Arturia take their KeyLab range to the next level.
KeyLab is the family name of Arturia's range of master keyboards that combine stand‑alone MIDI controller functionality with DAW control. The keyboards all also serve as an integrated hardware front-end for Arturia's Analog Lab: the company's soft synth that consolidates the mighty V Collection into a workstation instrument.
Back in February 2018 we reviewed the KeyLab Essential. The KeyLab MkII comes in as pro or flagship big brother to the Essential, bringing the whole range up to date. The weighted 88-key version is still available with the older first-gen design.
There's a strong family resemblance between the KeyLab MkII and Essential, but the MkII is significantly deeper (in fact deeper than most MIDI keyboards) to allow for a 4x4 pad grid and longer faders. The MkII is a much sturdier and heavier construction, with a metal main case. The buttons are solid and clicky instead of soft and wobbly. The higher-spec metallic wheels appear above or next to the keys depending on whether you have the 49- or 61-key version.
The keybed is the same 'Pro-Feel' Arturia mechanism with aftertouch as found on the MatrixBrute and MiniBrute 2. It has a light, fairly shallow action, like the Essential, but with less wobbliness. I like the low-profile pads, whose multicoloured backlights indicate pressure with brightness. The main data knob and screen area appears much the same as on the Essential, but is enhanced by three dedicated buttons for switching between Analog Lab, DAW and User modes. The right-hand zone sports nine strips of sliders, rotary encoders and buttons.
Connectivity is a strong point. Power is via the USB port, although there's an optional DC adaptor. There are no fewer than five pedal/expression control inputs on quarter-inch jacks. Traditional MIDI is connected via a pair of full-size DIN ports. There's also CV connectivity comprising a single CV input, and pitch, gate, and dual mod outputs.
Unlike a number of its high-end peers, the KeyLab can function without needing a computer to think for it, but in most cases it's probably going to find itself as part of a DAW-centred studio. It's a class-compliant USB device, so should start making itself useful as soon as it's plugged...
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