Cre8audio NiftyKEYZ review: Flexible modular keyboard makes a loud entry into Eurorack market
This thoroughly capable modular case has enough connectivity and features to get modular heads turning.
⊕ Handy features that would otherwise require more modules
⊕ High-quality 49-key keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
⊕ Monophonic, polyphonic and split modes
⊕ Sturdy, well-built housing with stylish wooden sides
⊖ Eurorack space isn’t 128 HP
⊖ Pitch and modulation wheels are inconveniently above the keyboard
⊖ Lacking visual feedback for various modes
Modular synth enthusiasts will likely remember buying their first module. That inaugural gizmo probably sent them scouring Eurorack forums and planning their ultimate case using virtual modular platform ModularGrid. Now, Nevada-headquartered Cre8audio has made rack-building and planning even easier, by combining discovery with budgeting. The Cre8audio NiftyKEYZ has entered the Eurorack chat – and it has a lot to say for itself.
The NiftyKEYZ is a sleek and sturdy metal Eurorack enclosure with a 49-key velocity-sensitive keyboard with aftertouch, plus some valuable digital enhancements. The wooden sides are a tasteful, retro addition to the slate-grey finish. The unit is fairly large, so it’ll need a dedicated space in the studio – portable this is not. This is a minor setback. There isn’t a lot of space for 112 HP Eurorack modules but plan in advance and you can get ample synth voices into the enclosure.
Fortunately, modern Eurorack modules seem to be shrinking in size, so the space may be adequate for your collection. We added a few of our trusty modules into the case by connecting them to the internal power ribbon cable, whose 15 slots can deliver 12V and 5V power to modules. The case is 13cm deep – it’s worth checking the dimensions of new modules before adding them to the case. The power switch and slot for the power adapter are on the rear of the unit, along with MIDI ports, USB connection and audio and headphone outputs.
The NiftyKEYZ can play up to four voices simultaneously using the CV connections. There are additional multiples, and CV clock and mixer output patching slots to increase the signal and routing capability.
Cre8audio makes the case even more brilliant with the addition of its digital features. The arpeggiator and 32-step sequencer are simple to use and extremely accessible. The voice modes and key split are also influenced by the arpeggiator so, for example, you can play an arp on one half of the keyboard and play notes or chords on the other.
The modulation wheel doubles as an LFO, with glide, transpose and pitch bend completing the feature set, making this Eurorack case feel much more flexible than many alternatives. One disadvantage, though, is that many functions can only be accessed via the keyboard. Even though there’s a handy cheat sheet that fits conveniently under the length of the case, there is little visual feedback to tell you which functions are on or off.
The NiftyKEYZ is fairly priced but may still seem like a serious investment, given that you’ll still have to purchase more modules to generate sound. Apart from its lack of visual feedback, we’re seriously impressed with the case. It’s superb for beginners but also valuable to Eurorack aficionados wanting to expand their current Eurorack system and enjoy a more playable patching experience.
- 49-key synth-action keyboard with aftertouch
- CV clock (internal/external and clock divider)
- MIDI to CV conversion
- Transpose, glide and swing
- USB MIDI class compliant
- Auto-chord function
- CV outputs for aftertouch
- 2 buffered multiples
- Headphone output with 6.3 mm headphone jack
- Dimensions: 700 x 360 x 130 mm
- Weight: 6.7 kg
- Contact Cre8audio
- Buy: Gear4music, dv247
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