This is an Arturia Minilab MK2 review. We have taken the opinions of those with years of skin in the game, our own experiences and mixed that with a few tools we have at our disposal to be able to bring the most comprehensive review. 


Arturia Minilab MK2 ReviewIn Short:

Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
Not the most popular midi controller on the market. But don't let that fool you. This little beauty peaked my interested with it’s wooden side panel vintage look, feel and brillaint functionality. While I didn't ultimately end up purchasing this MIDI controller, if I was to go back in time I may well have purchased this on a different day...
  • Wood Side Panels: For vintage feel and look
  • Analog Lab: Which gives you access to sounds and presets from the best synths in the game
  • Plastic Face Plate: That gives you more protection and durability for your keys and function buttons
  • 16 Knobs, 8 Pads and really cool set of touch strips for pitch bend and modulation
  • Other Functions: Including a shift function to switch between different presets when using Analog Lab

Arturia Minilab MIDI Keyboard Controller Review

After digging in a little deeper, I found that while this MIDI Keyboard isn’t the most popular out of the 3 in terms or sales and reviews, it definitely hold it’s own among the best and if you’re looking for a cheap midi keyboard with that gives you a vintage experience complete with an on-board software-synth experience, then ignore it at your own peril.

Here’s why…

 Introducing Analog Lab…

The Arturia Minilab ships with a really cool piece of software that hosts hundreds if not thousands of presets and sounds. Now, there’s nothing really unique in that as so do both the other midi controllers.

What’s different then?

Well, apart from the fact the the dashboard and design of the software is super user friendly, it’s the content of what found in this dashboard that really packs a punch.

3 Main Categories: SOUND, MULTI and LIVE

SOUND…

As you’ll see, on the left hand side of the ‘SOUND’ setting you have your list of patches. Some of these include;

  • Mini Moog
  • Modular
  • Cs-80
  • Jupiter

On the right hand side, under ‘Studio View’ you have the option to visually see each synth and choose which you want.

Clicking ‘filter view’ gives you the option to choose your instrument, the type and finally the characteristic you want to impose on the sound. So for example you could choose; Prophet 5, Brass Bright and check out the sound.

MULTI…

Under the ‘MULTI’ category you have another cool selection of presets that you modify and change to your liking using the different the options on display including; level, panning, and multitude of effects.

LIVE

Then finally, you’ve got a ‘LIVE’ category, that allows you to drag drop different presets into the dashboard and basically have a live set.

There are other features to the software including; a sorting feature to organize any sound you want by; type, present name, rating and any favorites you’ve chosen.

There’s also a little preferences tab where Analog Lab will detect any of the recognised synths you currently own and load them automatically into the software.

Here’s a great video demonstration from Production Expert’s Youtube channel that explains everything beautifully…

What about the controls?

The Arturia come’s with 8 pads and 16 knobs that you can use to change and shape all the sounds you want.

The design of these knobs and pads mimic more closely to the Novation Launchkey in the fact that they are laid out in more linear fashion, with the 16 knobs split into two rows of 8 across the top of the keyboard and the 8 pads follow underneath all on one line.

It also comes really a really neat set of velocity responsive touch strips that mimic the bigger more expensive synths on the market. This design while seen on more tradition synths isn’t found on the other 2 portable midi controllers I went into detail on here (AKAI Mini) and here (Novation Launchkey Mini).

Finally, to wrap up the controls section, you’ve also got; octave change buttons, shift function to switch through different presets and a pad switch which will allow you switch between the pads 1-8 and 9-16.

Is there anything else worth noting?

It also comes with a little plastic face cover that sits nicely over the top of the controls. The labels found on the face cover will be the default mappings for a the Analog Lab software I went into detail on above.

What are the possible drawbacks:

While the software it’s self is a beautifully made piece of kit, for those looking for more electronic feel for harder EDM styles –the Novation or the AKAI might be better investments if bass manipulation is more your thing.

Why I Like it? In terms of design and aesthetics I really like faux wood panelling on the side of the controller. It gives it a real vintage feel and stays in-line and on brand with other Arturia hardware.

It comes with a similar feel and performance to the other 2 midi controllers in terms of key responsiveness and functionality.

The Analog Lab software is super simple to use and comes pre-loaded with sounds you’d otherwise have to fork out a bigger amount of money to get access to.

Also, like the Novation, it also comes with a ‘lite’ version of Ableton Live.

Arturia Minilab MK2 Review: Summed Up in a Couple of Words…

Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
Even though it doesn’t offer the same sort of bass customization for my Drum and Bass projects as the Launckey or the AKAI – personally, the Arturia is my best pick of the lot.

Our SP Rating [Category: Portable MIDI Controllers] = 9.5/10