A MIDI keyboard with weighted keys allows players to smoothly control the dynamics and tones of virtual instruments. Additionally, they offer a more authentic feel compared to synth-action keys, making the transition between a keyboard and a piano much easier. For today’s blog post, I tested the 8 best MIDI keyboards with weighted keys.
Let’s dive right in!
I tested a handful of MIDI keyboards and found the M-Audio Hammer model to be the best MIDI keyboard with weighted keys for many musicians.
As a musician and composer, I’m always looking for the best gear to make music. So I’ve played on tons of electronic keyboards, and the weighted keys make playing much easier.
The M-Audio Hammer keyboard has all 88 keys you can find on a standard piano. It also works with your computer or iOS device, so you can make music how you prefer.
Whether you’re new to the piano or have experience, there’s a MIDI keyboard for you. Having weighted keys of some type is vital to your success in making music.
Keep reading to learn about the best MIDI keyboard with weighted keys and some alternatives.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best MIDI Keyboards With Weighted Keys
- Best Overall: M-Audio Hammer
- Best Value: Yamaha MX88
- Best For Beginners: M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3-61
- Best Premium Pick: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2
- Best Budget Pick: Alesis VI61
- Best Portable: Alesis VI25
- Best Versatile Option: Novation 61SL MkIII
- Best For Piano Players: Studiologic SL73 Studio
M-Audio Hammer – Best Overall
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Fully-weighted | Number of keys: 88 | Weight: 38.5 pounds
The M-Audio Hammer keyboard is a hammer action keyboard, so it feels similar to a grand piano. You can use the modulation and pitch bend wheels to adjust the notes. It uses USB for power, and you can connect it to your computer or iOS device.
Unfortunately, you’ll need to purchase a separate connection kit for iOS. Also, the USB cable you get is only a few feet long, so it’s not the most flexible. But you could buy a longer cable to use instead.
That makes it easy to compose or record music wherever you are. When you use the MIDI connection, the sound will come out of your device, not the keyboard. So if you want to make music late at night, you can use headphones to avoid disturbing your neighbors.
Now, you do have to configure your music software to produce the sound. Otherwise, the keyboard will only tell your computer what pitches it should make.
As a fully-weighted MIDI keyboard, you can use it to play virtual instruments. If you’re new to the keyboard, you’ll even get a free subscription to Skoove, which offers online lessons.
- Fully-weighted keys
- Compatible with various devices
- Comes with free piano lessons
- Somewhat expensive
- Pretty bulky
Yamaha MX88 – Best Value
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) | Number of keys: 88 | Weight: 30.6 pounds
The Yamaha MX88 is the best MIDI keyboard with weighted keys when it comes to value. You get the full range of a standard piano, so you don’t have to mess with the octaves. It’s also easy to plug into your computer and start playing without needing to set up drivers.
A motif sound engine lets you set up layers and other controls. You can even control as many as eight things within one voice. The internal metronome can range from five to 300 beats per minute.
It works with your desktop, laptop, or iOS device to record and play back music. You can use iOS apps or standard digital audio workstations (DAWs). Many of the virtual instruments sound realistic, especially the keyboards.
Unlike other MIDI keyboards, the weighting on this one is graded. That can make it feel even more like an authentic piano. If you don’t need 88 keys, you can get a similar model with either 49 or 61 keys.
While it costs a bit more than some MIDI keyboards, this one offers a lot of value. You can also use it to practice playing the piano if you don’t have an acoustic instrument. It’s also of excellent quality, so you can get a lot of use out of it.
- Graded hammer action
- Works with different operating systems
- Suitable as a MIDI controller and electronic piano
- A bit expensive
- Keypads can wear out
M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3-61 – Best For Beginners
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Semi-weighted keys | Number of keys: 61 | Weight: 9.26 pounds
This keyboard features 61 full-size piano keys that have a bit of weight. They’re also sensitive to your playing velocity so that you can control things like dynamics. You’ll get to use controls, such as modulation and pitch wheels, as well as a volume fader.
