17 Best MIDI Keyboards in 2020 (All Price Ranges)

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is the name of the protocol that instruments use to communicate with each other or with computers (we can now add iOS devices to the list). In other words, a MIDI message basically includes information like which key you pressed, how long you pressed, and at what intensity you pressed.

This message is quite small in size and does not contain any audio information. Audio is produced by computers or hardware synths that are connected to the keyboard. These audio units trigger the sounds in their sound banks according to the MIDI messages coming from the keyboard.

Although it sounds futuristic, MIDI technology has been in our lives since 1983 and stayed almost the same until recently. Today, we still use the same protocol on many keyboards and controllers, but with the newly introduced MIDI 2.0, higher-resolution data transfer will be possible in the future.

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In the current MIDI 1.0 protocol, if you press a key, the velocity value is sent with a sensitivity between 0 and 127, the reason for that is that each message consists of 7 bits. This means 128 different possibilities. However, in MIDI 2.0, velocity is 16 bit and it means 65,536 different possibilities! So, a more realistic and detailed performance will be possible.

I’ll start this article by jumping into my favorite MIDI Keyboards, but if you want to learn more about them before reading reviews check out my MIDI Keyboard information guide at the bottom of the page here.

Name of ProductImage of ProductDescriptionPrice RangeFull Review
1. Novation 49 SL MkIII (Best Overall)Novation 49 SL MkIIINumber of Keys:  49 (61 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
$600Read Full Review Below
2. M-Audio Code 49 (Best Value)M-Audio Code 49Number of Keys: 49 (25 and 61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
$300Read Full Review Below
3. NI Komplete Kontrol M32 (Best Under $200)NI Komplete Kontrol M32Number of Keys: 32
Key Size: Mini
$140Read Full Review Below
4. Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII (Best Under $500)Arturia KeyLab 49 MkIINumber of Keys: 49 (61 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
$450Read Full Review Below
5. Akai MPK Mini MkIIAkai MPK Mini MkIINumber of Keys: 25
Key Size: Mini
$120Read Full Review Below
6. NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkIINI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkIINumber of Keys: 61 (49 and 88 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
$780Read Full Review Below
7. ROLI Seaboard BlockROLI Seaboard BlockNumber of Keys: 24
Key Size: Full size “Keywave” continuous surface
$350Read Full Review Below
8. Nektar Impact LX88+Nektar Impact LX88Number of Keys: 88 (25/49/61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted without aftertouch
$320Read Full Review Below
9. IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49IK Multimedia iRig KeysNumber of Keys: 49 (25 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, synth-action
$300Read Full Review Below
10. NI Komplete Kontrol A25NI Komplete Kontrol A25Number of Keys: 25 (49/61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
$170Read Full Review Below
11. Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3Number of Keys: 25
Key Size: Mini
$110Read Full Review Below
12. Novation Launchkey 49 Mk3Novation Launchkey 49 Mk3Number of Keys: 49 (25,37 and 61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, synth-action keys
$220Read Full Review Below
13. Alesis V61Alesis V61Number of Keys: 61 (25 and 49 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, square-front keys
$200Read Full Review Below
14. Arturia MiniLab MkIIArturia MiniLab MkIINumber of Keys: 25
Key Size: Mini
$110Read Full Review Below
15. Akai Advance 61Akai Advance 61Number of Keys: 61 (25 and 49 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
$650Read Full Review Below
16. M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32Number of Keys: 32
Key Size: Mini
$120Read Full Review Below
17. Arturia KeyStep Pro 37Arturia KeyStep Pro 37Number of Keys: strong
Key Size: Mini
$400Read Full Review Below

Here Are the Best MIDI Keyboards

1. Novation 49 SL MkIII (Best Overall)

Novation 49 SL MkIII

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Estimated Price: $600

Number of Keys: 49 (61 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and Modulation Wheels, 16 RGB backlit pads, 8 continuous knobs, 8 sliders, transport buttons, extra buttons, 5 RGB TFT screens
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI In, Out, Thru ports, 3 Pedal inputs, 2 sets of CV/Gate/Modulation, Clock out
Dimension(MM): 817 x 300 x 100
Weight(KG): 5.36

My Review: Known for its smart controllers and original synths, Novation returns to the high-end control keyboard market with the MkIII version of the famous Remote SL model. And the surprise is that this is more of a new concept than just an update.

What attracts our attention at first glance is a lot of colorful lights and screens. Just like NI Komplete Control S series, an RGB LED is placed on top of each key. In this way, it becomes easier to find the key switches of your favorite virtual instruments on Kontakt.

49SL Mk3 comes with many illuminated buttons to configure the various functions of the keyboard and your DAW. The central part is devoted to a matrix of 2×8 RGB pads, 5 screens, and 8 rotary knobs. Thanks to these 5 color screens, you can easily navigate through menus and you do not have to remember which parameters you assigned to knobs. These pads are velocity-sensitive and they offer polyphonic aftertouch, however, the keys have aftertouch in mono. On the right side, you will find 8 sliders, 2×8 RGB buttons to control tracks, and also the transport buttons to start-stop recording.

Controlling your DAW is not the only thing this beast can do! If you have many hardware synths, you can use the analog and digital connections at the back to control those units as an 8-track sequencer. You have 64 sessions offering 8 tracks each and knowing that each track contains 8 patterns of 16 steps, it is more than enough to do a lot of things without needing a computer! Novation’s SL Mk3 remains the best CV-equipped device on our list for now.

In terms of finishes, the case of the SL is made of good quality black plastic and the keys feel really nice. Pads and buttons are similar to Novation Launchpad’s quality. The lighting on the screens offers enough contrast for use in broad daylight.

