“The key to making electronic music on the go is a MIDI controller.”- Every producer ever.
The MIDI industry is saturated with countless keyboards and controllers making it hard to choose the RIGHT one for you.
With this in mind, let me introduce you to Arturia’s MiniLab MkII controller.
Welcome to our 2022 Arturia MiniLab MkII review, where we break down its key features and why you should consider buying this product!
What is the Arturia Minilab MkII?
The Arturia Minilab MkII is a compact MIDI keyboard controller that functions as your very own PORTABLE STUDIO.
This MIDI controller is complete with knobs, piano keys, trigger pads, and channel presets to UPGRADE your sounds.
It comes with a USB port that allows for quick and easy connection with your mac OS laptop or windows PC.
Furthermore, the Arturia MiniLab MkII is compatible with various DAW/plug-in software, which we will touch upon later.
This mini controller is perfect for traveling musicians that want full control of their live performance sounds and creative production.
Arturia Minilab MkII Overview
The MkII is the second installment of Arturia’s mini controller series.
Compared to the previous model that emphasized bundled software, this version focuses more on hardware constitution and simplicity without making it feel cheap.
Arturia markets this product as its modern solution for end-to-end music-making.
Here are the key features that make it so!
The Arturia MiniLab MkII has 25 durable velocity-sensitive keys that have a bouncy feel.
Above the keys, you’ll find easily accessible pitch bend and modulation sliders that allow you to tweak your keyboard sounds.
It holds 2 banks of 8 pressure-sensitive RGB backlit trigger pads in a single row. This is where you can program drums, percussions, and samples.
There are also 16 encoder knobs that you can assign to your sound effects and twist to your liking.
Additionally, 2 of these encoder knobs are clickable and can be used as an interface when choosing presets.
On the top left, you have access to 4 buttons:
- The SHIFT button allows you to select MIDI presets and channels.
- Switching from pads 1-8 and 9-16 can be done through a single press of the pad button.
- Furthermore, there are 2 buttons for increasing and decreasing octaves. Imagine playing the whole piano through only 25 keys.
Quick List of Dimensions:
- Instrument size : 14 x 8.7 x 2 inches (355 x 220 x 50mm)
- Instrument weight : 3.3 lbs. (1.5 Kg)
When you purchase Arturia’s MiniLab Mk2, you are given 3 free software DAWs redeemable on their website to kickstart your musical journey!
Both the hardware and the software are beginner-friendly and have very simple controls.
Another great thing about the MkII is the MIDI Control Center, where you can customize the device and interface to suit your habits.
Unlike other MIDI controllers on the web, the MiniLab MkII has a sustain pedal input that helps make smoother chord progressions.
Lastly, it is very much USB/MIDI compliant!
No drivers or anything else, just plug and play away.
This MIDI keyboard is very compact, so it might feel cramped if you’re used to large piano-style playing.
The pitch bend strip is not as responsive on the hardware in terms of performance.
Some users pointed out that the sound of the keys sometimes doesn’t record.
Arturia MiniLab MkII Performance Review
Now that we’ve taken a look at the Minilab and what it has on the surface, let’s look at how it feels and performs musically.
Build and Design
Arturia products are known for their solid builds and retro design. However, the MiniLab MkII takes that to another level!
This affordable controller has the build quality you’d expect from MIDI keyboards 4 times more expensive.
The keys are very sturdy and can withstand a demanding gig or production schedule.
Arturia made sure to make the pads both pressure and velocity-sensitive and be highly responsive.
This attention to detail makes the MiniLab MkII your perfect companion in creating beats, mixing samples, and playing melodies.
Furthermore, this feature-filled keyboard controller was designed to be PORTABLE enough to slip into a regular laptop bag.
The layout placements of the hardware features are easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing.
Here is a visual aid of where the buttons are:
- Shift Button
- The “Switch Pads” button
- Octave Buttons (+ and -)
- Modulation and Pitch sliders
- 16 Encoders knobs (clickable knobs are labeled 1 & 9)
- 8 trigger pads
- 25 keys
Ease of Use
As mentioned earlier, both the hardware and the complementary software are very user-friendly.
The MkII is a simple but effective mini controller that saves you time when producing.
It is very easy to use, even for beginners!
Both beginners and experienced audiophiles will find it easy to play and navigate, enjoy the tactile feeling of the keys, and the high-end piece of equipment made simple!
DAW Software Compatibility
You will enjoy THREE free software programs that come with the device.
Below, you will find a quick overview of these DAWs and the computer specs you’ll need to operate them.
Note: These aren’t the only DAWs compatible with the MkII.
Analog Lab Lite 2
The Analog Lab Lite 2 is the mini version of Analog Lab designed to be your vintage keyboard collection.
It has a variety of studio instruments and keyboards to choose from; here are some of them:
- Classic Analog Synths
- String Machines
- Acoustic Pianos and Organs
- Digital Synth Keyboards
- Electronic Pianos
This DAW software also provides 500 presets from the award-winning V collection made by Arturia.
