Are Arturia’s new mk3 KeyLab MIDI controllers as ‘Essential’ as their name suggests?

More affordable than the standard KeyLab controllers and lacking the step sequencers of the KeyStep models, Arturia’s KeyLab Essential MIDI keyboards give you what their name suggests: essential but not top-spec functionality at a reasonable price.

The new mk3 models are designed to make these ‘boards even more useful and accessible, with an overhauled workflow and several new features. There’s now a bigger display with contextual buttons, along with two multi-purpose pad banks. And, of course, encoders, faders and other controls are here, too.

Behind the scenes, there are now custom scripts for Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Cubase and Bitwig Studio, which should mean easy setup and tight integration with any of these DAWs. Fear not if you use something different, though: MCU and HUI compatibility means that pretty much every DAW is supported.

There’s also enhanced integration with Arturia’s Analog Lab and V Collection software and, on a more creative tip, an arpeggiator, single-key chord triggering, scale locking and customisation options for the three pedal inputs.

Arturia also claims that the KeyLab Essential mk3 models have an eye on sustainability; they’re made from a minimum of 40% recycled plastic and have a material carbon footprint reduction of 18%.

There are both 49- and 61-note models in the KeyLab Essential mk3 range (you can choose from any colour as long it’s black or white), and each ships with a software bundle that contains Analog Lab V, Ableton Live Lite, Native Instruments’ The Gentleman, UVI Model D, a 2-month subscription to Loopcloud and the option to learn to play with Melodics.

The KeyLab Essential 61 costs €249 and the KeyLab Essential 49 costs €199. Find out more on the Arturia website.

Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3

(Image credit: Arturia)
Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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