Augment studio or stage sound with virtual analog synthesis
EACH PRODUCT in Arturia’s Analog Experience Series includes a metal-encased keyboard with wood ends; tons of sounds drawn from their ARP 2600, CS-80, Jupiter-8, Minimoog, Moog Modular, Prophet-5, and Prophet-VS virtual instrument emulations (sort of “Arturia’s Greatest Hits”); and editing/library software (Mac/Windows, standalone, or VST/AU/RTAS plug-in).
Laboratory is the most ambitious and editable yet of the series, with a USB-powered, four-octave keyboard including smooth and controllable aftertouch (not “afterswitch”), four percussion pads, ten control knobs, nine envelope sliders, transport with MMC out, pitchbend and mod wheels, octave buttons, various navigation controls and switches, and 2-line by 16-character backlit LCD. The controls aren’t specifi c to Laboratory, but generate standard MIDI messages suitable for other MIDI devices.
The Sounds There are 3,500 patches—and fortunately, a searchable browser to help find the ones you want. For example, you could browse Minimoog bass presets, or brass . . . or ARP 2600 and CS-80 strings. You can also specify characteristics, like bright, dark, long, simple, soft, etc.
I’ll let the purists debate whether “virtual analog” is really analog or not; while they’re debating, I’ll be making some warm, satisfying sounds. I was raised on analog synths, and I feel Arturia is faithful to what made them special—part of which was realtime control.
Have It Your Way Being able to edit presets is part of the “analog experience.” Two of the knobs edit chorus and delay mix, two handle filter resonance and cutoff , two more control LFO rate and amount, and four “wild card” controls edit different parameters in different patches, as chosen by Arturia. You can save edited versions, while 10 “snapshots” let you call up selected presets fast (helpful for live performance). For full editing, if any of the seven Arturia synths are installed on your computer, you can open presets in them. Another nice touch: You can play two presets simultaneously on the keyboard.
Scenes The 200 “scenes” are genre-specific collections of splits; some include arpeggiation, so you can get a nice groove going—which can be enhanced by triggering drum loops or hits on the four pads. While no one will mistake this for a multi-timbral workstation, the Scenes can be quite inspirational, and kickstart the songwriting process.
Is It For You? If you already have a good controller and a bunch of soft synths, Laboratory is probably redundant. (However, you can buy the sounds sans keyboard for $299.) But, it’s a superb package for a DAW owner who would love to add the sounds and realtime control associated with analog synths, as well as a quality keyboard and general-purpose MIDI controller. Despite the low price, the synth-action keyboard is no toy; the feel is solid and playable. Overall, Laboratory is an easy, cost-effective way to add “the analog experience” to a recording or live performance setup.
STRENGTHS: Cost-effective. 3,500 presets with searchable browser. MIDI controller works for more than just controlling Laboratory patches. Refined aftertouch. Basic, but generally effective, editing options.
LIMITATIONS: Not multi-timbral. Sometimes parameters you want to edit aren’t available.