Open Labs Heads To The Auction Block; Did Windows Kill The Company?

It looks like keyboard workstation manufacturer Open Labs is on the auction block.

This Foreclosure sale announcement is listed at the Austin Statesman’s Legal Notice section:


Notice is hereby given that substantially all of the assets of Open Labs, Inc. will be sold at a public foreclosure sale to be held at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 4, 2010, at the offices of Open Labs, Inc., located at 3701 Drosset Drive, Suite 150, Austin, Texas 78744.

The assets of Open Labs, Inc. consist primarily of the patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other IP associated with the following Open Labs products: NeKo XXL 61-Key Music Production Stations, NeKo QX6 61-Key Music Production Stations, MiKo LXD 37-key Music Production Stations, MiKo QC6 37- key Music Production Stations, DBeat Mobile Music Production Stations, SoundSlate Rack Units, SoundSlate FW Rack Units, Open RiFF 2.0 Software, MimiK Software, and other Open Labs products.

The assets to be sold also include furniture and equipment, office supplies, artwork, and musical collectibles. For more info, contact Greg Young, Okin Adams & Kilmer LLP, 7004 Bee Cave, Bldg 1,Ste 110, Austin, TX, 78746, 512-681-3732.

There’s no statement yet on the Open Labs site. We’ve asked Open Labs for a comment but have not received a response.

Open Labs’ failure will come as bad news to a lot of NeKo and MiKo workstation owners and could be a blow to the industr, too.

What made Open Labs fail?

Was Open Labs a victim of the harsh economic climate or is there a more fundamental reason for the company’s failure?

One has to wonder if the company’s strategy of selling premium hardware, based on Windows, was the problem.

Apple has been batting 1,000 for several years now, dominates the premium laptop market and already had much of the mindshare of the music industry.

At the same time, Windows PC manufacturers have been fighting for supremacy at the low end of the market, bringing Windows laptops under $500.  And the last version of Windows, Windows Vista, was a public relations disaster for Microsoft, being called “the biggest tech disappointment of 2007” by PC World.

In hard times, are Windows musicians, used to cheap gear, going to buy a $7,000 NeKo?

I’d be interested in your thoughts. What do you think caused Open Labs failure?

via the eagle-eyes at GearJunkies

55 thoughts on “Open Labs Heads To The Auction Block; Did Windows Kill The Company?

  1. open labs had a great idea, but the costs and the fact that once you bought their unit, it was obsolete, and not really able to be easily upgraded. when i can build a high-end pc based daw for less than $1k, it made no sense to buy a keyboard for $4k. apple would never let a company like openlabs, dissect a mac workstation into components to be used in such a device, they never have. we tried to get apple in ’87, to let us and opcode systems, to use a SE30[!] in such a device we were working on…….

    now my i7 laptop runs avid software and tons of vst’s/rtas, with a portable keyboard, and usb mic, and we are rockin anywhere…..

    sorry to hear this, but it is such a limited market, and with the constant state of components cost going down, you cant sustain the business model they had………… they were very sexy devices……

    1. I've got macs 10 years old, so this idea that it becomes obsolete after a year is wrong. A pc with an intel chip is the same as mac with an intel chip. That chip is good to go for a DECADE in running a DAW. That's the truth. There is NO NEED to keep upgrading anyway. It lasts for a decade.

      1. You’re wrong.
        As DAW software evolves, it puts larger demands on a CPU and requires more memory.
        If that CPU can’t be upgraded to the latest & greatest, you have an obsolete keyboard.
        THAT’S the reality of technology.

