Keylab Essential 61 Mk3 Questions (Reaper/Engine/Kontakt)

Hello all :)!

Currently on the look out to get the “Keylab Essential 61 Mk3” as a new addition for my studio. Before I make the purchase though, some questions are in order to find out it is actually what I need.
My old controller broke down last week and only had two wheels, an octave selection and one fader. So I have zero experience with a controller with that many functions/possibilites.
I’m a muscian/producer and mix virtual instruments with my physical ones. I work exclusivley with Reaper 7.

I hope someone finds time to help me out here.

  • are there any limitations concerning Reaper? Can I program/control any button/knob/fader to what I like on my DAW? Does anybody have experience with it?

I’ve read that some controllers by other brands, have limited compatibility → NI for example. Someone found a workaround with another third party software to fully access the piece of hardware.
So if possible, a less tedious approach would be very welcomed :)!

  • can I use the faders and knobs to work within a sampler like Best Service’s Engine 2 and Kontakt 7 while working in Reaper AND standalone?

I know Arturia has it’s own software which is able to be controlled by it. I do work with specific libraries of those named two brands.
For example “Dark Era’s” sampler controls are visually hard to handle just by mouse because the fonts are unreadable on the fly because of the strange colour contrast they chose…
So I’d have a much better workflow if I could instead turn the Essential’s knobs/faders and even mark them with tape if need be.

Thanks for reading so far!
All the best,


The lack of any responce here probably means I will return my Keylab Essential 49 which I recieved yesterday. I am a virtual novice, but I did buy Reaper and the afore mentioned controller.
I am a retired Engineer and I don’t know anything about music production or for that matter reading music. But I do like it, music that is.
So with a little research , not enough it seems, I ended up with the software, which is OK and controller, which I am having doubts about.
The controller is not fully plug and play. Which a few utube videos lead me to believe. Also information as how to combine Reaper and the controller is very thin on the ground. Can anyone convince to carry on with the controller? I will continue with Reaper though.

Hi Ian5713,

unfortunately I do not own a Keylab Essential Controller. But I have some experience with a handful of DAWs. Though Reaper is a very versatile DAW it is not made by one of the big companies. So they rely heavily on tools and scripts the community around Reaper generates. That being said, my own controller (Oxygen Pro 61 from M-Audio) has a built-in script for Reaper. But functionality-wise it is quite basic. You can map almost every function of your virtual instruments via midi learn to your controller. But this is on a project basis and it will be fortgottten next time you start a new project.

There are much more important things to consider. How does the keybed feel like? How do the pads react when you play? These are the things that will have consequences at the end.

To be honest, I changed to Ableton Live because the integration with my controller was way better. I still use Reaper for all the stuff that needs complex midi routing. But otherwise I go with Ableton live. Why? It is the DAW every keyboard controller manufacturer must be compatible with. If they fail in this regard they won’t sell their stuff.
And Reaper? It is an item to be checked off. But nothing that will move the scales. :man_shrugging:

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Hi thank you for your responce. The comment regarding Ableton is, now that I think about it quite correct. It is also something I had not considered. So what do I do now? Bite the bullet and go down the Ableton route and keep the controller? Something to consider in the next few days.

Hi @CHKR and @Ian5713 . Welcome to the community.

I reply to you both here. some may be more for one of you.
Also hi and welcome to @KaiLabs . Thanks for responding.

Keep in mind that you should have got a free lite version of Ableton Live with your controller to test.
Some DAW’s in example offer trials.
In any case, then a DAW can cost quite a lot. The workflow in them can be very different, and so can the content. You may find one DAW easier to use than another. But keep in mind that DAWs also can have different functionality, so it shall support what you need it to support, just like with a controller. So perhaps take some time to check things out before you buy.

You may not need to use for example Kontakt. I’m not sure why you mention the instruments you meantion as examples. Depending on the music you will create, there may be other choices. In my world i often exsperience Native Instrument stuff to be quite technical to use. But like with so many things it depends.
I suggest you check out the free versions or the demo versions of software before you buy.

Keep in mind, that any software must be setup to be able to use your controller. Analog Lab standalone version in example need to be set up like you must have found out, if you have followed the setup guide in your Analog Labs manual.

A midi controller can be used with any midi stuff.
With a DAW it’s more about if the DAW support speciel features the controller have.
Generel midi messages is standard for all controllers to use. Some controllers have more possiblities and more extra features than others.
Learning about what midi is and how it work will answer many questions. Things like midi note, Midi CC (Control change), aftertouch, velocity and such and about what Mackie control do and how to use it in individual software is actually what is asked for.

In most DAW’s a midi Controller with transport controls need to be set up so it can work both as a keyboard/ midi controller and as a Control surface. Control surfaces mostly use a Mackie control system. How it’s set up in DAW’s can be quite similar, but it’s not done the precise same way.
Plug and play does’nt mean everything just work without you doing more than plug the controller into the computer.

You will learn down the road. It can take some time, and that’s normal.

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I would like give an update. I did send the 49 key back with a view to getting the 61 key in the very near future.
Even though I have purchased Reaper, I was impressed with Ableton lite. I will continue to try and learn the work flow in Reaper, but combine the learning with Ableton.