Read this Donner DMK 25 Pro review before you put ANY of your cash into this midi keyboard.
Well firstly, that ‘Pro’ badge can be quite deceiving.
See, as much as the DMK 25 Pro is a more capable version of the DMK 25 (on which it’s based), it’s actually its replacement; as of writing this blog, the regular DMK 25 has ceased production. So really, a name like the DMK 25 MK2 would be more fitting. But aside from that, this midi keyboard is unique to say the least.
Apart from boasting some features that no other midi keyboard is yet to have, there’s also a few less desirable things about this midi keyboard. All stuff you’d be wise to know, before setting your heart on this DMK Pro. So with that, is the Donner DMK 25 Pro worth it? Do all these changes add up? Or are these ‘Pro’ additions just a failed attempt to muscle a budget midi controller into the premium segment? Keep reading to find out.
After something specific about the Donner DMK 25 Pro? Or just curious how this midi keyboard compares to other 25 key midi controllers on the market? Use the menu below to get all the answers you need fast…
Donner DMK 25 Pro specs
Before pitting the DMK 25 Pro up against its most fierce rivals, it makes sense to wrap your head around the Donner DMK 25 Pro specs first. That way you’ll be able to understand what these ‘Pro’ upgrades are, as well as get a better idea of how it functions as a midi controller.
What’s more, it’ll mean you’ll be able to make a fair comparison + come to a firm conclusion about whether the Donner DMK 25 Pro is right for you. As much as we’d love for you to just take our word for it, no 2 producers make music in the same way or have the same studio setup, so really – it’s all on you! We can only give you our opinion.
So with that in mind, here’s an outline of the Donner DMK 25 Pro specs…
- Weight: 680g
- Dimensions: 337 x 183 x 26mm
- Sustain port for pedals: Yes
- Drivers needed: No
- The DMK 25 Pro comes with 25 semi-weighted keys, which are velocity sensitive & have a real nice feel to them. The keypress is intentional & there’s good travel with each key. Plus, they also have aftertouch too!!
- Buy a DMK 25 Pro & you get a high-def OLED screen, which can be used to monitor certain aspects of your DAW, as well as your options regarding pitch & mod. Useful if you’re fed up of glancing up & down at your computer screen. You can get a lot of info from this screen!!
- Unlike a lot of the midi controllers that came before, the DMK 25 Pro is USB-C compatible & can also be used in tandem with ios devices too, including iPads & iPhones.
- Donner have made sure that the DMK 25 Pro delivers when it comes to quick & easy control. Hook up this controller to your DAW, & the extensive transport controls (in tandem with the drum pads) give you a lot of options for navigating your DAW.
- The DMK 25 Pro also comes with 4 assignable faders that have a real good resistance to them, & can be assigned to control pretty much any parameter/ function that you wish. By the way, there’s also 3 sound banks for each fader!
- Get hands-on with the DMK 25 Pro & you cannot miss those 8 RGB backlit drum pads, that work super well for finger drumming. Plus, there’s also 3 built-in pad banks, so a whopping 24 sound slots on the pads alone!
- Beginners will be pleased to hear that the DMK 25 Pro also comes with a built-in arpeggiator, as well as scale mode with 16 different settings! Plus, there’s also a note repeat setting too. Great news if you’re hands aren’t the most composed when gliding over mini keys.
- Donner have fitted the DMK 25 Pro with a Midi Out port – a great piece of flexibility to have as it allows you to use the controller in tandem with other hardware, should you wish.
- A world first for any midi controller are the 4 assignable rollers that you find on the top left of the controller. Aside from being very hands-on, these rollers also come with 3 sound banks each. So that’s another 12 sound slots right there!
- The DMK 25 Pro uses 2 touch strips for pitch and modulation with a useful light guide along each edge, to help you visually understand how you’re adjusting each setting. What’s more, you can get even more accurate stats about your use of pitch & mod via the screen.
