Mini MIDI: Korg's Nano Controller range

I am that ubiquitous thing: a tech journalist with a secret past as a part-time musician.  I know it doesn’t sound like a natural match but – believe me – we are legion.  It’s always nice when my twin obsessions (gadgets and noise) come together.  I’ve just been checking out Korg’s NanoSERIES range of USB MIDI-controllers.  These things are very cool. And very weird.

To explain…. MIDI is the protocol for translating musical notes into bit and bytes.  That includes routines for volume, tone, key pressure and so on. Budget MIDI-controllers are rarely very exciting – little plastic keyboards or USB mixers with lots of knobs.  Boring. Functional.

Then along comes the Korg Nano range.  Taking a more designery (I’m assured by Google that this is now a word) approach to gadget fashioning, they’re three neat looking, strange little USB units with different MIDI control functions. The nanoKEY is a slick mini-keyboard, with chunky keys for porky fingers like mine.  Smaller than a laptop QWERTY, it’ll easily fit on your desk, we suspect. Then there’s the nanoKONTROL – a similar board with lots of knobs. If you’ve ever tried using a music recording program you’ll know there are an interminable number of volume, balance, equaliser, level, send, effects and (fill in the blank here) controls.  With this, you can assign software controls to nine real live twisty knobs and sliders and eighteen switches. Not enough control for you?  Add another one. Or a third. Brilliant.  A just released new plug-in for Apple’s GarageBand makes it even more useful.

That just leaves our favourite: the NanoPAD.  It’s a similarly sized deck with a dozen sensitive pads that you can tap, smack or hit with a drumstick. Instant drumkit, just add a laptop. And some software.

All the Nano range are under £50 – with the nanoKEY available for £39.  When mine arrives, I’ll give you a more in-depth overview. 

Here’s Korg’s offical video, Check out the chap rocking out at the bus stop…