    2. I know is this a old thread but I had to chime in. Using OSX and the Mac platform was/is a no brainer for a variety of reasons (I have been using Apple systems on the programming and technical side in music for over 30 years so I have a little background)

      The simple out would have been using a Mac Mini and designing a App to act as a GUI front end (like front row) or just put resources behing the OSX platform to make a full blowen app (third party drivers for touch screens are way simpler to secure then before)

      OpenLabs took the Windows way out and clearly was not interested in exploring OSX (look at the old threads on the site) and paid for it (even today $3600 for a MIko with a i7 is close but high)

    3. Glad they closed, they ripped off alot of people. If you know anything about pc you can make one for less than a quarter of the price and still do better. I bought one for 4700.00 and couldnt sell it a month later for more than 1500.00. Worst musical investment of my career…good idea but way over priced

  2. Before Open Labs came out with the NeKo, I built a similar unit and used it onstage very succesfully. Sure, it was a heavy pine box with a PC and a controller inside, but it cost me under $1000 to build it (not counting the software) and it was great to use live. The most inconvenient part of the whole thing was the portability — lugging that thing home to tweak my sounds was not fun. Transferring presets from my home PC to my stage rig was impractical. NeKo users complained of the weight as well.
    I think what ultimately killed Open Labs was the price of their products. It's a lot cheaper to get a MacBook, a controller and an audio interface.
    The SoundSlate was a more interesting option… but laptops are the standard for portable music production, plus Muse Research's Receptor has a more attractive price and the feature set is pretty much the same.

  3. the idea of a self-contained computer/keyboard studio is a great idea… but Open Labs implemented it poorly. These are my issues with it:

    1. It is marketed as a pro solution… the best of the best. This is not the case. the vast majority of included instruments were freeware, and not competitive with hardware workstations or pay VSTs.

    2. It was not customizable the way consumers wanted it to be. installing a different DAW, an aftermarket PCI card (like UAD or Powercore), or some plugins meant experiencing the same headaches consumers were trying to avoid in the first place.

    3. the hardware was pro-sumer crap . to make the neko a pro machine meant using a different converter and preamps, eliminating the whole point in buying one. The processors were always a generation behind, and the bump MP pads did not feel good (imho).

    4. It was WAAAYYYY overpriced. The top of the line Neko was over 6 large… enough to buy a current gen mac pro, rosetta 800 with firewire card, 61 key controller, and logic.

    I think they would have went under much sooner if it wasn't for the hype created by the TIMBO edition (filled with +10 year old E-MU sounds that have been available as soundfonts for FREE for over 5 years now… lol)

    just my 2 cents.

  4. Biased much ?
    With W7 on the market for over a year now, calling Vista the latest Windows version is not a stretch, but plain wrong.
    Besides, given Apples policy on reselling equipment/running it on non Apple hardware, I do';t think it would have been even possible on Apple.

  5. i ownd a timbo miko for 2 years…and i sold it recently…glad i did….not surprised they went under…they didnt have any products for sale under 2k….and korg/akai/novation all have stuff for under a 100…

  6. Well, you certainly couldn't gig with it, it was too damn big and wouldn't fit into any case. So it was strictly for studio purposes (for most of us at least). And that amount of cash would have got you a killer project studio, as everyone else has pointed out.

    And yes, the included software was not attractive at all.

  7. I think they were trying to live beyond their means. From some of the videos I saw of their offices, they had a lot of space and employees. They probably could have got by with less operating expenses.

  8. Inside the music biz and in the greater computer world, I’ve seen a number of turnkey ‘solutions’ (often to problems that either didn’t exist or were better served by conventional open, modular systems) come and go. I don’t think it’s so much basing the product on the Win OS that killed it off — after all, the current version of Windows actually offers better scaling across multiple cores than OS X does (or presumably will be able to until Apple goes back in and fixes the fundamental architectural problem they created by building the monolithic, single-thread-oriented Darwin layer on top of the more modern, multi-threading Mach kernel).

    But a turnkey product simply has great difficulty in responding to changing conditions and enhancements to hardware and software.

    That said, if you’re marketing to people who often have a poor grasp on technological issues and are easily swayed by buzz-think, as one presumably is in this market (I’m a former studio recording ‘engineer’ so I’m speaking from observation and experience), I think the ‘uncool’ factor involved in using Windows certainly did not help in the marketplace.

