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Donner Starrykey Review 2022: OMG… 25 Full-Size Keys!!

Is the Donner Starrykey worth it? Why is it one of the best 25 key midi controllers?

We just had to do this Donner Starrykey review.

Why? Because no one else is. Yep – for some bizarre reason, not a soul across the entire internet has chosen to review this ingenious 25 key midi. And to be brutally honest, we can’t understand why. Especially when Donner’s slightly more mass-market midi keyboard (the DMK 25) is so darn popular!

Plus, as far as we can see, the Starrykey is on par (if not better) than the DMK in many respects!! Although it may look pretty simplistic on the surface, there’s actually an awful LOT to this midi controller, aside form the obvious difference in keys. With that in mind then, is it the Starrykey a poor man’s Launckey Mini MK3/ LX-25? Or in a whole other league altogether? Read on & we’ll reveal all…

After something specific about the Donner Starrykey 25? Or just curious about how this budget midi controller compares to other 25 key boards? Use the menu below to find all the info you need FAST…

Donner Music

Donner Starrykey midi keyboard specs

Before pitting the Donner Starrykey up against its rivals, it only seems right to give you the full lowdown on the Donner Starrykey 25 specs. That way you can make a fair comparison as you go on to read this article, because you’re fully aware of what the Donner Starrykey offers + many of its quirks & features that you perhaps wouldn’t know of at 1st glance.

Something that allows you to make a fair comparison & reach a solid verdict yourself, about whether the Starrkey 25 is worth it for you, & your setup. And as much as we’d really love you to consider our verdict, we understand that midi keyboards are much like glass slippers – 1 isn’t the right fit for everybody. Therefore, you have to take what we (& any other websites say) with a pinch of salt.

But yeah – here’s everything you need to know about the Donner Starrykey 25…

Key details

  • Weight: 1.39kg
  • Dimensions: 490 x 173 x 42mm
  • Sustain port for pedals: Yes
  • Drivers needed: No

Additional features

  • The Starrykey boasts 4 assignable knobs, which can be mapped to different perimeters/ functions in your DAW. Each also has lights which correspond to its current level.
  • On the topic of software, this midi controller works with virtually every DAW. For a full list of compatible DAWs, see the FAQs at the end of this blog.
  • Donner also added 4 assignable buttons to the Starrykey, which can be assigned 7 different colours & work well for remote DAW operation or triggering virtual instruments.
  • Those 25 full size velocity sensitive keys that sit on a really nice deep keybed – the keys can also be mapped to 3 sensitivity modes too. The keyfeel is stand-out!
  • There’s input for a sustain pedal. A useful perk for expanding your setup!
  • The Starrykey 25 also boasts 2 wheels for pitch & mod, both of which have a nice solid feel to them. The modulation wheel especially has some great resistance to it!
  • Of course, this wouldn’t be a midi controller without any velocity sensitive percussion pads. With the Starrykey, Donner give you 8 pads, each of which boasts 3 banks & can be changed to be a total of 7 colours! The pads also have 3 intensity modes, which you can tune in your DAW.
Donner Keyboards

Unboxing the Donner Starrykey: what’s in the box?

donner starrykey unboxing
  • The 25 key Starrykey 25 midi controller.
  • A standard USB cable.
  • USB A to C adapter.
  • A paper copy of the owner’s manual.

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

So with Donner being know int he midi keyboard space for the sheer value of their DMK 25, you’re no doubt wondering what the differences are. Especially when the Starrykey will set you back a good chunk more £$€!! Read on though, & we’ll spell out how these 2 midi keyboards differ in black & white… (no key pun intended)

Donner Starrykey VS Donner DMK 25

  • The DMK 25 has mini sized keys, while the Starrykey (much like the name suggests) has full size keys 7 for any keen pianist or those with BIG hands, is a lot easier to play.
  • The keybed you find on the Starrykey is FAR deeper than that of the DMK. In fact, the DMK’s keys are incredibly shallow. The keys of the Starrykey also feel heavier & more ‘piano-like’ to play.
  • In terms of curb weight, the Starrykey is significantly heavier at just under 1.4kg – more than double the weight of the DMK (0.65kg)! However, for a midi controller with full size keys, the Starrykey is light – very light!
  • In regards to footprint, the larger keybed makes the Starrykey the least portable of the two. However, for a 25 key midi with full-size keys, it’s still pretty good. It’ll fit in most medium-sized rucksacks.
  • Pitch & mod is a whole new experience with the Starrykey. So while the DMK 25 makes do with touch sensitive strips, the Starrykey opts for physical wheels. A touch we really like, as it allows you to feel your sound that bit better.
  • If faders are your thing, then doc a point off for the Starrykey. You’ll only find assignable faders on the Donner DMK.
  • The design of the Starrykey is pretty conservative & albeit grown up – i.e. it says “professional”. While the DMK (especially in the white colour wave) could easily be confused for a children’s toy. Either that or a gadget from Star Trek.
Donner Starrykey review

