Arturia MiniLab 3 hands-on: A big upgrade for a budget MIDI controller

Look, there’s no scarcity of reasonably priced MIDI controllers on the market. And should you follow the large manufacturers, it’s kinda arduous to go improper. Arturia itself even has a number of funds choices which can be all fairly strong in their very own proper. Considered one of its hottest, the MiniLab is getting a reasonably main replace that features modifications to the controls, an arpeggiator, and the addition of a MIDI port – and full-sized one at that.

The MiniLab 3 doesn’t look terribly totally different from its MKII predecessor. Its corners are barely extra rounded and it ditched eight of its 16 encoders for 4 sliders. However in any other case, it retains the identical basic setup. You continue to get 25 velocity delicate keys, eight velocity delicate RGB pads, in addition to mod and pitch contact strips above the keyboard. And there’s nonetheless fake wooden panels on the facet that give it just a little little bit of a singular aptitude.

Arturia MiniLab 3

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The {hardware} itself is what you’d count on for $109. It’s plasticky, however not low-cost feeling. The knobs and sliders have a good quantity of resistance and the keybed is barely springy. All of that is principally par for the course, and different equally priced controllers have their very own professionals and cons. The pads and keys on the MiniLab are higher than the LaunchKey Mini MK3, however its arpeggiator isn’t as distinctive and its integration with Ableton Reside isn’t as tight. Whereas the Akai MPK Mini MK3 has far and away the very best pads of the bunch, its keybed is nothing to jot down house about and its integration with DAWs is extraordinarily primary.

The mixing with DAWs has been improved on the MiniLab 3, although. Arturia has put further effort into enhancing this during the last couple of years and we’re beginning to see a number of the fruits of that labor. The accessible controls have been significantly expanded for a lot of apps with scripts which can be custom-made for particular DAWs like Ableton Reside or FL Studio.

Arturia MiniLab 3

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The arpeggiator is fairly strong. I don’t suppose it’s fairly as fascinating because the one on the LaunchKey Mini MK3, however it’s hardly barebones. It has six totally different playback modes, swing and gate controls, in addition to your customary octave and time division choices. There’s additionally a chord mode that allows you to play full wealthy chords with a single finger.

In the event you’re tight on area and don’t plan to tug your controller out and about with you, the MiniLab 3 is a superb choice. Whereas Arturia calls it transportable, it’s simply sufficiently big to be just a little unwieldy in a bag. And I’ve some considerations about how these faders would maintain up getting jostled round with different stuff. If portability is your main concern both Novation’s LaunchKey Mini or Arturia’s MicroLab are in all probability higher bets. However should you simply need probably the most controls within the smallest quantity of area whereas additionally getting strong software program integration – particularly with Arturia’s Analog Lab – then the MiniLab is the best way to go.

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