Nektar Panorama T4 by CrackheadBill
I've owned a few MIDI keyboards over the last year, most notably an M-Audio keystation 88, M-Audio Code 49, Akai MPK49, and a 25-key one that I can't remember the name of at the moment. I've had issues with all of these: the keystation (was too big for one thing, but) lacked the knobs and faders, the Code 49 wouldn't let me hit maximum velocity no matter how hard I smashed it and had the pads right under the mod/pitchbend wheels so I'd hit the pads on accident, and the MPK49 had the most awful velocity curve to where it was near impossible to hit below 80 or something.
Now, finally, I've stumbled across a keyboard that has solved every issue I ever had with another. It blows my mind that it's only $250. Don't misunderstand, the materials feel of lesser quality than a nice keyboard and I wouldn't try to do anything too crazy with it, but the amount of thought that went into it is amazing.
1) The thing just looks freakin' cool. I mean, the way the left part curves and sits a bit lower than the rest.. it looks sleek, man.
2) Everything is layed out in a way that makes sense to me. It's not confusing to look at, which was another issue I took with the Code 49 and MPK49. The pitchbend/mod wheels are right up front on the left so no risk of hitting something and the octave up/down buttons are right above for easy access. Everything is spaced out and arranged in a way that doesn't look like a mess. The pads are off in a corner to the right which is great for me because I don't use them. Simplicity. It's beautiful.
3) The keys, while they feel cheap like I mentioned, work like I expect a bed of keys to work. By god, when I hit the key with a desired velocity in mind, I get it! It makes sense! Praise the earth, and engineers, and Nektar! And if you don't like its normal curve, then there are a few different modes but I haven't messed around with that.
4) The software functionality with this is incredible as well. I've downloaded a few software synths but never played with them because there weren't enough controls on other keyboards to cover the software and I'd have to program the controls too. With the Nektarine software, I was able to load up Synth1, which is a free plugin, and all the controls were already mapped out for me. Thanks to the screen on the keyboard and the buttons under the faders, I can cycle through pages to change what the knobs and faders control giving me access to all the parameters in the plugin. It's still not as ideal as playing with a hardware synth, but I had a lot of fun anyway. I would normally think a screen and special software would be a stupid gimmick on a keyboard this inexpensive but it's turning out to be really useful.
5) It has ports for both Expression and sustain pedals. I wanted to go with the Komplete Kontrol S49 but it only had one.
These are my main praises for the keyboard and while there are other things it can do, they're not of benefit to my personal working style. I've only had it for a few days so maybe I'm love-struck in our honeymoon suite still. The only big issue I have is that it has these god**** continuous rotary encoders. Why it's cheaper to use these than a pot with definite boundaries, I don't know. But the behavior of these is way too slow when turning them slowly and then just fast enough when turning them quickly. Makes it really hard to do anything between a slow crawl or a quick jump.
I really think this is the best keyboard to be found in the price range. I haven't tried all of them, and this is on the higher end of the inexpensive keyboards, but I don't need to anymore. I'm impressed at the effort put into the design and the software, this is a masterpiece and I don't know how they did it. I'm guessing they sell more expensive keyboards with the same or similar software so allowing them to make enough money off those to implement it in these. A lot of cheap pieces of gear end up with 5 stars as "great value for the money" or just because they turn on and do stuff (seriously have you seen the reviews on the cheap Chinese s*** on Amazon?), but I'm telling you that this deserves all praise despite its flaws. One can't expect a golden keybed with diamond plated faders and an Ipad soldered to the center for this price obviously, but I didn't expect something this great either.
Thank you Nektar for proving that affordable things can still function as well as more expensive things (if you cut the right corners), look cool, and not be full of useless gimmicks.