Best MIDI Keyboard

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for Music Production (2019)

I still remember the day I got my first MIDI keyboard.

Although I had played a bit of piano here and there, I didn’t have one that worked with my computer. But when I unboxed my M-Audio Axiom Pro 25 key MIDI for the first time, I felt like I had opened a new world…

Let’s be honest though, it was probably just that feeling everyone has when they get new gear.

My old Axiom Pro 25

Either way, you can’t deny that even if they aren’t essential, MIDI keyboards are a trusty addition to the studio. Whether it’s your first time or not, it’s like a whole other depth of musical ideas is accessed through the physicality of playing notes in, rather than drawing on the MIDI editor.

The problem is, in 2019 there are so many MIDI keyboards to choose from – it can be paralysing even attempting to start, let alone being halfway through the shopping process with 100’s of tabs open. Then you start asking all sorts of questions.

What’s the best MIDI keyboard for me? How much should I spend?

So today, we’re going to streamline that for you and show you our top picks for best MIDI keyboards in 2019. From older models to newer models, these options can suit any producers’ needs.

You can skip straight to the keyboards if you want. Otherwise, keep reading.

Before Buying

Now before you buy any of these options, ask yourself if you’re really up to introducing a new piece of gear into the studio.

If any of these reasons for buying apply to you:

…then there is a good chance you need to check yourself before buying. It’s not that a MIDI keyboard can’t help, it’s that it won’t solve your problems.

If you’re a new producer without prior musical knowledge, then I’d recommend holding off. Firstly, get comfortable with your DAW, nail the basics of production and start to learn some music theory. Because more options mean more distractions.

(Check out our guide, How To Make Electronic Music for more info.)

Apart from that, here are the main factors to consider:

Key Number

MIDI keyboards typically come in 25, 49, 61 and 88 key varieties. The more keys, the more octaves you can play at the same time – without having to awkwardly press the octave jump button.

When it comes to key number, bigger is better if you’re performing complex pieces and/or are used to a full-sized keyboard. However, if you’re new, start small and work your way up.

Key Weighting

AKA how the key feels when you press it down. Most MIDI keyboards have what is called synth weighting, which replicates the same feel of most analogue synths. Full-weighted keys feel exactly like a grand piano would, and have a lot more resistance to them.

Purist piano players would tell you to go for the weighted keys because it ‘trains you better’ but let’s be honest, even if you start playing live one day, you’re just gonna use what you’ve got. So, if you’re used to the weighting go for it. Otherwise do what works for you.

Knobs, Faders, Pads and Encoders

The fun stuff. This are the features that expand your studio and allow for greater expression.

Here you have to give some thought to your desired workflow – are you going to be playing drums in? Maybe some pads could work.

Or you like sound design and want to do some live automation and macro-tweaking? Better get some knobs or encoders.

Perhaps you want to mix on the fly? Make sure it has a few faders.

Compatibility

It’s happened to all of us – we hear about some software, an app or some gear that we get stoked about. And then we hear some soul-destroying words:

“Oh, it’s Mac only.”

Big oof. Anyway, you’re going to be hard pressed finding a MIDI keyboard in 2019 that’s platform specific, or even requires driver installation. Most these days are what’s called class compliant – you plug it in and it works.

Regardless, I’m including this here for the above reason, we want to make sure we can use it up front. So make sure to read the compatibility information with each MIDI keyboard.

Extras

Personally, I’m not sure why these companies include so many software bonuses with their products. Surely Ableton Live Lite isn’t gonna help me if I’ve already got a DAW, which I need to use the keyboard?

But who cares what I think. If you want extras, then make sure to see what comes with each MIDI keyboard, some of them can be cool, like free plugins, samples or trial subscriptions.

Otherwise, let’s just jump into it!

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers For Beginners

First time buying a MIDI keyboard? It’s a pretty exciting time, not gonna lie.

Having some tactile keys, pads and knobs in the studio – you’re starting to feel like a REAL producer now. The only thing is, you’ve probably never touched a piano in your life, so the important thing is not to go overboard on your first purchase. So, start small and work your way up.

But you need to make a decision, so you can actually get one. So lets stop daydreaming, and start looking.

Akai MPK Mini MK2

$85

Akai MPK Mini MK2 MIDI Keyboard

Akai is renowned for its hardware and is responsible for the very first Ableton Push. Now, they’ve created possibly the best entry-level MIDI keyboard you’ll find. Plus, you can chuck it in a backpack and take it on the road – no sweat.

This is what I personally recommend producers if they come asking for advice on their first purchase.

