Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
Whether you’re a talented bedroom amateur who creates music for fun or a professional recording artist, every computer-based DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software package needs a piano-style, USB-powered MIDI keyboard to function at its best. The market is littered with suitable MIDI keyboard controllers in various sizes from the likes of Korg, M-Audio and Alesis, but for our money, the new Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is a no brainer because a) it’s a fast-track to instant digital recording (all you need is a PC or Mac); b) it’s small, portable and more practical than other models and c) it comes with Ableton recording software and a shedload of fantastic sounds from the highly respected Native Instruments stable. In other words, just £99 buys you everything you need to start making your own music. All you require is a laptop or desktop computer and your imagination.
The diminutive and lightweight M32 measures a shade under 19cm in length and just 6.5cm in depth and comes with 32 touch-sensitive keys (two and a half octaves, from F to C) that are of a decent enough size to play without your fingers tripping over each other. Like practically all keyboard controllers, it’s also equipped with oscillation and pitch-bend controllers for musical expression although in this instance they’re in the form of two ribbons rather than the usual thumb wheels. Unlike some competitors, the M32 also comes with a very useful rear sustain pedal input – an essential asset when recording chordal keyboard parts.
However, what sets this system apart from most others is the inclusion of a physical interface that mirrors some of the most important features of popular DAWs like Logic Pro X, GarageBand and Ableton Live, enabling the user to make a myriad of on-screen adjustments without constantly reaching for the mouse. Being able to adjust the parameters of an individual sound without taking your hands off the keyboard is a major plus, but the M32’s most useful facet is unquestionably the easy access it provides to the DAW’s transport keys (record, playback and stop). Indeed, this writer used the transport keys more than any other function.
I tested the M32 using Apple’s excellent ‘Logic Pro X’ recording software and was suitably impressed by how easy it was to use in its basic form. However, like most music-based software, getting your head around the finer intricacies of the product’s software takes a lot of manual swotting and plenty of trial and error. At just £99, this little tyke is superb value for money, especially when you factor in the huge volume of high-end virtual instruments and effects it comes packaged with.