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Explore our budget-spanning pick of MIDI controllers for your studio setup
If you’re in any way serious about making music on a computer or iOS device, one of the best MIDI keyboards on this list should be an essential addition to your home or mobile studio setup.
These piano-style devices can be plugged directly into you PC or laptop via USB – or, in some cases, even operate wirelessly over Bluetooth – and enable you to play and record with your DAW's software instruments and any VST synth plugins you might have installed.
Prices vary depending on the features included, too; you can get a perfectly decent cheap MIDI keyboard for way less than $100/£100 if you shop around, but if you up your budget you'll get your hands on a higher quality model with more features and higher specs.
Many of the best MIDI keyboards also come with templates for the most popular DAWs – Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, etc – making it easy to get up and running and start making music super fast.
Whether you want a portable keyboard to go with your laptop or a full-size MIDI keyboard controller for your studio, there are plenty of options to choose from. To help you choose the right one, we've come up with a round-up of the best MIDI keyboards you can buy right now.
Meanwhile, if you're looking for a larger controller, we heartily recommend Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol S-Series boards, in particular the Native Instruments Kontrol S61 Mk 2. They feature excellent keybeds, fantastic styling, wonderful twin colour screens and impressive functionality – these 49, 61 and 88-key offerings are very hard to beat.
Elsewhere, you really should check out the Nektar Impakt LX88+, Novation SL49 Mk3 and the new Arturia KeyStep Pro for features, value for money and sheer innovation.
What key size do you need? For simple inputting of drum beats, simple bass and melody lines and basic chords, smaller MIDI controllers with mini keys should do the job just fine. These have the advantage of being cheaper and more portable than their larger brethren and take up a smaller footprint on your work surface. These days, mini keys can be just as responsive and easy to play as full-size versions, but if you suffer from ‘sausage finger syndrome’, you might want to stick to full-size keys.
Connectivity: what you need to know With a lot of producers now working ‘in-the-box’ on a single computer or laptop, you don’t necessarily need a MIDI output unless you have some hardware MIDI synths to connect it to, but some controllers do come with traditional 5-pin MIDI out ports, and smaller, minijack TRS MIDI outputs are becoming more popular. All controllers listed here can be powered via the USB port, and if you want to play proper piano parts, a sustain pedal input is a must.
DAW Integration Being able to control the transport of your DAW and adjust the parameters of your software instruments from your keyboard rather than your computer is always handy. Full DAW integration comes as a bonus if you’re on a budget, however, as it’s often the preserve of the more expensive end of the market.
So, let's get into our picks for the best MIDI keyboards right now. We've featured them in price order to make it easier for you to zone in on the right product for your budget. Our price comparison widgets have found the best deals online right now, too.
Professional, practical and portable playability for a paltry price
Price: $49/£44/€48 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | No of Keys: 25 | Key size: Mini | Key type: Velocity-sensitive | Controls: 6 function keys; assignable PB1 & PB2 buttons for pitch bend, transpose, volume, pan & track; assignable ‘Part Two’ button for octave, MIDI channel, transpose, layer & latch; S button for sustain & modulation | Connectivity: Micro USB port, sustain pedal input | Power: USB | Software: Bitwig 8-Track | Dimensions (mm): 335 x 100 x 21 | Weight (kg): 0.4
If you’re someone who’s always making music on the move, a pint-sized MIDI controller keyboard that’ll fit in a laptop bag is an essential item. Nektar’s SE25 demonstrates firmly that features and playability needn’t be sacrificed for the sake of size and portability.
Only outpriced in the budget MIDI controller stakes by the ever-so-slightly cheaper Akai LPK25 (which doesn’t provide any form of DAW integration), Nektar’s new pocket powerhouse represents incredible value for money.
Where else can you get Nektar DAW integration for Bitwig, Cubase, Garageband, Logic, Nuendo, Digital Performer, Mixcraft, Reason, Reaper, Sonar and Studio One for a measly 44 quid?
Ableton-friendly supermini controller gets a sizable update
Price: $110/£110/€116 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | No. of Keys: 25 | Key size: Mini | Key type: velocity-sensitive | Controls: Octave shift, Transpose, Pitch and Modulation strips, 16 velocity-sensitive backlit RGB launch pads, 8 rotary encoders, 10 function buttons | Connectivity: USB B port, 3.5mm TRS Type A MIDI out, Sustain Pedal input | Power: USB | Software: Ableton Live Lite, two months of Splice Sounds, AAS Session Bundle, Softube Time & Tone, Spitfire Audio LABS Expressive Strings, Klevgrand DAW Cassette and R0Verb, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, membership of Novation Sound Collective | Dimensions (mm): 330 x 172 x 40 | Weight (kg): 0.69
Developed primarily for Ableton users and newly updated, this pocket powerhouse is just brimming with features, many of which were missing from the previous version, including - finally - pitch bend and modulation touchstrips, a hardware MIDI out on a TRS jack, an incredibly flexible and versatile arpeggiator, a chord memory feature, and a great, deal-sweetening software bundle.
