Today’s review item will certainly pique the interest of current and aspiring musicians. Korg, the well-known keyboard manufacturer have released 25, 37 and 61 key portable USB powered MIDI keyboards under the microKEY moniker. These three portable USB powered MIDI keyboards feature bundled software and work out-of-the-box without the need of any driver installation.
It is now simple to set up your own personal recording studio using a laptop and one of these microKEY models. While these devices are compact in size they actually allow full MIDI note range to be accessed using octave shift and key transpose features. On the 37 and 61 key versions there is a pitch bend and modulation wheel.
For today’s review we will be looking at the Korg microKEY 37 keyboard.
The Korg microKEY 37 comes packaged in a cardboard box with an image of the device on the front. On the back we see features of the keyboard along with information about the software bundle that is included with the keyboard. GarageBand compatibility is also highlighted on this part of the box.
Opening the box we find the microKEY 37 keyboard along with a USB cable and instruction manual. A sheet with the software download code is also provided.
The microKEY 37 is a three octave MIDI keyboard composed of black and white plastic featuring velocity sensing mini keys designed to be very responsive. It measures 22.24” x 5.47” x 2.13”, weighs one pound and is slightly longer than a standard IBM keyboard. The unit feels sturdier than expected but is still composed of plastic, so avoid dropping it.
On the top left are pitch and modulation wheels along with the octave up and down buttons. These two LED buttons turn different colors as you change the keyboard’s octave selection. Also seen in this corner is the Korg logo.
On the left-hand side of the keyboard we find a type B USB connector along with two type A USB connectors. This area also doubles as a USB hub so additional midi or other USB devices can be connected to the host PC or Mac.
The Korg logo is found on the middle of the back of the microKEY. On the bottom are a series of rubber pads to keep the microKEY from sliding around.
Out of the box the microKEY 37 works with software such as Apple’s GarageBand, but for those who don’t use Macs or wish to use something else, Korg includes – licenses for Applied Acoustics Systems’ Strum Acoustic Session, Korg M1Le software, Lounge Lizard Session, and Ultra Analog Session, Toontrack’s software drum sound module EzDrummer Lite, and a discount coupon for Ableton’s "Live," "Live Suite," and "Live LE" DAW software; all of which are available – here and can be activated with the included Software PIN.
MICRO MAKEOVERS! microKEY 25 and 37 are getting all decked out in limited edition colors for the 10th Anniversary of Micro. Get your hands on an eye-catching black/red or all-black model before they’re all gone. Available through select retailers late October.
microKEY are a compact family of USB MIDI keyboards featuring the velocity-sensitive Natural Touch mini-keyboard; acclaimed on instruments such as the microKORG XL and microARRANGER. In addition to the existing 37-key model, the lineup has been expanded with the addition of a supremely portable 25-key model, and a five-octave 61-key model providing the space to play freely with both hands. Bundled software and discount coupons are more generous than ever; the 61-key model even comes with a license for the Korg Legacy Collection. The microKEY is the ideal USB MIDI keyboard for the musician who wants to assemble a convenient and compact music production system.
- USB MIDI keyboard – thin, lightweight, and USB-powered
- Velocity-sensitive natural-touch mini-keyboard with excellent playing feel
- Three models to choose from:
- the highly portable 25-key model
- the space-saving 37-key model
- the 61-key model for the studio musician
- Octave Shift and Key Transpose features access the full MIDI note range
- Versatile controls include arpeggiator buttons, sustain/tap button, and joystick (25 key)
- Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels add expression to your performance (37 key, 61 key)
- No need to install a driver; just connect it to your computer, and it’s ready for use
- Great for use with iPad (microKey25 can be powered from iPad, 37 and 61 require external USB power)
- Dual USB ports; ideal for adding Korg’s nanoPAD2 or other USB devices to your setup (37 key, 61 key)
- A generous assortment of licenses and discount coupons for popular software titles is included
- KORG KONTROL Editor is included
- A license is included for the "Korg Legacy Collection Special Bundle," giving you software versions of Korg’s classic synthesizers (61-key model only)
- No driver installation needed – the standard USB MIDI driver provided by Windows/Mac OS X is supported
The microKEY37 is just as comfortable on the road as it is in your living room; providing excellent playability while still integrating nicely into a compact production setup. The Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels help you add dynamic expression to your performances with ease. The microKEY37 also serves double-duty as a USB hub. The two USB ports (Type A) allow you to expand your custom control center by adding on a Korg nanoPAD2 or nanoKONTROL2 – or any other USB device. The microKEY37 also includes a download code for FREE Korg M1Le software, giving you all of the preset sounds and all of the PCM waveforms of the original M1, and a browser/search function that makes it easy to find that "perfect sound."
