Nektar's Panorama T4 takes their already impressive DAW integration to a higher level.
Nektar have built up a strong name for themselves through their Panorama and Impact series of USB MIDI controller keyboards, both of which feature Nektar's DAW integration software that allows control of DAW parameters directly from the keyboards' faders, encoders and pads. Enhancing the DAW integration of the latest members of the Panorama line — the 49-note T4 reviewed here and its larger 61-note T6 sibling — is Nektarine, a VST, VST3 and AU plug-in that can host VST, VST3 and AU instrument plug-ins. This setup allows you to control these plug-ins directly from the new controllers, either through the pre-configured mapping that Nektar have created for many popular instruments, or through your own custom maps.
Somewhat petite, rather than small, the T4 is USB class-compliant with Windows XP and higher, Mac OS 10.5 and greater and Linux (Ubuntu). For someone like me who still runs XP because of some crucial legacy hardware whose support got 'sidelined' in Vista, this is an important consideration. Unsurprisingly, the Nektar DAW integration software requires Windows 7 or higher, and Mac OS 10.7 or greater, and this again helps to support users of legacy operating systems.
With its control topology laid out on its black fascia in the familiar Nektar fashion above the keyboard — faders and switches to the left of centre; LCD screen and mode and performance control switches in the centre; encoders and transport controls centre right; and pads to the far right — the T4 packs a significant level of functionality into a relatively small space.
The T4 is equipped with a 49-note version of Nektar's second–generation synth-action keyboard, which features aftertouch, five velocity curves and one fixed velocity (127) that can be programmed to be varied in real time by a fader or encoder. The octave shift buttons above the pitch-bend and modulation wheels can shift the T4's keyboard up four octaves and down three. The eight velocity– and pressure-sensitive pads have tri-colour LED illumination (green/red/orange) and can be programmed to transmit either MIDI Note On, Switch or CC messages with four curved velocity options and one fixed. These settings can be saved in 16 (two banks of eight) preset Pad Maps that are recalled by a combination of the Pad Bank switch, the Shift display button and the appropriately numbered pad.
Both keys and pads can be set to repeat using the independent Key and Pad Repeat buttons that sit to the left of the keyboard above the pitch-bend and modulation wheels. This intriguing feature can give some great results as its tempo can be set either from the T4 or driven by an external MIDI Clock and, using the encoders, the note length, repeat rate (quarter to 1/96th notes), swing, accent velocity and the interval between accents can all be continuously varied. Diving deeper into its setup, you can pick a velocity source (aftertouch/pad pressure, expression pedal or mod wheel), make the repeat buttons either momentary or latching (you can also change this on the fly), and set the sync point —...