When it comes to setting up a home studio, one of the most important music tech equipment that you need to get is a MIDI keyboard controller.
A MIDI keyboard, also known as the controller keyboard, is a piano-style musical instrument that comes with several other buttons aside from the keyboard. This musical instrument is a huge help when it comes to music production.
There are different models of MIDI keyboard controllers out there and it’s important that you choose the a good MIDI keyboard. It should be suitable for your needs and take the DAW software to a whole new level.
Here are the best MIDI Keyboards and Controllers in 2020:
The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is ultra-portable. It features a 25 keys keyboard and comes with a keyboard controller and drum pads and is way better than Arturia KeyLab. This model is basically an updated version of the original model of the Akai MPK Mini.
It’s well-loved by MIDI controller keyboard users, and although there were some minor issues reported, most of them have been resolved now.
The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is one the most popular MIDI keyboards and that’s thanks to its wealth of great features.
In order for Akai to come up with a keyboard as small as this, they had to sacrifice the heftiness and the size of the keys. If you are just getting started with producing music, using those small spring-loaded keys shouldn’t be an issue. Pitch and mod wheels are smooth and responsive.
Aside from having 8 assignable knobs and Analog Lab integration, the other great features that this midi controller keyboard comes with are the buttons for octave up and down, sustain pedal input, as well as a built-in arpeggiator. You get a nice software bundle which includes Sonivox, Wobble, Air Music Tech and MPC Essentials. Furthermore, this Akai keyboard is compatible with several DAWs, such as Ableton Live Lite / Standard / Intro, FL Studio, etc.
The Launchkey Mini Mk3 is another portable keyboard controller that comes with great features. This is the best model to run your tablet or laptop.
Since it fits well into a laptop bag, you should be able to bring it with ease wherever you may go. This model looks really great and plays extremely well despite having slimline keys that have only two octaves.
This keyboard controller will come alive if paired with the Ableton Live. What’s more, the drum pads match well with the configuration and color of the Live Session View and you get automatic mapping over the parameters, devices, and clips.
This MIDI keyboard is totally seamless and will allow you to continuously create music tech instead of merely staring at the computer screen. It lets you add tracks, set it to mute or recording, and control your session. It has touch strips for pitch and mod controls.
This is a truly fun and creative keyboard that can do more than just work as a live lite controller, which is why it’s one of the good MIDI controllers keyboard out there. Furthermore, it comes with the MIDI keyboards output that allows you to control the hardware, and that’s somewhat unusual for this model of a controller.
Launchkey Mini MK3 doesn't have faders however Launchkey 49 and 61 keys has 9 faders. Novation Bass station software is also included in all Launchkey controllers which will be an awesome feature for electronic music production. Note that the Launchkey Mini Mk3 is not only exclusive to Ableton or Analog Lab. It plays nicely when used with other DAWs as well. However, for Ableton Live Lite users, this MIDI keyboard controller model is certainly the best choice given its price range.
The AKAI Professional MPD218 is an updated version of the MPD 18 although it seems to be very similar to its predecessor.
It has everything that the other model has – solid, thick, velocity-sensitive keys, and backlit, not to mention pressure-sensitive.
Furthermore, the device features a modern finish and a slim housing ad comes with knobs that are reasonably small.
But the best thing about this new model is that it now comes with 6 endless encoders and 16 preset slots, so it’s not surprising to see that it’s considered one of the best MIDI keyboards in the market now.
It has touch sensors for pitch and mod. Each present has 3 banks to accommodate all 16 pads and is separated from the pad banks. Furthermore, each preset has 3 banks to accommodate all 6 knobs. Therefore, you should be able to store 3 pad layouts and 3 encoder settings for every preset.
This is a micro-size keyboard control that comes with 32 compact keys although these keys must not be mistaken for “mini keys.”
The keys are smaller compared to the regular keyboard although they feature a smooth synth-action that feels really great on your fingers.
Furthermore, this MIDI keyboard has buttons for octave up and down as well as 2 touch strips that offer pitch bend and modulation or anything that you need them to map to.
But perhaps the most impressive feature that this keyboard has is its software. The software of Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol is the backbone of all the controller keyboards. It supports the NKS standard and can be used for any software plug-ins. Unlike other brands which uses pitch and modulation wheels, this model uses touch strips.
