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Arturia AstroLab

Review Arturia AstroLab

Digital Synth from Arturia

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Arturia Astrolab review A performer's beast?
2024 Innovation Award
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Ever since the Brutes and Keysteps affair, Arturia has been known to shake up the market with innovative products offering excellent value for money. And this Astrolab, tackling the stage keyboard market, is not going to tarnish the manufacturer's reputation - quite the contrary...

Arturia Astrolab review: A performer's beast?

A benchmark brand for almost twenty years in keyboard modeling with its V-Collection, Arturia has also made a name for itself in the world of hardware synthesizers with its Brute range, while offering a set of the most accomplished controllers and interfaces on the computer side. In fact, many of us have been dreaming of a hardware keyboard based on the V-Collection, more ergonomic and accomplished than the Origin released in 2009, and undoubtedly more live-oriented too. And that’s precisely the direction Arturia has taken with the Astrolab, a keyboard based on its famous Analog Lab.

analoglabIf you’re not familiar with the latter, remember that it’s a kind of digest of the V-Collection, bringing together several thousand presets (more than 13,000 if you have the V-Collection) within a unified interface for those who don’t necessarily want to do sound research and synthesis in detail, but just want simple access to quality sounds to play and create in the most intuitive way possible, in the studio… as well as on stage…

Indeed, it’s clear that Analog Lab’s simplicity reflects a commitment to efficiency that is highly relevant to live performance: a large set of quality sounds for maximum versatility, a few essential parameters to adapt each of them to the performance, the possibility of simply defining playlists such as splits or multis… All that remained was to make a stand-alone keyboard incorporating all this to delight everyone, and if possible not too expensive and innovative, just to put a little movement into the rather static market of stage keyboards and its predominantly red color. That was the brief from Grenoble, and now they’ve delivered their copy on the occasion of Arturia’s 25th anniversary: let’s get on with unwrapping the gift!

The great white with a black knob

The Astrolab impresses right from the box. Apart from the keyboard keys and knobs, it’s made entirely of white metal, flanked by light-colored wood cheeks. This translates into a weight of 9.9 kg on the scale, with dimensions of 935 × 327 × 99 mm, considerably heavier than a Nord electro 6D 61 (8.1 kg), but a little lighter than a Nord Stage Compact 73 with its extra octave at 10.4 kg. In any case, the whole unit looks really good and gives a great impression of clarity: the controls are well spaced out and logically arranged, while the large central knob incorporating a screen gives the keyboard a real identity…


Arturia AstroLab : molettesLet’s start our tour on the left, where the usual modulation and pitch bend wheels await us, along with controls for transposing by more or less two octaves. Past a space whose usefulness we’ll see later, we find the Arp, Chord, Play and Record buttons for the built-in MIDI looper. A silkscreen under each button indicates its secondary function (Hold, Scale, Tempo, Metronome), which is the case for virtually all Astrolab controls…

Arturia AstroLab : looperAt the center of the keyboard is the famous scroll wheel with its color screen: not only can you turn the wheel, but you can also click it to validate your choices in the menus that appear on the screen… Four buttons opposite the scroll wheel complete the navigation controls: Back/Home, up, down and Shift, which gives access to all the secondary functions of the buttons.

Arturia AstroLab : instrumentOn the right is the Instrument panel, dedicated to sound family selection (Piano, E. piano, Organ, Bass, Lead, Keys, Pad, Strings, Brass, Seq) as well as access to keyboard split functions and the playlist option. Four encoders provide access to the parameters of the loaded instrument (Brightness, Timbre, Time and Movement) as well as mix and equalization functions (Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble).

Arturia AstroLab : effetsTo the right of this panel are the encoders linked to the effects section: FX A / Intensity, FX B / Intensity, Delay / Time, Reverb / Decay, opposite four buttons to activate/deactivate each effect or access its editing. A final potentiometer on the right-hand side controls the overall volume of the keyboard.

Before moving on to connectors, each control on the keyboard is either backlit or, in the case of encoders, has a luminous ring to indicate its status. Each key on the keyboard is topped by a small luminous marker, which can take on a blue or orange color depending on the split zones…

With or without wires


All Astrolab inputs and outputs are located on the rear panel. From left to right, there’s a MIDI input and output on 5-pin DIN, four pedal inputs (expression, sustain and two auxiliary), two XLR/Jack combo audio inputs with gain potentiometer, a pair of audio outputs and a headphone output, all in 6.35 jack format. On the right-hand side, you’ll find everything to do with computing and power supply: a USB-A socket for powering the keyboard, as well as an external MIDI controller or storage device, a USB-C port for connection to a computer, smartphone or tablet, a DC socket with screw thread for connection to a mains power supply, and a power on/off button.

