Komplete Kontrol at your fingertips

OK. I’ll admit it. I’m not a keyboard player. In fact, I’m not that good a guitarist, if truth be told. But I can get by and getting better by creating music with Apple’s Garageband on my iMac. And I’m discovering how my music sounds so much better, more complete, with other instruments around me. But playing along to backing tracks or even with Garageband’s well constructed samples is – well – a bit like karaoke.

What I want to do is be able to add those other orchestral voices myself. Add a little piano, maybe a Hammond, drums, bass, strings, synth. perhaps even some vocal samples. But here’s the thing. There’s no way I could play all that stuff – even assuming I could get those intruments into my little studio. What I could easily accomodate is the A49 Komplete Kontrol MIDI keyboard from Native Instruments.

This is a professional-standard keyboard that features 49 semi-weighted, touch responsive, high quality keys and two rotary expression wheels. It has no internal intelligence itself; you have to load software on your PC, MacBook or iMac and plug in a USB cable to drive it all. What you then get is more than your wildest musical dreams. You literally have a complete orchestra at your fingertips.

If you’re already a keyboard player, you’ll feel right at home instantly. The plugins are sampled from real instruments in proper studio sessions and are astonishingly convincing. They’re the company’s emerging NKS standard offerings. True HD and completely realistic.  I spent a lot of time as a roadie with a band that featured a Hammond and the Vintage Organs Hammond presets just blew me away. It even has a Leslie and great samples of valve amps and effects!

OK, but as I said, I’m no Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman or even Elton John. But this is where Native Instruments have nailed it. You can map the keyboard to play chords in whatever key you set. If you still need help, it will actually map all the black or white  keys so you can’t play an out-of-key note at all.

So what you have is an instrument any competent keyboard player can live with right away. For someone like me, the idea that you can spend an hour or so trying stuff then lay down a convincing track onto Garageband or a similar DAW is very appealing. If you’re feeling really lazy you can just go full bluff mode and map the can’t-play- it-wrong setting. Well, maybe not.

Given that even the most basic cheap and cheerful useful synth will set you back £400, with this, you get something a concert-hall-away better for £149. NI even throw in some presets – a lot of plugins – and then offer you a whacking discount on more for a huge discount on NI’s already insanely competitive prices.

The keyboard “dashboard” features a range of switches which become active depending on the preset you have selected. Selection is managed by a multi-action joystick-style control knob and there is a tiny, yet really useful display onboard to show what you selected.

The keyboard can control the record, stop, play and other functions of your computer’s DAW – I use Garageband but any Pro-Tools, Live or other DAW app will work just fine.

Apart from the USB lead, which powers the keyboard, you get a TRS-type expression/sustain pedal socket and a Kensington-type security point. As I said, its pretty well complete – or rather Komplete.

To give you an idea, just check out the video…

what about the quality?

I bet you’re thinking this is some Chinese start-up that you’ll never hear of again in a couple of years. And that’s where you’d be so wrong. Native Instruments is a professional German company.  They design all the hardware there, write the software and record all the samples. That must cost a lot of money. Of course, like the vast majority of manufacturers, they have the hardware built in China. But even that’s pure class.

The A49 site midway between the smaller A21 and the concert size A61. Each differ only in the number of keys, all the other features and controls are on each version.

I love this keyboard. It takes me to places I never dreamt I would go. I’m learning as well as making music. Try one. It will blow your mind.

Check out Native Instruments here…

 

Read more Comments Off on Get into Komplete Kontrol!

Beijing, China – We’re used to seeing China produce hardware for Western big-hitters like Apple and Google, but more and more we’re seeing innovative designs coming from this Eastern technology powerhouse as well.

Last year, tiny Chinese start-up One Plus produced a world beating phone at a quality and price point to make Cupertino weep. Now nubia, a high-end Android smart phone manufacturer, unveiled its flagship 2015 device today in the US, the nubia Z9 – a quantum leap forward in borderless styling and ease of use for Android smartphones.

Read more Comments Off on Cutting edge – a borderless mobile phone!

smartnanny - the smart baby basket!

Its every new parent’s nightmare. A baby who won’t stop crying. There must be a reason, but its lost on new parents. If only someone could tell them what was causing their little loved one distress.

This was something one particular father faced when his newborn baby couldn’t be consoled. He decided to do something about it. He came up with Smartnanny, an adaptive baby basket that soothes babies and learns to respond to their crying…

Read more Comments Off on Every parent’s nightmare

Tablet growth is showing no sign of slowing, with reports predicting that sales of the devices are set to grow another 25% in 2015 – that’s an estimated 321m units expected to fly off the shelves in a year. For the greatest challenge is keeping your digital world powered up. Very often battery life is a major factor in device choice. So this is a greta time to launch something to help. So take a look at this.

Here’s MOAB – Mother Of All Batteries, ready to keep your juices flowing.

The MOAB is a dynamic new portable charging device that can charge up to four USB mobile devices at once – making it a must-have for all tablet users that rely on their device to navigate everyday life. Plug-and-play functionality and a lightweight construction weighing in at just 1.65lbs mean that the MOAB has become the key accessory for all tablet users hoping to get a little more power from their device.

Read more Comments Off on Join the charge for mobile power!

