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Arturia Minilab 3 Review 2023: Yep – Arturia’s Done It Again…

Is the new Minilab 3 an improvement on the MK2? Or not? Here's the truth...

Is the Arturia Minilab 3 any good??

That’s probably the question you’re asking if you’ve just clicked on this Minilab 3 review. A question that you’d be quite right to wonder, what with its predecessor (the MK2) being one of the most popular compact midi controllers to ever exist. A tough act to follow.

However, that’s not to say it’s impossible.

See, while on the surface, the changes made to the Minilab 3 appear to be quite minor (the jump from the MK1 to the MK2 was far bigger), they are still significant differences, to the point that if you’re all about DAW integration and virtual instrument control, you’d be a fool not to keep reading. And as you’d expect, the 6-year gap since the launch of the MK2, means that the Minilab 3 has a whole bunch of other tricks up its sleeve. Tricks that don’t go unnoticed!

So with that in mind, why is the Minilab 3 is worth it over the MK2? What’s its best (& worst) features? We reveal all.

After something specific about the Arturia Minilab MK3? Or just curious what we think is the best thing about the new Minilab? Jump into the menu below to get all your answers in 1 click…

close up of the arturia minilab mk3

NOTE: Not go your heart set on the Minilab 3? Be sure to also check out our rundown of the Best 25 Key Midi Controllers + our Donner DMK 25 Review.

Before pitting the Minilab 3 up against its other 25-key rivals, it makes sense to have an idea of the Arturia Minilab 3 specs. Do so & you’ll be able to full understand what this upgraded Minilab offers, as well as all some quirks and features that your perhaps didn’t know about.

Info that should allow you to make a fair comparison + reach a firm conclusion about whether the Minilab 3 is the right midi controller for you; as much as we’d love for you to ‘take our word for it’, no 2 producers have the same setup, nor work in the same way. So be equipped with the right information when making comparisons, just makes things a whole lot easier.

So without further ado, here’s a quick rundown on the specs of Artutia’s Minilab 3…

Want to know more about what we expected to find in the Minilab 3? Check out our Wishlist For The Arturia Minilab MK3

Key details

  • Weight: 1.4kg
  • Dimensions: 350 x 220 x 50mm
  • Sustain port for pedals: Yes
  • Drivers needed: No

Additional features

  • The Minilab 3 comes with 25 semi-weighted keys, which are velocity sensitive & pretty much identical to those on the MK2, both in terms of size & keyfeel; they’re mini keys, NOT full-size. We wouldn’t be surprised if these are the exact same keys!!
  • The most noticeable addition to the Minilab 3 is its useful screen. A screen that can display a lot of useful info in regards to settings (arp, chord mode etc.), as well as data/ certain parameters in your DAW.
  • For the first time EVER the Minilab has USB C… little else to say about that, apart from YAYY!
  • As with most midi controllers nowadays, the Minilab 3 comes with a vast array of transport controls which enable you to navigate your DAW @ pace!
  • Oh, and did we mention that Arturia’s throwing in a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty!! Direct proof that they believe the Minilab 3 is made to last.
  • The Minilab 3 comes with a set of 4 assignable faders, which can be used in tandem with your DAW to give you a whole new dimension of control. In Ableton Live, the faders map with each track to give you control of the volume, sends and pan for each clip.
  • On the topic of control, the Minilab 3 also gives you 8 RGB-backlit drum pads, which double as transport controls. Like most midi controllers, these pads are velocity sensitive, which make them an ideal platform for frantic finger drummers.
  • The Minilab 3 boasts 8 endless encoders, which (much as ‘endless’ implies) have no end-point. A nice perk to have when working with different plugins and sounds, that each require their own level of adjustment from stock. A small detail that saves a LOT of frustration!!
  • For this version of the Minilab, Arturia has added both an Arpeggiator and a Chord Mode. Both quick ways to switch up your chords, & in the case of chord mode, compress the notes of each chord into a single key.
  • This version of the Minilab comes with a black master knob, which is super useful for making quick selections on-screen or navigating to a certain menu in your DAW/ instrument suite. A ‘must have’ if you’re out to ditch your mouse!
  • In typical Arturia fashion, the Minilab 3 includes 2 touch strips for pitch and modulation. However, with the Minilab 3, any adjustments made via these strips can be monitored via the screen, opposed to the bar of lights you find with other controllers.
  • We saved the best til last… The Minilab 3 gives you a full-size (5 pin) Midi-out port, which means the controller can even be hooked up to hardware synths!! A seriously neat feature for anyone looking to expand their setup.
review of the Minilab 3, which is being held up by a music producer

What’s the Arturia Minilab 3’s software bundle look like?