Of course, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 isn’t exclusive to Ableton, as it plays perfectly nicely with other DAWs too, but if you’re a Live user, it undoubtedly represents the best solution at this price point.
Still one of the best MIDI keyboards on a budget
Price: $119/£73/€79 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | No. of Keys: 25 | Key size: Mini | Key type: velocity-sensitive | Controls: 4-Way pitch bend / modulation joystick, 8 MPC pads with note repeat, 8 assignable rotary encoders | Connectivity: USB Port, Sustain pedal input | Power: USB | Software: Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, SONiVOX Wobble and Akai Pro MPC Essentials | Dimensions (mm): 317 x 181 x 44 | Weight (kg): 0.75
As far as MIDI keyboards go, the Akai MPK Mini Mk2 is an oldie but goodie, still hanging in there at the top of the sales charts after five years, and for good reason. Akai have pitched the MPK Mini Mk2 perfectly between breadth of features, portability, build quality and affordability.
Standout features include the 4-way joystick for pitch bend and modulation, the built-in arpeggiator and note repeat functions, generous provision of knobs and fantastic-feeling MPC-style pads.
Equally at home as a small, lightweight MIDI controller to slip into your laptop bag when on the move, or for controlling software instruments and plugins in a studio setting, the MPK Mini MK2 wraps everything up in an affordable, practical package.
One of the best MIDI keyboards that's also a powerful step sequencer
Launch price: $129/£99/€119 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 32 | Key size: Mini | Key type: Velocity-sensitive, aftertouch | Controls: Capacitive-touch pitchbend and mod wheels, sequencer and arpeggiator controls | Connectivity: USB, MIDI In/Out ports, CV/Gate outputs, Sync I/O ports, sustain pedal jack | Power: USB or mains | Size: 48.2 x 15.2 x 3.8cm | Weight: 1.45kg
This simple-looking, 32-note mini keyboard might look a little underwhelming at first glance. However, the KeyStep packs in a surprising amount of functionality and an impressive number of well-designed features. There's a USB connection, for hooking the controller up to a computer, MIDI In and Out ports and CV Pitch, Gate and Mod outputs.
There are also mini-jack Sync In/Out ports, which will work with pulse clock devices, such as Korg's Volca range, or can send and receive DIN Sync messages via a (separately purchased) adaptor. Alongside its standard MIDI keyboard functions, the KeyStep also features a built-in polyphonic sequencer, arpeggiator and chord mode.
The sequencer has an eight-pattern memory, which comes pre-loaded with patterns but can be overwritten by user input. With this much functionality packed into a portable and convenient controller keyboard, at this price the KeyStep is easy to recommend.Get into your mix with the best headphones for music making
The best MIDI keyboard you can buy for compact music creation
Launch price: $139/£99/€119 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 32 | Key size: Mini | Key type: Velocity-sensitive | Controls: Eight touch-sensitive control knobs, two touch strips, four-directional push encoder | Connectivity: USB | Power: USB | Size: 47.5 x 16.7 x 0.5cm | Weight: 1.45kg
Delivering almost the exact same functionality as the Komplete Kontrol A-Series (see below), this eminently mobile USB 2.0 bus-powered keyboard manages to squeeze 32 mini keys and the full complement of Komplete Kontrol... controls into its tiny frame.
The pitch and mod wheels have been replaced with a pair of short touchstrips, but the eight capacitive knobs, 4D encoder and numerous buttons are uncompromised in their size and feel, giving the full experience when it comes to browsing and manipulating plugins, operating Maschine, and getting hands-on with the transport and mixer of your DAW.
The surprisingly informative OLED display from the A-Series is also in place, as is the Smart Play feature, enabling scale snapping, chord triggering and arpeggiation. And, of course, it also works as a regular configurable MIDI controller keyboard with any other software. Mini keys are the only potential downside, but if you can live with those, this is the best portable and affordable MIDI keyboard you can buy.
A compact MIDI keyboard that works wirelessly
Launch price: $139/£86/€99 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 25 | Key size: Mini | Key type: Velocity-sensitive | Controls: Joystick, Arpeggiator button, Sustain/TAP button, Octave Shift buttons | Connectivity: USB, Bluetooth | Power: USB or batteries | Size: 39.5 x 13.1 x 0.52cm | Weight: 0.67kg
The microKey 2 Air range includes 25-, 37-, 49- and 61-note models, all of which have the advantage of working wirelessly over Bluetooth. If you want to use this feature you'll have to install a couple of AA batteries, but these last for a good length of time and good old USB bus-powering is also an option.
