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Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Johannes » 12 Sep 2011, 14:19

Before getting to the Nords, I used to record basic song ideas on the workstation/stage piano I was playing using the standard Sounds plus the integrated sequencer.
Since the Nords don't feature a sequencer, I relied on hardware ones for the last years, namely the MPC 500 and a QY 70. But I sold both since I never really got the immediacy and direct control to record on the fly some nice tunes with basic bass, drums and multiple keys parts.
Then I started working with Ableton LE and while it is a great piece of software, I hated to have to fall back to the touchpad/mouse for simple operations.
Finally, I found that a controller that has been discussed recently in some topics about cheap drawbar controllers or sample playback controllers, namely the Korg NanoKontrol 2 and after getting it, I now really feel to have the perfect companion for my Nord Stage with lots of controller elements (as the Nords ;-) ) but using for record and playback etc. For as little as 60 Dollars (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ ... n2bk&SID=0) it is really a great deal me thinks!
So I though I'd write a small review of the NANOKontrol 2 (in particular comparing it with its precedessor):

nanokontrol2-black.jpg
nanokontrol2-black.jpg (19.1 KiB) Viewed 13378 times


Overall Impression:
Very sturdy built, the knows don't hang (as it was the case with the previous version), layout is nice and the pots and faders seem pretty solid. Really like the device to touch and play with it. Installing and setup with the Korg Software is piece of cake (Win7 x64).

Workflow :
First, setting it to work, e.g., controlling the drawbars of your Nord is easily done with the Korg Editor and e.g., MIDI OX, but the main advantages is using it with your DAW software.

After trying first the CC mode setting up with Live (the DAW I am using but should be similar with any DAW supporting MIDI control), I realized that this Mode while being very flexible ist not optimal with the Transport and Track Mute/Record/Arm buttons. I experienced that sometimes button presses did not get registered. Moreover, the lights were not always aligned with the respective setings in Live. While it mostly worked, I felt that the MIDI implementation with DAW Transport control is not a perfect match. It surely works for basic stuff, but having to arm with one or two presses is annoying, in particular since you loose accuracy of the lights. The NK2 also receives the settings from the DAW, i.e., if I arm or mute a track using the mouse, the according lights on the NK2 will change accordingly (this wasnt possible on the NK1).

This is when I thought I will try the DAW specific modes integrated in the NK2, which was not available on the NK1. So I selected the Live-Mode in the Korg Editor and wrote it to the NK2's memory and voila:
Now transport control and mixing, arming, muting etc. worked like charm: When you press play, count in starts, once playback begins the play button lights up, all Lights are always in Sync with Live, the selected track is always highlighted and selected when turning a fader etc. Excellent and I don't have to touch the computer while making music!!
I have to admit, Mackie User Control as implemented in the NK2 is really a big step forward from standard Midi CC control!!! (If you see some videos on youtube of the original NK1, there were complaints that the lights were not always in sync with the settings in your DAW, track arming etc., this is now much better.)

Then I wanted to still do some customizing of e.g., the Pan knobs and the Sole buttons since I hardly use them. Using Live's MIDI Mapping, I assigned launch the current scene to all respective Solo buttons and the Pan Knobs to the Cutoff frequency of a Filter I added to all tracks.
Result? As one would hope for, the standard assignment is overwritten and now the buttons and knobs do what I wanted while all the other elements work as before. Bottom line, using the preprogrammed MCU controls still allows to customize some settings to taste and thereby you get a perfect combination of both.
Also, when it comes to the MIDI channels where you use the NORD's internal sounds, I changed the assignment of the Fader (which would not do anything on MIDI tracks): Adding a MIDI Compressor into the signal chain set to ompletely linear and assigning the MAX value to the fader, I can control the sound of the Nord Stage when played back by the Fader!
You can evem control the whole set of Mackie User Controls (see here for a full list: http://web.archive.org/web/200801260936 ... /MCMap.htm for instance, Undo or Redo!) by changing the assignment of the keys (OK this is more a hack since it requires adjusting your DAW's internal MIDI wiring but it is fairly easy (at least in Ableton): You just need to edit the decimal value of the key Note On Message sent from the respective button on your NK2 to map in the file consts.py and put the changed version in the folder in Midi Remote Scripts/Mackie Control_Classic.
The uncompiled files can be found here: http://www.assembla.com/spaces/live-api/documents. Once you put the phyton file in your installation's directory, it automatically gets compiled when you start Live and you're done! I have no undo(SID_FUNC_UNDO) and Arrangement/Session Switch(SID_AUTOMATION_ON) on the bank back(46) /forward(47) buttons, very convenient when recording ;-)



Drawbacks:
1) The missing master fader
Now since they cut off one fader, you don't have the classical 8 channels+Master configuration anymore.
So what I did, is I assigned in MIDI mapping of my DAW the 8th channel Fader to master control, the Pan know to the metronome volume and the three buttons to some other overal settings.
This way, I can use the seven channels as normal and have the eigths one for Master.

