Over the years technology has evolved quite a bit. Because of this, the way we make and record music has also evolved. These days all it takes is one individual to complete a task that once required a full team of people.
This is in large part due to the invention of innovative pieces of equipment such as the midi keyboard. Midi keyboards, also referred to as midi controllers, are a very important part of the music making process.
Midi keyboards give musicians the ability to use multiple synthesizers at the same time. This gives you a great deal of creative freedom with the type of music you can make.
When it comes to finding a midi keyboard, you will quickly find there is an unlimited number of options to choose from. You can find a midi keyboard in all price ranges, and for all preferences. Each controller is different and will have different advantages and benefits.
It is a wise decision to compare the various brands and models. However, doing so can be quite time consuming. So we’ve done the dirty work for you.
Here are the top 5 best midi keyboards currently available.
Top 5 Best MIDI Keyboards
OUR TOP PICK
The Novation Launchkey is a 49 note USB keyboard controller that is quite impressive. While it was specifically designed to be used with Ableton Live, its InControl technology gives it the ability to work with other digital audio workstations as well.
The great thing about the Novation Launchkey is how easy it is to use. You can get started in a few minutes as there is not a lot of trial and error.
The USB input makes it possible for you to work on the keyboard controller without the need for any external drives, or power provided by a computer.
With the Novation Launchkey you will be able to modify and mix tracks, use free keys and pad drumming, and use color coded RGB pads to create beats.
This midi keyboard also comes with a software bundle that features iPad apps, a loopmasters sample pack, and bass station soft synths.
If you already use and are familiar with Ableton Live, adding the Novation Launchkey to your setup is a great option.
- Easy setup.
- Comes with software for Mac and PC.
- Works without drivers or a power cable.
- Comes with a 3 year warranty.
- Users have complained about the quality of the keyboard.
- MK2 version of Novation's 49-note USB keyboard controller for Ableton Live
- 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, 8 knobs, and dedicated navigation and control buttons
- Software for Mac and PC and sustain pedal 1/4 inch jack socket,7 segment 3 character LED display,pitch bend and modulation wheels,16 full-colour RGB backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
- Fully USB bus-powered and class compliant; works without drivers or power cable
- Software for Mac and PC, Including: Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio Addictive Keys. Novation now offers a 3-Year Warranty on this and all other Novation products.
The Akai MPK Mini has long been one of the most popular midi keyboards on the market. And though it is small in size, it is a very powerful keyboard.
One of the things producers love about the MPK Mini MKII is the authentic Akai MPC drum pads. Altogether there are 8 different pads that can be used for a variety of things including samples and patterns.
The cool thing about samples is they can be assigned to bank A or bank B. This means you will be able to use 16 pads during your performance. You can easily switch between banks with the push of a button.
The MPK Mini MkII features 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keys with octave up/down functionality. While 25 keys may not seem like that much, it is plenty enough to lay down chords and leads.
The 8 assignable knobs give you the freedom to edit certain parameters in real time. This controller also features a note repeat trigger and a powerful arpeggiator.
Unlike other midi keyboards, the MPK Mini MkII uses a thumbstick instead of a wheel for controlling pitch bend and modulation.
Like most Akai midi keyboards, this one comes with a decent software bundle. Within the bundle you will get Air Music Tech’s Hybrid, MPC Essentials, and much more.
- Plug and play. No drivers required.
- Comes with a software bundle.
- Features a note repeat trigger.
- Comes with a sustain pedal input.
- The keys are small and take some getting used to.
- Total Control Wherever You Go: USB MIDI keyboard controller with 25 velocity-sensitive keys and octave up / down buttons to access the full melodic range – perfect virtual synthesizer control
- Express Yourself: Innovative 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation MIDI control, plus a built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range and modes
- Plug & Play: No drivers required, USB powered and ultra portable design lets you create anywhere
- Beat Maker Essentials: 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC drum pads with Note Repeat & Full Level for programming drums, triggering samples and controlling virtual instrument / DAW controls
- Take Command of Your DAW: 8 fully-assignable Q-Link knobs for mixing, tweaking plug-ins and more
Looking to have fun while creating awesome music? If so you will love the Nektar Impact LX49+. It is a great example of a new breed midi controller. It features generic MIDI controls and smart capabilities.
This 49-note, velocity-sensitive keyboard controller can be set up within a matter of minutes. It's also very easy to operate. Once you plug in the MIDI cable the operating system will automatically start to install the driver. This means you will be able to get going with very little delay.
