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Best Midi Keyboards Reviewed
If you write and record your own music, then you are among the growing number of home studio enthusiasts using the abundance of technology to make music your own way.
In days of old, home studios weren’t at all realistic unless you could invest thousands of dollars into music instruments. Though that total dependence on instruments has not faded completely, the advent of virtual instruments, or VSTs, has changed that landscape significantly.
With such a huge variety of virtual instruments available, using them all requires a versatile tool: a midi keyboard.
Finding the best midi keyboard is going to mean considering what you expect to use your midi keyboard for.
There are small midi controllers that are amazingly mobile, responsive, and helpful in the creative process. On the other hand, there are large full-size 88 key midi keyboards that are widely versatile, sensitive, and programmable; a total solution for your VST control needs.
We are huge fans of home studio and mobile studio devotees here at Solo Music Lab, and we also know the importance of establishing a strong midi setup.
When you get ready to lay down tracks with that fat analog synth or rumbling bass line, getting it done with the right tool can make all the difference. That’s why we reviewed 5 of the top midi controller keyboards on today’s market.
Getting the most out of your DAW, and considering some of the details like Mac vs PC compatibility are vital parts of the puzzle. We cover those details along with many others in our midi controller reviews.
If you’re chomping at the bit, quick answers to your questions can also be found in the comparison chart below.
For everyone else – let’s dive into the details!
Top Midi Keyboard Comparison Chart
Best Midi Keyboards For 2020
1. Nektar IMPACT LX88+ Midi Keyboard
The LX88+ midi piano from Nektar Impact is a full-size, velocity-sensitive unit that boasts eight potentiometers, nine faders, nine assignable buttons, six transport buttons, and eight velocity-sensitive pads. When supported by its 88 keys, the device is one that provides fantastic music-making possibilities, although beginners can still enjoy using this product from the moment they plug it in too.
Its pre-mapped level, pan, mute and solo mixer settings are combined with a vast selection of virtual instrument parameters, allowing for you to create an extensive range of sounds using the full 88 keys and modifications. The impressive three-layer zone feature opens the door to a host of expressive opportunities while the LED signals make it far easier to track what you’re doing.
Nektar Impact’s software is easy to understand, albeit difficult to master, while the midi keyboard can also be linked up to other popular music creation software on both Mac and Windows computers. The play, stop, record, rewind and forward transport control buttons are conveniently placed above the keys for added simplicity during recording sessions.
The pads and mixer control can be ignored by novices but open the door to a wealth of opportunities for users that want to use their DAW’s full potential. Sliders, pitch wheels, and all other knobs and dials feel naturally comfortable to touch while the keys are well spaced and suitably sized for serious playing. The design may look daunting for new players or those switching from a traditional keyboard or piano, but the incredible functionality makes it a truly stunning piece of equipment.
It’s also one of the most affordable full-size midi keyboards on the market. When combined with the array of features, versatile compatibility, and integration with a wide range of software types such as Garage Band, Logic Pro X, Nuendo, Studio One, and Reason, it’s no wonder that the Nektar Impact device continues to gain widespread plaudits from players of varying experience levels and playing preferences.
Despite being a robust and full-size midi piano, the LX88+ is surprisingly portable. While there are certainly more compact options on the market, users that need a serious piece of equipment but would still like to take their device outside of the studio, whether it be to gigs or a friend’s house, can rely on this solution without the need for purchasing additional products.
Here is a video covering the Nektar IMPACT LX88+
- High quality MIDI controller keyboard designed for performers and producers wanting tactile instrument control. 88 semi-weighted full-size synth-action velocity-sensitive keys, 8 back-lit hyper-sensitive drum pads, 9 faders, 8 knobs, 6 transport buttons, pitch bend, modulation + octave & transpose buttons + sustain pedal socket.
- Nektar DAW integration for most popular DAWs with Mixer and Instrument modes
- Comprehensive MIDI functionailty. Compatible with all MIDI music software applications
- Mac, PC and iOS Compatible
- Includes Bigwig Studio 8-track DAW + sound content package
2. Arturia KeyLab 61 Essential Keyboard MIDI Controller
In spite of boasting an array of features, sliders, and buttons, the 61 key Arturia KeyLab Essential MIDI controller doesn’t feel overawing, even at its first glance. The attractive layout, creative possibilities, and physical dimensions are all ideal for a wide range of players. However, it is an especially amazing item – from a functional perspective as well as an esthetic one – for intermediate users.
