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Donner DMK 25 MIDI Keyboard Review 2022: Prods, Listen Up!!

Is the Donner DMK 25 worth it? Could it be the best midi keyboard for beginners?

Heads Up: This isn’t your average Donner DMK 25 review.

In fact, there’s a very good reason why (out of all the midi keyboards on the market), we’ve taken the time to single out this 25 key board in particular. It all comes back to 1 word – value.

Ask us & this is where the Donner DMK 25 really shines + also the exact reason why you’d buy it! So let’s just say that, if you’re seriously considering the: Arturia Minilab, Akai MPK Mini or the Novation Launchkey Mini, STOP right there. And before you swipe your credit card, take 5 to read up on the DMK 25, as we’d say you’d seriously struggle to find a better all-round 25 key combo.

And we’re not just saying that. If anything, that’s why we’re doing this Donner DMK 25 review – to demonstrate just how much of a catch this midi keyboard really is. For complete beginners & pro-level producers in search of something portable, the DMK 25 ticks all the right boxes. What are these boxes? And how does the Donner DMK 25 compare to other midi keyboards? Read on to find out…

Searching for something specific about the Donner DMK 25? Or curious as to how to use a Donner midi keyboard? Use the menu below to find all the info you need, fast…

Donner Music

Donner DMK 25 midi keyboard specs

Before making the comparison between the Donner DMK 25 & its rivals, it’d only be wise to get clued up on the Donner DMK 25 specs. Do so & you’ll be able to make a fair comparison (stress on fair) because you’ll be able to fully understand what the DMK 25 is all about + understand all of its quirks & features, many of which you wouldn’t perhaps notice on 1st glance.

That way deciding whether the Donner DMK 25 is worth it for you, shouldn’t actually be that difficult. And besides, as much as we would love you to consider our verdict, we understand that midi keyboards are a lot like shoes… there’s no 1 size fits all. You really have to make up your own mind as to whether they’re the right fit for you.

In which case, here’s our full-fat overview of the Donner DMK 25…

Key details

  • Weight: 0.65kg
  • Dimensions: 33.5 x 18 x 3.6 mm
  • Sustain port for pedals: Yes
  • Drivers needed: No

Additional features

  • Much as you’d expect by the name, with the DMK 25 you get 25 mini-size synth action keys, which sit on a keybed that’s reasonably deep. It’s by no means the deepest, but considering the miniature footprint of the midi, it’s impressive!
  • Working in-DAW with the DMK 25 is super easy thanks to the intuitive transport controls. 6 Buttons (for Record, Play, Pause, Fast forward/backward & Control Cycle), which work really well for hands-off DAW control.
  • On the subject of DAWs, the DMK also shines in terms of compatibility. Right from Logic & Reason to Pro Tools & Ableton, the DMK 25 is compatible with the vast majority of mainstream DAWs. Want to check if you DAW works with the DMK? Check out Donner’s official list below…
donner dmk 25 software bundle
  • Donner’s DMK 25 midi keyboard also comes with a solid set of 8 velocity sensitive drum pads. Each of which are backlit with LEDs & responsive to touch. Finger drummers take note!!
  • Pitch & modulation are controlled by 2 touch strips on the DMK 25. Both of which are responsive & (unlike a LOT of midi keyboards) have a light next to them, to give you a visual indication as to how you’re sculpting your sound.
  • In terms of portage & connectivity, the DMK 25 gives you an input for a sustain pedal, as well as USB to connect this controller (using the fancy zebra-striped cable) to your computer.
  • The DMK 25 also gives you 4 assignable faders. Something a LOT of midi keyboards in this range do not boast!! All of which do a great job for controlling levels/ making easy adjustments + prove useful when for controlling virtual instruments too.
  • Speaking of controlling virtual instruments, the Donner DMK 25 also comes with 4 assignable knobs. Shame these weren’t endless encoders (i.e. had no start/ end point), but eh – you can’t ask for everything right?
Donner Keyboards

Unboxing the Donner DMK 25: what’s in the box?

donner dmk 25 midi keyboard
  • The 25 key DMK 25 midi controller
  • A braided USB C cable
  • A physical instruction manual!! #OldSchool

What’s the difference between the Donner DMK 25 & Donner Starrykey?

