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21 September 2020

The Reaper’s Keys – a review of the P.I. Engineering Xkeys XK80)

It’s time for my Xkeys XK80 review!

So for those of you who have worked with me or read my previous post will know that I’m a big fan of xkeys products.

I have 2 XK24s and one XK16 and now I have purchased an XK80.

In terms of awesomeness it’s just as good as the others, only with loads more keys! Still just as robust, a great feel and having leds is always a bonus 😉

Before I get into my reasons for buying the XK80 I’d just like to make a shout out to the fantastic team at Keyboard Specialists in the UK.
They really are a pleasure to deal with.

If you are in the US you can go here

So with 2 XK24s and an XK16, why have I bought an 80 key one ?

Well I have recently ditched Cubase (after being a fan boy for 17 years) and moved over to Reaper. This will be the subject of another series of posts but for now let’s just say that you get to a point where a showstopping bug…well, stops the show. And when the Directors of the show don’t seem interested in fixing the bug….

Anywho, back to the XK80. I soon discovered that Reaper is incredibly flexible but that flexibility comes at a price. To get the most out of it you need to assign and learn lots of key commands. As I mentioned in my other article (here), I’m no longer interested in doing finger gymnastics and / or trying to remember whether it’s “control alt shift x” or just “control shift x”. The XK24 is great but I needed more buttons. You can never have enough!

So here’s where I’m at at the moment with the XK80, I’m still only just over half way through. I’m living with these for a while to make sure they’re all necessary before I add some more.

I know many people these days are using touchscreens (ipads etc) for these sort of duties but I really prefer the xkeys. For a start there’s the tactile element. When you press a key on the xkeys you know what you’ve pressed. It feels solid. With a touchscreen there’s no “give” …it just doesn’t feel nice. I’ve also seen people using things like the novation launch pad but there’s no way of labelling them (although I did see someone with post it notes all over the keys).

I previously used just simple text for my legending but this time I’ve gone with some icons that help my memory and make things look better.

I love the programming facilities on the Xkeys. For example. I have a macro set up for Reaper that puts a marker in at 60 seconds to help with edits.

Firstly I created a custom action to move the edit cursor to 60 seconds and insert a marker. At this point however, I would be required to enter the name of my marker (“60 s” for example) press “enter” and then navigate the edit cursor to wherever I needed to be.

Using the xkeys, I trigger the action (in this case “shift P”) then, as you can see from the entry marked in red below, I can enter “60s” and then “enter” and then trigger another action to take the edit cursor back to 60 seconds. All with one keystroke!

Here it is in action:

So. The Xkeys 80. Another excellent item from the range by P.I. Engineering. There is a 128 key version- I wonder how long before I purchase that?


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