HEADS UP: Donner has now stopped producing the standard DMK. Be sure to jump into our Review Of The DMK 25 Pro – it’s replacement :)
Okay, so 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 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…
- Weight: 0.65kg
- Dimensions: 33.5 x 18 x 3.6 mm
- Sustain port for pedals: Yes
- Drivers needed: No
- 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’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?
Unboxing the Donner DMK 25: what’s in the box?
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
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.
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)
Cons of the DMK 25 (AKA the bad)
How does the Donner DMK 25 compare to other midi keyboards?
Donner DMK 25 VS Akai MPK Mini Mk3
- 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
- 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 DMK 25 VS Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3
- 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’.
- 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.
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 Donner DMK 25 review & eager for more? Jump into our recent Reviews Of Midi Controllers, as well as all our knowledge of Music Production Gear. 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…