Here we have the 49-key model of Native Instrument‘s new MIDI keyboard controllers, the S-Series. These are specifically designed to work flawlessly with Komplete (versions 9 and higher), although any DAW will do when it comes down to it. The key-make, touch-sensitive strips for mod and pitch, “Native Map” mapping feature as well as various other extra tech they’ve included in the keyboards make the S-Series stand out from a lot of other keyboards in the market. It’s only a plus if you’ve got Komplete already. Let’s take a look at the Native Instruments Kontrol S49 MIDI keyboard in full detail.
Main features of the Kontrol S49
- 49 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
- Fatar keybed
- Dimensions: 837 x 85.8 x 274.3 mm
- Compatible with Komplete 9 and up
- MIDI in/out and 1/4″ TS connections (expression and sustain pedals)
- Powered via supply unit
- Comes with $25 e-Voucher
- Unified browsing with Komplete via Browse Button
- “Native Map” technology for auto-parameter mapping
- “Light Guide” for scale, arpeggiator and invesrion visualization
- Built-in arpeggiator
- Scale mapping
- Chord set mode to play with single keys
Overall build and stability
A huge observation right off the bat with the S49 is the overall build of the keyboard. The keys are the traditional semi-weighted (we prefer it over synth-action) and also have aftertouch which give it that nice natural sound when you press the keys. The make of the whole controller is a nice solid build — no cheap plastic, especially with the knobs and buttons (which we’d hope considering the price). Instead of the typical mod and pitch bend wheels, Native Instruments give a bit of a different spin on this one. They’re touch-sensitive strips and work very responsibly, let alone can be customized to other functions you may be in the mood for; they work quite well.
Standout features of the controller
The biggest standout feature of this MIDI keyboard is the seamless integration is has with Komplete. It’s got a feature called “Komplete Browse” which allows you to navigate and load sounds with only a few buttons built onto the keyboard itself. It’s basically it’s own browsing system. You also have the “Native Map” technology which can automatically map key parameters for each Komplete instrument you’re using straight to the knobs on the keyboard. You can map the parameter names and values via the display screen on the keyboard itself so you don’t have to fumble around in your computer software. Change the EQ, filters, cutoff, etc. – Just all-around convenient if you’re using Komplete (sold separately).
Another feature we love and have never really seen before on a MIDI controller is their “Light Guide”. Pictured below, it is basically a systematic placement of lights just above the black keys. You can program it to show the following: key switches, zones, scales, chords, and arpeggios. This can be particularly useful for those performing live to help remember where you’re playing next, or can also be useful for the recording process in general. I’m still trying to touch up on my piano playing, so this is also going to help me learn chords and inversions more easily.
Another pretty nice feature with the S49 keyboard is the ability to play chords by pressing only one key. You can program a particular key to play only in minors or majors, etc (although some may call this cheating!). You also have the built-in arpeggiator that’s fully controlled with the knobs — change the direction, rate, patterns, variations and overall rhythm as you please. If you’re looking for a MIDI keyboard controller that’s got the most features bascially ever, this is the one you’re looking for. But are all of these worth it? That’s up to your needs and wallet.
Possible cons with the S49
There are numerous pros with this MIDI keyboard, but there are a few things we have noticed to be cons (really depends on your needs). First of all, and at first glance, you will see that the S-Series does not provide drum pads with their new controllers. If you’re looking for a keyboard that gives you these, you’re out of luck. You can however always purchase a separate MIDI pad controller to accommodate your setup (we like the new MPX16). A model we’d suggest grabbing that’s relatively similar but has pads is the Akai MPK249 MIDI keyboard.
It’s also powered via adapter, so it’s not USB-powered like most other MIDI keyboards out there. However, we’re assuming this is because of how powerful it is, being that only a USB chord may not be enough. It may make it a bit difficult to travel with.
You could also use the price as a con, but with all of these features. It also doesn’t come with Komplete (and it’s only compatible with 9 and higher so you’ll have to upgrade if you have an earlier version, such as me with my version 7), so if you’re interested in that as well
The final word on the S49 MIDI keyboard
This thing is monstrous in terms of additive features and overall build. If you’re looking for a MIDI keyboard that’s got a stable key-make that’ll last you for a while, this is the one to take a look at.
If you want some more options in terms of competitors, take a look at our best MIDI keyboard controller article as we list the top 10 which may be a bit easier on your wallet without sacrificing a lot of extra features. You can also read our Native Instruments Kontrol S25 keyboard review if you want to save around $100 and can sacrifice a lower key count, or if you want even more keys and can spend around another $100, check out the Kontrol S61 review as well.
All in all, the Native Instruments Kontrol S49 MIDI keyboard is a beast, especially if you have Komplete incorporated into your studio setup. Grab it if you’ve got the dough and want to take your tunes one step further.