6 best MIDI Keyboards
A MIDI keyboard is a must-have studio equipment in every home producer’s toolbox. If you are serious about music production you should definitely consider buying one or upgrading to one that fit your needs! Before we dive into the 10 best MIDI keyboards we should take a look at what a MIDI keyboard is and what types of tasks it can perform.
A MIDI keyboard is a device that looks like a piano (yes it actually got black and white keys) and transfers MIDI-signals to connected devices (usually computers). You connect the MIDI keyboard with either USB or MIDI cables and VOILA (!), you can now control all of your software instruments and synths with the keys!
There are many different MIDI keyboards on the market with various features so before buying one you should definitely do your homework. If you are using FL Studio we recommend you to read our article “best MIDI keyboards for FL Studio“. If you are on a Mac and use Logic, read our guide on the best MIDI controllers for Logic Pro X. Hopefully this article on the 6 best MIDI Keyboards will help you out. Let’s dive in!
Some things to consider before buying a MIDI Keyboard
With so many options available on the market there are some things to consider before deciding which MIDI keyboard you should buy. What do you want and what do you need?
How many keys?
The first thing you should decide before buying a MIDI keyboard is how many keys you need! Your options are 25-key, 49-key, 61-key and 88-key. Are you looking for a more portable MIDI device that you can put in your backpack? If you are not considering yourself a piano player and are going to use the keyboard to play simple leads or basslines a 25-key may fit your needs. On the other hand, If you are a piano virtuoso you are going to feel very limited with a 25-key keyboard!
Remember: The more keys on a keyboard – the more space it take up. If you are blessed with a huge home studio, congratulations! If you are limited by space, size could also play a factor.
Here are some rough estimates of MIDI keyboard sizes (with piano-sized keys):
- 25 Keys – Approximately 12.5 inches (31.7cm)
- 32 Keys – Approximately 17 inches (43.7cm)
- 49 Keys – Approximately 32 inches (81cm)
- 61 Keys – Approximately 39.5 inches (100cm)Sample Item
- 88 Keys – Approximately 58.5 inches (145cm
One important thing to consider when trying to pick the best MIDI keyboard for you is the key weightening! It’s probably one of the most crucial things and can either make or break your creativity. There are three different key actions on MIDI keyboards:
- Synth Action: Probably the most common key action for MIDI keyboards. The keys are plastic and don’t have any weight attached to them. A spring beneath the key forces it to go back to its original position once released.
- Semi-weighted keys: The keys on a semi-weighted MIDI keyboard have a light weight attached to it. The keys won’t get back to their original positions as fast as the synth action keys (we are talking milliseconds here). However, the semi weighted keys give you a more realistic feeling of actually playing on a piano.
- Fully weighted keys: A fully weighted MIDI keyboard is the closest you will ever get a real acoustic piano. If you are a piano player this is probably the key action that you will prefer the most! However if you are looking for a MIDI keyboard with fully weighted keys it could be pricey.
I’m not really a piano player so synth action keys never bother me. If you are trying to learn to play the piano you probably want to go with weighted keys to mimic the feel of a traditional piano. If you are just going to add chord progressions or melodies on top of your productions, you’ll be fine with a MIDI keyboard with synth action keys.
Controls or no controls?
Even the most basic MIDI keyboards on the market usually comes with Pitch and Modulation controls and some buttons to pitch-shift octaves. There are also many MIDI keyboards on the market that come with knobs, rotary pots or faders. And believe me, they are fun to play with when automating effects or other parameters in your DAW. However, if you are a beginner they might be redundant and you will be just fine with the basic Pitch and Modulation controls on your MIDI keyboard. If you decide to go with a MIDI keyboard without controls you can always buy a separate MIDI controller later or upgrade your keyboard.
If you are a beatmaker and into beat programming and sampling, drum pads are an essential tool in your producer-toolbox! I’m a beatmaker myself and I find pads being much more efficient when trying to create that killer beat. They are bigger and much easier to hit than normal keyboard note. There are many MIDI keyboards with drum pads but if you are more into chord progressions and melodies they might be redundant.
…(If you are a gearslut like myself you can always buy a separate MIDI drum pad controller).
6 best MIDI Keyboards in 2020:
The Akai Professional MPK249 is one of the best MIDI keyboards on the market primarily because of two reasons: First being the high-quality drum pads boosted by the MPC 2.0 software. Second is the semi-weighted keys. I’ve tried many of the best MIDI keyboards out there and I’m telling you, these keys are something else! The keys are semi-weighted with a great Aftertouch. One of the best parts is that when I’m recording it doesn’t sound like MIDI notes playing. If you want to sound like a piano virtuoso, this is the best MIDI keyboard for you. Akai Professional MPK249 is also equipped with knobs, soundbanks, DAW-controls and sliders that don’t tie you up to your mouse and keyboard.
