New Portable Mini-MIDI Controllers: Korg, Akai, Vestax, Numark +

The size of your music studio today has become as small as you’d like it to be with the use of a laptop (or netbook) and a USB controller. Last year saw the rise of micro-sized USB MIDI controllers with Korg’s Nano series as well as comparable units by Akai in the way of the LPK25 and the LPD8. This year both companies have released new versions of the very popular controllers while Vestax and Newmark bring some new ideas to the form.

Korg has announced the revision of their incredibly popular controllers as the Nano Series 2. While the first Nano series was popular, the construction (of the keyboard version in particular) was said to be a bit fragile. The new versions immediately look more durable and offer a rounded, plastic design that comes in black or white. The nanoKEY2 is equipped with 25 velocity-sensing keys while the nanoPAD2 offers 16 responsive pads and an X-Y touchpad. The nanoKONTROL2 provides knobs, switches, faders and transport control. These units are not yet released but they look to be priced around $59.

Akai’s MPK Mini combines everything you love about the LPK25 and LPD8 into a very convenient small package. It’s got 8 back-lit, velocity-sensitive pads, 8 knobs, and a 25 note keyboard in a package that Akai says,”strikes the perfect balance between portability and comprehensive software control by melding together the complete control offered in the popular Akai Pro MPK family with the grab-and-go convenience of the LPK25 and LPD8.” The MPK Mini is currently shipping for approximately $99.


While Akai and Korg are offering cheap and small controllers, Vestax claims that their PAD-One is, “tough as a brick” – the toughest micro-sized MIDI controller on the market.  Built of solid aluminum the PAD-One offers 12 velocity/pressure sensitive backlit pads (with Individual LED color for each bank) and an XY touchpad for performance. It looks like Vestax took some notes from Akai’s MPC series and added their own flair – with program change knobs, tap-tempo and a roll button offering different methods of use. It may be priced a bit higher than its competitors (price TBA) but may last longer in your backpack.


We recently covered some big movements in DJ controllers but this entry from Numark snuck up on us and fit appropriately into this list of pint-sized players. Sized to the width of an average laptop (like the above controllers) and priced at a mere $59, the Numark DJ 2 Go includes two platters, a crossfader, pitch and level controls as well as Deck A, Deck B, Master and Headphone gain controls. You can conveniently load tracks and assign with the knob/pad section in the middle. Sync and headphone buttons allow you to instantly sync two tracks and monitor either deck section. This is the smallest portable DJ controller we have seen yet.. sure to be rocking a house party near you soon.

Michael Walsh is an audio/visual artist and journalist living in Los Angeles. Read more of his work at

  • sammsousa
  • 2/2/2011

hey! can somebody info me?? how is the latency on the akai mini??? once i borrowed a m audio ekeys… it was the smallest one.. and i thought it was awfull!!!!! it had super latency when recording clips (i’m using live) and and sensitivity was even worse!!! im obviously not expecting very much from a 100$ controller but i would still like to be able and record drums and bass lines etc off quantized with no latency… do you guys think it’ll work??? woould really apreciate some feedback

  • Michael Walsh
  • 2/2/2011

sammsousa – what audio interface are you using?

If you are using an audio interface (USB, Firewire, etc) for your sound output/input these devices almost always add latency. Programs like Ableton Live, Logic, Cubase, Maschine will allow you to offset this latency in the preferences control panel.

If you aren’t using an audio interface but still getting latency problems try 1. upgrading the driver and 2. play with the latency compensation in your preferences control panel. I had a friend who bought the MPK Mini when it first came out and she had problems with it in ableton live when she first tried it. But i believe after upgrading software for both the akai and updating Ableton Live to the latest version she got it working properly.

Hope that helps!