The software bundle you get with the Minilab 3 is no slouch.

Buy a Minilab 3 today, and aside from access to Abelton Live Lite and Analog Lab Intro (a great entry-level DAW & a solid sound suite) you also get the added bonus of a 2-month subscription to LoopCloud and a whole host of additional virtual instruments, including some really tasty-sounding pianos!

With this new Minilab having a giant number ‘3’ at the end of its name, you’re probably wondering how it compares to its predecessor. Has Arturia done a complete overhaul for the 3rd generation of the Minilab? Or have they fine-tuned the existing recipe to make the already impressive Minilab Mk2, even better?

To help you get a grasp of what (& how) Arturia has improved the Minilab 3, here’s a speedy overview of the differences between the two…

arturia Minilab mk2 vs arturia minilab 3
Minilab Mk2
Aruria Minilab mk3
Minilab 3
  • On the Minilab MK2 you had to make do with a sustain pedal input and a USB A connection. While the Minilab 3 gives you a ‘portage’ upgrade to USB C, as well as a 5-pin Midi out port, which allows you to connect the controller to hardware synths!!
  • The Minlab 3 also gives you the luxury of a screen to display a variety of useful info from your DAW – yet another workflow perk you don’t get with the MK2.
  • Bit of an odd difference this… but the wood texture on the side of the Minilab 3 feel that bit nicer than on the MK2. Slightly more textured if you ask us.
  • While both controllers feature endless encoders, with the MK2 you get a whopping 16 compared to the measly 8 you get on the Minilab 3.
  • Saying that though, the Minilab 3 does give you 4 assignable faders. A nice touch that you won’t find on the MK2.
  • Nor do you get a master control knob with the MK2; a key feature of the DAW integration you get with the Minilab 3.
  • Turn the keyboards over and the underside of the MK2 is made of metal. Whereas the Minilab 3 is just plastic.
  • Transport controls – the Minilab 3’s are so much more in-depth. Those you find on the MK2 are 9for today’s standards) quite basic.
  • The Minilab 3 boasts a built-in arpeggiator and a dedicated chord mode. Neither of which you’ll find on the MK2.
Music producer playing chords on an arturia midi controller

Now you’ve got a clear understanding of Arturia’s Minilab 3 and how it compares to the outgoing model, you’re probably intrigued to know the nitty-gritty details – i.e. in what areas does the Minilab 3 score highly, and in what areas could it perhaps improve.

A wise thing to be aware of before coughing up your card details, as it makes the whole buying process far less of a lucky dip.

So to help you understand what the Minilab 3 can help you do + reach a buying decision super fast, we’ve picked apart every quirk and feature to reveal the good, the bad & the ugly…

Pros of the Arturia Minilab 3 (AKA the good)

  • When it comes to keyfeel, the Minilab 3 is on-point. Just like the MK2, the keys are responsive, nicely weighted and enable you to inject some real expression into what you play! What’s more, they have a good spring to them too, which makes fast key changes or small runs up and down the keys super easy.
  • The Minilab integrates really well with virtually all mainstream DAWs – Logic. Ableton, Pro Tools, Reason, Bitwig… the lot! So unlike with other keyboards, there’s no need to let your choice of software hold you back.
  • As far as warranties go, 5 years is pretty darn impressive!!
  • Everything about the transport controls is seamless. Navigation is fast, responsive and intuitive, be you navigating a DAW or the menus of a virtual instrument suite. With Analog Lab in particular, this controller just feels SO well integrated. A proper pleasure to use!!
  • On the topic of integration, those faders integrate like a dream with Ableton. All 4 faders control all 4 parameters for each track: fader 1 controls the overall volume of the clip, faders 2 and 3 control the sends & fader 4 controls the pan; the Minilab 3 virtually eradicates the need to touch your computer mouse!
  • Despite the screen being ‘modest’ in terms of size, it actually displays a fair bit. Aside from the names of plugins or devices, it also displays the units of measure too. Yet again, another feature that makes small quick adjustments a breeze.
  • Kind of unrelated, but the unboxing experience is just fantastic. Major props to Arturia’s branding department on that one. And if that’s not good enough, the packaging itself is made from 100% recycled materials, as is at least 50% of all the parts that go into making the Minilab 3. Talk about an eco-conscious controller.
  • Those rounded corners, while a nice design touch, also make it a lot easier to fit the Minilab into a half-full rucksack without tearing or ripping anything. It’s also pretty lightweight too, considering the amount of features it’s got crammed into its chassis.

