Back in the day when musicians wore mullets and eye shadow, they typically stacked playable keyboards from Korg, Yamaha, Kawai and others on tiered stands, all linked together with MIDI cables. There were also the standalone modules -- MIDI linked -- that provided extra sound banks on designated MIDI channels. All of this could be sequenced using a standalone device provided by the likes of Alesis, or via sequencer built into an actual keyboard. Now we have software-based sequencers and sound banks which can be programmed and played using a laptop or tablet and a USB-connected "piano." Boy have times changed.
Industry leader Korg currently offers its microKEY series, a line of USB-based MIDI keyboards for the mobile musician. Prior to this report, the company provided a 37-key model featuring the velocity-sensitive Natural Touch mini-keybed. Now Korg is offering an even narrower 25-key model for better portability, and a full-fledged 61-key model providing enough space to play freely with both hands. Want to be a one-man band? Using a laptop, software sequencer and the 61-key setup is probably the way to go.
"All microKEY models feature velocity-sensing mini keys, using the Natural Touch keybed," Korg stated in an email. "This keybed has been designed with careful attention to the touch and feel: the proportions of the black keys and white 'waterfall' keys have been adjusted for optimal playability, with a key touch that makes it easy to play chords. The microKEY also accurately conveys the dynamics of the user’s performance to any software package. Free 'Korg KONTROL Editor' software also enables users to customize microKEY for their production or performance system."
For added flexibility and control, the microKEY 37- and 61-key models both serve double-duty as a USB hub, offering two USB ports (Type A) that allow the user to expand their music studio by adding on a Korg nanoPAD2 or nanoKONTROL2 -- or any other USB device, for that matter. The Mac and PC-compatible microKEYs also run on USB power, making them well-suited for on-the-go laptop musicians. For iPad musicians, the microKEY-25 can be used to control apps such as the Korg iMS-20 via MIDI.
Korg reports that the 61-key model comes packed with the "Korg Legacy Collection Special Bundle," which provides software versions of five of Korg's most coveted synthesizers: the MS-20 analog monophonic synthesizer, the Polysix polyphonic synthesizer, the Mono/Poly analog synthesizer, the M1, and the Wavestation digital synthesizer, as a suite of 19 of Korg’s sought after effects plugins. Also included are licenses for Applied Acoustics Systems' Strum Acoustic Session, Lounge Lizard Session, and Ultra Analog Session as well as a license for Toontrack's software drum sound module EzDrummer Lite, and a discount coupon for Ableton's "Live," "Live Suite," and "Live LE" DAW software.
The new microKEY25 and the existing microKEY37 includes a download code for FREE Korg M1Le software, giving users all of the preset sounds and all of the PCM waveforms of the original M1, and a browser/search function that makes it easy to find that "perfect sound." Both models also include the same licenses offered with the 61-key version.
Korg microKEY25, 37, and 61 keyboards will be available at a variety of international retailers for $69.99, $79.99 and $179.99 respectively. For more information about Korg's microKEY series, head here.