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Author Topic: Arturia truly missed its calling with the Keylab  (Read 1228 times)


  • Apprentice
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Arturia truly missed its calling with the Keylab
« on: July 12, 2019, 06:31:47 am »
In the world of computing, what's easy is having a computer device do exactly the same thing, every time, given a fixed set of variables. What's difficult is having a computer achieve true randomness. For example, slot-machine companies in Las Vegas pay huge money for random-number generators, in order to foil players who might detect patterns in the way computers select their "random" numbers, thereby finding a way to game the system. However, computers and true randomness are a difficult thing to achieve, and those that can do it can practically print their own money.

I would argue that with the original Keylab controllers (and possibly with the MKII's - I don't know as I don't own one) Arturia has really missed its calling. Instead of futzing around with $500 controllers marketed to unsuspecting plebes, they could be selling their groundbreaking achievements in the field of true randomness to defense companies, security architects, and gaming companies.

I have a Keylab 49 (MKI) that I’ve owned for 4 years. I also own the original Spark controller and have upgraded through every release of the V Collection. As a computer professional in my day job, I know Microsoft’s operating systems in and out, and as a 15-year producer of tracks that have been released on relatively big-name independent labels from Merge Records to Anti, I know a thing or two about DAW’s, MIDI, and music production. My wife is a French native and I have learned to speak middling French myself, so I can even delve into to the intricacies of Arturia's French-language manuals and forums for things that may not have been adequately translated into English.

What I didn’t know about was Arturia’s mastery of true, absolute randomness. I can literally take a purpose-built computer with an SSD hard drive - on which the only software is Arturia's V collection and the Reaper DAW, and - just by turning it on and off - achieve true randomness, the likes of which would make Vegas slot-machine developers salivate.

Turn it on today, and run Analog Lab 4 as a standalone, and everything works great. Preset names appear on the Keylab's screen and all is well. Wait 15 minutes, and suddenly the Keylab is only showing MIDI CC values on its display, but the preset selectors still work (although the screen doesn't display what you're selecting, so you're flying blind). Wait another 15 minutes or change presets, and the Keylab no longer sends MIDI notes to AL4 at all.

But it's in my favorite DAW, Reaper, where things really achieve a level of random mastery that boggles the mind. Today, it will send only MIDI notes and the Keylab's display shows CC values with no preset names. Tomorrow, on the same computer, with the same settings, things might be different. The preset display might start working, or it might not. I might spend 2 hours with other players in my studio waiting to go, dinking around with turning various components on and off at various times in the boot process, only to cancel the session because we don't have a keyboard - or to pull out my trusty Ensoniq ESQ-1 and record the thing analog. I can't even count the number of sessions where I've ended up recording the key parts on a monophonic on-screen keyboard in desperation because the Arturia software wouldn't respond to anything else.

I've become an expert in Reaper-Arturia relations, having watched every video and read every post in every Reaper or Arturia forum on how to make the two do something that's consistent. I could live with my fancy controller not displaying preset names, or my fancy controller not responding to CC messages - IF IT WAS AT LEAST CONSISTENT. Did you know about the Mackie Universal Controller trick to get Keylab’s transport buttons working? Well, I do, and you don’t want to try that because it will make other controls sometimes stop working.

I don't know how they're doing it, but the Arturia Keylab-V Collection/Keylab integration represents something waaaay beyond music production in its randomness. In my opinion, they’ve missed their calling.

Why don't I buy a different controller? Well, I think Arturia's emulations are sonically unmatched by anything else out there. The ability to control basic emulation parameters in real time from a keyboard, and to browse presets from the keyboard itself is enticing. Unfortunately, Arturia hasn’t yet achieved that. What they have achieved is the ability to make electronic circuits do vastly different things every time they‘re activated, and that may be something in itself.

Edit: just as a little life gotcha from Arturia, I couldn’t even submit this post until I correctly identified the “most popular” synth made by Moog. “Minimoog” didnt work. Someone at Arturia needs to crack the history books or watch a documentary vid or two.


  • Apprentice
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Re: Arturia truly missed its calling with the Keylab
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2020, 12:15:55 am »
I feel your pain.  That question to register was a huge hassle to get right.

I just unboxed my Keylab 49 and while it plays... it won't record midi into my DAW... such a simple task.

I'm excited to get this thing working... but arrrgh.... and now I fear this randomness you speak of.


  • Apprentice
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Re: Arturia truly missed its calling with the Keylab
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2020, 02:19:47 am »
Lolol this was an amazing read. Well done   ;D


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