Cons of the Arturia Minilab 3 (AKA the bad)

  • At first we thought this may have just being our controller, but we’ve since heard a lot of other people saying the same thing… you do have to tap the drum pads with quite a bit of force to get sound out of them. That’s not to say you can’t achieve softer sounds with the pads – you can. It’d just have been nice to have a little more sensitivity.
  • Again, in reference to the pads, we’d (personally) prefer them to be positioned in 2 rows opposed to 1 long line. But that’s really all down to personal preference.
  • If you’re a knob-junkie, you may for this reason, prefer the MK2. Loosing 8 encoders is quite the step back, especially if they’re your preferred method for making adjustments. Don’t get us wrong, faders are cool, but…
  • Despite the Minilab 3 being launched in 2023, when virtually every 25 key midi controller has a built-in note repeat function, the Minilab 3 does not. Why Arturia???
  • If you’re the colourful type, there’s very little choice. The Minilab 3 comes in either white… or black. Not the most diverse colour palate, so if you’re reading this Arturia, please release some more funky colour combos!!

The ugly?

  • That sturdy metal base we loved so much on the MK2 – it’s gone. Call us old fashioned, but no breed of plastic will ever feel as good quality as solid metal. A move that we assume, was done to cut costs #Shame
Minilab keyboard reflecting in the sunlight

Okay, so now you’ve got a clear understanding of the Arturia Minilab 3, but… don’t get ahead of yourself.

Because before buying any midi controller, it’d also be wise to consider how the Minilab 3 compares to its rivals. Useful to know, as the market for midi controllers with 25 keys isn’t exactly small; 25 key midi controllers are by far the most popular variant of any keyboard controller!! So it’s safe to say that the Minilab 3 isn’t without its fair share of competition from the likes of Akai, Novation and even Donner.

With that in mind then, here’s the Arturia Minilab 3 pitted up against its some of its most fierce competition…

Arturia Minilab 3 VS Novation Launchkey Mini MK3

Similarities

  • Both the Minilab 3 & the Launchkey Mini MK3 have 25 semi-weighted keys, which are velocity sensitive. But just like with the Akai (above), when it comes to key feel it’s no competition. The Minilab 3 steals the show. The keybed is that bit deeper & the keys themselves feel slightly larger, allowing more more expression and better control.
  • Choose the Minilab 3 or the Launchkey Mini, & you’ll bag yourself 8 assignable knobs. However… while those on the Arturia are endless encoders, those you find on the Novation do have specific start/ end points. Something that if you’re a plugin-junkie, could be restrictive
  • Regardless of which you choose, both these controllers integrate super well with Ableton Live. And while the Launchkey was designed specifically around Ableton, we’d actually say the integration you get with the Minilab 3 is that bit more in-depth. Then again though, in terms of transport controls, it’s hard to be disappointed with either keyboard.
  • Pitch and modulation on both keyboards is controlled by a set of touch strips. Although a plus with the Minilab 3 is how you can monitor your settings/ feedback via the built-in screen. A perk you don’t get with the Launchkey Mini.

Differences

  • When it comes to drum pads, the Novation runs rings around the Arturia. It has 16 – double the amount you find on the Minilab 3. They’re also arranged in 2 rows (one above the other), which for us at least makes finger drumming that bit easier.
  • Sticking with the pads, those you find on the Novation are able to achieve softer tones than those on the Minilab 3. If you’re after sensitive pads, the Novation is the one to buy.
  • Monitoring your progress/ adjustments is 10x easier on the Minilab 3, due to its useful screen, which displays a whole range of data in relation to any plugins/ settings. What’s more, it also plays its part when navigating your DAW/ software instruments too. Perks you have to make do without if you opt for the Launchkey Mini.
  • On the topic of integration, the Minilab 3 gives you 4 assignable faders, which also play a huge part when integrating with Ableton Live, allowing you to change the volume, sends and pan of each clip via your controller. A feature/ level of integration you don’t get with the Launchkey Mini MK3.
  • The Minilab 3 is one of the first 25 key midi controllers to boast USB-C connectivity. The Launchkey Mini still uses USB-A
  • In terms of curb weight and size, the Launchkey Mini MK3 is both the lighter and the smaller of the two. However in reality, there’s very little difference when it comes to hauling both these keyboards around in a rucksack.
  • Both have midi out, however the Arturia has a 5 pin midi out which means it’s that bit more capable when it comes to controlling hardware synths.
displaying a midi controller in a shop