In conclusion, 49SL MkIII is a good option if you want an advanced controller for your DAW and also if you have many hardware analog synths in your setup. There is also a 61-keys version if you feel limited by the number of keys.

2. M-Audio Code 49 (Best Value)

M Audio Code 49

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Estimated Price: $300

Number of Keys: 49 (25 and 61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 9 faders, 9 knobs, transport buttons, 9 buttons, 16 RGB backlit performance pads,XY pad.
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI In, Out ports, 2 Pedal inputs
Dimension(MM): 860 x 255 x 71
Weight(KG): 4.5

My Review: M-Audio has been the choice of musicians with limited budgets for many years now. Compared to their affordable low and mid-range keyboards, Code 49 pushes the boundaries a little bit more. If you want good quality keys with many controllers, you will probably like M-Audio Code 49. You will find 49 full-size keys with aftertouch but there are also 25 and 61-key models available. Code series comes with 16 RGB backlit pads located to the left of the keyboard. On the upper part, 9 faders and 9 buttons will help you to control the mix of your tracks. You will also find 8 potentiometers that can be assigned to your favorite effects.

There is also a fully assignable and Ableton friendly XY pad for controlling multiple parameters in software instruments and effects. It is possible to layer and split sounds like a workstation or master keyboard. You can divide the keyboard into 4 zones and control or overlay different sounds through these zones on Code series. This gives great flexibility for stage users especially. 9 sliders offer a realistic drawbar experience for organ players.

The medium-sized LCD screen gives instant feedback for parameters. Transport controls are mapped easily thanks to Mackie/HUI system that can be paired with most DAWs. If your priority is touch quality and If you don’t want to spend money on big color screens and analog synth connections, M-Audio Code 49 is a perfect choice. Keys feel really great and it comes with so many assignable controllers onboard. In my opinion, this is the best midi keyboard out there for the money right now.

3. NI Komplete Kontrol M32 (Best Under $200)

NI Komplete Kontrol M32

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Estimated Price: $140

Number of Keys: 32
Key Size: Mini
Controls: Pitch bend and modulation touch strips, 8 touch sensitive knobs, four directional push encoder
Connectivity: USB port, Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 475 x 167 x 50
Weight(KG): 1.45

My Review: Selecting a portable MIDI keyboard is always a complex matter because it is not only a question of getting a device that is not too heavy or too large to fit in a backpack, you still have to make your choice in terms of keys: Either a limited number of standard keys (25 most of the time) or mini-keys that offer more notes (32 or even 37 depending on the case), both of these solutions having advantages and disadvantages depending on the users.

Native Instruments presents Komplete Kontrol M32 with 32 mini size keys as a scaled version of its bigger cousin A-series. In small dimensions, we have everything we can find on a Komplete Kontrol A25, whether it is the various function buttons, the 8 encoders, the push encoder, or the small monochrome OLED screen indicating the parameter being edited. Apart from the size of the keys, maybe the only big difference is the use of touch-sensitive pitch bend or modulation ribbons instead of wheels in A-series.

It has pre-mapped control settings for most of the DAWs and works seamlessly with Native Instruments’ Komplete instruments and effects. However, this integration is somehow limited to NKS plugins. In addition to managing instruments and effects, M32 offers a builtin arpeggiator and over 100 scales and modes.

If you are constantly traveling with your laptop, Komplete Kontrol M32 is an affordable option as an entry point into the NI world.

4. Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII (Best Under $500)

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Estimated price: $450

Number of Keys: 49 (61 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 9 faders, 9 knobs, transport buttons, extra buttons, 16 RGB backlit performance pads
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI In, Out ports, 5 Pedal inputs, 4 CV output jacks
Dimension(MM): 793 x 297 x 53
Weight(KG): 6.25

My Review: Arturia Keylab 49 MKII is the big brother of KeyLab Essential and it comes with so many nice features whether you are a pro or beginner. Available in 49, 61, or 88-key black and white versions, Keylab MKII series feature easy integration and a fully customizable interface. Although it seems a little bit pricey on the first look, if you are a two-hand player you will love the keys. They feel very expressive!

Keylab 49 MKII comes with Arturia’s Analog Lab 4 software with 6500 synth and keyboard sounds. In addition to DAW and a user mode, It even offers a specific mode to control the Analog Lab. For example, if you need a piano sound, you just press the Piano button and that’s it. You don’t need a fancy color screen.

It comes with 9 knobs and 9 faders as opposed to the traditional 8 fader keyboards. The extra fader gives you a smooth drawbar control for your organ sounds. If you like playing samples or drums it offers 16 velocity-sensitive backlit RGB performance pads. In addition to Sustain and Expression pedal inputs, they added 3 more Aux Pedal inputs, it means lots of modulation possibilities, especially for the stage. Four CV outputs at the back allow you to connect to your hardware analog synths and control them over the keyboard.

If you don’t want to spend extra 200 dollars to multiple color screens and RGB lights but still want to have all the pro features and a pro-level keybed, this might be the perfect MIDI keyboard for you. I think this is the best MIDI keyboard under $500 on the market right now.

5. Akai MPK Mini MkII

Akai MPK Mini MkII

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Estimated Price: $120

Number of Keys: 25
Key Size: Mini
Controls: Joystick, 8 backlit pads, 8 knobs
Connectivity: USB port, Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 317 x 181 x 44
Weight(KG): 0.75

My Review: While MIDI controllers are generally available in various sizes to suit different types of users, some controllers are specially designed for the “nomad musician”. Akai MPK Mini Mk2 has been around for a while but it is still one of the best MIDI keyboards for beginners looking for serious gear with a lot of features. That being said, it will suit more experienced users just as well, because of its very good quality and many built-in features.