The Komplete Kontrol experience at a great price
Launch price: $169/£119/€149 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 25 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: semi-weighted | Controls: Pitch and Modulation wheels, transport buttons, 4-directional push encoder, eight touch-sensitive knobs | Connectivity: USB | Power: USB | Size: 48.8 x 25.7 x 8.9cm | Weight: 2.4kg
Available in 25-, 49- and 61-key versions (we received the A25 for review), the A-Series borrows many of the S-Series’ best features (see above), including the 4D Encoder (a joystick/rotary control/button combo) for software navigation; eight touch-sensitive knobs for plugin parameter control; beefy pitch and mod wheels; and most of the same backlit buttons, albeit laid out slightly differently.
There are, however, two major cuts: the dual colour LED screens (or alphanumeric LEDs on the S25, which still languishes at Mk1), and the unique per-key Light Guide LEDs. Even with those things taken away, though, and the reduced level of Maschine integration, we’re still very much blown away by the value proposition presented by the A25 and the A-Series keyboards in general.
Incredibly well-built and wonderfully playable, they deliver up the Komplete Kontrol experience at a truly irresistible price.
A great MIDI keyboard controller and audio interfaces in one
Launch price: $299/€360 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 49 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: velocity-sensitive, synth-action | Controls: 2 slider strips for pitch and modulation, octave, program change and transport controls, 5 programmable touch-sensitive knobs, 8 velocity-sensitive pads | Connectivity: USB, Neutrik combo line/instrument/mic input jack with 48V phantom power, balanced stereo and headphone outputs | Power: USB or batteries | Size: 69.3 x 20.8 x 6.5cm | Weight: 2.18kg
The iRig Keys I/O combines a MIDI controller keyboard and audio interface into a single unit, and is designed to be as compact as possible without compromising on playability. It also comes with a seriously impressive line-up of bundled software.
The unweighted keys are light and responsive, with satisfying travel and minimal lateral movement. The onboard audio interface operates at up to 24-bit/96kHz, and sounds good doing it.
The iRig Keys I/O 49 is small enough to find a space on even the most hectic of studio desks, equipped to handle basic recording duties and general purpose MIDI control on stage and in the studio, and pretty good value. What's more, it comes with a knockout software bundle.
A piano-sized controller at a great price
Launch price: $319/£249/€289 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 88 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: Velocity-sensitive, semi-weighted | Controls: 8 potentiometers, 9 faders, 9 assignable buttons, 6 transport buttons, 8 velocity-sensitive pads | Connectivity: USB, MIDI Out port, 1/4-inch TS jack footswitch input | Power: USB or mains | Size: 127.6 x 27.9 x 8.9cm | Weight: 8.2kg
Today’s buyers of keyboard controllers are spoilt for choice, but if you’re looking for a full piano-size 88-note MIDI controller, said choices are more limited. One great option is Nektar’s Impact LX88+, which combines an 88-key semi-weighted USB-powered keyboard with extensive DAW control via nine sliders, nine buttons, eight knobs, eight pads and transport controls.
Despite the number of features, the LX88+ is reasonably compact and light enough to be portable. What’s more, the keys feel good and the mechanical noise is quite low. The LX88+ won’t suit everyone, and some 88-key users will be after a full weighted hammer-action, but at this price it’s a bargain and well worth testing.
A different kind of MIDI controller keyboard
Launch price: $349/£279/€329 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 24 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: Keywave | Controls: None | Connectivity: USB-C (MIDI out), Bluetooth | Power: USB | Size: 28.2 x 14.1 x 2.4cm | Weight: 0.65kg
It might share a note layout with other controller keyboards, but ROLI’s Seaboard Block is a different animal altogether. Like the more expensive Seaboards, it's a pressure-sensitive, continuous surface that responds to even subtle gestures.
Using its 24 'keywaves', you can shape notes as you play, adjusting the character of the sound with your finger movements. As a wireless, portable, multitouch controller for gigging, travelling, or in the studio, Seaboard Block is a godsend, and retains the upmarket feel of its bigger siblings in a more affordable form-factor.
Couple this with its expandability, via other products in the Blocks range, and you've got a performance tool that turns heads and offers high quality throughout. Inspiring, innovative and addictive!
A great all-rounder that fulfils your sequencing and I/O needs
Price: $399/£369/€399 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | No. of keys: 37 | Key size: Slim | Key type: Velocity and aftertouch sensitive | Controls: Four-track controller/sequencer, with arp and drum sequencing modes. I, 4x CV voices w/ pitch, gate and mod/velocity outs, clock in/out/reset | Connectivity: USB, sustain in, speaker and line output | Power: USB or mains | Dimensions: 589 x 208 x 38mm | Weight (kg): 2.7
Now the KeyStep Pro arrives to fill one of the few remaining gaps in that line-up; combining the cross-format analogue and digital sequencing of the BeatStep with a 37-note keyboard making it better suited to melodic work.
