Arturia KeyLab 49

Analog Lab's 'grown-up' controller

Back in the summer, we had a chance to test MiniLab, a pint-sized keyboard controller from Arturia, designed to drive its Analog Lab software. This in turn offers over 5000 patches taken from Arturia's coveted V-Collection, which models Moogs, the Jupiter-8 and many other titles from the golden age of synthesis.

Arturia now returns with a new collection of keyboard controllers - the KeyLab series - which offer full-sized keys, more tactility, USB buss power, MIDI In and Out ports, and other features you'd expect from a 'professional' keyboard controller.

Indeed, while it is configured for instant control of Analog Lab, KeyLab uses CC messages, stretching its appeal beyond potential Analog Lab users.

Hardware tour

"Even at a glance, it's clear that the KeyLab 49 review model offers a different hardware experience to MiniLab"

Even at a glance, it's clear that the KeyLab 49 review model offers a different hardware experience to MiniLab. The full-size keyboard offers the first clue and while the action is a little light for this writer, it's perfectly playable.

Above this, a comprehensive collection of dials, sliders, pads and buttons make up the majority of the front panel. From left to right, these provide ten rotary dials, whose functions are easily 'doubled' via a convenient Bank 2 button, which toggles from the main set of mapped controls (Bank 1) to this second set, providing 20 controls in total.

To the right, nine freely assignable sliders are offered too and while these most readily function as envelope controls, you needn't be limited if you have other plans for these in mind. To the far right, a 4x4 matrix of rubberized pads provides 16 velocity sensitive triggers, which can either be used to generate specific MIDI keys (perfect for beat programming) or, via the Analog Lab software, to trigger a collection of assignable chords. You can select an individual chord (major, minor etc with a specific root note) for each pad, so if you prefer tapping out harmonic parts, rather than playing them from the keyboard, no problem.

To the left, an LCD screen keeps you up to date with settings, automatically displaying the most recently 'touched' hardware control, whilst hybrid rotary/selection buttons allow you to scroll through banks of sounds before selecting the one you want without having to reach for your mouse.

Plusses and minuses

In the bottom left-hand corner, Pitch Bend and Mod wheels are provided but, to have a moan here, they're too close together and they're too small. We could understand both decisions if the KeyLab 49 had been designed as a mini-keyboard but its 'full size feel' is undone slightly by this choice. Our only other concern is that the rotary knobs, in particular, are a little too easy to inadvertently remove. If you're a frantic twiddler, there's just a chance these will pop loose in your hands.

These two gripes aside, KeyLab delivers the 'pro' control option for the Analog Lab software it deserves. It's possible to drive the software much more intuitively from this keyboard, which will be helpful both to those whose work is primarily studio-based and for those who want to run Analog Lab live and want a control surface to match its capabilities. As KeyLab is also available in 25 and 61-key formats, these keyboards are serious considerations if you want a keyboard controller and find Analog Lab's great software irresistible.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Full-sized keys. Plenty of assorted controls. 'Pushable' encoders help drive Analog Lab software intuitively.

Cons

A few control placement/action issues.

Verdict

A couple of hardware gripes aside, Analog Lab now has 'grown up' controllers to drive it.

RAM Required (GB)

2

MIDI Features

Assignable Buttons Drum Pads Faders Knobs Modulation Wheel Pitchbend

Description

A fully-spec'd keyboard controller designed for, but not limited to, Analog Lab control

Weight (kg)

6.5

Platform

PC/Mac (VST, AU, RTAS)

Height (mm)

70

Available Outputs

MIDI out USB

Number of Keys

49

Available Inputs

Footswitch input

Width (mm)

791

Depth (mm)

298

Features

32-digit LCD screen; 49 semi weighted keys with velocity and aftertouch

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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