Arturia KeyStep – A USB MIDI Controller & Polyphonic Step Sequencer

arturia-keystep-sequencer

At the 2016 NAMM Show, Arturia has introduced the KeyStep Controller & Sequencer — a new USB MIDI controller keyboard and polyphonic step sequencer, with CV connectivity.

Here’s the official intro video:

Here’s a guided tour of the KeyStep:

Features:

  • Slimkey keybed with velocity and aftertouch
  • Arpeggiator mode:
    • Up, down, inclusive, exclusive, random, note order, double up, double down modes
  • Sequencer mode:
    • 8 polyphonic step-sequences with Rest, Tie, and Legato note entry
  • Rate control and tap tempo:
    • REC, PLAY, and STOP buttons for performance control over the sequencer and arpeggiator
  • Sustain HOLD button
  • Sustain pedal jack
  • Chord play mode
  • SHIFT button selection:
    • MIDI channel selection, GATE time, SWING values
  • DC jack for standalone operation
  • USB MIDI connects to computers and our MCC editor
  • MIDI in/out ports
  • Sync i/o ports:
    • Supports 1 pulse per step, 2 PPQ (Korg Volca), 24 PPQ DIN sync, 48 PPQ DIN sync
  • Sync select switches:
  • Internal, USB, MIDI, Clock
  • CV/GATE outputs:
    • CV supports 1Volt per octave, Volt>Hz modes, Gate output 5V or 12V for modern or vintage gear support
  • CV Velo/Aftertouch/Modwheel output
  • Capacitive-touch pitch bend and mod wheels
  • Each sequence can have 64 steps, each step can have up to 8 notes
  • Low power; can be powered by Apple iPad (camera connection kit required)

arturia-keystep-5

Polyphonic Step Sequencer

The KeyStep Controller & Sequencer sports a newly-designed polyphonic step sequencer with eight programmable memories, recallable at the touch of a knob. You can choose gat times (10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 90%) and Swing settings (Off, 53%, 55%, 57%, 59%, 61%, 64%, 67%, 73%, and 75%) instantly to change the feel of the sequenced performance.

The Sequencer lets you record, overdub, and transpose sequences in realtime, while still playing the keyboard live.

The KeyStep also offers an Arp Mode (with eight arpeggiator pattern styles — 1 / Up, 2 / Dwn, 3 / Inc, 4 / Exc , 5 / Rand, 6 / Order, 7 / Up x2, and 8 / Dwn x2) and Chord play mode (for setting chords and playing them back with a single note or via the Arp Mode making chord-based arpeggiations a breeze).

Connectivity

Connectivity options include:

  • USB MIDI (to connect to computers and Arturia’s MCC editor
  • Standard MIDI IN and OUT
  • SYNC IN and OUT (supporting 1 pulse per step, 2 PPQ, 24 PPQ DIN Sync, and 48 PPQ DIN Sync)
  • GATE and PITCH CV OUTPUTS (supporting 5V or 12V and 1V/oct or Hz/V, respectively) alongside a separate, assignable MOD (modulation) output that can be used with the Mod (modulation) capacitive-touch strip, velocity, or aftertouch.
  • SUSTAIN pedal input connector (for adding a sustain pedal)!

The KeyStep Controller & Sequencer is expected to ship in Spring 2016, price at  €119.00 EUR/$149.00 USD. See the Arturia site for more info.

49 thoughts on “Arturia KeyStep – A USB MIDI Controller & Polyphonic Step Sequencer

  1. Gosh – is this how low the bar has sunk for “musicianship”, that 2 CONTROLLER KEYBOARDS introduced by 2 major players at NAMM (Korg and Arturia), are 2 octave minikey? as in “kindergarden toy”? Hello?

    1. I think it’s pretty cool, but would be cool with a three+ octave version 🙂 Slim keys are fine if they are as good as the Korg MS-20 mini ones.

    2. can we please shut up about minikeys? Not everyone is that snobbish that they can’t accept a couple of comrimises here and there. With a bit of work, you can play anything pretty reasonably; I’m a pianist, used to playing upright acoustic pianos, and I can play synth lines perfectly well on a casio PT1. For some stuff, minikeys are better, to be honest; the fact that the keys are close together makes it a lot more comfortable when jumping about long distances on the keyboard. They’re not ideal for anyone, but that doesn’t mean they’re crap for everyone. you either adapt, and make the most of what they are good for, or don’t buy it. But there’s no point making the same old complaints about minikeys on what seems to be pretty good product otherwise, to be honest; Aftertouch, Sequencer, Arpeggiator, CV, and full-size midi, in a conveniently portable package. Bit short on knobs, but I can see it being a good controller to go with a suitcase modular setup or something.