Last but not least, the keyboard offers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity: the former lets you stream audio from your computer, smartphone or tablet (but it’s an input, not an output, so you won’t be able to pair your Bluetooth headset, for example), and the latter lets you connect to your computer to control the Analog Lab Pro software, or your smartphone via Astrolab Connect, the navigation app available for both iOS and Android.

Connect yourself…

Arturia AstroLab : wifibluettothIt’s easy to see why the space between the thumbwheels and the rest of the controls on the keyboard strip is so large: to be able to put your smartphone down and thus have a navigation system that you’ve been dreaming of for over 10 years, to control a Komplete Kontrol for example… except that it’s Arturia who’s done it: bravo to them!

It’s a fact that, while the argument of offering thousands of presets from a single controller is appealing, we have to admit that without an efficient navigation system, this wealth of information can quickly prove counterproductive: the best of thumbwheels shows its limits, where touch, because it allows text search, tag/category navigation and ultra-fast scrolling of long lists simply by scanning the screen, is undoubtedly the most effective solution.

And it’s all the more so because the Astrolab Connect app is ergonomically based on the preset browser that Arturia has been using for several years: you’ll quickly find what you’re looking for, and you’ll have no trouble setting up playlists and keyboard splits. A real pleasure, which we hope will be emulated by the competition…

  • astrolabconnect1
  • astrolabconnect2
  • astrolabconnect3

For those allergic to smartphones, there’s no need to use Astrolab Connect, as the keyboard is perfectly controllable via its physical controls. It’s just a big plus for navigation, which we’ll leave aside and return to the keyboard.

Plug & play

Arturia AstroLab : vueThe great strength of the Astrolab, in addition to its versatility and sonic qualities, is its intuitiveness. Without even having to open the manual, it’s easy to get the hang of. Thanks to the excellent choice of controls and their well-organized layout on the control panel, from the very first minutes you’ll understand who’s doing what on the knobs and buttons, and you’ll make music realizing that despite the few on-board controls for the instruments themselves, there are enough settings to tweak and adapt each preset to your playing style… Above all, the screen wheel is extremely pleasant to use, and the machine’s OS has the good taste not to deploy sub-menus galore: thank you for not turning this Astrolab into a white elephant…

The semi-weighted keyboard is uneventful. Sensitive to aftertouch, it proves precise in use. However, it’s advisable to try it out in-store to make up your own mind, as all tastes are catered for in this respect, as its touch is a little less firm than that of a Komplete Kontrol, and its white keys have a glossy finish while the black ones are matte.

It’s worth noting that there may be a slight delay when switching from one preset to another, which varies according to the complexity of the patch. We’re not talking about a three-second delay, though, and given that it’s a computer lurking in the bowels of the Astrolab to offer 1,300 presets from 34 instruments, it’s easy to understand why, so we won’t hold it against you.

In any case, the keyboard is extremely pleasant to use, all the more so as its software integration is very successful, whether via the Astrolab Connect app or the Analog Lab plugin, which, if you have the V-Collection, gives you access to the complete instrument interfaces on your computer… In short, we’re looking at a resolutely modern, well-thought-out beast that has great potential both in the studio and on stage, with functions such as MIDI Looper, the ability to stream audio via Bluetooth, and so on. The way in which multis and splits (within the limit of two presets) and playlists (divided into songs and presets) are managed finally struck me as extremely clear. A perfect product? As far as we can tell, not far from it, if we fully understand its purpose and the choices made by Arturia…

What Astrolab isn’t…

Having already rolled out its Brute, Key and Freak ranges, Arturia has now entered a new market with Astrolab: that of stage keyboards, quite distinct from synthesizers in that they are not designed for sound research.

So we’re not dealing with a synth in the sense that an Origin or V-Collection Keyboard might have been, which some will regret. Nor are we faced with a Keylab-style computer control keyboard: the purpose is absolutely not to drive your sequencer or plug-ins other than Analog Lab. From my point of view, it’s a good thing Arturia didn’t try to hybridize, because what we’d have gained in functionality, we’d probably have lost in simplicity.