The universal MIDI controller is supported by a software package that allows you to access dozens of virtual instruments while the various on-unit buttons allow for an extensive range of expressive track creations. The included Analog Lab 2 synth software, Ableton Live Lite, and UVI Grand Piano Model D software can be further supported by the use of external music creation software for both Apple and Microsoft fans.
In total, over 6000 TAE-powered preset sounds and the use of its 10 encoders such as the clickable encoder, nine sliders, eight touch and pressure-sensitive pads, size transport control switches, four command switches, modulation wheel, and pitchbend wheel ensure that the 61 keys can produce the level of flexibility needed to satisfy the most hardcore players, as well as more casual fans.
As an analogue midi controller, actually playing feels surprisingly natural to players that are transitioning away from their standard keyboards for the first time. The keys create the notes that you would expect the corresponding solutions to produce. It’s only the use of the computer software that allows you to distort and get creative with the preset sounds and virtual instruments. This makes it an ideal option for piano players and keyboard users that simply wish to record their sound.
The midi controller is a powerful and versatile product that retains a sense of the traditional class by combining analogue elements with a digital twist. The silver-coloured casing and slimline design ensure the Arturia device looks fantastic in any home studio setup.
Arturia is a name synonymous with accessible quality, and this is perhaps their greatest example. The plug and play features using the USB and simple software are ideal while your options to use other packages can take your midi controller possibilities to a whole new level. When looking for the best midi keyboard suited to all the family, this 61 key solution is a definite contender.
- A powerful MIDI keyboard controller built around Arturia's Analog Lab and V Collection instruments
- Perform with 8 pads, Chord Play mode, and a sustain pedal input for added expression
- Play effortlessly on a highly responsive 61-note keybed with separate modulation and pitch wheels
- Other hands-on controls include 10 encoders, 9 sliders, a 6-button transport section, and 4 command switches
- Compatible with all major Digital Audio Workstation: Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Bitwig, Cubase, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, Studio One
3. Akai Professional MPK249 Midi Keyboard
Akai Professional’s midi keyboard range is available in 25 key and 61 key variants, but it’s the 49 key option that stands out as the best option in terms of value for money. While the keyboard itself might not be a full 88 key solutions, it does feature full-size keys in a premium style piano bed along with a host of other buttons and features for an immersive music creation experience.
It includes aftertouch, eight assignable knobs, faders, and switches, 16 RGB feedback MPC-style pads RGB feedback, and several on-board transport buttons for easy recording and playback. The midi keyboard connects to PCs or Macs via USB and can be used with the included Ableton Live Lite, MPC Essentials, and Hybrid3 & SONiVOX Twist packages as well as several third-party home studio software packages.
The premium response of the keys and all on-board buttons offer optimal control during the music creation processes. The 16 pads use four banks, essentially transforming the unit into 64 pads, which can create loops and more. Moreover, the fact that they play louder sounds if you touch them with more force build a range of new opportunities. All faders are easily used and can be flicked with ease in the middle of playing while the lit buttons let you know the functional setup at any given time.
As the midi keyboard is a little smaller than a full-size solution, maintaining control over the full system is far easier than using a bigger and bulkier full-size unit, especially for kids and new players. Moreover, the Q-link controllers are easy to maneuver throughout your sessions.
All components are made from durable materials, while the sensitivity and responsiveness of keys and buttons is very pleasing too. Everything about playing, including the presets built into Logic Pro X, for example, are conducive of simple instant play as well as ongoing learning and development. It is, therefore, a device that offers immediate and long-term value.
The MPK249 is a genuinely enjoyable keyboard to play. The drum pads and other accessories allow you to get very creative, but Akai have not forgotten the fundamentals of playing the midi keyboard. For a natural touch and convenient solution that can serve you from beginner to pro, this is one of the most cost-effective and suitable products on the market.
- Pro Keyboard Performance - 49 semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive full-size keys and a premium piano-style keybed for unprecedented response and natural feel
- Beat Making Essentials - 16 RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads each with 4 banks for 64 pads - the perfect solution for triggering samples, loops, one-shots, melodics and more
- Assignable Control - 24 assignable Q-Link controllers comprising 8 control knobs, faders and switches engineered for hassle-free DAW / virtual instrument mapping
- Your Studio Centerpiece - Take command of your peripheral MIDI equipment courtesy of an onboard USB-MIDI interface with 5-pin MIDI input and output
- Core MPC Tools - MPC mainstay controls included - MPC Note Repeat, arpeggiator, MPC Full Level, Tap Tempo and Time Division
4. Novation Launchkey 49 USB Keyboard Controller
Novation’s 49 key Launchkey MKII midi keyboard controller is the predecessor of the MKIII, but continues to enjoy high levels of popularity thanks to its combination of huge functional possibilities and ease of use. The plug and play means there’s no need for drivers or even a power unit. Simply load up the Ableton Live Lite or XLN Audio Addictive Keys software for either Microsoft or Apple systems and start playing.
