Sound — 7
I was surprised at the quality of the sounds of synthesized instruments available. I found many usable tones/instruments and started immediately finding ways to use this in my own recording projects. I was especially impressed with some of the Asian stringed instruments, the satyrs and orchestral instruments. It is easy to move between instruments in SampleTank and Sonik Synth 2. I recorded into Reaper on my PC and it was a breeze to go in and add some extra flavor to what I was already working on. Personally, I'm limited by my limited ability with a keyboard, but I've found myself picking it up due to the portability and ease of hookup available on this instrument. It really sounds phenomenal for what it is.
Overall Impression — 9
I'm primarily a guitarist, but I'm also not easy to get along with and I like to make music so I find myself having to do everything myself so in other words I haven't found a keyboardist willing to work with me. The iRig Keys has opened me up to a lot of music that has been out of my reach previously. It has given me a tool to add a lot of ambient synth stuff to some of the sludgier slower heavy stuff I work on. It let me add some brass instruments to a kind of old school soul song I have been working on with my wife doing vocals. It really has absolutely been worth the price. I imagine that someone who is actually a keyboardist, this would still be a valuable piece of gear for its portability, and for others it is valuable for its portability, affordability, compact size, and plug and play ease of use. When I'm not using it, I just store it on my bookshelf or put it on top of my computer tower.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I've had a lot of experience with IK Multimedia products lately, and what I've learned is that they have found the sweet spot in affordability and quality. The iRig Keys should last indefinitely with normal usage, but you know, you don't want to throw it at your walls or anything. It would survive most accidental falls it might experience in the normal course of usage. Since I've had it I haven't experienced any problems, but it really hasn't been on the market long enough to judge its overall reliability, but based off of other IK Multimedia products I would have to say it looks like it will be good to go!
Ease of Use — 9
I have been using the iRig Keys with SampleTank for my iPhone almost exclusively, and just a little bit with Sonik Synth 2 with PC. The iRig Keys really is plug and play and immediately I was exploring the different sounds possible and the different instruments available. I became most comfortable with SampleTank, which is $9.99 at the app store and includes 136 instruments, but there is also SampleTank Free which includes 20 instruments. The iRig Keys has 37 velocity sensitive mini keys, controls to move up or down octaves, a pitch and mod wheel, a hookup for a sustain pedal, as well as some buttons to scroll through presets. It is very light, very easy to use, and the perfect solution for someone wanting to get into the world of USB/MIDI controller keyboards or for musicians who needs a controller to add textures or additional instrumentation to what they are already doing with other instruments. There is a cable included for the iPhone or iPad and another to connect to USB.