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Korg NanoKontrol Studio & NanoKey Studio Kompact & Bijou


Well Connected
Studio Pad
Configure your account time zone setting. Computer Kontrol
Computer Keys
MIDI Controllers Conclusion
Hardware > MIDI Controller Alternatives
By Simon Sherbourne Published August 2017
Korg NanoKontrol Studio & NanoKey Studio £124
each

Pros
Wireless or USB connectivity.
Battery or USB power.
Lots of features packed in.
Native support in Gadget/Gadget for Mac.

Cons
Didn’t always re-connect over Bluetooth.
Lack of Ableton Live Remote Script limits
functionality.
Very limited support for Kontrol Studio on iOS.
Kontrol could do more in Gadget.

Summary
Although there are less expensive portables, and
more functional ones if you’re an Ableton user,
nothing else matches the Nano Studios in terms of
wireless convenience and features per square inch.

Information
Are Korg’s Bluetooth Nanos the ultimate mobile MIDI controllers? £124 each.
Korg UK +44 (0)1908 304600
Korg’s two new Nano Studio edition controllers expand on the existing NanoKeys 2 and
www.korg.com
NanoKontrol 2 in both size and functionality. Though somewhat less ‘nano’ they are still
eminently portable, especially as they offer wireless Bluetooth connection to computers and
iOS devices, and can be battery powered.
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Compared to the Kontrol 2, the Kontrol Studio


is spread into a more comfortable layout with
the Mute, Solo, Rec and select buttons moved On the same subject
out from between the faders and up into the
Isla Instruments Kordbot
more traditional position above. This makes September 2018
the unit around twice as deep, but shaves a Nob Control nOb
couple of inches off the width, leaving a April 2018
footprint like an elongated iPad Air. The faders Native Instruments Maschine 3 & Komplete
are longer throw, and all buttons have cool Kontrol 2
white backlighting. The other main physical December 2017
differences are the jog wheel and a Scene The NanoKontrol Studio. M-Audio Hammer 88
November 2017
button, which toggles the whole surface
Akai MPCX
through five separate controller assignment pages when used in stand-alone MIDI mode.
September 2017

From the same manufacturer


Korg ARP Odyssey FSQ
August 2018
Korg Prologue
April 2018
The NanoKey Studio takes the two-octave Korg Kross 2
keyboard layout from the NanoKeys 2 and February 2018
adds eight knobs, eight trigger pads and an X-Y Korg Grandstage
January 2018
touch controller. It also offers considerably
Korg iMono/Poly
more functionality, with eight assignment
December 2017
scenes, scale and chord modes and a built-in
arpeggiator.
Latest Videos

Well Connected
The NanoKey Studio.
A switch on the back of the devices selects
either USB or Bluetooth mode, and can also power them off, which is helpful for conserving
your batteries. I followed the instructions to connect to my Mac: a slightly different procedure
to a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard as it’s done via the Audio MIDI Setup utility. Pairing was
quick and easy, but I found that I had to repeat this process after a restart. This was aided by
installing a small taskbar utility with a shortcut to the Bluetooth settings.

With iOS devices, the Nano Studios connect via Bluetooth in System settings like any other
Studio Tour: MØXE, Nashville
Bluetooth device. You can then use them as generic controllers with any app that supports
3 days 13 hours ago.
CoreMIDI. However, some Korg apps support the devices directly, allowing direct control over
the Bluetooth connection, and offering more integrated functionality. On occasion I had
frustrating connectivity issues: I found the Bluetooth connectivity sketchy as the batteries got
low, and the units were also fussy about which USB cables I used.

Studio Pad
My iOS testing for the NanoKontrol Studio was predominantly in Korg’s own Gadget app;
mainly because this was the only app I could find that supports it out of the box. My other Korg
apps, iMS20 and iElectribe, both have a ‘Native Nano’ mode, but they’ve not been updated for
use with the Studio editions. For example, in iMS20 the original NanoKontrol can control the PreSonus Faderport - Summer NAMM 2018
part mixer, among other things, but the Studio does nothing, not even transport. I couldn’t find 1 month 4 weeks ago.
a way to use the Kontrol with GarageBand, which is probably the most widely used iOS music
package.

Korg’s brilliant iOS toyshop of synths and drum


machines is definitely enhanced by the
NanoKontrol Studio. Transport, mixer and track
selection can all be controlled from the
hardware. I was a bit disappointed that several
buttons were unassigned; it would have been
great to use a couple of the buttons to step
through Scenes, for example. The track
selector is also non-functional, and would have PreSonus Studio 2|4 - Summer NAMM 2018
been very useful. 1 month 4 weeks ago.

The more generic nature of the NanoKey


Studio made it a lot more widely usable on my
iPad than the Kontrol. I had it working with a Korg’s Gadget has built-in support for the Nano
variety of synth apps, as well as GarageBand. It Studio devices on both iOS and Mac.
was also great fun to use both controllers together with Gadget and set up a little portable
workstation. Gadget LE is included with the Nano Studio controllers, along with the LE version
of Korg Module. Again, it was a bit disappointing that the Native modes in the Korg apps didn’t
appear to function as expected. In iMS20, most of the knobs did stuff, although the mapping
seemed random. Worse, I was unable to map the X-Y to the Kaossilator pads in the FX section.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before someone shares some Kontrol Editor maps for use with
different apps.

