MIDI keyboard greatly simplifies the process of creating music. Entering notes with a mouse in “piano roll” takes much time and it is very dull. What is the difference between MIDI, how to connect it and which one to choose – all these you can find in our article about 15 best MIDI Keyboards out down below.
Firstly, let’s talk about MIDI in general:
In those days, when you could see The Beatles live, and synthesizers were analog ones, the keyboard was a set of contacts that were electrically connected with sound generator. When one contact closed, the current passed through the respective variable resistor tuned to a certain note, and the sound was generated. In fact, the synthesizer was a self-contained device, the “thing-in-itself”. It could be connected to nothing but the amp or mixing console.
As soon as the number of models of synthesizers on the market increased, various manufacturers began to try to provide a so-called “dialogue” between devices. At first, it was not successful: there were no standards. However, in the early 80-ies, the manufacturers of musical equipment decided to end the “tyranny” and met for the first time “at negotiating table”.
As a result, they got a joint standard called MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). It was a real revolution. After that users got an opportunity to connect devices one to another without fear of incompatibility or damage. This led to the development of separate sound modules (synthesizers without keys) in the future – programs that synthesize sounds. You should agree, it is much more convenient to have 10 different digatal / software synths and one keyboard than 10 analog synths / keyboards.
By the way, the keyboard is called a MIDI controller. The name emphasizes that it performs management functions. A MIDI controller does not necessarily have to be in the form of piano keys. There are controllers in the shape of a guitar, arcade buttons, accordion or flute. Therefore, it is more correct to use the term MIDI controller referring to a controller of a piano type.
What is better: a MIDI Keyboard or Synthesizer?
After we found out that MIDI-keyboard is a “stupid synth” which is unable to reproduce any sounds, a reasonable question arises: is it worth to buy it? Or can you make a home synthesizer, because it is easy to connect it to the computer, and the built-in auto accompaniment helps compose music? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each issue?
The Pros for a MIDI Keyboard:
- A MIDI keyboard is cheaper than a synth with the same keyboard. A keyboard with four octaves with full size active keys costs $100 and allows you to solve most studio tasks. It’s very hard to buy a high quality synth for this amount of money.
- Keys are virtually the only significant detail in a MIDI keyboard. Producers focus attention on the key mechanics. As a result, even the cheap models can have better keys than fairly expensive synthesizers.
- Being happy with your keyboard (with keys with mechanics you like, knobs and regulators), you can use it with any synth and even with other studio equipment.
- Easy to connect. To connect to a MIDI-keyboard to the computer is much easier than a synth (it has to be set). Not every specialist is able to help with setting. Even having a huge experience, we often cannot answer some of the reader’s questions. And this does not mean that we are hopeless. The answer can be provided if you have the same tool that was used in similar conditions. But this is impossible.
- Durability and relevance. We do not mean the life of the keyboard – this indicator the controller does not exceed the synthesizer. Fashion of the sounds is changing fast. Buying for each song a new synth can only afford foreign superstars. Moreover, to sell keyboard synth after the operation almost impossible. As to the keyboard, you will get used to it, and there will not be the desire to get rid of it.
- If you do not have elite housing, the area of your home studio is unlikely to exceed 10-12 square meters. So, there is no room to keep a keyboard synthesizer. A MIDI keyboard is compact and, in principle, better suited for multiple devices.
Maybe it is better to own a synth?
There are not so many advantages of the synthesizers:
- Many modern synthesizers have a built-in auto accompaniment, which gives the opportunity to perform music lively for the whole ensemble. Perhaps, this argument is the most significant. You can record the accompaniment in the sequencer / DAW and, working with other sounds, quickly produce a professional musical arrangement. The same computer program-arrangers have not got a worthy development.
- You can play the synthesizer without connecting it to the computer. With MIDI it will not work.
- Besides speed of “unfolding”, there is reliability. The computer or tablet can freeze. And the probability of failure of a physical synthesizer is much lower.
- Sound quality. If we are talking about professional models, the sound quality is quite high. To get the same quality with virtual synths in real time, you need to have a pretty serious computer and an expensive high quality sound card / audio interface.
Now let’s talk about what kinds of MIDI keyboards exist, how they differ and how to choose the one that will suit you.
Size of MIDI Keyboard and Special Purposes. First, you need to determine the purposes for which a MIDI keyboard will be used. Highlight all of the aspects for which it will be useful and necessary. The most striking differences between MIDI keyboards are the key size and the number of octaves. Many users have experience of purchasing multiple MIDI keyboards, and they assure that the most convenient are devices with 4-5 octaves, respectively, with more than 49 keys but not more than 61. There are very small devices covering full 2 octaves. Their cost is not very different from models covering two times more octaves, and, with small MIDI keyboards, it is impossible to perform complex and unusual compositions, especially without interrupting the music and shifting higher or lower parties to span without a particular tool. Double octave device can be purchased with advantage, but then the purpose of its use will not be music, but a selection of notes or quick arrangement. If a small MIDI-keyboard is enough to capture the melody and mix parties, he will be able to carry it with him.
The Mechanics of the Keys. From the type of mechanics depends operational features of the device. There are 3 basic types of layouts:
All these types have a weighting for the keys that is needed to achieve the effect of naturalness in design and operating characteristics, as it makes them look like a piano. Weighted emulation at the moment is inherent in most models of MIDI-keyboard with 88 keys. If you want, you can find the device with hammer-action mechanism. Full-action models are chosen by the professionals in piano playing or those who want to become ones. MIDI keyboards of high price have an “aftertouch” responsible for the response to a mechanical action on the keys after touching them. On sale, there are not very expensive models which also have this function. They are comfortable to use and have some small improvements which previously had only those models that are on the price criterion belonged to the premium segment. Usually the mechanics of these keyboards have a semi-weighted type, also has the function of aftertouch. Now increasingly these advantages are highlighted in the model at average cost. So in our list of 15 best MIDI keyboards you’ll be able to find keyboards with all types of keys.
