Best MIDI Keyboards – The Best MIDI Controllers Available (2021)



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Getting your first MIDI Keyboard is a big step for a producer.

There’s so much variety in the MIDI controller space, that it’s increasingly easy to get lost in your options. In this article you’ll find the best MIDI controllers that money can buy, for all price ranges.

Without further ado, let’s get into #1

Best Budget MIDI Keyboards

Below are all the best budget MIDI controllers.

1. Alesis V161 (Best Overall)

alesis v161 midi controller

In our opinion, there aren’t many midi controllers at this price range, that stack up to the versatile V161 keyboard controller, by Alesis.

The V161 is a 61 key controller that’s characterised by its large amount of mappable knobs and buttons. And, with over 80 mappable MIDI controls, DAW integration with this midi keyboard controller is truly incredible.

The features of the V161 include:

  • 61 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive keys
  • 16 backlit drum pads
  • 16 assignable knobs
  • 48 MIDI buttons
  • Pitch bend and modulation

One of the best Midi keyboard controllers, that packs in a ton of customizability and mapping possibilities. If you have a hands on approach to music production, the V161 is the perfect budget midi keyboard controller.

You also get 5 free melodics lessons (to learn piano or finger drumming) & bundled software – Ableton Live Lite!

Price: $199 – $250 (US)

2. Novation Launchkey 49 MIDI Controller (Best for Ableton)

novation launchkey 49 controller

If you’re an Ableton Live user, then look no further.

This bad mamma jamma has been designed to fully integrate with Ableton Live’s functionality & make it feel like a piece of hardware. It makes using Ableton as a live music production tool an absolute dream.

The Novation Launchkey 49 features:

  • 49 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive keys
  • 16 mappable, backlit pads & MIDI controls
  • Scale, chord & Arpeggiator modes
  • Pitch and modulation controls
  • Step sequencing modes
  • 5 pin MIDI output
  • USB connectivity
  • Transport controls

The Launchkey 49 also includes a wide array of free software for you to use.

Here’s the software included with the Launchkey:

  • Ableton Live Lite (10)
  • Serato Sample
  • 2 months of Splice
  • XLN Addictive Keys

If you work in Ableton, there aren’t many midi controllers as good as the Launchkey. The full DAW integration for this keyboard controller has been well thought out, and is incredibly helpful at times.

Price: $240 – $280

3. M-Audio Mini32 (Super Budget Option)

m audio keystation 32

Listen, we’ve been there, you’re just starting out as a producer and you don’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars on a keyboard.

In this category, of the absolute cheapest around, there’s pretty much only one possible keyboard that can take this spot. The M-Audio Mini32

The stand-out feature of this mini keyboard is how much it packs in to a small package. instead of a 25 key midi controller, you get 32 keys, as well as pitch and mod wheels (that aren’t wheels but work).

With the cheaper price comes a smaller key size – so if you’ve got big fingers, it might not be the best pick.

M-Audio Mini32 Features:

  • 32 Flat velocity mini keys
  • 4 Freely assignable controls – 3 buttons and 1 rotary control
  • Selectable velocity curves (touch dynamics) to adjust the button sensitivity
  • Assignable controls for pitch bend and modulation

Just because it’s super cheap, doesn’t mean it comes without it’s share of bundled software.

The M-Audio Mini32 includes Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition and AIR Music Tech Xpand! 2.

Price: $40-$50

Best Mid Range MIDI Keyboard Controllers

4. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 (Best Quality)

komplete kontrol s49 midi controller

Native Instruments is one of the dominating figures in the mid to high end range of MIDI Keyboards.

The Build quality of this pressure sensitive 49 key beauty, is out of this world. Perfect for your home studio.

The Komplete Kontrol S49 features:

  • 49 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive backlit keys with aftertouch
  • 7 assignable rotary knobs (used to control komplete select software)
  • 2 high-res colour screens for browsing & tweaking sounds
  • MIDI buttons & knobs used for controlling software
  • Pitch bend and modulation
  • Intuitive light guide
  • Transport controls
  • USB powered

With every purchase of a Komplete Kontrol S49, you get Komplete 12 Select, which includes:

  • 4 flagship synthesisers
  • Over 7000 sounds
  • 45GB of instruments & effects
  • 11 sample instruments in Kontakt
  • 4 effects plugins

Price: $400 – $500 (US)

5. Arturia Keylab Essential 61 (Most Versatile)

arturia keylab 61

Arturia make some of the best software and hardware out there, and it’s the second largest competitor in the market.

