The best MIDI keyboard is usually sought after by the music professional who works in a studio, an amateur who is setting up a home recording studio or a simple music enthusiast who wants to experiment on making beats and more on his personal computer. Depending on the purpose of the person who intends to buy a MIDI keyboard, there are many kinds to choose from and it wouldn’t really be difficult to spot the hot from the not. There are budget keyboards that sell for just under $100 or even below $50 while there are some that would cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- 0.1 Why Do You Need the Best MIDI Keyboard?
- 0.2 What Should You Be Looking for When Choosing the Best MIDI Keyboard?
- 1 Top 10 Best MIDI Keyboards
- 2 Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 with 11 Touch-Sensitive Encoders
- 3 Korg nanoKEY2 Slim-Line USB Keyboard
- 4 M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 Ultra-Portable 32-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- 5 Acorn Instruments Masterkey 49 USB MIDI Controller Keyboard
- 6 Korg padKONTROL MIDI Studio Controller
- 7 Novation Launchkey 25, 25-key USB/iOS MIDI Keyboard Controller with Synth-weighted Keys
- 8 M-Audio Keystation 61ES 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Semi-Weighted Keys
- 9 Alesis Q49 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- 10 Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- 11 Akai Professional LPK25 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Keyboard Controller for Laptops
Why Do You Need the Best MIDI Keyboard?
So what exactly is a MIDI keyboard and what do you need it for? A MIDI keyboard is a device that is made up of keys, knobs, buttons, pads, etc. This is mainly used by producers who make music or beats from scratch or through samples. This works with a laptop or a computer along with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Somehow self-explanatory with its name alone, MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. You can basically play notes from so many different kinds of musical instruments with this device alone – guitar, piano, drums, trumpet, sax, etc.
To be clear, if you’re looking for a gadget where you can practice playing the piano on or play music without having to connect to a computer, the best MIDI keyboard controller is not what you’re looking for. A lot of the MIDI keyboard controllers you’ll find in the market today require you to connect to a computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. because these gadgets do not produce sound on their own – rather the sound comes from your computer. Because of that, sound quality is not part of the criteria you should be looking for when choosing a MIDI keyboard controller because the sound will come from your computer speakers or your headphones.
A MIDI keyboard is sometimes called a MIDI keyboard controller or a MIDI controller. It is easy to get these names confused though and based on many forums and reviews found online from various music lovers and professionals, it is best to clarify what these are exactly.
A MIDI keyboard is always a MIDI controller. A MIDI controller is not always the best MIDI keyboard. For easy visual interpretation, the “keyboard” is a device with the usual black and white keys just like in a piano such as the Akai Professional LPK25 on our list below. MIDI controllers that are not MIDI keyboards are those with push pads such as the Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 we are also discussing on our list.
For you to have more choices of the best MIDI keyboards, we are including MIDI keyboards and MIDI controllers on our list since the purpose of these are pretty much the same and it’s really just a matter of preference if you want push pads or piano-like keys on your MIDI keyboard controller.
What Should You Be Looking for When Choosing the Best MIDI Keyboard?
Now onto the most important part that you must definitely learn before making a purchase of a MIDI keyboard – you must know what qualities/features/characteristics to look for. There are so many of these gadgets in the market today and you can easily be fooled by false advertisements or attractive price tags. It is best to be aware of what professionals usually look for in considering the best MIDI keyboard as one of the best – whether you’re a professional or not.
- Compatibility With Your DAW
Most MIDI keyboards usually operate through plug-and-play and would work with any DAW. However, there are also some that won’t work on some Digital Audio Workstations. While this isn’t a consideration for some as they can always work with another DAW, others look for MIDI keyboards that will work best with their computer. Unless otherwise mentioned, most of the best MIDI keyboards that we will be covering on our best MIDI keyboard list will work on most DAWs. Many MIDI keyboards as well already include DAW or editor software installers in the package.
