Arturia has been making quality MIDI keyboards for a while now and when we heard they were coming out with a new version of the Arturia Keylab we were pumped. There hasn’t been a ton of new MIDI keyboards in the last year so there was definitely a good opportunity for them to come out with a new improved MIDI controller.
In this article, we are going to be taking a look at the Arturia Keylab MKII and giving you our thoughts on just how good it is.
Top of the line MIDI controller
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Arturia Keylab MKII
The Arturia Keylab MKII is a powerful MIDI keyboard that has a lot of great features. Arturia keyboards always are always built like tanks when it comes to durability and this is no exception.
The Arturia Keylab MKII Has Improved From The Original Keylab By Adding Aftertouch On The Keys. Aftertouch Is Extremely Popular In The MIDI Controller World Right Now Because It Gives You More Expression, So I Consider This A Win For Arturia.
Arturia Keylab MKII 49 & 61 Key Review
The Arturia Keylab MKII has added some cool new features that make it easier to streamline certain things with your MIDI controller including adding aftertouch. However, there are a couple of things that most musicians might be looking for that they didn’t add with this keyboard. We will get to these later in the review.
Key Features Of The Arturia Keylab MKII
Included Software: Includes Analog Lab with 6500 different sounds, Ableton Live Light and Piano V
Keys: 49 and 61 keys with premium quality key-beds with velocity and aftertouch
Drum Pads: 16 RGB back-lit performance pads
Control Bank: 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs
Modular Equipment Controls: 4 CV/Gate outputs, controlling pitch, gate, and modulation
DAW Compatibility: Can be used with all major DAW’s and comes with overlays for most DAW’s
Connectivity: Expression, sustain, CV/Gate, MIDI, USB, and 3 assignable auxiliary pedal inputs
Colors: Available in black and white
Chord Modes: 2 different customizable chord modes
Metal Pitch Bend And Mod Wheels
Three Different Control Modes
DAW Mode: Allows you to quickly take control of your recording software by using your MIDI controller. It has transfer, track, and navigation controls readily available for the musician to take control of.
The next and previous buttons let you put your focus on up to 8 tracks at a time. Something nice is that the Arturia Keylab MKII comes with 10 presets that are available for most DAWs.
DAW’S The Arturia Keylab MKII Works Well With:
- Pro Tools
- Logic Pro X
- FL Studio
- Ableton Live
- Digital Performer
- Studio One
Analog Lab Mode: Analog Lab is a great VST that came with the original Keylab as well. There are over 6,000 sounds included in the Analog Lab VST and these work very well with the MIDI controller.
Analog lab has been around for many years now and is one of the staples for Arturia keyboards. I have always liked this VST personally. I started using this about 3-4 years ago now and I still occasionally go back to it since I find it easy to navigate.
User Mode: This mode is nice because it gives you complete control over your MIDI controller allowing you to take full advantage of it.
All of the pads, wheels, and faders can be mapped to your and send MIDI CC data to your DAW for simplicity and ease of use when using the Keylab MKII. They basically designed this MIDI controller to give the user full control of all VST’s from their keyboard.
For musicians who love vintage synth gear and eurorack modules, the MKII combines the worlds of MIDI and CV/gate in a way that most other MIDI controllers haven’t. The back panel has five different control voltage connections: Pitch Out, Gate Out, 2 Mod Outs and CV In.
You can use the CV outputs to send control voltages and triggers to a modular synthesis system. Personally, I think this is a very unique and cool feature from the MKII and I expect to see more controllers be able to do this.
Overall Thoughts On The Arturia MKII
Overall, I think this MIDI controller is a step forward for the Keylab series definitely. I’ve always liked how sturdy and well put together the Keylab series felt when playing them. I would recommend this MIDI controller, however, there is one thing I will mention that it doesn’t have below.
There isn’t a built-in arpeggiator in the Keylab MKII and it’s kind of surprising seeing how Akai and Novation are doing very well in the world and they both have this feature.
I will say that if you know how to work with your DAW then this isn’t that big of an issue, however, it is fun and convenient especially for live use to have an arpeggiator function on the keyboard.
A big plus with their keyboards for me has always been their reliability and durability for touring. I’ve toured with this keyboard and it held up extremely well during rigorous touring for a couple of years.
One of the reasons they are so durable is because they use quality parts and their mod and pitch bend wheels are made of metal. The side panels are also made of real wood which gives it a heavy and durable feeling. This has kind of been a staple of Arturia keyboards.
I have always been a fan of newer MIDI controllers as opposed to older ones because I have always had bad sync problems and connectivity issues with older ones. MIDI technology is getting better and better and it’s important that you’re using up to date controllers.
I recommend checking out the Novation SL MKIII as well for a great option at a MIDI keyboard. This is also a new product that has some great features.
My Experience With MIDI Controllers
I have been playing piano for 20 years now and I have spent the last 5 years of my life in a touring band playing all around the United States and Canada. I come from a synth-pop band so I have been avidly pursuing MIDI controllers for some time now.
When a new controller comes out I research and it to see if it is something I could make use of. Because I have so much experience in this world, I decided to start sharing reviews in hopes that it helps musicians.
There is a lot of information on the internet regarding keyboards that is just incorrect and it is clearly done by writers and not actual musicians. Be sure to always check websites credibility when reading reviews so you’re not blindly listening to what they’re saying.
thank you for the thorough review!
I am currently evaluating the Keylab 61 MKII for purchase, but I am uncertain if the AKAI MK261 is better.
How does the keybed of the two controllers compare? Somewhere I read that the AKAI’s is stiffer than the Arturia’s.
And what about faders and encoders? Which do you consider better?
I would use the keyboard for live gigs, so I need a sturdy instrument. Both seem well built, but as a live musician, which one do you favour?
I would say to go with the Keylab 6a MKII. The keybed is better than the MK261 in my opinion. They both are durable, however, the Keylab MKII is extremely durable.
Hope this helps!
Thank you very much for the advice!
Any thoughts about sl mk3 vs the keylab m
Thanks for the review. How annoying is it not having an arpeggiator on the Keylab MK II (which I’m considering)? I’m really struggling with that, because the Arturia keyboards otherwise sound great for my needs, and their integration with Analog Labs! I’m struggling with getting an M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 instead, then buying Arturia’s Analog Lab, so that I can arpeggiate on the keyboard instead of having to do it through Ableton or Analog Lab — if that’s even an option on all of the Analog Lab instruments without having to buy the full plugins? I’d really appreciate your feedback because this decision is making me nuts.
Great review! Practical and on-point for what’s important on the Arturia Keylab MK2! I bought a Korg M3 Workstation 16 years ago … I love with the semi-weighted keybed feel, though the module is aging. The keybed is my number one priority. There is nowhere in the Phoenix area where I can test-drive the Arturia keys. Have you played a Korg M3? If so, how does it stack up with Arturia Keybed?
Thanks for the comment. I have played this keyboard, but I can’t recall where I would place it. I really dig the Arturia keybed though if that helps.