Updated images: The official LPK25 and LPD8 images, courtesy Akai Pro. (Thanks!) Click for larger versions and a look at the controls.

Korg’s nano series has been a huge hit. Now it’s Akai’s turn, with their own mini USB pad and keyboard controllers. (Note: given lengthy product turnaround in this industry, these may actually have been designed before the nano – but that’s not as important, ultimately, as which models you like.) The Akai assumes you want something that’s a bit bulkier than the Korg nano line – with, presumably, a payoff in playability.

MusicRadar gets the scoop on the mini models to be announced at Summer NAMM. (Really? People still go to that?) Our friend Ben Rogerson says Akai tells them these are expected Q3 of this year – just in time for back to school. Matrixsynth posted the full press release though we do expect official details Friday.

Update: Akai tells CDM they will make the official announcement on Friday, by which time we’ll have more details to share.

The LPK25 keyboard looks like the biggest competitor here. Korg’s competing nanoKEY sacrifices quite a bit of playability to fit into an ultra-compact space, with an action that — while, incredibly, velocity-sensitive — feels like a laptop keyboard. The LPK25 has some sort of synth action. That ups the weight to “under a pound,” and it remains to be seen whether Akai will match Korg’s unbelievable US$60 street price. But for actually playing a keyboard, the LPK looks like it could be the one to beat – while still fitting on a coach airplane seat tray along with your netbook. And it’s got an arpeggiator, too, not that you really need one with something that only works with software.

The LPD8 is interesting, too, with 8 pads and 8 knobs. But here, to me the Korg may continue to reign supreme. I don’t see scene controls on the Akai LPD8, for one. (I thought the Akai didn’t have scenes, but it looks like program changes 1-4 are that — albeit minus those handy LEDs on the Korg.) Korg’s ultra-light pads — unlike the keyboard — are eminently playable, and feel fantastic. And while the Akai knobs are nice, I imagine I’ll still prefer the hold/flam/roll buttons and X/Y trackpad controller on the Korg. Korg also has some terrific software editing functions. Of course, some people would rather have knobs. That’s why choice is good.

That said, the LPK25 promises to fill a niche I’ve been waiting for someone to fill — a tiny keyboard you can throw in your backpack for programming tunes in a coffee shop.

Stay tuned – I’m finishing up not only a mini (ahem) review of the nanos this week, but also some new templates and scripts that make them easier to use with Ableton Live.

  • andi

    i'm excited about your scripts for the nano series. i'm foolin around with the nanokontroll for a while now. its nice and i like it! but its so damn annoying to configure the same settings on every new project. i hope your scripts will help (will they???) or maybe you know an already existing workaround for this? anyways, love your blog!

  • LZR

    Oh yes, that LPK25 does actually looks very, very promising.

  • It's funny, because I'd just been saying I wish Korg would do a nanoKEY Pro with a better action – or any action. 😉 It'd be particularly nice with the keybed they have on the microKORG, though the trick to that is, generally the keys are levers — you're losing a whole bunch of the length of the lever, thus changing the feel.

    Scripts — yep, they'll save you from this, *and* the process can be applied to other controllers.

    Okay, I'll shut up and get back to work. Too much to do. 😉

  • LZR

    I don't really like the microKorg-Keys either, for the LPK I am hoping for something atleast in the vincinity of the MPK49… Too bad the price is not known, please keep us updated here or via twitter. Because if it's not obscenely priced I will definately get one.

  • Spazmatron

    Anyone using any korg nano product must check out the nativekontrol website. This guy has put together some fantastic apps for all the nano stuff. Also in the testing phase right now is a pretty sweet apc40 app for use with ableton. Check it out.

  • i just think this LPK25 will be one of the buzz of september !!

    thanks for the info !

  • Three things – first, right off the bat, the Akai LPD and LPK look like they might have the edge on build quality over the Nanos. Not that they would have to try very hard…

    Second, pads + knobs is far more logical than pads + touchpad.