- Number of Keys
Probably one of the most important considerations you have to make when choosing a MIDI keyboard is the number of keys that come with it. Smaller MIDI keyboards usually only have 25 keys.Medium-sized and larger ones come in 37, 49, 61 and 88. 88 is the maximum number of keys because this is the number that full-sized pianos have. However, it’s not always “the more the merrier” with these keyboards. Even some professionals who’ve been working on music for quite a long time now are still satisfied with the most common 49-key MIDI keyboards. This already allows you to play music over 4 octaves which is the ideal. Further adjustments can be made on your DAW anyway. For MIDI controllers that do not have piano-like keys, the number of push pads could be as little as less than 20 or can go as high as 60 and more.
- Number of Controllers
By simply looking at the best MIDI keyboard, you already know if it has enough controllers aside from the keys and/or the push pads. Controllers are usually knobs, sliders, buttons, wheels, etc.Though not as important for most music professionals and amateurs, this basically just allows you to control from the keyboard itself instead of using your laptop or computer keyboard or clickingkeys and controls on the DAW. If you have everything on your MIDI keyboard, you can just place your hands and focus on the keyboard alone instead of going back and forth from your computer to the keyboard. For MIDI keyboards with piano-like keys, there are some models that combine the piano-like keys and the push pads at the same time such as the Novation Launchkey 25 that also belongs on the list we have below.
Though not really that important for all professionals, the size of a MIDI keyboard is sometimes still a consideration. If it’s smaller, it is more portable which is ideal for the travelling musician or DJ’s who use these MIDI keyboard controllers to play live music. The number of keys and controls isn’t necessarily indicative of size and portability of the MIDI keyboard as well. There are 25-key best MIDI keyboards that are larger than the 37-key ones so it is just best to check on product dimensions before making your purchase.
MIDI keyboard controllers, as mentioned above, could go under $50 but there are also some models that cost thousands of dollars. Music professionals who are making a decent living out of making beats and melodies with these controllers do not mind spending a lot of money for a MIDI keyboard. However, if you are just starting out in the business or if you are on a tight budget, it is good to know that you still have choices that won’t break the budget.
Now that most of the things you need to know about the best MIDI keyboard controllers have already been discussed, it is time to check on the best of the best based on expert reviews, customer feedback, extensive research and actual use. With all the considerations above kept in mind, read on to see our Top 10 Best MIDI Keyboards.
Top 10 Best MIDI Keyboards
On top of our list is the Ableton Push Controller for Live 9. If you’re a professional music producer or an amateur who is trying to make a career out of making beats, then this one’s definitely worth your investment. It doesn’t come cheap. In fact, it originally sold at a much higher price but you can now get a great deal for less, which isn’t exactly cheap either but worth every penny. Once you take the Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 out of the box and start using it, within minutes you will realize how it goes way beyond the value for your money and how it is actually one of the most efficient and amazing midi controllers you’ll ever find in the market today.
The Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 features 64 pressure-sensitive multi-colored velocity pads that you can use to play or sequence beats. The best MIDI keyboard comes with a generous number of keys and controls that allow you to play with effects and so many instruments so easily. Play with loops, adjust the harmonies and use different tempos – the possibilities are just limitless. Its hands-on control comes with 11 encoders that are touch-sensitive.
Those who already made their purchase of the Ableton Push Controller are just so happy with this product that they had to admit it was difficult to put this thing down. It is important to note though that according to the product details and by experience of users as well, this comes with the Ableton Live 9 Intro and may be used with Ableton Live 9 (any edition). So if you don’t know how to work with Live 9 yet, it is best to start learning now.
Latest customer reviews and prices of Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 with 11 Touch-Sensitive Encoders
The Korg nanoKEY2 Slim-Line USB Keyboard is a compact MIDI keyboard controller that is small enough for you to hold conveniently with just one hand. Because of its size, it is very portable which is perfect not only for the travelling musician but also for those who want something that takes up less space on the workdesk. Now don’t let the size of the Korg nanoKEY2 Slim-Line USB Keyboard make you think that it isn’t any good. In fact, this best MIDI keyboard rightfully earned the top 2 spot on this list because it is packed with all the basic features and more that and amateur or even a professional would need. What’s even better is that compared to the higher price tag of the Ableton we just covered, this Korg is only a small fraction of that price.
