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The Arturia Keylab 88 MK II is the remake of the highly revered and tested Keylab Essential. One of the biggest selling points of the original was that it is extremely durable and road-ready. The MK II is also just that, as well as much more.
The MK2 is built like a brickhouse. It's not extremely heavy, it gives you a ton of control for both live and studio, and it is the most durable controller I've played to date.
It is my opinion that the Arturia Keylab 88 MKII is a pleasant improvement of the already solid Keylab 88. Arturia has made DAW control incredibly efficient and easy on the Keylab 88 MKII. Aftertouch has also been added and this is usually the first thing people have been asking lately with new MIDI keyboards.
Quick Look At Similar Options
|Editor’s Choice||Roland A-88||
|Runner Up||Arturia Keylab MKII||
- Incredible key-action
- Velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
- Seamless DAW integration
- Extremely durable
- Portable, weighing only 32 pounds
- Moderately Expensive(although a great value)
Let’s take a deep look at this keyboard below.
Arturia Keylab MKII Review
The Arturia Keylab MKII is a high-level 88 key MIDI keyboard that has an impressive build-quality and it is currently only offered in white. With this being said, Arturia is known for releasing special edition colors after release.
Arturia has done a great job as always including bundled software and you will find that directly out of the box you’re able to plug in and play with your favorite DAW’s.
I recently wrote about my favorite free DAW in this article here.
I think the first thing to note with this keyboard is that the key-bed is currently the best key-action you will find on the market.
Key Features & Specs
Keys: Hammer grade weighted, Fatar TP/100LR
Pads: 16 velocity-sensitive & pressure-sensitive
Controllers: Pitch-bend & mod-wheel
Encoders: 9 rotary encoders
Faders: 9 Faders
Pedal Inputs: one sustain and 3 expression
MIDI I/O: In/Out, Thru, USB
Power: USB powered/ External AC Adapter
Weight: 32.4 pounds
Height: 4.4 inches
Width: 50.9 inches
Depth: 12.7 Inches
Bundled Software: Analog Lab, Ableton Live Lite
Other In/Out: CV: pitch out, gate out, mod1/2, CV In
While the design is similar to the original 88 key Keylab, you will notice a few things are different. The pads have been moved from the right side to the left side and the pitch-bend and mod-wheels are now white as opposed to black.
Arturia was able to still keep a relatively low weight with the Keylab MKII, coming in at just 32.4 pounds. While this is light, it comes in about 3.5 pounds heavier than the original Keylab 88. In my opinion, this isn’t really a big deal at all, as you’re not going to really notice the difference.
I do like the way the 10 assignable buttons and faders are laid out. This makes the DAW integration seamless and easy. You can pretty much work directly from your keyboard with all of the major DAWs.
Overall, I think the design is perfect for an 88 key MIDI keyboard. Everything is laid out right where you would expect them to be. I personally like the switch with the pads now being on the left instead of the right as well.
You will find 16 pads, 9 faders, 10 assignable buttons for parameters, 9 rotary encoders, a pitch-bend and mod-wheel as well as all of your transport controls.
This keyboard is surprisingly portable weighing just 32.4 pounds. While there are definitely lighter options, the Keylab MKII 88 wins in the fact that is far more durable than most controllers currently available.
It measures in a 4.4 inches tall, 50.9 inches wide, and 12.7 inches deep.
Like its predecessor, the Keylab MKII 88 is incredibly durable. This thing feels like a tank in all honesty. You can smash the pads and the keys without having to worry about breaking them.
Branding & Look
Personally, I like how this keyboard looks and feels. It’s sleek and it’s laid out nicely. You’ll notice a small interface that is now in the middle of the Keylab MKII 88. Arturia typically uses smaller interfaces and they stayed true to this with this keyboard.
Performance Of The Arturia Keylab 88 MKII
There are some incredible features that Arturia absolutely nailed with this keyboard. Let’s take a look at all of the aspects below.
The keys are some of the best that you will find on a MIDI keyboard as they are the Fatar TP100LR with aftertouch. They are hammer graded and they actually feel pretty similar to a piano. I can’t tell you how many 88 key controllers I’ve played that didn’t have great keys. This a big a win for Arturia.