    Third, I seriously doubt Korg knows how to make a decent keyboard for anything.

  • Joshua… really? Action on the higher-end Korgs feels perfectly fine. I'd say most of the vendors are in the same basic territory at the low end. And you can't tell build quality by looking at something, can you?

    I'll explain my x/y pad comment. I personally think it's more useful to have x/y with your pads – especially with Korg's feature – than knobs. But that's entirely a matter of opinion. I can see having matching knobs for each being handy for other applications. In fact, in fairness, maybe that's a draw… but we won't really know how it goes until we actually have this in hand.

    I have no complaints on build quality on the nano line, especially for their size, with the exception of the nanoKEY… on which the keys fall off.

  • Michael

    Maybe these Akai units will be built better. I have a key that popped off of my Nanokey the 3rd time I used it. I'm returning it to the store. I really like the concept, but it needs to be more durable.

  • I gave up on my Nanokey a while back and went for an Axiom 25. (Sadly, if I start FLStudio twice in a single session after powering on the Axiom, I get a guaranteed BSOD… but I haven't yet checked for driver updates to deal with that.)

  • Those keys do pop back *on* after they've popped off… but yeah, that's not necessarily optimal. I just don't see a huge advantage of the nanoKEY over your qwerty – about the same feel. The nanoKONTROL and nanoPAD, though, I love.

    Um…without giving away the punchline of my review. 😉

  • you know what I wish someone would make? A physical equivalent to MainStage components.

    No matter what midi controller I buy … I always need another knob, or slider … or pad.

    These things should be like lego bricks. Need another knob? Oo problem, grab a knob out of your bucket of knobs and snap it on. Need another octave of keys? Same deal …

    I'm really surprised nobody has done it … it seems like such an obvious idea.

    I'd totally be into buying kit components rather than ditching one piece of gear after another so I can finally "have what I need".

  • coolout

    "those keys do pop back *on* after they’ve popped off… but yeah, that’s not necessarily optimal. I just don’t see a huge advantage of the nanoKEY over your qwerty – about the same feel. The nanoKONTROL and nanoPAD, though, I love.

    Um…without giving away the punchline of my review. ;)"

    I wonder what the akai's price will be?

    I'm in the process of moving and my studio is completely dismantled. (I guess my Torq/nanoKONTROL video will have to wait.) Not one to stand idle, I've been getting a lot of work done on a netbook. I almost bought a nanoKey, but ended up just using qwerty with a virtual midi keyboard that works fine…one less thing to carry around and 50 bucks saved. With that said. the LPK25 looks really tempting…good thing I waited.

  • tb

    hope they are more brillant than korg and ut midi out on those

  • I have a nanoKEY key that does not pop back on. Anearly microscopic bit of plastic is broken, so it really doesn't latch to anything anymore.

  • recombinant

    …and i just bought a nanoKEY too. bummer.

    oh well — while i still really like my nano, it definitely would be nice to have a controller with a more "keyboardy" feel (i.e. "music keyboardy," not "QWERTY keyboardy"). looking forward to seeing what akai delivers! thanks!

  • I hope they put a midi out

  • To qualify some of my comments, Korg seems to have a size/weight to quality ratio about their products. Sure, the Oasis and Radias are fine. But the R3, X50, PadKontrol, right down to the nanos, feel rather cheap to me.

    I have a small mixer from Tapco – the Mix50. It's not the greatest mixer in the world, but it's metal, the controls are solid, and it cost around $50. The nanoKontrol doesn't even come close.

  • Right, but Joshua, that doesn't necessarily translate to "build quality" — it's weight. The plastic used on the Korg seems plenty rugged to me. My only complaint is about the nanoKEY. Of course, on the full-size (or mini-key) keyboards from KORG, you have to try it to decide what you like. If it doesn't have the build quality you want, then it's a non-starter, no question!

