As music production becomes more software oriented, there's an increasing need for hardware controllers to provide physical access to the functions normally found on keyboards, mixer and effects units. Limited space is a key issue for everyone using a desktop or portable computer for audio, so a compact solution is ideal, hence Korg's entry into the busy world of USB keyboard controllers populated by models from the likes of Edirol, Evolution and M-Audio.
The microKONTROL works well with many software products, including the Korg Legacy package. It offers three octaves of mini velocity-sensitive keys, eight control sliders with matching rotary controls and small LCD displays, a combined modulation/pitch bend joystick, and a square of 16 velocity-sensitive drum or note trigger-pads doubling as selectors for new setups, edit functions, sequencer Play/Stop/Record, and more. It draws power from a USB port but can also be battery or 9V AC powered. It offers MIDI outputs for controlling external instruments as well as software ones, and comes with a suite of editing software. The software lets you define, load and save new setups, which is handy, as the microKONTROL only stores 12 setup memories. The factory presets include mixers for sequencers such as Cubase, Logic and Reason, and editors for Novation V-Station, NI Pro-53 and other soft synths and samplers, but the CD-ROM offers 50 setups for handling other products from Waldorf, Steinberg, Arturia and many more.
Each small microKONTROL LCD shows the current controller data being sent, but sheets of tiny silver stickers are supplied so you can label functions. However, some of the deep editing possibilities become quite complex - for example, the pads can enter either decimal or hex information, but aren't numbered in a straightforward manner.
Overall, though, the microKONTROL is a neat little piece of kit. It's compact and playable, and the combination of keyboard, pads and joystick offers endless possibilities. It makes access to all your music software much simpler, but it's a pity it has so few onboard memories.
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Reviewed December 2007.