Arturia’s wide selection of products makes them the most versatile keyboard maker right now. From beautiful midi controllers, to impeccable keyboards, Arturia nails it time and time again.

The Keylab Essential 61 features:

  • 61 pro grade, velocity sensitive fatar keybed keys
  • 9 rotary control knobs
  • 9 faders
  • 8 backlit drum pads
  • Pitch bend and modulation
  • Transport controls
  • USB or DC power
  • Sustain pedal input
  • MIDI out

Price: $250 – $300

With the purchase of a Keylab you get access to Arturia’s incredible software package, Analog Lab (worth $199).

And, more impressively, the controller has been designed to integrate perfectly with each software synth – making it feel more like a hardware synth.

Analog Lab gives you access to over 7000 sounds from 17 legendary hardware synths.

6. Arturia Keystep Pro MIDI Controller (Best For Modular)

arturia keystep pro

A left field choice for this list, the Arturia Keystep Pro isn’t for everyone.

The people it is for, however, cannot get enough of the Keystep series of products.

In addition to all the usual MIDI Keyboard features, you get a multitude of connections for outboard gear and modular setups. Accompanied by a stellar sequencer, the Keystep is the key to bringing your hardware to life.

Main Features of the Keystep Pro

  • 37 Mini keys with touch response, aftertouch
  • LED above each button for visual feedback
  • 4-Track step sequencer with 16 step buttons, up to 64 steps per sequence, up to 16 notes of polyphony per step
  • 24-Part polyrythm drum sequencer
  • Arpeggiator
  • Chord mode
  • Controller mode
  • OLED display
  • 4 CV / Gate / Mod outputs: 3.5 mm mini jack
  • 8 Drum gate outputs: 3.5 mm mini jack

Price: $350-$400

Best High End Midi Keyboard Controllers

Here you’ll find the cream of the crop keyboards.

7. Komplete Kontrol S88 (The King of MIDI)

native instruments s88 keyboard

The Komplete Kontrol S88 by Native Instruments has perfect DAW integration & 88 full size keys, with aftertouch.

The S88 is one of the best midi keyboards out there & works flawlessly with Native Instruments’ line of products.

Team this up with Kontakt or Maschine & it acts as an extra arm or leg to you software. You can choose, manipulate & control patches from this beast.

Main Features of the S88

  • Fully weighted Fatar keyboard with 88-key hammer action
  • Pitch and mod wheels plus touch strip
  • Full VSTi support
  • Tag-based preset browsing: Find sounds quickly and preview them immediately
  • Two high-resolution colour displays
  • 4D push encoder
  • Light Guide: RGB lights above each key signal drum cells, key switches, chords, keys and more
  • Smart Play: Recognise keys and reversals with the Light Guide
  • Seamless integration with MASCHINE hardware/software
  • Intuitively control Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Garage Band, Cubase and Nuendo
  • Two freely assignable inputs for foot pedals

Price Range: $850-$900

The build quality, and integration between NI products, makes the S88 keyboard, the best option for serious professionals.

Also it has one extremely cool feature up its sleeve: the light guide. This will light up your keys & present notes/chords you can play within your chosen scale.

8. Nektar Panorama P6 (The Versatility Beast)

nektar panorama p6 midi controller

If you want a midi controller that’s going to take you out of the computer & allow you to be more physical with your music, then this is a fantastic choice!

The Panorama P6 is one of the best midi keyboard controllers on the market due to it’s great hardware and software integration. It’s actually pre-mapped to a tonne of very popular VSTs, so as soon as you open Serum or Massive etc, it will map accordingly.