This model also comes with transport controls that can work for DAW and comes with some special integration of the Machine groove sequencer of Native Virtual Instruments. The keyboard comes with a built-in Smart Play feature that comes with varying scale, as well as instant chords and tunings, so you won’t end up playing a wrong note.
Native instruments also provided a variant with 88 key. You can opt for it if you need to upgrade.
Indeed, the Native Instrument Komplete Kontrol M32 tops the list of the best MIDI controller in the market.
The Nektar IMPACT LX25+ Midi Controller is a new model and a scaled-down version of the Nektar Panorama. It also has a much lower price than its predecessor.
Yet, it provides a similar integration to DAW as that of the Panorama, except for the full-color TFT display which was removed in order to give it a more affordable price range.
Even though this model is a 25 keys controller, it’s not entirely compact. The keyboard is 18 inches in length and has a height of 10 inches.
The Impact LX25 doesn’t come with semi-weighted keys. Instead, the keys are synth-action and have a medium tension and that means that it’s a little soft and doesn’t offer the “bounce back” feel that the regular piano gives. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the semi-weighted keys will only be useful for keyboardists.
But the good thing is that Nektar has added seven different velocity curves, with which you can choose from. For those who are not familiar, the velocity curve is what determines how hard the key has to be pressed depending on the pressure that you will choose to apply. It will then send this MIDI data towards your DAW.
Almost every control on the Korg nanoKONTROL 2 is configurable using the Korg Editor software, which is why it’s the perfect MIDI keyboard for faders 'n' buttons MIDI controller and general-purpose knobs. Just like with the other devices that they produce, this model is lightweight, yet it feels solid.
However, unlike the other models, the nanoKONTROL 2 can also work as Mackie Control, which gives you full control over the DAW's mixer and transport channels and with minimal setup involved.
For this model, you will get a switching for solo, mute, or record mode. Furthermore, this MIDI keyboard controller comes equipped with dedicated record buttons, which is something new for this model. However, it doesn’t have the option to create 4 separate scenes in MIDI mode and the MMC has also been removed. Therefore, you cannot come up with a setup that will easily combine the DAW transport controls operation to the MIDI control of synths.
The Akai Professional LPK25 deserves to be in this list of the best midi keyboard controllers because it comes with great features.
Aside from the warranty coverage, this midi keyboard also comes with a CD for editing software, USB powered cable, as well as LPK 25.
The software is saved in a mini compact disk since the normal size just wouldn’t fit into the box.
This portable midi keyboard is small in size, measuring less than 13 inches. Furthermore, the keys are wide and comfortable enough. Its sensitivity is just right. The midi keyboard’s aggregator is a good thing to have in this model because of its small size. You just have to tap the Tap Tempo button to set the clock to internal. It’s also possible to set it to external so you’re able to get the tempo of the DAW that you’re using.
The Novation Launchpad Pro is highly recommended when it comes to MIDI controllers. This is an upgraded version of the previous model, but it retains the compact and straightforward form of its predecessor.
Just like with the original model, the Launchpad Pro is focused within the grid of 64 backlit square buttons and is surrounded by 32 backlit circulars 'mode'.
The number of mode buttons has also increased, which is responsible for navigating around the deeper functionality of the Pro.
As for the standard model, the 8 buttons on the right side can be used for launching scenes through the Lives’ Session view.
At the top, there are 4 arrow buttons and these are used for navigating around the live interface. There’s also a user and session view selectors, which allow users to play the musical instruments while tweaking the devices at the same time.
The controls of this midi keyboard controller are a little rigid at first. The pitch-bend and modulation wheels are quite responsive. However, the velocity-sensitive pads, as well as after-touch settings, can be easily tweaked when needed. With regular practice, the Launchpad will eventually feel like an inspiring and interesting alternative to the way you play your virtual instruments.
It’s hard to decide whether the ROLI Seaboard should be considered as one the best MIDI controllers because it doesn’t seem like a usual keyboard.
It seems to be more like a control surface. This model is available in the 49-note version and the smaller 25-note model.
Even though the keys are laid out in the same way as the conventional keyboard, they are made of soft silicone so it’s far from the usual plastic keys that most users are used to.
The keys of the ROLI Seaboard Rise come in 5 different levels of touch response. So, for instance, you are able to glide in between notes and slide your finger up and down the keys in order to control the note parameters. It also allows you to shape a sound depending on the amount of pressure that’s applied or how fast you are able to lift the key off. We've to admit this is the most unique MIDI keyboard in 2020.
