UPDATED – Arturia MiniLab 3 Review: the review has been updated after Arturia released the 1.1.1 firmware.
Arturia MiniLab 3 Review
- Build and Design - 8/108/10
- Features and Sofware - 8.5/108.5/10
- Ease Of Use - 9/109/10
MiniLab 3 - Mini Size and Price, Maxi Fun!
The Arturia MiniLab 3 is a compact, super-affordable yet well-designed controller that has already become an integral part of my music production and performance setup.
I especially appreciated its tight integration with the main DAWs, Analog Lab, the hands-on controls and the MIDI DIN port. Also, the recent 1.1.1 firmware update added a number of welcome improvements and features.
- Solid build
- Unbeatable price point
- Great software bundle
- MIDI DIN port
- Integration with Analog Lab and DAWs
- 5-year warranty
- Small display
As a music producer and tech journalist, I’m always on the hunt for efficient, space-saving gear. I was excited to get my hands on the Arturia MiniLab 3 controller keyboard (available in white and black) and see how it would fit my workflow.
After spending some quality time with this unit, I must say, it’s quite impressive, especially when you consider its quality-to-price ratio (€/$99? That’s a steal!). Arturia has also recently released a free 1.1.1 firmware update, enhancing its features, integration, and functionality. Let’s delve into this a bit more.
Key Features Of The Arturia MiniLab 3
- 2-octave velocity-sensitive slim-key keyboard
- 9 continuous rotary encoders
- 4 fader controllers
- 2 touch-sensitive strips
- Hi-res display
- USB-C, MIDI-out and footswitch/foot pedal connectors
- DAW control mode and MCU support Custom controller mappings
- Full suite of software:
Software Bundle Highlights
Analog Lab Intro is an easy-to-use plugin featuring 500 presets from Arturia’s V Collection instruments – combining their iconic sound with a simple interface. This software is a perfect companion for those users who are just taking their first steps into the magic world of synths. The user-friendly interface allows you to start having fun immediately without needing to understand the ins and outs of synthesis (then I’d recommend upgrading to the full Analog Lab version, as it’s obviously much more fun!).
The knobs, sliders, and functions of each legendary instrument have been distilled into a simple selection of controls that let you tweak quickly, intelligently, and creatively.
The Gentleman is a lovely-sounding piano library by Native Instruments, which I already experienced in my previous NI Komplete bundles. I frequently used it in my previous productions as it sits nicely in the mix. Definitely a nice bonus for MiniLab 3 users!
As for Loopcloud (in the bundle you get a free 2-month Artist/Studio plan with 1 GB of sounds), it’s basically a must-have for modern producers, and I recommend checking out our Loopcloud 7 review.
The inclusion of Ableton Live Lite and UVI Grand Piano Model D is also a nice touch, and I found both to be useful additions to most people’s toolkit.
During my review of the Arturia MiniLab 3, the compact yet intelligent design of the unit immediately caught my attention. It’s small enough to easily fit in a backpack or gig bag, yet it feels sturdy and well-constructed. Pair it with a Minifuse 4, and you’re good to go.
The slim keys, reminiscent of my Keystep, proved to be quite playable. The velocity-sensitive pads are a nice addition. They lack the repeat feature found on the AKAI MPK Mini MK3, but they’re responsive and handy for drum programming and other tasks. They also double as buttons for features such as the arpeggiator, chord mode, DAW mode, program mode, and DAW transport.
The arpeggiator covers all the basics and then some – offering 6 different playback modes, swing and gate controls, as well as octave and time division options. It would be interesting to see some of Arturia’s more “eccentric” sequencing features on their simpler controllers, but I suppose they prefer to keep their product lines distinct.
Worth noting: the 1.1.1 firmware update added a very useful feature to the arpeggiator mode. With the new Auto Clock setting, MiniLab 3 will automatically use its internal clock if no DAW clock is detected, ensuring you’re always in time, regardless of whether an external device is sending a clock or not.There’s also a Chord mode that lets you play full chords with a single finger (and arpeggiate those notes, combining the Chord and Arpeggiator modes).