This is a solution designed to provide access to a very large number of sounds in the simplest and most effective way possible in a playing situation: that’s what a stage keyboard is all about. And from this point of view, the Astrolab has nothing to be ashamed of when compared to the leader Clavia, whose Nord Electro 6D 61, sold for 300 euros more, could well be a little out of date when compared to this extremely versatile young white wolf, resolutely modern in its ergonomics, and which really only lacks a set of sliders/pulls that electromechanical organ players will find lacking. The Astrolab does offer a solution, however, via the possibility of connecting an external control surface, which opens up a host of new possibilities in addition to the pedals that can be added…

Having said that, it would no doubt have been smart of the manufacturer to make even greater use of the Astrolab Connect app, which could, in addition to its browser functions, include a really interesting polymorphic controller section. It remains to be seen whether the latter will evolve in this direction… Some might also have preferred the multi-touch screen to be integrated into the keyboard, rather than having to use a smartphone. However, if you know anything about the electronic components market, you’ll understand that such a choice would undoubtedly have pushed up the Astrolab’s price, without Arturia necessarily being able to guarantee screen quality on a par with that found on major brand smartphones or tablets. If you can’t beat them, join them: the adage seems apt here, given that it’s the job of Apple, Samsung and co. to make this kind of controller, and that it seems wise for Arturia to build on this expertise rather than reinvent the wheel only less well…

Personally, I’d have preferred to have the pitch bend and modulation wheels on the left side of the keyboard rather than on top. But then, I’m sure the keyboard would have been longer and heavier, and therefore more expensive too, bearing in mind that the manufacturer seems to have done his utmost to stay under the 10 kg mark. It goes without saying, however, that many keyboardists will be eagerly awaiting a 73– or 88-key heavy-touch model, which, depending on the reception of this Astrolab, should probably be forthcoming if we consider what exists in the Keylab range… And it’s also with this in mind that others will no doubt also want a smaller and inevitably more affordable keyboard: 49 or 37 keys, or even a rack or module version, as the plug&play soundbox argument proves extremely seductive beyond the keyboard itself, whether for stage or studio.

In short, while this Astrolab certainly isn’t for everyone yet, and while it won’t exempt Arturia from offering us a real V-Collection keyboard one day soon, enabling us to really get our hands into the engine (and then, the principle of having an iOS/Android app will again show its relevance for managing heterogeneous interfaces), let’s be sure that it’s already very relevant and opens up many horizons. As for whether it will succeed in beating its red competitor to the punch, let’s just say that beyond its tight price tag, it has many functional arguments to do so, but that one of the most important criteria for judging it remains beyond the scope of this test: Clavia products are known for their robustness, and while the Astrolab’s fine workmanship inspires confidence, it remains to be seen whether it will be as durable and sturdy. In terms of future-proofing, however, it has a strong argument in its favor: at the rate at which Arturia releases new plug-ins, we can expect frequent updates to bring ever more sounds and effects, as well as significant improvements to existing physical models. We’re also expecting the keyboard, currently compatible with V Collection 9 instruments, to integrate those of V Collection 10, including the cool Acid V…


As a fan of the V-Collection and a daily user of Analog Lab, I have to admit I’ve been really seduced by Arturia’s proposal which, without turning its back on MAO (integration with the Analog Lab plug-in is obviously perfect, and the Astrolab Connect app oh so relevant), makes us forget the virtual origins of its keyboard in favor of a truly convincing “hardware” experience. Switch on, play, and enjoy the richness of Arturia’s modelling in complete simplicity: without going back on the quality and versatility of the V-Collection’s sound, the keyboard’s intuitive side is indeed the greatest achievement of Arturia’s new baby. As a result, although we know it was designed for the stage, we have little doubt that it should find a place in more than one studio, where its simple access to a myriad of sounds should seduce more than one musician, for a price of 1,600 euros that remains well thought-out… Congratulations to the Grenoble-based company, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary in style, and we can’t wait to see what’s next…

2024 Innovation Award
Manufacturing country(?): China
  • Elegant design
  • Overall sound quality from the V-Collection
  • Richness and versatility of sound
  • Well-thought-out ergonomics that are easy to get to grips with...
  • A winning combination on stage and in the studio
  • Astrolab Connect, with the preset manager you'd expect from any competitor
  • Perfect integration with Analog Lab
  • Splits, playlist, MIDI looper, arpeggiator, tuning: everything you need is here
  • Eight pots and a shift key for tweaking 16 parameters: more than enough for live use most of the time
  • Can be used with smartphone and computer for greater convenience, but not dependent on them in any way
  • Comprehensive connectivity...
  • ...including the ability to connect an external MIDI controller, which can compensate for the lack of physical controls
  • Well-priced compared to the competition
  • Given Arturia's rate of release, the promise of new sounds very frequently
  • Thumbwheels above the keyboard
  • No sliders/tirettes for organs in particular
  • The Astrolab Connect app could offer a controller section to complement the keyboard's physical controls
  • We're waiting for the V Collection X instruments
  • Would you have it in heavy 88-key, 37-key or Tabletob module?

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