Korg nanoKONTROL Studio Mobile MIDI Controller
The MIDI DAW control surface goes wireless
by Phil O'Keefe
Mixing with a mouse is something that most people aren't crazy about it. Fortunately there are other options. Once you try mixing with a control surface you may never want to mix without one again. However, control surfaces have some issues. They tend to be large and are often far from inexpensive. Then there's the issue of software compatibility - you definitely need to make sure the controller will work with the software that you want to use. All of this is relatively easy to find in a large, expensive, studio-based controller, but what if you value mobility and want something you can take with you? Well, you're exactly the user that Korg had in mind when they developed their new nanoKONTROL Studio.
- Designed for both wired (USB) and wireless (Bluetooth) connection, the Korg nanoKONTROL Studio measures only 10.94" W x 6.30" D x 1.30" H - just a bit smaller than a sheet of paper. At 1.01 pounds without the batteries installed, the weight is also very mobile-friendly.
- System requirements vary, depending on how you're going to connect the nanoKONTROL Studio to your device. For USB, you'll need Mac OS X 10.9, or Windows 7 SP1 (32 or 64 bit) or later.
- Bluetooth requires a Bluetooth 4 compatible device, with OS X 10.10 (or later) for Mac, or Windows 8.1 or later. iOS users will need an iPod Touch, iPad or iPhone that supports Bluetooth 4.0 and is running iOS 8 or later.
- The only physical connection is a Micro USB port, located on the left side panel. Korg includes a suitable USB cable with the unit.
- The nanoKONTROL Studio can be powered for about ten hours on a pair of AAA alkaline batteries. The battery compartment is on the controller's underside, near the rear edge. A blue LED in the upper right corner of the unit's front panel indicates when it's powered up.
- The rear panel is where you'll find a three-position Mode slider switch that allows selecting among battery, standby and USB operating modes. Standby turns the battery powering off.
- There are eight channels on the nanoKONTROL Studio, each with a short throw 45mm fader, a rotary pan knob, Mute, Solo, Rec and Select pushbuttons.
- A transport sectionon the left of the unit includes Return To Zero, Stop, Play and Record buttons. These buttons are slightly larger than the others on the unit, making them easy to use. Above the main transport controls are Rewind and Fast-Forward controls, as well as a pair of left / right Track Select buttons. There's even a Jog / Shuttle wheel located beneath the transport section.
- Two Marker buttons (for moving forward/back through markers) and a Set button make up the Marker section of the nanoKONTROL Studio. A Cycle button initiates cycle mode, which is great if you want to quickly try multiple takes of a section of the song.
- All of the buttons have a comfortable rubbery feel, and light up around their edges when activated.
- The nanoKONTROL Studio has five scenes. A Scene button recalls them, and five green LEDs show which of the presets is selected.
- Korg's KONTROL Editor software allows customizing the nanoKONTROL Studio settings and specifying the MIDI messages assigned to the various physical controls. So, it can be set up to work with just about anything that will respond to MIDI messages with a bit of work.
- The nanoKONTROL Studio comes preconfigured with control modes for use with Cubase, Pro Tools, SONAR, Digital Performer, Studio One, Logic and GarageBand.
- The faders aren't motorized, but you really can't expect them to be at this price. Their relatively short throw can also take some getting used to if you regularly work with 100 mm faders.
- While the nanoKONTROL Studio can be bus powered over the USB connection, if there are any batteries loaded they will continue to drain, so you'll want to pull the batteries out when you're not using them.
- There is no undo key. You'll still need to keep your keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) handy, even with the nanoKONTROL Studio augmenting them.
The Korg nanoKONTROL Studio is compatible with most major DAW programs right out of the box, and it can be programmed to work with practically anything. It gives you a bunch of useful tools that definitely make mixing easier. I was surprised by the low latency performance of the nanoKONTROL Studio, even when running it wirelessly via Bluetooth. It works even better when connected with the USB port, and gives you a solid set of controls that don't cost a fortune. You do give up motorized, long-throw faders and other higher-end features that you'll find on many AC-powered studio-based control surfaces, but at this price, you really can't expect them.
I also really miss having an undo key on the controller - you're still going to need your keyboard and mouse, but if you're like me, you'll find that with the nanoKONTROL Studio's faders, buttons, knobs and transport controls to aid you, you'll be able to get much more done and do it more "musically" than when trying to mix with just a touchpad or mouse - and you'll have a lot of fun in the process. -HC-
Korg nanoKONTROL Studio ($180.00 MSRP, $149.99 "street")
Korg nanoKONTROL Studio product web page
You can purchase the Korg nanoKONTROL Studio from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.