Whenever we talk about Pro Tools peripherals the bottom line is deciding which product can help us accomplish the most given the same amount of time. All peripherals are simply workflow tools, and even though they will not make your mix better, they can definitely help you mix faster. So what do you have to look for in an excellent Pro Tools peripheral device? Last week we took a look at some of the best mouse for Pro Tools and a lot of the same principles apply to finding the the best keyboard for Pro Tools – it has to be super comfortable, it has to be as ergonomic as possible and it should have some extra functionality features to make Pro Tools navigation easier.
Ok, so what does comfortable really mean? It is indeed a very subjective matter. For me, and I suggest at least thinking about this, comfort is a design feature that comes with a keyboard; it’s a design feature that lets me use the product better and more efficiently than most other products on the market all while not getting me tired or making me suffer from repeated stress injury because of the keyboard’s shape and the way it forces my hand into a certain position that may be more or less natural.
The second part – the one about not hurting your hand as a result of extended use – that’s ergonomic design. So let us draw a line: we need comfort, a feature that lets us work super-fast and efficient and ergonomic shape, a feature that helps us not suffer from repeated stress injury from working with the keyboard a lot.
What else does a Pro Tools keyboard need? Extended functionality, that’s what. There are some products on the market that have this in the form of color coded buttons to help you remember key combinations; other products have extra buttons that you can map to replace some key combinations so instead of pressing two or three buttons you can press one.
A little goes a long way here as too many extra buttons to map to Pro Tools functions means that the keyboard might feel cluttered and hard to use – think simple things like a button that you can map for saving or putting a track in record safe mode or solo safe mode – those kind of things are real time savers.
Why Are Numeric Keypads a Necessity?
A lot of people make this mistake and believe me, it’s a stinger: do not, and I mean it, do not buy a keyboard for Pro Tools that does not have a numeric keypad. If you are buying a laptop for Pro Tools this advice extends to the keyboard of your laptop, if it does not have a numeric keypad, try to avoid that specific workstation.
Why? There are a lot of key combinations that you cannot perform without a numeric keypad, some of the really important ones actually. Beyond that, for most people it is a lot easier to introduce numeric values with the numeric keypad (big surprise?) and that is very helpful for stuff like syncing to picture.
The Best Keyboard For Pro Tools
Ok, so we looked at what makes a keyboard great for Pro Tools. The next step is to look at some great examples of keyboards that have all these features and then some:
Well the name says it all – Avid Pro Tools Keyboard – how more specific could it get? Well, beyond the name and the brand, it is actually a pretty neat keyboard. It is super comfy and easy to get used to. Avid markets the product as the keyboard that gives instant access to Pro Tools transport and edit functions but it’s just marketing as all keyboards with a numeric keypad do that for you. The big plus is that the whole keyboard sports color coded buttons so you do not have to remember hundreds of key combinations. The device can connect both by USB and the old school PS-2 connection. The product is available for both PC and Mac, and outside of Pro Tools it functions just the same as any keyboard you have ever used.
Check out the video review of the AVID Pro Tools keyboard:
This keyboard is made for comfort with a wavy ergonomic shape and a cushioned palm rest to make work a pleasure. It was designed for extended use without repeated stress injury. A big up for this keyboard is the fact that it is wireless and that it has a huge battery life of about three years – says the manufacturer so take that with a pinch of salt. On top of that it even packs a few extra-large buttons in key positions that you can map to your heart’s desire or use them as they are mapped for plug and play.
This is another great example of fantastic ergonomic design –the super wavy shape is curved in such a way that it keeps your hand in a natural, comfortable position while using the keyboard. Besides the five customizable buttons on the top this keyboard has a feature that I don’t really see on a lot of keyboards which is truly awesome – a scrolling wheel for zoom – how useful is that when you are trying to get the right zoom to see where a waveform starts? The most amazing part is that this keyboard is one of the best products on the market with a super affordable price tag, so you will probably be smiling when you will be paying for one of these devices.
Check out the detailed video review of the Logitech K350:
Whatever you go for, remember: numeric keypad, extended functionality in the form of extra buttons/ scrolling wheels, etc. and ergonomic /comfortable design. The keyboard is the main interface for the user to interact with Pro Tools (unless the user owns a control surface) so choosing the right one for you is quite a big deal – nevertheless with the advice shared above you are more than ready to go shopping for the best keyboard for Pro Tools.
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