A tale of three keyboards

First, another customer service success story!

I was watching and waiting for a controller keyboard to complement the littleBits Synth modules. I especially wanted a keyboard that generates gate, control voltage (CV) and standard 5-pin MIDI all-in-one. The Arturia Keystep fit the bill and it’s been getting rave reviews. So, when I saw a “mint” Keystep at Musician’s Friend for a few dollars off, I put one on order.

Musician’s Friend (MF) does a good job of assessing the condition of customer returns. Once again, they didn’t disappoint. Physically and electronically, everything is ship-shape. It’s a good way to save a few bucks, although a brand new Keystep is not a budget-buster at $119 USD street.

The only issue — and it’s not exactly MF’s fault — is that someone registered the Keystep and copped the Ableton Live Lite activation code. Cheeky and damned annoying. The Arturia site would not let me register the product (my main goal).

Fortunately, Arturia has excellent customer service. (A shout-out to Amine and Guillaume!) Within 24 hours, the Keystep was registered and I had the code for Ableton Live Lite. Great job!

I’m trying to spin out another littleBits project and haven’t been able to dive into the Keystep as yet. However, my first impression while unboxing is highly favorable. For a product that streets at $119, this beast is solid — perhaps the best build quality that I’ve seen in an inexpensive controller. Arturia have a “slim key” design of their own. The slim keys are quite playable and they feel positively robust.

The unboxing led me to a quick comparison between the three short controller keyboards that I have on-hand. The picture below shows, from top to bottom, the Roland SK88Pro (37 keys), the Arturia Keystep (32 keys), and the Korg MicroKORG XL+ (37 keys). I shot all three keyboards together in the same image, then edited the image to compare the relative key and keyboard sizes. The SK88Pro is a “full” size synth keyboard and is comparable to the old Roland JV, XP, XV keybeds. The Arturia Keystep keys are a little wider and a little longer than the MicroKorg XL+. It always takes me a few minutes to adjust to the XL+. Adjustment to the Keystep is even easier.

I hope this short post helps you out!