ARTURIA KeyLab 49 Black Edition – The Gear Gods Review

Hello once again Gear Mortals, today I’m checking out the Arturia KeyLab 49 Black Edition. For those unaware, it’s a 49 key keyboard MIDI controller bundled with 4 of Arturia’s top software all in a neat package for $399. Let’s dive in, shall we?

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Arturia have been making software synthesizers for a while now and are among the most prominent ones out there. Mostly making software re-creations of (but not limited too) old and highly sought after vintage keyboards, like the Jupiter 8, the Prophet 5, Arp 2600, etc. – and their software has constantly been among the best modelings you can get on a computer.

The KeyLab 49 Black Edition is Arturia’s latest update to their MIDI controller keyboards. It has a matte black finish, a stronger frame and generally higher quality parts. The cool thing is that it’s been made to work with Arturia’s software in mind. Controls are mapped well and the keys feels good when using them. Of course, it doesn’t just work with Arturia software, it’s a MIDI controller and works with anything that can be controlled by MIDI. Mapping with non-Arturia software was relativity painless. If I had to nitpick one thing that could be improved upon, it’s the keybed. While it’s a lot better then most keybeds in this price range, it doesn’t live up to some of the keyboards Arturia’s software is modeling. It’s probably a hard and expensive thing to do but here’s hoping that they are able to figure it out one day! That being said, the keybed is by no means bad. It’s good, it just could be better!

The keyboard also features knobs and sliders, once again easily mappable to what ever your heart desires. I personally like to order the knobs from parameters I tweak most, to the least which is pretty different from the default setup. The sliders are a nice touch to round things out, great for fading different parts of a sound in and out to your liking. Last but not least is the sample pad. Very important for any producer to have, whether its for triggering your own samples or using the pad to write out beats and drum parts in your DAW. The pads are a little on the harder side than the soft side, not an issue but I personally like the tactile feedback softer ones give.

What about the software it comes with? Let’s start with Analog Lab. It is basically a collection of sounds spanning many different keyboards all under one piece of software – Analog Lab. Jupiter 8, Oberheim SEM V, Matrix-12 V, and a bunch more are all represented in this software. And if you are not into messing around with knobs and settings, they have 6000 presets for you to choose from. This is probably the software you will use the most of the 4 bundled in the package. It’s the most versatile, and sounds great.

Next is the Solina V String Machine. A keyboard mostly known for its string and pad sounds. Arturia’s software re-creation allowed them to go beyond what the hardware could do at the time (if you are so inclined). These included the Vox Humana and Resonators from the Moog’s polysynth, original paraphonic and new polyphonic modes of operation, a 24dB per octave filter on the bass section, an LFO, and an arpeggiator.

Next up is the Prophet-V. Arturia’s software includes models of the Prophet 5 and Prophet VS. The Prophet 5 was Sequential Circuits’ first keyboard and probably its most famous. The Prophet VS is one of much later models they released and was different beast then its older brother. Both keyboards have been modeled really well here, probably the best software renditions of both I have come across thus far.

Last but not least, we have the Grand Piano Model D. As you might have guessed, this isn’t a snyth being re-created but a sample based piano. You also might have guessed that it is indeed sampled from a Steinway and Sons Concert Grand Model D. For a company that is known for making soft-synths, this piano library is surprisingly good. It’s not the best I have come across but there is no reason why anyone wouldn’t be able to get great sounding results out of this.

So wrapping up, what do I think of the KeyLab Black Edition? What we have here is a great MIDI controller paired with an exceptional software bundle. If you are maybe looking to get a MIDI controller for your studio and also need some great sounds right out of the door then you should take a good look at the KeyLab Black Edition. The software in my experience is stable enough where you could also use it all live if you wanted to do that. If you are a keyboardist and also have bunch of different synths and workstations then I’m not sure if anything here is being offered that you would be missing out on, unless you are on a quest to have closer digital representation of your favorite vintage synths then maybe just getting the software separately would be more up your alley.

Written by

Alex Nasla is a keyboardist, producer and mixing engineer. He keeps busy making audio plugins for Rosen Digital, is audio director at multimedia company Toxic Creativity and is involved in 3 different musical endeavors.