universal hardware VST controller

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
SparkySpark
KVRAF
1611 posts since 30 Aug, 2004 from Skövde, Sweden

Post Sun Aug 18, 2019 3:47 pm

I've recently been shopping for a new controller and also spoken to many music shops in several cities about this matter. My conclusion is that, for the money, I preferred the Native Kontrol m32 and the Nectar LX88+. They are two quite different machines, so let me explain why.

I usually create music in a sofa or bed, so a small controller is nice for me. The Kontrol m32 felt sturdy in the shops and the mini keys didn't bother me as much as I thought they would. Also, having 32 instead of 25 keys makes a huge difference when playing melodies, so I would rule out anything less than 32 keys.

The Nectar looks way more expensive than it is. It may not have the best key action (according to a salesperson anyway - I wasn't bothered with them) but it has a very impressive and cool-looking setup of pads and knobs. It just looks great, and 88 keys at such a low price is astounding. (Nektar Panorama would also be a great buy, but more expensive than the LX series. Why not just look at more of the Nektar range: they also have 25-key models and a few sorts inbetween. https://www.thomann.de/se/nektar.html)

So: for me, I think I'll end up with my 88 full-size keys in the home studio and the 32 mini keys in bed. (To answer your question re mapping, they are both configured for many DAWs. As a SoS review says: "While you could simply plug in the LX88+ and get generic MIDI keyboard functionality, you’d be breaking the hearts of the crew at Nektar. The Nektar keyboards are all about advanced DAW integration.")

I just found a recent top-ten list in MusicRadar: https://www.musicradar.com/news/the-bes ... -keyboards . I note that they have come to about the same conclusion as I did. Well done, MusicRadar! :D

For your convenience:
https://www.native-instruments.com/en/p ... ntrol-m32/
(note that one of the photographed msuicians/models use it in bed!)

https://nektartech.com/impact-lx88-controller-keyboard/
(looks even better in real life, it might appear a bit colour-polluted in the promo pics)
Making music is a nine-to-five job:
From 9 PM to 5 AM.
Go MuLab!

User avatar
thecontrolcentre
KVRAF
24463 posts since 27 Jul, 2005 from the wilds of wanny

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Wed Aug 21, 2019 6:23 am

NatLife wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:04 pm
BlackWinny wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 5:09 am
I'm stuck for years to my BCR2000 controller.
i remember this old good controller, and it's motorized faders right?
That's the BCF2000. Altho' as already mentioned, the faders are quite noisy when automated.

NatLife
KVRist
409 posts since 12 Jul, 2004

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:53 pm

SparkySpark wrote:
Sun Aug 18, 2019 3:47 pm
I've recently been shopping for a new controller and also spoken to many music shops in several cities about this matter. My conclusion is that, for the money, I preferred the Native Kontrol m32 and the Nectar LX88+. They are two quite different machines, so let me explain why.

I usually create music in a sofa or bed, so a small controller is nice for me. The Kontrol m32 felt sturdy in the shops and the mini keys didn't bother me as much as I thought they would. Also, having 32 instead of 25 keys makes a huge difference when playing melodies, so I would rule out anything less than 32 keys.

The Nectar looks way more expensive than it is. It may not have the best key action (according to a salesperson anyway - I wasn't bothered with them) but it has a very impressive and cool-looking setup of pads and knobs. It just looks great, and 88 keys at such a low price is astounding. (Nektar Panorama would also be a great buy, but more expensive than the LX series. Why not just look at more of the Nektar range: they also have 25-key models and a few sorts inbetween. https://www.thomann.de/se/nektar.html)

So: for me, I think I'll end up with my 88 full-size keys in the home studio and the 32 mini keys in bed. (To answer your question re mapping, they are both configured for many DAWs. As a SoS review says: "While you could simply plug in the LX88+ and get generic MIDI keyboard functionality, you’d be breaking the hearts of the crew at Nektar. The Nektar keyboards are all about advanced DAW integration.")

I just found a recent top-ten list in MusicRadar: https://www.musicradar.com/news/the-bes ... -keyboards . I note that they have come to about the same conclusion as I did. Well done, MusicRadar! :D

For your convenience:
https://www.native-instruments.com/en/p ... ntrol-m32/
(note that one of the photographed msuicians/models use it in bed!)

https://nektartech.com/impact-lx88-controller-keyboard/
(looks even better in real life, it might appear a bit colour-polluted in the promo pics)
just got a Komplete Kontrol M32, looks amazing, feels amazing as for small keyboard...and the main thing - i can control most of my synths with premapped..it's very comfort.
Next - thinking to change my main MIDI - CME UF50, i like the keys of it, but i hate that it's almost not maping anything, bored to map all the time, so i'm looking for the Komplete S61 or S49
sample & preset libraries: https://www.natlifesounds.com
Hive 2, Serum, Massive X, Sylenth1, Thorn, Spire, Dune 3, The Legend, EUROPA, Repro1/5...

chk071
KVRAF
21540 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:59 pm

The Komplete Kontrol keyboards are probably a great choice for plugin premapping (even though not all plugins are supported, of course). I think NI definitely have the best system, though. I had keyboards from M-Audio, Novation, Arturia, and Behringer, and none of those had a really satisfying own MIDI learn, or mapping system.

