Why I quit Open Labs?

What can you get for the $6999 neKo XXL price (or why I quit Open Labs)?

Apple iMac 27″ i5 CPU 3.6 GHz, RAM 8Gb, HD 2Tb : $2249
Yamaha Motif XF6: $2199
Digidesign Eleven Rack: $799
Native Instruments Maschine: $549
Native Instruments Komplete 7: $499
Apple Logic Studio: $499
Frontier Design Alpha Track: $199

Total: $6993
(you still save $6 to grab a six pack while reading this post)


You can run both OS X and Windows… neKo doesn’t
You do have 27″ work-surface… neKo only has 15″
You do run and own ProTools…. neKo requires additional License
You do have zero-latency audio interface…. neKo doesn’t
You do have a real workstation…. neKo doesn’t
You do have a good Drum Machine… neKo doesn’t
You do have over 90 Gb of sounds from NI… neKo doesn’t
You do have over 30 Gb of sounds from Apple… neKo doesn’t
You do have real HUI controller… neKo doesn’t
You do have tons of guitar and vocal effects… neKo only have freewares
You can actually carry on the keyboard by yourself… neKo will kill your back
You do have instant access to thousands of sounds… neKo doesn’t (and requires to load vst or samples)
You can actually really find your presets already by categories… neKo doesn’t
You do have a real Sampler (to record, chop, map, etc..)… neKo doesn’t
You do have a real Sample Player… neKo doesn’t
You can directly import most of sample in Kontakt… neKo doesn’t (requires to convert samples with Translator)
You do have a motorized fader… neKo doesn’t
You do have LCD Value feedback… neKo doesn’t
You do have Arpegiators & all bells & whistles of a keyboard… neKo doesn’t
You do have FireWire 800 (for external drive)… neKo doesn’t
You do have Wifi, Webcam, Mic and speakers…. neKo doesn’t
You do have multi-touch trackpad… neKo doesn’t

And you can buy everything separately, step by step, without needing Car financing plan…

What about sounds?

You do have Reaktor, Kontakt, FM8, Massive, Battery, XPand, Structure, Sculpture, EXS24, ES2… well “real” virtual synths… neKo does have Sylenth, Truepianos, Wusik and some freewares that can also be installed on the Mac.
Even if Sylenth and Truepianos are good, Apple & NI Pianos and Synths are good too and even offer more choices.

About the All-in-one?

Well, the iMac is All-in-one system… and it only requires only 3 USB cables to plug the Eleven Rack, Maschine and the Motif XF.

What about Performance?

neKo runs on Win 32bits (which means really 3Go of memory). iMac does have 8Go, and have Core i5 (or even i7 for $200 more) 3.6 Ghz… neKo does have 3.33 GHz only. (and did I mention windows 32Bits?)

What about the keyboard by itself?

You can even choose a real 88 keys, with a Motif XF8. Or you can even choose a 76 keys if you like better… neKo simply doesn’t.

What about the customized GUI?

Logic does have MainStage that works actually exactly like RiFF Live Control (without the crash and bugs).

What about the touchscreen?

Well, touchscreen is useless if the User Interface isn’t designed for… (look how bad the smartphone were before the iPhone). If you really do want a touchscreen, you can buy the exact same 15″ touchscreen for $349, or even better, buy an iPad and use it as a control surface…

What about the SoundSlate to run Windows VST plugins?

Well, most of plugins are on Windows AND Mac today…
Anyway, if you really do want to run Windows plugin on an external rack… just save your $1999, and buy a $699 MacMini with AudioPort plug ($129) and a simple Gigabit Ethernet cable… Run Windows on it and use Microsoft Desktop Remote Control application for your iMac.
No audio interface, no tiny external useless screen, no cables, no hassle, easy access, smaller, cheaper.
Add a couple of hundred bucks and you will get a setup with more drive and memory.

What about Production/Beat Making?

Between Logic, Maschine, Komplete 7 and the Motif XF, you clearly have even more than a neKo. Maschine and Battery come with tons of drum sounds too… and I’m not counting other acoustic drum sounds.

What about Recording?

You can record vocal and guitar with the Eleven Rack Mic In (without noise or any latency), as well with the Motif XF inputs… even thought neKo does have phantom power Mic in connectors, neKo doesn’t record without noise. (Old M-Audio Delta 1010 audio interface).

NeKo Chassis & power supply fan system is awfully noisy, make the recording impossible in the same room. iMac is dead silent as well as Eleven Rack, Maschine, Motif XF and Alpha Track.

What about Mixing?

You do have ProTools… which is by far the professional studio standard. IF you really and strongly insist, you can still install the $25 Reaper sequencer. There’s a Mac version.

What about evolution?

You can still install as much instruments, sounds you want. And few years from now, you can switch your iMac without changing your Motif XF.

What about Tech Support?

Did I mention Apple name? Apple is a billionaire company… They’re not gonna disappear anytime soon. Apple support always been high profile…

Same with Yamaha, Native Instruments and Digidesign… They are high profile companies.

