Arturia Keystep vs Minilab – Which Arturia keyboard is best on the road?

It’s been a long minute since you last had to replace your keyboard controller and you have settled down to two of the best options from the Arturia product line. As a producer, you need to have the most efficient keyboard to take on your entertainment trips around the world.

What’s it going to be?

Keyboard
32 Velocity aftertouch sensitive slim keys.
25 velocity sensitive keys
Controls
Capacitive-touch pitch bend and modulation wheel
Pitch and modulation touch strips

8 pads
16 encoders

Performance Function
MIDI and CV in/out
Transport controls
Compatibility
Mac, Apple and Windows
PC Mac IOS
Power
USB MIDI
USB standard B-plug
Display
LED
None
Weight
11.2 lbs
2.27 lbs

Arturia KeyStep

Looks like a basic keyboard with synth keys with velocity and aftertouch. It contains a sequencer that’s polyphonic to 64 steps and you can play chords of up to 8 notes per step but the main thing is its interactive nature that runs in real time while you experiment with ideas. It can sync to a computer or analogue gear.

It has fully fitted arpeggiator and a polyphonic step sequencer. It operates on three different platforms;

  1. Sequencer

Recording, playing and transposing a polyphonic sequence with 64 steps and 8 notes in each step. This means you are able to edit your sequence in real time while playing another track using a different channel.

Arpeggiator

This allows you play sound notes consecutively not altogether. With possibly eight different directions to go in play, you should make beautiful melodies.

Controller

Big keyboard controllers have nothing on the KeyStep as it features aftertouch effects and has great control over the modulation and pitch of sound notes. This controller enables you to manipulate any synthesizer be it a CV or MIDI type.

The backside has full support for MIDI and CV-GATE connections. This CV output gives you options to connect devices with volts per octave or volts per hertz. For connecting old and new gear through CV-GATE on this keyboard, it allows 5 to 12 volts. It comes with sync in and sync out port and you can change the routing of the synth functions.

Pros

  • Quick edits and customizing
  • Performance tweaking
  • Template swapping

Cons

  • Needs Apple’s camera connection kit

 

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Arturia MiniLab

This is USB controller device that is used to create and produce music with an Analog Lab software containing over 5,000 sounds to start with. It is a feature packed compacts sized system with 25 mini velocity-sensitive keys. It also has a touch-strip control for modulation and pitch.

The minilab offers 8 presets that increase your options of control. Included is the software you can use to ma your parameters and recall this stored data when needed through your laptop and with the help of the MIDI control center.

The MiniLab comes with drumming pads that are arranged in two banks allowing for the sensitive backlit pads to churn out musical notes when tapped on. It has full-size rotary encoders that will enable you to tweak your system and its operations.

It is fitted with the Analog Lab software that is easy to plug and play on your IPad and is fully controlled by use of the keyboard. You will need to buy Apple’s camera connection kit for it to work. The MiniLab works perfectly with Ableton Live Lite which is a popular recording and performing platform. You could use it or any other MIDI software in place of the Analog Lab.

MiniLabs presets are carefully selected and you can find what you need quickly because they are categorized by instrument, type and characteristics.

The hybrid synthesizer through the Analog Lab allows you to browse from the 5,000 available sounds or you could choose to upload sounds to the interface.

Pros

  • Needs no drivers
  • Compatible with all MIDI software
  • Quick editing

Cons

  • Limited playability

 

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Design

KeyStep has 32 keys, no knobs or controls but provides for aftertouch and MIDI in and out ports unlike the MiniLab which uses only USB and is designed for ultimate portability and jobs on the road as it can fit a laptop bag. It has great features for its size and the sixteen encoders and eight pads have been ergonomically designed and placed to keep at bay the feeling of a cramped organ.

Pitch and modulation is controlled by use of touch strips on the keyboard for both these controllers but KeyStep offers CV connections for external hardware which MiniLab does not.

Performance

With the hybrid synthesizer of the MiniLab helping you to upload sounds or choose from the list available in the Analog Lab library, it also gives you two variations in performance. With the first eight pads, you could channel arpeggiated sounds teetering on a certain note or you could set one of the pads into Toggle Mode allowing one note to be carried through consistently.

MiniLab’s last eight keys could be used to save your favorite sounds and can be tapped on to recall immediately. Aftertouch is a great feature as well as the performance sequencer, full arpeggiator and good connectivity are main reason for hardware synthesizers.

Verdict

Minilab is best for musicians on the road who want hands on control with no additional equipment or controllers. Minilab is specific to laptop or iPad musicians who travel with their tools of trade and want to produce music at any time and place.

Keystep is great for big time producers who have lots of gear to attach to their keyboards. Or modular and synthesizer users, this is the best keyboard as it features MIDI in and out ports. Slim keys have great playability and make better productions.

Conclusion

Both are great controllers that are built and designed to serve different users. Depending on your desired outcome and your current and projected goals and objectives, any of the two keyboard controllers from Arturia will serve you a great deal while you are on that endless road trip.

Peter Smith

Welcome to MusicGearAdvisor! 4 years ago I rediscovered my passion for making music and began building my own home studio. As I have gone through my journey I realized that I am just as passionate about the equipment as I am about the music. I started MusicGearAdvisor as a way for me to share my learnings with others so you can get started making music that you dream of.

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