Sonic LAB: M-Audio Oxygen Controllers 3rd Gen

We test the 49 key      11/02/10

No flash plug

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10:1 mins

The Oxygens are probably some of the oldest MIDI controllers - going way back to MidiMan days with the original Oxygen8 - I know, I've got one, though I confess,  the years have not been kind to it. So after all these years, you'd expect the  latest Oxygen range - 3rd Generation to have it pretty much spot on right?


We have the Oxygen 49 (V3), 49 keys, pitch and mod wheels, footpedal,  9 faders, 9 buttons, 8 knobs and transport control. This Oxygen is completely USB bus powered, no batteries or external power supply required. In fact, there are no MIDI I/O connections either, which may put off some live performers. The build quality is something of note, it being an overall improvement over previous Oxygens with positive and rubbery controls and a reasonable keybed too.

Nine user memories allow you to store your chosen configurations, the by now familiar, but no less fiddly to use, parameter select system:  using labelled keyboard keys and data entry either again by keys (0-9) or inc/dec buttons to edit parameters means you will need to concentrate when configuring this device - M-Audio's Enigma editor is now discontinued and there is no current editor available - grrr!

Theres another big difference in the inclusion of DirectLink (Prog 10) a sort of HyperControl Lite - supported DAWs are treated to  transport, 8 fader and mute/solo mixer control, with knobs controlling Pan, and also for supported DAWs,  plug-in control. ProTools (8.0.1 up) comes gets a little extra love (no surprise) with the loop button going into plug-in mode - the 8 knobs now control the selected plug-in, though beware, there's no status indicator for this, so its easy to wiggle away before you realise you've just messed up your pan settings rather than tweaked your plugin.
However, for my money the Ableton Live (8.0.9 up) integration is probably the most usable: the REW/FFW keys selecting scenes,  hitting loop cues it up to play at the next bar boundary, play just fires it in there or retriggers.
 The knobs just map to the currently selected device on your selected track - in practice this is actually pretty cool. The dedicated Track select keys scroll through the selected mixer object in all DAWs, when you reach object nine  the faders map to the next 8. Fader 9 will always map to the right most master output - a nice touch.  Of the DAWs I checked this with Logic Studio came off worse, with no device control whatsoever, but you do get the fader,pan,  mute/solo and transport control just fine.


Other supported packages are: Cubase, Reason and GarageBand.
However, if yours isn't there, most will just learn from whatever the Oxygen is outputting so you will get something going.


In use, I found that the Oxygen was certainly playable, with good positive action to the controls, DirectLink worked well in most instances, certainly the extra control offered in Tools and Live were highlights.


When you consider the price this range is at - for once, us Brits appear to get a good deal, M-Audio have done a great job of getting their quality vs features vs price  sums spot on. I'd be happy to recommend these keyboards to anyone looking for a low cost controller, although the lack of  MIDI I/O might put off those not keen on stringing long USB cables across the stage, for studio or home use these will fit right in.
Oxygen 25
RRP £73 / $149.95

Oxygen 49
RRP £92 / $189.95
Oxygen 61
RRP £121 / $249.95


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