Controllers. The most important controllers in MIDI keyboards are Pitch and Modulation Wheel. These regulators are often located in the left side of the keyboard, but they can be seen not in all variants, so even at high cost of the device you should check if a keyboard has them. Usually controllers are placed to save as much space as possible. They can be found by small handles, in some cases they do not exist, which is highly undesirable.
In addition to standard one, a keyboard can have additional programmable controllers that you can use as you desire. Usually they just signed with numbers. If the device has a large number of regulators, they can be divided into groups (then they are signed with a number and letter, e.g. A1, A2, C3, etc.). Some keyboards also have controls in a form of pads, to which a user can assign a certain sound, a short musical phrase, etc. Often the pads are used for performance / recording rhythmic patterns / drum beats.
The Number of Controllers and Buttons. You should check and compare the number of faders, buttons, and controllers on each model you like. Often the interface has only a specific maximum number of controllers. They are divided into two parts. The first segment presented by the fader, and the second one by handles of potentiometers. To make working with music more convenient, it is necessary to assign a specific function for each controller. The most popular is the ability to control effects and virtual instruments, intensity and peculiarities of their sound.
It is not necessary to buy a MIDI keyboard, with a maximum number of various controllers. If the device has more than ten controllers and additional buttons, most people have never used them. They want them just for fun. You should not neglect additional functions if a MIDI keyboard is owned for performances, especially in front of a big crowd.
The Type of Connecting to the Computer. Most of keyboards/controllers connects with Plug and Play through USB or with a 5 DIN Midi cable which connects through audio interface (standard drivers are specified in the system). Many modern MIDI keyboards have both types of connecting. You should only configure a controller in settings of DAW program. Some professional controllers require drivers, so read a manual and do not forget to set them. Almost all MIDI keyboards operate with any software. You should just connect a keyboard to a computer, launch Host program (e.g. Cubase, ProTools, FL Studio), set the connection, choose a virtual synth (VSTi) and you are ready to play. With connection through USB, only large professional keyboards require extra power supply, another MIDI keyboards getting power via USB cable. With using a 5 DIN MIDI-jack, there is needed a DC-adapter. Since 2015, there are MIDI-keyboards with wireless connection through Bluetooth and they powered with Li-Ion built-in battery.
Connecting of Additional Pedals. One of the elements of management is sustain and expression pedals. Usually, you can connect only sustain pedal to a cheap keyboard. Professional controllers can work with both. Another tool you can connect to a keyboard is a breath controller. The sound is close to the original one. Many MIDI keyboards can be connected to mobile devices, tablets, smartphones. As distinguished from small keyboards, the professional ones can require additional power supply. You should consider this choosing a model. Do not forget to own an extension bar suitable for a mobile device you are going to use. From available at cost models, you should choose the one with at least one additional jack to connect a sustain pedal. If a professional plays the device, he cannot do it without a pedal.
Here are TOP 15 Best MIDI Keyboards:
We spent a lot of time choosing 15 best MIDI keyboards which will be up-to-date next three years. All the models we recommend as we read all user’s and professional sound engineer’s reviews. In a bonus section you can find some interesting MIDI Keyboards which can be useful for you.
15. IK Multimedia iRig KEYS PRO
Our list of 15 best MIDI keyboards opens with the cheapest and most compact MIDI keyboard iRig KEYS PRO with full size keys for a comfortable use at home studio. IK Multimedia updated the line of MIDI keyboards of series iRig KEYS. Both models, iRig KEYS with small keys and iRig KEYS PRO with full size ones, have a quality support of iOS devices: there are cable for Lightning jack and the old one 30-contact. For PC users, there is a USB port. iRig KEYS PRO has a triple octave keyboard and sensitivity for velocity of pressure. This is untypical for a keyboard supposed to be used for IOS devices. There are 37 mechanical keys of synth type with this type of sensitivity. Such a number of keys is convenient for playing with both hands. The keys are light, they do not have loft while playing and they are quickly back to their default position, so you can perform hard passages with no issues. The keyboard has large wheels Pitch Bend and modulations. There is a port for an expression pedal as well. A user can store up to 4 presets in iRig KEYS PRO to launch them quickly with the button Set. By default, there is a regulator VOL for volume. This regulator can reset for other tasks. Also, IK Multimedia offers all customers a free upgrade to full version of Sample Tank and iGrand uploaded from AppStore. There is no standard MIDI inputs and outputs. For this keyboard, a power supply through USB port or mobile device is enough.
14. Korg microKEY air 25-61 keys + Korg microKEY2 25-61 keys
We placed these two models on the same position of our list of best MIDI keyboards as they have almost identical form factor. The only difference they have is that Korg microKEY Air has a Bluetooth connection and its price is higher.
Korg microKEY Air
The series Air consists of four cheap models equipped with 25, 37, 49 and 61 dynamic mini-keys Natural Touch. These controllers can be connected through Bluetooth LE to Mac or iPad/iPhone. The manufacturer promises to produce a driver for Windows. The new controllers have a USB port for wire connection to Mac, PC and iOS. Three senior models are equipped with buttons for switching octaves, wheels Pitch Bend and Modulation, and jack for connection of damper pedal. The junior model Korg microKEY Air 25 has a button Sustain/Tap and a joystick for controlling pitch and modulation. It has a built-in arpeggiator. With connecting new controllers through Bluetooth, the manufacturer assures of stable work with low latency. The power supply is through two batteries AA (for about 30 hours of operation). With wire connection, the devices are supplied through USB. The drivers are not required. The devices have a software kit for Korg Kontrol Editor for tool setting.
