The future of music

10 Best MIDI Keyboards & Controllers

December 29, 2023
best midi keyboards

If you want to step up your game and bring your music production to the next level, you should get a good MIDI controller.

A MIDI controller will give you hands-on control over your DJ software or DAW and allow you to produce or play music in a more professional way.

But MIDI keyboards and controllers come in all shapes and sizes, so you need to conduct a little research to find the one that meets your needs.

To help you narrow down your search, we compiled a list of the best MIDI keyboards and controllers in the market right now.

Let’s dive in! 

1. Arturia Keystep Pro – Best MIDI keyboard 

Arturia Keystep Pro - Best MIDI keyboard 

Arturia Keystep Pro is arguably one of the best MIDI keyboard controllers out there.

It’s a velocity and aftertouch-sensitive keyboard with a slim key size, featuring numerous creative sequencing tools and arp and drum modes.

It’s compact and desktop friendly, yet it has everything you need for any type of music production project.

It features 4 independent polyphonic sequencer tracks, and each of these can record a sequence of up to 64 steps. 

And you can link up to 16 patterns together to create whole songs or sections of your set.

This popular MIDI keyboard looks great too, boasting a crisp OLED display and LED-illuminated controls. 

It’s compatible with PC, Mac, iOS, offering unparalleled MIDI, CV, and USB connectivity.

All in all, if you’re looking for a reliable, well-rounded MIDI keyboard controller, you can’t go wrong with Arturia Keystep Pro.

2. Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI keyboard – Best for portability 

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI keyboard - Best for portability 

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI keyboard is another great option for producers and DJs looking for a simple MIDI keyboard controller.

This mini MIDI keyboard is designed with Ableton Live users in mind, but it works nicely with other DAWs too.

It features an incredible arpeggiator and touch-sensitive strips for pitch and modulation. 

In essence, it has everything you need to make quality music at home – fixed Chord Mode – One Finger Chord Automatic and buttons for recording, playback, stop/ solo/mute, and octave switching.

Moreover, since it’s very compact and portable, you can easily carry it wherever you go.

That said, if you’re looking for a small MIDI keyboard controller for traveling, look no further than Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3.

3. Akai MPK Mini Mk3 – Best mini keyboard 

Akai MPK Mini Mk3 - Best mini keyboard 

Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is another portable MIDI keyboard worthy of consideration.

Although it looks tiny, don’t underestimate the power of the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 . 

This popular MIDI controller has velocity-sensitive keys, eight assignable encoders, eight MPC pads, full transport controls, and a 4-way joystick.

It’s great for adding melodies and basslines in a quick and easy way, and it has all the basic features. 

But since it really is super small, it’s probably best for beginners. 

Nevertheless, Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is widely known for its functionality and ease of use, and it’s a best-selling mini controller that won’t let you down. 

4. M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro – Best full-sized keyboard 

M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro - Best full-sized keyboard 

And if you’re looking for a full-sized, 88-key MIDI keyboard controller, you should check out M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro.

This popular USB-powered keyboard is ideal for studios and live performances. 

It has graded hammer action and smart controls, and it works perfectly with all major DAWs, including Ableton, Pro Tools, Cubase, and Logic.

Its innovative Smart Chord and Smart Scale technology allows you to create music on your computer in an intuitive way.

The built-in Arpeggiator repeatedly plays the pressed keys in sequence, while holding the Note Repeat button makes the note played by the pad automatically repeat. 

But one of the best things about M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro is the weighted hammer action combined with advanced high-speed keybed scanning technology.

Along with the Channel Aftertouch feature, you’ll have full control and an expressive playing experience. 

5. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII – Best for expression 

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII - Best for expression 

When it comes to the best full-size keyboard controllers, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII is definitely somewhere high on the list. 

Thanks to velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch, this popular MIDI keyboard will provide you with a more intuitive, hands-on experience.