Donner Starrykey: the good, the bad & the ugly

Now you’re clued up on how the Starrykey differs from it’s brother, the DMK 25, you’ll no doubt be curious as to which areas the Starrykey scores highly, as well as those where it perhaps… doesn’t. All factors you’d be wise to consider before parting with your £$€. That way you’re not just having a lucky dip.

So to help you understand whether the Starrykey suits you & your style of production, we’ve picked it apart piece-by-piece to ensure that you’re well aware of what you’re buying. So here it is – the good, the bad & the ugly…

Pros of the Starrykey (AKA the good)

  • Think you knew this was coming… THOSE KEYS!! For anyone who’s a keen pianist or really wants a strong ‘feel’ for what they’re doing, then look no further. Compared to uber light & cheap-feeling mini-keys you get on a lot of 25 key midis, these are certainly a step up!
  • And on the topic of keys, you cannot forget that keybed, which is incredibly deep & allows you to get a real good feel for what you play. With keys like this, we found that ‘in-DAW adjustments’ were kept to a minimal #Accuracy2.0
  • For a midi controller with full-size keys, the Starrykey is pretty darn light! The equivalent keyboard from Alesis is more than double the weight!! Despite this though, there is a solid feel about the Starrykey – it doesn’t feel cheap (cough) Akai MPK Mini.
  • While the matte wood-effect on the keys, was puzzling at first, it has grown on us. Especially considering that it means the keys don’t turn into HUGE fingerprint magnets… anyone with OCD can relax.
  • Hook the Starrykey up to your DAW & you can really do a lot to tune its response & make it custom to the way you play. Nice perk that!
  • And on the topic of DAWs, this midi keyboard works with practically every DAW out there (full list in the FAQs below).
  • Because pitch & mod are controlled by physical wheels, doing so is much more precise. Plus, the wheels have a good weight to them too & aren’t clicky like those you find on cheap midi keyboards.
  • On the topic of quality, the entire unit feels professional & like it’s made with serious music production in mind. The Starrykey makes a lot of midi keyboards look like children’s toys.
  • Those playing gigs will be pleased to know that the pads, knobs & buttons on the Starrykey are backlit, so performing in dimly lit spaces shouldn’t be an issue. Although practicality aside, they look pretty cool too!

Cons of the Starrykey (AKA the bad)

  • Yes, the Starrykey is built to a solid standard, but we would have liked to see some sort of metal base, like that you find on the Arturia Minilab MK2. Call us old fashioned, but metal just feels that bit more premium than plastic.
  • In terms of dimensions, the Starrykey ain’t thin, which could hinder portability. Although with that being said, most of depth will be to accommodate that amazing keybed, so… (cough) Catch 22.
  • As far as portage goes, the Starrykey covers the basics… but that’s about it. This midi gives you a: Midi Out, Midi USB & a sustain port. That’s your lot.
  • NOTE: this may just be a one-off case, but the knobs on our board all seem to sit at slightly different heights. Not sure whether that’s meant to be the case? Then again though, with a budget midi controller, you have to expect some minor niggles. #Give&Take

The ugly?

  • Sorry Donner, but those knobs… they’re not endless encoders!! Sound incredibly picky, but when the Minilab Mk2 had these back in 2016, we’d assume they’d be as standard.
Donner midi Keyboards

How does the Donner Starrykey compare to other midi keyboards?

Okay, so now that you know what the Donner Starrykey is all about, it’s time to see how it stacks up against its other 25 key rivals.

And what with the Starrykey being a key-focused midi controller, we imagine you’re probably not that bothered about how it stacks up to others with mini-size keys – the Akai MPK Mini MK3/ Arturia Minilab MK2 etc. Therefore, for the purpose of this comparison, all the keyboards mentioned below will be 25 key controllers with full-sized keys.