What’s the Donner DMK 25 Pro’s software bundle look like?
With the DMK 25 Pro you do get software included (already an improvement on the original DMK 25)!!
Buy a DMK 25 Pro and you get a bundle of Steinberg’s best DAWs thrown in for FREE. This includes: Cubase LE, WaveLab LE & Cubasis LE. And on top of that your also receive 40 free lessons and one beginner course with Melodics.
NOTE: One thing you need to know – in the box there is no code that enables you to redeem this software. To do so you have to visit this page & claim your free access code. From what we can assume, this will be by giving Donner your serial number.
Unboxing the DMK 25 Pro: what’s in the box?
What’s the difference between the Donner DMK 25 Pro and the DMK 25?
As you’d expect with this DMK 25 is the ‘Pro’, there are a fair few differences between this midi keyboard & it’s predecessor. However not all these changes are noticeable upon first glance. So question is, have Donner managed to muscle the DMK into the big leagues? Or is the ‘Pro’ nothing more than a quick cosmetic overhaul?
To help you track down the truth, here’s the original DKM 25 VS DMK 25 Pro…
Donner DMK 25 Pro: the good, the bad and the ugly
Okay, so now you have a solid understanding of the DMK 25 Pro, you’re probably curious as to its good and bad points – i.e. all things you’ll need to know if you’re to determine whether the DMK 25 Pro is the midi controller for you.
After all, a glut of features of one thing, but it’s how they impact your ability to produce music, that you really want to know. Because where’s the value in buying a pro-level midi controller, only to realise that half of the settings/ workflow doesn’t benefit you??
In which case, here’s a rundown of the good and bad points in relation to the DMK 25 Pro, as well as well as some ugly truths that you need to be aware of…
Pros of the DMK 25 Pro (AKA the good)
Cons of the DMK 25 Pro (AKA the bad)
How does the Donner DMK 25 Pro compare to other midi keyboards?
Hopefully by now you have a clear understanding of what makes the DMK 25 Pro so different in comparison to its predecessor. Plus how said differences serve as a benefit.
Although, aside from that, you also need to consider how it compares to the latest & greatest 25 key controllers on the market. Otherwise you may end up buying the DMK 25 Pro, only to realise that another controller may have been a better choice for your setup.
So with that in mind, here’s the DMK 25 Pro pitted up against its most fierce rivals…
Donner DMK 25 Pro VS Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
- Both have 25 velocity sensitive keys which are semi weighted. However those on the DMK 25 Pro do allow you to be more expressive & give your sound that bit more depth. Then again, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is 2 years older, so that’s hardly surprising.
- Buy either of these controller keyboards and you’ll get access to a built-in arp, various scale modes and a whole host of other features that’re beneficial if you’re a beginner.
- In terms of pitch & mod, both rely on touch strips. However with the DMK 25 Pro you do get the added bonus of the light scale + the fact you can monitor your adjustments via the screen.
- When it comes to finger drumming, the Launchkey Mini MK3 steals the show. In comparison to the 8 RGB pads you get on the DMK 25 Pro, the Launchkey gives you a whopping 16. Pads that just like with the DMK can be used to control various functions without your DAW.
- And on the subject of DAWs, the Launchkey is also the better of the two when it comes to integration. While the DMK 25 Pro does work with a whole host of mainstream DAWs, with the Launchkey there’s ready-made integration with Ableton Live, as well as Logic Pro. Something that makes the Novation that bit more ‘plug-in-&-play’.
- The DMK 25 Pro gives you access to those 4 assignable wheels, which is a level of control you don’t get with the Launchkey Mini.
- Another GIANT perk you miss out on with the Launchkey is that OLED screen. A major plus in the eyes of DMK 25 Pro, as it makes general usage & your overall workflow that bit smoother.
- If that’s not enough, with the DMK 25 Pro, you also get 4 assignable faders too. Yet another form of control you miss out on by choosing the Launchkey Mini.
