One of our favorite music equipment brands, Native Instruments, shows us their biggest model in the new S-Series of MIDI keyboard controllers, the 61-key Kompact Kontrol S61. With an incredibly easy integration with your Komplete VST and FX using their “Komplete Browser” and “Native Map” technology paired up with some nice feeling keys, this thing is sitting at the top of MIDI keyboards when it comes to overall quality. It’s also equipped with some new touch-sensitive sliders that act like a pitch bend and mod wheel. But how does it rank with the competitors, and is that high price tag worth it? Let’s see what the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MIDI Keyboard holds altogether.
Main features of the Kontrol S61
- 61 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
- Pro-grade keytar keybed
- Seamless integration with Komplete
- Automatic Parameter Mapping
- “Light Guide” for expert guidance
- Two multi-purpose touch strips
- Built-in arpeggiator
- Scale and chord mapping
- Advanced MIDI capabilities
- Only compatible with Komplete versions 9 and higher
- Dimensions: 1002 x 86 x 274 mm
- MIDI in/out and 1/4″ TS connections for sustain\expression pedal
- Powered via adapter
- Power adapter and USB 2.0 cable included
Overall make and build of the keyboard
The keys are a pro-grade keytar bed, semi-weighted and with aftertouch so we know we have some very high quality keys which should always be a concern when you’re investing in a 61-key MIDI keyboard. The knobs are a decent material with much use of cheap plastic (as is all of N.I.’s gear). No complaints here when it come to the overall build with the S-Series of keyboards, they are very high quality.
What’s also cool as noted previously is the touch-sensitive strips that are replacing the traditional pitch bend and mod wheels; however, you can program them to do more than that: they can also act as physical objects like springs/bouncing balls if you want to put a different spin on the mod curves. Instant shifts with step settings are possible as well.
Features worth speaking about
One of the biggest features we’ve got on the Kontrol S61 is the “Light Guide’. This is something we’ve never really seen before, although a lot of Native Instrument’s gear always has some type of flashing club light-esque feature. This guide is actually pretty useful: use it to light up drum cells, phrases, key switches in a particular color of your choice. It can also light up a specific chord or the entire arpeggiator pattern you’ve set for easy remembering. This is great for live performances and it reduces the stress of having to memorize a lot of automation. It can also benefit those recording some jam solos live in the studio and make the process a bit more seamless. Lastly, I’ll be using it to brush up on my piano playing skills (I need it, bad!) since you can have it map out the scales you need to play. I love this feature and it’s something we haven’t really seen with a MIDI controller.
Another pretty useful tech included with the Kontrol S61 keyboard is the automatic parameter mapping with Komplete or Komplete Ultimate. Albeit only for Komplete, the parameter names and values can be browsed through and loaded on the built-in display of the unit, allowing you to mess with the EQ or filter cutoffs with the knobs. The arpeggiator doesn’t hurt either, being better than most out there, not to mention you can also use the knobs to control (did we spell that without a K finally?) the direction, rate, patterns and variations of the sequence.
Final thoughts on the Komplete Kontrol S61
Some possible cons? There are a few to name here, although they are subjective with each person’s needs. First of all, no faders or pads here…although many would justify this with their Maschine models having these features. But what if you don’t have it? You can always go for a separate MIDI pad controller if you really need pads to be a part of your setup or a different MIDI keyboard altogether that includes pads (we’d recommend looking at the Akai MPK261 MIDI keyboard).
It also doesn’t have any software that comes along with it, something a lot of brands out there use to justify their price tag. If Komplete came with this keyboard we would be ecstatic but that isn’t the case here…so if you don’t have that yet, you’ll be spending even more money for the software that’s literally made for this piece of equipment.
Without being a bit nit-picky, this keyboard is definitely a monster. It’s especially worth purchasing if you already have Komplete or Komplete Ultimate (also remember, as stated it is only compatible with versions 9 or higher so you’ll have to upgrade if you haven’t yet). However, this is stated to work well with Ableton, Cubase, and merely any digital audio workstation for that matter — you just can’t use the auto-mapping or browser as easy as you can with the N.I. software.
As far as competitors, there are definitely some cheaper options, albeit without as much features or made-for-Komplete as this is. Check out our best MIDI keyboard controllers article for some more options that may better suit your needs. However, in conclusion, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 is something to take into consideration if your’e looking for a beast of a MIDI keyboard, let alone if you have Komplete you’re getting a much less-stressful setup — your music can only improve.