And while this keyboard doesn’t have all 88 keys, you do get octave up and down buttons. That allows you to play the entire range of notes. Of course, you get to explore multiple virtual instrument sounds when you connect the keyboard to your computer.
It also works with iOS devices with a special adapter kit. Since it doesn’t have a full keyboard, it can fit on more desks and workspaces. The size is also excellent for performances and other gigs.
You’ll receive professional audio software, such as Ableton Live Lite. It comes with many other programs, so you can select the best program for you. That way, you can start composing and recording without paying extra.
Since it doesn’t have fully-weighted keys, this isn’t the best for professional piano players. But it can be good for beginners who want to start making music. Luckily, you can easily move the keyboard around your studio if you need to change your setup.
- Easy to play
- Comes with multiple software choices
- Octave controls
- Not fully-weighted
- Can break easily
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 – Best Premium Pick
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Fully-weighted | Number of keys: 88 | Weight: 29 pounds
If you’re serious about getting a good MIDI keyboard with weighted keys, check out the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2. This model features professional-grade keybeds with hammer-action keys, so they feel similar to a standard piano.
You’ll get the keyboard with plenty of effects and instruments ready to go. The keyboard also includes tons of plugins for you to use. Like other models, it uses a USB cable to connect to your computer.
This model even has 1/4-inch connections for sustain and expression pedals. That makes it the perfect choice for piano players and other serious musicians.
Of course, it is a bit large since it has to accommodate 88 keys and MIDI controls. But you get to browse various instrument sounds before choosing one to use. You can also play a musical line before editing it in your software.
This MIDI controller works with a lot of programs on your computer. Sadly, you can’t use it with an iPad or iPhone. It does work with both Macs and PCs, though.
- Excellent quality
- Smooth keys
- Works with multiple plugins
- Very costly
- Can make a buzzing sound
Alesis VI61 – Best Budget Pick
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Semi-weighted keys | Number of keys: 61 | Weight: 13 pounds
You can control different virtual instruments with the Alesis VI61. The semi-weighted keys are the standard size of a keyboard, so you can play as you usually would. There are 16 velocity-sensitive trigger pads along with other controls, like pitch bend wheels.
When you connect to music software, you can assign 16 knobs and 48 buttons to do different things. That allows you to customize how you use the MIDI keyboard. It even comes with software such as Ableton Live Lite.
This keyboard has a standard USB connection and a 5-pin MIDI output. That makes it a more flexible choice for serious musicians.
You can easily use the MIDI controller with your Mac or PC. The octave buttons help you extend the range despite not having all 88 keys.
Since the keys are semi-weighted, they have a bit more resistance than some options. But they won’t feel exactly like playing an acoustic piano. That could be a good thing for musicians who aren’t used to the resistance of standard piano keys.
- Great for beginners
- Multiple controls
- Perfect size
- Some keys have uneven spacing
- Doesn’t work with all music software
Alesis VI25 25-Key Keyboard Controller – Best Portable
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Semi-weighted keys | Number of keys: 25 | Weight: 7 pounds
If you want something you can take with you, the Alesis VI25 is perfect. It only spans two octaves, but it’s not as bulky as many other MIDI keyboards. But you get many of the same controls as you do on the more significant Alesis MIDI controller with weighted keys.
This model has 24 buttons and eight knobs that you can assign to do different things. You also get modulation and pitch wheels to help control the music. Like other models, this one works with various music programs, including Ableton Live Lite.
Since it’s so small, this keyboard is ideal for musicians on the go. It can work well for music technology students. Even if you’re out of school, it’s great if you don’t have a dedicated studio for working on your music.
There are octave control buttons to help extend the range of the keyboard. Sadly, it doesn’t work with iOS devices, so you’ll need a laptop or desktop. A laptop is perfect if you want to take this keyboard on the go.
If you connect it to Xpand!2, you’ll get access to more than 2,000 sounds. That can help you get creative and make your songs more interesting and unique.
