The Donner DMK-25 Pro is an all-in-one mini-sized MIDI controller with all manner of keys, knobs, sliders, and even some pads to lay down some sick beats on. It costs $110-$200 depending on where you get it, and is the follow-up to the successful DMK-25 non-Pro version. Is this the perfect compact keyboard and multifunction mini MIDI controller for you, whether you’re a complete beginner like me, or even a seasoned pro? let’s find out.
Donner DMK-25 Pro Design
The DMK-25 Pro is completely black, very sleek and very compact. The keys feel nice, but fitting 25 of them into such a compact device means they’re smaller than average. If you have large fingers, you may struggle with any compact MIDI controller, and this one is no different. In that case, you should consider the Donner Starriki model instead, which has full-size keys and otherwise shares many of the DMK-25 Pro’s features (minus the sliders).
In terms of actual size, the DMK-25 Pro is actually very compact: 337mm wide x 183mm deep x 26mm tall (13.2 x 7.2 x 1 in), and weighs 680g (24 oz) due to its entirely plastic design. However, despite the light weight, it does not move around in use. The rubber feet are secure enough for you to bump it off the pad without worry.
Several elements around the controller light up, although this unfortunately does not extend to the keys. The LED color of the various mode keys indicates which of the three key/pad/slider banks is currently active.
Overall, the aesthetics are nice, and the DMK-25 Pro will be a sleek piece of kit to have in your home studio.
Keys, Knobs, Sliders & Pads
So, what MIDI functions can you find on the Donner DMK-25 Pro? Rather a lot, actually.
The most obvious feature is the 25 velocity-sensitive keyboard keys. They’re reasonably deep considering the size of the unit, though again, not as deep as something like the Starrykey or an actual piano. They felt nice, but a little on the soft side for my liking (not that I’m even remotely an expert when it comes to playing the piano, but only in comparison to other keyboards).
Then you have eight velocity-sensitive pads, which light up when hit. You can swap between the three arrays of samples via the pad bank button, and all the pads will change from red to blue, then green, to indicate which bank you’re currently using. You can also adjust the velocity curve for both the pad and the keys.
As someone who has owned an electronic drum kit, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a lot of cheating, making it all too easy to tap out a pleasing beat.
Of course, pads aren’t just for drums; They can also be used for chords, scales or to trigger samples of your choice. While these eight pads are supported by Melodix for learning to play directly, once you move to a professional DAW, you’re left on your own.
You’ll find a full set of transport buttons under the pad, which will generally be supported out of the box by most DAWs. Not by GarageBand though, as I found out.
On the far left are the touch-based pitch and modulation bend controls. Typically, these feature some white LED arrays next to them to give instant visual feedback.
The most useful user interface feature is the small OLED display, which is located to the left of the sliders. This allows you to navigate system menus or operating modes, as well as instant feedback about the exact MIDI note being sent and the velocity. Below this are a set of configuration buttons for things like transpose or changing the octave.
They are also used to start the built-in chord mode and arpeggiator. It’s great to have dedicated buttons rather than obscure key presses, and where combination key presses are used (such as choosing the type of arpeggiator or setting the tempo), you’ll find that the relevant keys are labelled.
Finally, at the top right, you have four customizable sliders and four customizable endless control dials. Again, these also have three different banks, so you can tap the S-Bank button to change between them. In this case, only the S-Bank key changes color; The sliders and dials themselves are not illuminated.
The sliders are the only disappointing hardware element of the package: they’re functional but somewhat plasticy-feeling, and the slider mechanisms aren’t always consistent, occasionally losing friction on the bottom slide.