Arturia Analog Lab and MiniLab
We previously reviewed Arturia’s excellent Analog Factory 2.0 and Analog Factory Experience back in 2008. The full review of it can be found at this link.
Essentially a thirty two-key keyboard controller with 3,500 presets from Arturia’s full soft-synth line at the time, Arturia now goes big—by going small. Now, Analog Lab includes 5,000 presets from their entire soft-synth line, which, unlike the 2008 version, now includes the Wurlitzer and SEM emulations (it’s part of Analog Factory 1.5 and up). In addition, the MiniLab hardware controller sports a twenty-five-note velocity sensitive mini keyboard, sixteen encoders, and eight pads. We will focus more on the differences and new features in this Quicktake.
First: the software. You get 5,000 presets from Arturia’s soft-synths: Mini V, Modular V, CS-80 V, ARP2600 V, Jupiter-8V, Prophet 5, Prophet VS, Oberheim SEM V, and Wurlitzer V. You can do simple editing, and like before, you can do more in-depth editing if you own the original soft-synth. However, Arturia has added a few new features that are definitely welcomed.
The user interface is redesigned, and we found it much easier to navigate around in Sound mode to find our sounds—it’s definitely one of the best sound managers we have used. We also loved the new Multimode. This mode allows you to layer and split sounds—something you’d have a hell of a time trying with the original hardware! The Graphic Studio Mode is really more pretty on the eyes than specificaly functional—it’s essentially a picture of all the great keyboards on racks, and you can choose one to select sounds from. However, it does make you realize how much hardware you would actually need to get the sounds coming from the software. Finally, the Live mode allows you to create collections of single sounds or multi-sounds and assign them to a row of favorite buttons so you can get instant recall of those while playing. Similarly, the Snapshot tab allows you to quickly access your favorite sounds, simply by dragging and dropping into the desired “location” for later recall.
One touch we really liked is that at the top of the screen there is a pull-down menu that lets you select which Arturia controller you are using. Although we had the MiniLab on hand for this review, we also had access to an older Analog Factory Experience controller. We were able to use each with the software, and the on-screen graphic representation of the keyboard changed accordingly.
One other nice inclusion is the MIDI Control Center. This gives you a large on-screen graphic of the MiniLab controller and allows detailed MIDI assignments of every button and knob, permitting great control with just about any DAW or soft-synth.
The controller itself (MiniLab) is likely going to be very appealing to some, and certainly unappealing to players who have no interest in products with miniaturized keyboards. The specs are as follows:
To compare the size of the MiniLab to the Analog Factory Experience, here they are side by side:
The good: there’s a lot of functionality and integration of hardware and software. The MiniLab comes with a plastic overlay for the encoders so you can see what they map to, although everything is editable. The pads are similar to the SparkLE pads, and things are spaced well for easy control. However, the single biggest issue for many players will be the keyboard itself. These are mini keys—not full sized keys, and people usually love them or hate them. Those looking for full-sized keys may like Arturia’s other controllers better, but for portability, it’s hard to beat small! We felt the keyboard itself was what you would expect in this size—nothing to write home about, but nothing horrible (though we thought the keys could feel a little more responsive).
Despite our love-hate relationship with mini keys, we really loved the sounds themselves, just like we did in Arturia’s first iteration of the production. As a producer, being able to quickly sort through 5,000 high-quality sounds in order to keep things flowing in the studio going is huge. Now that Arturia has spent some time developing the Multimode and Live mode aspects of the software, plus the inclusion of the newer SEM and Wurli emulations, there’s even more to love.
The Analog Lab software works with numerous controllers including the Analog Experience Series (Player 25, Factory 32, Laboratory 49/61), MiniLab, the KeyLab Series (25/49/61), and it provides a default view for musicians using the software with a third-party MIDI controller keyboard.
Price & Contact Information
MiniLab is available for $119, and even if you don’t love the controller because of the mini keys, it comes bundled with the full version of Analog Lab software, so we think this is a good deal. However, Analog Lab by itself is just $89, a great deal. We say go for it, though. For $20 more you get a controller that is portable and highly integrated into the software. And if that’s not enough to think about, if you own previous Arturia products, look for special upgrade deals. At the time of this writing, there is presently a special where you can get Analog Lab for just $19!
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