It offers 8 velocity-sensitive backlit pads presented above the keyboard for creating drum patterns or triggering samples. Not only are the Akai’s pads large (3cmx3cm), they are also spaced far enough apart to allow comfortable playing, and they also provide a good playing feel and responsiveness. There are also 8 knobs that you can assign to the parameters of your virtual synths.

The pitch and modulation wheels are replaced with a mini-joystick for saving more space and it is surprisingly effective during a performance. Although it is not very common to see a pedal input in this category of small keyboards, you can plug your sustain pedal to MPK Mini and start playing piano melodies. The built-in arpeggiator allows you to quickly create recurring patterns. While most of the DAWs already come with nice arpeggiators, this onboard arpeggiator might speed up your workflow.

While the MPK Mini MKII is an excellent choice for creating rhythms, its small keys might make it difficult for keyboard solos, especially if you have big fingers. The keys are a little bit stiff but responsive enough for playing. Also, the Akai’s eight knobs are small and quite fragile, offering very little resistance when turned.

Finally, Akai adds an impressive software package to its master keyboard, which includes Sonivox Wobble and Air Hybrid 3 instrument plug-ins, as well as Akai’s MPC Essentials DAW and MPK Mini MIDI Editor software.

In short, Akai MPK Mini Mk2 is a very good entry-level model with many features and it is quite small to carry around. If you are traveling a lot you might like it!

6. NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII

NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII

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Estimated Price: $780

Number of Keys: 61 (49 and 88 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, touch strip, 8 knobs, transport buttons, extra buttons, 2 high-res color screens
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI In, Out ports, 2 Pedal inputs
Dimension(MM): 1000 x 297 x 84
Weight(KG): 6.55

My Review: Although Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII is much more expensive than the other MIDI keyboards in this list, it’s one of the best studio keyboards as it packs several cool features. If you have lots of Kontakt libraries or if you use the whole Komplete bundle, this keyboard is the perfect match for your setup. It comes pre-mapped to NI instruments parameters and you can navigate through instruments and projects because of its high-level integration with DAWs and Maschine.

Two high-resolution color screens make it easy to browse and preview sounds, tweak parameters, and edit and mix your projects – right from the keyboard. It means you hardly need to look at the computer screen while recording!

Small RGB lights above the keys reflect the playable areas and keyswitches in Kontakt libraries. It is pretty useful for example to identify which part of the keyboard controls which instrument or even to view scales. Keys are very well made since they are made of Fatar mechanics. They feel quite natural to play. As an update to old Mk1, instead of touch strips now we have proper pitch and mod wheels. But there is an additional horizontal touch strip below the wheels. The only downside for some users could be the lack of sliders. Especially if you are using orchestral libraries, or mixing a lot with the sliders you might reconsider your other options.

NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII is an advanced MIDI keyboard with so many features and it looks amazing in the studio environment with all the screens and lights. Plus it comes in three different sizes according to your needs; 49/61/88. It is the perfect keyboard for you if you are a Native Instruments user.

7. ROLI Seaboard Block

ROLI Seaboard Block

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Estimated Price: $350

Number of Keys: 24
Key Size: Full size “Keywave” continuous surface
Controls: None
Connectivity: USB-C port, Bluetooth
Dimension(MM): 282 x 141 x 24
Weight(KG): 0.65

My Review: ROLI has been around for a while with its strange-looking but smart musical devices. Seaboard Block gives a unique playing experience with its pressure-sensitive continuous surface that allows you to shape the character of each note. Thanks to the MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) standard, each note is sent on a different channel so you can pitch bend or give vibrato individually. Unlike its more expensive bigger brothers, you can expand your setup by adding extra seaboards or controllers thanks to the magnets around the Seaboard Block.

Roli calls it “5D Touch Keybed”; you can press, lift, slide, glide and strike. It allows you to play the keyboard like a fretless instrument. Seaboard gives more dynamics and nuance than a typical keyboard, however, it takes time to adapt your playing. Also, since it sends every note on a different channel, it is not that easy to correct the mistakes after recording. Bluetooth connection works pretty well with Mac computers and the build quality is really good.

Although it seems expensive for a two-octave keyboard with no knobs or faders, you can think of Roli Seaboard Block as a different instrument in your collection. Plus you won’t need knobs or faders if you assign parameters to its 5D functions.

8. Nektar Impact LX88 Plus

Nektar Impact LX88+

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Estimated Price: $320

Number of Keys: 88 (25/49/61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted without aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 9 faders, 8 knobs, transport buttons, 9 buttons, 8 backlit pads
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI Out, 1 Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 1276 x 279 x 89
Weight(KG): 8.2

My Review: If you are looking for an affordable full piano-size 88-key MIDI keyboard with lots of controllers, Nektar Impact LX88+ is a good option. It doesn’t have full weighted hammer-action keys, instead, it offers semi-weighted keys. However, it makes the keyboard affordable, compact, and light enough to carry around. Although keys are not hammer-action, they are quite expressive and they are not as noisy as some of the other keyboards in this price range.

LX88+ offers 9 faders, 8 knobs, and 8 backlit drum pads as well as many customizable buttons. Some buttons are even color-coded to show their function. Having 9 faders will make organ players happy since it allows to perform using all 9 drawbars. Pre-mapped DAW control gives access to many functions of the most used DAWs.

Although it may not be suitable for every piano player because of the semi-weighted keys, Nektar Impact LX88+ is a good option if you also need additional controllers in a tight budget. If you don’t need all the 88 keys you can also check 25/49/61 key models of Impact LX+ series.

9. IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49

IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49

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Estimated Price: $300

Number of Keys: 49 (25 version available)
Key Size: Full-size, synth-action
Controls: Pitch and modulation touch strips, 5 touch-sensitive knobs, transport buttons, 8 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pads
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI port, 1 Pedal input, Stereo andheadphone outputs, Instrument/Mic input with 48V phantom power
Dimension(MM): 693 x 208 x 65
Weight(KG): 2.18

My Review: iRig Keys I/O is a little different from the other keyboards we listed. It has a built-in audio interface so all you need is this keyboard and a laptop to start producing anywhere. It is an all-in-one solution for music-making yet it is still compact and lightweight. It comes with many software allowing us to start working right away. And like all iRig products, it is fully compatible with iOS devices.

Keys are full-size unweighted synth-action, and responsive for a good performance on the go. The onboard audio interface offers 24-bit audio up to 96kHz sampling rate. You can plug in a microphone or a guitar and record while performing with the keyboard using a software instrument. The best part is it can also work with AA batteries. It offers 5 knobs that can be changed with a shift button to access more parameters. iRig decided to use touch strips instead of mod and pitch bend wheels which may be annoying for experienced players, however, they are programmable and can be assigned to control anything. 8 velocity-sensitive pads are backlit and feel nice while finger drumming or triggering samples.

If you are bored with the cable clutter of having multiple units, IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49 is perfect for you. It has many controller features and a built-in audio interface in a small and lightweight package.

10. NI Komplete Kontrol A25

NI Komplete Kontrol A25

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Estimated Price: $170

Number of Keys: 25 (49/61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 8 touch sensitive knobs, transport buttons, 4D push encoder
Connectivity: USB port, 1 Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 488 x 257 x 89
Weight(KG): 2.4

My Review: Komplete Kontrol A-series are the lighter versions of the Native Instruments’ flagship keyboard S-series. Without the fancy RGB lights and high definition color screens, A25 still offers most of the functions available in its big brother. It comes with pre-mapped controls for NI Komplete and NKS plugins. It has direct integration with major DAWs so you can use the transport buttons and 8 touch-sensitive knobs to record, edit or mix. There is a small OLED display that works perfectly with the four-directional push encoder. So you can browse sounds, edit parameters like filter cutoff or envelope controls, and the display gives instant feedback.

Speaking of sounds, Komplete Kontrol A25 comes with more than 6700 sounds and 13 GB of content plus a discount to upgrade to full version Komplete 12 library. Although it is a little bulky, especially a 25-key version compared to its dimensions, the quality of the materials used in A25 is top level. Keys are semi-weighted and full size. If 25 keys are not enough for your projects, there are also 49 and 61 key models with the same features.

If you are looking for a sturdy keyboard with good quality keys, if you have lots of Kontakt or Komplete libraries and if you don’t have an extra budget for NI S-series, then A-25 is a good option for its price.

11. Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3

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Estimated Price: $110

Number of Keys: 25
Key Size: Mini
Controls: Pitch bend and modulation touch strips, 16 RGB backlit pads, 8 knobs, 10 buttons
Connectivity: USB port, 3.5mm TRS Type A MIDI out port, Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 330 x 172 x 40
Weight(KG): 0.69

My Review: For many years now, Novation and Ableton have enjoyed an unofficial relationship. Built for the road, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 is Novation’s most compact and transportable 25 mini-key MIDI controller keyboard especially built for Ableton Live. It will fit nicely in your backpack and it gives you everything you need to start creating.

You can create new melodies and rhythms with the arpeggiator or play chords with just a single note on the keyboard. With 16 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pads for drums and launching clips, you can create dynamic and expressive beats. Transport, device, and mixer controls mean fewer mouse clicks. Knobs are useful to control different parameters on your instrument. It comes with sounds and effects from AAS, Softube, Spitfire Audio, XLN Audio, and Klevgrand. Although it is mainly designed for Ableton Live, Launchkey Mini has integration with Logic, Reason, or any HUI compatible audio recording software. The number of the keys and use of touch strips instead of pitch bend and modulation wheels can be annoying limitations for experienced players.

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 is a good choice if you are outside of your studio a lot. And if you are an Ableton Live user, you get direct integration as a plus.

12. Novation Launchkey 49 Mk3

Novation Launchkey 49 Mk3

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Estimated Price: $220

Number of Keys: 49 (25,37 and 61 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, synth-action keys
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 9 faders, 8 knobs, transport buttons, extra buttons, 16 RGB backlit pads
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI Out port, 1 Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 789 x 258 x 77
Weight(KG): 3

My Review: If you are an Ableton Live user you will love Launchkey 49 MK3. The Launchkey series has been famous for diving into Ableton with no prior experience, this MK3 version is no exception. All the controls sync with Ableton functions automatically, so you can start recording or looping right away. Of course, its abilities are not limited to Ableton integration. Launchkey MK3 is flexible enough to use on stage or with other DAWs. Custom modes simplify the relationship between the controller and software.

It has 9 faders, and 8 knobs that can be assigned to track controls or any parameters of your software instruments. In custom mode, you can change the color of its 16 velocity-sensitive pads. With its transposable scale modes feature, you don’t need to know music theory to create a nice melody. Three chord modes transform keys and pads into an interactive surface. The arpeggiator also makes it easy to explore and find ideas quickly, while the Mutate feature reconstructs your patterns into new, more inspiring shapes. A small screen lets you see the parameters you are controlling. 49 full-size synth-action keys are expressive enough for its price. It comes with 25, 37, and 61-key versions as well.

If you don’t have the budget for higher-end keyboards but still want full-function controllers Novation Launchpad 49 Mk3 is a good option. Its seamless integration with Ableton Live is the main feature that makes this keyboard stand out.

