Arturia Keylab Essential 49 - Hardware Review
For little over a year now I have been using the Arturia Keylab Essential 49 MIDI controller for my productions . Arturia has crammed in A LOT into this controller . Allow me to jump into this review and give you my overall thoughts of this product .
The build quality of this controller is truly impressive. Its solid and heavy weighing in at 3kgs. It’s got a nice ‘wooden’ finish on the sides and feels like a ‘proper’ controller.
At first glance you can see there’s alot ‘going on’ with the controller , there’s a lot of functions that you wouldn’t normally find on any other controller, among the standard buttons and functions. First off this the 49 key version (the Keylab also comes in 61 key version) with touch sensitive velocity keys. The sensitivity of the keys I was really happy with , you get a real nice feel when you play the keys and get great feedback from the amount of ‘pressure’ that you place on each key reflecting the velocity of the output sound . On the left of the keys is the modulation wheel and pitch bend wheel .
In the top right you’ll find 9 faders and 9 encoders which can be used in conjunction with any loaded VST. These have been pre-mapped to be used mainly with Arturia software, but you can also be used with other VSTs. It’s a nice addition and makes recording automation and tuning presets very easy when it comes to paning and changing other parameters of your VST.
One small and really cool feature is the ‘Chord Play’ function. You can save and record chords by creating and saving that chord to be played back by only pressing one key. You can now create full arrangements with just a few keys. This really was very useful.
In the middle of the controller you’ll find a big knob which is essentially used to scroll through and load different presets when you load up the Analog Lab VST (more on this later). When scrolling for presets , the centre twin-line LCD screen displays the name of the preset. You can scroll through all the presets without even looking at your computer monitor which makes scrolling for specific sounds quicker and easier than ever before.
On the top left you’ll find 8 touch & pressure sensitive pads . This truly is a great feature and can be used to make some awesome sounds. My only gripe when using these pads is that they are not as sensitive as I would have liked. I found many times I would have to tap the pad quite hard and and when I wanted a certain ‘sweet spot’ (when I wanted a certain velocity) , it was a little annoying. But nonetheless , it’s a great addition to this controller as you don’t need to go out and buy an seperate MPC , because you have it bundled now with your MIDI controller .
When it comes to connectivity its USB powered & connected this way. So it’s basically plug & play. If you don’t want to connect it that way , no problems , as you can optionally connect it via DC power and can it also has MIDI OUT which you can control any MIDI-compatible synths, outboard, and modular gear.
Besides the excellent quality, functions and features of this MIDI controller you will also get some truly amazing software. Bundled together with the controller is Analog Lab , Ableton Live Lite & UVI Grand Piano D. Analog Lab is loaded over 6000 differents presets , anything ranging from bass synths, pads, leads and anything & everything you can imagine . I became so overwhelmed with just how many presets there are of which they are some of the best quality sounds I have ever heard. Even after a year Im still searching and finding great sounds from this high quality VST. The ‘American Piano’ preset is my ‘go to’ piano sound when ever I need a great ‘soulful’ sounding piano. Speaking of pianos, the UVI Grand Piano VST is , in my opinion the best sounding grand piano VST available today. Which is a sample-based software recreation of Steinway classic. You also get the Lite version of Ableton Live , which is a great DAW to use. With these three software packages , you’re ready to start producing like a pro.
There are alot of other extra functions that you will find such as the DAW command centre which allows you to take control of your recording software thanks to the MCU/HUI protocol and also a dedicated controller to quickly change MIDI channels .
Just the software itself is worth more than the asking price for the controller. The fact that you can get an amazing piece of hardware like this , bundled with some truly amazing software , at the low price of only $198 , anyone would be a fool to pass this up. I have never been happier than I have with this controller. Arturia have done an amazing job and I look forward to their future endeavours.
For more information visit the official Arturia Website HERE