Nektar Should be a Premium Company with this Hit!!!
Iíve tested a lot of keyboard controllers over my years in music. Some good, some great, and some, well, they should go back to the drawing boards. There is times, however, a small company creates something soo great, that they will have me singing their praises. That time is now, and that company goes by the name of Nektar
I needed to replace my old broken 61 Key KORG K61. KORG, whom Iíve been a little disappointed in lately due to the lack of keyboard controllers (theyíve recently have a few new ones out now), was a company I use to stand behind, but their vision hasnít been clear for the products that Iíve been looking at. About two years ago when Iíve visited NAMM, this company Iíve been reading about, Nektar, A new company, and actually local to me, have this new product called the Panorama Series controller, which is supposed to integrate into Propellerhead Reason seamlessly. Now, Iím a HUGE operator of Reason, which Iíve been using it for years, and I have yet to meet a controller that would completely feed my needs. The Panorama, for the two minutes Iíve tested with, felt real good. So I know to watch out for this company. They also had a line that they was working on that wasnít on the market yet, which is the Impact Series. This is what I will to focusing on today.
With the ďdeathĒ of my K61, Iíve checked out my options online, researching everything. Iíve tried some of the new controllers. Spent extensive time with the new M-Audio Axiom AIR and the Novation Impulse, but Iíve made my decision and went with the Nektar Impact LX61, and MY, what a great choice that ended up being!!!
For starters, when you take this thing out the box, it is SEXY!!! Not just looking at it, but the build of the product. For $200, this didnít feel like a $200 controller. This is more on par with something that could have cost about $300-500. I really was wondering if they packed the wrong product in. Iím not sure why if Nektar can make something feel so good, why canít others? This is well made. They keys are Synth action, but they keys are on par with how my KORG Kontrol49 feels like as far as the white keys are concerned, and the black keys feels even better than the former. The modifiers, the Pitch and Mod wheels feels SOOOOOO good!!! They have a nice, rubber feel to them, and wonít slip, or seems like I would have a quality control issue with them. There is also nine faders, each with buttons under them, an LED Readout to give you a quick message on what youíre doing. Under the readout, there is eight buttons under those, which will serve as your modifier functions and shortcuts. You then have eight encoder knobs, with the transport controls under those, and eight, beautifully done velocity pads to the right of those controls. In the rear, it is very minimum. There is a Kensington Lock slot, Pedal, USB, and power ports. There is no MIDI port to be found, which is fine with me, as I donít remember the last time I needed to plug in to one. The unit can be powered by USB, which I am doing from my USB hub, which is great for not needing the power brick to plug in.
As for function, this is a lifesaver for me. I now not have to program a million buttons to get to a shortcut I want. So far, I feel like Nektarís keyboard mapping is just fine. I love how, for the price, the integration feels so natural. The [Shift] button for me plays a huge role in many features that I do. Hit [Shift] + Snapshot or NULL will give you . With Pad Learn and Setup and [Shift], you can change your patches. This is great, as it is more natural when Iím more focused on playing on a single controller, than with two, as it doesnít force me to have a hand on two controllers if it isnít the right feel. I can do it all from one controller. The Transport also have shortcuts under Shift. You can turn on/off the click track, Go to the beginning of the session, Undo your last pass, set quantization, and even set the markers, all without having to touch the mouse or keyboard. This gives me a fully functional ďKeyboard WorkstationĒ feel and workflow, while still having the flexibility and power of my workstation and DAW. Above those, there is a MIXER, Inst. (Instrument), and PRESET button. So far I havenít found use for the preset button yet, but the MIXER and Inst. Buttons switches function of the encoders and faders. In Mixer mode, those will control the Mixer. In Inst mode, those will become parameters for that instrument youíre on. This is possible due to the Impact coming up as two controllers inside the DAW itself, which is a smart idea. And on the LED readout, it will indicate what mode youíre on by a decimal. It will be in front of the first number if it is on mixer mode, and right of the number if it is on Inst mode. Again, saving a couple of second reaching over to change the track or reaching for your mixer controller if you have one.
A feature I like considering the pots are finite and the faders isnít motorized, is that when you move to a different instrument or track, and then move the parameter, it doesnít move automatically if you are not exactly in position on the controller. The readout will read ĖUP or _DOWN, to indicate you have to move the control either up and down until you match up the control to what is matched up on the DAW. This is called Soft Take-Over. Then, you will see the controller change that and count numbers. This is what number you are on, on the MIDI messaging. This goes the same for the pads. Depending on what you are on, the display will read 0-127. So you will know what value you are on at all times! The buttons under the faders can work as mute, but hit the ninth fader button, and they work as solos. You can also hit Shift and the first two buttons under the fader to bank the fader group. Great way to maximize space and keeping a clean look while not losing functionality. The ninth fader will work as the master fader. The faders can also be locked to another mixer inside of Reason, or my favorite, the ReGroove Mixer, which is AWESOME as I finally can control ReGroove with my controller. No more mouse (or as I use Trackball and touchpad now a days). They may not be as good as motorized faders, but they are very functional for the price!