2) No more 4 Scenes available (compared to the v1)
True, the scenes are gone! What kind of replaced them are the Bank settings. You can switch (only in the MCU DAW specific modes) between banks of channels of (usually . This way, you can control 8 channels, hit Bank Forward and access Ch9-16, etc. And the best part, as describe before, if you switch between bank, mute arm or solo tracks and switch to another bank, the lights always are in sync with the bank you are currently editing!!
The only problem is that that works only with the settings you don't customize. That is, if you (like me) assign Ch8 as a master fader/channel, you cannot control channel 8 at all!

Another issue with the disappeared scenes it that there are less elements (knobs, buttons, faders) to setup as controllers, which is true. However, you get another 8 buttons (SOLO) which you can assign, plus the three buttons of Marker Set/Back/Forward, which I very much like in the standard configuration, plus the two bank select buttons which cou can also assign if you don't need the bank functionality. Those 8+5 additional buttons are directly available without changing scenes. But I admit, you still have less overall assignable elements than on the previous version.

One more thing about the MUC DAW modes: Basically, all elements send CCs or Notes ON messages, and I did not manage to change the MIDI channel from the Standard one (=1) in the Korg Editor, so I needed to set all my midi channels to not receive on Ch1 since otherwise they would record some notes from the NANOKontrol without NoteOff (=pretty annoying) when you customize some MIDI commands.

Verdict:
The NANOKontrol 2 is an upgrade in several respects to the NK1. In particular the Mackie User Control Modes for the most widely used DAWs are a huge upgrade since Transport and Track Control is much more precise and in sync! In particular for mixing purposes this enhances the functionality dramatically! For Live DJing, the left out 4 scenes and also the dropped envelopes for the buttons might make the NK1 still a better choice though.
In general, the added 13 buttons are nice, but you loose the four complete scenes of controls.
The improved build quality is a significant change from what I saw on various reviews and videos. I never managed to get a button stick like in particular on the old transport field.
The left out 9th fader is the biggest loss over the previous edition IMHO both as a Live Control device and Mixing console, and also if you think of using it as a Drawbar controller.
Overall, me personally I definitively prefer it over what I have seen from the previous version, in particular due to the Mackie User Control which gives you much more precision and immediacy controlling your DAW, plus the improved build quality, but the missing 9th fader makes it a 9*/10* product.

Usually I don't like to review/praise a piece of gear too much, but I was really flattered with the additional freedom and immediacy this little inexpensive tool added to my workflow that I had to write this little review (and since there are not many out there so far of the v2). Feel free if you have any questions about this nice little toy!
Johannes

I also considered the Behringer BCF-2000 which has an additional foot input, MIDI IN and OUT, Motorfader, but is larger and needs a power supply. Since I wouldnt have much use for motorized faders and needed more buttons, the Korg was what I finally went with, also at a third the price.




UPDATE: In Ableton Live 9, the files have ben slightly changed so I uploaded both python files for Live 8 & 9. Just rename it to consts.py and put it in the "MackieControl" folder of MIDI Remote Scripts of your Live Installation, rename consts.pyc to consts_backup.pyc and restart Live which comèiles the script at first use.
Attachments
consts_Live_8_modified_Johannes.py
version for Live 8
(5.24 KiB) Downloaded 240 times
consts_Live_9_modified_Johannes.py
version for Live 9
(5.48 KiB) Downloaded 351 times
consts.zip
(this is old version for Ableton Live 8)
(1.83 KiB) Downloaded 453 times
Last edited by Johannes on 12 Feb 2014, 12:44, edited 4 times in total.

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Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review


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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2

Postby Hanon_CTS » 12 Sep 2011, 14:30

An excellent review Johannes
Thank you
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2

Postby iaorana » 12 Sep 2011, 14:58

Thank you for this very nice review Johannes :thumbup:

Alain (NK1 owner)
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Frantz » 12 Sep 2011, 16:44

I use Ableton live + Korg nano kontrol 1
Perfect companions with Nord Stage !