  9. I totally agree with your assesment in the article, platform cost is a very big factor for a lot of Windows users. If you are the kind of person who would drop $5000 on a dedicated DAW computer, then you are the kind of person who would probably buy a Mac.

    If you are a Windows user you are used to, and expect, a very flexible hardware system that is very cheaply upgradeable. That is Window's biggest advantage, and the Open Labs product's biggest disadvantage.

    I'm a Windows user and my latest DAW upgrade cost $380 for a Quad core 2.4Ghz system with 4Gb RAM. I reused a case, PSU and HD, but that's the whole point.

  10. S23 -Nowhere does the article say that Vista is the latest Windows version – you may have misread that. It says that "the last version of Windows, Windows Vista, was a public relations disaster".

    How do you translate that into anti-Windows bias?

  11. Openlabs users rejoice!
    I just spoke with openlabs, there is a foreclosure but from what i understand that just has to do with that bank getting out of the loan. I have been assured that they will be open next week and there will be no change in business.

    1. you do NOT know what you are talking about. that's so cliche and was true in the 80's and parts of 90's, but not today! Today, I get the colorful beach ball of death on a fairly regular basis on my several MACS, but hardly a freeze up on my PCs running Vista or Win 7. I still favor the macs, but let's be honest about the freeze ups…

  12. the former ceo/founder was all about the flash… the condo balcony that collapsed that is all over the news today belonged to victor wong!

  13. they better change their business model… as stated above by numerous posters….

    I love sticking up for innovators and for the little guy….but they need to rethink their products…

    The main thing is price… the prices are complete trash.

    maybe a highly modified win7 OS with better hardware and the option to have PRO apps installed at an additional cost? or maybe have an online builder, where they could create them according to user specs?

    and PLEASEz!!!!!! no more timbo editions! charging an extra 1000 bucks for a different color model and a bunch of freeware (or old/cheapware) is just predatory. I feel bad for the newbs out there who bought that garbage…

  14. A different OS would not make Open Labs systems more appealing to me. Their biggest drawbacks lie in entirely different areas.

  15. To that Bob Borries dude:

    Windows doesn't crash. Old versions like win98 had problems sure but after windows xp there weren'n any problems with crashing even on highly overclocked machines.

    Stop buying that Apple crap and do some research instead

  16. Well, OLHAter is just right.
    7 years after switching from Mac OS to XP, I can still read all that Mac zealot's crap.
    Windows is rock solid since NT…

    "Windows musicians, used to cheap gear […]"
    Quality hardware has its cost. A windows workstation can cost more than a Mac Pro. Lot's of musicians are choosing Win over Mac OS you know and that's not just a question of $$$!

    If Open Labs really goes out of biz, this is because their products are all but pro. For this price they should have offered quality, i.e. workstation grade hardware (Xeon, ECC memory, redundant PSU… and something like an RME Fireface 400, not a 200$ POS I/O).

  17. L136… I agree completely…

    the real problem is in the outdated computers matched amateur level i/o… topped off with crappy plugins… for over double what they are worth…

    Neko, Miko, etc… they all look appealing until you factor in price and the fact that they don't work as a unified system as advertised…

    plus someone who purchases one can look forward to their new toy becoming obsolete in under a year… with the option of upgrading their hardware from open labs at a premium (and shipping costs)….

    The Neko is a poor implementation of what could be a great idea… hope they are listening…

  18. I didn't buy an Open Labs workstation because they felt like gargantuan Frankensteins during a time I was aiming to be lightweight and crafty. At the time I was looking at the specs, I said: "1024×768 screen resolution? That's hella cramped!"

    What's more, I had bad experience with their support: tried to contact them several times with no responses. Sucky customer service almost always guarantees I won't purchase a company's products (or if I've been foolish, won't purchase again). I'll always speak loudly with praise if I get good service.

    Also, I speculate horrendously here, but I wonder how much of Open Labs' money went into getting celebrity endorsements to the detriment of leaner approaches. It smelled kind of like the GoDaddy of the electronic music world, and that dun goofed.

