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Keyboard controller in compact form

Review: Arturia KeyStep Pro - controller with luxury features

Published 11:53 am on Thursday 10th September 2020 by Beat Magazine

BeatStep Pro with Keys

The KeyStep Pro is essentially an extended BeatStep Pro with a keyboard. The keyboard is the same as the one on the KeyStep, but with 37 instead of 32 keys. The slim keys are among the best-performing mini-keys on the market, touch sensitivity and aftertouch are very well implemented. There are new LEDs above each key for visual feedback, and there are two touch strips for modulation and pitch bending. The number of controls has been increased to five and these can send MIDI control messages. This was a sorely missed function with the small KeyStep. From our point of view, however, it would have been nice to have eight or more of these push-enabled encoders and LED rings.

Four Tracks

The coloured sections for the four tracks and the 16 step buttons are borrowed from BeatStep Pro, and provide similar functionality. What’s new is the OLED display, which allows you to make many setting changes directly on the device. These changes could only be made on other Arturia controllers via the software editor - a great advantage for computer-less setups and jams! Each of the four tracks contains up to 64 steps and can be used as a polyphonic sequencer for melodies. You can play in real time or by step-input; individual steps can be edited directly and adjusted in pitch, note length and velocity. One small blessing is the two-digit number display for each track, because step input on the KeyStep quickly became a guessing game. Another nice feature is the option to set different lengths for the individual tracks, thus creating exciting polyrhythms. Track 1 can also be used as a drum sequencer with up to 24 tracks in selectable lengths. Tracks 2-4 work alternatively as arpeggiators. Transposition, time shift and adjustable random functions provide variety.

Controller Mode

In Controller mode, the five knobs send selectable MIDI-CC messages to control parameters of a plug-in in a DAW or a hardware synthesizer. The controller movements can also be recorded. This is done using the Control track, which runs in parallel to the other four tracks. A step sequence with filter modulation or, a beat with accentuated reverb on every second snare, is no problem for the KeyStep Pro. In addition to the core functions, the KeyStep Pro offers a number of other thoughtful features that we can’t cover here due to a lack of space (the user manual has 155 pages!).

Multiple CV/Gate Outputs

In addition to the built-in sequencer, Arturia’s interfaces are another reason for the success of their controllers. The KeyStep Pro takes good and makes it great! Modular synth fans will be happy to see that, besides USB, MIDI input and two full-size MIDI outputs, each of the four tracks has its own CV outputs for pitch, gate and modulation/velocity. The four „Voices“ can be switched together to control a Eurorack setup polyphonically. Additionally, there are eight trigger outputs that can be assigned to individual tracks of the drum sequencer. Clock IN/ OUT with reset output is also available. Basically, KeyStep Pro can run synchronously as master or slave, either via MIDI, USB or analog. To switch between them, however, you will have to use the menu; we would have preferred a direct switch here like on the BeatStep Pro. We like the audio output from the internal metronome, which can be sent to the drummer via headphones, for example. Finally, there is a jack for a sustain pedal and one for the external power supply, which is included as an alternative to USB bus power.

Verdict

The KeyStep Pro offers a 4-track sequencer with a ton of extras in a compact form that can handle complete live performances on its own. KeyStep Pro (checkout KeyStep Pro in the Thomann shop) really shows its strengths combined with Eurorack modules and other analog synthesizers. Four voices each with CV/ gate/mod and eight trigger outputs for drums and percussion leave nothing to be desired. But even in the computer-based studio, this controller drives creativity with direct access and great features.


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