Keyboards are getting to be a lot of fun, on the cheap.
The latest mini-keyboards from Alesis feature X-Y joysticks, audio I/O,
and the psuedo-photo-theremin Axys dome (wave your hands in the air
above the dome!). That I knew — but I hadn't checked prices to realize
how cheap these things are. Alesis appears to have the best 25-key

  • Alesis Photon 25 is a USB/MIDI controller with joystick and 12 knobs; street $130
  • Alesis Photon X25
    has the theremin-style controller dome, 12 360-degree knobs, 10
    buttons, full-size pitch and mod wheels (nice ones like the Ion's!),
    24-bit balanced stereo audio I/O; street $200
  • Both have 20 template presets for software and an LED display

360-degree knobs are perfect for working with software, and the 3D
domes are fun. (Note I say theremin-style as the Alesis domes are
IR-based; they're not
as sensitive as a true theremin but they're rugged and reliable.) Even
as an additional toy for your occasional mono synth lead, this is a
deal. The X25 in particular looks like a great upgrade from M-Audio's
Oxygen8 / Ozone.

Want a synth, too? Alesis' Micron is a mini 49-key version of Alesis' Ion analog synth, and it's just $400. (No 3D dome, though.)