I’ve been almost entirely satisfied with the Novation 61SL Mk II. There are 3 primary reasons:
- The keyboard action. Similar to a Yamaha, synth action is less stiff than a Roland. The keys also have great lateral stability – they don’t wiggle left and right much at all. Very smooth.
- Keyboard sensitivity. It has aftertouch, which I’ve been able to link it to a CC in Steinberg softsynths. Also, it picks up velocity differences very nicely compared to other controllers I’ve tried.
- Cubase integration with transport controls, which are dedicated buttons on the SLMKii give very good workflow. I don’t have to keep running back to the DAW. Quickcontrols map OK. You can also run the mixer faders, mute, solo, etc…
Automap can be frustrating and confusing, and the DAW integration could be better, but I find it’s not really an issue. If I really want to work with the DAW, it won’t be from the MIDI keyboard. Being able to do routine adjustments to synth parameters and transport is quite sufficient for maintaining emotional momentum while laying down a track. (It breaks my stride to change back and forth between performer and engineer roles more than about once per minute.)
Obviously, my driving concerns were how it plays an an instrument, and how accurately it captures a performance. I purchased it without being able to try it (as no showroom carried it in my area). I had noticed that it has a different keyboard than the Novation Impulse, which i found to be a little stiff and cumbersome, but still better than most. (Arturia Keylab wasn’t bad, but doesn’t feel like it has the build quality I want.) My fallback plan was to “return” the SLMkii when it arrived, before leaving the store, if it disappointed me. But I was very pleasantly surprised.
I regret that I was unable to find a showroom with a Nektar in it, for that was another serious contender.
The SLMkii is Novation’s flagship. It has been around for something like 8 years, and used to sell for twice the price of the Impulse. I paid the same price as an Impulse, perhaps because the SLMkii is now so old. I think ye will find similar pricing. It was a much better value for the money IMHO.