The MIDI hunt

Sep 6, 2017
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Well after a bit more research last night I found that there was not a lot of MIDI controller keyboard stock in the music stores in Manchester within my budget range (up to £200) so I saved a few bob in fuel and car parking costs by popping out to my local Music store 5 minutes drive away instead of travelling to Manchester.

So it was playtime at the store where I did deviate to play a Kronos, a Juno DS 88 (Gary, great keyboard you have there I do like the 88 key version and this was the first time I have played one) and a Yamaha MODX which was OK but only OK and confusing as hell to navigate plus the text is so small on the cluttered screen that I could hardly read it.

MIDI keyboards tried:-

Native Instruments, nice feel to the keys, good range of controls and of course their full range of VSTs a quality piece of kit.

Novation, a couple of slightly different ones on display but there was Launchkey mkII there whose action felt OK but not as good as the NI, a bit flimsy in its construction though.

Behringer 610, neat keyboard, it was not connected but it looks the part and seemed a quality build and the action was good and the quietest if all.

Korg Microkey, Korg quality but those keys are just to small for my large hands.


Arturia Keylab Essential 61, quality, looks, controls all looked and felt good, pressed the keys and OMG they had it set up with some rather strange synth sound that parted what hair I have left. The keybed felt was good and better than the Novation. The rotary controls were smooth, robust as were the sliders.

Duly bought the 49 key version and off home to set up and play.

All there is in the box is the controller, a lead and 3 A5 sized info sheets.

Logged onto the Arturia website and registered and downloaded the controller software, two synth Apps and one piano App.

Installed and activated Abelton Lite 10 and plugged in the Arturia.

Zero problems at all during installation and played a few different instruments within Abelton, then closed that down and fired up Cakewalk and again zero problems and it function as it says on the box.

I do like Cakewalk more than Abelton.

Tried the Synth and Piano Apps that also operate in stand alone mode and they do seem great, I particularly like the piano App.

Then off into our workroom where my desktop and my Wife’s iMac is located. Plugged the Arturia into the Mac and fired up Garage Band which immediately popped up a Window saying do I want to download addition content. Much later we were set to go and my what a good array of instrument and sounds come free with this free App. GB is a much simpler App to operate and use than other DAWs and still it impressed me with its ease of operation.

Tomorrows another day.



Love Music / Love Life
Nov 18, 2015
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Superb report Col.
You are busy bee now with new Uke and Keylab.
How do you handle it all?


Destroyer of Eardrums!!!
May 30, 2012
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Hi Col. Good luck with your new purchase.

One word of warning about the Keylab Essential.

It is not capable of incrementing thru standard MIDI patches on a module or attached keyboard.

Instead you have to tediously assign your favorite patches to the pads with the software.

The increment/decrement controller works fine with their proprietary software, but has no effect on real MIDI devices :p

Gary ;)

John Garside

Aug 23, 2016
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That looks like a nice instrument.
I like the layout with the control knobs directly above the faders.
I dislike the layout because I'd want the knobs and faders over on the left side to be used by the left hand whilst playing with the right hand. I'd want to put the pads over on the right to be playable by the right hand.

The Samson Graphite, whilst not perfect, came nearest to my needs and budget.
But "hey!" each to their own, eh?
But I wish they'd put the knobs directly above the faders.

Then, whatever the layout, it just takes a little time to get used to it.

Hope you enjoy your new acquisition.
Have fun.
Sep 6, 2017
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Yes John, I would prefer a different layout as you suggest but this one came out best for me within the budget that I was prepared to pay couple this with my very limted MIDI knowledge its a reasonable aquisition so if I do eventually want something better there is always fleabay to sell it on.

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