Bryan Baker
Bryan Baker
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  Joined October 20, 2013

Hello, I'm Bryan Baker. I flirted with music and recording when I was a kid. Experimenting with portable reel-to-reel recorders, then doing 8-track collages and silly kid stuff. Got my first 4-track in college and soon after found Option Magazine around 1983. A few years later I started publishing a zine called GAJOOB featuring home recording artists. I never talked much about my own recordings in the zine, but I like making everything from rock songs to crazy sound experiments. I do a lot of the latter at I'm just getting into Logic Pro now and still exploring and having fun. Hit me up for a collaboration or something. You'll find me on Apple Music and elsewhere as Blind Mime Ensemble. 

MacBook Pro, Logic Pro X, iOS apps, lots of soft synths, Korg Wavestate, Arturia Microfreak, Native Instruments Komplete Collectors License, Burns London Steer electric guitar, StingRay Classic Ray24 Bass, Yamaha acoustic guitar, basic budget drum set, Roland Octopad percussion, Rhode NT1, Shure SM57s, SM58.
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Category: Gear Reviews

Arturia KeyLab Essential 88 Review

By bfbaker, 2021-07-18
Arturia KeyLab Essential 88 Review

I've had an M Audio Code 61 MIDI controller for several years and have recently been looking at a replacement. 

My first keyboard was an Alesis QS 7 and its 76 keys was always sufficient for me. 61 keys often felt limited even though I'm not an expert keyboard player by any means.

Lately I found myself looking at getting back to having a hardware synth, maybe even something in the flagship range like a Yamaha Montage, Korg Kronos or Roland Fantom. I was really tempted by the MODX as well. I had it my Guitar Center cart more than a couple times.

But I kept coming back to the fact that my home studio workflow is built around soft synths and I really have way more than I need there. Too much, in fact. But I still find things I want to add to the arsenal. Today it's Native Instrument's Glaze and Skybox Audio's Hammers + Waves that are must haves.

I also ran into the keyboards on those flagship 88-key models are all weighted action and I prefer semi-weighted. I liked the action on my Code 61.

So, in the end, I went with Arturia's KeyLab Essential 88 controller and, so far, it was the right choice for me.

It feels solid and looks great. Guitar Center had a limited edition black version in stock; not that I really had a preference. The keys feel like the Code 61, but a little better. The knobs and sliders are plastic but solid. No complaints. The only items in the box were the KeyLab, a USB cable and some quick starter sheets. I thought I was missing something, but its USB-powered so that's all that's needed. I have it plugged into the port on my old 2015 MacBook Pro with no problems. 

Out of the box, it was easy to set up and get it registered on Arturia's website, as well as download the included Analog Lab V collection. I brought it up in Logic right away and lost an hour playing around with the presets. The sounds come mapped to the KeyLab's knobs and faders and that is very cool. Not so much with Native Instruments Komplete Collection. I was thinking maybe a NI keyboard would have been a better choice at that point; but I figure I can get to mapping without too much hassle (I hope).

So far so good. I would recommend this controller if your workflow and preferences are in line with mine. I'm happy. 

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