7 Best Midi Keyboard Controllers – DO NOT BUY before reading this!

7 Best Midi Keyboard Controllers – DO NOT BUY before reading this!

A Midi keyboard is an electric keyboard styled like a piano that is typically used for sending MIDI data through a USB cable to external devices, which are connected on the same MIDI protocol. Unlike a normal piano, a MIDI keyboard cannot produce its own sound since it does not have a built-in sound engine. Instead of this MIDI information is sent to a receiving device that can create sound through 3 ways:

  • Sample playback
  • Modeling synthesis
  • An analogue hardware instrument.

The receiving sound-source device could be either of the following three:

  • A sound module.
  • A desktop with a music producing software – digital audio workstation (DAW).
  • A digital piano or stage piano, or an analogue hardware instrument with MIDI option.

What’s The Purpose Of A MIDI Keyboard?

In simple language, a MIDI is used to control one’s music program effortlessly and with ease, by simply attaching it to your computer via a USB cable. MIDIs do not have their own sound, but the sound that is produced is through programs like VSTs or digital audio workstation (DAW). The sounds are used within one’s music program, which is controlled and then produced via a MIDI keyboard.

How To Setup A Midi Keyboard With An Audio Source?

Here in we show you exactly how a midi keyboard is set up to produce sound in 2 steps:

  1. First, connect your MIDI keyboard with a 5-pin MIDI connector or a USB cable to a desktop running a DAW, or connect to a digital piano or a stage piano or even a synthesizer with MIDI capability.
  1. Second, connect a sound source to it – either speakers or headphones, to control your music program with ease.

Number of Keys in A MIDI Keyboard

MIDI keyboards come in various sizes and the number of keys in it could also vary depending on the usability.

  1. 25-Key: MIDI keyboards with 25-keys are ideally the smallest MIDI keyboards available in the market. It is lightweight and can be carried when you are on the go. However, it is capable of playing one-handed piano parts only.
  2. 49-Key: Alike the 25-Key MIDI keyboard, this too is portable and light with the sole difference being that it can play two-handed piano parts.
  3.  61-Key: This one is similar to the 49-Key MIDI keyboard.
  4.   88-Key: The 88-Key MIDI keyboard is a full key range with the same numbers of keys as that of an acoustic keyboard. However, because of its size, it is not portable and is the heaviest of all the MIDI keyboards.

7 Keys Considerations To Make Before Purchasing A MIDI Keyboard

1. MIDI controls

Almost all MIDI keyboards come with basic controls for pitch and modulation changes. It further comes with buttons for shifting octaves on the keyboard. A good MIDI keyboard also comes with a set of sample pads for faders, extra rotary pots, and transport keys. The benefit of these controls is that they save time in automating parameters in your music producing software. Further, you can mix sounds using them rather than using a mouse, with more hands-on control. This can be the additional accessory but we suggest it can be as helpful as your software.

2. Number of Keys

Aforementioned, the number of keys in your MIDI keyboard is important. Smaller MIDIs allows for portability, while bigger ones give you the same feel as that of a standard acoustic piano.

3. Outputs

Having multiple outputs is a game-changing production tool. It means that you can send MIDI signals in your music producing software (DAW) to the synth and it will automatically play the music built in your synth. That’s really helpful as it helps you to create unique sounds with ease of programming.

4. Budget

Budget is important when you are planning to get a MIDI keyboard. It is ideally suggested that you get a compact one but if you are in for one with few more MIDI controls apart from the keys, you have to increase your budget as well.

5. Drum Pads

If you’re looking for excellent beat programming, look for Drum Pads along with as well. They are designed in a way that can provide hit beats efficiently.

6. Application Controllers

Very often you might want to connect your MIDI keyboard with your tablet or phone, which could have enough apps to extend the capabilities of your MIDI controller. These apps can help you create your personalized templates with the required knobs and faders. So if you have these devices placed by your MIDI controller you could smoothly use both the devices as one.

7. Types of Keyboard Actions

It is important to see how your keys respond to playing. You can choose from three basic keyboard action types as given below:

  • Synth Action: It feels more like an electronic organ. The keys are lightweight and can be moved quickly. They are perfect for musicians who are not acquainted with playing the piano, maybe like a guitarist to customize the setup.
  • Weighted Hammer Action: Hammer action is used to replicate the feel of an acoustic piano. If you are a pianist and are more accustomed to using weighted keys, go for weighted hammer action keyboard.
  • Semiweighted Action: These are similar to weighted action keys but are slightly less resistant and with the springier release.