There are 4 different velocity curves you can choose from. They cater to hard and soft touches, as well as your own personal preferences. Because of these 4 different velocity curves, it doesn’t matter what your style of music is, you will still be able to achieve amazing results.
There is also an octave feature that gives you the ability to reach both higher and lower notes.
Another feature you are sure to love are the integration properties. The Nektar Impact LX49 comes pre-programmed with setups for different types of digital audio workstations. And to ensure you have complete control at all times, there are six transport buttons.
On top of all that, you will also get access to advanced mixer control options. This will give you the ability to regulate 8 channels of the DAW mixer.
The control center on this midi keyboard is very innovative. With it you will be able to create and send unique MIDI messages.
- Works with all MIDI music applications.
- Features 26 fully programmable realtime controls.
- Comes with a 49 note velocity sensitive full-size keyboard.
- Users have complained about the durability of the keyboard.
- 49 note (61 on LX61+) velocity-sensitive synth-action keyboard
- 8 hyper-sensitive backlit pads
- Mac, PC and iOS Compatible
- Software instruments automatically Mapped to controls
- Includes Bitwig 8-track DAW
When it comes to midi keyboards, the M-Audio Hammer 88 is an absolute beast. If you are seeking a realistic grand piano feel to use with your sound modules, the Hammer 88 is just what you need.
The level of realism you get with this midi keyboard is not very common. And it's the very reason so many musicians love it.
To ensure a seamless USB midi connection for playing virtual instruments, this keyboard features driverless class compliant and USB powered specifications.
The pitch bend, modulation, volume and octave controls are all conveniently located. This makes it easy for you to have expressive, one of a kind performances.
Don’t know how to play the piano? No problem! The Hammer 88 includes a free, three month subscription to Skoove. With Skoove you will have access to interactive piano lessons you can use to learn how to play. It's perfect for both beginners and advanced players.
The Hammer 88 also comes with a comprehensive performance software package that can be used on both MAC and PC.
- Features 88 fully weighted, hammer action velocity sensitive keys.
- Delivers a natural piano feel.
- Expanded control options for inputs for sustain, expression and soft pedals included.
- Includes free 3 month subscription to Skoove.
- Features dual keyboard zones for layering, splits and 4-note chords with a single key press.
- Does not come with drum pads.
- 88 fully weighted, hammer action velocity sensitive keys deliver natural piano feel, faithfully replicating every subtle nuance of your performance
- Driverless class compliant and USB powered specification provides seamless USB midi connection for playing virtual instruments, controlling recording software and more
- Conveniently located pitch bend, modulation, volume and octave controls for immersive, expressive performances
- Expanded control options for inputs for sustain, expression and soft pedals included
- Includes free 3 month subscription to Skoove; The easiest way to learn piano with interactive piano lessons for beginners and advanced players
The Alesis V25 is the perfect building block for any music producer. It is powerful, intuitive, and lets you take command of your computer's music software without giving up your capacity for dynamic performances.
The Alesis V25 comes with 25 full-size keys and 8 MPC-style drum pads. This makes it perfect for playing virtual instruments, beat production, and clip launching.
The great thing about this keyboard controller is you can adjust it to fit your personal style. You can easily edit the MIDI messages that keyboard’s controls send to your computer. You can even adjust the velocity curves of keys and pads to get the sensitivity that is just right for you.
To help you create awesome music, the Alesis V25 comes with a powerful suite of recording software. These tools, which include Pro Tools, Eleven Lite, Ableton Live Lite 9, Mini Grand, DB-33 and Xpand!2, give you the ability to create, record, and share your music all over the world.
- Comes with 25 full sized, velocity sensitive square front keys.
- Comes with premium software such as Pro Tools, Eleven Lite, and Mini Grand just to name a few.
- Users have complained about having trouble accessing the premium software suite.
- MIDI Keyboard with 25 full-sized, velocity sensitive square-front keys, perfect for playing Virtual Instruments
- 8 velocity- and pressure-sensitive backlit pads for beat production and clip launching
- 4 assignable knobs and 4 assignable buttons interface with your music software. Seamless, visual feedback via illuminated buttons and knobs
- Octave Up and Down buttons let you access the full keyboard range and Pitch and modulation wheels deliver expressive, creative control
- Premium Software Included - Includes ProTools | First Alesis Edition, Ableton Live Lite 9 and Eleven Lite, plus Mini Grand, DB-33 and Xpand!2 virtual instrument software by Air Music Tech
Best MIDI Keyboard Buying Guide
Your budget should always be the first thing you consider. Luckily, MIDI keyboards come in a wide range of prices. You can find some for as cheap $80, or as much as a few thousand. That gives you plenty of space to play around and find one that fits your budget.