Yes – the DMK 25 isn’t the only midi keyboard that’s made by Donner. The company also manufacture another 25 key controller which goes by the name of the Starrykey. So naturally, before diving into how the DMK compares to keyboards from other brands, it make sense to determine the differences between the 2. That way you can ensure you’re considering the right midi keyboard by Donner.

In which case, here’s a speedy overview of the differences between the 2…

Donner DMK 25 VS Donner StarryKey

  • The most noticeable difference between the DMK 25 & the Starrykey is the size. Despite both having 25 keys, the Starrykey is the largest, thickest & heaviest of the two. The DMK 25 is less than half the weight!!
  • While both have 25 keys, those on the DMK are mini-sized keys, whilst those on the Starrykey are full size. What’s more, in terms of keyfeel, those on the Starrykey are semi weighted, yet those on the DMK 25 are a lot lighter & feel very much like a synth action.
  • Part of the reason behind the thickness of the Starrykey is the keybed. The Starrykey’s is actually pretty deep – something that piano players will be pleased to hear. Whereas in comparison, those on the DMK 25 are quite shallow.
  • Both controllers deal with pitch & mod in 2 different ways. On the DMK, these parameters are controlled by touch strips. Whereas on the Starrykey, these are assigned to physical wheels. Less portable, but if you ask us, allow for greater control.
  • With the Donner DMK 25, you get transport controls which work to reduce a LOT of mouse-work. Great for workflow! Whereas you won’t find any of these on the Starrykey.
  • As well as 4 assignable knobs, with the DMK 25 you also get 4 assignable faders too. Great for controlling virtual instruments & making quick level adjustments.
  • On the subject of looks, these midi keyboards are polar opposites. The Starrykey is quite conservative in design & just comes in black. However the DMK offers a bit more variation. Aside from a white option, it also looks a bit more space age too.

WHICH TO BUY: In short, if you’re a key-focused producer who’s after a Donner keyboard that’s orientated towards a studio, then we’d say the Starrykey would be your best bet. Whereas if you’re after a more multipurpose keyboard that’s more for controlling instruments/ your DAW + more suited to ‘on the go’ production, then the DMK is by far the superior of the 2.

Is the Donner DMK midi keyboard worth it?

Donner DMK 25: the good, the bad & the ugly

So now you’re clued up on how the DMK 25 differs from its more chunky bigger brother, you’re not doubt curious as to what’s good, bad & ugly about the DMK 25. In other words, what features make it worth it & what features could be considered a severe turn-off.

Quite clever thinking really, as being clued up on these pros & cons is an easy way to ensure you’re making an educated decision & not just taking a ‘lucky dip’. But luckily for you, we’ve done all the hard work for you & picked apart the Donner DMK 25 piece-by-piece to ensure that you spend yopur money wisely…

Pros of the DMK 25 (AKA the good)

  • Even though it’s cheap, it doesn’t feel it. We’re yet to come across part of the DMK which comes across as budget when compared to other 25 key midis in this price range. The keys are solid (very little wobble) & all the assignable controls have a nice resistance to them.
  • Speaking of cost, the price you pay for the DMK 25 (especially when you use our exclusive discount code) is very small for something of this functionality. You cannot escape the value of this keyboard!!
  • Finger drummers rejoice – the drum pads on the DMK are super responsive. In fact, to tap they feel a lot like the MPC pads you find on the Akai MPK Mini. Although they are slightly smaller. Blindfold us though & we’d struggle to tell the difference.
  • This midi is the KING of portability! For a midi controller with 25 keys, not only is it lightweight, but it’s slimline too. On a ratio of ‘Features: Weight’, it’d take gold.
  • For anyone who’s after a multifunctional keyboard that’s travel friendly, this is it. Being so incredibly small means that it can fit inside even the smallest of rucksacks. Neither is it intrusive when placed on a desk!
  • The DMK 25 comes with pitch & mod strips that perform just as good (if not better) than those in more ‘high-end’ keyboards. Plus, they even include an LED light bar, which allows you to see visually what you’re doing with your sound.
  • The transport controls on the DMK 25 integrate really well with the majority of DAWs & do a lot to bring mouse-work to a minimum. Workflow gold!
  • Despite the keys being mini, they spring back nice & fast. Something that makes it possible to even perform runs with these keys, providing of course your hands aren’t super large!!

