The Minilab MK II is the latest compact USB powered keyboard controller from Arturia.
It offers 25 velocity-sensitive slim keys, 16 knobs (2 of them clickable), and 8 backlit pads (for finger drumming as well as launching clips in Live), plus octave +/- buttons, and pitch/modulation touch strips.
Who’s It For? On the go/touring musicians and producers. Also ideal in all those situations where space is an issue.
How Does It Feel? Don’t let the (low) price deceive you. This thing feels solid and ready for the road. I’m not a big fan of the mini keys seen on older controllers, but with the Minilab MK II and the Keystep (awarded in our Best Controllers of 2016) Arturia has hit the sweet spot between size and feel. Right now, to me these are the best on the market.
The knobs don’t feel wobbly as in other products in this price range. I was a bit skeptical about the touch strips, but they do their job and are a safer option when putting the controller in a backpack!
All in all, an impressive quality for the price.
Perks With the MiniLab MK II, you’ll get a great software bundle: Arturia’s Analog Lab Lite (with 500 sounds from V Collection 5 – you can upgrade to the full version for $29), Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano (a sampled Steinway Model D), and Arturia’s MIDI Control Center (to customise settings, knobs, etc.). You can find out more about the package on the Minilab’s web page.
I’d recommend starting with Analog Lab Lite. It offers an attractive visual interface and a great selection of sounds, plus it can work without your DAW. Upgrade to the full version (or better, get Arturia’s V Collection 5) if you want a full-featured synth collection that will take you months to explore!
Tip: using the Shift button, you can access a second bank for the pads, so it’s like having 16 of them.
Conclusion I tested the Minilab MK II on a Mac, with Analog Lab Lite, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live. I also used it briefly with my iPad. The controller was automatically recognized (I just did a firmware update, as prompted by the Midi Control Center) and everything worked as expected.
Impressive quality for the price
Considering the build quality and the software bundle it comes with, at $99/€99 this is beyond the ‘no-brainer’ category. A must-buy if you’re shopping for a 2-octave USB controller. Cons? I wish it had a MIDI ‘classic’ plug, to be able to control hardware synths (but I got a Keystep for that!).
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About The Author
Founder & main editor here at ANR, 'non-musician' and music-tinkerer. His first keyboard was a cheesy Yamaha PSS-270. He still loves it.