Korg microKEY 2
The Japanese company Korg presented a second generation of microKEY MIDI keyboards. The devices got a support of iPad and iPhone and a jack for connecting a universal pedal Korg PS-1 or damper pedal DS-1H (they can be owned separately as well as Lightning to USB Camera Adapter for working with iOS devices). The manufacturer added a controller with 49 keys.
Features of Korg microKEY Air and Korg microKEY2:
- The keyboard Natural Touch with 25, 37, 49 and 61 mini-keys
- Connecting to Mac, PC and iOS devices
- Playing the whole range of MIDI-notes with switching octaves
- Three senior models ae equipped with the wheels of changing pitch and modulation; the junior one has a four-position joystick
- A built-in arpeggiator and Sustain button in 25-keys model
- Power supply and data transfer through USB
- A software kit of Korg Software Bundle
- A separate application Korg Kontrol Editor for setting novelties (e.g. Velocity Curve)
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 37-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
13. Nektar IMPACT LX25+ – 88+
The company Nektar updated its line of MIDI keyboards LX in 2016. Now, this line has a prefix “+”. MIDI keyboards have a little changed form factor of some keys and jacks, they have very sensitive pads with backlighting, ability to connect to iOS devices through Apple Camera Connection Kit and an improved integration with all DAW software.
Nectar Impact LX88+ is a full-size model which has 88 semi-weighted keys sensitive to a velocity pressure. The device has 8 pads, 8 potentiometers, 9 faders of 30 mm, 9 soft keys and 6 separate keys on transport panel, wheels Pitch Bend and Modulation. The pads are sensitive to a velocity pressure and have backlighting as well.
Features of LX88+:
- Four types of velocity curves and three fixed values for keys
- Three-digit LED display
- 4 memory locations for pads
- Split and Layer functions for separating the keyboard for zones (up to three)
- Integration with DAWs; Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic, GarageBand, Nuendo, Reaper, Reason, Sonar and Studio One
- Users of supported sequencers can navigate through tracks, switch between mixer or instruments, set trigger points or loops, turn on or off a metronome, etc.
- With Grab mode (some DAWs do net support it), one can quickly set parameters of instruments to any elements of management
- Support of General MIDI and creation and storage of up to five user’s presets
- MIDI-output and jack for connecting a sustain pedal. The pedal is owned separately
- Power supply of keyboard is through USB or third party adapter
12. Alesis VI25-VI61 Advanced MIDI Keyboard
The company Alesis started producing MIDI keyboards of series V and VI Advanced which were introduced winter at NAMM 2015. Each series consists of three models with 61, 49 and 25 full-size keys. The kit of keyboards also has the software Ableton Live Lite and the virtual instrument Xpand!2 by Air Music Tech. The models of series VI are for more advanced users. They have semi-weighted keys with aftertouch and the section of 16 pads with RGB backlighting. There are also the wheels Pitch Bend and Modulation, a small LCD display and the buttons of transport panel. The model VI25 has 8 settled regulators and 24 buttons; the model VI49 – 12 regulators and 36 buttons; and the senior one, VI61, has 16 regulators and 48 buttons. The keyboards can work offline as they have a standard MIDI-output and a jack for eternal power adapter. The controllers of series VI have an output for sustain pedal. The MIDI keyboards can be taken with anywhere as it has a small size, it is light. It can easily be connected to a laptop or PC, it works with musical software. ALESIS VI25-VI61 Advanced has a decent ratio price-quality-abilities for creative work and composing music. Also it’s not first and last keyboard model from Alesis in our top 15 list of best MIDI keyboards.
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
11. Korg Triton Taktile 25keys, 49keys USB MIDI Controller with TRITON Engine
Another MIDI controller from Korg in our list of best MIDI keyboards. Korg Triton Taktile combines functions of a synth and studio MIDI keyboard. It is a small and light USB/MIDI controller with a semi-weighted keyboard and wide scale of opportunities for composing music. Korg TRITON Taktile has model with 25 and 49 keys. TRITON Taktile includes 512 demanded programs from Korg TRITON. It allows to use the keyboards in a standalone mode or as a sound source with plug-ins. Users can use their MIDI-data with its DAW without using additional software. TRITON Taktile gives an access to rare sounds by TRITON. The function Touch Scale allows users automatically generate phrases just moving a finger on a sensor XY pad. It allows to play with software synths using the same movements as in Korg KAOSS. The function Chord Trigger allows to set the chords on pads and play them. After owning Taktile/TRITON Taktile, customers get a set of licenses and discount warrant: Korg M1 Le, EZDrummer Lite; Ultra Analog Session; Strum Acoustic Session; Lounge Lizard Session; Reason Limited DAW; a discount price for Ableton Live. We should mention that the company sells 300000 units of each series, Korg TRITON Taktile 49 has become a legendary one.
