The S88 MkII offers a high-quality weighted keyboard and even tighter computer integration.
Native Instruments' Komplete Kontrol series of keyboard controllers has been around for nearly five years now, having proven very popular — notably amongst studio musicians who work with NI's Komplete series of virtual instruments. The NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) protocol is at the core of the Komplete Kontrol concept, whereby the keyboards communicate bi-directionally with instruments via NI's Komplete Kontrol (henceforth KK) software application.
Whilst control of virtual instruments from hardware knobs and buttons isn't new per se, the KK hardware/software combination takes this much further, providing visual feedback of key parameters on the keyboard itself and using eight rotary encoders for hands-on control of those parameters. The innovative lightguide — LEDs embedded above each key — provide colour-coded information on playable key ranges, scales and keyswitch positions. In order for third-party VST instruments to take full advantage of the KK paradigm, they must be NKS compatible; the growing number of developers adopting this standard is indicative of how thoroughly NI have infiltrated the market and mindset of musicians and developers the world over. For more details on NKS and the KK software, check out Simon Sherbourne's January 2015 review of the S49. The KK software has undergone various enhancements since then, but the principles remain the same.
This review focuses on the new features of the updated MkII S series. The 25-, 49- and 61-note synth-action models have been around for some months now; the review specimen in front of me is the newest 88-note weighted keyboard version.
The principal objective of the KK controllers is to minimise the need for the mouse and computer screen. The MkI succeeded in this to a point, but still required frequent referral to the screen in order to select which instrument to load into the KK software, and to see that instrument's list of preset names. Hence the first major change on the MkII: two HD colour screens (more on which later) replacing the MkI's text-based LEDs. The next significant change — a...