I've settled for normal MIDI CC's and host MIDI learn now (Studio One). Works fine for me, and, to be honest, i prefer mouse work in most cases anyway. Quite happy with my current keyboards (Arturia MiniLab mk2 and Novation Impulse 49). Controller keyboards are like a never ending journey for me though, whenever i see something i like there's that buying impulse again. :D I won't, though, the keyboards i have are really alright, and should last for some time.

I could use the Komplete Kontrol software with my keyboards as well. Seems to work well with third party controllers as well. But, as i mentioned, most of the time i do mouse work anyway. Especially the knobs of the MiniLab suck anyway. Way too steppy resolution.

SparkySpark
KVRAF
1611 posts since 30 Aug, 2004 from Skövde, Sweden

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:38 pm

I'm actually reconsidering at the moment. :) I'm thinking of buying the low-priced Nektar SE25 (https://www.4sound.se/keyboard/usb-and- ... ektar-se25) controller for use on the go and in sofa/bed.

It doesn't come with knobs etc like the Komplete controller, but it's half-price and much smaller in size. I just really think they should have done it 32 keys and not 25.

FWIW, all Nektar controllers now come with Steinberg's old Padshop Pro for free (for the time being). Really old synth, but hey! - it's free as in free. :D
Making music is a nine-to-five job:
From 9 PM to 5 AM.
Go MuLab!

Klinke
KVRist
133 posts since 24 Dec, 2009 from Berlin

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:02 pm

acYm wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:26 pm
Kore has been discontinued indeed, but not obsoleted, as it still works, still gets (user) support and remains head and shoulders above the rest.
I had Kore running under Win10, but after a reinstallation of Win10, it was not possible to install the drivers anymore. And then I found this:

https://support.native-instruments.com/ ... s-Hardware

My current universal hardware controller is a Mackie Control, using the extension I wrote for Reaper.

acYm
KVRian
1019 posts since 11 Sep, 2015

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:11 am

Klinke wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:02 pm
I had Kore running under Win10, but after a reinstallation of Win10, it was not possible to install the drivers anymore. And then I found this:

https://support.native-instruments.com/ ... s-Hardware
that's odd. is the driver package that used to work not available anymore?
or did a windows update break the ability to install it?

chk071
KVRAF
21540 posts since 11 Apr, 2010 from Germany

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:14 am

SparkySpark wrote:
Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:38 pm
I'm actually reconsidering at the moment. :) I'm thinking of buying the low-priced Nektar SE25 (https://www.4sound.se/keyboard/usb-and- ... ektar-se25) controller for use on the go and in sofa/bed.

It doesn't come with knobs etc like the Komplete controller, but it's half-price and much smaller in size. I just really think they should have done it 32 keys and not 25.

FWIW, all Nektar controllers now come with Steinberg's old Padshop Pro for free (for the time being). Really old synth, but hey! - it's free as in free. :D
If you want 32 keys, there's also this: https://www.thomann.de/de/m_audio_keyst ... 32_mk3.htm

Should be roughly the same size as the Nektar (of course, it'll be a bit wider, with 32 keys). I owned one before buying the Arturia MiniLab. The keys are quite toyish, but, i doubt that's much different on the Nektar.

SparkySpark
KVRAF
1611 posts since 30 Aug, 2004 from Skövde, Sweden

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:40 pm

Thanks, the M-Audio unit's big problem is not the floppy keys but the ugly-as-sin huge M-Audio logo. :wink:

Nektar has gained a lot of recognition this last year, and the Nektar LX+25 keyboard seems to have good keys (according to the reviews I've seen), so I hope the smaller edition has the same set of keys.
Making music is a nine-to-five job:
From 9 PM to 5 AM.
Go MuLab!

Klinke
KVRist
133 posts since 24 Dec, 2009 from Berlin

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:54 am

acYm wrote:
Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:11 am
that's odd. is the driver package that used to work not available anymore?
or did a windows update break the ability to install it?
Yes, as Kore worked with an actual Win10 version before the reinstallation, I think an windows update broke the ability to install it correctly (and I think this is even true for later versions of Windows 8, not only for Windows 10).