Different controllers and slides are available for management of various parameters of software synths. Aboard controllers include:
- Sensor pads with backlighting Drum Trigger Pads (8 for 25-keys models; 16 for 49-keys models)
- The wheels of pitch and modulation
- A sensor XY pad in KAOSS style
- The line for a quick selection of a parameter or right/left click in a track pad mode
- Settled controllers (8 slides, 8 regulators, 8 switches)
- Marked buttons of transport for DAW
- Bright OEL display for showing parameters and names of programs
10. CME Xkey Air 37 Bluetooth and USB MIDI Controller
The Xkey 37 Air got in the list as it is a portable and stylish MIDI keyboard with the function of wireless connection. This is a great option for home studios, and is perfect for those who have little space on a work surface, and in particular Air Xkey 37 has an organic look for MAC. Portable MIDI controller CME Xkey Air 37 was announced at NAMM show in 2015, and this MIDI controller is still one of the most important options despite the fact that it has been produced for two years. This unit is a 37-key version of the previous model Xkey37, but with an additional feature of connection via Bluetooth. Xkey Air 37 is made in a thin aluminum case with dimensions 16 × 553 × 135 mm and weighs only 880 g. The controller has full-size keys which have velocity-sensitive control (128 levels), they also have polyphonic aftertouch. The manufacturer stated the compatibility with Mac and PC, and smartphones and tablets based on iOS and Android. The controller Xkey Air 37 has sensitive to pressing force keys for octave shift, modulation, pitch bend and Sustain button. There is also a model with 25 keys for those who like miniature controllers.
There are other features of Xkey Air 37:
- Durable and stylish slim-bodies made of aluminum
- 25 and 37 full-sized keys sensitive to velocity and which have polyphonic aftertouch
- 100% MIDI-compatible musical instruments
- Built-in battery controller provides up to 10 hours of battery life
- USB port used for charging and firmware updates
- Buttons of modulation, pitch bend, octave shift and sustain are sensitive to pressing force
- Registered low latency (no more than 7ms)
- Supports Xkey Piano, Xkey Plus, XK-1, Ableton Live, Pro Tools, GarageBand and many other MIDI-compatible applications
9. Alesis VX49 USB MIDI Keyboard and DrumPad Controller
Another controller from Alesis company in our list of best MIDI keyboards: Alesis VX49 which can be considered an offshoot of the upgraded line VI and unfortunately the controller is available only with 49 keys. The company officially announced Alesis 49-key MIDI controller VX49 in 2017. This “revolutionary” MIDI keyboard provides advanced control over various virtual instruments and DAW through the colour LCD display and plenty of conveniently located controls. The model VX49, according to the developer, is the ideal choice for the most demanding producers and keyboardists. One of the main advantages of MIDI controller Alesis VX49 is a close integration with the software Virtual Instrument Player (VIP). It was presented in the beginning of 2015 by Akai Professional, and comes with Advance series of keyboards. VIP allows users to get access to any virtual instrument VSTi in the computer directly from the keyboard. Virtual Instrument Player also provides options for quick search and sorts your plugins. Users can do the so-called layering with up to eight instruments to create new sounds and create set-lists for instant access to the plugin directly during a performance.
Key features of the MIDI keyboard:
- Built-in 4.3-inch full color LCD display of high resolution with dedicated control of interface
- Screen provides 1:1 visual feedback to the parameters of the plugins
- The program Virtual Instrument Player allows you to upload and manage any of your VST plug-ins
- 49 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch and sensitive to velocity
- Eight assignable performance encoders rotated 360°
- Dedicated encoder with the function for clicking for navigation on display
- Eight Drum pads with RGB illumination sensitive to both force and velocity
- Eight assignable Switch pads with monochrome illumination
- Separate control buttons of transport, selection of a bank of pads (A, B, C or D) and octave shift, performance buttons
- Rubberized wheels Pitch Bend and Modulation with illumination
- The buttons “Roll/Edit”, “Time Division” and “Tap Tempo”, and “Arp/Edit” to enable or disable the built-in arpeggiator
- USB-MIDI port and MIDI input and output for external equipment
- Inputs for expression and sustain pedals
- Can function as a standalone MIDI controller or manage your plugins and DAW
- Powered via USB-bus or from an external adapter
- Included software: Ableton Live Lite, Vacuum Pro, Loom, Hybrid 3, Xpand!2, Velvet, Transfuser, Eighty-Eight Ensemble
8. Arturia KeyLab 25, 49, 61
Arturia introduced professional MIDI controllers KeyLab in 2013 – keyboards with a software synthesizer Analog Lab. A distinctive feature of these MIDI keyboards is a unique design in the style of vintage synths combined with modern style that gained popularity among all sound engineers and musicians around the world.
The model KeyLab 25 has 25 keys sensitive to velocity. It has a light weight and compact design, this controller is well suited for traveling musicians, DJs and so on. The full-size keyboard is a feature-rich control panel that includes two clickable encoders, 12 conventional encoders, nine sliders, wheels pitch bend and modulation, six illuminated keys for transport controls, 15 backlit buttons, buttons for octave shift up/down buttons and 32-character screen. KeyLab 25 has a durable aluminum body with decorative wood inserts. On the rear panel, there are input and output, inputs for pedals and foot switch, input for breath controller, USB port.
The model KeyLab 49 and 61 have an appropriate number of keys with aftertouch sensitive to velocity, and are intended for use at studio or on stage. Older models have more controls, including an additional section of 16 sensitive to velocity pads with backlight. KeyLab 25, 49 and 61 are supplied with the new version of the software synth Arturia Analog Lab. All the important parameters are pre-assigned to MIDI-controllers; users have quick control over a huge library of 5,000 presets created by world known sound designers. These presets are taken from eight of Arturia software synthesizers based on the engine TAE (True Analog Emulation): Mini V, Modular V, CS-80V, ARP2600 V, Jupiter-8V, Prophet 5, Prophet VS, and Oberheim SEM V and software implementation of the classic Wurlitzer 200A electric pianos – the Wurlitzer V. The Multi-mode allows you to play multiple sounds simultaneously with effects and functions of layer/split.