    On the nano's, my guess is that the optimal combo would be something like nanoPAD + nanoKONTROL + Akai LPK25. And with a hub, you could run them all together. 🙂 On the other hand, it'll be interesting to see if Avid nee M-Audio come out with something of their own. I'm still surprised they weren't first in this category.

    Anyway, I'm personally really happy you have stuff like this you can toss in a bag. 😉

    MIDI out — I doubt it. I mean, it sure as heck isn't going to be a DIN – it won't fit. You could use a breakout, but they're still going to add to the cost and complexity. What would you use that MIDI out for on a box like this, out of curiosity?

  • I thought the keys on the MicroKorg XL were amazingly playable, and I hated the ones on the original MicroKorg and NanoKey. The XL is too big to fit in a backpack, though, so I think the optimal microcontroller would be a "NanoKey XL" — two octaves of MicroKorg XL keys in a USB-powered box. They could even make it thick enough to hold MicroKorg XL-size pitch and mod wheels; the height is less of an issue to me than the length and depth.

    Incidentally, I just flew with a MicroKorg XL. It was too big to fit in my carry-on, so I tucked it into the outside pocket of my suitcase, knobs facing inward. When I arrived, some wooden items deeper inside the suitcase had snapped, but the MicroKorg XL was unscathed. It's stronger than its light weight would indicate.

  • Will Copps

    I'd use a MIDI out to go through MIDI Yoke and translate the messages that way, just like with my Behringer… it would help continuity from "in the studio" (Behringer) to "on the road" (Akai).

    Also, I think the X/Y pad is better if it's just used as a drum pad, but I think the knobs are a handy combo that lots of people will like.

  • alhogar

    Man, its strange when a product that you've fantasized about suddenly comes true. I was literally just wishing a week or so ago that there would be some new direct competitors for the Nano line, and Akai was the first company I thought of…now if Novation does a new compact keyboard controller thats just like a Nocturn with keys I'll be totally spooked…

  • @Will — wait, you mean if it sends MIDI messages, not if it has a MIDI out *port*? (If you're using MIDI Yoke, then otherwise wouldn't you just send it out whatever gear you had that did have a MIDI out port to hardware?) Maybe I'm still not understanding…

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  • This is wonderful news! I've been looking for a minimal 25k keyboard for awhile now… wasn't really happy with what I was reading regarding the Korg nano 25k so ya looking forward to how this shapes up.

  • Adam Smith

    I'm happy to see the LPD8. I kind of want an MPD24, but don't want to shell out the $150. I'm hoping this one is closer in price to the nanoPad.

    As an Ableton user I appreciate the rows of 4 pads as they map nicely to the drum rack UI. I have also been impressed with Akai's build quality in the past as a previous MPC owner and now an APC owner.

    I have not used the nanoPad, but it just seems cheap and flimsy…but Peter it sounds like you're quite happy with yours. I'm anxious to hear more about the LPD and how it compares.

  • I think that having a touch pad with pads makes a lot of sense. It's logical for a percussion instrument, considering that if you play hand drums, there are a lot of techniques that involve rubbing the playing surface. But that being said, knobs are good, too.

  • Thanks for posting this, Peter. I was just considering the nano's and now I have more options!

    Nice to finally meet you at the Ableton/DIY instrument thing at 675, btw. I thought it was funny when the owner said it was time to play "normal music."

  • They do look sexy, not so much the pads as the mini keys, but I'm anxious to see the new mpk61 lol, that was my dream controller when the dropped the 88…I was hoping they made one.

    anyway, it will be nice to actually play with these little guys and see what's good with them

  • I love my nanokontrol, and here I ave posted how I use it with custom automapping and blue-hand-action in ableton live: http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=

  • Ryan

    /me hoping the key one is class compliant…

  • I will bye direct ! a no brainer !

    I have the nano, i like it a lot, use it almost every day.

    but the nano keyboard has noting to do with a quality.

    just portability and space. the nano controller are very nice the knobs and sliders respond very well sort of more quality feel.