8 Best MIDI Keyboards

#1 Alesis Q

ALESIS QAlesis Q series are lightweight MIDI keyboards with velocity sensitive keys for expressive music. They come in options of 25, 49 and 88 keys depending on your need. It is the ideal blend of USB MIDI and traditional MIDI that is compatible with Mac and PC, as well as external MIDI hardware. They come with Pitch and Modulation wheels, along with backlit octave up and down button depending on how much you want to expand your range.  It also features volume/ data entry slider to add expressions and dynamics to your sound effortlessly and quickly. The Alesis Q series is compliant with all classes, which means you can directly start playing instantly rather than going through the effort of programming. The 8 series comes with Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition for powerful sequencing, smooth recording and performing music right out of the box.

Basic Features

  • 3 key options: 25, 49, 88
  • Pitch and Modulation wheels
  • USB bus power
  • Backlit Octave Up and Down button

Why Do We Recommend It

  • Velocity Sensitive Keys for expressive music.
  • USB MIDI and traditional MIDI for connecting to Mac, PC as well as MIDI hardware.
  • Pitch and Modulation wheels for capturing expressions of your music.
  • Backlit Octave Up and down buttons to expand sound range.
  • Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition for recording and sequencing smoothly.
  • Powered via USB, so you don’t need an external power cable.

#2 Akai Professional MPD18

AKAI PROFESSIONAL MPD18MPD18 is an entry-level pad controller from AKAI. It is compact, lightweight and consists of three pad controllers and is a great option for finger drumming. It consists of 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive MPC pads, which is exclusive to AKAI Pro. It allows you to access three different banks of sounds from the MPC pad, with a total of 48 sounds. It also has 16 configurable presets to allow you to program with various software and hardware. The MPD18 borrows Q-link controllers that are assigned to the MPC series that allows you to control almost all parameters in your software. It also sends MIDI information via its plug-and-play USB interface so that you can easily use it with your desktop or Mac, with the hassle of installing any drivers. The MPD18 can control all MIDI software and hardware such as sound modules, sequencers, drum machines and synths.

Basic Features

  • 16 velocity and pressure sensitive MPC pads.
  • 3 sound banks with 48 built-in sounds.
  • 1 Plug-and-Play USB port, compatible with Mac and Windows.
  • 16 Presets.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • It is an affordable pad controller with a durable feel.
  • It is easy to use with FL studio.
  • It is heavy duty, which makes it less likely to be breakable.
  • Plug-and-play USB connectivity removes the hassle of installing any drivers.
  • It has three different banks of sound with a total of 48 sounds.

#3 M Audio Oxygen 49

M AUDIO OXYGEN 49The Oxygen 49 is an entry-level controller keyboard, which has been designed to connect directly to a desktop and it is affordably priced. It consists of 8 pads, which are also velocity sensitive. It features 8 assignable knobs and 9 assignable sliders, along with dedicated track select buttons. There’s also a DirectLink mode that provides effortless integration to common DAW functions like track plan, mixer, and plug-in parameter. The keys are velocity sensitive and sleek with a compact design for both production and performance.

Basic Features

  • 49 full size keys with velocity sensitivity.
  • 8 velocity sensitive pads.
  • USB connectivity.
  • 8 assignable knobs and 9 sliders.
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • It provides streamline session control with 8 assignable knobs and 9 assignable sliders.
  • The DirectLink mode automatically maps its control to all common DAW parameters.
  • It has a solid and reliable build.
  • No MIDI controller in its budget has so many usage and functionality.

#4 AKAI Professional MPK Mini MKII

AKAI PROFESSIONAL MPK MINI MKIIThe AKAI MKII is a versatile keyboard and drum pad combination. Its sleek design makes it portable and easily fits in a small studio desk. It serves multiple purposes from synthesizing beats to patterns, to sounds and synths to anything you can think of. The pad of the drum pad is soft and allows the player to make unique drum patterns with the touch of a button. If you are someone who works to produce music like hip-hop, R&B, mainstream music or even studio sounds, you will definitely find this controller beneficial because of its versatility. It is compatible with iOS, Mac and Windows. It is USB powered and can smoothly power and plug with your operating system. It further comes with a 360-degree stick that allows for pitch control with modulations in side to side and up and down movements. The controller has 8 velocity sensitive soft pads, which have a soft pad and provides for easy playing option. Towards the top right corner are 8 mappable knobs that allow the user to take full control over the controller.

Basic Features

  • 25 synth-action mini keys.
  • 360-degree 4-way thumbstick for modulation control.
  • 8 mappable knobs.
  • 8 velocity sensitive soft pads.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • It is affordable in price and sleek in design.
  • The sensitive pads and smooth to use.
  • It is ideal for a beginning producer.
  • It is plug-and-play compatible with iOS, Mac and Windows.