7. Novation Launchkey MK2 25, 49, 61
The company Novation has launched a new series of MIDI keyboards Launchkey Mk2 d in 2015 and, today, this MIDI keyboard is one of the most popular and sold all over the world. As before, the lineup consists of 3 models with 61, 49 and 25 velocity-sensitive keys. As for the differences, they have better integration with Ableton Live and sixteen velocity and force sensitive pads with RGB-backlit. These pads are used to launch clips, samples, control FX and so on. Also, it is worth noting a slightly modified design: the bottom part of the housing changed the color from blue to turquoise and the lower part is made of a rubberized material that allows this MIDI keyboard to hold tight on any surface.
There are other features of the controllers:
- Eight rotary knobs above the pads
- 9 sliders (one slider for 25-key model) to control the mixer
- Six buttons for transport control
- Large wheels Pitch Bend and Modulation
- Two toggle buttons octave/transpose
- Three-digit 7-segment LED display
- Two buttons Track/MIDI Channel
- 8 buttons to Mute/Solo for two older models
- Three InControl buttons (two for Launchkey 25 Mk2)
- 2 round buttons with an RGB backlight, which can be used for special functions of iOS
- USB-B port for PC connection
- Powered through USB bus or AC adapter
- Jack connector for connecting a sustain pedal
- Compact and quite robust case
- Also announced integration with sequencers Cubase, FL Studio, Logic, Pro Tools, Reason and Studio One
- Compatible with Mac and PC, and iPad via Camera Connection Kit
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
6. M-Audio CTRL49 USB/MIDI Smart Controller
49-key USB/MIDI controller M-Audio CTRL49 was introduced at NAMM Show 2016. This keyboard, according to the developer, is the premium model and gives you greater control of various VST instruments through the integrated full-color display and deep integration with the software Virtual Instrument Player. In this respect, the novelty is similar to the last year released controllers by Akai of Advance series and Alesis VX49. But M-Audio CTRL49 has extra buttons and faders to control different DAW functions. Virtual Instrument Player (VIP, which comes in the kit with this MIDI keyboard, and we also mentioned it in a review about Alesis VX above) provides access to any virtual instrument VSTi to the computer directly from the MIDI keyboard. Integrated patch browser provides fast searching and sorting of plug-ins by various criteria. It is also possible layering up to eight instruments to create new timbres. There is a possibility of creating set-lists for instant access to plugins directly during a performance or studio work. Also, there is a full and detailed review on M-Audio Keyboard CTRL49 by the link.
Here are the key features of the new controller:
- 4.3-inch full color LCD high resolution display with dedicated control buttons of interface. The display provides 1:1 visual feedback to the parameters of the plugins
- Special software Virtual Instrument Player to load and control any VST plug-ins
- Keyboard M-Audio with 49 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
- 9 faders and 8 buttons for quick control of your DAW
- Eight rotated 360 degrees’ performance encoders
- 8 velocity and force sensitive drum pads with RGB backlight
- Dedicated buttons to switch between banks of pads, buttons of the transport panel and octave switch, and performance buttons
- The button “Full Level”, “Roll”, “Time Division”, “Tap Tempo” and control buttons for a built-in arpeggiator
- 5-pin MIDI input and output, inputs for expression pedal and foot switch
- Supplied software: sequencer Ableton Live Lite, a set of plug-ins AIR Creative FX Collection and plug-ins AIR Vacuum Pro, AIR Loom, AIR Hybrid 3, AIR Xpand!2, AIR Velvet, AIR Transfuser and SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble
5. Novation SL MKII 25, 49 and 61 Keys
The company Novation has updated the line of controllers of flagship series ReMOTE SL, replacing the entire lineup of devices, including no-keys option ZeRO SL. The updated devices received the name of the SL MKII. They removed the word ReMOTE: now MIDI-keyboards are referred to simply as SL MKII 25, SL MKII 49, SL MKII 61. MIDI keyboards of Novation SL line differ only in number of keys.
The most important difference from the previous generation is that all the controllers have become sensory. All the knobs and faders now respond to touch, allowing you to instantly see the current information about a parameter associated with this controller. Buttons, rotary controls and faders are located as in old devices ReMOTE SL. On the left side, there is a joystick which combines the functions of the wheel’s pitch bend and mod wheel, and the touchpad Xpression Pad. The touchpad is a controller with four assignable zones, separated by a diagonal straight. For each zone, you can assign different filter settings. It is also worth noting an eye-catching light indication of all buttons.
In general, Novation SL MKII is a MIDI keyboard of premium segment and is a great device for professional sound designers and musicians. Also, Novation SL MKII is equipped with all possible outputs and inputs relevant today: Sustain Pedal Input, Expression Pedal Input, 2 MIDI Outputs, MIDI Input, MIDI true and an additional connector for power in case if you will use Novation SL MKII with synthesizers.
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
4. AKAI Professional Advance 25, 49, 61
At NAMM 2015, Akai Professional introduced a new line of MIDI keyboards Advance. It includes three models with 61, 49 and 25 semi-weighted sensitive to velocity and force keys with the function of aftertouch. According to the manufacturer, the new products provide unprecedented “playability” and unrestricted manipulation of any virtual instrument with interactive full-color LCD display and user-friendly controls.
