22 August 2019
By Ellie Palmer
French electronics company Arturia has released its shiny new Keylab 88 MK II MIDI controller. Now with a solid 20 years under their belt, their new release has not disappointed.
- Includes Analog Lab software with over 8,000 different sounds to choose from
- Piano V2, Wurli V2, and Vox Continental V2, as well as Abelton Live Lite
- Features an 88-key Fatar TP/100LR hammer action
- 16 RGB-backlit performance pads
- Control bank with 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs
- Find the full list of features here
The Keylab 88 is nothing short of impressive from the moment you take it out of its box. It’s finished with a crisp white paint and a few wooden details. Weighted keys are key (no pun intended) to a good quality MIDI controller – especially if you are looking to replicate the sound of a true acoustic piano. Arturia’s Keylab 88 uses the Fatar TP/100LR hammer action, which has a particular focus on dynamic control.
What do I need?
The Keylab 88 comes with a USB cable, a laptop plate, and a sheet music holder. All you need to get started is your laptop and a set of headphones. Very simple and stress-free.
There’s plenty of software to download before you can get around to playing. Arturia make it easy by supplying you with a Quick Start Guide that takes you through the process. You are also given four free plugins to download: Piano V2, Analog Lab 4, VOX Continental V2, and Wurli V2.
Piano V2 is a comprehensive piano software suite that uses the power of Arturia’s Phi physical modelling to recreate legendary acoustic pianos.
Analog Lab 4 gives you access to the best of 24 vintage instrument reproductions on tap.
VOX Continental V2 provides instant access to the sounds of the greatest bands of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and beyond.
Wurli V2 is a classic stage tine keyboard reborn with physical modelling, many presets modelled on famous songs.
There are thousands of sounds to choose from within these plugins. The Piano V2 plugin was one of our favourites to play around with. Each sound has been recorded using four microphones. The control bank above the keybed – made up of 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs - allows you to control the volume of each microphone. Each of these is also completely customisable. Whatever piano sound you are imagining in your head, Piano V2 will most likely have it.
Analog Lab 4 is the ideal music library for any music producer given its vast range of sounds. With over 8,000 presets to choose from, and a visual layout to enhance your experience and to improve ease of use, it is perhaps the star of the quadruple set of plugins.
When loading a sound within the Analog Lab 4 library, pre-selected modulators are automatically mapped onto the control bank above the keybed. This gives you quite literally instant access to the full capabilities of that sound.
As well as a control bank, the Keylab 88 also comes equipped with 16 RGB-backlit performance pads in which you can load drum samples onto for live performance. Each pad is well-weighted. They can also be used to store up to 16 chords using the ‘chord memory’ feature. So, if you’re wanting to play a full, expanded sound, you can trigger these chords with your left whilst playing the melody with your right.
The full layout of the Keylab 88 MK II
The Performance Master up close
Can I use any Digital Audio Workstation?
There are NINE DAWs that are compatible with the Keylab 88: Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Bitwig, Cubase, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, and Studio One. 10/10 to Arturia for flexibility.
Is it worth it?
For 899€, it is towards the top end compared to other models. However, its capabilities exceed most other MIDI controllers.
This product is ideal for...
Intermediate/advanced producers and pianists. A little too daunting for beginners.