Portable Midi Keyboard Options

I read through the thread with options for Midi Controllers meant to be used on the desk. Does anyone have any thoughts on portable midi keyboards? I am particularly drawn to the Yamaha Reface CP (As I trained pianist, I am a bit hesitant with the mini keys - not sure how I would adjust, so if you have any thoughts that would be helpful). Maybe a cheap Casio keyboard would do the trick? But I would rather spend a bit more and get a good touch and dependable/durable rig.

My big needs would be: battery powered option, at least 37 keys (seems like a good compromise), usable internal sounds - at least a decent piano or Rhodes, built in speakers would be nice as would Bluetooth, but I could do USB or Midi connection.

My use case would be to pack my laptop, keyboard and head outside and compose/notate away from my desk and studio. The major stuff can be done back at home. But we have some extended travel days coming up and I don’t want to haul my big 80lb keyboard with us.

Anyone else work this way and have any thoughts?

I use a cheap Korg mini keyboard when I travel. Those Yamahas look pretty cool, but they aren’t very small and they are fairly heavy. If you are taking a laptop, why do you need internal sounds and speakers? Speakers are going to add a lot of size and weight which may be unnecessary if you are hooked up to your laptop anyway.

You might like something like the CME Xkey37. You get 37 full size keys while only gaining less than an inch in length when compared to the Yamaha, and it is an inch and a half less deep, and only 0.62" high in comparison to 2 3/8" for the Yamaha. The CME is also less than half the weight. As a pianist, you may prefer the full size keys of the CME if you are going to be plugged in to your laptop anyway, and it’s definitely lighter and easier to travel with.

EDIT: The CME isn’t battery powered only USB. If you anticipate writing away from your laptop then it won’t work, but if you’ll always have a laptop with you it seems like some of the features of the Yamaha may be unnecessary.

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Hi kclements.
I would go and buy a Korg Microkey Air. (I have a Microkey 37 version 1 - needs a power hub to connect with an iPad or iPhone - so I’ve bought a Microkey Air 49 - gets power from iPhone or Ipad, has bluetooth and usb convection and a sustain pedal input). I am a pianist too and got used to the mini keys.
It doesn’t have speakers and internal sounds but I can plug it into my iPhone or Ipad - so no big deal.
And the price is around US$ 220. I think it is worth it.

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Thanks for your thoughts.

My thinking is having some internal sounds and speakers - though adding to the size and weight - might be useful for just playing around while away from the laptop. Since I am investing in a keyboard, might be nice to use it like a guitar, where I could just sit with it and doodle for fun.

But the options presented do make sense. I will look into these as well.

Just bumping this back up as my Korg died yesterday, and I’ve suddenly found myself in the market for another portable MIDI keyboard. @kclements, what did you end up getting? Did you buy that Yamaha? I’m considering the CME I linked to above, but was just wondering what everyone else is currently using. Thanks for any advice!

I haven’t purchased anything yet. The CP’s are very hard to find, and I have been busy with other things. So for now, I am still using my C3 Grand and not taking to the road.

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Garagekey Mini has been solid and dependable for me for many years and bumpy journeys.

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Wow, that’s very inexpensive too! No US dealers though and shipping from Thomann is as much as the keyboard. Still looks like a very solid option!

Huh! I bought mine in 2012 from Amazon USA:

Oops, yes that looks like it’s still available. On the Miditech site you linked to there were no US distributors listed but obviously Amazon has it.

Having the octave buttons on the back would drive me bonkers.

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I’m pretty sure I’m just gonna pull the trigger on the Xkey Air 37. It’s expensive, but super compact, and won’t take up a USB port on my laptop. Octave keys in the normal spot on the left. I don’t think any latency will bother me as I rarely input in real time. B&H has it in stock too.

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I did end up buying the CME Xkey Air 37 a couple of weeks ago. Wireless setup in Windows is a bit convoluted, so I thought I’d do a little mini-review and give some setup tips.

Pros: Long battery life when charged (haven’t used it more than 4 hours straight but didn’t run out), full size keys are great, keyboard is super thin and lightweight, metal construction feels solid, octave buttons to the left where expected, 37 keys

Cons: Keys are clicky buttons not hinged so pianists may hate the feel despite the full size keys, Windows setup is a bit maddening and requires third party apps, large for a backpack or messenger bag, expensive

With 37 full size keys it’s only 5" longer than a M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 which only has 32 mini keys, and it weighs less than 2 lbs despite the metal construction. I’ve been taking it down to the campus to use for demonstrations and the size/weight is fine, but it does hang out of my bag a bit:

Obviously the Xkey 25 would fit easily. The keyboard does automatically power down if not used in a while, but quickly powers up and is back working in a second or two. Charging is done by USB-Micro but the included cable is a slim profile cable which is necessary to reach the port. I have some other cables that are slim enough to fit and some that aren’t, so if you lose the cable, you may or may not have one sitting around in a drawer that fits.

Latency surprisingly isn’t that bad! It’s enough you probably aren’t going to want to play a gig on this, but with the clicky keys you aren’t going to do that anyway. It certainly seems fine for composition and inputting.

Now on to Windows setup, which is a bit frustrating. The only way I could get it to work was by downloading a free program called MIDIberry from the Windows app store. Once you’ve established the Bluetooth connection with Windows, you’ll then see the port Xkey Air 37 BLE appear in MIDIberry:

MIDIberry unfortunately seems to only have one Out, so I then send it to Bome MIDI Translator, which then routes the signal to multiple MIDI ports at once. If you don’t need that, you could probably just route it from MIDIberry to Dorico, but I need to send a signal to Dorico, my VSL Piano, and sometimes a Virtual MIDI Keyboard too all simultaneously. If you just need to create additional MIDI ports, LoopMIDI is free and easy to use for that. With the CME going wirelessly in to MIDIberry, then out to Bome, my Bome setup then routes the signals like this:

It would be great to skip the MIDIberry step, but if I do then Bome can’t find the incoming Bluetooth signal. In any case, if you want to use one of the CME Xkey Air keyboards with Windows, I think you should probably plan on using MIDIberry as a step in the signal chain too, otherwise I couldn’t figure out how to get Windows to recognize the Bluetooth MIDI signal.