  • leslie

    move along… nothing to see here….

  • Jake


    which host are you using? I may be wrong, but in ableton for instance the work around is to have a empty midi channel route the midi coming in from the controller and the route the midi out to midi yoke.

    Having said that I wish that the microkontrol had a midi out port so I could plug it in to the midi port in my USB soundcard, would remove the need for a hub.

  • Woieyr

    Man AKAI is becoming the New Behringer.

    They just rip off other people's ideas

  • Doug

    "I don’t see scene controls on the Akai LPD8, for one"

    I'm pretty sure I see the possibility for selecting 4 different scenes on the LPD8.

    If you look at the bottom 4 pads, they are labeled Prog1…Prog4 (at the top-right of each pad, in orange text).It looks like you can simultaneously press the Program button at the left of the unit and one of the 4 bottom pads to select a scene/program for the 8 pads.

    I think?

  • I don't think AKAI is ripping off KORG. Like I said, I'm surprised we haven't seen *more* of this sort of thing. It's not as though it's some radical idea — before the nano came out, you could ask any mobile laptop musician what they want and they'd basically describe this.

    My sense is also that these may be a different form factor from the nano anyway.

    An interesting niche, in fact, remains doing something a little bulkier but more rugged / high-end.

    Haven't had my coffee yet today but … what's that metal box with the encoders on it and lovely lights called?

    Of course, plastic is often underrated as a material. It's pretty good stuff as far as durability, depending on the kind of plastic you use and how something is designed. But the *feel* of different materials can be nice.

  • cubestar

    I wish the pad had endless knobs and the kb had tiny mod/pitch wheels!

  • LPK, oh yes oh yes!

  • Michael Coelho


    I tried popping the key back on for half an hour and gave up in frustration. I have successfully fixed laptop keys before, but I couldn't get this sucker back on. I like the idea of having a tiny keyboard that I can keep in my back pack and pull out at a moments notice. The Nanokey doesn't have a great feel, but I've got a Yamaha M0-8 for that as well as a Novation SL25 and a Korg Kontrol 49, I really just like the convenience of a mini keyboard.

  • @Michael: I hear you, for sure. As for your popped-off key, try calling KORG support. There's apparently a trick to it. But yeah, the AKAI looks a little closer to what I'd imagine — will be interesting to see how it turns out and if anyone else gets in.

    (other manufacturers — hope you listener to what cubestar just said!)

  • Zoopy

    Who cares if they are ripping off other ideas if they clearly do everything better anyways? AKAI means quality.

    Korg? No.

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  • @Peter I totally agree that these were obvious devices to introduce. I wonder if product lifecycle had a significant impact on their slow time-to-market.

    The Akai LPD8 doesn't have an XY pad, though — which is a tad odd considering its versatility in many areas and their APC40 collaboration with Ableton for Live, which thrives on XY control. But AKAI are famed for perc pads. (It'd be killer if each one of those pads was a mini XY pad, but I can only dream…)

    That being said, does anyone have recommendations for an affordable XY pad besides the nanoPAD, or is that the only one on the market? (I've seen some experimental devices that were much more costly, and the Korg's Kaoss is also pricier.)

  • music

    why is back 2 school the time to bring out synths :s?? if anything right before summer would be the time, so ppl ahve time to plaaayyyy!!!

  • Synthmob

    Why not make one that uses Bluetooth? My Macbook has that built-in…

  • I'm a little unclear on why everyone's hating on Korg here. Have you guys actually worked with the pads?

    The Akai pads typically are responsive at the center, but not around the edges. So the Korg padKONTROL, for instance, has better responsiveness toward the corners of the pads. I also found I was able to get more consistent velocity response out of it, more subtleties. Now, which you prefer playing is a matter of taste. But to slam Korg across the board on quality I think is unfair.

