Arturia has announced the Microlab USB keyboard controller. With 25 mini-sized keys, it’s designed to fit in your hand luggage and go anywhere with you. If you like to make beats on the plane or train and don’t want to embarrass yourself by knocking over your neighbour’s coffee, the Arturia Microlab is worth a look.
Shortly after the release of the updated Keylab 88 MkII, Arturia is adding a tiny controller at the other end of its line-up. With its 25 mini keys, the Microlab looks like a Minilab that has had its rotary encoders and pads chopped off, and the touch strips and buttons moved to the left.
While trying to use it in cattle class on an aeroplane might be pushing your luck, it’s certainly small enough to take it anywhere. The Microlab comes in a rubberized protective case, which is available in three funky colors. The fact that it’s rubberized means that it’ll probably stay put and won’t slide around as you play. The sleeve also accommodates the USB cable, which can be rolled up around the keyboard for storage. The USB port is recessed, so the plug doesn’t stick out. I like all of those ideas!
25 velocity-sensitive keys
The velocity-sensitive keybed is the same as in the popular Keystep sequencer / controller, albeit with 25 keys instead of 32. Arturia stresses its responsiveness, claiming that “you’ll actually enjoy playing Microlab”. While playability is always a matter of personal preference, I do like the Keystep and think that it’s about as fun to play as mini keys can be. But you’ll have to decide for yourself if the Microlab’s keys work for you.
Given its small size, the Microlab doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of physical controllers. There’s a pair of octave shift buttons, another one for sustain and a shift button that lets you access auxiliary functions of the keys and other controllers. The two touch strips take care of pitch bend and modulation, and you can also use them to swipe through presets and navigate menus.
Like all Arturia controllers, the Microlab comes with a software package. Analog Lab Lite includes more than 600 presets from Arturia’s many software synthesizers. Also included is UVI Grand Piano Model D. While mini keys may not be particularly well-suited to playing intricate piano music, you’ll at least have the sound libary for it. And lastly, they’re throwing in Bitwig Studio 8-track, an entry-level version of the popular DAW software.
The Arturia Microlab controller is class compliant, which means that it works with Mac (10.11 and up) and Windows (7 and up) computers, as well as mobile devices. Arturia says that its power consumption is low enough to be powered from an iOS or Android device.
The Arturia Microlab is available now for USD 89.