Now, everyone loves the cool look of the Apple keyboard. It just oozes class and compared to its PC equivalent, well, its just in a different league.

But its not just designers and other creative types who feel the Apple love. What if you’re a big league number cruncher and you’re there, stuck with the standard wireless keyboard that’s missing the numeric keypad?

That top row over the alpha keys just isn’t going to cut it, or handle your numeric workflow. Fear not. Help is at hand in the shape of a cool add-on from US-based NewerTech.

the ideal add on for number crunchers and programmers!

NewerTech asked accounting professionals, traders, financial analysts, programmers, students and teachers what they’d like to see in an expanded keyboard and this is what they came up with.

The keyboard attaches to Mac Keyboards with a simple bracket, which is included and requires no tools or techie knowledge to fit, simpluy pairing through Bluetooth. So who is NewerTech?

Read more Comments Off on Number-crunchy apples

I received a surprising text message from one of my clients recently. She’d wanted to send me something, but she couldn’t find my email address on my website. That stopped me in my tracks.

You see, I’d thought I’d really got my site’s contact methods nailed. After all, my phone number was everywhere, I’d placed contact links on every page, but I’d clearly got it wrong.

Read more Comments Off on communications breakdown?

Which Smartphone would you get next week, next month, next year. How big will the screen be and what will it do?

Don’t worry if you don’t know. Because neither does anyone else. We just know it’ll beat what’s around today and it’ll do stuff better. And that’s the problem with mobile development.

Read more Comments Off on shooting a moving target?

The web design industry has always had distinct roles and functions. But everything could be just about to change.

Read more Comments Off on moving to front of house?

Funny. I’ve always had a kind of uneasy feeling about Adobe’s Flash. Maybe because I saw it as some strange black art practised by weird geeks in back rooms. Flash never felt right, somehow.

Seems my unease about it was justified. Adobe’s just said it’s pulling the plug on part of its giant Flash product portfolio.

Only their Flash Mobile product, that is. Now you might say, so what? But this move suggests a more seismic event to follow.

With Adobe now working on the technology to replace Flash Mobile, desktop Flash will soon find itself the next in line product for the axe. But why’s that such a big deal. After all, technology changes regularly. Why worry about Flash?

Flash has long been king of Animation City. But Flash is a proprietary product you had to buy to use. Its not the agonising death of another corporate cash-cow that is bothering me. It is what will take its place. And that’s HTML5/CSS3. Which few really know much about.

We could see a real slow-down in site development as people try to get up to speed. That’s not occurred before and it comes now, when the Internet is seeing its fastest growth.

But this isn’t all doom and gloom. HTML5/CSS3 has great potential, such as search engine-friendly sites which can actually be updated – once we decide on the final video format, that is…

Don’t go for Flash – but don’t expect cheap HTML5/CSS animation. Because no one’s found the HTML5/CSS3 can opener yet!

Read more Comments Off on flash in the can?

I went to one of those business get-togethers this week and someone asked me what I did. I said I was a Internet strategist, which received a blank stare – so I tried to explain why people need Internet strategy – and what qualified me to offer it.

Read more Comments Off on web design in Congleton?

Thought about building a page for your business on Google+ yet?

While a Google Plus page may not appear to as sophisticated as Facebook mature offering, don’t underestimate Google’s strategy. Google knows web advertising and marketing and wouldn’t have taken on Facebook unless it thought it stood a real chance of success.

I’d expect Google to look after its own, too. So a business committing to their platform may enjoy benefits, such as targeted traffic or better search ranking. Maybe that won’t happen, but are you willing to risk it?

I wouldn’t walk away from that. A page takes minutes to set up and that’s another external link to your site. Given what the search engine optimization bandits want to charge you for their snake oil, you’ll have a better chance of Internet success with a Google+ page.

Google and Facebook own the Internet, so a Google Plus page is a good business decision. When you think about the potential net benefits of Google+, well – it would be rude not to…

Read more Comments Off on are you a Google+ business?

A couple of friends will be getting married this May in Cyprus. Planning a wedding is a big deal for anyone, but if its to take place abroad its quite a scary undertaking – particularly with friends and family scattered as far away as Italy and the United States.

Read more Comments Off on time to propose – a wedding site!

If you believe that all Internet browsers render your page the same way – think again. Because thinking that will turn round and bite you!

Browsers are supposed to display the same way, but web designers often work long into the night to show your pages consistently.

Read more Comments Off on lost in translation – in the browser!

Imagine. You’re getting ready to begin that really important new job. You’d want to look the part from day one, surely?

Yet a lot of people won’t invest in themselves. They’d rather take the cheapest option, do without the right marketing strategy then opt for the lowest quality possible for their new business.

Read more Comments Off on love your brand – or no one will!

It’s over forty years old and after all that time, we’ll still get it wrong!

Yep, I’m talking about email. And its so important. People will often base their commercial decisions about us simply on our email, not just by what we say, but how we send it.

Read more Comments Off on creating the right impression

Its the most common website mistake that people make. We tend to get carried away with telling people how good our products are, how many customers we have, or how many awards we’ve been given. That’s all about you – you’re telling, not selling!

Read more Comments Off on are you selling – or telling?