Minilab is Arturia’s new mobile friendly controller with the mega mother load of “a collection of 5000 sounds from the Modular V, CS-80V, Mini V, Arp 2600V, Jupiter 8V, Prophet V, Oberheim SEM V, and Wurlitzer V.”
When I initially saw the MiniLab I knew right away that it was going to be a huge hit with its 8 pads (with two banks rounding out the number of pads to 16), 16 encoders, Pitch and Mod touch strips and most importantly those 25 velocity sensitive mini keys.
The Minilab is one of many travel sized mini keyboard controllers on the market today but it stands to reason, at least in my opinion, that it is the best looking mini keys set up out there. But then I am partial to woody synths.
Arturia’s design principles are pretty sleek and consistent throughout their product line. So , if you know their line of wood ended hybrid synths and software controllers you already have a good idea of what the Minilab brings to the table in that regard. The mostly white body with wood ends (faux wood perhaps?!) and tasteful logo placement are typical for Arturia. The Minilab is no exception.
The synth action on Minilab’s 25 keys is rather stiff initially but when playing it feels nice. Obviously the mini keys are “mini” so if you aren’t used to their size it may take some getting used to as your fingers stumble over themselves to find the notes (but thats probably just the curse of having become accustomed to the full sized keys of Arturia’s Minibrute).
Its worth noting that the 8 pads are “backlit pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity.” The pads are similar in feel to that of the SparkLE (which we reviewed a short while back) and can be used to play drums while the keys do their job well. The Minilab can rock all on its own with the pads and keys but just a note for you mobile beat makers out there, this thing pairs very well with the MPC Studio.
The build is as expected, plastic but sturdy. If “travel friendly” is your concern, rest assured that you can throw this one into your typical 15″ laptop back pack, messenger bag etc. with no problem. It measures in at 15 inches wide, less than 8 inches deep and less than 2 inches tall. I actually, stowed the Minilab away in my 15 inch laptop back pack and went thru the airport with no hassle at all. Best of all I was able to zip the bag up so there was no parts of the keyboard sticking out of the opening.
The I/O is as simple as you would expect from a “controller” it has a USB connector which allows for customizing settings on your computer and allows for bus power (Class compliant). It also has a sustain pedal connection (very cool). The sustain pedal connection is a nice touch for the player looking for more expressiveness. I can easily see a mobile musician hitting the streets with nothing more than a Minilab controller, a small sustain pedal, a laptop or a camera kit and an iPad.
The Minilab comes with Arturia’s Analog Lab which, as mentioned, is a shmorgers board of 5000 sounds from their line of analog modeled soft synths. Analog Lab is compatible with any of Arturias controller (player, factory, minilab, keylab 25, keylab 49, keylab 61 and laboratory). Analog Lab’s user interface is based on 3 modes (Sound, Multi and Live).
Sound mode lets you browse thru the 5000 sounds while allowing the player to filter the sounds via “Graphic Studio view of synths” with a simple click on the image of a particular instrument image. Want to filter down to Prophet 5 sounds only? Click on the image of the Prophet 5.
Multi mode allows you to get your sound design on. Layer presets, create splits and tweak until your heart is content. Effects are in abundance with”Analog Chorus, Analog Delay, Phaser, Overdrive, Vocal Filter, Pitch-shift Chorus, Leslie, Flanger, Reverb, Digital Delay, Compressor, Sub-generator, Bit Crusher, Parametric EQ, Destroy, Limiter.”
Live mode is where the player is allowed to set up and name songs containing both presets and multis that are all accessible from the Minilab’s pads as presets.
Together as a combo the Minilab and it’s software counterpart Analog Lab are designed to make your life easier. Either on the go, live or in the studio Minilab is perfect for the mobile musician, studio beat makers with limited space and performers. I particularly dig that it works with the iPad (just add camera kit). But when paired with Analog Lab all the knobs are mapped, making it easy to tweak cut off, resonance, delay, chorus, decay etc. etc.
Now let’s discuss what I don’t dig. I understand why Arturia included the little overlay but i don’t dig it and its rather floppy and flimsy. I would have rather seen silk screened features and parameters directly on the controller. I’m sure they could have found a slick and tasteful way to make it work where it would make since as a dedicated controller for Analog Lab as well as a rather generic and customizable controller for other synths (without the overly). Though this is a small thing, I hardly dig pushing around with this overlay when mobile.
All things considered, if I didn’t know better I’d guess that this combo (Minilab and Analog Lab) would fetch approximately $250 to $300 of your hard earned loot. Think about it. It comes with Analog Lab’s 5000 sounds ( 64bit compatible) all from a combination of Arturia’s incredible analog modeled soft synths, major portability, sustain pedal connection, usb bus powered, 8 pads (2 banks), 25 velocity sensitive keys and 16 pre mapped encoders, iPad compatibility and it still plays nicely with other synths and software as a general controller. At a mere $99 Arturia’s Minilab is a serious 5 star winner.
For more info on the Minilab head over to Arturia’s website.