Open Labs’ NeKos are powerful keyboards that pack a full-blown Windows PC, tuned software, and control surfaces into a single musical instrument. They’ve got some heavy-hitting celebrity endorsements, and they’re rugged: one NeKo managed to continue functioning after being being beaten with a baseball bat and set on fire by DJ Richard Devine.

This month, Open Labs unveiled the next-generation NeKo keyboard: sexier looking, more features, and cheaper. Porsche car paint, faster processors (up to a dual core 64-bit AMD CPU), Pro Tools software, and even Borg-like ability to clone your hardware synths and automatically create multisamples. Priced for mortals, too: US$2,295 gets you all the basics, up to US$5,995 for the absolute top-of-the-line. More after the jump.

What’s new:

Faster/cheaper: The top-of-the-line NeKo 64 has been upgraded to a dual-core 2.0 AMD Athlon 64-bit brain, but it’s $4,000 cheaper than before (now US$5,995).

Quieter: RunSilent features let you throttle back temperature and fan speeds for ultra quiet operation (like during recording).

More responsive: PowerRush adapts CPU clock speeds on the fly to respond to load.

Faster data: Serial ATA 3GB/s support for new high-speed hard drives.

Prettier: New color scheme using the same paint used on Porsche automobiles. (Just hope Richard Devine doesn’t key your keyboard.)

More M-Powered: Pro Tools M-Powered is now included standard. (Though you know I’ll be using SONAR and Ableton Live, of course.)

More Expandable: 5 PCI Express / 4 available. (Note that like the new Power Macs from Apple, plain-vanilla PCI is gone.) Hard drive options are up, too: up to 1 Terabyte on the LE, or 2 Terabytes on the high-end 64.

Sounder: Uh . . . soundier? 5,000 presets plus an upgrade to Open Labs’ Karsyn software (1.5), shown below.

More Controllable: Dedicated buttons launch the most used apps, controllers all map automatically for different software, and more applications now include preset maps.

More Borg-y: The clone hardware option lets you assimilate hardware synth technology into the NeKo.

That last feature is especially intriguing. The Neko’s clone hardware feature lets it automatically multisample any other instrument, pumping out MIDI for different velocities, etc., and then automatically recording, looping, and converting the resulting sounds. You can then export the results as HALion, Vsampler, or SoundFont2. (Hey, no Kontakt? Oh, well.) You can use the features for traditional sample creation, too, by starting with an uncut sample file.

Here’s my question: any reason Open Labs can’t release this feature as software, too? It’s not the first time this sort of thing has been tried, but it sounds like they’ve done a really nice job with it.

But I’ve saved the best feature for last. I hear the new NeKo has automatic defense systems. Now if Richard Devine comes after it with a blowtorch and a baseball bat, it can fight back.

Run, Richard, run!