    @daisy Holy crap, you weren't kidding!

  19. hmmmm……… got an email from OPENLABS…. and they say the fact they are going boobs up is false……….. what do you think

  20. Of all you with the negative comments towards the company's products, how many of you have actually USED one – or better yet even owned one – and known HOW to use the technology at hand? I am NOT a producer but my day gig is as a radio station GM and I am co-owner of a REAL recording studio (not some bedroom and closet converted into a "control room" and "booth"), and something I see everyday is beat makers trying to pass themselves off as producers/composers just because they went and spent a tax or tuition refund check on a bunch of high end production gear…that they DON'T know how to use.

    Not pointing fingers because I am just a guest here and don't know anyone, but I ask again…if you are bashing the gear from OL, have you actually spent real time using it?

  21. I used to own one for a year… and currently work at quite a few really nice studios… mastering…degree in music… make my entire living on mastering and some producing… OPEN LABS and their products suck. there… i said it.

    on the other hand, the receptor is amazing… UAD2 is amazing…. the virus TI2 is amazing…

  22. Windows doesn't crash??!? Tell that to the XP laptop I'm typing this on, which crashes about once a week.

    YOU might not have had Windows crash, but that is in absolutely no way indicative of the general situation.

  23. We have good news from Openlabs' forum, and here it is:

    A Word From the New Owners of Open Labs

    Thank you for being a customer of Open Labs products. As you probably heard, there are new owners of Open Labs. The primary reason we acquired the assets was the outstanding relationship that the artists and producers had with the old company.

    We want to assure you that we are committed to you and the products that allow you to create, produce and perform. We will honor the warranties, orders, and upgrades that were taken by the old company and look forward to servicing your needs in the future.

    While the IP is impressive, the products are outstanding, and the customer service is world class, we know that the company is dependent upon you for success. Therefore, we would like to present you an opportunity to upgrade to RiFF 2.0 at a reduced cost. We are offering a 25% discount to all current customers that would like to upgrade the products to RiFF 2.0 in the next 45 days.

    Thank you for your support in the past. We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship going forward.

    The Open Labs Team and Owners

    Thank you for your support during this transition.

  24. Ihaaaaaaa…i invite all of the Mac Sickos in here to go Shoulder to Shoulder with my I7 system…
    i was a Mac user for 13 years but no more and god please not ever again…

  25. I'm a Mac User (who switched from Windows due to the headaches) and I'm really interested in getting a Neko and has someone offering to sale me one for $2000 because he bought a newer model. But my issue is….1. you HAVE to use windows on it. 2. is it really worth that dollar amount or should I just stick with my Apple with a midi controlled keyboard and my plugins. (I'm running Pro Tools, Logic, Reasons and Cubase-mainly running Pro Tools). 3. Not knowing the whole difficulty of upgrading on this item.

    It seems like a powerful tool but after reading all of these comments, I'm second guessing the opportunity to purchase it. I've heard tracks that the seller has done on it but the only reason I would get one is if its easier to use than using all of my gear….time is money you know.

    Just looking for advice.

  26. Aasti3000, I have never owned a neko, but if you are a MAC user then stick with what you have. It’s highly unusual for a MAC user to switch to a PC. Although it does happen sometimes. Besides who would want a neko now with the issues the company has had. Even if openlabs doesn’t go under it still doesn’t mean they will be around in the future. They don’t seem to be stable company. Don’t get stuck with a piece of equipment that the company isn’t around anymore. What if something goes wrong with the unit. Just like you said, “time is money.”

  27. I am a long time mac user AND a pc user. There is no difference on quality, although the mac is slicker on the hardware (you know, shiny mouse, etc), well, its all made by Apple, so it is going to be consistent. But lets be real. My macs freeze up AT LEAST once a week. I get the spinning beach ball of death. On the PC, not so much. Maybe twice a year? I have FOUR macs that I use in my studio, and FIVE pcs running mostly Vista and Win 7. Let's be fair. The Open labs machine is running on SOLID hardware and system.