In which case, get ready – the Donner Starrykey has put on its boxing gloves (dramatic music)…

Donner Starrykey VS Alesis V25 MK2

Similarities

  • Both boards come with 8 velocity sensitive drum pads. Granted, those on the Donner are slightly larger, but on the whole, both are a good choice for frantic finger drummers.
  • Buy either of these midi keyboards & you’ll get 4 assignable knobs, which are NOT endless encoders. All of them do have a start/ end point.
  • Buy either of these boards & you’ll be getting a midi controller that’s encased in plastic. Neither incorporate metal into their design.
  • Price-wise they’re both pretty similar. And while they will of course fluctuate, we wouldn’t say there’s a sizeable gap in-between the two.
  • Pitch and modulation on both these keyboards is controlled by wheels. Both of which feel accurate to use & have a decent weight to them. We’d be happy with either.

Differences

  • You already know that both these midis have 25 full size keys, however we would say those on the Donner feel slightly more natural to play. We really dig how they’re weighted!!
  • In terms of keybed, the Donner also has the edge, boasting a slightly deeper keybed. Something that allows you to have more ‘feel’ during play.
  • However, the Starrykey falls back when it comes to software. With the Alesis, you get MPC beats (a DAW) + a few more software extras. Whereas with the Donner, software isn’t yet included. We say ‘yet’ because we wouldn’t put it past Donner to issues a software bundle later on.
  • Another stand-out difference of each controller is how it utilises its footprint. By that we mean, the Donner crams a lot of features into a small space – it puts its footprint to good use! Whereas with the Alesis, you’ll find huge pieces of flat plastic at each side that don’t seem to serve a purpose.
  • In regards to pads, those on the Donner (for us) just feel that little more responsive. They’re wider too & remind us a lot of the MPC pads you get on the Akai MPK Mini. Arguably some of the best drum pads in the game!
  • We’re not obesist (if that’s even a word), but the V25 makes the Starrykey look like a catwalk model. It’s incredibly bulky. Not to mention a LOT different in terms of weight.
  • Yep – aside from being more chunky, the Alesis is also more than double the weight of the Donner at 3.7kg!!
  • Being transparent, the drum pads on the Alesis do (in our opinion) make it look at bit cheap. Aesthetically, those on the Starrykey steal the show.
  • Small difference, but still worth mentioning. The keys on the Starrykey have a slight texture to them, while those of the V25 are glossy. We kind of dig the texture, as it means they become less of a fingerprint magnet!
  • Oh, & those who perform live will be pleased to know that the keys on the Starrykey are also illuminated. Towards the top they have a slight under-glow, which makes them a lot more visible when onstage. A perk you don’t get with the Alesis.
Donner starkey

Donner Starrkey VS M-Audio Oxygen 25 (MK VI)

Similarities

  • DAW integration with both these boards is top notch. With virtually any mainstream DAW they work faultlessly! DAW control ain’t half bad too – pretty straight forward thanks to the intuitive transport controls & DAW mapping. We came across no faults, bugs or blips when testing either!
  • Both these controllers give you 8 velocity sensitive drum pads, which are backlit.
  • The assignable knobs you find on both these controllers have start/ end points. They’re not endless encoders.
  • As far as figures are concerned, there’s very little difference between the two. And while prices will of course vary, we wouldn’t say there’s a noticeable gap in-between the two.
  • Pitch and modulation are controlled via wheels, which we feel makes them a LOT more accurate, easy to use & reliable than touch strips (the alternative). Both have a good feel to them – we’d be chuffed with either.

Differences

  • In terms of keys, the Donner (just like with the Alesis) has the edge. Those on the M-Audio feel okay, but those on the Starrykey feel more solid. For better keyfeel, you’d have to upgrade to the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 25.
  • Sticking with the keys, the resistance on the Starrykey feels a lot stronger too – more like semi-weighted keys, opposed to those on the Oxygen, which feel closer to synth action keys. If you’re a keen pianist, this is a BIG deal!!
  • There’s very little ‘waste plastic’ with the Starrykey – it makes great use of its footprint. Whereas the M-Audio does (like the Alesis) feature a LOT of excess plastic. Material that as far as we can tell, doesn’t serve a purpose… apart from looking hella ugly!
  • Side by side, the Donner is close to half the thickness. The Starrykey is by far the most sleek & slender!
  • The Oxygen ain’t all bad though… it 1ups the Donner when it comes to modes. Aside from a chord mode, it also has a handy scale mode & a built in arp too! Great news for beginners.
  • With the Oxygen, you also get double the amount of assignable knobs – 8 to be precise. Whereas with the Starrykey, you’re limited to 4.
  • The pads on the Oxygen are less sensitive than those on the Donner. To get any sound out of them, you really have to give them a good hit. Finger drummers, take note!!
  • With the Oxygen you get an LED display. And yes, while it’s not the most techy screen out there, it can be useful for quick adjustments & is easy to see in dim lit areas. I guess what we’re trying to say is, at least it has one… (cough) Donner.
  • Live performers will love this! The keys on the Starrykey are backlit from the top, so onstage they’re far more visible & easy to play. A perk you won’t find with the Oxygen.
  • Sorry, but… the Oxygen just looks cheaper. Side-by-side, it makes the Donner look twice as professional. Might just be us but translucent pads are SO last century.
  • If you’re into faders, then the M-Audio is also the way to go. Unlike the Donner, it has an assignable fader.
  • Put both on the scales & the Donner Starrykey comes out as the lightest. The Oxygen 25 is another 300g heavier!!
  • Turn the convo to software, & the M-Audio takes the lead. Buy the Oxygen & you also get a copy of: MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, the Hybrid 3.0 synth plugin + Mini grand too. None of which you get with the Starrykey.
Is donner a good brand