All three keyboards are supplied with the special software of its own design under the name of Akai’s Virtual Instrument Player (VIP). It provides access to any virtual instrument in your collection. This software can be used as a stand-alone application for Mac OS and Windows and as a plug-in VSTi, AU, RTAS or AAX inside any modern DAW, such as Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro X and so on. VIP organizes your plugin collection with simple browsing by different criteria, for example, the type of instrument or timbre. There is a possibility of mixing (the so-called layering) up to eight instruments at a time. Users can also create set lists that will allow on demand to get an access to already existing instruments and presets during a live performance or studio work. Among other features of the app, it is worth noting the advanced mapping and function of division of the keyboard into zones to use simultaneously multiple tools. The user will be able to use as many copies of the VIP as it will allow the power of the computer. So Akai Professional Advance keyboards are deservedly included in the top 5 of best MIDI keyboards.
Here are the main features of the keyboards of the line of Advance:
- Built-in 4.3-inch color LCD high resolution display with dedicated interface buttons
- Software Virtual Instrument Player
- LCD display provides real-time display of changes in the parameters of the plugins
- Eight rotating jog wheels
- Eight dynamic MPC pads with RGB illumination sensitive to the force and the velocity
- Buttons Note Repeat, Time Division, Tap Tempo, arpeggio generator
- Rubberized wheels Pitch Bend and Modulation
- Dedicated bank pad, buttons of transport panel and octave switch
- Inputs to connect expression pedal and foot switch
- USB port and 5-pin MIDI input and output for use with any MIDI-compatible applications and hardware
- Operate as a standalone controller
- Available 16 GB with more than 10,000 sounds from well-known developers like AIR Music Technology, SONiVOX and Prime Loops
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
3. Roland A-88 Premium Key MIDI Keyboard
A worthy third place on our top 15 best MIDI keyboards list takes a MIDI keyboard Roland A-88 because of its unique keys. At Roland CONNECT 2012 the company introduced the new MIDI keyboard A-88. Roland A-88 has 88 keys with hammer mechanics Ivory Feel-G, similar to keyboard workstations and digital pianos Roland. The white keys are made of ivory simulator, the fingers will not slip thereon. Even with the keyboard of premium class, A-88 remains slim, compact and easy-to-carry keyboard. The keypad power supply is supplied through a USB cable, two buttons, two knobs and controller D-BEAM are conveniently located and make the job quick and easy. All other settings are available by pressing the Function button that allows you to perform the tasks listed above the keys. For quick control of external instruments A-88 has dedicated Dual and Split buttons, giving a quick access to layers and zones. You can also assign the control of SuperNATURAL instruments, for example, the module INTEGRA-7 or synthesizers JUPITER-80 and JUPITER-50. A-88 can be connected to iPad with Apple Camera Connection Kit and use the keyboard with any application that supports Core MIDI. We guarantee that none of the MIDI keyboard will not guarantee you such pleasant feelings as Roland A-88. And do not forget that Roland A-49 is not a smaller version of A-88, but only a budget device without the unique mechanics of the keys. If you want to get close to the feeling of playing an expensive grand piano, Roland A-88 is a perfect option.
2. Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL S25, S49, S61, S88
The second place in our list of best MIDI keyboards takes the series of Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL S. Native Instruments announced a new series of keyboards KOMPLETE KONTROL S to work with instruments and effects of KOMPLETE. The presented devices are designed to unleash the full potential of KOMPLETE, as it was developed specifically for this software. The presented series consists of three similar devices that differ only by the number of keys. The keyboard is equipped with 25, 49 or 61, 88 full-size keys with premium class mechanics from Fatar. Further, the company Native Instruments has expanded its classic KOMPLETE KONTROL S edition with a controller S88 which has the same functionality and differ only by the presence of 88 keys. Another important factor after buying a MIDI keyboard KOMPLETE KONTROL S is that you get the original DAW program KOMPLETE for which this controller was made, but it also has full MIDI integration with any other DAW.
The devices are equipped with touch controllers to which are assigned the key and most important parameters of all the instruments of KOMPLETE. There is also a miniature screen, which displays the name of the controlled parameter. This allows you to fully concentrate on the creative process and not be distracted by the creation of the mapping and remapping of the controllers. In addition, each key has led indicators showing different colors of the zones and the different modes of operation. It helps quickly navigate without looking at the monitor. The backlight makes easier playing the instrument in more advanced scales, chords and frets. The instruments of KOMPLETE KONTROL S series have a proprietary Smart Play function, which, according to the manufacturer, speeds up the workflow and stimulate new ideas. The modes Chord allow to play chords with a single keystroke. In the mode Chord Set, there is already a set of combinations of different chords. There are also different varieties of arpeggiators for each instrument. In addition, in the mode of scales, you cannot play dissonant sounds as each key plays sounds of established fret. Instead of traditional wheels pitch bend and modulation, the keys have a touch slider Touch Kontrols. They can simulate the pitch and modulation wheels, but also control various parameters of many other KOMPLETE instruments.
We want to note that this is perhaps the most beautiful and stylish MIDI keyboard that exists today and it will look beautiful at your studio. On our website, you can also find a full and detailed review of this line of Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL S.
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys, 88-Keys:
1. ROLI Seaboard RISE 49
The most unusual and innovative MIDI keyboard which takes the first honest-deserved place in our top 15 list of best MIDI keyboards. Seaboard Rise is the first MIDI device, offering the musicians a simple, multi-platform synthesizer with integrated control panel, Bluetooth connectivity and internal battery. The device supports multiple operating platforms and is compatible with popular digital audio work stations, software and hardware synthesizers. And most importantly, Seaboard Rise allows you to create music using finger movements and gestures. The novelty has 49 keywaves controls resembling flowing waves, which are sensitive to velocity and position of the fingers in X and Y directions. With the rubber coating you can physically bend them, tapping and “pinching” to play different sounds. A built-in USB connector B provides the connection to other devices, if you do not want to be limited by wires, you can use a Bluetooth connection. Also, the device has input for a sustain pedal or expression.