Furthermore, this DAW provides a hassle-free browser system that allows you to search for the sounds you need with just a few clicks.
The Analog Lab of the previous Mk model offered 5000 patches. In comparison, the downgrade to 500 is a bit limiting.
Note: You can still access the 5000 patches after upgrading the Analog Lab Lite to its full version.
Ableton Live Lite
Though this isn’t the full version of Ableton Live, pros and new users are in for a ride with this software.
Through the preassigned controls, Arturia and Ableton have teamed up to preamp the MkII for intuitive sound production.
Here are some of the functions you’ll have:
- Twin Workflow
- Time Stretching
- Pitch Shifting functions
- High-end studio effects and sounds
Furthermore, this Ableton software allows you to record, play, and create your sounds, turning them into a worthwhile project.
Note: We recommend mastering this interface to truly improve your beat-making skills.
UVI Grand Piano Model D
Steinway pianos are very expensive and are only found in renowned concert halls in the world.
However, with the UVI Model D, you’ll have your very own Steinway.
The UVI Model D is an amazing-sounding piano VST that even Mozart wishes he had. Classical piano sounds are the strong point of this software.
Furthermore, the sustain pedal input of the MkII makes it almost a match made in heaven.
Platform Requirments Needed
Both Windows PCs and Mac OS laptops are capable of operating the DAWs mentioned above if these specifics are met:
- 64-bit Intel® Core™ or AMD multi-core processor (i5 processor or faster recommended) with 4 GB RAM (8 GB+ recommended)
- 1-3GB free hard disk space
- Broadband Internet connection
You can learn more about it here.
Arturia has stepped up its game for the sound produced by this keyboard.
Beyond the impeccable hardware, expect nothing but great sounds from this bus-powered controller.
Even professional musicians use the functions provided by the MkII while producing or playing live.
Of course, don’t just take our review for it.
Let’s look at some user testimonials and see what they had to say about this product!
One reviewer, a beginner, was happy with their first MIDI keyboard!
- They found the Arturia keyboard easy and fun to play. They enjoyed the solid feel and the attached softwares.
Another user praised the features of the MkII.
- While the layout was different from other keyboards, they were satisfied with the design and build and found the navigation easy and user-friendly.
- They also enjoyed the included sound banks and synth pads.
Lastly, there was also one user who enjoyed the affordability and great value of the MkII.
While there was a lot of praise for this piece of audio gear, others were not as satisfied.
Here are some unfavorable reviews to take note of.
One user commented that the registration process for the DAWs was very frustrating.
- They brought the amount of tedious work to get registered, including serial numbers and unlock activation codes.
Another user commented on one of the functions being unsatisfactory; the pitch-bending bar.
- They claimed it was a “dead zone,” meaning you cannot smoothly bend from the middle.
Alternatives to Consider
This Arturia MiniLab MkII review won’t be complete without choosing alternative MIDI keyboards that might suit you better.
Akai MPK Mini MK3
The Akai MPK Mk3 is a 25-key MIDI keyboard that is great for any playing style!
This product prides itself in the 8 MPC drum pads perfect for sampling and beat making.
Compared to other controllers, the Akai MPK Mk3 is very lightweight.
The featured software with this Akai product is called MPC Beats, which offers a package of studio-worthy drum sounds.
If you’re worried about using the interface, there is even an academy for using it. Talk about Akai being customer-friendly!
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
The Novation Launchkey Mk3 is a popular controller with Ableton users due to its great compatibility.
Compared to the knob style navigation of the Arturia controller, navigating through your DAWs is more complicated on the hardware of this product.
Playing notes on the Novation Launchkey Mk3 is quick and highly responsive.
It has 16 velocity-sensitive pads and 8 knobs for drums and effects.
Unique to the Novation Launchkey Mk3 is the stop/ mute/ solo button that gives you deep control over your sound.
Alesis Vmini 25-key MIDI
The Alesis Vmini 25-key MIDI has 4 pads and knobs for sound effects and drum sampling.
This product offers a seamless connection through a convenient USB port.
This keyboard controller is set apart from other MIDI keyboards because it comes bundled with Xpand! 2.
Playing lots of instruments with this product is not a problem because the Xpand comes with over 2000 sounds.
Final Verdict: Is the Arturia Minilab Mk2 Worth It?
Overall Grade: 4.6/5
Arturia keyboards like the MkII are definitely up there! in terms of affordable MIDI controllers
We recommend getting this product to musical beginners and traveling producers who want a reliable, creative companion.
Purchase the Arturia MiniLab MkII if you want:
- Access to Analog Lab Lite, Ableton Live Lite, and UVI Model D VST
- Weighted keys, high-end trigger pads and knobs
- Great sound and layout
- Solid build
However, keep in mind that this portable keyboard is a bit heavy and could be limiting.
Other Arturia products worth checking out:
- KeyLab 88 MkII
- KeyStep Pro
- BeatStep Pro
So is it worth it? 99.9% YES
We hope you enjoyed this Arturia minilab MkII review, and we wish you the best in your sound trips!