Ar­turia Key­lab MkII

Premium con­troller key­boards aren’t cheap. Jon Mus­grave weighs up the lat­est top-end ar­rival from Ar­turia

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Key­Lab is Ar­turia’s flag­ship con­troller key­board, and the new MkII has ar­rived in 49 and 61-key ver­sions in black and white. It’s the white 49-key model I have on re­view and, like the lat­est Key­Lab Es­sen­tial, the MkII’s key­board and play­back pads are bol­stered by DAW trans­port, DAW com­mands, pa­ram­e­ter en­try and deep in­te­gra­tion with Ar­turia’s bun­dled Ana­log Lab 3 soft­ware. Al­though sim­i­lar in lay­out to the Key­Lab Es­sen­tial, the MkII is a very dif­fer­ent unit with a higher pric­etag and more up­mar­ket feel.

The alu­minium case feels ro­bust and, al­though heav­ier than moulded plas­tic con­struc­tion, is less bulky. It’s deep front to back (297mm) but the height pro­file is sur­pris­ingly low (53mm). The semi-weighted Pro-Feel keybed is fan­tas­tic (the same as the Ma­trixBrute synth), and de­liv­ers ex­cel­lent sen­si­tiv­ity across the full range of ve­loc­i­ties. The metal pitch and mod wheels are light and re­spon­sive and the key­board in­cludes after­touch.

For con­nec­tiv­ity the MkII builds on its pre­de­ces­sor, with five pedal connectors (sus­tain, ex­pres­sion and three as­sign­a­ble aux­il­iaries). Mean­while MIDI in/out is now joined by five CV con­nec­tions (pitch, gate, mod 1 and mod 2 and in­put), so you can both con­trol your mod­u­lar synths and also hook up one of their CV out­puts to con­trol some­thing on your DAW. For power, Key­Lab MkII uses USB or an ex­ter­nal PSU (not in­cluded), how­ever Ar­turia have in­cluded an anti-ground loop USB split­ter, which al­lows si­mul­ta­ne­ous com­puter con­nec­tiv­ity and power via a stan­dard USB charger.

The clearly zoned top panel has 16 RGB touch and pres­sure­sen­si­tive pads, and pads can also se­lect or trig­ger chords (Chord Mem­ory and Chord Trans­pose modes). There are six trans­port con­trols and ten DAW com­mand but­tons with nifty mag­netic la­belling over­lays for Logic, Pro Tools, Stu­dio One, Reaper, Able­ton Live and Cubase. On the right of the top panel are en­coders, slid­ers and but­tons (nine of each) along­side three con­trol (Bank) but­tons and in User mode this pro­vides an im­pres­sive three banks of as­sign­a­ble faders and en­coders. Over­all the but­tons feel pos­i­tive (with a re­as­sur­ing click) and are back­lit. One gripe, though, is the po­si­tion­ing of the en­coders and slid­ers, which per­form­ers would prob­a­bly pre­fer on the left.

Key­Lab MkII is op­er­a­tionally in­tu­itive with three dis­tinct modes – DAW, Ana­log Lab and User (there are ten user con­fig­urable pre­sets) – se­lected via ded­i­cated mode but­tons in the cen­tre. In use the Ana­log Lab mode re­quires no set­ting up, while User mode is more ope­nended, with full cus­tomi­sa­tion of knobs, faders and but­tons in­clud­ing but­ton colours. Cus­tomi­sa­tion is achieved ei­ther via Ar­turia’s MIDI Con­trol Cen­tre ap­pli­ca­tion, or us­ing the on­board menu, and the lat­ter em­pha­sises Key­Lab’s cre­den­tials as a stand­alone con­troller.

Over­all the Key­Lab MkII is an awe­some con­troller key­board that not only de­liv­ers fine playa­bil­ity, but also tack­les DAW con­trol and synth edit­ing. Throw in CV ca­pa­bil­i­ties and stand­alone op­er­a­tion and the price seems rea­son­ably jus­ti­fied.

The semi weighted ProFeel keybed is fan­tas­tic and de­liv­ers ex­cel­lent sen­si­tiv­ity

CON­TACT WHO: Ar­turia / Source Distri­bu­tion WEB: ar­ / sourcedis­tri­bu­ KEY FEA­TURES Ve­loc­ity sen­si­tive key­board with after­touch, USB, MIDI in/out, CV (pitch, gate, mod 1 and mod 2 and in­put), Sus­tain, Ex­pres­sion, 3 as­sign­a­ble pedal in­puts, Mackie Con­trol/HUI com­pat­i­ble, Ar­turia Ana­log Lab, V Pi­ano and Able­ton Live 9 Lite in­cluded. PRIC­ING: 49 £439, 61 £489

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