      1. I actually really like minikeys. My hands tend to hurt a fair amount from my job and doing stuff for school, not to mention I’ve got smaller than average hands.

        I hate how dismissive some people are when it comes to the whole “toy” thing. It’s as if every single piece of equipment that doesn’t cost an ungodly amount of money or doesn’t cater to every single need is instantly lambasted as a “toy.”

        I personally would love one of these, maybe even as a compliment to my Beatstep. Could be really interesting!

    3. come on, it’s a sequencer, the keys are mainly for data entry.

      it’s like you’re complaining that the pen you use for sheet music lacks musicianship.

      if you have skills why don’t you already have a keyboard or 2 or 3 whose action you are already proficient with?

      there are lots of cheap n used unloved digital synths with full sized keyboards, or new poly aftertouch key stuff that isn’t born brain dead useless due to terrible midi bandwidth, so why compete with that?

    4. Thank you. We have way to many mini key B.S. stuff and it’s a shame. Are synths meant to played by musician less people who just want to make sounds. To people who like the mini keys, do you play keys?

    5. apparently there is market for small midi keyboard controllers. If you want a full workstation or hammer action full size keyboard, there is plenty to choose from, but there is only one or two actual MIDI keyboards out there small enough to carry in a bag (all the other ones are not MIDI controllers, they are USB peripherals) so I think it’s great that arturia brings more choices

  2. ‘Musicianship’, to those of us who actually have it, is a set of skills that – among other things – lets us adapt to any size of keyboard key and still get the job done. Just ask any professional pianist/accordionist: most piano accordions use keys that are roughly 3/4 the size of piano keys, but all the professional accordion players I know are equally competent on both. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be able to make their living from performing, recording and teaching.

    If playing minikeys makes you sound like you’re playing a toy, then you need to become a better musician. And if you’re not trying to make a living from it, then maybe it’s no big deal – go and buy a controller with full-size keys!

    1. Nah. “Musicianship” is the ability to think in sound, has little to do with the skill of playing a standardized instrument, and adapting that to other non-standardized instruments. That is an adaptable skill some have, but isn’t “musicianship’.

      So what you are saying is, if you took a classical pianist, and one night without warning, you placed a 2-octave mini-keyboard in front of them they could do an equally perfect rendition of a Mozart piece they have been perfecting for 10 years – without a single bum note? Is that what you are saying? Because I imagine if you did that, then that person would beat the living sh*t out of you for making a monkey out of them.

      Mini-keys doesn’t make the sound change, it makes that memory-muscle fall apart when playing.

      The rant was going well till the last sentence: ” And if you’re not trying to make a living from it, then maybe it’s no big deal – go and buy a controller with full-size keys!”. At that point you kinda gave up on your own stance.

      If you have a miniature version of something then we have a word for that “toy”, all mini-keys, by the very definition, are a “toy” version of real keys.

      And to say if you can’t deal with mini-keys then that person needs to become a better musician is an very odd stance to take. The real advantage is size and portability, but if you happen to building a live rig based on the fact you can stick it in a back-pack that the musician’s priority system is totally out of wack.

      I just don’t understand the hate towards haters of mini-keys, I would say a profound dislike for any mini-keys is more than justified, it is a normal response towards a sub-normal standard. The response always seems to be that they will sell many cheap products to kids, and I don’t think anyone can disagree with that – but that doesn’t make them professional instruments for musicians, nor warrant attention from a professional synth site – that makes them toys for kids. So really, I blame the site moderators, they are the ones that need to understand professional standards, and choose content accordingly, if they did that then nobody would be having these discussions – because nobody would be making or selling mini-keys, because nobody would give them attention – it is here where we define such a shabby state of affairs.

      1. If you’re not a snob, you’ll give it a shot; You won’t be able to play mozart perfectly on it first shot, but you wouldn’t be able to do that is someone gave you an accordion, or, say, a seaboard; They’re different instruments, for different purposes. Lets say someone sits with one of these for 10 years, and perfects their abilities to play mozart on this (I know that’s not really do-able, as there’s not enough keys, but you get my point); Does the fact that they’re plaing mini-keys make them any less of a musican? And, since they won’t be able to play it perfectly first-time if you give them a piano, does that make a piano a bad instrument, or a toy? Playing mini-keys isn’t the same as playing full-size keyboards, but it isn’t an invalid way of doing things. They don’t suit everyone, but niether does playing the accordion.