  28. wrong, they offered an ALL IN ONE solution, and that's what costs a lot. If you don't need that, then you don't need that, but the only "cheap" alternative is to build some ricky racer pine box and velcro your PC inside of it and DUCT TAPE your keyboard and cables together, and spray paint the wood flat black. Who wants to do that, or take that to a gig? LOL

  29. Not over priced, just what it is, there are a lot of parts, and putting in the expensive parts you speak of would just drive the cost up to 10 or 15 grand, and that's not the market anyway.

  30. Apple OSX does NOT even run on anything but a bonifide MAC, so the OS is limited in scope, and putting a mac into a Openlabs product will just escalate the cost.

    Macs are good, but it is not the best no matter what a mac zealot will tell you. I own FOUR macs and FIVE pcs, and the macs give me a colorful beach ball of death at least once a week, although I still love them and forgive them, the pcs running vista and Win 7, much much less. My Windows Server 2003 is still running for YEARS and has NEVER EVER had a crash.

  31. gigging with it is what it was all about. it is portable. you don't know what you are talking about. You could buy a different studio set up, but you could never practically drag your studio around and gig with it, no one does that. too much hassle of dragging computers and cables and racks around and hooking it all up in a gig. you need an expert roady just to hook it all up and tear it down, and that costs hours and MONEY.

  32. XP?? You are operating in the dark ages. I can get a 400 dollar Win 7 box that does NOT crash ever, today. I have had a Windows 2003 server that has been running for about five years now, and I can't remember that it EVER crashed. It just runs and runs, 24×7. My macs? Crash all the time. I've got four.

  33. absolutely right. it helps to have half and half like I do in my studio, and to know which computer systems crash the most. True I am doing MORE with my macs, but they DO crash. Let's get that straight.

  34. Wow I was really interest in a neko you guys show know how to rain on someone parade!!!!!!! I guess I get a motif or fantom,mpc 4000 digidesign 003 console mxl Genesis II mic joemeek oneQ channel strip and some more sound modules

  35. Just to let everyone know- Open Labs is still in business. Lots of new products in the works. New Music OS Software out right now that you can use on any Windows 7 machine. A Mac version of the software is in the works as well. Open Labs has also partnered with Dell and is putting out touchscreen laptops. There is a free trial of Music OS right now if you are interested.

  36. Just purchased the Miko LXD for my producer bf who’s been producing for over 12yrs. He says its a peice of crap for the following reasons:
    1) The basic interface is NOT user friendly & makes the producing process time-consuming & more tedious than a traditional keyboard.
    2) No support unless you’ve purchase the product within a yr or 2 or want to pay over $100 for a limited amt of CSR
    3) They sell you software to add fluidity to the product, when given the initial product purchase price ($3200+), said software should be available as a free download or not as expensive ($299-$399).

    That said, purchasing a Neko or Miko is like going to the dealership, buying a car & being charged extra for the tires so that you can it off drive it off the lot. A waste of money unless you intend on spending more money, which echoes little to no regard for the suckers, I mean customers, who believed in their product enough to buy it.

  37. I’ve got a MS IN CS, MCSE TRAINING, Recording Engineering Training, PRO DJ, and aspiring Producer/Engineer. I just bought a used MINT CONDITION 2yr old NEKO QX6 from a musician/IT guy for only $1450 (I think it was it a good deal?).

    I did this mainly since I initially trained on analog TASCAM equipment (and built a small 8 channel analog (tape) recording studio in my bsmt). Wanting to go digital I searched for an inexpensive solution and wound up getting the NEKO since it was all in one.

    Most of the parts are pc based and cheaply and easily gotten and replaceable, not to mention it is fairly stable (WIN 7). I don’t think I could of afforded to build an all digital studio with the same capabilities that the NEKO has if I’d gone the route of all separates instead of an all in one like the NEKO.

