Arturia Keylab Black is a limited edition version of the popular Keylab MIDI keyboard from Arturia. Physically there is no difference to the normal Keylab edition besides the black paint style but the package includes some additional software you don’t get with the normal Keylab edition.
In the box you get the controller, USB cable and a getting started manual. The Keylab products all come with the Analog Lab software, a wrapper for Arturia’s highly acclaimed hardware synthesiser emulations like the mini V, modular V, CS-80V, ARP 2600, SEM V, Jupiter-8V and Wurlitzer V and include over 6000 sounds which are sorted in categories like Bass, Pads, Leads and more; as well as characteristics like long, dark, bright , etc. There is also 200 multi-patches organised by musical genres like Electro, Rock, Pop and more. The multi-patches are 1 or 2 patches split or layered over the keyboard with up to two effects applied.
The Analog Lab versions of the plugins are limited in the way that you cannot access the plugin and create your own patches, you can only tweak the auto mapped parameters using the 10 rotary encoders and 9 sliders. If you own full versions of the Arturia plugins they will be used and you can access them through Analog Lab to do more in-depth tweaking. The Black edition includes full versions of the Solina V and Prophet 5 (Prophet VS) plugins as well as the UVI Grand Piano Model D. Analog Lab also includes several high quality effects like chorus, delays, reverb etc and are also auto mapped to they Keylab controller. Analog Lab can be run as both standalone or as regular plugin inside your DAW (VST, VST3, AU, AAX formats supported). Analog Lab also has support to store 10 presets for quick recall, which makes it useful to use in a live situation to quickly swap between sounds which can be accessed through the snapshot buttons on the controller.
The controller itself is of very high quality and feels and looks both stylish and sturdy with its aluminium casing and wood ends. Besides the USB connection it also has standard MIDI in- and out ports as well as sustain pedal, expression pedal, aux footswitch and breath controller inputs. It also sports a 32-digit LCD screen for patch browsing and parameter edit feedback. On the control side the 49 key version comes with 2 clickable encoders, 6 transport switches (Play, Stop, Loop etc), modulation wheel and pitch bend wheel as well as 2 banks of 10 encoders, 9 sliders, volume encoder and 10 assignable switches and 16 backlit velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads. The pads can be setup to be either single note triggers or chord triggers and is set per patch.
Keys are semi-weighted with velocity and aftertouch. It works great with Analog Lab but equally well as a normal MIDI controller for your DAW and plugins. Since Arturia had a Keylab package with Bitwig I decided to use Bitwig as my test DAW. Bitwig comes with a special tailored script for the Keylab series where it has mappings setup for the encoders and sliders. The script uses the ‘Bank 1’ and ‘Bank 2’ buttons as quick switches between Arturia Analog Lab mapping mode and Bitwig mapping mode, which makes it very quick and easy to swap between controlling Analog Lab or a built-in Bitwig devices.
The Arturia Keylab series is a very good value for your money. You get a very solid MIDI controller with lots of functionality as well as the included Analog Lab which has a tremendous amount of usable sounds to play with. The additional full versions of Solina V, Prophet 5 and Grand Piano Model D makes this a really good value for money. The controller also looks good and fits in visually with most other outboard gear you might have. I am definitely keeping this one.
There are probably hundreds of different MIDI keyboards available to buy today, so there is plenty of choice but AKAI’s new Advance keyboard (£388) is packaged similarly with a lot of software but lack the amount of controls on the keyboard. M-Audio has the new CODE series which is cheaper at £175 but comes with no software but has plenty of controls on the keyboard itself, plus it has fully weighted keys.