TECH REVIEW: KORG MIRCOKEY
Kings of the road
Once upon a time DJs roamed the planet with boxes filled with enough vinyl to cripple a sherpa and synthesisers that were so big and heavy they required two roadies to wrestle them onto the stage. Fortunately, these days, all it takes is a laptop with a couple of controllers plugged into the USB ports to do the job. Korg have been around since the beginning of the electronic music revolution, and while once they were manufacturers of hardware behemoths, they have kept abreast of the times by releasing a wide range of products in both hardware and software formats, from bulky workstation synthesisers designed to live in a studio to their micro range of keyboards, which are the perfect size and weight to be taken on the road.
Korg’s range of microKEY MIDI keyboards are a godsend to musicians, DJs and producers who live much of their life on the road or are working from cramped production environments such as a project studio or bedroom — as is becoming more and more the case these days. In fact, so good are the keyboards in the microKEY range, that the advantages of having a professional velocity-sensitive keyboard in such a small form often outweigh the convenience of having the extra knobs and buttons found on larger controller keyboards. With so many modular controllers available, it is now possible to create a studio or live performance set-up that has everything placed in the most convenient position possible, as well as taking up very little room — not to mention being able to be thrown into a bag to take on the road without needing to worry about baggage weight limits and the extortionate fees that can go along with exceeding them.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the microKORG, the microKEY 25 and the microKEY 37 are available in two limited-edition colour premium versions of black-on-black and red-on-black. Both of these limited-edition colour schemes look awesome, with the black-on-black versions looking like stealth bombers, and our personal favourites, the red-and-black editions, looking absolutely stunning in a very unique way. All the variations of the microKEY range have an extremely high build quality with very tough-but-lightweight plastic cases that ensure that these keyboards will be performing flawlessly for years to come. The keyboards Korg have used on the microKEY range are fantastic, with a good, solid action, and manage to get the balance between size and playability exactly right.
The baby of the family is the microKEY25, which features a 25-note natural touch keyboard and an expressive joystick that can be utilised to control several parameters simultaneously, a feature that is usually associated with larger controller keyboards. Two rubberised octave control buttons allow the octave to be shifted up or down four octaves, which offers more than enough flexibility to play everything from basslines to the shrillest of top lines. The microKEY25 also has an onboard tempo-synched arpeggiator that is engaged and controlled via two buttons which sit below the joystick. For iPad owners, the microKEY25 could be the perfect travelling companion. Using Apple’s USB camera connection kit, the keyboard can be plugged directly into an iPad to control soft-synths or any other app that supports Core MIDI. The only letdown to be found with the micoKEY25 is the lack of USB hub ports, which can be found on the microKEY37 and microKEY61.
The microKEY37 and microKEY61 offer the same set of features, with the differences being the 37 and 61-key formats, along with the fact that the microKEY61 is not available in the funky limited-edition colour schemes. A very handy feature common to both the microKEY37 and the microKEY61 versions of these controller keyboards is a USB hub which provides two additional USB ports. These can be used to plug in other controller modules such as trigger pads, banks of knobs or even a mouse or USB stick. A pitch-bender wheel and modulation wheel — which have lovely actions — sit above the octave selection buttons, that also feature an LED to indicate which octave mode is engaged, rounding off a very impressive set of features for such small-sized controller keyboards.
Korg have managed to create a very well-balanced family of MIDI controller keyboards, that ooze both quality and practicality, while still remaining very good value for money, especially when considering the free software that comes included, such as Korg M1 le and Ezy Drummer to name just two examples. These keyboards are sure to find a big following among DJs and producers, and are sure to be seen onstage and in studios for many years to come.
|Ease of use||8.0|
|Value for money||9.0|
Great build quality and portability make these MIDI keyboards very attractive to a wide range of potential owners.
These keyboards draw a lot of power, and when used without a power supply attached to them will drain a laptop or iPad’s battery quickly.
Korg have taken a less-is-more approach to their micoKey range to create what could possibly be the perfect companions to life on the road or cramped production environments.