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Arturia KeyStep Pro Review - Keyboard Controller

March 2, 2024

Today we review Arturia's flagship controller, the Arturia KeyStep Pro. Arturia continues to develop compact controllers for controlling hardware synthesizers in a variety of modular configurations. The new KeyStep Pro is Arturia's third-generation flagship controller, incorporating all of Arturia's developments in this area. It features a hardware sequencer with easy editing and separate CV inputs for simultaneous control of multiple synthesizers. At the same time, it has a three-octave keyboard and a section of illuminated buttons with smooth controls for quick editing of sequences.

We've already reviewed the Arturia BeatStep Pro, which has a similar feature set and pads instead of a keyboard. Today's KeyStep Pro controller has expanded functionality and a much more comfortable feel that will unleash your creative potential to the fullest. But let's talk about the functionality later, let's take a look at the specs as usual.

Best Price on Arturia KeyStep Pro Controller & Sequencer

The Arturia KeyStep Pro is a powerhouse controller and sequencer designed to meet the demands of modern musicians, sound producers, and performers.

Arturia KeyStep pro Package Classic Package

Arturia KeyStep Pro Specifications:

  • Proprietary keyboard with 37 slim, velocity-sensitive aftertouch keys (LED above each key for efficient visual feedback)
  • Four-track step sequencer: 16 step buttons, up to 64 steps per sequence / up to 16 notes of polyphony per step
  • Melodic sequencer: Real-Time recording, step recording, step editing; Pitch, velocity, gate length, time shift and probability for each note; Scale quantization with user scales; Polyphonic CV outputs
  • Drum sequencer: 24 part drum sequencer/polyrhythm
  • Performance-oriented sequencer: forward and two random playing modes, pattern randomization, quantized or unquantized recording, looper
  • Arpeggiator: 7 arpeggiator modes / 5 octave range
  • Chord mode
  • Controller mode: use the 5 encoders to send CCs / automate the CCs
  • Crisp OLED display
  • Metronome with included speaker and line output
  • Sustain pedal input
  • 4x (CV, Gate, Mod) outputs + 8 drum gate outputs
  • 1 MIDI in, 2 MIDI out, USB, Clock synchronization
  • Ability to connect to iPad via Camera Connection Kit adapter
  • USB bus power when connected to a computer or AC adapter (sold separately) for standalone use
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 589 x 208 x 38mm (23.2 x 8.2 x 1.5 inches)
  • Net Weight: 2.7 kg (5.9 lbs)
  • Set Includes: Arturia KeyStep Pro unit, quick start guide, registration card, power supply, USB cable + (Ableton Lite, Analog Lab Intro software)
  • Color options: Classic White / Black Edition

Overall Build, Design & Features

So let's start our Arturia KeyStep Pro review by looking at how the KeyStep Pro looks and feels. The controller is attractive and stylish. All Arturia products have a distinctive look, but with the recognizable design that is inherent to all Arturia products. The KeyStep Pro is available in classic white and black (black is rarer and harder to find in online marketplaces).

Arturia KeyStep Pro Metal Backside
Metal backside with rubberized feet of Arturia KeyStep Pro

Arturia KeyStep Pro reminds us a bit of the Arturia MiniFreak synthesizer in terms of overall build and appearance. The body of the KeyStep Pro is made of metal, the encoders are made of plastic, and the buttons are made of soft silicone (they press perfectly without making any noise). The bottom of the Arturia KeyStep Pro is made of metal + there are 4 rubber feet to prevent slipping on the surface. There are no backlashes or gaps, everything is perfectly assembled!

The KeyStep Pro can be used as a standard USB MIDI controller to operate virtual instruments, but its primary purpose is to be the control center for modular configurations. With its built-in four-track sequencer, the Arturia KeyStep Pro allows you to control four external synthesizers simultaneously.

Arturia KeyStep Pro connections inputs and outputs

For this purpose, the unit provides separate CV, Velocity/Modulation and Gate signal transmission from each of the four tracks. When controlling virtual or external synthesizers via a MIDI connection, the signals from the four tracks can also be transmitted simultaneously on different MIDI channels.

As with Arturia's other compact controllers, the KeyStep Pro can control Arturia's proprietary mobile apps iMini, iSem and iProphet on the iPad. In this case, the KeyStep Pro should be connected via a Camera Connection Kit adapter.

The device's memory allows you to store 16 global projects containing 16 scenes with 16 sequences for each of the four tracks. Scenes store all sequence settings, button positions, and encoders. You can switch between scenes on the fly, and even synchronize their changes by tempo or when the current pattern ends. In addition, the Sequencer allows you to chain patterns together, multiplying their sound duration.

