Nektar is known as a manufacturer that provides solid value for money, and the Impact LX+ series is a perfect example. These popular keyboard controllers are available with 88, 61, 49, or 25 keys to suit any setup.
This review will look at the series as a whole, discusses strengths and weaknesses across the board, and any significant differences between each model. If you’re looking for a MIDI keyboard controller on a budget, you might find it here.
Our verdict on the Nektar Impact LX+
The bottom line with these controllers is that they aren’t the highest quality across the board. Instead, they pack maximum functionality into a budget package, and that’s often a very attractive thing. We like them; any complaints we might have are far outweighed by their versatility.Available at: SweetwaterAmazon
You can never have too many assignable controls if you want to use your MIDI controller for a wide range of instruments/plugins. Nektar tends to over-deliver in this area, whatever the price range.
9 control faders
We often talk about the benefit of assignable faders, especially for orchestral automation or drawbar organ sounds. The Nektar LX+ series controllers come with nine assignable faders, and very few manufacturers match that in the budget price range.
The default function is shown above each fader, which is ideal when using virtual synths in your DAW because you can take a hands-on approach to adjust ADSR settings without any tedious setup.
If we are honest, the faders aren’t the best quality we have seen. If we compare them to something like the Arturia KeyLab Essential range, we prefer the KeyLab faders. The action is smooth enough, but we’d have liked to see something more substantial as they feel a little flimsy.
All models above the LX+25 have assignable faders.
8 control pots
When it comes to the assignable knobs, we have no complaints at all. Every LX+ model offers eight assignable knobs, and like the faders, they show default functions (Cutoff, Resonance, etc.).
When it comes to working with a hardware synth or workstation, there are some parameters that we get used to tweaking with faders, and some we’re used to tweaking with knobs. So, it makes us really happy when manufacturers like Nektar give us plenty of both!
Pitch bend/mod wheels
The wheels are pretty standard quality considering the price, but they are quite chunky, and many players feel that extra size offers better control during performance.
Another plus point to mention is that even the LX+25 has pitch and mod wheels, which you can’t say for all 25-key controllers.
The LX+ Series gets a respectable, if not over-the-top, score here because it doesn’t offer many production tools but some important ones.
8 performance pads
We love to see performance pads on any MIDI keyboard controller because they offer a different way to express your creativity.
Performance pads are especially useful when putting down drum tracks; there’s something innate in us that likes to hit things when it comes to percussion, and we just don’t get that feeling from keys. Of course, it’s not just about enjoying it more; it helps us find our groove and timing more easily.
If you want to go beyond looped recording patterns or triggering samples, you can get into proper finger drumming, which is excellent for live performance.
We usually find that the quality of performance pads on budget controllers is similar across the board, with only a few exceptions. These pads feel nice and are reasonably responsive for most use cases.
Keyboard zones and modes
You can layer or split specific zones across the keyboard.
Any MIDI controller will live or die by how it enhances or hinders your workflow; let’s see how the LX+ series performs.
Dedicated transport controls
We think transport controls might be one of the most undervalued features of a good MIDI keyboard controller.
When you’re used to doing everything with your mouse or trackpad, simple functions like record, loop, play/stop, etc. might not seem overly tedious. But, when you start to use dedicated transport controls and realize you don’t need to get so glued to your laptop screen, you’ll never go back.
We discussed default functions for the faders and knobs earlier, and these pre-mapped controls are an invaluable timesaver.
Undoubtedly, there will be many times when you’ll want to manually assign functions, but when you want to control basic synth functions, you can dive straight in.
The Nektar Impact LX+ series comes with easy DAW integration for many of the most popular DAWs, including: Bitwig Studio, Cubase, Logic Pro, Garage Band, FL Studio, Reason, Sonar, and more.
We have a pretty basic score for pretty basic connectivity here.
Each model in the range offers USB and single assignable pedal input. The one exception is that the LX88+ also offers MIDI out.
We haven’t been too generous with our score here, but it’s because some competitors offer more, that’s all.
You get a free copy of the Bitwig Studio DAW, which provides a powerful but easy-to-use platform to start creating music immediately. While Bitwig Studio is loved by many users, and rightly so, it’s not as popular as some competitors, which means you might want to add a second DAW down the line.
Bitwig Studio isn’t the main issue; we’d have liked to see some additional instruments or effects beyond anything that comes with the free DAW.
Check out our recommendations for the best DAWs and the best free DAWs.
The Impact LX88+ comes with semi-weighted keys, and all other models have synth-action keys.
We have to look at this a few ways; it’s easy to say the keyboard feel isn’t nearly as good as some hammer-action controllers or more expensive synth-action controllers. But, we have to keep the price in mind, and when you can get 88 semi-weighted keys for not much more than $300, that’s pretty good.
Of course, the keys aren’t ideal for piano playing, but they offer a decent balance for varied playing styles.
The synth-action keys are around average for the price.
We aren’t the biggest fans of the assignable faders; they feel a little weak to us in terms of build quality. But, all other controls, and the performance pads, feel above average.
Every model in this series is very lightweight, with the LX88+ being just 18 lbs, and as expected, they aren’t the most robust-feeling units. However, that’s the trade-off when you want a lightweight, portable, budget-friendly controller.
We’d instead focus on the fact that most of the controls feel better than expected.
Compared to other MIDI controllers
Now, let’s see how the Nektar LX+ controllers compare to some of our favorite alternatives.
Nektar LX+ vs. Arturia KeyLab Essential
We love Arturia controllers, and we find it difficult to put any at a similar price above them. If you have the budget for either, we’d go with Arturia.
Nektar LX+ vs. M-Audio Keystation
Keystation controllers are fantastic if you want something simple with a nice keyboard feel. But, they lack the diverse functionality of the LX+ series.
Nektar LX+ vs. Novation Launchkey
The Launchkey range, especially the Launchkey 88, offers a much more polished product, especially for Ableton users. The downside is that we don’t like the performance pads as much.
For more great options, check out our pick of the best MIDI keyboards and controllers on the market right now.
Who is the Nektar LX+ series best suited for?
The Impact LX+ controllers are perfect for anyone who needs maximum functionality on a tight budget.
- Extremely versatile.
- Easy DAW integration.
- 9 faders.
- 8 control pots.
- 8 performance pads.
- Pre-mapped controls.
- Value for money.
- Faders feel flimsy.
- Limited connectivity.
- Limited software bundle.