        1. My point is purely that it is sub-standard. It is the same with a 3/4 size guitar, people may use them and be highly skilled on them, but that doesn’t make them a professional standard. If a guitarist, and I know a few professional players, asked for a guitar to play and I throw a 3/4 guitar back at them, well they would laugh at me, and tell me that isn’t a guitar, they would refuse to even attempt to play on it. And that doesn’t make them snobs, it makes them professional Guitarists that have spent a lifetime learning to play a standard instrument – and the 3/4 guitar isn’t that.

          These really aren’t hard concepts to get your noggin around, it is almost like you aren’t trying to understand what a profession standard is, and how deeply important that is.

          And I have nothing against mini-keys, in a non-standard, non-professional market – but it you are trying to make a sell a professional piece of music equipment than you need to pay respect to professional standards, or get out the market – because in the long term it helps no one.

          And I understand that someone may spend their life playing non-standard, toy keys and controllers, and they may be the best at that. And that doesn’t make them less of a professional or performer – or that is until they enter the real world and one day someone puts a standard professional full-sized instrument in front of them, and they fall apart. Who’s fault is that?

    2. But ask anyone who practices a particular instrument and they’ll tell you that they can’t play normally if you change the scaling of the instrument. A guitarist who’s used to 3/4 length Gibson necks will feel weird on a full scale Fender, just as much as a keyboardist who practices and normally plays on full-size keys if they’re handed a mini-controller. The criticism is completely valid. It’s a matter of muscle memory. What you’re saying about accordions goes for accordion players. I don’t know any guitarists who don’t comment on a particular guitar’s neck when it’s different from what they’re used to… whether it’s a difference in the length or the spacing between the strings, they comment on it and how it affects what they can play.

      And what’s with the false dichotomy? Either shell out enough for gear of professional quality standards, or accept the junk they throw to the peasants? That’s ridiculous and based only in design decisions, not in any constraints caused by reality. How are people supposed to approach professional levels of playing if everything cheaper than, say, a Nord, is junk? Go out on a limb and buy a multi-thousand-dollar instrument?

      1. (Caveat: I’m really not out to offend here, seedmole! Just explaining how things are in my corner of the industry – gigging, session recording, soundtrack work. If I offend you, I’m sorry. If I offend the OP, I’m not sorry.)

        You seem to be talking about single-instrument musicians, and I can’t say I know any. I don’t know many guitarists who couldn’t dep on banjo or bouzouki in a pinch, because musicianship in the discipline of fretted strings isn’t limited to the guitar, let alone one specific guitar. A fretted strings player who moans about an unusual scale length or tuning interval when they turn up for a job is probably going to be sent away – I’ll find a professional to do the job instead. Someone who understands that a) you need to diversify to make a living and b) big keys, little keys, jumbo frets, no frets; it’s not rocket surgery – a good musician will get a good sound out of it without complaining! That’s the difference between a musician and an instrumentalist, in my experience. And – no offence meant to anyone – a guitarist who can still be surprised by the difference between a Strat and a Les Paul beyond the age of about 13 is unlikely to be offered any challenging session work anyway…

        Not everyone’s a professional musician; not everyone wants to be, or needs to be – that’s fine! I know some non-pros who are more talented than every pro I know – also fine! Non-pros keep gear prices down for the rest of us (in part by bitching about minikeys in forums, then buying the damn things anyway and leaving them on a shelf). Keep it up! But I didn’t mean to present a false dichotomy: I was suggesting (unclearly, I accept) that a professional might legitimately want this item because it could be a convenient touring controller that, due to their musicianship, they’re able to play well; an amateur who hates minikeys, on the other hand, has a lot of other choice available and perhaps less need for the mobility of a compact controller.

        My whole point is that price and even design rarely signify a product’s suitability for professionals – all that matters is whether the buyer is any good at what they do. OP implied that musicianship is diminished by this product; I don’t believe that real musicianship can be diminished by any product.

        I reckon this keyboard will be decent craic for anyone, professional or amateur, who likes a compact controller with minikeys and a built-in sequencer. It’s a shame that its existence in the world is necessarily a mortal insult to people who come on Synthtopia to bitch about minikeys. Arturia should pay them compensation, then the design team should publicly flagellate themselves to atone for their sins. Or, y’know, continue to make products they think people want to buy based on market research of the buying public, rather than market research of comment trolls.

        Peace!

    1. in fact it is a note sequencer…similar to the sequencer of the microbrute. but the keystep is able to “record” 8 notes per step…

  3. Smaller keys = larger profits.

    Toys appeal to the masses (and bedroom producers), and it seems more than just Korg and Arturia know this.

    About the Controller: Looks good, I’ll likely get this one as I am interested in the, arpeggiator, Gate/CV, sequencing abilities and aftertouch. (desperately need a replacement [wired] mobile control surface).