13. Alesis V61

Alesis V61

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Estimated Price: $200

Number of Keys: 61 (25 and 49 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, square-front keys
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 4 knobs, 4 buttons, 8 backlit pads
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI In, Out ports, 5 Pedal inputs, 4 CV output jacks
Dimension(MM): 793 x 297 x 530
Weight(KG): 6.25

My Review: Alesis V61 is surprisingly small in size, which appeals to home-studio owners looking for a compact solution that can fit on the desk. Instead of a traditional design, Alesis decided to split the controllers and the keys. And it resulted in a space-saving minimal design. With its 61 velocity-sensitive keys and octave shift buttons, you can access a full melodic range to play chords and compose freely. Pitch and modulation wheels are quite expressive for stage performance as well. There are 4 assignable knobs and 4 buttons on the left side to control virtual instrument parameters. Finally, the 8 backlit drum pads make it easy to create rhythms in your favorite DAW.

The V61 integrates easily and effortlessly into your music software. A single USB connection to your Mac or PC provides both power and Midi functionality to drive your entire library of virtual instruments. All knobs, knobs, and pads light up to provide real-time visual feedback of your actions.

The V61 provides every basic function you need in a MIDI keyboard controller, without the space and size of some larger alternatives. There are also 25 and 49-key versions if you want to save even more space. It would be nice to see an additional pedal input for an expression pedal but they kept it quite simple which is fair enough considering the price.

14. Arturia MiniLab MkII

Arturia MiniLab MkII

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Estimated Price: $110

Number of Keys: 25
Key Size: Mini
Controls: Pitch bend and modulation touch strips, 2 banks of 8 backlit pads, 16 knobs
Connectivity: USB port, Pedal input
Dimension(MM): 355 x 220 x 50
Weight(KG): 1.5

My Review: Although Arturia MiniLab MkII may seem compact and basic compared to other models on our list, its features are well chosen. Equipped with 16 rotary knobs, the MiniLab offers twice as many controls as its competitors, allowing more parameters to be adjusted simultaneously on DAWs and software instruments. Its eight color-backlit, velocity-sensitive pads are aligned in the center of the controller and easily accessible for drumming or triggering samples. A shift button lets you choose between two sample banks, bringing the total number of pads to 16.

While the Arturia’s mini synth-action keys are more difficult to play than full-size keys, they are quite responsive with good dynamism from the start, making it easy to achieve a natural performance. Arturia preferred to use touch strips instead of pitch bend and modulation wheels which may be a disadvantage for stage users. The MiniLab MkII is configured to automatically map its controls to several DAWs and comes bundled with excellent software plugins; Arturia’s Analog Lab Lite, and UVI Grand Piano instruments. This automatic pairing allows you to cycle through the presets for these instruments using the rotary knobs on the MiniLab MkII, making it easy to scroll and explore the 500 patches of sounds available in Analog Lab Lite. Its build quality is several notches above other controllers in the same category.

While we have found the play on the MiniLab MkII to be largely satisfactory for a compact controller with mini-keys, experienced keyboard players might feel limited with 25 keys and two capacitive touch sensors for pitch bend and modulation wheel.

15. Akai Advance 61

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Estimated price: $650

Number of Keys: 61 (25 and 49 versions available)
Key Size: Full-size, semi-weighted with aftertouch
Controls: Pitch and modulation wheels, 8 knobs, transport buttons, extra buttons, 8 RGB backlit pads, 4.3-inch high-resolution full-color screen
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI In, Out ports, 2 Pedal inputs
Dimension(MM): 914 x 293 x 88
Weight(KG): 5.5

My Review: Akai has different ranges of MIDI keyboards and all categories receive good comments from musicians. As the name suggests, Advance 61 is Akai’s flagship keyboard. However, it wouldn’t be fair to say it’s just a keyboard. Thanks to the new Virtual Instrument Player (VIP) host software included, your entire VSTi library now can be controlled on your keyboard’s display. VIP can work as a plug-in inside any main digital audio workstation (DAW) or as a standalone application on both mac or pc. VIP software can also create setlists that provide personalized on-demand access to instruments for the stage, or studio work. A single press of a button on the advance keyboard and the player can adapt their settings to optimize their live performance without looking at their computer.

8 MPC style velocity- and pressure-sensitive RGB backlit pads also the rubberized pitch and modulation wheels offer real playing comfort to boost musicians’ expressiveness. Endless rotary knobs allow on-the-fly parameter adjustments and the 4.3-inch high-resolution color display provides real-time feedback to these changes. Advance 61 offers semi-weighted full-size keys with aftertouch to satisfy all advanced user requirements.

Although it is quite expensive, if you are an advanced user in need of an advanced keyboard with good software integration then Advance 61 might be your choice. If you don’t need all the keys then you can also check its 25 and 49-key models.

16. M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32

M Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32

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Estimated Price: $120

Number of Keys: 32
Key Size: Mini
Controls: Sustain button, pitch bend and modulation buttons, 8 knobs, 8 velocity sensitive pads, transport, and navigation buttons
Connectivity: USB port
Dimension(MM): 396 x 195 x 38
Weight(KG): N/A

My Review: Like a miniature version of his big brother Axiom-series, Air Mini 32 is intended for nomadic creators thanks to its reduced dimensions and its velocity-sensitive mini-keys. It has 8 assignable drum pads on two banks, which brings the total number to 16. 8 knobs are more than enough to control parameters of your software instruments and DAWs. Speaking of DAWs, it can automatically be mapped to parameters of most popular music production software on the market. The ease of use provided by the transport or navigation buttons is a nice addition.