- Then again, with the Launchkey Mini MK3, you do get 8 assignable knobs, which you do not get with he DMK 25 Pro. However, despite virtually every other midi controller using endless encoders, those on the Novation are restricted by given start & end points. So whether they’re of value or not, is another question.
- In terms of software, the DMK 25 Pro does have a bundle, although it’s more tiered towards complete beginners, despite the ‘Pro’ badging. We’re pretty sure capable producers aren’t going to be fussed about free music lessons. The extra VSTs & Ableton Live Lite (which you get with the Launchkey) are going to be far more attractive.
Donner DMK 25 Pro VS Arturia Minilab 3
- Straight off the bat, both the Minilab 3 & the DMK 25 Pro rely on touch strips for pitch & modulation. And while you actions on which can both can be monitored via their screen, it’s the DMK 25 Pro that for us is that bit more usable. The light gauge running up the side is really useful.
- Both these midi controllers boast 8 RGB backlit pads, which work super well for finger drumming. Saying that though, in our experience the pads on the DMK 25 Pro are that bit more sensitive & allow you to achieve slightly softer sounds.
- Whether you go for the Arturia Minilab 3 or the DMK 25 Pro, you’ll get a high definition screen to monitor details relating to your inputs, as well as certain aspects of your DAW. If you were to ask us, we’d say that on the Arturia is that bit more in-depth… but not by much.
- Both these midi controllers connect to your computer via USB-C.
- Each midi controller comes with 4 assignable faders. But for us, those on the Arturia are more impressive, especially if you’re using Ableton Live. The faders on the Minilab 3 automatically map to the parameters of each clip, allowing you to adjust the volume, sends & pan all in a matter of seconds.
- Choose the DMK 25 Pro or the Minlab 3 & you’ll bag yourself an excellent set of transport controls that include everything from play, stop & fast forward to even functions like loop.
- Another similarity between the Minilab 3 & the DMK 25 Pro is the fact that both controllers include a built-in arpeggiator & are also equipped with a useful scale mode.
- Both the Minilab 3 & the DMK 25 Pro have Midi Out ports. However that on the Arturia is that bit more advanced. While the DMK Pro gets a single-pin Midi Out jack, the Arturia gets a full-fat 5-pin jack. Something that can give you that bit more control when working with hardware synths.
- Choose the DMK 25 Pro & a note repeat is a function you’ll have. Yet for some reason this is not included with the Minilab 3. Not entirely sure why – perhaps Arturia just forgot?
- When it comes to DAWs & software instrument, the Minilab 3 steals the show. Aside from the fact it comes with Abelton Live Lite, as well as Analog Lab Intro, you also get a 2-month free subscription to LoopCloud. A great place to find samples! While the DMK 25 Pro gives you the basics of Cubase & a few FREE music lessons.
- Ask us & for finger drumming the DMK 25 Pro has the edge. Apart from the higher sensitivity of the pads, the arrangement is just that bit more usable. For us, the 4×2 arrangement is SO much more ‘drummable’ than the 8×1 arrangement on the Minilab 3.
- Moving on to curb weight & the Donner makes the Arturia look obese. The Arturia clocks in at a whopping 1.4kg, while the Donner is less than half of that at just over 600g. It’s a similar story when it comes to dimensions & overall size too. For portability theDMK 25 Pro is the way to go.
- In terms of DAW integration, the Minilab 3 is FAR ahead. Yes, the Donner DMK 25 Pro works with a whole host of mainstream DAWs, but sadly it has nowhere near the level of integration that the Minilab 3 offers, especially with Ableton Live. With the DMK 25 Pro everything has to be assigned manually.
- The assignable rollers you find on the DMK aren’t something you’ll find on the Arturia. Although you will get 8 assignable encoders, which are endless. So depending on how you produce, these could cancel each other out.