Computer Kontrol
When connected to a computer the Kontrol Studio has different modes for use with specific
DAWs, a general stand-alone assignable mode, and connects natively to Gadget for Mac. The
Cubase, Live, Studio One, Sonar and Digital Performer modes are all essentially Mackie Control
emulations, and there’s a Pro Tools mode that uses the HUI protocol. These days it comes as a
surprise when there isn’t a dedicated device profile for Live that would allow for automatic
setup and dynamic control mapping. Logic and GarageBand are, however, supported directly
with a supplied controller plug-in. There’s no mention of Reason (which is strange as Reason
Lite is the one bundled DAW), but it does work up to a point via the Mackie emulation.

In Live’s Session view you get bankable mixer control, but no Device control. The jog wheel
scrolls up and down the Scene list, but provides no means to actually trigger the selected
Scene. In Arrange view the jog wheel moves the play marker and the Marker buttons work
effectively at setting position pointers and navigating between them. The functionality is similar
in all the other DAWs: mixer control, transport, and navigation with the wheel. In all the DAW
modes the Scene button has no function. Gadget control is identical to the iOS version.

In stand-alone MIDI mode you can use the


supplied Korg Kontrol Editor to set up five layers
of assignments of Note or CC messages. The
wheel has a more detailed setup page that should
cover most eventualities. The Scene button tabs
you through your different assignment pages,
with a row of five LEDs showing you where you
are. Unfortunately, switching between each of the
DAW modes and stand-alone mode requires that
you restart the device while holding down various
button combinations (which I had to look up in
the manual every time). It’s a real shame that you
can’t toggle between DAW and stand-alone mode
on the fly and get the best of both worlds. As it
stands, the majority of users will probably never
use the powerful multi-scene mode.

Korg Kontrol Editor lets you assign multiple


Computer Keys scenes on both controllers.

The NanoKey Studio functions like a generic MIDI keyboard when connected to your computer.
There’s no Logic plug-in this time, and again no Live remote script, so any knob assignments
will need to be manually mapped. There are, however, eight available scenes to switch
between, which you can adjust with the Kontrol Editor if necessary. The keys themselves are
the same as on the regular Nano: large buttons that feel like keys on traditional ‘clacky’
computer keyboards. They won’t be to everyone’s taste, but they do allow Korg to cram two
octaves into a tiny space. Unlike a computer keyboard they are velocity sensitive. A nice touch
is the Sustain button, which works in place of a footpedal.

As a MIDI keyboard there’s a lot of functionality on offer that you wouldn’t see on many full-
sized keyboards. There’s a built-in Arpeggiator with multiple types and gate patterns that you
select via the Shift key and drum pads; as you cycle through the options the backlights on the
keys animate to show you the pattern. You can also use the pads to set up a Scale and Key for
use with the Easy Scale and Scale Guide functions. Easy Scale maps your chosen scale and key
to the ‘white’ notes on the keyboard (which are actually black). Scale Guide leaves the keys in
their default chromatic assignment, but uses the backlights to indicate your selected scale.
Finally, there’s a handy Chord Pad mode that plays chords with the drum pads. In Easy Scale
mode the black (grey) keys on the keyboards also play these chords.

The touch pad is an unexpected bonus in a mini MIDI keyboard. This has three separate
functions, selected from the buttons below it. In Pitch/Mod mode the pad takes the place of
pitch-bend and mod wheels. In X-Y mode the pad becomes a flexible controller, sending two
sets of CC data. This was easy to map in Live and in various plug-ins, and was lots of fun. Finally
there’s a Touch Scale mode where the pad is used to play notes.

Conclusion
While sacrificing some of the extreme portability of the previous Nano devices, the Studio
models gain an unprecedented amount of functionality for controllers that fit in a laptop bag.
Bluetooth connectivity and battery power also mean zero cables to carry around and lose. The
NanoKontrol Studio works well with most computer DAWs, although has a limited repertoire
on iOS, and is held back by lack of ability to mix the fixed DAW and User modes. The NanoKey
Studio works with anything and is a great ultra-portable all-rounder.

Alternatives
There are very few MIDI controllers that offer Bluetooth connectivity. Korg and Akai both
have simple Bluetooth keyboards, the MicroKey 2 Air and LPK 25 Wireless respectively,
which have more traditional keys than the NanoKey but none of the extras. For a
premium price there’s CME’s slimline XKey range. I can’t think of anything comparable to
the NanoKontrol Studio with a wireless connection.

If you can live with USB, then there’s a lot of other comparable options at a lower price
from Korg, Akai and Novation in particular. Finally, it’s also worth checking Korg’s Taktile
25 which is like a combo of both the Nano Studio devices, albeit in a chunkier, USB-only
package.
Published August 2017
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