Cons of the DMK 25 (AKA the bad)

  • For those with big hands, the keys can be a struggle – one of the drawbacks of mini keys. Although with that being said, as long as you’re not performing extravagant piano concertos the key should suffice. For chords & short melodies they do work really well!
  • While the keys on the DMK 25 feel better than we expected, you can get 25 key controllers with more in the way of keyfeel. The Arturia Minilab being the most obvious comparison. For any key-focused player, a midi controller with full-sized or weighted keys may be a better bet.
  • Might just be us, but the black keys on the DMK 25, do feel rather clicky. Then again, with this not being designed as a key-focused controller, that’s something to expect from most 25 key midis.
  • Yes, the DMK feels solid, but personally we would have liked to see some metal as part of the construction. Call us old fashioned, but there’s just something about a metal controller that feels ‘that’ bit more premium.
  • For those with software & virtual instruments, this may not be an issue. But if you’re a beginner looking to buy your first midi controller, it’s worth considering that with the DMK 25 you get no included software. Something you do get with other (slightly more pricy) midi controllers.

The ugly?

  • We said it with the Starrykey & we’re saying it again… those knobs. They’re NOT endless encoders!! A piece of tech that’s been around since 2016, & makes working with plugins & virtual instruments SO much easier!!
is Donner a good brand?

How does the Donner DMK 25 compare to other midi keyboards?

Donner DMK 25 VS Akai MPK Mini Mk3

Similarities

  • Both have 8 drum pads & although those on the Akai are slightly larger, they both work well for frantic finger drummers.
  • Keys on both controllers are mini-size keys & have a similar feel to them. If anything they’re what you’d expect from mini-keys. Lightweight & pretty soft in terms of resistance.
  • Both keyboards come in multiple colour waves. The DMK 25 can be specced in either white or a graphite grey, while the Akai can be specced in: its traditional red/ black spec, all-black, all-red, all-grey & even an white combo.
  • The DMK 25 & the Akai MPK Mini MK3 are both made entirely out of plastic.
  • Out of the 2 controllers, Donner’s DMK 25 is the lightest by over 100g & has the smallest footprint. However for production ‘on the go’ both are solid picks.
  • The Akai & the Donner DMK 25 both have iPad connectivity & function super well

Differences

  • Price-wise, the gap between these boards is usually quite substantial. We say usually because what price you pay really all depends on how/ when you buy a controller. But generally speaking, there’s usually a good £30-40 between the two. The DMK being the cheapest.
  • Opt for the Akai MPK Mini & you won’t get assignable faders. Something you get 4 of with the DMK 25.
  • While you won’t find an LCD screen on the Donner DMK, you will find one on the Akai. Although to be honest, we didn’t actually find the screen all that useful. Nice perk to have, but if you ask us, it’s no dealbreaker.
  • Using the Akai you control pitch & modulation with a joystick. Not the most accurate method as the joystick automatically returns to centre – there’s no way of locking it. Whereas with the DMK 25 you get 2 touch strips, which come LED indicators to help you better understand how you’re changing your sound .
  • If you’ve a fetish for knobs… (eyebrows raise), then the MPK is where it’s at. Not only does it have double the amount you’ll find on the DMK, but these 8 knobs are also endless.
  • The point for in-DAW navigation & quick control goes to the DMK 25. Unlike the MPK Mini, it includes the most common transport controls as buttons, rather opposed to hiding them inside a made of various key commands… Akai.
  • Buy the Akai & aside from the keyboard you also get software including MPC Beats & a couple of software instruments. All things you don’t get with the DMK. Not exactly ideal for beginners, but we wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a dealbreaker.
Donner midi keyboard controller dmk 25

