In this article I will be discussing the pros and cons with the i2-Control-25.
Tickling your fingers
What I enjoyed about the i2-Control-25 was mainly the feeling of playing it. This was my very first USB MIDI keyboard. So even as a beginner it felt right while playing it. It has 8 MIDI compatible knobs a very heavy modulation and pitch wheel. As always plug’n play and you’re good to go. The red display shows you value, you might’ve programmed for other things than playing it normally. I never really got into that, so I don’t have many clues regarding that topic. I’ve had my share of many different keyboards. The feeling of playing the i2 is to this day 10 years later unreachable. What I see in many keyboards that stay on the outside without any lid or protection is that they’re turning darkish yellow. Doesn’t matter if you’re a smoker or not. I suppose the PVC keys just discolor after some years of heavy use or non-use. Some people might not like it and clean and scrub all the yellow-brownish discoloring away, but you gotta focus on the main fact that this won’t mean that your MIDI keyboard is broken now or anything. It still functions perfectly. Just a little discolored.
Getting into software MIDI faders
I made by accident a good choice. Not only does it have its 8 faders, it was also very cheap at the time. I paid 80,00,-€ for it. Now you can’t buy it anywhere anymore. It has somewhat 2 successors though.
#1 Is the miditech – midistart music 25 – You can get this one for around 50,00,-€.
#2 Is the miditech – I² Control-37 – You can get this one for around 60,00,-€.
As you can see my modell is totally outdated and not even available for the market anymore, and yet it still functions correctly to this very day. You can get twice updated hardware for half the price 10 years later. That is the mark you have to keep in front of your eyes in regard to changes and trends in the hardware world. Keyboards get cheaper and better day by day. Anyway, let’s get back to the topic here. I produced some Acid House tracks along the line and some other experimental stuff. When you want a reverb or a delay or even a distortion effect to be activated at 100% in one second at a 0% in another one, you wanna turn these knobs around manually with your keyboard MIDI knobs or an external knob-fader-USB-connection or you wanna do it by mouse. You can always use the cheapest method: mouse. But you’ll get an indescribable feeling when activating and deactivating these effects or equalizers for yourself in real time. It definitely has a more natural feel to it, as you will see.
Fundamental for live performances
The goal for live performances is to travel fast and light with good and complex gear at any time while staying robust when you perform live. I didn’t travel a lot around with the I², but I know that 10 – 20 years before these keyboards were on the market, you needed a big bunch of heavily trained roadies that followed you at all time to build up a gear. Nowadays you and you only are the boss for moving that stuff. A laptop with the proper software and this MIDI USB keyboard and you’re on your way. No heavy suitcase, just a simple traveling back. I suppose like many other MIDI keyboard companies they offer you a bag for 50,00,-€ or even a 100,00,-€, but why would you spent 50,00,-€ for a bag that is just for the MERE transportation for your 50,00,-€ MIDI keyboard? Sometimes these companies make a lot of money by selling you supply that you won’t need. Why not a cheap felt bag? As long as you don’t throw the keyboard around or spill a couple of drinks on it on one night, everything should be working out just fine. In theory, you can get yourself a big backpack and put in your laptop with the keyboard and maybe an audio interface and you’re fully equipped for long travels or you can use the stuff in a train or on a plane. Some of the best ideas sprouted when people were crammed in very tiny parcels for their feet and knees. Consider situations like these for moments of inspiration.
A big minus in my opinion…
is the pitch button since you’re only in ownership of a 25-keys keyboard. My tracks cover very deep notes and very high notes. I mentioned this before in my M-AUDIO 88es Keystation review. Personal preference needs to be your focus. I’ve never performed live so far. I’m a couch potato and I like my standardized places for my musical hardware. So why would I bother with only 25 keys when I don’t travel and stay at home a lot? The only argument that comes to my mind, is a small apartment. If you live in a small flat the I² Control-25 needs to be your choice. The M-AUDIO 88 is bulky, but I need the keys. You might consider if you have friends that have various sizes of MIDI keyboards maybe. You might trade between big keyboards and small keyboards. In the end I mainly use it for its knobs. Live performances are still beautiful with it to this day. But you also gotta align the knobs yourself. There aren’t any simple patches out there for stuff like this. I don’t know of any, so you might want to correct me on that one. Let’s say you have 15 songs and every song uses all 8 knobs. This makes 120x knobs alignment. We’re talking here about 60 minutes of knobs alignment. 2 knobs per minute. And that is the best case if you’re 2000% certain & correct at all the time, which is highly unprobable. If you open up one of the 15 songs without connecting the keyboard first, you might want to align again. At that point you’re to frustrated to work any further. You’re out of your zone and out of your flow.
So this concludes to what exactly Merlin…?
In the end we got:
– Easy to play / great feeling and touch
– Great for traveling
– Use 4 or 5 knobs in every few songs or so. Not in every song, or you might wanna give up the music business completely.
I give this one a 7/10. A true companion that I hope I’ll still be able to use in the future.