It’s arguably one of the best ways to make music at home.

Thanks to its tight DAW and Maschine integration, you can easily mix, navigate, and edit projects from the hardware.

And its two high-res color screens, backlit function buttons, and the precision Light Guide provide truly immersive visual feedback.

All things considered, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII is considered to be one of the top MIDI controllers for music production for a good reason.

Thanks to its powerful features, innovative tech, and playing assistance, you’ll be able to unlock your creativity and upgrade your music-making process.

6. Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 – Best for PC compatibility

Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 - Best for PC compatibility

Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 is another great option for aspiring producers. 

It’s known for its tight integration with Analog Lab, and its PC compatibility is probably one of its biggest advantages.

You can use it with sustain, CV/Gate, MIDI, and USB, and there are 3 assignable auxiliary pedal inputs. 

But this eye-catching MIDI keyboard is also widely known for its functionality and playability. 

It features 16 RGB-backlit performance pads, a control bank with 9 faders, and 9 rotary knobs.

With three well-executed operational modes and responsive metal pitch and mod wheels, it’s very intuitive. 

All in all, when it comes to mid-range USB keyboards, you can’t go wrong with Arturia KeyLab Essential 49. 

7. Nektar SE25 MIDI keyboard – Best value for money

Nektar SE25 MIDI keyboard - Best value for money

With the Nektar SE25 MIDI keyboard, you can make your music-making process more efficient and creative.

And since it’s easily portable, you can do it anywhere, anytime.

This small MIDI keyboard even fits in a laptop bag.

But don’t underestimate its power – the Nektar SE25 MIDI keyboard offers great value for money in terms of playability.

It has velocity-sensitive keys and assignable PB1 & PB2 buttons for pitch bend, transpose, volume, pan and track as well as an assignable ‘Part Two’ button for octave, MIDI channel, transpose, layer and latch.

It also has an S button for sustain and modulation.

You can integrate Nektar SE25 with a wide range of DAWs, including Bitwig, Cubase, Garageband, Logic, Nuendo, Digital Performer, and others. 

All in all, this controller is a perfect choice for those searching for affordable small MIDI keyboards. 

8. Novation 61SL Mk3 – Best for Ableton Live 

Novation 61SL Mk3 - Best for Ableton Live 

The Novation 61SL Mk3 is also among the top MIDI controller keyboards. 

This kind of keyboard is pricey, but it’s a good investment, especially if you’re an aspiring producer searching for a high-quality MIDI controller to step up your game. 

The Novation 61SL Mk3 has a 61-key synth-style, semi-weighted keybed with assignable aftertouch. 

It features an internal 8-track Sequencer and full-color LCD Screens.

And it boasts 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads with polyphonic aftertouch. 

In essence, the Novation 61SL Mk3 is a powerful MIDI keyboard ideal for aspiring producers and experienced music-makers alike.

It provides hands-on workflow and a creative music production process, along with excellent playability and connectivity. 

9. Korg microKEY2 Air-25 – Best for wireless use 

Korg microKEY2 Air-25 - Best for wireless use 

If you’re looking for a MIDI controller that works wirelessly, we suggest checking out Korg microKEY2 Air-25.

Besides the wireless Bluetooth option, this popular controller from a reputable brand comes with many other advantages. 

It’s small and compact, and it looks great too.

More importantly, it offers great playability thanks to its Decent Natural Touch keyboard.

So, even though it doesn’t have a ton of fancy features, it covers all the basics and works really well. 

Plus, it’s easy to set up and use, so it’s an excellent choice for those who are just starting out with music production. 

10. Alesis V25

Alesis V25

When it comes to small, compact MIDI keyboards, Alesis V25 is another good option.

This 25-Key USB-MIDI keyboard controller is great for beginners as well as seasoned producers.

It can be implemented into any sized studio. 

It’s compact, well-built, and intuitive, and thanks to its eight velocity-sensitive backlit pads, it allows you to launch clips or finger drums with exceptional response.