Also included are licenses* for Applied Acoustics Systems’ Strum Acoustic Session, Lounge Lizard Session, and Ultra Analog Session as well as a license for Toontrack’s software drum sound module EzDrummer Lite,* and a discount coupon* for Ableton’s "Live," "Live Suite," and "Live LE" DAW software, widely popular for its sophisticated functionality.
Installation involves connecting the microKEY using the provided USB cable to a free port on your computer. An LED on the microKEY will light up once the keyboard has enough power. If connecting to a hub, make sure it is a powered one or else the microKEY will not work.
When first connecting the microKEY to your computer a standard USB MIDI driver will be installed automatically. For those using windows XP/Vista/7 the default MIDI driver won’t allow the use of multiple applications simultaneously with the microKEY. For optimal function of the microKEY it is recommended to install the Korg drivers, which can be downloaded from their website.
The included hub allows connection of additional USB devices as long as they do not draw too much power. For instance hooking up a keyboard and mouse was no problem but a USB 3.0 thumb drive did cause my iMac to request more power for the thumb drive to be functional. The smaller microKEY 25 can run off an iPad, however the larger two models need external power to work with the Apple tablet.
To power off the microKEY remove any attached USB devices to the hub then disconnect the microKEY from your computer.
Settings on the microKEY can be edited using the Korg Kontrol over which can be downloaded from the Korg website. Fine-tuning of the keyboard is done through this software interface which can adjust the MIDI channel, Keyboard Transposition (via semitone steps), adjust the Velocity Curve (determines how the force used affects output level), and Constant Velocity Value and the Mod wheel.
The Octave Shift Status LED indicates – +/- 0 is unlit, +/- 1 – Green, +/- 2 – Orange, +/- 3 – Red, +/- 4 – Blinking Red.
I used the Korg microKEY 37 with GarageBand as it provides plenty of options for me, as I am a casual player. For those who wish to delve deeper into the microKEY’s abilities the included software bundle is a great way to do so.
Playing the microKEY feels like you are using a budget keyboard. The keys are not very stiff and do have some flex to them. Since it is a portable keyboard, the keys are shorter and narrower than a piano size keyboard. Overall it feels fine playing on the microKEY but there are definitely more substantial keyboards on the market, although they do cost more than this Korg model.
Having three octaves is a good middle ground between the ultra portable microKEY 25 and the larger microKEY 61. Korg allows the microKEY 37 to work with other control devices such as the Korg nanoPAD2 and nanoKONTROL2. The control wheels are responsive and tight especially the pitch wheel.
Its footprint is small enough making it relatively easy to carry around, although the lack of a carrying case is a bit disappointing.
The microKEY 37 portable keyboard is fun to play and includes plenty of options with the bundled software. Installation on a Mac or PC is simple as the system drivers detect the microKEY immediately; although installing the Korg driver is advisable as it does enhance the function of the keyboard. The built in USB hub is a nice feature especially when travelling with a MacBook that is restricted to two USB ports.
Whether you are a serious musician or just someone who likes to play recreationally, the microKEY series is a nice option. The microKEY 37 is currently under $80 at Amazon making it a great deal. While the microKEY 37 could feel a little more solid and the keys felt a little stiffer, overall it is a well-designed affordable keyboard.
+Includes USB Hub
+No latency using Garage Band
+Generous software bundle
-Will not run off iPad (without additional power)
-Keys could be stiffer
-Does not include carrying case or protective sleeve
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