If you haven’t finish your beers by now… please toss me one πŸ˜‰

Update March 26th 2013:

I just did a new version here:



9 thoughts on “Why I quit Open Labs?

  1. Hi,
    How serendipitous? I am downstairs trying to get Riff 2.0 on my Hot Rod LX5 to work. Midi out does not work using the OL midi driver. Can I consult with you on a better setup with my current Motif XS7/Fantom G8 with Mainstage?


    • Hi Kirk,

      It looks like I actually missed your comment (that was in pending box).
      I only see it today (2 years later) while I’m responding to someone else.
      I really didn’t mean to not respond to you. I’m sorry for that.

      I guess you probably found a solution by now but in any case if you have any question, I’d be glad to help you in any way.

      Sorry again,

  2. Hey man great article. Totally agree with all of it.
    Except NeKo has (will have) KARMA iMac doesn’t (probably won’t).
    The only reason I WAS interested in OL was cause they have a 37key and is very compact. I’d like to see the same layout you did here for that price range! πŸ™‚

    cheers mate!


    • In fact, Open Labs went bankruptcy (just google: open labs foreclosure) and has been sold the last week… Open Labs, Inc doesn’t exist anymore…
      Everything from the name, patents, IPs, building, furnitures, … all assets have been sold. And all engineers and employees are long gone now. (Actually, there’s perhaps 1 or 2 left to answer to the phone… )

      I’m not quite sure there will be any (good) anytime soon… even Stephen Kay posted on Karma-Lab forum he didn’t know what to do now…
      (Everyone is recommending to release the Karma as a VST/AU plugin, to host and pilot regular Virtual Instruments… it would make more sense now).

      And BTW, even thought Karma is different, the Motif XF has already arpegiators…

      Regarding the setup in 37 keys, I haven’t really think about it, but there’s no big secret, you can do your own even smaller and lighter, using a MacBook Pro, and Novation controller keyboard, a MAudio ProFire 610, Logic, Traktor and so on…


  3. Yes I now realize that they went bankrupt. Not an option for me any more obviously. Having KARMA as a VST would fantastic. We’ve been saying such on Korg Forums for some time now! Maybe Stephen will finally agree after this.
    Yeah, I guess getting all the gear separately does prove better even for the smaller one.
    Have you heard of Lionstrac? Any thoughts?
    Thanks a lot, Phil, for your answers.


  4. Here is something else to consider. Even thought this is an old message, I thought I’d reaffirm the message. Open Labs started as a beautiful idea built on what seemed to be an “open platform”, at least within the realm of a windows operating system. What went wrong for me is that more and more of the value added to their products was on a proprietary basis. It’s hard to invest such an elaborate amount and not be able to change easily with the times. Sure you can send your old board in for upgrades and sure you can swap your hard drive out on your own if you’re savvy enough. But what about things not so easy to upgrade ie., the motherboard, the i/o ports ( audio and data). I own a Neko XL. I still use it, and will continue to. Why? Because I can’t afford a new mac! Why? Not because all my money is in the Neko, but because I’m upgrading the things that the Neko falls short in that I have the ability to. The AD/DA converters, preamps, and clock. Sure I’d love to upgrade the motherboard and put more RAM in, but hey, why don’t I just retrofit it with the guts of a mac while I’m at it. Look, I’m a musician, and trying to learn to be a better engineer. I’m not going inside the machine and tinkering around to bring it up to speed. Through my process of looking for an all-in- one unit that can replace my huge live rig, I’ve found this: there isn’t….yet. At least to the point that there isn’t one keyboard to rule them all, and certainly no DAW hardware that will do the same. Why, because we all learn, write and perform differently. What is great for some ain’t so great for others. What I do know is that you can get more longevity out of quality components ie., ad/da convertors, preamps, and mics. The neko packs a punch for those in transition from hardware to software and seems a wonderful solution. But as the smoke clears and you start rockin out and tracking a band on the thing, you suddenly come to the conclusion that you may be running out of fire power and your recordings sound veiled. I’m rambling…. Plain and simple, the Neko sits in the studio, might as well get a Mac and something easily upgradeable. Miko’s portability is great and is a beast, but what happens when it breaks? Hard to get a new one unless you’re in Texas. Better off using a Macbook Pro, quality I/O of your choice, and whatever inexpensive controller you’re into. Oh, for the pianists out there like me, who play on every bit of those keys, the Neko chassis’ edge hangs slightly over the keys, especially blacks. It’s not a comfortable keyboard to play in my opinion. I’m done.

  5. Pingback: How does a $6999 Music Computer Workstation look like? | Deep Inside of...

  6. I wish I would have talked to you instead of the ol top dawg General himself who pointed me torward the timbo edition neko just now screen isn’t turning on but system is running. First time I had this problem not sure what to do. Any idea how I can test to see if the screen just died on me? I reset system already

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