- With all features this can easily become the core of your home studio.
- The keys offer a piano-like performance and responsiveness
- It’s pretty heavy (almost 13lbs/6 kg) and not something you’ll want to carry around
- With my big fingers, I sometimes feel the pads are too small for precise finger-drumming
Similar to the Komplete Kontrol, the Novation Launchkey is at its best when combined with software. If you use Ableton as your DAW, the Novation Launchkey 49 MK2 probably is the best MIDI keyboard you can get your hands on. The biggest upgrade from MK1 is the 16 launch pads. They are now colorful lit matching the colors of the clips in Ableton. The live-features on the Novation Launchkey MK2 is something else. When you plug it in you are advised to install a software package that allows the knobs, faders and pads to adapt to all the sections in Ableton. This is super-easy to set up and enable all the live-performance features. The price on the Novation Launchkey 49 MK2 will not sink your finances. With all the features and functionality, this is one of the best MIDI keyboards you can get without leaving a hole in your pocket.
- A lot of functionality for the buck!
- InControl protocol gives custom settings for FL Studios, Logic Pro X and Reason.
- Quality-built keyboard with a solid feel.
- The keys are not weighted – can be an issue for some home producers and live performers.
- Slightly narrower keys than standard MIDI keyboards.
MAudio is known for their affordable and yet full-featured keyboards. The Oxygen 49 MKIV is definitely one of their best MIDI keyboards! It may not be the most flashy piece of equipment but if you are looking for a solid keyboard with essential features at high quality this MIDI keyboard will do the job! If you’re not an advanced user, the eight programmable trigger pads, knobs and velocity sensitive keys gives you everything you need. The keys are not weighted but they are probably the best in class when it comes to synth action keys. The superb integration with all major DAW’s out there is also something you’ll appreciate. With the Oxygen 49 MKIV you can say goodbye to painful syncing of devices and other technical creativity-killers. Just plug it and play it!
- Consistency and a reliable piece of equipment.
- Ease of use with solid controls
- Full-sized keys gives you plenty of space to work with
- Might be a little basic for more advanced users
- No volume slider
In my opinion, the Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII is the best MIDI keyboard for beginners (especially if you’re into electronic music). I don’t own one myself but I’ve had the pleasure to play with it many times. This small keyboard comes with 16 rotary knobs that can be used to tweak sounds in productions or live performances. The keyboard also comes with the Analog Lab Lite which is packed with 500 sound presets. The best part with this instrument is it’s plug-n-play features. It’s super easy to just open up your DAW and start playing around and tweaking the sounds using the rotary knobs. With that being said, if you’re into sound design – the Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII is a great starting point!
- Low price
- Sustain pedal input
- Lightweight and portable
- Plastic construction (although better than MKI)
- Keys might be too slim for some users
If there is one MIDI keyboard on the market that stands out it’s the Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2 from Native Instruments. I’ve owned one since the first generation of Komplete Kontrols and they are a game-changer! The new generation of Komplete Kontrol (MK2) brings an even tighter integration with Native Instrument softwares. With two displays you can easily audition and browse for sounds you like. This workflow introduced by Native Instruments has saved me tons of time and effort which could be a creativity killer. I know, it’s pricey… But it’s a game changer. If you run Native Instruments software I guarantee you’ll love it.
- Great hardware/software integration untying you from mouse and keyboard
- Solid MIDI keyboard that doesn’t feel plastic or cheap
- Looks sexy on your home studio desk
- The price tag
- Without NI software you’ll miss out on some of the most useful features
Nektar Impact LX25+ has everything you’ll ever need in a MIDI keyboard. It’s 100% compatible with every DAW on the market and the pads and knobs feel smooth and automatically maps to any instrument. Although you only have 8 physical drum pads on the Impact LX25+ you can easily swap between different “maps” by pressing the two shift-buttons to the right. The ability to control your DAW is definitely one of the key features that makes the Nektar Impact LX25+ one of the best MIDI keyboards today. The buttons let you change track, tweak knobs, switch between patches, play, record and stop on your DAW without reaching for your mouse. The keys looks semi-weighted but like many other MIDI keyboards they are synth action. When it comes to MIDI controllers/keyboards this never bothered me but if you are a piano player
this could be a dealbreaker.
- Seamless integration with every DAW on the market
- Full-sized keys with smooth action
- Great value for low price
- Quite large and heavy for a 25-key MIDI keyboard
- Keys not semi-weighted