We’ve been given some heat by certain people online for not reviewing a Nektar MIDI keyboard controller since the birth of our website. We’ve finally been able to give it a look, so for all you Nektar fans and members of the marketing department who so happily went comment heavy in our MIDI keyboard guides, this one is for you. This particular model is their latest 88-key version of their popular (and powerful) Impact LX controllers. Let’s see what the Nektar Impact LX88 MIDI keyboard has to offer.
Main features\specs of the Impact LX88 keyboard
- 88 velocity-sensitive semi-weighted keys
- 4 velocity curves \ 3 fixed velocity levels
- Transpose buttons
- Pitch bend\mod wheels
- Split\layer buttons for zones
- Foot switch pedal socket
- 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads
- Load\save to 4 possible pad maps
- 9 faders (30mm)
- 8 potentiometers
- 9 assignable buttons
- USB powered (can power via supply socket as well)
- Weight: 18 lbs
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 50.25″ x 11″ x 3.5″
Design and features
Nektar did a great job at including pretty much every essential needed for a MIDI controller, particularly a keyboard. As we can see in the photo, the 88-keys, pitch and mod wheels, 8 drum pads, 9 assignable faders and 8 buttons, show there really isn’t anything missing. We don’t ever buy a MIDI controller without a foot switch pedal (love the sustain, how can you not?), so the cherry on top with the LX88 is here. We like how the wheels are close to our left hand to be able to conveniently bend a few notes here and there. The pads are also within quick distance of our right hands, so the overall placement of the LX88 features are solid (unlike the new Alesis keyboards, what a mess).
If you’re into layering and splitting zones, the LX88 can do that too. There’s an LED button to let you know if it’s on or not, and you can pre-program each zone (up to 3 at a time), which is a super cool feature for those of us playing live (I’d never bring an 88 key controller to the stage, though).
To nitpick as compared to some other models in the market that have newer technology, the LX88 doesn’t have an X\Y pad, or a sweet joystick for pitch and mod as we saw in Akai’s new MPK Mini. But with this price, you’re not really asking for anything revolutionary, but something that gives you what you want for an affordable price tag. This does just that.
Build and stability
The over build and quality of the LX MIDI keyboards are quite well-made. In terms of comparing with other brands in the market, they’re pretty high up there, just below Akai and perhaps Arturia (but those are almost twice the cost, so keep in mind). This particular model being 88 keys with the retail price makes it extremely affordable, whereas the MPK88 goes up to around 7 or 8 bills. The semi-weighted and velocity-sensitive keys feel very responsive when you play them. They’re full size and feel quite nice, not to mention you’re getting the standard 88 count just like real pianos.
The drum pads of the Impact LX88 are quite feasible as well. Nektar did a great job at including basically any feature a MIDI keyboard controller can have and more, and the only downside really is the lack of software included. We digress and come back to the pads, which are velocity sensitive and about 3 x 3 cm in size — not as big as we’d prefer, but at least they’re enough for our fingers (as opposed to those Ableton controller buttons that get a little too small in our opinion). You get 4 pad map locations for a total of 16 sounds, and they’ve included a nifty “pad learn” feature which you can press a keyboard sound and then a pad immediately to assign it quickly. Other than that, don’t expect an Akai MPC pad quality here, but it’s feasible for a controller this price and we can’t complain.
In terms of size, this thing is huge as expected being an 88 model (around 20 lbs). It’s going to need a big space in your studio, or if you’re traveling and want to perform live, it’ll have a tough time fitting in a car (a bus would be fine). The dimensions as listed above are 50.25″ (L) x 11″ (W) x 3.5″ (H). The highest we usually go in terms of traveling is a 49-key, but that’s all personal preference.
Software integration and compatibility
Nektar markets this controller heavily in terms of DAW integration. Heck, they even have separate how-to videos for some of the major digital audio workstations and how to incorporate them with the keyboard. To be quite honest, as long as a MIDI controller has a USB connection, it’s going to work with a DAW. How well it will in terms of workflow and custom mapping is a different story and that all depends on how crazy you need to get with it. If you’re looking to simply match up your keyboard with a VST or two and some FX, you’re quite fine. If you want some crazy incorporation like what we’ve seen with Ableton and some of their controllers, it’ll be a bit more difficult to do.
Nektar specifically advertises the LX88 to be compatible with: Reaper, Cubase, Nuendo, GarageBand, Sonar, Reason, Studio One, Logic Pro X, Bitwig, FL Studio, and Reason. Our thoughts are that this is great and it covers most of the top 10 we have. However, where’s Ableton? Pro Tools? Acid Pro? As we stated, it’s not like it won’t work, but it raises an eyebrow since they’re not in the list. It’s 2015 — we shouldn’t be having problems with DAW integration by now anyways. Just plug it in and you’re usually fine.
The main verdict of the Nektar Impact LX88
You’re getting a relatively above-average 88-key MIDI keyboard controller here. As compared to other models in the market, it’s not quite the build of the Akai MPK88 (that thing is a tank), but is a lot better quality than a few other models we’ve heard of. Check out our best 88-key MIDI keyboard article for some more options if you want to compare and contrast.
You can also check out their other Impact LX models if you want to save a few dollars and think you’ll be able to sacrifice a few keys. If you’re looking for a full piano 88 keys however, stick with this. All in all, the Nektar Impact LX88 MIDI Keyboard is well-worth the price if you want a keyboard that gives you the essentials at a decent price point.