Of course, since it’s small and relatively cheap, you can’t expect as much features in the Korg nanoKEY2 Slim-Line USB Keyboard as compared to an 88-key MIDI keyboard controller. But it is good enough to make decent beats and a whole lot of great melodies that you can create from scratch or through samples. This is a USB keyboard that you can purchase on its own but for an additional charge, you can throw in a Slim-Line Drum Pad Controller and another USB Controller for even more features. You can invest on one first then add the others when budget allows.
A 25-key low-profile USB keyboard, the Korg nanoKEY2 Slim-Line is great for use with a desktop computer, laptop or even a smaller netbook. Velocity-sensitive keys allow accuracy and a more enjoyable time playing with this keyboard. Customers who already tried this can attest to the fact that it is actually a great purchase and it works with a variety of DAWs without a problem. Available in White or Black, you can choose one that would be suitable for your taste and style.
Another MIDI keyboard controller that fits right in the budget is the M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 Ultra-Portable 32-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller. It is now sold at only half its original price. This attractive looking keyboard with the piano-like black and white keys has 32 velocity-sensitive synth action mini keys that lets you create the melodies you like with ease. Though it has enough keys for you to make beautiful music over several octaves, it is kept at a compact size which will fit securely inside your backpack or even a laptop case. Portability at its best, you can enjoy using this keyboard by simply plugging it into the USB port of your computer or laptop. It also gets its power through USB so no need for additional power outlets.
Both professionals and amateurs who already tried the M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 Ultra-Portable 32-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller have spoken about the ease of use with this musical gadget. You can add expression and a bunch of effects to your work with its modulation and sustain buttons and more. There are also octave-shift controls so you can go over several ranges when playing the notes.
Customers who tried this also mentioned about not having any problems in using the M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 Ultra-Portable 32-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with most DAWs, Windows and Macintosh computers. If you’re looking for an entry-level best MIDI keyboard controller or if you’re a professional searching for one that can give you power and portability features at the same time, then this keyboard would be perfect for you.
Latest customer reviews and prices of M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 Ultra-Portable 32-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
A MIDI keyboard controller that’s up to par with the standards of a professional music producer, the Acorn Instruments Masterkey 49 USB MIDI Controller Keyboard pretty much has everything you need whether you’re just starting out or you are already on your way to building your own home or professional recording studio. Surprisingly, this MIDI keyboard controller, despite its features and amazing reviews from various types of customers, still sells at an attractive price tag of just a little over a hundred dollars. If you search even further, you can even cop it for a bargain deal.
It has the standard 49 piano-like black and white velocity-sensitive keys that are already enough to let you experiment and play melodies and notes on several octave levels. Even better, it has two wheels on the left side for pitch and modulation for easier control over the instruments that you play on the keyboard. The Acorn Instruments Masterkey 49 USB MIDI Controller Keyboard allows you to tweak parameters through its fader and four pots.
It comes with a 6 foot USB cable which is long enough to set this up with your Macintosh or PC; the USB cable also serves as the power cord so no need for an extra outlet and no second or third cable to mess your desk up. It comes with a DVD installer for the Presonus Studio OneTM Artist DAW which is good for the amateurs and also great for professionals.
It is rare for you to find dissatisfied reviews on the Acorn Instruments Masterkey 49 USB MIDI Controller Keyboard simply because it does its job well considering its price. It is small enough not to take much space on the desk or bring along should you need to work somewhere else. Most definitely, you’re getting more than your money’s worth with this MIDI keyboard.