- Comes with thousands of sounds
- Adjustable controls
- More portable
- Only a two-octave range without using octave controls
- Has a learning curve
Novation 61SL MkIII – Best Versatile Option
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Semi-weighted | Number of keys: 61 | Weight: 18.28 pounds
You can do a lot of different things with the Novation 61SL MkIII. It features controls that allow you to create layers and zones on the keyboard. Meanwhile, the semi-weighted keys provide a bit of resistance while still being playable.
The MIDI controller features an arpeggiator you can use to create patterns. There’s also a pattern sequencer that can record as you play. Then, you can edit the tracks on the keyboard or in your music software of choice.
It uses a USB connection to hook up to your computer. You also get other inputs and outputs so you can route the keyboard to your device in multiple ways. Connect an expression pedal to get even more control options.
For better or worse, it works better in some programs than others. People have had issues using the keyboard with software like FL Studio. However, it tends to work well in Ableton Live Lite.
You also can’t use it with iOS devices, so you’ll need a Mac or PC. Still, it’s a good choice for many people looking to write or record music. You can buy it with a pedal, stand, or a stand with locking straps.
- Integrates with many DAWs
- Compatible with Mac and PC
- Different connections
- No iOS compatibility
- Doesn’t work with all music programs
Studiologic SL73 Studio – Best For Piano Players
Quick Specs: Key weighting type: Fully-weighted | Number of keys: 73 | Weight: 25.3 pounds
The Studiologic SL73 Studio is perfect for pianists looking to record or write music. It features hammer-action keys that feel like an acoustic piano. You can use the six-way controller knob to test the different functions of the MIDI controller.
This model features an ergonomic and clear user interface, which makes editing music easy. It also works with software to help you set up a virtual keyboard.
At just over 25 pounds, the keyboard is easy to take on the go. That makes it a fantastic choice for gigging musicians who want to use an electronic keyboard. You can use it with or without the MIDI connection, so you don’t need multiple keyboards.
Of course, it has 73 keys, which isn’t too popular. The range is E1 to E7, so you only miss the absolute lowest and highest notes. It should be good to use for most songs.
If you want something close to a full keyboard, you can’t go wrong. It’s handy for piano players, but other serious musicians can use it. After all, it never hurts to learn to play the keyboard like a pianist.
- Somewhat portable
- Easy to connect
- Good controls
- Doesn’t connect to external speakers
- Action slows down after a while
Buying Guide – Choosing The Best MIDI Keyboard With Weighted Keys
What Is MIDI?
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is an industry-standard protocol that enables electronic musical instruments, computers, and other devices to communicate with each other.
MIDI keyboards are one of the most popular types of MIDI controllers. They allow you to control sound parameters such as pitch, volume, and timbre using physical keys and buttons.
MIDI keyboards can be used to play virtual instruments on your computer or to control external devices such as synthesizers and drum machines.
Installing Drivers For Your MIDI Keyboard
MIDI keyboard drivers are small pieces of software that allow your MIDI keyboard to communicate with your computer. Drivers are typically installed automatically when you connect a MIDI keyboard to your computer, but you may need to update them manually if they become outdated.
If you’re having trouble getting your MIDI keyboard to work with your computer, you should first check that you have the latest drivers installed. You can usually find the latest drivers for your MIDI keyboard on the manufacturer’s website.
Types of Keyboard Weighting
Weighted keys on a keyboard refer to the mechanism underneath the key. This can be either weighted or semi-weighted.
Weighted keys have a heavier feel, while semi-weighted keys are lighter.
Hammer action keys replicate a traditional piano by having hammer mechanisms beneath each key, which makes them bounce back up after being pressed down.
Graded hammer keys have a weighting that is graded so that the lower notes are heavier and the higher notes are lighter.
A keyboard with semi-weighted keys is one where the keys have a little bit of resistance when you press them down. This makes it feel like you are playing a real instrument, and not just a computer. The weight of the keys is what gives them their resistance, and this can vary from one keyboard to another.
Semi-weighted keys are great for those who want to learn how to play the piano or other keyboard instruments. They are not as authentic as hammer action, but they are generally cheaper.
