The CME Xkey Air comes in two flavors, 25 keys and 37 keys. Both are wireless Bluetooth 4 midi controllers with low latency.
The build is consistent across the board with all CME XKey keyboard controllers. CME XKey Air is no exception. As CME describes XKey Air’s build quality, it’s “Robust, high quality construction. Looks great. Same finish as a MacBook.” I totally agree. It is nicely put together. The design aesthetics are top notch. CME XKey definitely lives well and sits pretty with my Apple wireless keyboard and touch pad. Looks like they were all made for one another.
The keybed boasts “real size” velocity sensitive keys with polyphonic after touch. This means that the XKey Air is mad expressive.
To the left side there are buttons for the typical controls (i.e. Octave Change, Pitch Bend, Modulation, and Sustain.)
For customization of the controller there is a free app, Xkey Plus. Speaking of apps, XKey Air is compatible with a gang of dope synth apps for iOS. It pairs well with an iPad too.
Being a wireless Bluetooth keyboard controller the CME XKey Air is “Powered by a lithium battery.” I should add that I’ve used XKey for hours and days even with out charging it. Even with the battery inside it remains light and ultra portable. It’s said to be a 10 hour battery as a matter of note.
As for latency, I cant say I noticed much difference from other keyboard controllers. Obviously, it all depends on a number of factors like computer specs, application, ios device etc. In my case, I was able to wirelessly control and play my modular synth. Having my modular synth rig set up to interface with my computer and pairing the XKey Air to my computer made this possible. At that point it was no different that using any other controller. You can see this demonstrated briefly in the review video below.
However, as you can see in the low latency chart from the CME website, XKey Air fairs better via Bluetooth. Still, I don’t know that I could tell the difference at all.
As an answer to the concerns surrounding the practicality and latency of using a Bluetooth keyboard controller, such as the XKey Air, CME makes the WiDi Bud. As described by CME, “WIDI BUD will pair your USB-enabled device with the XKey Air so you can use the keyboard with your existing MIDI apps. Wirelessly!” WiDi Bud is compatible with USB 2 up through USB 4. It is made with “Special ‘minimized latency’ Bluetooth technology” to “eliminates time lag.”
In conclusion, I don’t think its a secret that I’ve been a fan of this product line from day one. With it’s latest addition of Bluetooth technology support, I’m excited to see it all come together. However, if you happen to have trouble pairing it to your mac via Bluetooth you may want to watch this video. That was the one draw back that I found. It doesnt pair in the same way as any other blue tooth device. It requires you to go into the MIDI set up on your mac. I’m not sure how that all shakes out on a PC. Still, all in all, the video was quick and easy so I was able to move onto making music with the XKey Air.
I love the XKey Air. There is nothing more immediate, sleek and portable around in terms of keyboard controllers. For $99, I think its a great value for those of us who are space challenged and/or always on the go.