The Nektar Panorama P6 features:

  • 61 synth action keys with aftertouch
  • 9 midi controller faders
  • 8 assignable MIDI buttons
  • 8 velocity sensitive pads with pressure control
  • Built in arp, gate & chord trigger
  • Screen to browse patches
  • Pitch bend and modulation
  • Pad repeat options
  • Button transport bar
  • Foot switch & expression pedal jacks

Price: $400-$500

9. ROLI Seaboard Rise 49 (The Gamechanger)

roli seaboard midi polyphonic expression controller

The ROLI Seaboard Rise 49 is a completely different take on a MIDI keyboard.

In a complete left-turn from all keyboard standards of practice, the Seaboard has become one of the most unique and pleasurable keyboards to play.

The expression possibilities you get with a Seaboard are as incredible as it’s price tag.

Main Features of the ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

  • 49 Keywaves keys / pads
  • Foot pedal input: 6.3 mm jack
  • USB-B port: MIDI output and power supply
  • USB-A port: For powering peripheral devices
  • Mains connection: 9 – 12 V DC
  • Integrated battery
  • New type of touch interaction (MPE)
  • Customisable sensitivity for optimal playing experience
  • Shape timbres in a surprisingly direct and intuitive way
  • Compatible with standard software and hardware synths as well as the Equator software bundle (included)

With Ableton Live 11 on the way, the MPE enabled Seaboard has the potential to become even greater than it has been up to this point.

If there ever was a time to seriously consider a ROLI Seaboard, it’s now.

ROLI Seaboard includes software licenses for Equator Synth, Strobe2, Bitwig 8-Track, Tracktion Waveform, Cypher2 Player, Max MSP 3 (3-month test license) and Seaboard Dashboard

Price: $900-$1200

Buyer’s Guide

Don’t know what to buy? Check this buyer’s guide!

How Many Keys

What number of keys should you get?

All of the best MIDI keyboards featured here come with octave shift buttons, meaning that the full range of note pitches is accessible even from a 25 key device, just by pressing a couple of buttons.

That said, if you’re a more advanced player, or want to learn how to play two-handed, it’s better to go for a four octave (49 key) or five octave (61 key) keyboard.

If space isn’t an issue, you can even opt for an 88-key, full piano-sized controller if desired.

What Connections Do I Need?

5 pin midi connector

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.

Some keyboards do come with traditional 5-pin MIDI out ports, and smaller, minijack TRS MIDI outputs are becoming more popular.

All the controllers listed here have USB MIDI connectivity, & are powered via the USB port. Some on this list can also be run off your mains.

If you’re planning to play piano on your keyboard, or even control synth lines with pedals, then pedal inputs are a must. Pedal inputs will allow you to use a sustain pedal, to control the hold of an instrument.

Some even have Footswitch pedal inputs, which allow you to control filters or parameters of synths.

Weighted Keys vs Semi-Weighted

The question of weighted vs semi-weighted keys, can tend to get very argumentative.

We’re here to be the voice of reason.

Weighted Keys or Hammer Action keys, are a much closer analogue to the feel of an acoustic piano.

Most keyboards with weighted keys, are aimed more at people who’re used to the feel of an acoustic piano.

In contrast to this, semi-weighted keys, also sometimes called synth action keys, aren’t as accurate to their acoustic counterpart.

But these are called synth action keys for a reason. Most synth players prefer Semi-Weighted keys, for blistering arpeggios and synth runs.

I guess you just have to ask yourself how much piano you want to play. If you do that, we highly recommend weighted keys.

You get much more dynamic control and a more accurate response.

Playing organs and synths on it can feel a bit weird though. But the hands are really quick to adjust to the added resistance.

Just remember you can’t get that double-trigging effect that you do on organs and some synths.

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Toms is a music producer & DJ, born and raised in Post Soviet Latvia. Currently based in Brighton, Toms has had over 6 years of experience with all things production and in that time, he's done a tonne of cool stuff! He's played multiple festivals, had experience in the field with mixing & mastering and even become a freelance journalist in the music industry. Toms currently creates music under the alias Sovereign. Producing music that's intimate and subtle, while full of edge and energy, the young producer combines the artistic sounds of Trip Hop artists like Massive Attack, with the energy and youthfulness of producers like Flume, Jamie XX and Yaeji. You can check his stuff on Soundcloud.