Instead of a pedal input Air Mini 32 has a dedicated button for sustain. It goes the same for pitch bend and modulation wheels. It might be logical to keep the space and dimensions small, however, it will annoy some of the pro players who want to have more control over performance.

In short, if you are looking for a portable solution and if the quality of keys is not the first thing on your list, M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32 is an ideal controller to transform your creative ideas into musical reality on the go.

17. Arturia KeyStep Pro 37

Arturia KeyStep Pro 37

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Estimated Price: $400

Number of Keys: 37
Key Size: Mini
Controls: Pitch bend and modulation touch strips, transport buttons, 5 knobs
Connectivity: USB port, MIDI in, out ports, 1 Pedal input, 3 x Clock (In, Out, Reset), 8 x Drum Gate Out, 4 x Voice Out (Pitch, Gate, Mod)
Dimension(MM): 589 x 208 x 38
Weight(KG): 2.67

My Review: Building on the success of the Beatstep Pro and KeyStep, the Arturia KeyStep Pro is not only a standard MIDI keyboard. In addition to its MIDI capabilities, It is a powerful 4-part polyphonic sequencer, featuring 37 velocity sensitivity keys and aftertouch.

If you have a collection of modular devices, analog synthesizers, drum machines, and software instruments, the KeyStep Pro lets you play and control in unison. It has four independent sequencers, which control any synth, module, or drum machine you want. The sequencer has 16 patterns per track, and each pattern can have a maximum length of 64 steps and contain 16 notes per step. Up to 16 patterns can be chained together to create an entire song or sections of a live ensemble. Plus, the built-in scene memory takes snapshots of all sequences in a pattern, allowing you to instantly switch between sets of sequences. Everything is saved in a project, which can be loaded, duplicated, modified, edited, and re-saved. It also offers a multi-mode arpeggiator and chord mode.

On the backside, there are 4 CV, Gate, and Mod outputs, 8 dedicated drum gate outputs, clocks, a MIDI input, 2 MIDI outputs, a metronome output, a sustain pedal input. Connectivity options on this keyboard are crazy! You can switch to dedicated control mode to control the parameters of your favorite synths and effects or your DAW. Clear OLED displays and LED-illuminated controls help you see it all without looking at the computer screen. The only downside for experienced players can be the use of touch strips instead of pitch bend and modulation wheels.

Playing Arturia KeyStep Pro is super fun and easy with intuitive and instant access to inspiring features. It is suitable for musicians who seek sequencer features as well to interpret musical ideas expressively.

MIDI Keyboard (Buying Guide)

You have finally decided to set up your home studio and you need a MIDI keyboard to play the melodies in your head. But which one? Small and portable? or a big one with a piano feel? or a lot of customizable buttons? Choosing between dozens of brands and models can be very challenging and exhausting. Although new models added every day makes it a little confusing, understanding the terminology correctly will make the selection process a lot smoother. So let us first understand the logic and specifications of MIDI keyboards in general!

What is MIDI

MIDI, short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface,  is the name of the protocol that instruments use to communicate with each other or with computers (we can now add iOS devices to the list). In other words, a MIDI message basically includes information like which key you pressed, how long you pressed, and at what intensity you pressed. This message is quite small in size and does not contain any audio information. Audio is produced by computers or hardware synths that are connected to the keyboard. These audio units trigger the sounds in their sound banks according to the MIDI messages coming from the keyboard. Although it sounds futuristic, MIDI technology has been in our lives since 1983 and stayed almost the same until recently. Today, we still use the same protocol on many keyboards and controllers, but with the newly introduced MIDI 2.0, higher-resolution data transfer will be possible in the future.

In the current MIDI 1.0 protocol, if you press a key, the velocity value is sent with a sensitivity between 0 and 127, the reason for that is that each message consists of 7 bits. This means 128 different possibilities. However, in MIDI 2.0, velocity is 16 bit and it means 65,536 different possibilities! So, a more realistic and detailed performance will be possible. When you look at different midi keyboard options, you will probably encounter something called MPE. Some brands produce new generation MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) devices, but we only included Roli Seaboard on our list. We will look at MPE in more detail below.

MIDI keyboard

We said that the main difference between a MIDI keyboard and a regular synth is that MIDI keyboards do not contain or produce any sound. That means you don’t have to settle for sounds inside the keyboard as with hardware synths. You can choose your sounds between thousands of plugins you can find on the internet. That is why many users today prefer to use an 88-key MIDI keyboard and a piano plugin rather than paying big money on a real piano for stage and studio. Another plus is that they are portable! These devices are generally quite easy to carry around because they get rid of sound units and other electronic components. This has many advantages, starting with the price. And since they take the power from the computer, it enables you to connect it to your laptop with a simple USB cable and use it even on the go.

In general, a MIDI keyboard has two basic functions. The first one is the performance with the help of keys, while another function is to control different parameters of your virtual devices with the help of buttons, faders, and knobs. For example, you can open a virtual instrument or effects unit on your computer, and you can start creating real-time effects by assigning all the parameters in it to a button on your MIDI keyboard. Or you can simulate a mixing console with faders and knobs. Some high-end MIDI keyboards have gone a step further for better integration with daw, making these buttons and faders customizable. In this way, advanced users can program these controllers according to their needs.

Which MIDI Keyboard To Chose?

The subject of which MIDI keyboard you will prefer is in direct relation with your usage area and purpose. For example, if you are a two-hand player, it would make sense to choose a keyboard with 61 or 88 keys and a realistic feel. But if you are interested in electronic or rap genres, it may be wise to choose a versatile keyboard like a swiss army knife with fewer keys but with drum pads and plenty of buttons with RGB lights. Of course, since your budget will be the most important determinant here, you may need to make choices among all these features. Controllers range between $60 and $2000. Are you on a tight budget or would you spend more and get something better?. Let’s look at what features you need to consider when choosing the MIDI keyboard that best fits your needs and budget.

