Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
MICRO-SIZED KEYBOARD CONTROLLER
Good things definitely come in small packages!
Ever since the first Komplete Kontrol keyboards hit the shelves back in 2014, many users have yearned for a small portable version of the device. Even if it took the persona of a pure ‘knob box’ coupled with a third party keyboard controller, it’s been way up near the top of the dream gear wish list.
It took a while but now Native Instruments have responded and given us not only those all important Komplete Kontrol knobs and buttons we need, but also a cute 32 key mini keyboard to boot, making this the most perfect KK travel companion so far.
Small, Yet Perfectly Formed…
Measuring 18.7 inches wide, 6.57 deep, 1.96 high and weighing in at just 2.27 pounds, this bouncing baby of the bunch is sure to melt the hearts of us keyboard geeks.
The good news doesn’t stop there, because the M32 uses the same software protocol as the A-Series range of keyboards, it means that accessibility is available right out of the box and is invoked with just a simultaneous press of two buttons on the keyboard.
If you already own a Komplete Kontrol keyboard, then accessibility mode will already be switched on within your system. Installation is fairly straightforward, your computer will recognise the new USB device, and you will need to run Komplete Kontrol in standalone prior to first use. It’s wise to be online at this stage as during the brief scan period, a firmware update was detected, and also a dialog inviting me to take a tour of the features.
I managed to decline this with a bit of OCR jiggery pokery, however I figured that the firmware update would be rather crucial, so was again able to navigate to the ‘update now’ button, the update ran just fine, and another OCR scan confirmed that the M32 had been ‘successfully updated’.
As you would expect the M32 is fully compatible with the latest versions of both MAC and Windows operating systems (see details on website for backwards compatibility),
the unit ships with a USB cable and in common with all newer Komplete Kontrol models from the MK2 onward is bus powered, meaning you will not need to lug the additional bulk of a power supply with you, or more frustratingly forget to bring it at all!
connectivity is satisfyingly simplistic, a single USB 2, TRS assignable Sustain and Kensington lock are the only ports that adorn the M32’s rear panel.
Built for the Road…
The build quality of the M32 is as you would expect completely plastic, however it is of sturdy construction just like the A-Series, being solid and robuust to a degree that belies it’s low price tag, it is unlikely you will find bits dropping off of this thing if you pull it in and out of a rucksack, but it may not survive a four storey plunge from a hotel room balcony, we all know what you rock ‘n’ roll types are like!.
M32 Guided Tour…
The M32 is identical in layout to the A-series keyboard range, with the knobs and buttons sharing the same design and feel. With hard tactile buttons and the now familiar and almost iconic eight touch sensitive control knobs that run horizontally across the fascia ending with the 4-way rotary encoder being on the far right.
For completeness and to avoid confusion to newcomers, I will make a separate keyboard description layout available, however for existing A-Series owners the operation and pertinent to us, accessibility mode are the same.
The only real physical difference aside from the miniaturisation, is that touch strips replace the traditional pitch bend and mod wheel, which I would assume helps to lower the production costs, but actually in reality probably aids to further the compactness of the unit still further.
It would be somewhat unfair to use the term ‘love or hate’ when describing mini keys, after all we are looking here at a compact mini controller so we cannot have the best of both worlds. Personally I am perfectly at home with mini keys, this veteran reviewer started out in 1982 with both a Casio MT30 and a Casio VL-Tone which had small, and the latter yet even smaller keys!
Rest assured though the keyboard feels fine and is actually very playable and ideal for composition on the move. Certainly it may be true that using a top notch orchestral Ensemble library with fully mapped keyswitched articulations spread over an eight octave range might not be the best fun you could have when composing your next orchestral masterpiece, but the very fact that you are now able to access a sample library like that in a highly portable manner is pretty miraculous in itself.
The only slight criticism (surely I’m allowed to find one!), is that the keyboard starts on an ‘F’ key. Not a huge issue I admit, and it’s probably just down to my personal taste that I am used to finding ‘C’ at the far left, but on some drum libraries where the kit often starts with the Kick drum assigned to ‘C’, you may now find you have 7 keys to the left that are redundant.
The M32 comes with over 10Gb of software included, which is available for download via Native Access following registration and login.
The all important included Komplete Kontrol software acts as host to MONARK, Reaktor Prism, SCARBEE MARK I , MASCHINE Essentials as well as the new free Komplete Start bundle suite.
There is certainly enough here to get any newcomer to the Komplete Kontrol universe up and running, for seasoned Pro’s who may already own the provided software, there is the nice bonus of a $25 webstore voucher, as well as a two month trial of Sounds.com, which all add to the overall total package value, this is welcome news regardless of the level your intended use of the M32 keyboard will be.
The genius behind the M32 mini controller is that it works on several levels, for the newcomer it will serve as an affordable entry point into the world of Komplete Kontrol, and it’s an exciting thought to know that it will allow a whole new generation of future creative talent to finally climb aboard and make some music, and this applies equally to both sighted and visually impaired users alike.
For existing Komplete Kontrol owners, it finally provides a genuinely portable way to take your KK rig with you anywhere, that can be as simple as another room in the house, travelling in a vehicle, on tour or on vacation, your productivity is limited only by your battery power!
There are also those gigging musicians who have perhaps been somewhat reluctant to invest in the KK infrastructure , because they love their existing midi keyboards, and really only want to be able to use the fantastic sounds, and have a means to access them, then this is an ideal solution.
Finally having taken all of the above into consideration, there is the fact that this little gem is just so damn cute! There is also something slightly bizarre that doesn’t quite mentally compute about playing this mini keyboard and hearing Project Sam’s Symphobia full Orchestra preset blast out of your monitors!
The Native Instruments M32 Mini Controller is available directly from the Native Instruments website or authorised dealers at a cost of £99.00 in the UK (see website for your country and region)
M32 Walkthrough Review
(c) Chris Ankin
March 6, 2019
The author accepts no responsibility for subsequent purchase decisions made as a result of reading this article,or Any inaccuracies found within this review. All opinions or product functions stated are based soly on information perceived as a blind user whilst using the product in combination with information gathered from official factual sources on the web or product manual.
About the Author
Chris Ankin has worked previously as a freelance review contributor with articles published in Sound On Sound, Home & Studio Recording and ST Format Magazines.