It was inevitable: eventually, someone would figure out that mobile computer musicians wanted to be able to have a slim-line controller (particularly for MIDI keyboards) that was tiny enough to fit anywhere and take anywhere. I actually heard a rumor at one point that someone would be M-Audio, but Korg has beaten them to the punch. Our friend Ben Rogerson of (from Future, the Computer Music and Future Music folks) is at the London International Music Show and sends along the scoop:

Korg nanoSeries puts laptop users in control []

Info at the Korg Japan Page (and yeah, I’m sure these will be huge – or, erm, tiny – in Japan!)

There are three different controllers in the line:

  • nanoKEY: 25 keys, transmitting either as MIDI notes or (via a separate mode) Control Change (CC)  messages. Octave shift (natch). Pitch, modulation. And it’s supposed to be velocity-sensitive, too, although we’ll have to get our hands on one to see how sensitive it is.
  • nanoPAD: 12 pads, supposedly inheriting the terrific sensitivity and feel of the padKONTROL, which is pretty much the favorite pad controller round these parts. Chord Trigger. Control Change mode (as with nanoKEY). There’s even an X/Y touch pad with roll and flam mode, favorite features of the padKONTROL.
  • nanoKONTROL: 9 faders, 9 knobs, 18 switches, transport controls. (No, really.) MIDI notes, 168 CC messages. There are even attack and decay times for the switches, allowing them to work as faders, filter controls, effects settings, and the like – something I’d love to see on other (full-sized) controllers.

Additional features are available using the free KONTROL Editor software: on the nanoKEY, you get velocity curves / fixed velocity and assignment editing, and the nanoPAD and nanoKONTROL support scene editing (four of them) in addition to other assignment editing choices. There’s also a download code for the M1Le, the “light” edition of the Legacy Collection Digital Edition, for any M1 fans out there.

They aren’t terribly pretty (the nanoKEY buttons look like they were lifted off a vintage DEC microcomputer), and it’s hard to tell what the feel of that keyboard will be like, but these are indeed promising for tight spots.

Bus-powered, USB. I wonder if, using a hub, you could easily plug in two or three?

Now the bad news: we know neither when these will be available, nor for how much. Let the waiting begin.

The closest thing we’ve seen to this is the Kenton Killamix Mini, a pricey but nicely-built slim-line knob box. (MusicRadar has a review.) And, on the cheaper side, there’s also the cute Novation $99 Novation Nocturn CDM saw at NAMM, which could very well complement one of these. But the really tiny MIDI keyboard has generally been elusive, making this very interesting indeed – not to mention, any of these could sit atop a full-size MIDI keyboard if you’d rather roll that way.

I think fans of the microscopic will find a way to connect these to ultra-mobile PCs or hack iPhones or Nintendo DSes. Any takers?