Arturia KeyLab Essential 49
If it seems a bit like we’re cheating on this one, hear us out. The KeyLab Essential is a bundle of synth software and hardware controller, effectively an refined version of the original KeyLab 49 from 2013. Yes, you get a synth package as part of the deal, but let’s consider that a bonus. We wouldn’t be including the KeyLab if the keyboard itself didn’t stack up as a valid option in its own right. Luckily, it is.
Like the Impact LX, the KeyLab does a little bit of everything: 49 keys in this case (there’s also a 61-key version), eight pads, transport controls, rotaries and sliders.
Then there’s the software side of things. For your money, you get a serious package of software. The main draw is Arturia’s own Analog Lab synth bundle, featuring 17 instruments and over 6,000 sounds from the V Collection package. There’s also a version of Ableton’s entry-level Live Lite, plus a very good piano synth in the form of UVI’s Grand Piano Model D. All together, that’s enough to get you started making music