It also features four assignable knobs and buttons for manipulating effect plugins and virtual instruments.

Also, V25 comes with Ableton Live Lite 9 and Xpand!2 by AIR Music Tech.

So if you also need dynamic pieces of music software for recording, producing, and performing with your computer, you should definitely put V25 on your shortlist. 

Do You Need a MIDI Keyboard/Controller?

If you want to make good music at home and are wondering if you need a MIDI controller, the answer is simple: yes, you do.

MIDI controllers, especially MIDI keyboards, are an essential tool for modern music production.

These electronic devices are used to send MIDI messages to external hardware; a computer or virtual instruments in a DAW.

In other words, MIDI controllers allow you to ‘speak’ to your computer in a language it understands.

But how do they do it, and what do you need to know about MIDI controllers to get the right one?

How do MIDI keyboard controllers work?

MIDI keyboard controllers provide real-time control and feedback of all virtual instruments. 

They can be plugged directly into your computer or laptop via USB, and in some cases, they operate wirelessly over Bluetooth. 

Now, although some controllers come with traditional 5-pin MIDI out ports, you don’t need a MIDI output to use it. 

Most good controllers can be powered via the USB port. 

And most of them are, in fact, very convenient, and they can easily fit in any home studio. 

MIDI Keyboard

Besides connectivity and portability, MIDI controllers are very handy because you can control them via your chosen DAW.

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is where music production actually takes place – it’s how producers record, edit, mix, and master their tracks.

So, before making a purchase, make sure the MIDI controller you’re interested in is compatible with your DAW. 

How to choose the right MIDI keyboard controller 

Apart from compatibility and connectivity, there are some other things you should take into account when buying a controller.

Generally, MIDI controllers should be:

  • Well-built
  • Velocity/pressure sensitive
  • Easy to set up and operate 
  • Responsive

Some MIDI keyboards are more responsive and sensitive than others, which will ultimately affect how expressive you can be.

If you’re an aspiring musician or producer, you’ll want velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch, and you’ll probably want 61, 76, or possibly all 88 keys. 

But if you plan to mostly play one-handed synth leads or basses, 25 keys will probably be enough. 

Besides, more keys mean a higher price.

The most popular size for MIDI controllers is 49 keys, which is big enough to play with two hands, but not too big to fit on a studio desk

When it comes to key type, synth-action keys are the most common, and there are also semi-weighted and weighted options that provide more sensitivity. 

Number of controls is another thing you should think about.

Knobs, faders, touch strips, wheels, pads, and buttons vary from controller to controller, so you need to determine what you need.

Mini-size or cheaper controllers usually have shallower knobs, or they might be too close together so they feel uncomfortable. 

A MIDI keyboard needs to be comfortable, intuitive, and easy to operate.

MIDI Keyboard and Laptop

Some other factors you should think about before purchasing a MIDI keyboard include:

  • Pads – they’re not crucial, but they can come in handy
  • Pedal support 
  • Software support 

Full-sized MIDI keyboards generally include a 1/4-inch sustain pedal input, and if you’re a piano player, make sure your future controller has a sustained input.

If you know what you’re looking for, finding the right MIDI controller won’t be a difficult task.

Just make sure you’re familiar with the features and specs of a controller you’re interested in, and everything will turn out fine, even if you’re a newcomer. 

Best MIDI Keyboards & Controllers – Final Thoughts 

If you want to upgrade your music production process, getting a good MIDI controller is one of the best things you can do.

MIDI keyboard controllers give you more freedom and expressiveness, and they’re an essential piece of equipment for every producer.

Although they come in different shapes and sizes, buying a MIDI controller doesn’t have to be daunting – you just need to determine your needs, goals, and budget.

And hopefully, our review of the best MIDI controllers and keyboards helped you find exactly what you’re looking for!

You may also like: Best DAWs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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