The track has two modes: the main mode allows you to create a melodic sequence; in the alternate mode, the first track switches to a drum sequencer while the other three tracks switch to arpeggiator mode. KeySter Pro's sequencer is polyphonic, allowing you to create not only simple one-voice patterns but also complete chord sequences. The sequencer's drum mode has 24 parallel tracks, and unlike other sequencer tracks, each drum track can only trigger one specific drum or percussion sound. The maximum length of a sequence is 64 beats. Sequences are played back synchronously in a loop, regardless of the selected length of each track. At the same time, the displays show the number of sequences currently selected. Use the arrow keys to switch between sequences quickly and easily.

Creating and editing sequences in the KeySter Pro controller is very simple. Several options are provided for your convenience. The simplest Quick Record mode lets you create a pattern without playing back the sequences. Holding down the corresponding step button on the keyboard, you press the note and chord. Releasing the button records everything played into that step. Holding the button again will overwrite the played notes, and if you need to add something to the already saved notes, there is Overdub mode. Also available are such familiar functions as Copy, Paste, and Erase, which significantly speed up the creation and editing process.

The second, no less convenient, step recording mode is Step Record. It also works without sequencing playback. But unlike the previous mode, you don't need to hold down the step buttons. Recording takes place automatically, step by step. As soon as a chord or key is pressed and released, the next step is recorded, and so on through the sequences. You can skip several steps and continue recording from a certain step by pressing the corresponding button.

And of course, KeySter Pro has a real-time pattern creation mode while playing a sequence. Surprisingly, the controller has a built-in speaker that plays the beats of the metronome. In addition, the metronome sounds can be sent to your headphones, for which there is an additional jack with level control.

The whole pattern-creation process is accompanied by a bright indication. And each track has its own color. Sequences from the first track are highlighted in green, orange - from the second, yellow - from the third and crimson - from the fourth. This makes it impossible to confuse which sequences are active at any given time.

Circular encoders allow you to adjust the note pitch (Pitch), duration (Gate), volume (Velocity), and the probability that the note will be played (Randomness) for each step. In addition, the Time Shift setting is available for chord sequences, which allows you to achieve a more realistic sound. These settings are available not only for all notes in a step, but also individually in a chord. In user mode, you can reassign the encoders to any other MIDI events.

Above each key is an indicator showing the notes involved in a chord or pattern. This is very handy so you can see at a glance which notes are being used or edited in different modes. The keys also act as additional control buttons. When you hold down the SHIFT button, they switch all sorts of modes and settings. Such as pattern and arpeggiator playback direction, range of coverage, rhythmic ratio, as well as fret selection and CV output routing.

The KeyStep Pro controller uses Arturia's familiar and proven miniature Slimkey keyboard. It features durable and comfortable mechanics with velocity sensitivity and aftertouch.

Traditionally, Arturia controllers use touch strips instead of the usual pitch and modulation wheels. However, on previous controllers, there were no indicators on the sides to show changes in pitch and modulation values.

There is one more touch strip underneath them, which was adopted from BeatStep Pro. During sequencer playback, pressing this bar activates the loops of all sequences with multiples of 1/4,1/8 1/16 and 1/32. This function was borrowed from DJ controllers and is very often used in modern electronic music. In this case, the sensor works like a slider that switches modes when you move it.

Final Verdict on Arturia KeyStep Pro

As we can see the new Arturia KeyStep Pro controller got not only a keyboard (in comparison with BeatStep Pro), but also a lot of new interesting features. Among them are an additional track in the sequencer, extended connectivity, more convenient control, indication of almost all processes and a full-fledged metronome. And if BeatStep Pro is a rather specific and narrowly focused device, KeyStep Pro looks like a more universal and modern controller.

We can confidently say that Arturia KeyStep Pro is a great midi controller and keyboard. First of all we want musicians working on analog synths and drum machines to pay attention to it. Thanks to Arturia KeyStep Pro you can switch all the hardware and control them with only one device. For DAW producers Arturia KeyStep Pro will also be a new breath of air.

This controller will suit both advanced users of such instruments and beginners, those who are just buying their first midi controller. Arturia took care and made a detailed manual and videos explaining all the settings and subtleties of the control. Don't be lazy, go over and check it out. The ~450$ price for such a flexible and quality device is justified. This is not just a MIDI keyboard, but a full-fledged tool for realizing your creative tasks. Don't forget that this device is from Arturia, so you get a quality product and support from the developer.

SoundGale.com 100% recommends Arturia KeyStep Pro for purchase, the main thing is that you understand why you need it. We hope you enjoyed our Arturia KeyStep Pro review. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and suggestions in the section below, we'll be happy to answer them all.

  • Good Price/Quality Ratio
  • Solid Build Quality
  • Ultimate Versatile Connectivity
  • Advanced Sequencer (Melodic & Drum)
  • Arpeggiator and Chord Mode
  • One of the most advanced controllers available today
  • No Cons
Our Score

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