Keep in mind you will get what you pay for. If you want a decent MIDI keyboard, expect to pay a decent price.
Number of Keys
How many keys do you want? The number of keys is one of the factors that will have an impact on the overall price.
The number of keys can range from one single octave, all the way up to a full piano range of 88 keys. The number of keys you need will largely depend on your piano skills. If you play fluently, or you plan on triggering instrument libraries that require a full range of keys, 88 keys might be the best option for you.
The problem with an 88 key controller is that it will take up quite a bit of space. If you are limited in space, you will want to opt for something smaller such as 61 keys, 49 keys, or even 25 keys.
While these smaller ones don’t have a full piano range of keys, you will still be able to send out the full range of MIDI notes by adjusting the octave switches.
Once you decide how many keys you will need, the next step is deciding how you want those keys to feel. Realistic and weighted hammer action keys are the closest to feeling like actual piano keys.
If you are a pianist, these are the type of keys you want. If you are not a pianist, these types of keys will actually slow you down. Some pianists prefer semi-weighted keys or controllers to help them better control speed.
This type of action is a compromise between weighted and non-weighted keys, and it will affect the overall playability of the pressure component.
Pressure component, which is also referred to as the Aftertouch, is the ability of a key, pad or other MIDI devices to send a stream of continuous control data after the key or pad is engaged.
Yes, the size of the keys matters. While Weighted action controllers tend to have full size keys like a piano, semi-weighted or non-weighted keys come in a variety of different sizes. The choice will once again depend on your skill level, your hand size, and the amount of space you have available.
With modern controllers velocity key sensitivity is the norm. Some however will have the ability to alter the sensitivity ranges and contours to suit your personal style.
Generally speaking MIDI keyboards will come with pedal input for a sustain pedal. Some will even have a second pedal input for an expression pedal. The one exception is for mini keys.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Midi Keyboard Worth It?
There is a lot of discussion around the idea of whether or not producers should use MIDI keyboards for music production. Truth is, some people like them, some people don’t.
It really boils down to personal preference. And we personally believe a MIDI keyboard is well worth it. Are they mandatory for music production? Not at all. But they can prove to be very beneficial.
The biggest benefit would be the fact they make doing the work of producing music a lot easier. They also help the creative process by helping you create beats that are more human, and not so robotic.
MIDI keyboards can also serve as a source of inspiration. Having a real keyboard to play around with is a much better option than just having your laptop or PC.
While we know inspiration can come from many sources, and can strike at any time, having a real keyboard at your disposal makes it a lot easier to sit down and just be creative.
And remember, some MIDI keyboards also have drum pads. That means you will be able to take your creativity to a whole new level.
What Size Midi Keyboard Should I Get?
The size you get will ultimately depend on the amount of space you have available. The good news is MIDI keyboards come in a variety of different sizes. You can choose from 25-keys, 37-keys, 49-keys, 61-keys and so on.
Your budget will also play a role in the size you get. The bigger the keyboard, the higher the price.
If you are not a real keyboard player, having 25 keys may be good enough for you. 25 keys will allow you to enter bass lines, drum lines, and basic chords. Most MIDI keyboards will have some sort of octave shift button so you can easily move up and down the note range.
If you are a serious keyboard player, and space is not an issue, we would recommend going with no less than 49 keys.
With that being said, please note there is no disadvantage to using a smaller keyboard. 49-keys doesn’t take up too much space, are relatively inexpensive, and are great for basic and intermediate keyboard learning.
If you want to learn more advanced piano techniques, having a larger keyboard is the best option. Just remember you will need extra space for a larger keyboard.
Can You Use a MIDI Keyboard Without a Computer?
One of the most commonly asked questions about MIDI keyboards is whether or not they can be used without a computer. The good news is yes, they can be played without a computer. So don’t worry, there is no need to invest in an additional keyboard.
It's actually very common for people to want to use their MIDI keyboard as a normal piano to practice or make music. The problem is it can sometimes be too difficult, or inconvenient, to hook everything up to a computer.
While you don’t need a computer to use a MIDI keyboard, you will need to connect it to something. On its own a MIDI keyboard cannot make any sound. You will therefore need something that can help it generate sound.
This can either be done with a computer, or with a tone generator, also known as a synthesizer. You will also need speakers so you will be able to hear the sound you are producing with the synthesizer.
If you don’t want to invest in speakers, you can just use your computer as an alternative. There are also a host of other options available to you. The key is finding the one that will work best for you.