One of our favorite brands in the market, Native Instruments, has come out with an entirely new series of MIDI keyboard controllers, titled the S-Series. In this article, we take a look at the lowest key-count of the bunch, the Komplete Kontrol S25 MIDI keyboard controller. This thing is a beast, with not only an extremely solid build and key-make but numerous additional functions and technology that trumps most controllers out there. Although, these positives are justified by the higher retail price, costing a bit more than pretty much any controller in the market right now. So is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
Main features of the Kontrol S25
- 25-keys (fatar keybed)
- Dimensions: 506.5 x 86 x 274.5 mm
- Semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
- Seamless integration with Komplete
- Requires KOMPLETE 9 or higher
- Automatic parameter mapping
- “Light Guide” for custom color assignments
- Two touch strips (ultra-sensitive)
- Arpeggiator built-in
- Integrated scale mapping
- Chord mode for inversion or set creation
- Software included: MIDI editor
- Powered via power supply (comes with unit in box)
- Expression and sustain pedal 1/4″ TS connections
- MIDI In/Out via USB
- Comes with an e-Voucher for $25 (why not?)
Overall build of the keyboard
This is always our first element of inspecting a MIDI keyboard, and more specifically the keys. These are very solid and pretty comparable to our favorite brand Akai’s make. It’s a fatar keybed (as is 99% of keyboards out there) but it has the wonderful semi-weighted with aftertouch. A nice natural feeling and sound when you play the keys here. We love the feel of these and it’s one of the better key-makes out there. The knobs are also a solid make without any cheap plastic so they won’t break easily on you. I love the nice black finish and how the lights look when a studio’s darkened especially. Native Instruments is well-known for their high-quality gear, and they don’t disappoint with this keyboard.
One of the biggest standouts of the Kontrol S25 is the “Light Guide’. We’ve got an image below to show you what we’re talking about, but this is something we’ve never seen before. With this technology, you’re basically able to choose cells, switches and phrases and assign them colors for some easy remembering. It can also give you a visualization of the arpeggio you’re playing as well as certain chords and inversions.This is especially great for performing and keeping track of what you’ve got in front of you, otherwise it is still a positive for a studio as it’ll make the recording process a lot more seamless. Perhaps you’re learning piano (aren’t we all, always?), you can use this to give you a nice image of what certain chords take and where to place your fingers. This is a technology we’ve never seen before and love this innovative idea Native Instruments has brought to the MIDI keyboard game. Below is an example of the feature.
As far as the mod and pitch bend wheel go, N.I. has put a different spin on this. They have two very high quality touch-sensitive strips and you can choose what function each of them have. Not only are they for the traditional wheel functions, but you can also set them up as custom curves or instant pitch-shift with stepped settings. Paired up with your pedals, you can put this keyboard to use with a lot of dynamic and natural sounds out there.
Another big aspect to take into consideration when shopping for a MIDI keyboard is the mapping abilities it has with whatever DAW you’re using. Although it’s a huge benefit if you’re using their Native Instruments Komplete software (version 10 was just released, if only the keyboard came with it!), it isn’t a must because this controller works with any other VST, digital audio workstation (although Native Instruments states the S-Series has “advanced functionality” with Ableton, Cubase, Nuendo and Logic X) or FX plug-ins you may have. You will be fine in terms of getting your sounds to work well with the controller and especially if you’re using Komplete, you’ll have zero worries and have a very seamless setup. You can navigate through the Komplete browser very easily with the knobs via a plug-in. They’ve got a built-in feature called “Native Map” which gives you all of the parameter names and values to load with the display screen via Komplete for an extremely easy user-experience.
The final word on the Komplete Kontrol S25
These things are very powerful and N.I. made sure as to include pretty much all of the necessities a keyboard controller needs. It’s biggest competitor is probably the Akai MPK225 keyboard, however this still trumps that controller in terms of extra features, not to mention if you’re using Komplete 9 or higher we’d recommend this one instead. One of our biggest fears of new controllers is the mapping abilities (pretty much a make or break with them) and this thing is literally made for Komplete. It’s also worked well, as they’ve claimed, with Ableton, Cubase and Logic to name a few.
Some cons? We can start at the price. 5 bills retail for a 25-key! It unfortunately doesn’t have any drum pads, so if you need those you’re out of luck (go with the MPK225 in that case). The price seems pretty steep, especially compared to a lot of models out there, we won’t lie. However, the price isn’t inflated for no reason. It has one of the best builds out there as far as key-make and overall stability is concerned. We’ve also need the extra features it gives us (particularly the light guide), so if they pertain to your needs the price tag could be worth it.
Again take note that it requires Komplete 9 or higher, so if you haven’t upgraded from previous versions yet, you’ll have to do so in order to get it optimized (looks like they did this on purpose so you can buy the higher versions). Other than that, if you buy this thing it’s a 4+ year investment in our opinion. You can also grab this along with a cheaper MIDI pad controller if you need pads to accommodate the setup.
If you want to do some comparing, also be sure to read our best MIDI keyboard controllers article. There are some cheaper alternatives if you think you can do without some extra spunk and color-coding. However, if you do end up going with the Native Instruments Kontrol S25 keyboard, you won’t be disappointed.