First came synths, samplers and drum machines. Then computers caught up, and could do much of the same stuff, for much less money (and in much less space). But, humans like to "play" things, so we then we got MIDI controllers. Now, the circle is closing -- the current trend is software-specific controllers. Example? The new Komplete Kontrol S series of keyboards from industry giant Native Instruments. Komplete is the company's, erm, comprehensive music production software package (drums, sample, sounds, synths... everything). It contains some of the most used virtual instruments on the market (Massive, for example, is behind a good chunk of Dubstep sounds).
The new Komplete Kontrol S keyboards (apart from having a lot of "K" going on) are built to work seamlessly with all the instruments in the collection, in a similar vein to how Native Instruments' popular mixing software -- Traktor -- works with the Kontrol line of DJ hardware. The new kit arrives along with the next iteration of Komplete (version 10 -- a separate purchase), so as you can imagine, there are plenty of new tools for sound-smiths, too. Owners of Komplete 9 will get an update that makes it compatible with the devices also.
As Komplete contains a wide variety of instruments, Native Instruments has included "Native Map" technology that auto assigns all virtual the knobs and faders you see on screen, to the appropriate physical equivalent (for easy access to filters or volume etc). A "Light Guide" feature, on the other hand, uses LEDs above the keys to let you know what sounds are where and other useful feedback. For the more ham-fisted (yours truly), "Smart Play" is selection of features to make it easier (but not idiot proof) to knock a tune up quickly -- one-finger chords, ready to play progressions and preset musical scales, for example.
No matter if you're a one-finger maestro or the next Calvin Harris, you can pick up a Komplete Kontrol S keyboard in the usual choice of sizes (25, 49 and 61 keys) starting October 1 for $500/$600/$700 respectively. In the meantime, there's the usual saliva-inducing demo video above to tide you over.