Number and Size Of Keys

Although there are exceptions, MIDI keyboards are generally 25, 37, 49, 61, or 88 keys. The main criterion should be your purpose of use. For example, if you are going to use the keyboard for beat-making and creating simple melodies, 61 keys and above will probably be unnecessary. In this case, you can look at smaller models with 25 or 37 keys. You can still use the entire register with the octave buttons that can be found on most keyboards. However, if you want to play or record harmony and melody together with both hands, less than 61 keys can be limiting. For piano players, it would be most logical to look at 88-key models. If you want to save space and still want to create harmonies with two hands from time to time, 49-key models can be preferred. Remember, as the number of keys increases, prices also increase. You can save money for other additional functions instead of buying models with more keys than you would need.

Apart from the number of keys, another important factor is the key size. In addition to the standard size 25/49/61/88 key models, many brands also make portable mini key models. These models with 25 or 37 small keys are quite good alternatives for the travelers. Since these MIDI keyboards are small enough to fit in your bag, you can continue your projects with your laptop or iPad on a train journey or in a cafe. Of course, in this category of mini key products, you should not expect too much in terms of key feel. This may upset the piano players a bit, but considering the advantages of being portable, frankly, the feel of the key doesn’t matter much. We will look at the key feeling in more detail below.

Action

Your keyboard must have a good key mechanism to give performance realism. For some MIDI keyboards that stand out for their functionality or portability; playability is often negligible to keep the price down. If you are starting for the first time, you may not be able to feel the difference. In this situation, the best thing to do is to go to a music store in your area and take a look at the feel and playability of the touch of a digital piano or a synthesizer. Then play a MIDI keyboard key and compare the keys. Make sure the MIDI keyboard you’re looking at doesn’t feel like a toy to you. The touch of your MIDI keyboard should give you a realistic feeling like a synthesizer or a digital piano.

We can divide keyboards into two as the key mechanism, namely synth-action and weighted. The purpose of the weighted keys, which simulate the hammer action system in pianos, is to offer a close feel to real piano performance. They are usually found in 88-key models. Since this mechanism increases the cost and weight, this increase is reflected in the prices. Although there are some cheap 88 key models, it is not possible to get a satisfactory hammer action feel out of these cheap alternatives.

The second group is called synth-action and it is the standard for many keyboards. They are light and they offer little resistance just like in old synthesizers, they also allow fast keyboard solos. Not every musician is a piano player so many producers prefer synth-action due to the ease of playing caused by the lightness of the keys. These models can be considered if you are not making classical music or film music.

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In addition to these two types, we can also mention a third group called semi-weighted keys, which are a mix of both types. These keys are not as heavy as a regular hammer action key and they are preferred by those who are not used to the piano keys but find the synth-action too light.

Here I would like to give you a pro tip that you won’t find on the internet. Pay special attention to the black keys when you try the keyboard of your choice. Put your finger on the top part of any black key, and try to press it where the key starts. You should be able to press easily. Since the hinge point of some models is not deep enough, pressing the black keys from the top part can be quite difficult. This makes it difficult to play chords in some positions. For example, when we put our fingers on the Ab-C-Eb-G keys to play Abmaj7 chord, the middle finger automatically lands on the top part of the black key (Eb note in this example). In such cases, if the hinge point of keys is deep enough we should be able to play the chord without any difficulty.

Aftertouch

Another feature to note about the keys is the aftertouch. Thanks to the extra pressure applied after pressing the keys, the aftertouch allows you to do vibrato without using a pitch bend or modulation wheel. Although it is a very enjoyable feature after getting used to it, we usually see aftertouch, on higher-end keyboards because of its extra cost. Some MIDI keyboard models have an aftertouch feature on drum pads as well. There is also one step beyond aftertouch in MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) capable devices. In this standard it is possible to produce aftertouch separately for each key pressed, we can also call that polyphonic aftertouch. Giving vibrato or pitch bend for each note provides more organic performance. Although MPE devices still use the old MIDI 1.0 protocol we know, they give more control over the data by sending MIDI messages over different channels. ROLI Seaboard, which is also on our list, is one of the best examples for MPE devices. You can look at this product in more detail in our review.

Controllers

We mentioned that MIDI keyboards have a second function other than performance. When we look at the old hardware synths, we see many functional knobs and buttons besides the keys on them. In today’s studios, these hardware units left their places to soft synths working on computers. However, controlling all these knobs and buttons by clicking with the mouse can be quite a time-consuming process and also inorganic. Controlling effects by touching them with the help of physical buttons and knobs increase pleasure and productivity.

For example, you can control the effects such as reverb and delay with the knobs on the MIDI keyboard; or you can adjust the volume of your channels with faders. If you write drum patterns frequently, having drum pads on the keyboard would be a good plus. With the help of transport buttons, you can start recording on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) without using the mouse every time. Many modern MIDI keyboards provide a more aesthetic presentation by enriching these controls with RGB lights and screens.

Of course, all these beautiful controller features are very attractive but they mean extra cost. If your goal is just performance or if you like working with the mouse on DAW, you can waive all these features and save money for the feeling of keys. Again, the important things are your budget and purpose of use.

