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.