Keith McMillen QuNexus Review Portable MIDI Keyboard & Controller

Hi everyone, today we will be looking at an exceptionally smart and tough* MIDI keyboard and a controller by Keith McMillen, QuNexus!

As I promised to release this review in one of my best performing reviews, The Ultimate Comparison of Best MIDI Controllers Review 2019, here is my review of QuNexus by one of the most progressive and innovative companies, Keith McMillen Instruments!

Keith McMillen is not only a brand name but the real name of an extremely innovative musical instruments designer. He has been designing groundbreaking musical instruments for about 40 years now.

Keith has designed the electric violins and Mirror 6 MIDI Guitars (Zeta Music), programmable audio mixers (AKAI MPX820 & MB76), SoftStep 3D MIDI foot controller, K-Bow Bluetooth sensor bow, QuNeo 3D pad controller, K-Board and QuNexus MIDI controllers keyboards so far.

*If you want to check out some of my short video demos featuring Keith McMillen QuNexus used in different purposes such as finger drumming and triggering various software synths, please click here, and see all videos tagged with it in a single view.

I was lucky enough to have bought the last QuNexus in official Turkish distributor’s stocks and have been using it from time to time since then.

I must say even though I have bought and sold so many musical instruments, audio equipment and gear in the last 20 years, my QuNexus is still with me and even relocated to different cities and countries with me 🙂 (sending greetings to you from Bratislava!)

Keith McMillen QuNexus in Bratislava
QuNexus in Bratislava 🙂

Keith McMillen QuNexus has been designed to control not only your software synths but also send CV (Control Voltage) which is an analogue way of controlling synths, drum machine or sequencers.

*In order to use this feature, you will also need to buy a Keith McMillen CV Cable Kit.

QuNexus is beautifully designed with 25 touch-sensitive keys that can sense finger pressure, velocity and tilt action. Your natural notes are coloured with white LEDs while the accidental notes with blue ones. These LEDs come with 16 levels of brightness which provide real-time feedback to your musical expressions.

Right out of the box, you will have your QuNexus and your USB (A to Micro cable, 1 meter) cable.

These are all you need to get started! Since QuNexus is a class-compliant USB device, you don’t have to search for drives or any additional software to get started.

Just plug your device and you are ready to go in a matter of seconds!

I have also made a quick demo of my QuNexus and wanted to share it with you here.

Let’s quickly go through the technical specifications of QuNexus then I will be explaining the most important features that it offers.

Tech Specs

Keys25 Touch Sensitive
Dimensions (mm)325 x 84 x 11
Dimensions (inch)12.8 x 3.3 x 0.43
Weight345 g / 0.76 lb
ConnectionsUSB (MIDI)
Gate-CV1 OUT
CV 2-3
MIDI Expander
Pedal / CV 1-2 In
CableUSB A-to-Micro (included)
Power RequirementUSB Powered

Connection Options

There are a couple of different connection options QuNexus offers.

Connect QuNexus to your computer

With a supplied USB A-to-Micro cable, you can directly connect your QuNexus to your computer without having to install drivers or any additional software. QuNexus will be powered via your USB port.

Connect QuNexus to your iPad

In order to connect your QuNexus to your Apple iPad, you need to get yourself an iPad camera connection kit.

Connect QuNexus to MIDI Hardware (Powered by MIDI Expander)

If you prefer connecting your QuNexus to a hardware MIDI device, you need to purchase Keith McMillen MIDI Expander, then follow the steps here.

Connect QuNexus Mini port (Labelled as MIDI Expander) to USB ‘Expand’ port on your MIDI Expander by using a USB A-to-Mini cable.
Connect the power supply to the MIDI Expander USB ‘Power‘ port.
Finally, connect the MIDI Out on the MIDI Expander to the MIDI IN on a synth or other MIDI devices you would like to use.

Connect QuNexus to MIDI Hardware (Powered by your computer)

You can also use a similar approach and connect your QuNexus to a MIDI hardware by powering it via your computer. You will also need to get yourself the MIDI Expander.

Connect QuNexus Mini port (Labelled as MIDI Expander) to USB ‘Expand’ port on your MIDI Expander by using a USB A-to-Mini cable.
Connect your QuNexus micro port to your computer by using a USB A-to-Micro cable.
Finally, connect the MIDI Out on the MIDI Expander to the MIDI IN on a synth or other MIDI devices you would like to use.

Connect QuNexus to Synths or other CV devices

There are 3 ways to connect your QuNexus to Synths or CV devices. I will be mentioning just the first basic one as this topic is pretty broad.

Connect your QuNexus micro port to a USB port either on your computer or on your iPad which will provide power with QuNexus.
Use a cable which is compatible with your CV device ports and make sure one end can plug into one the stereo 1/8″ IN on CV outs on QuNexus.

If you want to get more details about alternative CV connections, I highly suggest you check out the official QuNexus manual which has plenty of detail for all your questions.

Keys

QuNexus features 25 touch-sensitive keys that can react to velocity, pressure and tilt actions.

The Tilt feature is purely based on Keith McMillen Instrument‘s Smart Sensor technology and provide extreme levels of sensitivity to your finger pressure.

Also, with the provided QuNexus editoryou can freely assign any MIDI CC to velocity, pressure or tilt attributes.

