Arturia MiniLab MkII Review – 25 Slim-key MIDI Controller Keyboard

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Arturia MiniLab MkII Review - 25 Slim-key MIDI Controller Keyboard

Back to the lab again

Arturia’s entry into the affordable 25-key MIDI controller arena got a facelift in 2016. This MkII has an updated layout and smaller footprint than its predecessor. How does it fare now that the hype has died down since release?

Cons

  • Cheap feeling encoders
  • Touch strips feel like a compromise
  • The drum pads are a bit small for larger hands

Pros

    • Amazing value for money
    • Multiple encoders and pads for the size
    • Synth action keys feel great

For the longest time, I never really saw it necessary for me to own a MIDI controller keyboard. Firstly because I’m not a keyboard player, so I assumed that I won’t be able to utilize it in my songwriting. Secondly, the last time I had a MIDI controller, I had a large 88-Key model that I found was too unwieldy and inconvenient.

It was down to choosing between the Arturia Minilab MKII and the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKIII. I chose the Arturia because I didn’t like the “joystick” mod wheel and pitch control on the MPK Mini MKIII. While the Minilab MKII doesn’t have a traditional modwheel, the touch strips made better sense to me.

Arturia MiniLab MkII Touch Strips
In place of a regular mod and pitch wheel are two touch strips.

The Arturia MiniLab MkII is a mini-laboratory of MIDI controls with emphasis on portability.

To save on space, it features 25 slim keys, but they do have velocity sensitivity. It features 16 encoders for more control over your DAW software, and 8 customizable RGB pads for triggering samples, with two banks to work with. It also comes bundled with nifty software which includes Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Lite and UVI Grand Piano.

Buildwise, the MiniLab MkII feels solid. Even though it’s made of plastic, I didn’t feel any excess plastic residue and everything feels solid with no internal rattle when I shake it. The keys are finished nicely and the resistance is just right for synth action. There were some keys that were fractions of an inch higher or lower than the others but it’s not really a major issue.

The control knobs felt a bit flimsy to the touch but the potentiometer rotation is smooth and consistent across all knobs. The pads felt a bit small but I rarely use them. Still, if you like making beats on pads, the layout and size might not be the best especially for harder hitters.

What I don’t like about the Minilab MkII is the fact that I had to settle with touch strips instead of pitch and mod wheels. I would have preferred even a smaller integration of the two wheels as long as it’s mechanical. The strips work fine but I do feel it lacking in precision especially when my left hand’s fingers are calloused from guitar playing.

Overall, the Arturia MiniLab MkII is a great, compact MIDI controller and is nearly peerless at this price point. There are some places where Arturia chose to cut costs but everything else looks and feels solid. Even years after its release, the MiniLab MkII is still popular and can be seen gracing the desks of prolific and talented musicians all over the world.

Specifications

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Slim-Keys
  • Pads: 8 RGB Pads
  • Buttons & Knobs: 16 Encoders, Octave +/-, Sustain button, Volume
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software: Analog Lab Lite, Ableton Live Lite and UVI Grand Piano
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 14″ x 2″ x 8.7″
  • Weight 3.3 lbs.

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