On the Mac, the NanoKey works with plug-and-play simplicity with GarageBand, the music authoring application that’s bundled with all new Macs. No complicated MIDI setup is required, as the keyboard operates entirely via USB: simply plug it in and GarageBand will recognise it.
As a basic controller, it’s a far more immediate experience than using either a virtual keyboard or forcing the computer keyboard to behave like a piano. And with a power consumption of less then 100mA, it can draw power directly from even an unplugged laptop for supreme on-the-road use.
The NanoKey also ships with a voucher to download Korg’s own M1 LE, a limited edition software emulation of its classic late-1980s M1 hardware synthesizer. The M1 LE is an eight-part multi-timbral tone generator with 32-note polyphony, and functions as a powerful standalone synthesizer as well as offering RTAS, VST or AudioUnits plug-ins for use within composition software.
Because of its small size and the limited travel of the keys, you’d be unlikely to want to use the Korg NanoKey for performance, or even as a substitute for a real piano in your own home. While it’s possible to play tunes and chords with reasonable accuracy, that’s not what it’s designed for and certainly isn’t where its strength lies. But as a tiny, portable keyboard for the travelling musician, or even for the home user who wants a cheap, simple way of inputting tunes into a software synth or sequencer, it’s a neat and ingenious solution. And at just £50 – and under half a pound - it won’t weigh you down. ®
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Sennheiser RS 160
Korg NanoKey MIDI controller
I found the key action to be horrible.
Think about the cheapest, nastiest, clickiest laptop keys you've ever used: that's what it feels like. Also, in the push to get it down to the least volume, Korg also saddled it with very little travel in the keys, the overall effect being that it's extremely difficult to modulate your velocity as you play.
This was a deal-breaker for me, so I bought an Akai LPK25 for a fiver more. This has the same 25 keys and similar programmability within an only fractionally larger footprint but, crucially, it's twice as thick, all of which has gone into the key travel. In addition the keys themselves are much more substantial efforts with a lovely smooth action.
Awful product, you may as well play the laptop keyboard itself.
Another vote for the Akai LPK25. Mine goes everywhere with me.
I had three(!) in a row, and two Korg NanoPads too. They are singularly the worst quality goods I've ever had the misfortune to get replacements and then refunds on.
Dire build quality. Sketchy response - two of the three nano keys had completely dead keys, and the C# and D# on the third were hit and miss. I really wanted these to work - they looked great in pics - but in the flesh they look and feel incredibly cheap; and they just didn't do the job they were supposed to. Yes, you can argue I got faulty units - but five of them? In a row? Hmm.
I wonder how much an 80% review costs you?
I paid £35 for mine a year ago and couldn't WAIT to get rid of it, it's a rip-off even at that price.
The keys are like laptop shift keys, you can't play hardly worth a damn with ONE hand, let alone two.
If you thought that was worth 80%, you should genuinely check out the AKAI LPK25 - for £45 (£5 less than you quote the Korg), it has proper (if mini-scale) keys, and will blow your mind in how much better it works.
Korg's mixer-style nan-controller and drum-pad units are both wonderful and worth the money but they dropped the ball so utterly in making the NanoKey out of laptop shift-keys (and thus barely usable) that I'm shocked anyone who's tried to write a song with it for more than five minutes could rate it 80%.
Thank you El Reg for reviewing a product that's been out for over a year.
Next week: the Pentium 4 processor - time to upgrade from PIII?