Donner Starrykey VS Nektar Impact LX25+

Similarities

  • Both these boards excel at DAW integration. Team them with virtually any mainstream DAW & they should work much as you’d expect. The transport controls on both are intuitive & easy to use.
  • Choose either the Starrykey or the LX25+ & you’ll get 8 responsive drum pads, which are backlit.
  • Any assignable knobs you find on either of these controllers will have a start/ end point. They’re NOT endless encoders.
  • Price-wise, both these keyboards sit in pretty much the same bracket. For beginner producers, they’re ideal!
  • Both controllers use wheels to control pitch & modulation. A perk that we think allows you to ‘feel’ your sound a whole lot more than you can with touch strips. Although (in our opinion) those on the Donner offer slightly more accurate resistance/ feedback.
  • Just like 99% of midi keyboards in this price range, both the Starrykey & LX25+ are encased purely in plastic.

Differences

  • Compared to the Starrykey, the LX25+ is a good deal older. Something to bear in mind, as firmware updates for older kit will likely become less frequent. So while the LX25+ performed great in testing, we’d say the Donner would be most future-proof of the two – i.e. a better long term investment.
  • As for keyfeel, we’d choose the Starrykey every day of the week. While both do have full-size keys, those on the Nektar (in our experience) feel way more clicky & have far less resistance than those you find on the Starrykey.
  • Yes, the LED display on the Nektar does look at bit 1990s, but it’s useful. Screens are also a perk you don’t find with the Starrykey.
  • Fans of assignable faders will be pleased to know that the Nektar delivers. It has an fader – something you won’t find with the Starrykey.
  • If portability’s your thing, then the Starrykey comes out on-top. It’s near-on half the thickness of the Nektar + crams a LOT of features into its small footprint! With the Nektar (as with a lot of midi keyboards) you do find a lot of ‘waste plastic’.
  • Plugin geeks take note – when it comes to assignable knobs, the Nektar has 8, while with the Starrykey there’s just 4.
  • The LX 25+ is also a brute when it comes to weight too. It’s around 0.5 kg heavier than the Donner. Perhaps what the (+) alludes to?
  • However, in terms of software, the tables turn. The LX 25+ gives you a licence to Bitwig 8 (a fully-fledged DAW), whereas with the Starrykey you get diddly squat.
  • As far as design’s concerned, the LX 25+ is beginning to show its age. The Starrykey does look a lot more sleek & modern. Far more professional too.
  • Another sign of age with the LX25+ is the pads, which aren’t the most responsive. We prefer those you find on the Donner by a mile. In terms of feedback, they’re FAR more accurate!
  • Perform live? If so, you’ll be pleased to know that the keys on the Starrykey are backlit. So when you’re dim lit/ misty stage, hitting the right note is less of a challenge. A perk you don’t get with the Nektar.
Donner midi keyboard software

Is the Donner Starrykey worth it? The best midi keyboard under £100?

SPOILER: the Starrykey isn’t for everyone. Whether it’s right for you really depends on what type of player you are. However…

For most key-focused players, the Donner Starrykey would be an excellent choice! Not only does its set of full-size keys feel natural to play & give you great feedback, but their extra size doesn’t compromise its portability, nor its price, all that much. No easy task, especially when manufacturing/ R&D costs have likely increased for most manufacturers since the COVID pandemic.

Also consider just how well this midi keyboard integrates with the majority of DAWs, & you really begin to see just what a technical feat the Starrykey really is. Yes, there are other midi keyboards out there with more features, flashing lights & fancy screens. Not to mention those with their own DAW or suite of virtual instruments.

But as far as the recipe for a basic key-focused controller goes, we think Donner have pretty much nailed it with the Starrykey.

