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Review – KMI QuNexus Controller

October 22, 2013
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The QuNexus is a sturdy, yet lightweight controller that works with a DAW, external MIDI instruments, and analog synths with equal aplomb.

FOR A compact MIDI/CV controller, the Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI) QuNexus reaches for superlatives both in build quality and flexibility. Decidedly not your average mini-keyboard, the QuNexus integrates with more gear before 6 a.m. than most MIDI products do all day: It can plug into an Android tablet or iPad (via the Camera Connection Kit), play analog gear that responds to control voltages (CV), go straight into a computer, operate MIDI hardware through the KMI MIDI Expander ($49.95), or integrate all of the above into one setup.

Connectivity is provided by a USB connection for your computer, a port for the MIDI Expander, and three mini-jacks for gate and CV I/O (two CV inputs for an expression pedal, three CV outputs, and one gate output). Use your own cables or purchase the QuNexus CV Cable Kit ($29.95), which supplies everything you need to take full advantage of its analog control capabilities. The QuNexus can be powered using a USB bus or AC.
 
 
The QuNexus editor/librarian lets you determine the behavior of each key and offers a wealth of control options.

With KMI’s Smart Sensor technology, the 25 LED-backlit keys respond to Velocity, Pressure, and Tilt, the latter of which constitutes the forward and back movement of your finger on the key—imagine the action of a violinist’s fingers on the neck. Each of those three factors can be mapped to any MIDI CC, allowing for very expressive performances. If you need more control, the Bend button provides pitch-bend. The octave buttons give the keyboard a range of seven octaves.

Another unusual feature on the QuNexus is Channel Rotation, which cycles through MIDI channels for each key you press. The first key sends to Channel 1, the second to Channel 2, and so on up to 16 channels. When the keys are released, the cycle begins again. This lets you play different Pressure, Velocity, and Tilt levels for each note. You can set up multiple instances of an instrument reading different channels in your DAW, or use different patches for each channel.

While it is as sturdy as a controller made of metal, the QuNexus’ plastic case and silicone buttons add up to only 11.2 ounces in a footprint of 3.3" x 12.8". You’ll barely notice it in a backpack, and yet it is strong enough not to crack or break under significant pressure while traveling.

Editor and Templates As you would expect, you can edit, save, and load presets between the QuNexus and a computer using the QuNexus Editor software. The keyboard comes loaded with four presets, including one that incorporates Tilt and Channel Rotation.

Ableton Live 8 and Live 9 users will enjoy the special integration script that turns the QuNexus into a clip launching control surface. It efficiently lets you launch as many clips from as many tracks as you want. There is also a preset for Propellerhead Reason, which worked great in version 7, for playing notes from the upper octave while controlling different synth parameters from the lower octave, depending on the active instrument.

The Flat-Out Truth There are many compact MIDI keyboards out there, and the QuNexus sits atop the price range of that field for good reason: It not only integrates analog and MIDI hardware within a computer-based studio, it has unique features such as Tilt and Channel Rotation to set it apart. Its flexibility to support iOS, Android, Linux, and OSC, as well as its impressive durability, also contribute to its value as a controller. And with its application-specific presets, Live and Reason users have extra incentive to consider adding this little dynamo to their setup.

SUMMARY
STRENGTHS: Velocity, Pressure, and Tilt. Small and lightweight. Robust design. CV I/O. Integrates with Ableton Live and Propellerhead Reason.

LIMITATIONS: Pricey if all you need is a basic, compact keyboard. Button-keys feel strange compared to traditional keys.
$199.95 MSRP, $149 street
keithmcmillen.com
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