Hammer Action Keys
Hammer action keys are a type of keyboard that uses hammers to strike the keys. The hammers are located below the keys, and they strike the keys when they are pressed.
The main advantage of hammer action keys is that they provide a more realistic piano experience. When you press a key, the hammer strikes the string just like it would on a real piano. This gives you more control over the dynamics of your playing.
If you’re looking for a keyboard that will help you improve your piano playing skills, then hammer action keys are a great option. They can be found on both MIDI keyboards and acoustic pianos, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.
Graded Hammer Keys
Graded hammer keys are a feature found on some Yamaha keyboards and pianos. The keys are designed to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano such as an upright or grand piano, with heavier weights in the lower range and lighter weights in the upper range. This gives the player a more natural and realistic feel when playing.
Additional Gear You Need
Since MIDI keyboards don’t generate any sounds on their own, you’ll need a computer to host your virtual instruments. When it comes to music production, having a powerful computer is key. Here are some important specs to look for when choosing a computer for music production:
- RAM: 8GB of RAM is the minimum you’ll need for music production. More is better, so aim for 16GB or more if you can afford it.
- Processor: A fast processor is important for running music production software smoothly. An Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU should be sufficient.
- Storage: You’ll need plenty of storage space for your music files. A solid-state drive (SSD) is ideal, as it will offer faster data access speeds than a traditional hard drive. Look for an SSD with at least 250GB of storage space.
Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs, are pieces of software used for recording, editing, and producing audio files. MIDI keyboard controllers are often used in conjunction with a DAW to input musical data.
They can be used for a variety of purposes, such as producing music, recording podcasts, or sound design. They typically come equipped with a wide range of features, such as the ability to add effects like reverb or delay.
Additionally, they typically have a variety of knobs and buttons that can be assigned to various parameters within the DAW.
An audio interface is a device used to connect musical instruments and audio equipment to a computer. It allows the user to record and playback audio, as well as process and edit the sound.
Audio interfaces typically have one or more input and output jacks, which are used to connect microphones, guitars, keyboards, and other musical instruments. They also have a variety of controls, such as gain knobs and phantom power.
Most MIDI keyboards have USB connectivity, meaning you technically won’t need an external audio interface. Still, the computer’s internal sound card isn’t up to par with standalone interfaces. You will most likely experience audio dropouts and delay if relying on the internal sound card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Benefits From Using A Weighted MIDI Keyboard?
Anyone who wants to develop their piano playing skills! Why? Weighted keys will bring you closer to the feel of an authentic acoustic piano. The resistance from the weights helps piano players more accurately control the dynamic levels and tones of the instrument.
How Many Keys Do I Need?
If you’re looking to learn to play the classic piano, a full-sized 88-key weighted keyboard is recommended. It also depends on how much space you have in your room.
Although you can produce music with a 25-key controller, it requires the use of the top or bottom octave buttons. They’re also mostly used for DJing and electronic music, and not for standard piano playing.
Can I Use A MIDI Controller Without A Computer
You need a computer with a DAW installed if you want access to the keyboard’s full capability and the infinity of virtual instruments. MIDI keyboards are designed to be used with a computer. Still, some models can function fully offline with their own built-in sound library and be natively connected to speakers.
Buying a new instrument is exciting, but choosing the right MIDI keyboard with weighted keys is a process. Not only do you have to consider the type of weighting but also the number of keys and the device compatibility.
If your goal is to become a better piano player, choose a full-sized keyboard with 88 keys. This is especially important if you plan on one day playing a traditional piano.
Sure, a MIDI keyboard with 61 keys could be sufficient for complete beginners as these keyboards have a 5-octave range with one added key. The transition into an acoustic piano might not be as seamless though.
A 25-key MIDI keyboard is beneficial if you have limited space on your desk or value portability. Additionally, they’re great if you’re producing electronic music and looking for a MIDI controller to automate effects.
Keep those things in mind as you try new MIDI keyboards! Let me know what you think in the comment section below.