Donner DMK 25 VS Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3

Similarities

  • Regardless of whether you opt for the Launchkey or the DMK 25, you’re getting a very slimline & travel-friendly midi keyboard. Both easily fit into a medium-sized rucksack.
  • Neither of these keyboard controllers come with endless encoders. With both you’ll get assignable knobs with designated start/ end points.
  • With the Novation Launchkey Mini & the Donner DMK 25, pitch & modulation is controlled by a pair of touch strips. However, those you find on the Donner also come with a handy LED indicator to give you a more visual idea of what you’re doing.
  • You’ll find 25 mini-sized keys across both of these controllers.
  • Both the Donner & the Launchkey Mini allow you to be super expressive. Connecting a sustain pedal is as simple as ‘Plug-In-&-Play’.
  • You can use either of these controllers in tandem with an iPad or phone to create music ‘on the go’.

Differences

  • While the DMK 25 works (& works well with Ableton Live), the Launchkey is ‘that’ bit more integrated. Then again, you’d expect that with it being designed specifically for Ableton. However for other DAWs, both are just as good.
  • In regards to drum pads, the Novation boasts a whopping 16, while the Donner DMK has 8. However, we like those of the Donner better. Not only do they feel more responsive (in our opinion), but they also look a lot more slick thanks to the blacked top surface; ask us & translucent pads look cheap.
  • The Launchkey has the edge over the Donner when it comes to knobs… gents, calm yourselves. With the Launchkey you get 8, while the DMK gives you just 4.
  • However, that’s probably because the DMK 25 also boasts 4 assignable faders. A feature you will not find on the Launchkey Mini. In fact, to get any sort of faders on a Launchkey, you’d need to upgrade to at least 49 keys!!
  • Novation has even squeezed an arpeggiator & chord function into the Launchkey Mini. Chord mode allows you to compress several notes into one sound, which you can then play key-by-key. Both quirks you don’t get with the DMK 25.
  • Move onto inputs/ outputs & the Novation has a few more party tricks. Aside from having a sustain input & USB port like the Donner, it also boasts midi in/ out. Useful if you want to connect hardware synths or factor other analogue gear into your setup.
  • Novation bundle plugins & software like XLN Addictive Keys & Spitfire Labs with the Launchkey Mini. All free software you don’t get with the Donner.
Donner DMK 25 vs akai mpk mini

Is the Donner DMK 25 worth it? The best midi keyboard for beginners?

In many respects, yes – the Donner DMK 25 is one of the best midi keyboards out there, especially if you’re a beginner.

We say so because as far as small midi controllers go, the DMK is one of the most expressive. For a controller of this size & thickness, the keys feel firm & there’s a wealth of assignable controls for you to take advantage of. We’re particularly fans of those faders – something you don’t often come across with 25 key boards. Although those 8 drum pads are also something to shout about.

What’s more, hook this keyboard up to a DAW & the integration is impressive. In depth to say the least. For any producer who’s a fan of shortcuts, those transport controls are a lifesaver. Plus, the fact you can even hook up this controller up to an iPad or phone really makes it ideal if you’re the ‘on the go’ type too. Go on to team that with just how portable this controller actually is + the fact it retails for a good £30-40 less than its rivals, & we genuinely find it hard to pick fault.

Yes, if you’re hunting for a keyboard controller with included software (DAWs or virtual instruments) then the DMK 25 may not be for you. Just as you may benefit from sizing-up to something with full-size or weighted keys if you’re a key-focused player.

But for the vast majority, be they a beginner or any pro producer in need of a 2nd controller for travel, the Donner DMK 25 really does hit the spot. So much so, we bought one for ourselves!!

Enjoy our review of the Donner DMK 25 & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Audio Kit Reviews, as well as the lowdown on all things Production & MIDI. Recently we’ve also done a full in-depth guide to the Best 25 Key Midi Keyboards + another on the Best 32/ 37 Key Midi Controllers, which may also be a good read!

