After many years of great service and taking a constant beating (from my fingers, gravity, and the elements among other things), It is finally time for me to retire my faithful midi usb keyboard,The Korg K49. The K49 has served me well in my music production career, helping me compose countless beats & instrumentals. It has been an essential tool in my music production endeavors.
Before purchasing the keyboard from Guitar Center, I determined three very specific things that I wanted from my midi controller. The piano keyboard needed to be:
The keyboard would be primarily used in a mobile production setup which included a Macbook Pro, BX5a studio monitors, and Propellerhead Reason.
I did not want to spend more than $150 on my MIDI keyboard.
3. Had To Have More Than 25 Keys
The previous MIDI controllers I owned, an M-Audio Axiom 25 (1st generation) and an E-Mu X Board 25 provided me with a decent range of keys for beat making on the go. However, I wanted a little more range from my piano keyboard so that I could play more complex chord progressions without having to press a button to switch up and down octaves.
After visiting Guitar Center and playing with a few midi controllers, the K49 seemed like a perfect fit. It was within my $150 budget, provided me with a wider range of playable keys, and was small enough for me to carry on the go.
An important element to consider with any midi keyboard is its key action or the “springiness” of the keys when they are pressed. Most MIDI controllers vary from semi-weighted to non-weighted. In recent years, some MIDI keyboard’s have been crafted to give the feel of fully weighted keys.
With the K49, I got non-weighted keys. The keys were very springy and felt almost toy-like when i used them. For some people, having weighted or semi-weighted keys is essential, but for my purposes I didn’t really need them. I was looking for a light, portable keyboard so the lack of weighted keys did not both me. Most of my keyboards usage consisted of laying down an 8-16 bar instrumental loop and repeating it, adding drops, breaks, and changes where necessary through Propellerhead Reason.
Ease of Setup
The main beat making software I used with the Korg K49 was Propellerhead Reason. The K49 was super easy to setup and quickly recognized by the music program after installing the software drivers for the keyboard. Once I plugged the MIDI controller into my MacBook Pro via USB, hot beats began to flow from my fingertips!
Bonus Included Software
The Korg K49 came bundled with light version of one of Korg’s most notable software synthesizers, M1LE. The M1LE contains most of the sounds of Korg’s bestselling hardware synthesizer/workstation of 1988, the Korg M1.
The M1LE was pretty much worthwhile on its own. After registering the software on the Korg user’s website, I was able to experiment with the standalone synthesizer. It had a fairly impressive selection of sounds considering it was a lite version. I was also able to load the virtual instrument verions of the software synthesizer into professional music programs like Logic Pro and Pro Tools. There was no dongle or USB key needed for this software.
Because of my aforementioned needs, this midi keyboard took a beating. There were numerous instances where the keyboard had been scratched, banged up and dropped among other things. At times I carried the keyboard in the rain when I would have to take it to produce music outside of my home studio. There were other times when it had to bounce around in the trunk of my vehicle un-cased. For all that its been through, the K49 has been surprisingly resilient, maintaining most of its functionality.
As the years progressed, wear and tear set in and I began to observe problems with the USB. When using the MIDI controller with Propellerhead Reason, I noticed that it wouldn’t always play the full range of notes for a sound (e.g. all of the keys might work except for C sharps and B flats). This temporary inconvenience was usually remedied by toggling with the USB chord. I’m not sure if this is a common issue with Korg’s K-series but my intuition tells me that the USB port might need to be replaced and re-soldered.
Room For Improvement
I would have liked to see a 37 key version of this MIDI controller released to the public. I grew accustomed to the 49 keys of the K49 after upgrading from the M-Audio Axiom & E-Mu Xboard 25, but looking back I think that 37 keys would have been better for my beat making needs. Unfortunately, Korg only released the K25, K49, and K61 in it’s K-series.
Additionally, I believe that adding semi weighted keys would have been great for the K49. I began to take my music production career more seriously over time and although my needs were simplistic upon my initial purchase of the piano keyboard, they grew to become more complex. Having the look and feel of a professional piece of music equipment became more important.
Overall, I do not regret buying the Korg K49. It has been one of the most important pieces of music equipment in my home studio. Many of the beats & instrumentals I’ve created up to now have been with the MIDI controller, but it is time to retire the ever faithful device for better music hardware. I still plan to keep the board, but more than likely it will remain in storage while I’m using its replacement: The M-Audio Axiom 49.