Ar­turia Key­lab Es­sen­tial 49

The right con­troller key­board can re­ally take you places. Jon Mus­grave hooks up the lat­est af­ford­able op­tion from Ar­turia

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

CON­TACT WHO: Source Dis­tri­bu­tion / Ar­turia WEB: www.sourcedis­tri­bu­ /­ KEY FEA­TURES 49-key ve­loc­ity sen­si­tive key­board I/O: USB, MIDI out, sus­tain pedal CON­TROLS: LCD screen, click­able en­coder, ro­tary en­coders, faders, touch /pres­sure pads, trans­port but­tons, pitch­bend/mod wheel, Chord play mode, Mackie Con­trol/HUI com­pat­i­ble

Ar­turia’s Key­lab Es­sen­tial range in­cludes 49 and 61-key USB bus pow­ered con­troller key­boards. At roughly half the price of their flag­ship Key­lab MkII range and with a bun­dle of starter soft­ware (Able­ton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D and Ar­turia’s own Ana­log Lab 3) the tar­get mar­ket is clear. Still, out of the box, the unit feels very well made and has a de­cent set of fea­tures in­clud­ing MIDI out, chord mode, trans­pose and in­de­pen­dent pitch­bend and mo­du­la­tion wheels. So, un­less you’re look­ing for a premium weighted or semi-weighted key­board and more ad­vanced per­for­mance fea­tures such as af­ter­touch, and key zon­ing and lay­er­ing, this should stand you in good stead for most ap­pli­ca­tions.

The key­board ac­tion is quite tight, pos­i­tive, and also pretty quiet; the case very rigid. There’s also a choice of two case colour schemes (black or white). As you may have guessed from the key lay­out, the Key­lab 49 aims to in­te­grate into your DAW pro­vid­ing key­board and pad pro­gram­ming, slider and ro­tary en­coder pa­ram­e­ter con­trol, and DAW trans­port us­ing the Mackie Con­trol/ HUI pro­to­col. Eight map­ping modes (se­lected us­ing the map se­lect but­ton and per­for­mance pads) dic­tate slider and ro­tary en­coder be­hav­iour, and in­clude two fac­tory op­tions (Ana­log Lab and DAW) plus six user pro­gram­mable slots. Sliders and en­coders have dual la­belling to match the fac­tory pre­sets, with chan­nel level and pan (DAW mode) and fil­ter cut­off, res­o­nance and en­ve­lope set­tings (Ana­log Lab mode). Three fur­ther but­tons (Part 1, Part 2 and Live) pro­vide more Ana­log Lab in­te­gra­tion and also dou­ble as fader bank nav­i­ga­tors for DAW mode (Next, Prev and Bank). The cen­tral click­able jog wheel and LCD dis­play also pro­vide Ana­log Lab patch brows­ing. All told, the Ana­log Lab in­te­gra­tion is re­ally ex­cel­lent, and I was not only up and edit­ing within a few short min­utes but also flip­ping back to DAW mode to make fader and pan ad­just­ments, all with­out any prob­lem what­so­ever.

Nev­er­the­less, you’ll prob­a­bly want to make your own map­ping as­sign­ments and this is where the MIDI Con­trol Cen­tre app comes into play. This map­ping ed­i­tor and li­brar­ian al­lows you to edit many of the con­trols, writ­ing your set­tings back to one of the six on­board user pre­sets. It also al­lows you to im­port, ex­port and gen­er­ally or­gan­ise your pre­sets with­out load­ing them into the Key­lab. I found this in­cred­i­bly easy to use, and with op­tions in­clud­ing trig­ger pad back­lit colour, en­coder mode (ab­so­lute/rel­a­tive), ve­loc­ity curves (lin­ear/log­a­rith­mic/ ex­po­nen­tial) and var­i­ous fader op­tions in­clud­ing draw­bar mode, if cus­tomi­sa­tion is your thing, you’re rea­son­ably well catered for.

Over­all the Key­lab Es­sen­tial is a pretty good con­troller key­board that favours solid build qual­ity and a de­cent set of core fea­tures over un­nec­es­sary bells and whis­tles. Although set­ting up user map­ping is rea­son­ably straight­for­ward via the MIDI Con­trol Cen­tre app, un­sur­pris­ingly it’s the im­me­di­acy of the Ana­log Lab in­te­gra­tion that caught my at­ten­tion. So if that spe­cific soft­ware is of in­ter­est, and you’re not after the afore­men­tioned ad­vanced per­for­mance key­board fea­tures, the Key­lab Es­sen­tial should def­i­nitely be on your short­list.

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