This range of controllers are affordable and will improve your computer based music making
In a previous video I took a look at the microKorg synthesizer and commented on how good it was to be able to adjust options with proper dials rather than a mouse and keyboard. A £300 synthesizer isn't within everyone's budget so the nanoseries2, also from Korg, offers a much more affordable alternative.
There are three devices in the range:
The nanoKey2 costs £40, while the Nanokontrol2 and the Nanopad2 cost £50.
I'm reviewing these from the point of Ableton Live as I happen to use Live as my DAW software, but the Nano series is Midi compliant so will work with whatever software you use. They all come with vouchers to download various music programs as well as money off Ableton Live.
The NanoKontrol2 gives playback and record control over the whole set as well as more detailed control for eight tracks. These include a slider for level, a pan dial and buttons for solo, mute and recording arm. Adjusting a slider automatically selects that track in Live.
The transport controls make a big difference to using Live. In fact they make this controller my pick of the bunch as it is so much easier than remembering keyboard commands or using the mouse. Markers also great for moving around recordings with ease in the arrangement view.
Unlike the other nano controllers, the NanoKontrol2 has different settings depending on what software you intend to use and these are set by holding down a couple of buttons as you plug it in. Set up in Live was then easy, just don't forget to plug it in before Live starts.
The sliders move with just about the right amount of force to move. You won't move them by accident but we found we could control one with each finger without any stress. Same with the panning knobs, though a balance point would help as normally you'll want tracks centred, at least to begin with.
It's not possible to select multiple solos as you could on a real mixer, so the solution is to come to it the other way round and mute the tracks you don't want.
My only real criticism is that it would be good to have some kind of marking on the tracks, or maybe a border with space to add your own numbers as this would make it easier to select the right track. If you're wondering why I'm not just suggesting simple numbering, Korg say you can connect several Nanokontrol2 devices to one computer if eight tracks isn't enough.
The NanoPAD2 has sixteen velocity sensitive pads and an X-Y touch pad. It can be set to four different scenes so there is a total range of 64 notes, more than enough for laying down drum tracks.
There's a lot more to the NanoPad2 than drum beats thanks to the Touch Scale and Gate Arp functions that work with the touchpad. These can produce some fun sounds and are best used with actual instruments. The Touch Scale lets you play using the touch pad. Select a key with the Key/Range button and the the keys listed on the pads.
To give a proper range of variation, you can also select different scales from the major to minor and blues with some other interesting variations.
The Gate arp function adds in notes based on tempo, either current or added by the tap button.
The Nanokey2 is a two octave mini keyboard. The keys are somewhere between pads like the NanoPad and ordinary keyboards. I'm going to leave the final judgement on this down to personal taste. Personally I think I prefer ‘proper' keys but there's nothing wrong how this keyboard works. The keys are velocity sensitive but there's no real travel to them as with a tradition keyboard.
The range of the keyboard can be extended by pressing the octave buttons and there is colour coding so you can see where in the range you are. Pressing both buttons together returns to the middle settings. There are buttons for pitch bend as well as sustain and modulation.
All three members of the Korg nano family work well at their respective duties. As I said, the Nanokontrol2 would be top of my list but I'd seriously consider all three for my home studio.
Read more reviews
An excellent collection of music controllers that don't waste space or money
Small, affordable, genuinely effective
NanoKontrol2 needs borders around each channel, Nanokey2 key style not for everyone
£nanoKey2 £40, NanoKontrol2 and Nanopad2 £50
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