Or if your heart’s set on the Donner DMK 25, keep reading, to discover even more about this impressive midi keyboard + some extra buying tips…

How to use donner dmk 25

The lowdown on the Donner DMK 25 + Donner midi keyboards in general…

Yes, Donner is a good brand. Actually, scratch that – they’re great! And we’re not just saying so because of the DMK 25. Here’s 2 major reasons why we’re fans of Donner Music as a brand…

  • The ratio of ‘quality: price’ – After getting hands on with a fair few Donner instruments/ piece of kit, it’d not hard to see what this brand is all about. So while slightly more ‘prestigious’ music brands like Arturia or Native Instruments, focus primarily on quality, Donner (we think) goes 1 step further. And instead, focuses on quality in relation to price. Small caveat, but for the average musician this philosophy is good news, as it means the average setup becomes significantly cheaper, without them having to sacrifice much in the way of features.
  • Donner has variety – Take 5 minutes to peruse Donner’s Website & it won’t be long before your stumble across this same ‘quality: price’ mantra applied to virtually every type of instrument you can imagine. So aside from Donner midi keyboards (like the DMK 25), you can also get Donner Pianos, drum kits & even some more exotic instruments like lyres, bongo drums & ukulele’s. Don’t be fooled – Donner is anything but a ‘pop up’ brand.

While the likes of Arturia, Akai & Novation will obviously be mentioned during the conversation, we also think there’s an argument for Donner too.

Ask us & brands like Donner don’t seem to get the recognition they rightfully deserve. Because yes, while the likes of Arturia or Novation may be the first on the scene with the latest midi keyboard (most likely their R&D budget is bigger), it’s manufacturers like Donner that tweak/ adapt their recipe so that it appeals to a mass audience. Call them the brains behind the ‘people’s version’ of a said instrument or controller.

Something that goes a long way towards making music & production more affordable + easier to understand. In other words, giving young talent the tools they need & encouraging them to take the 1st step towards making music.

A step that is usually the hardest to make. #MuchRespect

Using a Donner midi keyboard is pretty simple in first instance. Simply hook up the USB cable to your computer & you’re away.

But as for how you use a Donner midi controller to create music, that really all depends on what you produce (i.e. genre/ style) + which Donner midi controller you’re using. At the moment, there’s 2 models of Donner keyboard controllers to choose from…

  • Donner DMK 25 – If the DMK 25 is part of your production kit, then chances are you’ll be working with plugins or doing a lot of heavy DAW work. The integration on this midi keyboard is 1st class, as are the RGB pads – finger drummer take note. It’s only really the smaller mini-sized keys that could pose an issue to more key-focused players. But especially for work ‘on the go’ it’s pretty much ideal.
  • Donner Starrykey – On the topic of key-focused players, this is the Donner midi keyboard they’d be after. The Starrykey has 25 full-size keys & is semi-weighted, opposed to synth action you get with the DMK. And with that comes slightly larger dimensions & more weight, which means it’s best suited to life in a studio.

As long as you’re not a concert pianist, we’d say so.

Because while 25 keys (2 octaves) doesn’t seem like a lot, it doesn’t necessarily limit the amount of sounds you can achieve. All it means is that you can only play the notes from 2 octaves at once; to switch up the whereabouts these 2 octaves, you’d have to use the ‘Octave +’ & ‘-‘ button.

A chore if you’re wanting to use a midi keyboard to compose lengthy piano pieces, but not so much a dealbreaker if you’re a more DAW-focused producer. Beat-makers for instance, often have more than enough with 25 keys, as do electronic & techno prods. For quick melodies & musical note-taking, 25 keys is ideal.

And what’s more, despite the size you don’t tend to sacrifice that many other features with a 25 key board. Yes, you might not get the biggest screen in the world or acres of assignable knobs, but the majority still do come with some form of assignable switchgear & (most commonly) 8 drum pads. Not to mention inout for an expression pedal & some pretty neat levels of DAW integration.

So while 25 keys may not suit all producers, for the majority, it’s on the £$€.