I can run the driver installer without an error message, but also afterwards for Windows the Kore controller is only a generic USB device and Kore can not detect it.

acYm
KVRian
1019 posts since 11 Sep, 2015

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:41 pm

damn, that's a real shame.
I'm really hoping that when I upgrade my W7 to W10 it's gonna work.
otherwise it will mean W10 is not a suitable OS for music creation.

acYm
KVRian
1019 posts since 11 Sep, 2015

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:36 pm

Klinke wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:54 am
I can run the driver installer without an error message, but also afterwards for Windows the Kore controller is only a generic USB device and Kore can not detect it.

actually, have you tried extracting the .dll's in the driver package and manually pointing the Generic USB Device's driver update towards it?

or, or, just not using the installer at all and updating the unknown device with the .dll's?

Klinke
KVRist
133 posts since 24 Dec, 2009 from Berlin

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:50 am

acYm wrote:
Fri Aug 23, 2019 5:36 pm
actually, have you tried extracting the .dll's in the driver package and manually pointing the Generic USB Device's driver update towards it?

or, or, just not using the installer at all and updating the unknown device with the .dll's?
No. My bandmate used Kore only to send CCs to Usine, we decided to exchange it with another MIDI controller.

acYm
KVRian
1019 posts since 11 Sep, 2015

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:28 am

I see. well, I got curious and decided to try it out on my bog-standard HP laptop.
first I plugged in the controller, it installed "Kore controller 2", then it was there in devices and it said "Driver unavailable". I tried to unpack the contents of the driver in a folder then update it, like I said above. it looked like it was gonna work, but in the end, gave me a "can't find a required file" error. then I was like god damnit. then I decided to try just running the driver installer, to see what happens. lo and behold, I got the driver certificate request, and it seemed to install fine, and I see it in device manager as Kore 2 Controller, it lights up and lets me switch modes.
currently installing the software.

my version is 1809, I see that there's a newer 1903 though, which, by the way, this is just for you, Bones
gee, looks insanely stable and smooth for music, eh? :hug:
yeah sure you don't HAVE to install it, still, none of that crap ever happened on W7

UPDATE
CONFIRMED: Kore 2 Controller CAN be installed on Win10 1809 which can easily be rolled back to in case it fails in 1903. *little Anakin* it's working!! it's working!!

this makes me really happy, honestly. so happy, I might actually make a template, anyone needs a template for something? (normally, I'm done) (but there's still a small batch coming)

PAK
KVRian
740 posts since 20 Feb, 2003

Re: universal hardware VST controller

Post Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:11 am

Unfortunately there's no good answer. Both software developers and the hardware companies failed you. Look at even simple mono style synths, such as the Behringer Odyssey. Count the amount of controls. This is with the benefit of a dedicated design.

Generic controllers tend to require more controls, than dedicated designs, in order to maintain a useable, logical, layout. So, to map your average virtual instrument even semi-well, it takes a LOT of knobs, sliders, and buttons.

Unless your needs are very basic, the pathetic 8 knob layouts used by most controllers will provide you with a bad experience. The phrase "painting the hallway through the letterbox" comes to mind. Indeed, it's so bad that I would tell most people to simply give up and buy hardware synths if you actually want hands on control. The more who do that, the harder it'll get for the likes of NI to shovel this crap on us.

If you want to bravely persist then get something with as many knobs and sliders as you can - examples being the Novation Launch Control XL Or Akai Midimix. I'm not endorsing the quality of those products, just saying it's the quantity of controls you should look at as a realistic start point.

Keep the keys separate. Most cheap keyboards have terrible velocity response. If you want a semi-safe bet look for anything using a Fatar synth action. It will give you ok (not great) velocity response and very good aftertouch. If you want actual good velocity then the Studiologic SL88 Grand would be a start point, unless you're prepared to buy 2nd hand.

Now you've got some hardware, here comes the hardest part - mapping. Obviously you'd want software which has MIDI learn. If you're prepared to put in some effort then the best mapping experience is actually delivered via your DAW's host automation, but only a limited number of controllers support this. The best of these was probably the Novation Remote series (up until the MKII). Their main flaw is they require a plugin wrapper, and Novation have pretty much given up on software (outside of Ableton etc) with the MKIII, and is now catering more towards the hardware side of things.

With nobody willing to properly address the issues software faces in this area, I don't see things changing any time soon. It's not helped that much of the market doesn't have a good grasp of the issues either, and also isn't prepared to spend the money. The upshot is that users, many of them new, will likely have a bad experience, and it's right at the time when the likes of Behringer are coming along with old school knobby interfaced synths for semi-afforable prices.
Last edited by PAK on Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

Return to “Instruments”