There’s also a “Bend” button on the left-hand side to use for pitch bending purposes. Note that you can also adjust the range of this button within the editor.

Keyboard and piano players might find QuNexus‘s keys a bit difficult to adapt as they have been already spending their time on regular-sized keys on their instruments.

However, I’m pretty sure that after getting used to it, they will be even able to perform songs on this ultra-mini controller.

Keith McMillen QuNexus Top View
It’s just as wide as your standard laptop width!

As far as non-keyboard/piano players (just like me!), I must say it’s quite fun to discover keyboard/piano layout on a tiny space.

The reason I went for QuNexus is that the unique features it offers such as being able to control almost anything while having an ultra-portable, durable and expressive controller in my hands. But to be honest, the first reason was to be able to trigger drum patterns with my fingers, not with my mouse clicks!

I mean, who would prefer using their mouse clicks to lay down patterns when you can just do it with an added human touch to it?
Here’s an example work that I made by using my QuNexus and XLN Addictive Drums VSTi.
In this video, I played the drum partitions of a song called “Dünya” by Yavuz Çetin (RIP) & Erkan Oğur.

Control Keys on the Left Panel

There are 6 other buttons on the left panel of QuNexus. Your classic octave up and down arrows (also can be used as cursors in Live Edit mode), 4 preset buttons (also function as ON/OFF  for Toggle, Velocity, Tilt and Pressure attributes) and bend button which you can use for bending pitches.

When you activate the “Toggle” function, you can just press a key and it will hold the note forever until you press it again. I’m sure there are millions of ways to use this function in a creative approach. However, I just want to show you how I used it in the most spoiled way in the below video. 😀

I needed to have a drone sound to back up my fretless guitar attempt, so just set a synth tone with reFX Nexus, activated “Toggle” and hit a note!

You can also use this function to build chords or using as an ON/OFF function to turn on FX channels and tracks.

Preset Keys

QuNexus features 4 pre-made presets which you can fine-tune, edit and change within the QuNexus editor.

Preset A (Basic): Pressure is turned off, Tilt is active for a conventional keyboard playing style.

Preset B (Press + Tilt): Pressure is set to modulation, Tilt is set to pitch bend. Prepared for more exciting and expressive playing experience.

Preset C (Poly Pitch Bend): This preset allows outputting each key’s message on its own MIDI channel (Channel rotation). You can also think this preset as having 10 pitch-bend wheels for your 10 fingertips.

Preset D (Drums & Clips): Lastly, this preset is designed for triggering drums and clips when particular VSTis or software are mapped to general MIDI standard.

QuNexus Editor

QuNexus Editor is a free piece of software that Keith McMillen offers on their website. It works on Windows and Mac operating systems and offers way more features and customizations to your QuNexus than it looks!

Keith McMillen QuNexus Editor
QuNexus Editor offers extreme customization for your QuNexus!

As you can see, you have 3 tabs as Keyboard, Controller and CV (Layers). On the top right, you can adjust global sensitivity to control Gain, On and Off Threshold, Tilt sensitivity for the keys.

On the right-hand side, you have your controls for saving and recalling presets. Under “Keyboard” tab, you can basically edit the behaviour of the keyboard. “Controller” tab allows you to assign additional notes, Tilt CCs and Pressure settings for individual keys. Lastly, you have your “CV” tab where you can edit the CV input and output!

To be honest, the QuNexus editor allows you to customize your QuNexus in the most extreme ways possible! It’s not really feasible to feature every single fine-tuning you can do here in this review as it would turn it into a complete manual!

I have to repeat that again, please have a look at the official manual and see how much deep dive into your controller via this simple editor.

Conclusion

Providing unique features, extreme customization options while being the toughest yet ultra mini controller, Keith McMillen QuNexus definitely stand out among its competitors.

As I have mentioned in my review here, the main reason for me to buy a controller was to be able to trigger VSTi drums. However, the sensation of being ready for most musical scenarios and being able to control almost everything with this tiny device was also very tempting for me.

To be honest, I don’t use all the features that it offers in my musical work. But still, I know 100% for sure that I will be able to do whatever I request not only in the digital domain but also in the hardware synths world is really cool!

I’m not affiliated with Keith McMillen but just a big fan of their approach and innovative thinking.

Just a quick reminder to you folks, this device is not a recently released product! It first appeared around 2013 🙂 Still compatible, still durable and seems like it’s going to stay with me for many years.

On the other hand, here is an honest remark for you; it’s a bit more pricey than its competitor brands. So for people like me who would just use basic functions and features, this might turn off some of the potential buyers when you can get a simpler controller for much cheaper prices.

Another thing I need to mention is that the “Bend” button is not that expressive for me. Not really sure if it’s me who has messed up the settings, but even after I had expanded the range of it via QuNexus editor, it still felt a bit narrow in terms of range.

You can always refer back to my The Ultimate Comparison of Best MIDI Controllers Review 2019” review to see many more alternative brands and models in the same product segment.

As I always say, it’s up to you what to choose. But I can honestly tell you that it’s worth every penny in my opinion.

*Did I mention it’s a real “tough” controller?

Anyways, thanks for reading so far and I hope it’s been a helpful, honest, and fun piece of review for you! Don’t forget to subscribe via below form and get notified with my new releases. Take care and stay musical! 🙂

Osman

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