The Push 2 is an upgrade of the original Push model that required the use of Ableton 9.5 and higher.
It works so great and it’s highly recommended if you’re looking for a quality MIDI keyboard. The instrument is plugged in via USB powered port and comes with its own power supply.
At the center of the device, there’s the 8x8 grid of the velocity-sensitive multicolored pads that work well for triggering drugs and playing melodies.
All these and many more added features are in this Push 2, which is why it’s truly one of the best midi keyboard controllers out there.
One of the biggest updates that users love about this model is that it has a much bigger LCD display that’s full-color. Thus, the text now looks sharper and is capable of displaying different kinds of graphics. Furthermore, it can now accurately display the waveform of samples, which allows users to manipulate it within the device instead of doing it on the computer screen. You can use this for music production, live performances, etc.
Among the other notable features that come in this midi keyboard controller is the Mix button and the Fixed Length Button. It also features the new layout from the old controls. All of these are more intuitive and are much easier to understand and to make music.
When looking for MIDI controllers to buy, there are certain questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to make a purchase. It’s important that you do your research well so you can figure out what works best for you.
To help you with this, here are the five important things to consider when buying a MIDI keyboard.
Number of Keys
The MIDI keyboards featured here have octave shift buttons. This means that the full-range note pitches can be accessed even with 25 keys device by simply pressing a few buttons.
Thus, if you’re a more advanced user, or perhaps, you want to learn how you could play 2-handed, it is best to choose a 4-octave or 5-octave keyboard. If you got no issue with space, you can also choose the 88 key MIDI controller if you want to.
The budget is the most important question to ask when buying a midi controller keyboard. There are several different models of MIDI keyboards out there that come with varying prices.
Usually, the higher the model’s key count, the more expensive it will turn out. Some models also come with added software and this can further increase its price tag, so this is something you need to think about.
It would be great to choose the MIDI keyboard that will allow you to easily transports control your DAW as well as adjust the software instrument’s parameters using your keyboard instead of having to do it on the computer.
However, getting something with Full DAW integration would be a bonus if you have a low budget since this feature is usually found in the more expensive models.
There are three different key actions in midi keyboards and all have different purposes. Here they are:
1. Synth Action
The synth action is the most common of all. It’s usually made of plastic. The keys don’t have any weight attached to them but once you release or press a key, it’ll go back to its original position because of the presence of the spring.
2. Semi Weighted Keys
As the name goes, the semi-weighted key action of MIDI keyboards relies on a light weight that’s attached at the end of each key.
But unlike the synth action, the keys aren’t made of plastic. Furthermore, they are not as quick as the synth action, however, they will provide you with a more realistic feel that’s somewhat similar to that of a piano.
3. Fully Weighted Keys
As for the fully weighted key action keyboard, it’s the closest thing you can get of a traditional piano. Most musicians will prefer fully weighted keys because the keys feel close to a acoustic piano.
Furthermore, the fully weighted keyboard isn’t that common in MIDI keyboards although some of the more expensive models are equipped with this.
Now that most of the electronic music producers are working “within the box” instead of using a computer or laptop, there’s no longer a need to have a MIDI output, except if you need to connect it to some hardware MIDI synths. However, a quality midi controller comes with the standard 5-pin MIDI out ports and some of them have smaller minijack.
All of the MIDI keyboards featured here can be are USB powered. It's important that you choose a USB MIDI controller. And if you need to play a proper piano, then you need to use sustain pedal input.
When it comes to buying the best midi keyboard controllers, you need to choose something that comes with great features because MIDI keyboards are one of the most crucial equipment in music production. This is why we highly recommend the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII USB MIDI controller. It comes with many great features, such as the velocity-sensitive key.
This model also comes with an octave up and down button, sustain pedal input, and a built-in arpeggiator. Above all, it’s compatible with several major DAWs.
So, if you’re looking to invest in a MIDI keyboard, getting the Akai MPK Mini MKII will be well worth it!
I'm the lead researcher and content manager at PianoNadu. I test various different digital pianos and share our unbiased reviews here. We test them on various different aspects and make sure it passes our quality criteria. During my college years, I was a part of my college band known as DMT. I was the Pianist in our band. My love for playing the piano grew during middle school. Read more about me here