Here are a few other things to note about controllers; Some keyboards with faders on their 61 and 49 key models take out these faders to save space on their 25-key models and use only knobs instead of faders. If you need faders in your workflow you should probably look for bigger options. Another important thing is some keyboards use touch ribbon pads instead of pitch bend and modulation wheels. These pads may feel unnatural and it can be quite hard to get used to if you are a long time player. Also in some cases, a single joystick is used instead of these two wheels. In this case, the joystick operates as a pitch bend in the left-right direction and as a modulation wheel in the upward direction. This leaves an extra control in the downward direction. It is possible to assign a parameter such as cut off to this extra control and enrich your keyboard solos. However, as a disadvantage of using a joystick instead of a modulation wheel, it will return to zero position when you take your hand off the joystick. So if you are working with an orchestral sound library, for example, you may have problems because modulation controls the volume and it will go to zero every time you take your hand off.

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Integration and Personalization

Buying a MIDI keyboard with many controllers does not mean that you will be happy right away when using it with your favorite DAW. Assigning controllers to DAW parameters can sometimes be quite a nightmare. To prevent this, many brands offer extra integration options in their higher-end models. You can start using your favorite DAW directly with pre-made templates that are either inside the keyboard or that can be transferred to the keyboard via the computer application of the keyboard. For example, if you are working with a daw such as Ableton Live or Logic Pro X, the software’s parameters will be automatically assigned to the controllers on your keyboard. This not only saves you from hours of work but also enables flawless communication with the DAW.

Keyboards at this range also allow customization. You can split or layer the keyboard into different zones or you can even change the MIDI message sent by each knob, fader, or button. In this way, it is possible to create your own templates for different scenarios on stage and also in the studio. These features generally attract more advanced users.

Even though some mid-level keyboards allow this kind of customization, the small screens on them, unfortunately, eliminate the practicality of this situation. In this case, it is necessary to make these settings on the computer with the keyboard’s own software. In some high-end MIDI keyboards, this problem is overcome with large color-screens and user-friendly interfaces. On some brands, it is possible to see the split points with RGB LEDs on top of each key. It is even possible to learn songs with some extra software with the help of these RGB LEDs. They show you which note to press and you just have to play. Of course, there is no need to remind you that all these features come as extra costs for your wallet.

Connection

We have mentioned that the MIDI protocol has not changed much over the years. But connection and cable types have undergone various changes with the development of technology. The 5-pin DIN connectors on the old keyboards are gradually leaving their place to the USB connectors. Large-size MIDI keyboards are generally packed with both USB-B type connector and 5-pin DIN connectors, so you can still connect your hardware units to your keyboard with an old-style MIDI cable. On portable mini keyboards, we often see micro or mini USB ports. In most cases, the ability of the keyboards to supply the electricity needs over the USB cable provides portability to the MIDI keyboards. However, keyboards with many RGB LEDs or color screens may need extra AC/DC converters to feed these lights.

Another convenience brought by the USB standard is that most keyboards today are plug-and-play which means no need to install a driver to your computer. In this way, compatibility problems are eliminated and it allows usage not only with computers but also with mobile devices such as iPad and iPhone. However, high-end devices may come with their own software to use their full functionality.

Another point to be noted about the connection subject is the number of pedal connections. Some of the portable mini keyboards may not support sustain pedal input. And some top models have more than one pedal input. In this way, you can also connect an expression pedal beside the sustain pedal, and control the effects with your feet while playing with your both hands.

Since low-latency data transfer is now possible via Bluetooth, some brands have started to produce wireless MIDI keyboards. Although these keyboards are very practical especially for travelers, they may not be suitable for everyone due to problems such as charging and disconnection in the stage and studio environment.

Size and Weight

The size of the keyboard you will choose will also change naturally according to the scenario and location you will use. 88-key keyboards may make sense if you play the piano frequently, but they will fail in

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portability. When choosing the keyboard by looking at the photos on the internet, details about size and weight may not seem very important but in real life, it is a little different. For example, if you want to fit an 88-key MIDI keyboard in your car or if you play with a crowded band in a narrow stage, it is quite possible to have problems. Besides, the weight brought by weighted keys is also an issue to be considered for those who experience low back pain.

Size also matters when looking at mini keyboards with small keys. For example, some mini-keyboards are not small enough to fit in your backpack. This can produce a rather strange result for a product that’s main feature is portability. Again the best thing to do after you narrow down your choices would be to go to a local music shop to see and test the keyboard.

Quality

We see lots of fancy lights and buttons on many electronic devices, but the appearance can be deceiving! Thanks to the developments in technologies some components became cheaper and cheaper. So In order to reduce the cost more and more, some brands prefer to compromise product quality. Non-durable plastics can cause problems, especially on small mini-key models and cheap 88-key models. The keys of these two groups are generally prone to breaking. One of the worst things that can happen is the keys that break during a performance. Believe me, this happens sometimes! It does not make much sense to compromise on quality just because the keyboard looks beautiful or it has many features. Because you spend money on the most frequently used tool of your studio or stage equipment, in return, you should expect it to last long enough. Check the material and body structure of the MIDI keyboard you intend to purchase. Is it suitable for your use every day and in all conditions? Or will you need to use it carefully with its poor quality plastic body?

Brand

Of course, just like choosing any kind of consumables, another criterion you need to pay attention to is the brand. Shopping from reliable and well-established brands gives you a longer-lasting investment. With the product support provided by these brands, you will continue to receive new updates in the future and they will provide warranty services in cases such as malfunctions. In addition, many brands come with free software and sound packages. Popular products will have a larger user community on the internet and more likely you will find many tutorials that will make the learning process easier. On the other hand, problems such as bad MIDI implementation, possible bugs and glitches, or discontinued support and lack of regular updates to older models may be possible with brands that are not well known, and this might give you a headache in the future.

Conclusion:

That does it for this review, let us know what you think is the best MIDI keyboard currently on the market in the comments below. As always, feel free to drop any questions you might have below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

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