As a midi keyboard, it’s well-made, all about playability & isn’t trying to be overly clever. It’s a controller that anyone, be they a piano pro or a production newbie, can pick up & play.

And for that you’ve gotta respect it.

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

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

Donner 25 key midi Keyboards

The lowdown on the Donner Starrykey + 25 key midis in general…

So while this Donner Starrykey review has focused on 1 keyboard in particular, there are some general tips you need to be aware of when buying a midi keyboard. Here’s just a few to bear in mind…

  • Size – If you’re after a midi keyboard to take with you ‘on the go’, then it’d be wise to consider the footprint of any that tickle your fancy. This being an area where the Starrykey excels – despite the full-size keys it still manages to fit in most medium-sized backpacks.
  • Weight – There’s no good buying a controller keyboard for use out & about if it weighs in at a ton. So be sure to brush up on how each keyboard compares to others; the Starrykey is one of the lightest 25 key midi controllers you can get with full-size keys!!
  • Level of features – Different producers produce in different ways. So if you’re one to use 10,000 plugins & require control over every parameter possible, be sure to consider what level of control a keyboard gives you. The Starrykey for instance, is mostly key-focused.
  • DAW integration – If you’ve already selected your DAW, it’s important to understand (A) whether your chosen controller works with it & (B) how much in-DAW integration it gives you. With the Starrykey for instance, the level of DAW integration is pretty deep!!
  • Keys & playability – If you’re a piano-focused player, this is a ‘must’, as the keybed & feel to a large extend governs how expressive you can be with a controller. For us, this is one of the stand-out features of the full-size keys you get with the Starrykey. They really do encourage expression!

That depends.

See, if you’re the type of producer to work mainly with plugins or have a fetish for finger drumming, then probably not. For you, keys probably won’t be the main focus, in which case a board that’s slightly more orientated around features like the Arturia Minilab, is likely to be a better bet.

However, if keys are what you mainly use to produce (or you just have big hands) then a set of full size keys is deffo the way to go… 100% – no questions asked. As not only will a full-size set of keys allow you to be more expressive, but they’ll bring the whole experience with your controller closer to that of a real life piano.

Exactly what you need when composing complex melodies!

Don’t fall into the brand snobbery trap… Donner is a great brand!

In fact, they’re arguably more well-rounded & knowledgeable than a lot of more established midi keyboard brands. And we don’t say that lightly!

See, while other brands may just pin their attention purely on midi keyboards, Donner have their fingers in pretty much every musical pie, right from ukuleles to pocket trumpets. Exactly why we suspect that they’ll be releasing some of their own virtual instruments down the line.

Plus, if you need any more evidence of Donner’s capability when it comes to manufacturing music production tech, check out their flagship midi keyboard – the DMK 25. A budget midi controller that’s proved itself to be incredibly popular. So much so that it’s even steered many producers away from the more pricy 25 key midis offered by the likes of : Novation, Akai, Arturia etc.

As far as music brands go, Donner is one to look out for.

Indeed it is.

In fact, we wouldn’t have even done this Donner Starrykey review if we weren’t confident that it’d be up the alley of any keen beginner. Here’s why any beginner should seriously consider the Starrykey…

  • Those keys – If you’re coming into production with a background in acoustic piano or electric keyboard, you should feel pretty much at home with the Starrykey. The keys are firm & nicely weighted.
  • It’s portable – As far as midi controllers with 25 full-size keys go, this is one of the most portable options out there. It’s thin, compact & incredibly lightweight.
  • Affordability – The price of the Starrykey (especially when compared with its competitors) is very beginner-friendly. No longer do you need 100s of £££ to start producing music!!
  • Build quality – Don’t judge this midi controller by its price. The Starrykey does NOT feel like a short term piece of kit. It’s built like a tank.

As far as we can tell – no.

Although we wouldn’t put it past Donner to issue software later down the line. With every midi keyboard brand under the sun coming out with their own DAW or suite of software instruments, we think it’s only a matter of time before Donner follow suit.

Exciting when you consider that (as a brand) they manufacture a whole range of musical kit, from drums & guitar pedals, to pocket trumpets & studio monitors. If you’re reading this Donner, we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Donner’s Starrykey midi keyboard works with a vast range of DAWs including:

Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Cakewalk/Sonar, FL Studio, Reason, Studio One, Pro Tools, Garageband, Cubase/Nuendo, Kontakt, Reaper, Waveform & Audition.

If you see your DAW listed above then it is certified by Donner to work with the Starrykey.