A total of 16 drum pads are laid out over two rows while the smart LED light systems automatically match the sound. Other key features include eight rotary knobs and nine dedicated faders. The lightweight device may lose some of the capabilities offered by 61 key or 88 key midi pianos, but the impressive expressive capabilities are supported by the comfortable control. On a side note, the portability of the eight-pound device allows you to take the unit to gigs, college, or a friend’s house.
The very affordable unit is one that can work with other software but is best used in conjunction with Ableton Live. The pads, for example, can create trigger loops, call up presets, and complete a vast range of actions. The components are far better than the MKI without being far behind the MKIII while the keys themselves are full-size solutions with unweighted but responsive properties. This creates a comfortable and natural feel. Crucially, the robust attributes ensure that they will stand hard pressing and years of frequent usage.
Using the midi keyboard is far better than using on-screen alternatives or using a trackpad. It can be incorporated into any studio setup, providing more than enough power and versatility by itself to provide enjoyment for casual and serious players alike while it can conversely be used in conjunction with other music creation products.
The brand itself is known for championing simple solutions to music creation. The MKII stays honest to the launchkey demands without overcomplicating the situation. Playing and recording chords and melodies through the on-board buttons is extremely easy while the included DAW is one of the best available, which removes another potential source of stress and disappointment. You will got a lot of mileage out of the midi keyboard and software alike.
Novation’s 49 key Launchkey midi keyboard controller is another product that also offers the alternative options of 25 key and 61 key variants. Like the Akai version, though, it’s clear that the 49 key keyboard is the best choice for your budget and desire to play great music.
- MK2 version of Novation's 49-note USB keyboard controller for Ableton Live
- 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, 8 knobs, and dedicated navigation and control buttons
- Software for Mac and PC and sustain pedal 1/4 inch jack socket,7 segment 3 character LED display,pitch bend and modulation wheels,16 full-colour RGB backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
- Fully USB bus-powered and class compliant; works without drivers or power cable
- Software for Mac and PC, Including: Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio Addictive Keys. Novation now offers a 3-Year Warranty on this and all other Novation products.
5. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 Controller Keyboard
Whether you’re looking for your first ever midi keyboard controller or a simple solution that will suit the home studio, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 controller keyboard is arguably the best option available – and not only due to its highly attractive price.
Despite its small size, the mini midi keyboard packs a pretty powerful punch. Its 32 keys are supported by eight touch-sensitive control knobs and two touch strips to provide ample control over the sounds you create while an array of virtual instruments and effects are easily accessed while the Smart Play features provide a perfect introduction to using a midi piano while it is equally capable of satisfying the needs of a more experienced user.
The velocity-sensitive keyboard can be used in conjunction with a variety of midi keyboard software and music software packages, including Garage Band, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Nuendo, and Ableton Live while the Komplete Kontrol software includes easy to follow tutorials that help players get a good sound right away, followed by continued development. Its versatility is further highlighted by the fact it can connect to Windows and Mac operating systems.
It may lack some of the pads and knobs found on bigger designs, but the compact design plays into the user’s hands as the ability to change things quickly and without a major positional shift offers advanced users a level of flexibility that compensates for the features that are omitted. It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever be left disappointed at the creative possibility.
The keys themselves are small but robust, which will either be seen as a major advantage or drawback depending on personal preferences. However, it does also make it a particularly good solution for younger players or those with smaller hands. For many users, the smaller midi keyboard is best combined with a separate pad controller to provide the choice between the two setups depending on individual scenarios.
Thanks to its compact design and user-friendly function, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is particularly suited to players that want to jam with friends or tutors that want to teach new users how to get the most out of their midi keyboards in an efficient manner. However, with its quality materials and excellent capabilities, the ‘plug and play’ device is equally popular for serious players that like to keep things simple.
- 32 compact keys to control all your instruments and effects
- Sleek and solid design, fused with professional production features
- Comes with a powerful software package, including synths, basses, drums, effects – plus Ableton Live 10 Lite
- OLED display and touch-sensitive knobs to tweak your sound’s essential parameters in real-time
- Usb 2.0 bus powered