Oh yes, good things do come in small packages. Korg's nanoKEY slim-line USB Keyboard is part of its nanoSERIES of controllers, which includes the nanoPAD and nanoKONTROL.
Small enough to fit directly in front of your laptop, this 25-key, 0.5 lb, velocitysensitive keyboard packs a lot of power for a little monster. Available in either white with black and white keys or black with grey and black keys, it lists for only $62 and can be found for around $50 street. It’s laid out with the 25 keys on the right and buttons for Octave Down, Octave Up, CC Mode, Pitch Down, Pitch Up and Modulation on the left. Above the buttons sit Octave LEDs, which shift down/up one octave per keystroke. To provide feedback, the LEDs light up green for +1/-1, Orange for +2/-2, Red for +3/-3 and Blinking Red for +4/-4. You can quickly reset the octave shift to null by pressing both keys simultaneously. The Korg icon lights up when powered via an included USB cable on the side of the unit. The manual notes it may fail when using a non-powered USB hub, so connect accordingly. [According to Korg, "This is precautionary; the draw of the product is only 60 mA." — Ed.]
The nanoKEY will operate on MAC OS X (10.3.9 and up) and Windows XP SP2 or later systems. MIDI drivers for both systems will automatically install upon first connecting the nanoKEY to your computer. [From Korg: "Generic drivers (USB Audio Device) are installed by Windows. The correct drivers should be downloaded from korg.com and installed." — Ed.]
While most buttons are self-explanatory, the MOD button transmits modulation messages, and CC Mode will allow each key of the keyboard to function as independent buttons transmitting control change messages. With a free download of the Korg Kontrol Editor, you can dig deeper into such functions as Velocity Curves (three types), transposition values and Velocity Values, etc.
Some chords are certainly challenging to play on the nano (A-flat major, for example), simply due to the nature of your hand position and the close proximity of the keys. After a little experimentation, you learn to curve your hand into some non-traditional fingerings to get the job done. The action on the keys is decent, not great — but come on, how much can you really expect? It's smooth enough to be quite playable.
I simply love using the nanoKEY. It goes with me on every mobile gig now, and it's fun to play bass lines, program loops and lay down pads with. I often leave it in front of my computer keyboard even on large sessions, so I can face the screen while working. At this price and with its cool functionality, it's a no-brainer.
Contact: Korg | www.korg.com/nano