Yesterday evening I unboxed a brand new Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25 keyboard, to replace my Novation LunchKeyMini. I’ve wanted to replace the Novation for a while as the keys are too small for my sausage-like fingers, and I don’t tend to use Ableton in a way to use the clip-launching tools there.

The A25 is a brand new product launch, and comes with a software bundle to get you started out of the bag – it comes with Komplete Kontrol, Maschine Elements, Reaktor and Kontakt free versions, an upright and electric piano and Monark, the incredible sounding Moog emulation (yes, I realise this also invalidates everything I wrote about nostalgia!) This makes for an extremely tempting, great value package in it’s own right, if you have yet to dip your toe into the Native Instruments waters (and if not, why not?)

Compared to other 2 octave keyboard MIDI controllers I’ve seen, the Kontrol is a beast. The Novation (and Akai and Arturia equivalents) have a footprint about the same size as a piece of A4 paper – 21cm by 30cm. This is approximately 50cm wide by 25 deep and 10cm high. It is also substantially heavier – this feels far more like a quality engineered product than any other 2 octave keyboards I’ve seen.

The quality of the keys, buttons, rotary controllers, pitch and mod wheels feels far beyond the cheap price of the unit. The full-size keys have a substantial weighted feel, that never entirely convinces you you’re playing a piano, but doesn’t feel like a flyaway piece of cheap plastic. The 8 rotary knobs are beautifully smooth, not notched and endless. There are transport controls built into the keyboard, enabling you to launch and record into your DAW from the keyboard.

The knobs are assignable in Live etc. in the usual way. But if you use the Komplete Kontrol software (which is either a plug-in or stand-alone app) the full potential of the keyboard is unlocked. The knobs automatically assign themselves to key parameters in the various instruments. The built-in arpeggiator and scale device is also featured at this stage. You can browse and load instruments from the keyboard.

The tiny display on the keyboard is clear and bright, but it does make using just the keyboard very difficult, and the huge amount of empty black plastic around the knobs can make it difficult to work out which parameter you are using. I guess it wouldn’t be profitable to put a display per knob, but it does limit its use as a live performance tool.

Overall, this is an incredible value-for-money package – it sells for just £109 online. The bundled software – if you don’t already have it – is fantastic and it’s hard to imagine a better quality controller at this price point. Definitely recommended.