The Arturia Minilab MKII is a mini MIDI controller that I believe, in many ways, Arturia knocked out of the park. With this being said, there are a couple of things that I think that they could’ve done better and I will get into these in further detail below.
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Arturia Minilab MKII
This is a solid mini controller that is built for portability and it has great MIDI functionality.
My opinion is that the Minilab MKII is a solid choice for studio producers and gigging musicians. The one big downside is that Arturia made it so that this controller only comes with 500 patches from Analog Lab 2. This is just the light version. Other Arturia keyboards come with all 5,000 patches, so you can see the dilemma here. I will address this later on, so let’s get into the full review.
Note: The Arturia Minilab MKII is now available in all black. I personally think this looks much cooler than the white model.
- Sturdy Keys
- Works Well With All DAWs including free DAW software
- Could Be Lighter
- Doesn’t Include As Much Software As Others
Arturia Minilab MKII Review
The aesthetic of this is pleasing. It’s very crisp and clean. One of the selling points with this keyboard is the fact that it comes with slim keys. The reason that Arturia did this is to increase the action of the keys. I personally think that it worked out nicely.
Arturia was able to come out with a mini controller that is extremely affordable. In doing so, how does this match up with the rest of its competition?
Personally, I think it matches up well. If you’re looking for durability, you’re going to always go with Arturia products. Trust me, they’re built like tanks. The downside of this, they are a little bit heavier. The whole purpose of a mini controller is to be portable and having a product that is a little bit heavier could be a turn-off.
Note: The MiniLab MKII weighs 3.3 pounds. This is still an extremely light product, so don’t look at this as a deal-breaker in any way.
- 25 velocity-sensitive slim keys
- Included free software: Analog Lab Light, Ableton Light & Grand Piano
- Weighs 3.3 pounds
- Sustain Pedal Input
- USB powered
- Extremely Durable
- Can be used with PC, Macbooks
- Octave buttons
- Modulation strips
- 2 banks of 8 high-quality pads
Overall, the layout is crisp and clean. I find it to be pleasing and easy to navigate.
Note: The Minilab MKII has a sustain input on the back of it right next to the USB port. This is a major win in my opinion as other mini controllers just leave the sustain pedal option out. Pianists will find it frustrating when there’s no sustain pedal because they’re so used to using them.
It has 8 drum pads with 2 banks: this adds up to basically having 16 pads to navigate through.
On the top of the MiniLab MKII you will notice 16 knobs that you can use for mapping and programming with your DAW.
If you look at the top left of the keyboard you will find 2 octave buttons along with 2 modulation strips. One is a pitch bend and the other is a modulation strip.
You will also notice a shift button and this allows you to select MIDI presets and MIDI channels. It’s quite helpful and makes your user experience more enjoyable.
Analog Lab Light 2
I mentioned above that I was up that Arturia didn’t include the full Analog Lab 2 software, instead, they included the light version. This is still a nice software to have included, but it only has 500 patches compared to about 5,000. With this said, Arturia was giving away too much free software before that it probably wasn’t cost effective for them.
In this software, you get plenty of different options of exploring all the types of sounds that you would need to, especially if you’re a beginner.
Ableton Live Light
Ah yes, the most well known live music DAW there is. This software is included with the Minilab MKII and I highly recommend you dig into it. If there’s ever a DAW to master, this would be one of them. It’s fairly easy to use and within no time you will find yourself with the ability to record and listen back to your ideas.
The light version is a little limiting, but it allows you to try the software out before you decide if you wish to purchase it. In my opinion, Ableton is a fantastic product and it’s 100 percent with your time.
Grand Piano Model D
This software is made by UVI and it is a fantastic piano VST. These pianos sound like you’re playing on a real Steinway piano. The fact that the Minilab MKII includes this is pretty awesome.
If you find yourself loving the sound of piano VST’s, this is definitely one that you will dig. The realistic organic feel that this plugin captures is up there with the best of them in my opinion.
The Keys (25 Velocity-Sensitive)
Arturia took a different approach here with the MiniLab MKII. They used slim keys and I have to say, before I played it, I wondered if they would feel too slim. This, surprisingly, wasn’t the case at all.
They don’t feel cheap and the action is actually quite nice for a compact controller. You typically don’t get this from smaller keyboards, so this is a win for Arturia in my opinion.
Note: I’m surprised that there’s no aftertouch on this keyboard. I wish Arturia included, however, you can check out their Keylab MKII as it has aftertouch.
The velocity response is pretty decent and you can change the controls. I have mine set to linear, personally. These keys don’t feel too stiff and it feels like you’re really playing, rather than dabbling.
You get 8 pads with 2 banks. This will add up to 16 pads that you can take advantage of.
Note: You can’t adjust the sensitivity with these pads and I wish that you could.
The pads work well, I just wish you could play these more dynamically, personally. I will go back to the fact that this is an extremely cheap keyboard, so there have to be sacrifices made at some point.
Why Did I Review The MiniLab MKII?
In short, I love reviewing keyboards. I’ve been playing piano now for over 20 years and I have found that there’s not a lot of reputable sources on the internet. A lot of people are on the web just grabbing products that sell well without having any experience.
Everything in this review was based on playing this keyboard and doing additional research, as I love Arturia as a company.
Have you ever wondered if you should use a hardware synth or a MIDI controller? Read my guide above.
I think that Arturia made an affordable keyboard here that works well with all DAW’s. Durability is important to note here as it will be able to withstand traveling with you if so choose to bring it with you places.
I love that you get bundled software, but I wish that they included the full version of Analog Lab 2. As said before, this isn’t that big of a deal as you can still get other VSTs.
Native Instruments recently released a mini MIDI controller and I reviewed it. You can view my thoughts on the Kontrol 32 here.
Overall, this does everything that you would need it to do, especially if you’re a beginner.
*All pictures courtesy of Arturia