UPDATE: Since the initial writing on this review, Korg as upgraded the microKEY to be powered directly by an iPhone or iPad and with a pedal input port as well. This makes the microKEY better in almost every aspect! I cannot recommend this keyboard more, it is an excellent value and works very well. The new model only makes it better!
The Korg microKEY 37 is Korg’s solution for a midi keyboard that falls somewhere in the middle ground between small and portable and large and usable. I thought I would put a review up since I’ve had a while to test it and play with it.
The microKEY is a rather simple affair, 37 velocity sensitive mini-keys, pitch and mod wheels, and octave buttons. It transmits midi data via USB, and also acts as a USB hub to connect other devices should you find yourself running low on open ports.
Korg microKEY vs. Akai LPK25
I started looking into a new portable midi keyboard after having the Akai LPK25 for about a year. While a decent little keyboard in its own right, I found myself consistently wishing I had more keys and a pitch and mod wheel. However, I really like the portable and streamlined nature of the LPK25, so I wanted to get something along the same lines. The first thing I noticed when I got my microKEY is how much nicer the keys feel. They really have that pro feel and are much less “spongy” than the Akai LPK25. And while it may not seem huge, the one extra octave is very significant for playability. The few things that the Akai have over the Korg are the arpeggiator and sustain buttons. But the playability and pitch and mod wheels more than make up for that for me.
The Korg microKEY is very streamlined, containing just the bare essentials. No knobs, sliders, or anything else. To me, this greatly aids my creative process, as I’m not distracted by anything else. It also makes the keyboard less bulky overall, so you save on space.
The keys are micro, very similar to Korg’s other “micro” products including the microKorg XL and microSampler. While this may be a downside to some, I find the keys rather nice. They are not so tiny as to be unplayable, and the feel is great to me. It certainly feels much more “pro” than other small and cheap keyboards.
The pitch and mod wheels are both nice, but I really like the octave buttons. They light up with different colors depending on how many octaves you are from the center, with green being one octave, orange being two, red three, and blinking red four. Its a simple touch but works and looks great.
As as added bonus, the microKEY comes with two additional usb ports, acting as a USB hub for other devices. Specifically Korg would like you to use their Nano-series of controllers alongside. This seems to make sense, and while I currently don’t have any of the Nano-controllers, I can see how the setup could be very nice. It should be noted however, that the functions of the usb port on the microKEY are a bit limited. First, it only acts as a bridge. No midi data flows between these ports so you can’t use it to control other midi enabled devices from your microKEY. Second, you can only use devices that draw a minimal amount of power. So you can plug in, say, a mouse without a problem, but my Presonus Audiobox interface would not work. Its a neat little function, but I wished it was a bit more versatile.
The whole package is definitely plasticky, but feels sturdy and has a nice size and feel to it.
Software bundled with the microKEY
If you buy the Korg microKEY new, it comes with some free software instruments that you can download. You get Korg’s own M1LE, and Lounge Lizard Session. The software, if you were to buy it on its own would end up costing over $100, which is the price of the microKEY itself, so this is a really fantastic deal. The M1LE is a really nice little piece with a lot of great sounds, but I was most surprised and impressed by the Lounge Lizard Session. It is an electric piano software instrument, and it just sounds really good. It has limited controls, so don’t expect anything too deep, but the rhodes and whirly sounds are all very nice.
Korg microKEY and iPad
I’m an iPad guy, and I used my Akai LPK25 with my iPad which was nice. Unfortunately, the microKEY draws too much power, and therefore cannot be directly plugged into the USB connection kit from Apple to be used with the iPad. You can, however, use a powered USB hub, but this is a big pain in my opinion. So if you wanted to buy this to use with your iPad, I’d go with some other keyboard. You might want to read my other post about the best portable midi keyboards for the iPad.
For me, it is the perfect little keyboard, with just the right size, feel, and form factor. It works extremely well with Logic and Renoise, and I would definitely buy another if this one was lost or stolen. The software is the icing on the cake, and definitely worth picking up one of these new to get.