Arturia Minilab 3 VS Akai MPK Mini MK3

Similarities

  • Both the Minilab 3 & the MPK Mini have 25 semi-weighted keys, which are velocity sensitive. However, when it comes to key feel, we’d say those on the Arturia have the edge. Aside from being that bit larger, they have a slightly better travel depth too. All of which makes them that bit more expressive to play.
  • In regards to construction, both keyboards are all-plastic. BUT something worth noting is that Arturia claim that the Minilab 3 is made of at least 50% recycled plastic. A sustainable plus.
  • The MPK Mini and Arturia’s new Minilab 3 both come with 8 assignable encoders. Knobs on both of these controllers are endless too.
  • Choose either the Akai MPK Mini MK3 or the Minilab 3, & you’ll get a screen. Although with that being said, that on the Minilab is not only slightly bigger, but it’s also that bit more intuitive. The screen on the Minilab has more functions, is more accurate and shows more detailed information.
  • Whichever keyboard of the two you buy, you’ll get a good set of transport controls that integrate well with most DAWs. However yet again, those on the Arturia do give you a lot more in-depth control – use the Minilab 3 to control Ananlog Lab & you’ll soon see what we mean.
  • Both midi controllers come complete with a chord-mode and arpeggiator built in.

Differences

  • As for drum pads, the Akai steals the show. Aside from the pads being that much bigger & being arranged in a 4×2 style, the pads also feel more responsive to play. You can achieve softer, more delicate sounds with the pads on the MPK Mini than you can with the Minilab 3.
  • Pitch and modulation on the Minilab 3 relies on a set of touch strips. Whereas with the MPK Mini, you control these parameters with a joystick. Personally, we favour the controls you find on the Arturia because aside from being mroe accurate, you can also easily re-find settings. Something that’s almost impossible to do with a joystick, which resets itself to centre every time you remove your hand.
  • The Minilab 3 connects to your setup via USB-C. The MPK Mini MK3 makes do with USB-A.
  • While the Akai MPK Mini gives you a set of 4 assignable buttons, the Minilab 3 gives you a set of assignable faders. No question about it though, we prefer the faders of the Minilab 3, especially when you consider just how well they integrate with Ableton Live session view.
  • Despite being launched a whole year after the MPK Mini MK3, the Minilab 3 does NOT come with a ‘note repeat’ function. Yep – you’re just as confused as we are.
  • In terms of curb weight, the Minilab is the heavier of the two. It’s also the thicker than the MPK Mini as well. That being said though, both are easy enough to travel with. If anything, we’d say the Minilab feels to more robust; with the Akai, we’d be worried about the joystick snapping off rattling around inside a rucksack.
  • You don’t get a Midi Out port with the MPK Mini MK3. While you get a full 5-pin Midi Out with the Minilab 3. Something that allows you to hook up the Minilab 3 to hardware synths!!
  • Hate to sound snobby, but… the overall design of the Minilab 3 feels that bit more professional. While the Minilab 3 has a more ‘techy’ appearance, the Akai MPK Mini (especially in a garish colour wave) could easily be confused with a children’s toy
Someone assembling the Minilab 3 on the production line

For 95% of producers, be you a beginner or a pro after a portable controller for use ‘on the go’, the Arturia Minilab 3 is more than worth it.

Yes, the drum pads aren’t perfect and it’s a dire shame that there’s no ‘note repeat’ function, but apart from that, we really struggled to pick fault. The keys on the Minilab 3 are just as impressive as those on the MK2 – superb for a controller of this size! The encoders and faders have a real nice resistance to them, as does pretty much every moving part on this controller; the fit & finish is second to none.

And while the controller has lost the metal base you found on the MK2, we don’t have any gripes in terms of build. In fact, Arturia’s pledge to use recycled materials + that impressive 5-year warranty, pretty much cancel that out for us.

What’s more, you’ll struggle to find a keyboard that’s as sophisticated when it comes to integration. The way the Minilab allows to interact both with your DAW & Analog Lab (in our experience) is nothing short of seamless. Add to that the fact the Minilab 3 boasts more ports (including that all-important Midi Out), as well as gorgeous screen, which really does come in use for making minor adjustments, & it’s genuinely hard to see why anyone in the market for a 25 key controller, would not (at the very least shortlist the Minilab 3.