The Korg padKONTROL MIDI Studio Controller looks less complicated than other MIDI controllers with way too many push pads because Korg managed to keep it simple; however, despite its simplicity, it boasts more power than other most expensive and bigger best MIDI keyboard controllers. Now if you’re a professional and you’ve owned MIDI controllers similar to this before, you must already know for a fact that Korg is a respected brand and there’s nothing really to worry about as these products from the manufacturer are always made with professional quality in mind. If you’re an amateur and you’re willing to invest a bit, for a MIDI studio controller, then you can go ahead and start with the KorgpadKONTROL MIDI Studio Controller and you will not be disappointed.
There are only 16 LED-illuminated velocity-sensitive Trigger Pads on this KorgpadKONTROL MIDI Studio Controller but this is more than enough for you to create even the more complex beats and instrument mixes that is the life of what could be your first or nth hit record. It has an X-Y pad, two assignable knobs and an assignable pedal jack. For the pedal jack, it is good to know that it requires a DS-1H or PS-1 which is currently not included in this package. To guide you through your work, there’s a 7-segment display and a separate 3-digit LED display.
Users of the KorgpadKONTROL MIDI Studio Controller shared their satisfied feedback on the product and have also spoken about its great performance. It works well with different DAWs on a Windows PC or a Macintosh. You can use USB power or a separate AC adapter for this MIDI keyboard.
The Novation Launchkey 25 has become one of the most popular MIDI keyboard controllers among many musicians because of various reasons such as it’s easy to use, it looks aesthetically pleasing and it is packed with a lot of features and power that’s more than enough even for a professional. Despite having only 25 piano-like black and white keys, it is still a reliable best MIDI keyboard controller that not only amateurs but seasoned electronic musicians would love. It is good to know though that if you prefer more keys, you can always go for the 49 and 61-key versions of the Novation Launchkey.
Now this doesn’t exactly go cheap. In fact, the Novation Launchkey 25 sells at a bit higher price but it still remains as one of the most in-demand MIDI keyboard controllers of its kind. Over 200 very satisfied customers generously shared their positive feedback on this product which only goes to show that for its price, it still goes beyond the value for your money.
Though you can still use the Novation Launchkey 25 with your preferred DAW, it is good to know that there is a Launchkey app that you can download so you can have more power when using this MIDI keyboard whether on your Macintosh, PC or even your iPad. Most major DAWs are supported by this MIDI keyboard controller including FL Studio which customers say is just perfect for this gadget, Ableton, Pro Tools, Cubase and Reason among others. No power supply needed so even if you use this with your iPad, you can just rely on the bus power of the Novation Launchkey 25.
25 keys, 16 velocity-sensitive multi-colored launch pads, instant access to DAW control, an included Ableton Live Lite software as well 1GB worth of Loopmasters content in a sample pack, there’s nothing more to ask for with the Novation Launchkey 25.
Latest customer reviews and prices of Novation Launchkey 25, 25-key USB/iOS MIDI Keyboard Controller with Synth-weighted Keys
The M-Audio Keystation 61ES 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Semi-Weighted Keys is a very impressive MIDI keyboard controller that any professional or amateur musician will surely love. It sells at a bit higher price but it truly gives you every penny’s worth. It looks expensive and it feels expensive. Once you pull it out of the box, you know that you are getting a sturdy piece of equipment that will surely last in the studio for many years to come.
What’s great about the M-Audio Keystation 61ES is that its 61 full-size velocity-sensitive keys are semi-weighted which feels a bit bouncy or springy and almost close to the feeling of pressing down on real piano keys – definitely not the non-weighted feeling you’d find in cheaper keyboards. What’s even more impressive is that it has a number of programming options including transpose, octave shift, program change, bank MSB and LSB and MIDI Channel MIDI out for USB. Aside from the 61 keys and the three buttons, you can assign controls on the 2 wheels and the slider.
Customers who own the M-Audio Keystation 61ES shared that they have no problems using this on both PC and Macintosh and it works pretty well on many major DAWs. There were several customers though who gave a special mention on GarageBand because the M-Audio Keystation 61ES works quite amazing with this Apple software.
