The Automap Is Key
Some just want a stable, playable and accessible keyboard that is open to expansion.
Some want some awesome MIDI keyboard controller capabilities that allow them to open the controller to a variety of genres.
Some just want something that plays like a real piano.
How does a semi-weighted piano with full DAW control interface that has some of the most intuitive plug-in mapping capabilities that we’ve never seen before? Yep, that’s the Novation SL MKII.
We know the usual difficulty with most MIDI keyboard control surfaces;
there’s too many buttons, too many settings to fiddle with, too much time wasted and transition time wasted during live performance. The SL MKII wants to do away with all that.
Novation designed the SL MKII to maximize workflow.
With an ultra-bright LCD screen, parameter names and values for the currently selected row of controllers show up on screen.
When you move one of the 8 faders and 16 knobs, you see their names and you see the control parameter assigned to the fader or knob. Other MIDI keyboard controllers tend to change the settings once you move one of the controls, which is a big hassle when performing or recording.
The Speed Dial Knob allows you to change the value of the parameter where the cursor is without making new assignments.
Also, you could power the SL MKII with just the USB bus. A big advantage for computer users wanting to do away with extra wiring.
Typically, the design is very much that of high-end MIDI keyboard controllers. The only difference is that Novation understands what keyboardists want and if they could find it in a single package.
Intergrated Software Mapping
The included Automap 3 PRO allows users to map controllers without having to memorize mathematical equations (or rather MIDI controller numbers).
Automap’s GUI gives users a visual representation of the current mapping on screen. Then, they could just press the button and voila, parameter saved.
The parameter is the name that shows up on that ultra-bright LCD screen when you touch its control.
You even have a setting that allows you to bring up only the GUI when a controller on the SL MKII is touched.
Using Cockos Reaper, I found that SL MKII was very intuitive and responsive to the DAW.
With the speedy assignment software that allows you to save entire MIDI map settings for loading in the studio or performance, along with some responsive visual feedback and on-screen clip triggering (using the pads), you have something that’s worth its price. Maybe even more.
The Product Verdict
At the price of $450 or less you could get a new Novation SL MKII 61-keybed set.
It’s lightweight, intuitive and knows what you want. If you’re not a producer, maybe this is a bit too much.
But for keyboardists out there in their bedrooms, performing live or doing solo acts with DAWs and electronic instruments, this is the MIDI keyboard you’ve been asking for.
Yes, all the three kinds of keyboardists I’ve come to know!
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