I got the OK from Clif to get the VT5 MIDI interface from Dhomas, and a control surface. The first one to try, simply by virtue of its ready availability at the local Guitar Center was the Korg NanoKONTROL.
This is a USB MIDI device in a plastic shell that’s meant to look suspiciously like one of its parents was a white MacBook. The device offers 9 sets of a fader, a knob, and two lighted buttons, as well as a 6-button set of transport controls and a scene selection button that lets you cycle through 4 different scene presets. It definitely doesn’t have the build quality of the Mac. For sixty bucks, you can’t expect much, though. Faders, knobs and buttons feel cheap. No software is included with the device, with Korg directing customers to their website to download a driver (optional, it works with the standard Windows USB MIDI driver, but the Korg driver offers some additional functionality. For the people who actually use MIDI for, you know, MUSIC, you’ll be happy to know that this device has two siblings, one with a set of pads, and the other is a 2-octave keyboard – all three are available in black, if you don’t like the Apple Fanboy shade of white.
Programming the unit requires Korg’s software, the Korg Kontrol Editor. It presents a UI that is more than a little reminiscent of a mac (this is aimed at music people, after all) that lets you set the parameters for each control on the unit. As of this post, the software is in version 1.0, and is only able to send CC and MMC commands, and there’s no option for any PC commands. Given that several of the items I want to control on the VT5 require PC commands to change, I find this to be a major shortcoming. Buttons can be set to toggle on/off or be momentary, with attack/decay controls along with what values are represented by the on and off states of the buttons. Similarly, the fader settings allow you to define values for top and bottom, allowing you to reverse the operation of the faders.
On the VT5 side, I downloaded the demo version of MIDI-VT, which allows only the control of the output faders on the VT5’s software audio mixer, but I was able to configure the NanoKontrol unit with very little difficulty, and controls on-screen are very responsive to the fader inputs on the external device. It’s considerably easier than using the mouse. Unfortunately, MIDI-VT doesn’t currently support MMC commands for DDR transport operation.
I contacted Korg about the PC issue, and they responded “As a product that is only designed to be a MIDI controller, it wouldn’t be used nor is it intended for system control that would ordinarily be handled via mouse and keyboard”. Sorry, Korg, that’s not gonna cut it. I want to use this precisely to AVOID using mouse/keyboard controls. Guitar Center, you can have it back.
Overall, this is a great inexpensive solution for an audio mixer control surface in VT5, but Korg’s lack of support for PC commands on the unit severely limits its usefulness for anything beyond the audio mixer.