Novation’s SL series seeks to finally liberate us from manually assigning MIDI controllers to software, by automatically assigning its generous set of controls and displaying parameters on a lovely high-contrast onboard display. It could be just the thing for laptop-based performers, but a lot of us already have more keyboards than we need.

If it’s just more control you want, the ZeRO SL, announced today, might appeal. It has the LED displays, transport controls, faders, knobs, rotary encoders, and trigger pads from the SL series, but it’s ultra-compact — no keyboard attached. That means it fits nicely by your computer, as pictured here, or serves as a controller for your favorite MIDI keyboard. (Apparently there’s a stand included for angling it up — sounds brilliant, and why don’t other makers do that?) The lack of X/Y pad might seem an obstacle at first, but that keeps the size small and focuses the hardware on the basic controls.

The only potential issue here might be the price: GBP229 may make would-be ZeRO customers simply opt for a Novation keyboard with the same features. That said, Novation’s build quality is first-rate, and for those of us with limited space, ZeRO looks appealing. Novation promises shipment this month or next, so keep your eye out for street prices.

I’m also personally interested to see how the SL series might compliment the KORE from Native, since the SL supports the built-in instruments, effects, and mixing capabilities of Cubase, Nuendo, Reason, Live, and Logic, filling in where the KORE leaves off. More on that soon.

Novation Music