ROLI Seaboard RISE 49 provides five different types of control over what happens with sound. Roli calls them Strike, Press, Lift, Slide and Glide – respectively, it is the control of volume of each note depending on the power of touch (velocity), a sensitive parameter aftertouch, the control of overtones depending on speed of removing fingers from the surface (release velocity), and bends and slides that can be performed on all bulge parts, free surfaces between them, and above and under them. You can use any combinations of these parameters. For example, to make a vibrato, you put your finger on the key and depending on how much you push and rock it, it changes the depth and speed of an effect. Obviously, this is a much more organic and lively method of control than a standard mod wheel.
Touch controls on the left allow you to change the depth of the settings of aftertouch, slides and glides (the susceptibility of sensitive surface to the movements of your fingers on it), change octaves and saved on the computer presets. There is also an XY pad for real-time change of any previously assigned number of parameters of a software synthesizer.
The power button also controls the operating modes of Seaboard — Expression Mode and Midi Mode. It allows you to choose between standard mode of operation or to assign any other parameters that you control just by moving on sensitive surface of Seaboard Rise.
Roli Seaboard RISE 49 is supplied with two software products:
Dashboard — responsible for the configuration of the device, controls MIDI channels and commands, changes the nature of the reactions of various envelope curves, and so on.
Equator — a private synth, working both independently and in any sequencer. The developers claim that the Equator is made especially for maximum disclosure of advanced control, for example, in its interface, embedded envelopes that control the responsiveness of the device to any type of taps. So, you can make different specifications of responsiveness for each preset stored in the Equator.
All midi-keyboards Roli Seaboard are supplied with a soft case.
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys:
+Bonus (MIDI Keyboards which were not Included in the Main List, but Deserve Your Attention)
M-Audio Code 25, 49 and 61
Unfortunately, we did not include midi keyboards from the M-Audio Code series, since our main list of best MIDI keyboards did not have enough space for these models, but the M-Audio Code series keyboards deserve to be mentioned. Within the framework of the exhibition NAMM Show 2015, a new line of MIDI keyboards M-Audio Code was introduced. The series traditionally includes three models that have 61, 49 and 25 full-size semi-weighted keys with the aftertouch function. According to the product manager of M-Audio, the keyboards of the new Code Line are designed for demanding users who looking for a budget device with professional functionality. Complete with the keyboards of the M-Audio Code line comes the software Ableton Live Lite, plus the virtual instruments Loom and Hybrid 3 from AIR Music Technology.
M-Audio also announced that the MIDI keyboards of the popular CODE line will now be available not only in white, but also in black color scheme. But only the older models CODE 49 and CODE 61 are produced in the new color solution.
Let’s list features of the MIDI keyboards of the M-Audio Code Series:
- 16 pads with LED RGB-illumination, sensitive to the speed of pressing
- Split mode with the division of the keyboard into 4 zones
- X/Y-touchpad for controlling several parameters of virtual instruments
- 9 assignable sliders and 8 rotary knobs (the Code 25 has 5 sliders and 4 rotary knobs)
- Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels
- Transport function buttons
- Compatibility with Mackie Control and HUI
- USB bus power for easy use
- 5-pin MIDI input and output for external synthesizer control
- Inputs for sustain pedals and expression pedals
- 6-digit LED display
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
Akai Professional MPK225, MPK249 and MPK261
Our editorial team didn’t include Akai Professional MPK midi keyboard in our main list of best MIDI keyboards above, since our top 15 already has the most advanced line from Akai. We decided to mention Akai Professional MPK225, 249,261 as it is a mid-range mid-range keyboard that includes all the functions for professional studio work (Akai Professional MPK is approximately the same in price and specs as the M-Audio Code Line). Akai Professional has released three USB / MIDI controllers to complement the popular MPK series: the 25-key MPK225, the 49-key MPK249 and the 61-key MPK261. MIDI keyboards have trigger pads with RGB-backlight (8 for MPK225 and 16 for older models) and a 20-character LCD screen. The Akai MPK line also received the ability to send commands in a QWERTY-style using software controls; a keyboard with good response and a low-power mode for connecting to iOS devices. The devices come bundled with a set of software that includes Ableton Live Lite, MPC Essentials – a powerful grooving application based on samples and a Twist synthesizer from SONiVOX. Owners of MPK249 and MPK261 will also receive the Hybrid 3 virtual synthesizer from AIR Music Tech, and the SONICOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble software is attached to the MPK261.
Akai Professional MPK features:
- 8/16 trigger pads with RGB-backlight (like MPC Renaissance)
- 8 assignable control knobs; 8 assignable faders (49 and 61-key models)
- New layout with LCD screen for faster access to basic DAW functions
- USB-MIDI with 5-pin MIDI input and output
- Inputs for expression and sustain pedal
- Wheels of pitch and modulation
- Octave control
- Software included: Ableton Live Lite, MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Twist, Hybrid 3 from AIR Music Tech (MPK249 and MPK261), SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble (MPK261)
By the link below you can find each MIDI keyboard model with 25-Keys, 49-Keys, 61-Keys:
Akai Professional LPK25 Wireless
Akai Professional LPK25 Wireless – a flexible and multifunctional compact USB / MIDI controller with wireless connectivity, unfortunately, did not get into our main list of best MIDI keyboards due to the fact that it is not a full-sized midi keyboard, but it has very unusual functions that are worth noting to be mentioned. Akai Pro LPK25 Wireless is a fully portable model that has small dimensions and weight of only 490 grams, which can not only be connected to a computer via Bluetooth (including MIDI) – it can also work absolutely independently of external power supplies, from three AA batteries. Approximate battery life – no less than 12 hours of continuous play. It is also possible to connect and power the device via USB (cable supplied). This model is ideal for often performing musicians. Akai LPK25 Wireless – multifunctional keyboards, possessing a wide range of modern functions and capabilities. The model is equipped with a 25-note keyboard with mini-keys, sensitive to the speed of pressing. There is an arpeggiator, footswitch for sustain pedal connection, controls for quick switching to an octave up / down. Four programmable memory banks allow you to save settings.