  4. Yet Arturia also announce a full sized 4 octave synth which is a possible contender for the most fully-featured monosynth ever. If you’re too good for the cheap toys, set your sights on the better stuff. I’ve no idea why people waste time attacking products that are apparently beneath them. Just ignore it.

    1. Agreed. I’m sorry if I don’t want my stage setup to look like Rick Wakeman but I’m actually kinda into the small stuff. And anyway, a sequencer is something you enter notes into, not something you play the solo from Toto’s “Africa” on.

  5. For the price, this looks pretty damn sweet.
    If all the keyboards in my studio were full size 5 octave, I wouldn’t fit in there.

    Agree with Maine’s comment – if you want a full sized KB with sequencer then you pay a full sized price.

    If you play somebody a great piece of music then I’d wager highly that the size of the keys it was played on wouldn’t factor at all.

    I hate NAMM though; too much gear!

    1. “If you play somebody a great piece of music then I’d wager highly that the size of the keys it was played on wouldn’t factor at all.”

      I’d wager that you are wrong.

      Quite a few studies have shown that audience responds to the illusion of performance and not performance itself. An example of this is a guitar solo, it may be an easy solo, and if you stand stiff and play that simple solo the audience will respond accordingly. But then if you take a stance, jerk around and pull a face the audience will be of the belief you just did something difficult, when you didn’t – because the vast majority of people don’t know music. Sure a few muso’s will moan at the back, but nobody ever listens to them.

      They did a good study on music talent shows. They asks the general public to make a guess on who would win, then they asked the pros – they more or less picked the same people, with the same level of success. So then they asked deaf people to pick the winner, guess what? Same results, the winners were judged on perception of performance and not any real level of that performance, the sound they generated.

      So knowing this, imagine you are on stage with those mini-keys, do you think you will win the talent contest? To answer this we first need to decide if mini-keys would give the perception of a more skilled performer, or a lesser-skilled performer. What do you think? I imagine the perception of this wouldn’t be to rewarding, you would have to jump around like a loon to convince them you are doing anything of merit.

    2. But they’re making Jacks of all Trades. They aren’t going to make a good standalone sequencer… but they are going to sell you one with a cheapo midi keyboard hardwired into it. I want something that’s like this, but without a keyboard built in. Something like old units, like the Yamaha QX21. They can’t make as much of a profit off the cheap plastics they can source, though, if the product doesn’t need 25+ keys.

  6. The way I see it is that the Keystep is to the Beatstep, as the Beatstep is to the Beatstep PRO.
    Expect more fully featured Keystep Pro next year to fulfill all the obvious omissions from this controller.

  7. This is a great little controller if it works with no major glitches. I’m glad Arturia is still keeping its software products viable and finding creative ways to sync them with my analog stuff. I love the sound of the Vcollection synths and they really help my composing. Frankly, I can’t afford anymore analog gear and need these innovative controllers to keep my setup interesting. Maybe they will be able to correct the so called issues with the Beatstep. My Minibrute and Analog Player work perfectly..

  8. Mini keys keep prices down.Can’t believe people are forgetting the basic principles of midi which is its connectivity.Brendan respect to you for your posts

  9. There’s a lot midi keyboards that have full size keys and more than two octaves, and just a few tiny ones with midi din. So I kindly ask you, minikeys haters to shut the f**k up and don’t spam,please! Great to see tiny portable keyboard with actual midi din! Good job, arturia! I can’t wait to play my volca with this baby.

  10. I wish synth companies would realize that people want real keys, not just these tiny keys that you synth companies can justify. Ask a guitarist if having a mini fretboard is ok. Ask a drummer is using mini sticks are ok. The right size keys are just as important as the sound. It’s like the tires on a car. You get my point.

  11. Finally an affordable polyphonic MIDI sequencer! And the Arp is a nice bonus.. I’m wondering though if they will indeed follow suit and come out with a KeySep Pro….

  12. Actually I believe this keyboard is being advertised to have medium-sized keys, which I’m very happy about if it is what I think it is. I have a couple Korg micro-key keyboards, but there’s a certain awkwardness to playing them for any significant amount of time. For me it’s almost about the short length of the keys rather than the narrower width. This keybed appears to have struck a better balance between portability and playability. Can’t wait to try it. My only wish is that they would have started it on a “C” instead of an “F”, which would make it usable as a keyboard-bass instrument. The way it exists right now, there really aren’t enough keys to pull that off properly, as the bottom half-octave is essentially wasted.

  13. I actually prefer mini keys to full or medium sized keys. I’d love a five octave, wireless version of this with mini keys. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they come out with a blue tooth version to compete with the wireless MicroKorgs.

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