The KeyStep Pro features four sequencing channels, each of which can record a sequence of up to 64 steps. Each of these is polyphonic, up to 16 notes per step. Tracks 2, 3 and 4 are each equipped with an arpeggiator, while track 1 doubles up as a 24-part drum sequencer.
For melodic sequencing duties and flexible hardware control, this is easily one of the best do-it-all controllers out there right now. Its compact size may deter serious ‘players’ – Novation’s SL Mk3 remains the best CV-equipped device on that front – but modular and hardware-loving musicians will likely lap this one up.
A premium keyboard that works with your PC and beyond
Launch price: $449/£439/€469 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 49 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: Velocity-sensitive with aftertouch | Controls: 16 RGB-backlit performance pads, control bank with 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs | Connectivity: Expression, sustain, CV/Gate, MIDI, USB and 3 assignable auxiliary pedal inputs | Power: USB mains with optional adapter | Size: 79.3 x 29.7 x 5.3cm | Weight: N/A
KeyLab is Arturia’s flagship controller keyboard, and the MkII comes in 49- and 61-key versions in black and white. The MkII’s keyboard and pads are bolstered by DAW controls and deep integration with Arturia’s bundled Analog Lab 3 software. Although similar in layout to the KeyLab Essential, the MkII is a very different unit, with a higher pricetag and more upmarket feel.
The aluminium case feels robust and the Pro-Feel keybed is fantastic, delivering excellent sensitivity across the full range of velocities. The metal pitch and mod wheels are light and responsive. KeyLab MkII is operationally intuitive, with three distinct modes: DAW, Analog Lab and User (there are ten user configurable presets) - selected via dedicated mode buttons in the centre.
The KeyLab MkII not only delivers fine playability, but also tackles DAW control and synth editing with aplomb. Throw in CV connection capabilities and standalone operation and the price seems justified.
One of the best MIDI keyboards for combined software/hardware control
Launch price: $599/£540/€616 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 49 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: semi-weighted, synth-style, velocity-sensitive | Controls: Pitch and Modulation wheels, 16-full colour RGB backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads, page and scene launch buttons, 8 continuous rotary knobs, 8 sliders, 6 transport controls, octave/transpose buttons, track buttons, 5 RGB TFT screens | Connectivity: USB, MIDI Out/Out2/Thru, Sustain and Expression pedal, Footswitch pedal, CV/Gate/Modulation 1 and 2, Clock out | Power: Mains power | Size: 81.7 x 30 x 10cm | Weight: N/A
Sure, you can plug the SL MkIII into a computer and use it to control your DAW, but with an eight-channel onboard sequencer and multiple forms of digital and analogue output, this latest SL really can do much more besides. Novation has done an excellent job in making setup as hassle free as possible, but given how adaptable the SL MkIII is, you’ll still need to spend some time configuring it to best adapt it to your own setup.
It doesn’t quite match the plug-and-play immediacy of NI's Komplete Kontrol system, but offers much more flexibility for interfacing hardware and software. The ability to sequence and control analogue hardware, MIDI-equipped instruments, plugins and your DAW all from one interface and clock source is excellent, and if you dig into the SL MkIII’s versatile workflow, and you’ll find that there’s a deep well of creative possibilities just waiting to be explored.
A smart MIDI controller for your plugins and DAW
Launch price: $699/£559/€569 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 61 | Key size: Full-size | Key type: velocity-sensitive with aftertouch | Controls: Pitch and Modulation wheels, touch strip, two high-res colour screens, Light Guide, 4-directional push encoder | Connectivity: USB | Power: USB | Size: 100 x 29.7 x 8.4cm | Weight: 6.55kg
The Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII is a smart MIDI keyboard controller that offers pre-mapped control of NI's Komplete instruments and any third-party plugins that support the NKS standard. In comparison to its predecessor, the the Komplete Kontrol MkII also adds two high-resolution colour screens, along with 17 additional function buttons. There’s tighter DAW and Maschine integration, too, making it possible to mix, navigate and edit projects from the hardware.
As before, there’s a Fatar keybed and Light Guide, and we welcome the arrival of proper pitch and mod wheels rather than touchstrips. That said, a single horizontal touchstrip is supplied and can be used for additional expression. If you liked the idea of Komplete Kontrol the first time around, the good news is that there’s even more to like about it now.
You can do so much more from the device itself, with better visual feedback and much deeper levels of integration front and centre of its workflow. If you’re already wedded to the Komplete software package, nothing will help you work with it as musically as Komplete Kontrol MkII.