If you’re a fan of MIDI keyboards, chances are that you have heard of the Arturia Keylab series over the years. Arturia recently announced the Arturia Keylab 88 MKII and this is a keyboard I have been anticipating for a few years now. The main reason is that there really aren’t a ton of amazing 88 key options currently.
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.
Before diving into this review, you can also check out some of MIDI controller guides here.
- Mini MIDI Keyboards
- Bluetooth MIDI Keyboard Controllers
- MIDI Controllers
- 37 key MIDI Keyboards
- 49 Key MIDI Controllers
- 61 Key MIDI Controllers
- 88 Key MIDI Controllers
- MIDI Foot Controllers
- 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 that is offered 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’s 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 an 88 key MIDI controller.
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 DAW’s.
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 I also really love the pads and faders.