If you're a music producer or a creative type that uses a computer, chances are that, at some point, you've seen a specialty keyboard designed specifically for your program of choice. Or, maybe you've seen a rubber overlay with all the shortcuts printed on it. While they may look seemingly chaotic at first, upon closer examination, you'll find that they are actually extremely useful, and can speed up your workflow tremendously. Such is the case for the company Logickeyboard's latest Astra series of USB keyboards. After seeing them at this past NAMM, I was super intrigued to see just how beneficial something like this was in comparison to a standard keyboard. After spending some time with one designed for Ableton, it's safe to say I've come to my conclusion. In this review, we'll be taking a look at this keyboard's functionality, build, and overall experience.
What is it?
The Astra series of keyboards from Logickeyboard (not to be confused with the DAW), are a line of specialty keyboards designed for making your creative working experience both extremely streamlined and enjoyable. The Astra line features specialty keyboards for many different programs like Ableton, Logic, Protools, Photoshop, Maya 3D, and many others.
Obviously, the main feature of the Astra series is the specific program print for whatever program you're using, but there are plenty of other great features as well. The Astra series features a rugged build quality in a sleek black frame and is backlit for those late-night sessions. It also has two USB ports on the back for plugging in dongles and such, adding more convenience to your workflow. The Astra series also comes in both MAC and Windows versions. The keyboards are plug and play, so no need for drivers or installation.
Admittedly, I've longed for a keyboard made for Ableton. There are other alternatives out there, and I even tried a rubber skin once, but that wasn't the greatest. LogicKeyboard is like night and day. Even compared to my standard Mac keyboard, the overall feel of the Astra series is excellent. It takes a bit to get used to the bright and colorful keys, but after a few days, it feels normal. The actual feel of the keyboard is nice. The keys are clicky and don't feel cheap. Not as much as a mechanical keyboard, but much better than the Apple one. It feels like it can take a proper beating. Everything is easy to read and the function key adds some extra juice.
The best part about using a keyboard like this is that you learn so many key commands and shortcuts you had no idea about. For instance, I learned that pressing shift and the space bar paused the track and allowed you to play right where you stopped, instead of going back to where your play head is. There are a lot of different commands in Ableton, some being very similar but with extra steps. What LogicKeyboard has done to assist with this was add color coding to the commands so that you know exactly what needs to be pressed. An easy example would be "save" vs "save as".
On the S key, you will see two rows of colored dots that correspond with different keys. The top one is a single pink dot, which means you need to press the command key that is also colored pink. Below "save", you'll see "save as", which has a pink and purple dot, which means you not only need press the command key, but also the shift key which is colored purple. This is a total gamechanger and lifesaver if you're just learning a DAW. If you're well versed in your workstation, these help you save even more time when working. Another great feature is that they've also included a piano roll to the keys so that if all you have is your LogicKeyboard, you'll know exactly what keys you're playing. It's the little things.
Overall, my experience with the LogicKeyboard Astra series was exactly what I was hoping for. Natural, easy, and insightful. Learning key commands I didn't even know has definitely improved my work environment, as I'm not trying to remember what I need to press to make something happen. I can confidently say that LogicKeyboard makes a product that everyone should use. I know with certainty that if I was to switch to a new DAW, the first thing I would grab is LogicKeyboard's keyboard for it.