KORG “Nano” MIDI Controllers

When KORG said they were going to send us a “little” something to check out for the mag, they weren’t kidding. Here we have the new lineup of “nano” devices for your mobile recording rigs.

First up is the nanoKEY2, which is an ultra-compact MIDI controller with a two-octave range. Of the three units we got, this was the one I wanted to love the most, and the one that left me most underwhelmed. Sure, it’s small and worked fine with our DAW. But being used to larger keys, going to these tiny little plastic buttons seemed like a major downgrade.

Now, I get that KORG’s going for portability and hitting a certain price point here, but I found trying to play any sort of bass line a challenge with my fat sausage fingers, an issue that doesn’t arise even on other ultra-small MIDI controllers we’ve tested. If you’re just banging out a few notes in a pinch, or absolutely need a MIDI controller that fits in your coat pocket, this will work (and it does send CC data, which was surprising). Otherwise, I can’t see this as a serious tool and you might want to invest in a better option for your needs. Even the drum pad version (see below) might prove to be a more useful option. The keys felt pretty cheap, too, and unfortunately it just came across as more of a novelty or toy as opposed to a real piece of gear.

We did like the nanoKONTROL2 much much better, though. And here I can definitely see this showing up on a lot of desktops where you’d want tactile control over a mix in your DAW, but real estate was at a premium.  Surprisingly, even though it’s the same form factor and size as the nanoKEY2, the knobs, faders and controls felt way more solid and overall, it’s just a more useful tool if you don’t have any hardware-based DAW controller already. It’s ridiculously portable, inexpensive, and does a great job providing mix and transport controls at the push of a button (or slide of a fader). Really satisfying, and our favorite of the bunch. Totally recommended, and awesome at this price. Setting markers in your project was a super-nice bonus, and very useful. Can’t say enough good things about this one.

The last one up is the nanoPAD2, which is a small drum controller, but also allows note and pad control, which had us gravitating towards it for our synth needs more than the nanoKEY2. The touch pads themselves are serviceable (again, keep in mind the price here and temper expectations), and along with the nanoKONTROL2 would make a nice 1-2 punch for a budget- and space-conscious beginning producer.

PROS:

Inexpensive solutions, super-small and portable, good values all-around.

CONS:

Some keys felt cheap and hollow.

STREET PRICE:

$65 (nanoPAD2); $55 (nanoKEY2); $65 (nanoKONTROL2)

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