On win7 pro 64, I did not install anything, it was working 'plug n play'.
Same think on the mac (as usual :) )
A nightmare on XP.

Nano Kontrol is great value for money :thumbup:
Last edited by Frantz on 31 Jul 2012, 12:25, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Johannes » 13 Sep 2011, 09:18

Seems indeed it is a not too unfrequent combo! Just was at a Philipp Poisel Concert yesterday (Germans might know him...) and he had the exactly same keys rig ;-)
Too bad the NKs are mostly used by 16 year old hobby electro/hiphop/techno kiddies so on youtube you get the impression it is just for that ;-)

EDIT: How to use additional Mackie commands with the NK2 in Ableton LIVE:

1) Download the file of the uncompiled scripts from http://www.assembla.com/spaces/live-api/documents or from the attached zip file:
MackieControl.zip
(23.43 KiB) Downloaded 424 times

Extract and go to the folder AbletonRemoteScripts 7.0.14 Uncompiled.zip\DECOMPYLED\MackieControl_Classic\
(I assume you use the Classic Setting in Live, if not take the standard folder, the consts is roughly the same)

2) Open the File consts.py and reassign the keys you want.
For instance, the NK2 has assiged the Bank <and> buttons which are defined in MackieControl as
Code: Select all
SID_FADERBANK_PREV_BANK = 46
SID_FADERBANK_NEXT_BANK = 47

where 46 and 47 are the respective MIDI Note ON codes sent by the NK2 and interpreted by Live.

3) Now look for the Command you want in the consts file (see here for a description of the Mackie Control Specs: http://web.archive.org/web/200801260936 ... /MCMap.htm or the attached PDF file
Mackie Universal Control MIDI Implementation.pdf
(109.13 KiB) Downloaded 1015 times
if the link stops working), e.g.,
Code: Select all
SID_FUNC_UNDO = 76
SID_FUNC_CANCEL = 80
SID_FUNC_ENTER = 81
SID_FUNC_REDO = 79

So if you want e.g., assign bank back to undo and bank forward to Redo, just switch the numbers, e.g., switch 46 and 76, and 47 and 79.
(For other keys, use e.g., MIDI-OX to find out which key note they are sending!)

4) Now save your modified consts.py file and go in explorer to the Ableton folder where the scripts are located (on Win7: C:\Program Files (x86)\Ableton\Live 8.0.3\Resources\MIDI Remote Scripts )
In the MackieControl_Classic FOlder you will find the compiled Phyton files including the consts.pyc. Rename it to e.g., consts_backup.pyc and paste your consts.py file here. The rest of the files can be left untouched.

5) Open Ableton and it will create the consts.pyc file automatically and you should get your new commands assigned to the keys you specified.

Feel free to ask me if you have any question!
Last edited by Johannes on 31 Jul 2012, 12:25, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Johannes » 17 Sep 2011, 22:08

...and +1 on the ubiquitous recommendations for MIDI OX, an excellent tool for managing multiple midi devices, including data and patch mapping!
So I managed to use some controllers to directly control the Nord Keyboard via Data Mapping while all other functions work as planned in the DAW / KOrg Setup mode.

And I also found that the MIDI implementation of the Nord Stage is really excellent! All parameters clearly documented and work perfectly. Reminds me of trying similar stuff with a Yamaha Motif and Roland XP-30 where it was next to impossible to generally control, e.g., FX parameter #1 on slot 1 etc. via MIDI.
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby yanosevende » 20 Jul 2012, 04:23

Hi to everyone!
I`ve made a mapper to use the nanoKONTROL2 with VirtualDJ7
If anyone interest:
VirtualDJ nanoKONTROL2 mapper
Download it and copy to MyDocuments/VirtualDJ/Mappers

See you!
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Gustavo » 31 Jul 2012, 07:34

I have the original Black NK1. I do not do a lot of DAW recording, but I do use REAPER. Would you recommend upgrading?
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Johannes » 31 Jul 2012, 10:18

I tried the NK2 with REAPER and even though it does not say it is supported, it works flawlessly in any of the DAW modes (I use Abletons), all controls, faders, buttons and lights are in sync, pretty nice.
But if you got the original one and the buttons do their job (the build quality was improved as one major thing), and moreover you don't do much DAW work anyway, I think you should be fine without upgrading.
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Re: Korg NANOKontrol 2 Review

Postby Gustavo » 31 Jul 2012, 18:35

Ok Thanks!

Maybe if I happen to stumble into one I'll get it, but I will not go around trying to find one :-P They do not have them in my city... at least I have never seen one in a store.
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