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Do people realise how good the Arturia KeyLab 88 Mk II is?

B4time

New Member
Roland has a number of different keybeds. They all seem to get pretty good reviews. I haven't played one recently though. I was going to give the A88 a try if the SL Grand didn't work out.
 

from_theashes

Active Member
I've had the 88 Mk II for about a year now, and is the first weighted keyboard I've properly used. I like it but what I really hate is the DAW integration, which may be the case for all controllers.
I'd naively expected it to instantly sync and I'd be able to use it to 1) control the highlighted Instrument/Effect and 2) set up global mappings. After much fannying about I've been able to do the second part, but not the first. In Logic you can set up the rotaries to control the Smart controls, which is better than nothing - but that's only 8 controllers. And the rotaries are pretty crap.
(I've also set up one fader which always controls the volume of the selected track, which is quite handy)
I'd be interested to know if anyone has had more success than me with this..
I use the Keylab 88 Essential with Logic and it’s definitely possible to control CC commands (faders, knobs and pads) for VSTs and the DAW commands simultaneously. You can assign the CCs via the Arturia Software or MIDI learn.
I really love that controller and I‘m glad I got it over a Komplete Kontrol.
 

John Longley

Surly and Charitable
Like many, I have been on the quest for a satsfying controller/controller keyboard, for some time. I have had lots of gear through my studio, Korg Nanos, M Audiio gear, Necktars, Akais and more, but all have dissapointed. Nightmarish set ups and general flakiness, things just not happening when they should and as far as keboard controllers go, kebeds that play like toys. I spent more time on set up than I did no using these things, often things just would not work, after days of trying.
I am a pianist. I have a wonderful old Roland 700NX, which has a fantastic piano action and a very decent concert grand sound. That's my Goto. If it was going to be replaced, it was because it is a stage piano and is very limited as a controller keyboard. This board cost me £3500 back in the day. I have tried to replace it with Nords and with its successor the RD 2000 but it did not work here.

I think I have just found its successor, and for £750 UK!

Before we even go into the (great) details of the keyboard, its worth mentioning the bundled software. First there is Analog Lab 5 - that's 6500 sounds rightv there - all instantly mapped to the keyboard. Then there is analog 4 too. You also get a full version of a VOx Continental, A full version of a Wurli, Piano V2 - 12 modelled pianos, and something called MIDI control centre an excellent on screen controller of your hardware. Click on a feature (fader, button etc) and assign). If you were to buy all this from Arturia, it would cost you more than the price of thev keyboard. Oh and there is Ableton Light, whatever that is ;) .

I set up with Cubase 11. To be honest I could not ffind the right instructions on the web, so I was fiddling around. However, once I found the correct instructions here:https://www.arturia.com/faq/keylabmkii/keylab-mkii-tips-tricks, it took about 5 minutes. DO follow to the letter and you should be fine. Its not quite plug and play as Arturia claims, but once you tweak Mackie Control it works great.

Let's talk about the build. First it has a metal chassis. It looks great in white and also comes in black. Overall the knonbs and faders get a solid 8/10 here. They are far better than say M AUdio or Korg Stuff, but not quite as good as my Roland, which would be happy after an elephant sat on it. I had one pot with a slight haptic crunch (ever so slight), I notified Arturia and have decided to live with it and see if it goes.The buttons are perfect, the 16 drum pads are velocity and after touch sensitive (I can't judge them as I am not a finger drummer) the nine faders are also very good quality and work smooth and quiet.

The back panel is impressive. Its hte best I have seen. Not only does it have expression and control inputs (also assignable), but no less than three extra aux pedal inputs, all assignable. If this is not enough for you it even has 4 special inputs for real analogue synths (which I do not understand). It has old skool MIDI and USB, it has a power input, but oyu do not need this if you are using USB.

The Keybed is a Fatar TP/100LR. This is hammer action and after touch sensitive. I am spoilt by my Roland and have very high stands here. I need a proper action and full expressitivity. COuld I use this as my GOTO. Yes!
I did find that out of the box the V2 paino's did not work well with the keyboard. However, after some tweaking of teh velocity curves I got better results. I give the V pianos 8.5 / 10, but I think I will be using Pianoteq.

I really like the way Arturia has thought this all out. The keyboard is set up around three central buttons: "Analog Lab", "DAW" and "User".

The first button maps the keyboard to work seemlessly with Analog Lab. The sounds of these synths are top of the line. The best way to control these is in the software - MIDI COntrol Centre. This gives a picture of the keyboard and all the knobs are assignable within. Using Analogue labs 24 Analog synthesizers. Digital synthesizers. Acoustic pianos. Electric pianos, Organs, Strings and samplers are all set up for you with the knobs clearly labelled and modifiable. The only frustration I have found, is that the MIDI COntroller wont work with other instruments loaded, so you have to make your modifications in silence . Of course you can make changes in the hardware's VDU but this is tiny.

The second mode is DAW Mode. As expected, this is dedicated to your DAW. There are pre- programmed custom set ups for each DAW. Ableton is favoured (again what is this?) . All you do is long press the DAW button and scroll for your DAW - done.

For Cubase you get dedicated buttons for transport, undo, solo, mut, record, read, write. save, metronome punch in and punch out. The ninth fader is set up for Master Out and the other veight faders are set up for valume for a bank of the first eight tracks, you can jump or scroll to the next bank of 8 etc. The big knob is set up for scrub. The rotaries for Pan. Te buttons below the faders are used to select tracks (or the back and forward buttons) and YOU? You needed to set up nothing but select Cubase with two clicks! All you did was long press the DAW button and scroll to select Cubase Mode.

The final Mode is USER mode. This is similar to DAW mode, all the transport functions still work as in DAW mode, except the faders are now not dedicated to Volume, but are assingable using MIDI learn. So, for example if oon track one, one has Omnisphere and wat to control both the track volume and the Omni cut off, all one has to do is swithc to DAW mode to control track volume using fader 1, then to user mode and assign fader 1 to Cut off in Omni. It's a matter of a single click once set up and setting up is only three clicks. The pots (Pan in DAW mode) are also assignable in user mode.
Switching between these three modes - Analog Labs, DAW and User is a single click

Summary.
I am super impressed. This is easily the best controller I have used. My M Audio Oxygen 25, My BCF 2000, my Nano Kontrol Studio are all up for sale.
Not only is this the best controller I have used, but it is also a fine FATAR piano keyboard. I load it with Pianoteq and I can play for hours. Aftertouch too? Drumpads with aftertouch? Nine faders?

£750, with£750 of free software?

I can be picky, motirised faders would be very good. The pots get 8/10 not 10/10. I would love to be able to use the MIDI control Center with a DAW running or a standalone instrument running.

But is there better? I doubt it. The Komplete Kontrol I suppose comes closest. It has a better VDU, but no faders or drum pads and only 2 pedal inputs (comapred to five).


Anyway guys, you can see I like it. It's here to stay. I hope you enjoyed the review

Z
I owned one last year and I had a bad key in about a week. I’m willing to believe it was a fluke, but it spooked me and I got a cheap Hammer 88 until I find a better alternative. The functionality is superb and it feels good, it just scared me.
 
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