok after your DAW loads, and then plug in the keyboard), but as it stands, I'm on my way to Fry's to buy a USB hub. For more hardcore users, there is all sorts of programmability on the O2 as well as 17 MIDI controllers (eight rotary pots, eight switches, one slider) in addition to the three standard controllers (pitch bend, modulation, octave), which all worked fine. The O2 is a perfect solution for controlling virtual instruments in a space-starved studio or one not heavily committed to MIDI. ($179.95 MSRP; www.m-

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