StudioLogic Numa Compact 2 Keyboard with Built-in Speakers
StudioLogic has released the MIDI keyboard Numa Compact 2 – an improved version of the highly popular Numa Compact model. According to developers, StudioLogic Numa Compact 2 is a big step forward in terms of sound quality, a variety of effects and functionality. Despite the fact that the same keyboard mechanics (TP / 9Piano from Fatar) are used in both devices, the updated model weighs slightly more – 7.1 kg. This is due to the presence of an integrated sound reinforcement system with two speakers on the rear panel. However, seven kilos for a MIDI keyboard with 88 full-size keys – it’s still light weight. Like its predecessor, the keyboard StudioLogic Numa Compact 2 received a full-fledged audio engine with 128-voice polyphony. But if Numa Compact had only ten built-in timbres, then there are already 88 in the updated model. Among them there are sounds of acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, synthesizers, guitars, orchestral and many other instruments. Among other features of Numa Compact 2, we note the support for aftertouch, the presence of an informative OLED display and 2 ergonomic stick-controllers replacing Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels, as well as the possibility of simultaneous use of up to six effects. We did not include StudioLogic Numa Compact 2 in our main list of 15 best MIDI keyboards, since it is a hybrid of the synthesizer and MIDI keyboard, besides it costs a considerable amount of money, but for this device we have a place in the bonus section. StudioLogic Numa Compact 2 will appeal to those who like to play the piano and at the same time for studio work and composing.
Roland FA-06 / FA-08 Keyboard Workstation
Roland has introduced a new series of FA workstations. Models FA-06 and FA-08 include a huge collection of sounds of any style, inherited from the flagship INTEGRA-7, expressive effects, real-time controlled controllers, built-in sampler with 16 pads and play start function. A sequencer with the recording function “Non Stop” makes it easy to record ideas and compositions, exporting data in the form of a multitrack for later use in DAW. The FA-06/08 is tightly integrated into the software and turns the instrument into a full-fledged MIDI controller and audio interface. We have not included Roland FA-06 / FA-08 in our top 15 of best MIDI Keyboards as these two models are very expensive and will suit only for professional sound engineers and piano players.
Features of Roland FA-06 / FA-08:
- Lightweight, mobile case with a 61-note keyboard that is sensitive to the speed of pressing in the FA-06 or 88-key keyboard with the new generation Ivory Feel-G hammer mechanism in FA-08
- Over 2,000 sounds inherited from the top-level sound module INTEGRA-7, including SuperNATURAL sounds of synthesizers, acoustic instruments and percussion; Add even more sounds from the built-in expansion cards.
- SuperNATURAL sound core is fully compatible with the extensive collection of free tones from INTEGRA-7, available on the Axial portal
- A 16-channel sequencer with continuous recording makes the composition process quick and easy; You can export the tracks to the SDHC card as a full stereo mix, multitrack audio or MIDI data for later use in the DAW
- Built-in sampler built on the basis of SP-404SX, includes 16 pads, 4 banks and a function of direct recording / playback from SDHC cards
- A lot of studio-level effects, including 16 independent multi-effects, 6 COMP + EQ processors, unique TFX (total effects), common EQ, chorus and reverb
- Control of sounds, effects and external MIDI devices takes place in real time using the assignable Sound Modify controls
- Intuitive interface with large color LCD screen
- Instant configuration (“one-touch”) for using FA-06 / FA-08 with DAW via USB
- Infrared sensor D-Beam, rhythmic patterns, arpeggiator and the “Chord Memory” function will expand the toolkit for creativity
- Guitar / Microphone and line inputs for presentations, sampling and audio recordings from DAW; Separate input for reverb effect
- The USB port provides downloads of new sounds, updates, use of the station as an AUDIO / MIDI interface, and a MIDI connection to the iPad using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit
Roli Seaboard GRAND
London startup ROLI presented to the world an amazing musical instrument of its own design. The Seaboard GRAND is a monolithic design keyboard on whose surface there are no black or white keys. In fact – the entire surface of the instrument is one touch-sensitive key. The device remotely resembles a piano, and on its surface there are bulges that resemble the shape of keys familiar to any musician. Nevertheless, these keys do not work quite the way we all are used to. Each key is sensitive to pressing and distinguishes between different degrees of pressure exerted on it. Plus, you can create unusual sound vibrations, holding the key and slightly moving your finger from side to side. Something like this is usually done by guitarists when they slightly move the clamped string on the neck up and down in order to change the sound. The Seaboard GRAND multi-touch surface is covered with a durable rubberized material that does not break off from frequent use and will allow electronic sensors to clearly feel every touch you touch on the instrument. From the side the piano really looks very stylish and unusual, as if it came to us from the future. The invention was so interested in various music companies that about $ 12.8 million was invested in a startup in just one day. This is one of the biggest investments in beginning music companies, which once again demonstrates the uniqueness of the product. We have not included Roli Seaboard GRAND in our main list of best MIDI keyboards, since this device is very expensive and definitely not every person can afford it.