Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers | The Ultimate Guide
Akai MPK Mini MKII USB MIDI Controller Keyboard
The Akai MPK Mini MKII MIDI keyboard controller is a highly versatile unit that allows you to compose, perform, and record with virtual instruments while using plenty of native or third-party effects plugins instantly in any DA. It has been a best-seller since its release due to its low price, great performance and portability.
It features 25 velocity-sensitive keys, 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style drum pads, 8 assignable rotary knobs, a 4-way thumbstick for pitch and modulation controls, a built-in arpeggiator and octave select buttons. Bundled with it are Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 virtual synth by AIR Music Tech, SONiVOX’s Wobble, MPC Essentials, and the MPK Mini MIDI Editor software. The Akai MPK Mini MKII is compatible with Mac and Windows and is USB powered requiring no adaptor.
Novation Launchkey USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
If you’re looking to tweak an entire performance on the fly with no need to reach for a mouse then you’ll want to take a good look at the Novation Launchkey series of MIDI keyboard controllers. Available with 25, 49, or 61 note keyboards, the Launchkey are hands on, fully integrated controllers that have all of your essential parameters at your fingertips.
Electronic musicians will especially love the Launchkey as they are designed to integrate (though not exclusively) with Ableton Live. The keys are velocity-sensitive for a natural human performance. There are 16 RGB blacklit velocity sensitive drum pads, 8 rotary knobs, 9 mix sliders, pitch bend and modulation wheels, and octave select buttons. Bundled along with the Launchkey are Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station and V-Station virtual instruments and 4 GB of Loopmasters samples.
Arturia Minilab MIDI Controller Keyboard
The Arturia Minlab is loaded with features and includes a massive collection of sounds with the bundled Analog Lab software. Its 25 keys are velocity-sensitive and can be manipulated with pitch and modulation strip controls. There are 16 assignable rotary knobs with independent MIDI channel assignments and 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads that give you full control of your DAW and plugin parameters from the controller itself.
The Arturia Minlab is bus powered to keep your workspace tidy and class compliant meaning it will continue to work with any updates made to your DAW without fuss. It is fully compatible with Mac and Windows so no matter what your set up, the Minilab will fit seamlessly into your workflow.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV MIDI Keyboard Controller
Users love the M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV for its intuitive and fluid control over all recording and mixing parameters of any and all DAWs. The Oxygen series come on 25, 49, and 61 key models, each offering plenty of mapping controls that are fully customizable to make any live or studio performance a breeze. All keys and pads are velocity-sensitive, the 8 knobs are assignable for tailoring instrument and plugin parameters, and the 9 mix faders are assignable for mix level settings.
Like the others the M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV have pitch and modulation wheels and octave settings to play outside of any particular octave range. It is USB-powered and class-complaint making it adaptable to your DAW upgrades over time. Insert a sustain pedal for further true piano controls and go deep into the bundled Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist, and AIR Xpand!2.
Novation Impulse MIDI Controller Keyboard
Top in its class is the Novation Impulse series of MIDI keyboard controllers. Offering supreme expression, the Impulse come in 25, 49, or 61 semi-weighted key models with assignable aftertouch that map seamlessly to any DAW. They are praised for feeling more like an acoustic instrument than an computer accessory, capturing every nuance of a performance.
The Novation Impulse work as a stand alone unit when used with Novations Automap 4 software which enables hands-on access to your DAW and plugins from the unit itself. They feature 9 sliders (49 & 61 note) 1 slider (25 note), 8 rotary knobs, 8 multi-colour backlit velocity-sensitive pads, 6 dedicated transport controls, 2 octave setting buttons, pitch bend and modulation wheels and an arpeggiator with tap tempo and roll. These MIDI keyboard controllers are highly versatile and feel great to handle. There are USB, MIDI, and 1/4” connections and they ship with Ableton Live Lite 9, Novation Bass Station, Loopmasters sample library, and Mike The Drummer.
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M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 USB MIDI Keyboard
The M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 is an excellent choice for composers working with virtual instruments who need a full range of octaves and highly expressive response from the keyboard. It’s got 88 full-size velocity-sensitive semi-weighted keys and standard pitch and modulation wheels, a volume slider and easy access octave buttons to change ranges quickly.
From the keyboard you have access to MIDI channel assignment and transposition with the advanced button. It is powered by USB and is fully compatible with any PC or Mac operation systems and will also connect to any iOS device via Apples Camera Connection Kit. The rear of the M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 features inputs for a sustain and volume pedal, a USB connection, MIDI connection, and AC adaptor for additional power to reduce CPU demand from your computer. It comes bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Xpand!2, and SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble.
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Alesis V49 MIDI Keyboard Controller
The Alesis V series of MIDI keyboard controllers offers models in 25, 49, and 61 full-sized keys that are very straightforward and intuitive. Here we’re looking at the V49 in particular, which connects via USB to any Mac or PC for immediate plug-and-play functionality. It features 8 velocity and pressure-sensitive backlit drum pads for beat production and clip launching that feel high quality and durable. 4 assignable rotary knobs and 4 assignable buttons allow you to manipulate parameters of any DAW, virtual instrument or plugin all from the unit itself without having to reach for your computer. The V49 has Octave select buttons, pitch and modulation wheels for expressive control and includes Ableton Live Lite and Xpand!2.
Korg Triton Taktile
Available in both 25 and 49 key models, the KORG TRITON taktile series offers professionalism and an authentic-feeling semi-weighted keyboard. The taktile is rich in features and come loaded with plenty of incredible stock sounds from KORG’s TRITON library. This means it can also be used as a stand alone keyboard powered by an AC adaptor with no need at all for a computer.
Great for studio or live performance, the taktile let’s you program beats with its 8 velocity-sensitive pads, arpeggiate to your hearts content with 6 types and 50 different rhythm patterns, and fine-tune your sounds with 8 switches, 8 sliders and pitch and modulation wheels. The triton offer a lot of diversity and is an outstanding all-in-one production multitool that feels close to handling a real vintage synthesizer or piano.