Arturia MiniLab MKII Review – USB / MIDI Keyboard with 25 Slim-keys

Arturia regularly pleases the users with new and interesting products. However, the existing models do not remain without attention. In 2016, a popular model of compact MiniLab controller has been upgraded. A second-generation device Arturia MiniLab MKII has an updated design and an expanded range of features, which includes Ableton Live Lite, virtual tools Lite Analog Lab and UVI Grand Piano Model D. But don’t look ahead, we’ll start our review from specs, as usual.

Specifications

  • 25 touch-sensitive slim-keys;
  • 8 sensitive to speed and to touch response pads with RGB-backlit;
  • 16 rotary encoders (two of them with the click function);
  • 2 separate buttons for switching octaves;
  • Two Touch Strips – Pitch Bend and Modulation;
  • Memory to save 8 controller settings  presets;
  • 1/4″ TRS footswitch input sends MIDI Note & CC data. Can be programmed for Gate or Toggle operation;
  • Powered via USB Cable;
  • USB / MIDI class compliant (no driver installation require);
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows;
  • Package bundle includes: Arturia MiniLab MKII hardware, USB Cable, User Guide & Manual, Analog Lab Lite Software license with 500 Sounds in V-Collection 5 Quality, Ableton Live Lite and UVI Grand Piano;
  • Dimensions: [W] 355mm x [D] 220mm x [H] 50mm (14 x 8.7 x 2 inches);
  • Weight: 1.5kg (3.3 lbs);

Overall Build and Features

It is worth mentioning that the device Arturia MiniLab MKII is a double-octave MIDI keyboard with pads and rotary controllers. Key features of the controller are a compact size and large number of controllers, including touch strip Pitch and Modulation instead of traditional wheels.

The size of Arturia MiniLab MKII controller has changed a bit. The case became a little narrower and longer than the one of a previous model. Control buttons and strips of Pitch Modulation moved upstairs to the general group of controllers above the keyboard. In this regard, the rotary controllers and the pads are now located closer to each other, but there is still spare place for comfortable use.

In general, the device has become more compact. The sides have no wooden inserts, and the thickness of it is 32 mm. The exact dimensions of the device are 35.5 x 22 x 5 cm, including protuberate controllers. This size is comparable to a 13 inch laptops and it allows to conveniently place the controller in the backpack next to the laptop.

Arturia MiniLab MKII

Connectors are placed on the back side of the device (this allows to place the controller close to any other device), which is a clear advantage. Kensington Keylock also located on the back side. A connection of a sustain pedal through 1/4″ TRS connector has been preserved from MKI version. Also we recommend you to buy M-Audio SP2 Sustain Pedal, as an additional accessory for this controller (it costs just couple of dollars and has 2300+ positive reviews, which is a huge amount).

As before, there are 25 miniature keys with synthesizer mechanics and sensitivity to velocity in Arturia MiniLab MKII. There are three velocity curves and a mode with a fixed maximum value. The same sensitivity settings are provided for the pads. As for the keys, they are a little different in MKII. The black keys are slightly narrower and longer. Also changed the cover: now it’s not glossy, but matte and not so slippery.

In general, there is only a positive impression after playing on the keyboard. Despite the fact that the cost of the device is low and it has the mechanics of the synth type, the keys are soft enough, they don’t clank or dangle. It is unlikely that it is possible to play with various articulations, but the mechanics allows to extract sounds with different velocity value.

The touch strip Pitch and Modulation have two modes that emulate the operation of the corresponding hardware wheels. In the settings you can choose a return to zero when tearing a finger off the controller or prolonged fixation of value to subsequent change. By default, the controllers are responsible for the Pitch and Modulation functions, but they can be reassigned to any other parameter.

Arturia MiniLab MKII

The pads have slightly reduced in size, but now they have a bright RGB backlight. As before, they are multifunctional and responsible for various functions in the different modes.

The main operation mode of the pads is the playing of notes on the chromatic scale from C of small octave. An additional mode allows switching between tabs with settings of multimode tools in programs Analog Lab, as well as flipping presets of a chosen instrument and a reset of the filter. Besides, with using the pads, you can switch between presets with the global settings of the device. There are eight presets stored in the internal memory in Arturia MiniLab MKII. Switching is done instantly holding the SHIFT key and appropriate pad.

The controllers without support are designed to control output settings in the Analog Lab program. It is interesting that the controllers 1 and 9 are pressurable. Using them, you can navigate a list of instruments and their presets.

Analog LAB Lite

The controller has a lite version of Analog LAB program Lite with possibility of paid upgrade to the full version of Analog LAB 2.

Analog Lab Light

Analog LAB 2 is a virtual instrument that emulates the sound of famous classic analog synths: Mini V, Modular V, CS-8oV, ARP 2600 V, Prophet V, Prophet VS, SEM V, Jupiter-8V, Wurlitzer V, Matrix-12 V, VOX Continental V and Solina V. All of these synthesizers are conveniently united in a single DAW software and have a nice graphical interface. Analog LAB software includes over 6000 presets of the listed synths with a minimum set of adjustable parameters and interesting modes.

When you select MiniLab in the app settings, the virtual panel corresponding to the hardware controllers becomes available. All adjustable parameters are signed and can be easily reassigned.

A virtual instrument Analog Lab has two basic modes. The Sound mode reproduces one timbre; the Multi-mode allows to select simultaneously two timbres. In the dual-layer mode, you can assign a specific zone for each of them, adjust the panorama and choose one type of effects of the 16 available.

Analog Lab is available as RTAS, AAX and VST plug-in, and it also has a Stand-alone mode. Examples of Analog Lab sound can be streamed on the official website of the manufacturer.  Also, you can have a look at a demo version of the plugin with a limited work time.

UVI Grand Piano

The kit also includes a virtual instrument UVI Grand Piano Model D, which is a sample concert grand piano Steinway.

The library of this tool consists of 862 samples in .WAV format with a volume of 2.57 GB, recorded in 192 kHz and, in consequence, converted to 44.1 kHz. The example of Grand piano sounding is available at the official product page. This instrument is more demanding for computer resources. UVI Grand Piano Model D is available as RTAS, AAX and VST plug-in, and it also has a Stand-alone mode.

Final Verdict on Arturia MiniLab MKII

In general, the modernization of the Arturia MiniLab MKII controller is successful. Among the most important changes, there should be highlighted a convenient location of the connectors and more practical size, allowing to be placed in a backpack or laptop bag. It is also important that the cost of the device remains the same, and its one of the most cheap midi keyboards with perfect quality and today, Arturia MiniLab MK II remains one of the most affordable devices equipped with such number of the controllers.

Pros

  • Compact size of comntorller. It can fit in a small bag, so its pretty easy to transpot.
  • 8 pads with backlit and 16 rotary knob-controllers – it is quite a large number of knobs for so compact device.
  • MiniLab MKII has a pedal imput (useful feature).
  • Has really beautiful design and spectacular overall build.

Cons

  • There are no cons in MiniLab MKII, but the only thing that we would like to see in the package – is full version of Analog LAB software (it would be much better).
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Global Arturia MiniLab MKII Rating
  • Overall Build and Features - 7.7/10
    7.7/10
  • Versatility - 7/10
    7/10
  • Design - 9.4/10
    9.4/10
  • Value - 9.3/10
    9.3/10
  • Ease of Use - 8.6/10
    8.6/10
8.4/10