It might not be the cheapest best MIDI keyboard on the shelf but most definitely, the M-Audio Keystation 61ES has a lot more to offer which surely gives value to your money – well worth the investment!
Latest customer reviews and prices of M-Audio Keystation 61ES 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Semi-Weighted Keys
The Alesis Q49 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller might be small and may even seem like a beginner’s type of MIDI keyboard; however it proved itself worth of a spot on this top 10 list because of the power and performance it offers that even professionals will surely like. It is very simple to use – single-cable USB operation that already works on both power and data of the keyboard. Other models from the Alesis Q-series include 25, 61 and 88 keys which pretty much offer the same features that the Q49 has, except for the number of keys.
49 is already the ideal number of keys for most music professionals so the Alesis Q49 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is already more than enough for both amateurs and the pros. Velocity-sensitive keys, octave shift buttons, pitch and modulation wheels, one pedal input and additional assignable slider come with this impressive best MIDI keyboard. Also included in the package is anAbleton Live Lite Software Alesis Edition.
It comes in quite a portable size that won’t give you a hard time bringing it along with you if ever you need to travel or you want to work someplace else. It is still considered lightweight but heavy enough to give you the assurance that it is actually a durable piece of audio equipment. Though the keys are non-weighted, it doesn’t feel cheap as well. Customers also shared that the Alesis Q49 works great in both Macintosh and Windows computers and while it already comes with the Ableton Live Lite, it also works with other kinds of DAW software.
The Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is the little brother of the Q49, also from the Alesis Q-Series that we covered just before this. Slightly more affordable than the Q49, the Alesis Q25 managed to make it to this list because despite being compact, it does just about anything you would need from a MIDI controller. No-fuss installation as you can just plug into a USB port on your computer for both data and power.
Since it only has 25 velocity-sensitive keys which can already offer dynamic performance, the Alesis Q25 remains very compact for great portability. To add musical expression, it also has pitch and modulation wheels built-in. To extend note ranges, it comes with octave up and down buttons. For professional use, it includes a MIDI output and sustain pedal input. And just like all the models on the Q-series of Alesis, it already comes with the Ableton Live Lite software Alesis Edition.
Super simple operation, very reasonable pricing and quite an aesthetically pleasing MIDI keyboard controller, the Alesis Q25 is great not only for beginners but for the professional who doesn’t want such a large piece of equipment on his desk. According to customers who already purchased the Alesis Q25, they were actually pleasantly surprised with this product as it is so easy to use, gives you full MIDI control and the performance is just topnotch – it even works on iPads too!
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, if you’re looking for a MIDI keyboard that gives you the bang for your buck, the Alesis Q25 will be a great choice.
A best MIDI keyboard controller list wouldn’t be complete without an Akai so rightfully so, we’re concluding this list of best MIDI keyboards with the Akai Professional LPK25. Professionals have taken notice of the Akai Professional LPK25 because of its impressive features and powerful performance. Just like other 25-key MIDI keyboard controllers, this one’s pretty compact so it’s easily portable—it would easily fit in your backpack. Despite its small size, thanks to the trusted Akai brand, once you hold this in your hands, you’ll feel how stable and sturdy this best MIDI keyboard is and you know that you’ll have it in your studio for years to come.
Easy operation and no-fuss installation, the Akai Professional LPK25 is a simple USB keyboard that features 25 velocity-sensitive keys. It works with practically all types of DAWs including Ableton, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic, Reaper, Studio One and more plus the package already comes with an editor software. And with its plug-and-play USB connection, you can use it on your Windows PC or Macintosh computers. You don’t need any external power source as the Akai Professional LPK25 is powered through your USB alone.
It has four programmable memory banks, tap tempo controls, sustain button, octave up and down and arpeggiator. There’s nothing more you would need because as little as this MIDI keyboard controller might be, the Akai Professional LPK25 is already complete. Unless you need to play melodies over more octaves or if you know how to work it out through your software, then the 25 keys should be more than enough.