    I also think, with all due respect, *none* of the major brands is putting out absolute consistency across their whole line, Akai included, because so many of them are doing stuff at the low end that, frankly, cuts corners some of the time. And unfortunately, this is the case with almost all computer controllers, regardless of brand — it's hit or miss.

  • It's all about cost and size. I have been using Korg nanoKontrol and nanoPad for several months now and have been really happy with them. I have several other, nicer usb MIDI controllers lying around, but I often find myself having to travel or run around, so being cheap and small enough to toss in my bag means it actually gets used. As far as build quality goes, the mini-USB jack is the weak link for all of these. I had one bust off from leaving the cable plugged in, and it's pretty tough to resolder the SMT component. That aside, the nanopads are very playable and I use my nanoKontrol as a video controller constantly.

  • alhogar

    Detailed info and videos are now up at Akai:


  • sensitive pads

    actually the korg nanopad is total s**t. the pads are not nearly as responsive as the padkontrol pads. i thought it would be a nice replacement but I sold it right away.

    really looking forward to these two

  • tb


    controlling real hardware, they could have easily put a mini din to 2x DIN5 like the old yamahas soundcards had (and the early m-audio PCI) and it would give us, hardware users, a nice little controller for some of our machines like rack synths and samplers instead of carrying something that is just too big (25 notes keys or big mpcstyle pads)

  • Poodleface

    This Akai mini keyboard is good news, because the nanoKey has been a disappointment for me, mainly because those damn keys keep popping off. I finally had one come off that simply will not go back on. I like small crappy keyboards, but not when they don't hold on to their keys. 🙁

    Thankfully, I'll recoup the $50 when I buy the Korg Legacy Digital synths. Mmmmmmm… Wavestation.

  • I just returned a korg nanokey, because it was really just a plastic querty keyboard. I've been searching for a portable quality controller for a few months now. Akai would really kill competition if they had automap. If novation jumps aboard this nano-bandwagon, it would sick!… a "nano-novation" with automapping knobs!?!

    But honestly i agree with plurgid(above). The Prize goes to the company that starts creating components that can be put together to build one awesome customizable/upgradeable controller. The music equivalent of the RED camera. Imagine buying knobs/x-y pads/ faders, and attaching them to your nano keyboard as needed, like a photographer swapping lenses. Then buying a 61-key board for your home studio, and simply attaching your nano+knobs+faders to it when you get home from work. If i had the money, i'd start that company myself!

  • buford t. justice

    heh, glad someone else is in the market for microcontrollers (did i say micro…er, mini). I've managed to get a acer d250 netbook running acidPRO4 and audacity with zippo latency with 12 tracks and 3 effects per ( plus master effects at mixdown). It will be nice to know that i haven't put off buying a miniKORG for nothing. Where's Casio with all this? and M-Aud would be nice as well. Tired of using a 12$ ebay rollup keyboard ;(

  • Rocketish

    I've got the NanoKontrol and NanoKey… I'm very happy with the Kontrol… great feel and Midi Learn works very well w/ all my NI software. The NanoKey although the velocity sensitivity and key layout are big improvements over a computer keyboard, it has terrible build quality and is still really low playability.

    I've also had a key break off on the nanokey… the first time i was able to reattach it but it fell off shortly therafter and a microscopic plastic bit fell off and now can't reattach… I'm going to try returning it tomorrow… hopefully they will let me pay the difference for a nanopad or at least let me keep store credit for when the akai lpk25 comes out.

  • Michael Coelho

    @Rocketish – I bought my Korg Nanokey on June 25th and had a key pop off that I couldn't re-attach. I called Korg and they are replacing it. They didn't even ask for the old unit back. I did have to email a copy of my receipt to them before they would ship a new unit.

  • Any idea if the back-lighting on the backlit pads of the lpd 8 is software controllable/hi-jack-able?

    I'd really like to control my own visual feedback on a unit that small.

    would be Beautiful.


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  • ksuxandros

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