Donner DMK 25 Pro VS Donner Starrykey
- One of the few similarities between the Donner Starrykey & the DMK Pro are the pads. From what we can make out, they’re exactly the same. There’s 8 of them on each controller & both controllers come with 3 pad banks.
- Whether you opt for the Starrykey or the DMK 25 Pro, you’ll be getting a set of semi-weighted keys, which allow you to be expressive during play & inject some real flavour into your recordings.
- When it comes to keys, those on the Starrykey are full-size while those you find on the DMK 25 Pro are mini-keys. What’s more, the keybed on the Starrykey is significantly deeper too, which easily makes it the pick for pianists & anyone with large hands (oy oy oy)
- Sticking with the keys, those on the Starrykey are backlit, which makes it that bit easier to use in dim light. One quibble that we did have with the DMK 25 Pro, especially due to its all-black keys.
- On the topic of pianists, the Starrykey also boasts a sustain pedal input & Midi USB. Ports that you don’t get with the DMK 25 Pro, despite it being more expensive. However both controllers do give you a Midi Out.
- In terms of assignable controls, with the Starrykey you get 4 knobs & 4 buttons, while the DMK 25 Pro gets 4 rollers/ wheels & 4 faders. Which suits you best comes back to how you like to produce.
- If you’re a total beginner who wants to make music fast, the DMK has you back. Unlike the Starrykey it does come with both a built-in arp and chord mode. Not to mention a note-repeat function too!
- As for portability, the Starrykey is by FAR the fattest & heaviest of the two; the price you pay for full;-size keys. And while this makes the DMK 25 Pro easily the most portable of the two, it’s not to say the Starrykey isn’t portable. Compared to other similar-sized midi controllers with full-size keys, it’s actually pretty impressive.
- Saying that though, there is a LOT of excess plastic with the Starrykey. Everything is a lot more compacted & (we feel) better positioned on the DMK 25 Pro.
- As for pitch & modulation the Starrykey relies on physical wheels, which we feel give you that extra connection with your sound. While with the DMK 25 Pro, pitch & mod are assigned to a set of touch strips that work in tandem with the built-in screen.
- Speaking of the screen that’s yet another key difference. The Starrykey does not give you a screen of any sorts, while with the DMK 25 Pro you do get a HQ OLED display, that works great for displaying all sorts of info regarding your input/ certain plugins.
Is the Donner DMK 25 Pro worth it?
Whether the Donner DMK 25 Pro is the best midi keyboard for you, really all depends on who you are.
If you’re a capable producer who’s already using a specific DAW + has a good bank of virtual instruments, then the DMK 25 Pro would be a solid choice, be that for a compact keyboard for use in the studio, or a portable controller for producing ‘on the go’. And that’s because not only does the DMK 25 Pro give you a real variation of control, but it’s also super portable and lightweight. We’d struggle to name a slimmer midi keyboard with as many features.
And while for beginners, the Minilab 3 may offer that bit more in terms of integration & VSTs, there’s still a strong argument for newbies to choose the DMK. Aside from the more attractive £$€, the music lessons you get with the DMK are certainly more use to a beginner than a few VSTs. Team that with the slimmer build + the fact the DMK makes other midi controllers (the Akai MPK Mini MK3 & the Novation Launchkey) look a bit ‘old hat’, & you can soon see why this midi controller is SO popular.
As far as 25 key combos go, it ticks pretty much every box. Hats off to you Donner – you surpassed yourself with this one!!
Grab your Donner DMK 25 Pro today…
Enjoy this Donner DMK 25 Pro review, and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Midi Controller Reviews, as well as our Music Production Gossip. Recently we’ve also done a full in-depth guide to Midi Controllers For Logic Pro X + the Best 25 Key Midi Keyboard Reviews, which may also be a good read.
Or if your heart’s set on the Donner DMK 25 Pro, keep reading to discover yet more about this impressive keyboard controller…