As a heavy user of Arturia’s Analog Lab, I appreciated the tight integration between it and MiniLab 3. After setting the inputs in the Analog Lab preferences, I was able to browse presets and categories, and control the on-screen macro knobs and faders. This significantly improved my workflow! My only gripe is the small display, but it’s a minor inconvenience, especially considering the price.
The only slightly annoying thing about the DAW support is that you need to press the Shift button (every time) in order to be able to play/stop/record/loop your tracks with the pads. I wonder if Arturia will find a workaround for this. I take this back. Arturia must have paid attention to our comment.
Speaking of software integration, MiniLab 3 also offers a DAW mode (supporting Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Bitwig, Cubase, FL Studio, and Reason). With some freely downloadable scripts, you can seamlessly control your DAW of choice. You can adjust settings, create custom mappings, and more, all without ever leaving MiniLab 3’s controls. For instance, in Ableton Live, the MiniLab instantly recognizes all Macro controls on instrument and effect racks, displaying the plugin and the device’s parameter values on the display.
In my Arturia MiniLab 3 review, I tested the Minilab 3 integration with the latest version of Logic Pro and was thoroughly impressed. So much so, that I stopped using some other controllers, like the always handy Korg NanoKontrol.
In addition to the standard transport functions (including cycle), I can scroll through the tracks with the main black knob, open and close the associated virtual instrument with one click, and the 8 knobs are already associated with key parameters in several plugins I’ve tried (I can always MIDI learn if needed). The first fader controls the track volume. Plus, holding Shift allows me to use the main knob to quickly move through the timeline. Brilliant!
Please note: make sure to check the version of your DAW, as these scripts may require the latest version of the software. However, even if you’re not running a supported version, you can still use the MiniLab 3 controls through your DAW’s control surface options. For instance, on an older Mac that doesn’t support the required Logic version, I had no problems manually setting up the MiniLab buttons, knobs, and faders using the good old MIDI Learn process.
Also worth noting: with the newer 1.1.1 firmware update, MiniLab 3 can now use HUI, MCU (or both), and its own scripts. The only slightly annoying thing about the DAW support is that you need to press the Shift button (every time) to be able to play/stop/record/loop your tracks with the pads. I wonder if Arturia will find a workaround for this. I take this back. Arturia must have paid attention to our comment. The latest 1.1.1 firmware has also added a Transport Bank mode, which essentially allows users to lock MiniLab 3’s pads in Shift mode for instant access to transport controls at all times. MUCH better! You can learn all about the DAW integration of the MiniLab 3 on the dedicated Arturia web page.
You can learn all about the DAW integration of the MiniLab 3 on the dedicated Arturia web page.
Connectivity And Sustainability
In terms of connectivity, I was thrilled to find a classic MIDI Out/Thru plug at the back of the unit. Often, these compact controllers offer only USB MIDI, making it impossible to connect them to pre-USB hardware synthesizers.
As with other Arturia devices, the excellent MIDI Control Center software will be your go-to for managing the MiniLab 3 settings and options (including sleep mode, knob behavior – with the newer firmware you can change it from absolute to relative!). It’s worth noting that MiniLab 3 can store up to five User Programs — custom control mappings that you can create in the MIDI Control Center app (i.e., you can have up to five templates to control different synths, drum machines, or effects).
Last but not least, MiniLab 3 is an eco-friendly device. According to Arturia, it’s built to last longer, produce less waste, and reduce our carbon footprint for good. MiniLab 3 is made with a minimum of 50% recycled plastic, brand new fully-recyclable cardboard packaging, and comes with a 5-year warranty.
Arturia MiniLab 3 Review – Final Thoughts
Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with the Arturia MinLab 3 controller keyboard. It’s a versatile and capable tool that has already become an integral part of my music production and performance setup, especially thanks to its tight integration with Analog Lab, the hands-on controls, and the MIDI DIN port. If you’re in the market for a compact and portable controller keyboard, I highly recommend giving the MiniLab 3 a closer look. At this price (and with a 5-year warranty), it’s a must-have!
DISCLOSURE: Our posts may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.