As for the eight velocity pads, I must say, for me, they pretty much feel as good and firm as a MPCís Pads!!! YES I SAID IT!!!! I havenít used the pads on my Kontrol49 since getting the LX61. The pads have a quality, rubbery, stiff feeling too them, not a mushy feeling Iíve got accustom to with most controllers. This allows me to do rolls a lot easier without having to edit them later or playing between two pads. I put quantize on and let it rip! This definitely have a great feel to them, and even better response. Just make sure you mess with your buffer settings to get the right feel for them. Considering there are only eight pads, and in Reason, you have the ReDrum and Kong Drum Designer, all you need to do is hold [Shift] and then one of the four bottom pads to switch pad groups. So technically, while there is only eight pads on the controller, you virtually have up to 32 pads with using the banking feature. Currently, youíll be using mostly pad 1 and pad 2 to switch, since that is all that ReDrum and Kong has as far as pads are concerned. Also, when you put the Impact in Inst mode, you can hit a pad, then use the encoders to change parameters for that particular pad. Want to change the pitch on your snare in Kong? Hit the pad your snare is on, then move the first encoder. More is in the PDF that is with the Impact. The faders will control the volumes of each pad.
Now for most controllers, the story ends here. Not for the Impact. There is moreÖ
One option that Iíve came to appreciate is the ďGrabĒ feature. This sets a temporary shortcut on whatever parameter you have in your DAW. Hold SHIFT on the Impact, then with your mouse touch the parameter(s) in order (you can do multiple at once), then let go of Shift and then you can touch the controls on the Impact. When you program the last assignment, they are ready for use, and when you switch instruments, all settings will reset back to the default mappings.
Then you have Pad Learn. So yes it may suck if you only have eight pads, but with pad learn, you can assign another pad on those eight without having to bank it. Press the [Pad Learn], then hit the pad you want to assign to the Impact, then play the keyboard for the sound you want (so far example, if you want the cymbal, which is on pad 13 on Kong, and want to assign it on pad four on the Impact, you play the keyboard to find that note), then hit [Pad Learn] again. Now you can play the cymbal on pad 4. Note, unlike the Grab function, this doesnít change back to default when you switch instruments. I do believe you can save these setting internally on the keyboard, but I havenít tried this yet. Check the ďSetupĒ menu on the guide.
Now for things that I wish was on the keyboard. I really wish that the buttons had some LED lights on them. I play in the dark for the most part, and it would be nice not to squint or to feel around for the control Iím looking for. Once my hand notices it Iím good, but lights would have definitely helped on this controller. The only light youíll get is on the LED display. I also wish that the pots wasnít finite. It moves from 8-4 oíclock, but in a software environment, this would have worked better if the pots moved in a complete 360į circle. This would have made much more sense to me. You could still keep the same pots, just donít restrict the movement of them. Considering all things, I wouldnít have mind paying an extra $50-100 for those features because overall, the controller is worth that!
Final Words? What else is there to say!? Nektar has knocked this into the ballpark with the Impact with its superior build, integration, and functionality, while still keeping a clean look, and keeping the cost down at a VERY competitive price point. I tried the new KORG controller not long ago, and I still pick my Impact LX61 over it. It is THAT GOOD!!! If you are in a market for a new keyboard controller, I HIGHLY suggest you check out Nektarís offering. They have the 25 key, 49 key, and 61 key (In the drivers there is an 88 Key, but Iím not sure if Nektar will release that in the foreseeable future). Testing the Panorama made me curious, and owning the Impact Made me a fan. I will end up purchasing the Panorama P4 in the very near future. And if the team at Nektar reads this, I highly, HIGHLY suggest you guys making a 16 Pad Drum controller, and SOON!!! I would like to see this go up against the offerings from M-Audio, Akai, and Native Instruments. I will come up and shoot you guyís ideas and even Beta test the device. Just do it. I believe it can sell. All in all, GREAT PRODUCT!!! Guys please research this, and if you find value, especially from a Reason operator, you canít beat the value that this controller can offer you!!!
PS Thanks Matt Masek. I'll be hitting you up soon on a few things.
-Markeyse Jamar Mundy