  38. What killed the Neko for me was when I called to ask how to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 and they said, basically YOU CAN’T because of the controllers. WTF! That, and the screen was never clear unless you stooped directly over it, WAY to big, filled with CRAPPY freeware sounds (except for Sylenth), and WAY TOO EXPENSIVE! Biggest waste of money in my musical gear adventures.

  39. I know this is an old thread. I recently bought a roland G6. Iuknowits a totally different system not running VSTI’s. But the design is perfect. while you’re working on something, it stays active in all 3 modes, and really never goes away until you start a new project. which is perfect for workflow and moving around and editing parameters. If it only played virtual instruments it would be one way to go with this idea.
    open labs but have been brain dead. i see many of these for sale, but they all have windows XP on em. and if you cant upgrade due to proprietary drivers and software they dont support, then you just bought a computer case with a keyboard on it. and yes the price is ridiculous.
    i would like to pick up a non working neko for 100 bucks tho. i’d figure something out.

  40. I bought an XXL and have been using it since, about four years ago. Its I bought an XXL and have been using it since, about six years ago. Its a great all-in-one solution for a touring artist who is still writing and recording on the road… but was very cost prohibitive for the upstart musician. I was lucky enough to get a new one for half the retail price, due to a double prmotion via msicians friend and Discover, so it ended up being under $4000 for a Gen 6 XXL.

    Power-wise, The machines were always behind in processing power and memory solutions. The day I received mine, I upgraded the processor to a quad core and overclocked it to 4 GHz. Then put 16 GBs of high-speed RAM in it, along with a couple one terabyte SSD’s. So mine is as or more powerful than most other solutions on the market, unless you’re looking to spend six to $8000 for a new Mac.

    I’m loaded mine up with a ton of great software and with over 1 million sounds, I have no worries as far as finding a solution for any recording I do. If you look on eBay now, you can pick these things up for two or $3000 and upgrade them yourself. While they are on the heavy side, it’s no heavier than a the Korg Krome 88.

    It’s all in the perspective of what any buyer needs. If you need an all-in-one solution to take on the road with you or you have cramped living spaces, this is a great solution. If you’re looking for the most powerful machine on the face of the earth, this may not be your machine but you can upgrade it to be.

    I was in direct contact with open labs when I bought this machine and still to this day, even though they are just a software company. They still support the XXL and most of their productline. The management is pushing them to get away from supporting these units, a I was in direct contact with open labs when I bought this machine and still to this day, even though they are just a software company. They still support the XXL and most of their productline. The management is pushing them to get away from supporting these units, though longtime employees who were there during the hardware era, will still help with them. I just had a part for my XXL shipped to me from them. So if you still need help with them, it is there. Though in limited quantity.

    Overall, there is nothing else on the market like this. But I do understand peoples stance, as the price was ridiculous for what they were. The problem being, is they were a small company getting specialize parts made at low numbers. So every unit cost them a ton of money to make. But, for the small company that they were, they were pumping out quite a solution versus the namebrand manufacturers.

    If I were to do it all over again, I don’t know if I would buy an XXL. Though for the price I got it at, I don’t know that I could’ve built anything comparable, at the time, with all of the software and features it had. When you got the unit, you could start recording the second you opened the box. With some very high-quality sounds and effects, not to mention a full version of Reaper in tow. Which I still use in one form or the other to this day. It’s a nice solution to the overpriced software that is ProTools.

    Though, these days, you can build a comparable computer for pennies on the dollar. So, it’s a tossup. As I said prior, you can pick these up fairly cheap now and upgrade them yourself if you’re looking for this kind of solution. They also work under windows 10, with factory hardware installed.

  41. Nick Falco, how were you able to upgrade to Windows 10? Were there any driver issues? I have a Miko LX Gen 3 with the v4 upgrade. Do you know if this will this work for my Miko as well? I replaced the Mother Board a few years ago and have just ordered new RAM to put in the machine since the old RAM is now failing. However, I can only use 3 of the 4 GB of RAM since the XP OS doesn’t permit using over this amount. Also, not sure what you did to overclock the machine to utilize more RAM. Is there a risk to doing this? Thanks!

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