#5 Korg Nanokey2/ Nanopad2

KORG NANOKEY2/ NANOPAD2Nanopad 2 is a sleek, lightweight and versatile controller that works smoothly with any laptop or desktop. In addition, it is packed with 16 dynamic-sensing and velocity sensitive pads. With just a single USB cable you can connect it directly to your desktop. It has an X-Y touch pad that is used to control multiple synthesizer parameters. In addition, it also lets you intuitively play phrases. You have the option to choose from 16 unique scales, along with specifying the root key and note range to ensure that your tone is in sync with the song.

Basic Features

  • 16 dynamic-sensing pads.
  • 4 velocity curves.
  • X-Y pad.
  • USB port.
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • It has 16 solid trigger pads.
  • It’s a low-profile pad controller, which is excellent for playing or entering drum data.
  • It controls multiple MIDI parameters via the X-Y touchpad.
  • It is highly affordable.

#6 Novation Launchkey

NOVATION LAUNCHKEYThe Novation Launchkey is one of the best mini-key MIDI controllers in the market at present. The keys are smaller than usual MIDI keyboards but they are pretty smooth to use and work upon. The pads are ideally sleek and responsiveness. There are 25 synth style mini-keys in it. A striking feature of this Launchkey Mini is the plug-and-play compatibility, along with 16 smooth velocity sensitive pads. There are 8 knobs that can easy to use. There is also a thumb joystick for controlling the modulation and pitch.

Basic Features

  • Lightweight and compact.
  • 25 synth-style mini keys.
  • 16 velocity sensitive pads.
  • USB powered.
  • 8 knobs.
  • Ableton Live Lite 9 software.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • It is compact and easy to use.
  • Dynamic in-control mappings
  • Compatible with iOS.
  • Highly affordable.

#7 Novation Launchpad Pro

NOVATION LAUNCHPAD PROThe Novation Launchpad Pro is a black canvas for creativity. It has got the 8×8 velocity sensitive grid with 32 RGB backlit mode buttons on the pad, that mimics the color of the clips that you set in live so that you can easily identify the clip without looking at the screen. The back side comprises of a power switch, two MIDI sockets – In and Out jacks. One side of the device consists of a Power Switch Kensington Security Slot as well as an LED status light. There are a total of 32 circular buttons that cover the grid, with specific functions for each. It is an ideal device for live performances. Although the controller is slightly heavy, it is still very much portable. There are four arrow buttons on the top of the controller, which is used for navigation during Liver interface. There are 8 mode buttons towards the left side of the Live’s edit buttons as follows: Record, Double, Duplicate, Quantise, Delete, Undo and Click on/off. It also consists of a shift button that can be used to access a couple of deeper functions.

Basic Features

  • 64 RGB backlit velocity and pressure sensitive buttons
  • 32 RGB backlit round buttons
  • Front LED strip
  • 2 MIDI sockets, Power Supply connector
  • Power Switch Kensington Security Slot.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • One of the best controller keyboards in the business that is solid, durable and portable.
  • The grid consists of 64 pads with velocity sensitive keys.
  • It has Live mode keys on the top of the device: Session, Note, Device, and User.
  • Despite rows of function buttons, the Launchpad Pro is compact and lightweight with a number of useful features.

#8 M-Audio Axiom AIR 49

M-AUDIO AXIOM AIR 49Axiom AIR 49 is a versatile and keyboard and pad controller with useful midi-friendly recording software, uniting serious power with ease of use. It provides 49 great feeling and expressive synth-action keys and aftertouch. On the left side of the device, you will get 8 light rotary dials, while the right side consists of 9 feel-good faders each consisting of their own backlit buttons. The right side also consists of 12 drum pads that are the backlit feature. The backside of the panel consists of standard MIDI In/Out connectors along with a USB connectivity port. There are 12 expressive and great-feeling trigger pads that are velocity sensitive and respond to pressure.

Basic Features

  • 49 expressive synth-action keys and aftertouch.
  • 12 velocity sensitive and pressure sensitive trigger pads.
  • 8 rotary encoder knobs.
  • 3 banks of pad and knob assignments with color-coded illumination.

Why Do We Recommend It

  • The control surface is more responsive to firm touch than the older versions and has a good feels for most keyboard parts.
  • The controller pads respond to velocity and aftertouch.
  • The selectable velocity curves match any playing style along with assignable pitch bend and mod wheels.
  • The pad is made for expressive performance with roll button aids in creating realistic drum parts.

Wrapping up

This extensive guide to finding for you the best Midi Keyboard in the market has been well researched to make sure that you find nothing but the best. Now that we have covered for you everything from features, to considerations to the best types in the market all you need to do on your part is make a choice and quickly go and buy one. Let us also know of your experience with it!

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