Because no matter how you produce, this midi controller is seriously capable…

And becomes a no-brainer when you consider the £$€. At the time of writing this Minilab 3 review, the Donner DMK 25 Pro – a FAR less capable keyboard that comes with nowhere near as much in the way of software & DAW integration – retails for £20 more!!

Hence why if we were shopping for a 25 key controller, we wouldn’t waste our time researching each & every keyboard, frantically comparing features. Because fact is, when it comes to value, there’s only one keyboard that in today’s market deserves the throne.

The Arturia Minilab 3

Grab your Arturia Minilab 3 today…

Enjoy this Arturia Minilab 3 review, and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Info On Midi Controllers, as well as Everything Music Production. Recently we’ve also done a full in-depth guide to Midi Controllers For Logic Pro X + the a bunch of the Best 49 Key Controllers which we’d also suggest checking out!

midi keyboard resting on a music production desk

Or if your heart’s set on the Arturia Minilab 3, keep reading to discover yet more about this impressive keyboard controller…

There’s no doubt about it – the Arturia Minilab 3 is an ideal midi controller for any beginner. And here’s just 3 good reasons why…

  • DAW Integration & features – The sheer amount of features you get with the Minilab 3 is nothing short of insane! Aside from virtually every type of assignable control, as well as a Midi Out jack and USB-C connectivity, you also get DAW integration that’s by far some of the most in-depth of any 25 key controller. All of which makes setting up the Minilab 3 & getting a feel for producing music digitally, SO incredibly simple.
  • Software bundles – Beginners will be pleased to know that the Minilab 3 has one of the best software bundles of any 25 key midi controller. This includes a subscription to LoopCloud, Ableton Live Lite & Ananlog Lab Intro – arguably one of the best sound suites out there today.
  • Price & dependability – Despite the Minilab 3 having SO much in the way of features and integration, you can pick one up for a bargain basement price. At the time of writing this Minilab 3 review, even the Donner DMK 25 Pro (a less capable midi controller) is £20 more. Team that with Arturia’s impressive 5-year warranty, & as a beginner it’s genuinely hard to pick fault!

Buy the Arturia Minilab 3, & you get a bunch of included software, such as…

  • Ableton Live Lite – one of the best beginner DAWs out there today.
  • Ananlog Lab Intro – Access to a portion of Arturia’s signature sound suite, Analog Lab, which includes some of the best digital instruments out there.
  • FREE piano VSTs – At the moment these include UVI Model D grand piano and Native Instrument’s The gentleman Upright Piano. However, we’d suspect that with later iterations of the Minilab 3 more sounds will be included.
  • 2 month subscription to LoopCloud – A gigantic sample library, including everything from House & Techno to Cinematic & Hop Hop sounds. Many of which are used by some of the world’s best artists across the globe.

* If you want to make you controller extra custom, you can even customise its features/ functions on your computer using Arturia’s built-in control editor.

Yes – the Minilab 3 works with all mainstream DAWs, including Logic, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Reason, Bitwig & more.

In terms of integration, the most in-depth you get with the Minilab 3, is with Ableton & Logic Pro. Not to say that other DAWs don’t integrate well with the Minilab 3 – they certainly do. It’s just that when it comes to the level of depth – for instance, how the faders automatically map to each clip – Ableton & Logic are that bit more intuitive.

However it’s in Analog Lab where then Minilab 3 really shines. The way the black master knob gives you control over the various menus is just phenomenal. You really don’t need a mouse when using this midi controller with your computer. Team that with the ease of mapping certain sounds (& adjusting them) via the assignable controls, and it’s pretty easy to see why the Minilab 3 runs rings around its competition when it comes to integration.

Yes, the Launchkey Mini MK3 is good – but boy, is the Minilab 3 better!

Indeed it is – today Arturia is a great brand, especially for midi controllers. However, that hasn’t always been the case…

In fact, the first ever iteration of the Minilab (the MK1) was consider to be pretty poor by virtually everyone who reviewed it. And that’s because – it was. Something that at the time, meant that Arturia was certainly not the most favoured brand. Most probably the reason why the Minilab MK2 was so darn good… they desperately had to shake off that stigma.

Which we feel they succeeded in doing, to the point that today with the Minilab 3, they’re now the ‘go-to’ brand for midi controllers. Over the past decade, Arturia has really stepped up its game in the midi controller segment. So much so that we’d be tempted to say they’ve got the likes of Akai & Novation wrapped around their little finger, doing all they can to play catch-up.