The pads are extremely responsive and they play really well. If you’re laying down drum tracks, they will more than get the job done for you. You will notice that you can get get some great dynamics across the board on the drum quite easily.
I’ve played on a lot of non-responsive drum pads in my days and I have to say that Arturia killed it in this department.
The faders feel good in all honesty. The build quality of this really blows my mind and the faders are no exception. They feel pretty firm and they move nicely, you don’t feel like you’re going to break them very easily. I’ve had a lot of problems with certain controllers faders just feeling cheap and breaking, I don’t see that happening here.
You will feel the quality of these immediately upon touching them. These don’t feel loose at all and I really dig that.
The DAW integration with the Arturia Keylab MKII 88 is a big selling point. You can control all of the major DAW’s directly from your keyboard more so than ever now.
All of the transport controls work with Ableton, Reaper, Logic, Cubase, Studio one, and all of the major DAW’s. This means you don’t have to keep going back and forth from your laptop to your keyboard the entire time.
You will notice that you can control the volume and mute certain tracks as well now directly from your keyboard. This is such a cool feature to me as I would rather work directly from the keyboard if I can.
Analog Lab and Ableton Live Lite are included with the Keylab MKII and this is a fantastic value. Ableton Live Lite is a great free DAW that is easily the most popular DAW used for live music right now.
Analog Lab is a monster VST that has some great vintage synth sounds. If you’ve never used Analog Lab, I highly suggest checking it out, it’s such a massive library that you’re bound to find some new sounds that you dig.
I believe the Arturia Keylab 88 MKII is easily one of the best 88 key MIDI controllers. It has the best key- bed currently available for a MIDI keyboard today and comes with a solid set of faders and drum pads.
Not available in white, only black.
Wrong; in fact I haven’t seen a black model yet; only white.
Thanks for the comment. I was looking at the special edition of the regular Keylab. I will update this if they add it in black in the future.
Great review but one thing is not clear to me:
Is there any chance I can use this ‘stand alone’ just for practicing piano when not producing?
Ofc with some headphones or speaker plugged in but will it always require a PC or MIDI source in the background?
Are there some ‘preloaded’ piano sounds on the controller itself or does it require input from a computer at all times?
I’m aware that this is not the intended use for this product but it would be handy for me to use it in this way without having to use a PC all the time
Sorry total noob question but maybe you can help out ^^
Thanks for the question. You will need a laptop or a PC with this keyboard. It will need to be plugged into a laptop or PC, however, you don’t need a DAW. The stand-alone means that it doesn’t require a DAW.
Hope that helps!
That other answer was super misleading. There are NO sounds present in the Keyboard. While true it doesn’t require a DAW to operate it is not “stand alone” like you are asking. You need to connect a computer running some sort of sound source such as a VST host program and a VST and that computer will need to have some sort of speakers connected.
Heya, I’ve been looking at buying an 88key with hammers – namely either the original 88 or the 88mkII. In your opinion, if I can get an original 88 with arturias full soft synth suite for roughly 500, is the 88mkII enough of an upgrade to warrant losing the full suite while also costing another 300. Many thanks 🙂
Thanks for this review. My original Keylab 88 has some keys that aren’t responding, and I think I’m out of warranty. Interested in this one, but wondering, do you know if this is the same fatar keys in the previous version? I love how easy it is to assign the buttons and faders in the original, but the weighted action isn’t my favorite. If this is upgraded, might be worth it for me to buy.
Pretty sure the keylab has the same keys!
It’s been a long time since this article and the release of the MK2 version (2019), but I’m a beginner, albeit an elderly pensioner, and here in Italy I found more than one chance of the previous version (MK1 ? 2015) used but in beautiful condition (a black one).
Do you think it makes sense to buy one for €400/500 when the new white MK2 costs €900?
On the other hand: do you think a new model will be released in a short time?
Above all: with the old version will I feel some more difference in consideration of the fact that I only studied and played the acoustic piano when I was young?
Thank you for your attention.