Features:

  • 25 compact keys
  • 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads
  • 8 knobs for macro-mapping
  • 4-way thumbstick for pitch and modulation control
  • Built-in arpeggiation
  • Class compliant (Mac and Windows)
  • iOS compatible
  • USB-powered
  • Software included

Novation Launchkey 25 MK2

$149

Novation Launchkey 25 MK2 MIDI Keyboard

Even if you’ve never heard of Novation, you’ve definitely seen their products. The Launchpad is Novation’s pride and joy, and you can find it in every second mashup video on YouTube ever.

The Launchkey takes that layout, scales it down, adds some keys (and other features) and packages it in a nice form factor. It’s a little on the bigger side, so portability is less of a focus here, but to compensate they’ve both made it look damn awesome and constructed it with high-quality materials.

Features:

  • 25 synth-style velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 RGB pads
  • 8 knobs
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel on left
  • Transport section (Play, Pause etc.)
  • Single mappable fader
  • Class compliant (Mac and Windows)
  • iOS compatible
  • USB powered
  • Software and samples included

Keith McMillen Instruments K-Board

$79

Keith McMillen Instruments K-Board MIDI Keyboard

So full disclosure, I own this keyboard, so I can probably tell you a bit more about it than the others. But it’s a great-featured, ultra-portable option if you don’t mind a non-traditional layout. It’s also super tough, surviving being run over by a car.

One of the cooler features about this MIDI keyboard is the aftertouch features, it senses

Features:

  • 25 pad-style keys
  • USB powered
  • Individual key tilt for pitch control
  • Sustain toggle
  • Velocity toggle
  • Extremely portable and light
  • Rugged as heck
  • Class compliant (Mac and Windows)
  • iOS compatible

M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK4

$119

M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK4 MIDI Keyboard

My first love. In all seriousness though, it’s an extremely capable keyboard and one of the only options for a 25-key MIDI that has full sized keys.

Along with the Launchkey, the Oxygen 25 is on the bulkier side, so if you have limited space or want to take it around with you, it’s probably not for you.

Features:

  • 25 keys
  • 8 mappable knobs
  • Full transport section (play, pause, record etc.)
  • Mappable fader
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel
  • Class compliant
  • iOS compatible
  • Pro Tools integration onboard

If You’ve Played Before

This ain’t your first rodeo. Either, you’ve played piano before and know your way around, or you’ve owned a MIDI keyboard before and have taught yourself how to use it. Whichever you are, now you’re wanting a bit more juice from your keyboard.

Keith McMillen Instruments QuNexus

$189

Keith McMillen Instruments QuNexus MIDI Keyboard

If you like to expand your MIDI keyboard beyond the DAW, into hardware synths and the like – consider this bad boy. It’s like the grandparent to the K-Board (literally too because it came before it) – it’s got the same layout, even a lot of the same buttons, but more ports and more internal functionality. Worth the extra money if you like a bit more flexibility.

Features:

  • 25 pad-style keys
  • USB powered
  • Individual key tilt for pitch control
  • Velocity toggle
  • Extremely portable and light
  • CV/gate control
  • MIDI/OSC control

Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII

$99

Arturia MiniLab 25 MIDI Keyboard

Arturia’s MIDI keyboards are underrated. Not only do they come with an insanely high-quality build, but they also come with some of the most practical software in the industry, not the filler crap that the marketing executive decides to chuck in last minute to improve the sales pitch.

Analog Lab is a collection of instruments from their V Collection range, all modelled meticulously off of analogue synths. Not something you can usually get with a keyboard, making this essentially a hybrid synth.

Features:

  • 25 synth style mini keys
  • 16 encoders (with 2 integrated into Analog Lab)
  • 8 pads (2 banks) with RGB
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel strips
  • Analog Lab Lite – 500 analog synth presets
  • Class-compliant
  • USB powered

NI Komplete Kontrol M32

$129

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 MIDI Keyboard

If there’s a competition for the sexiest MIDI keyboard out, the Komplete series would win, hands down. I mean, look at it.

Yet, looking that good won’t come cheap. Native Instruments is known for being on the premium end of gear, whether that’s in their Traktor DJ range, Maschine range or their Komplete audio range. That being said, I can’t believe this MIDI keyboard only goes for $129. Insane.

So, if you want a high-quality keyboard, this is one to go for.

Features:

  • 32 compact keys
  • 8 rotary encoders
  • Transport section with display
  • Built in chord creator and arpeggiator
  • Includes Komplete Kontrol instruments
  • Includes Ableton Live 10 Lite
  • Rugged design

Novation Launchkey 49 MK2

$199.99

Novation Launchkey 49 MK2 MIDI Keyboard

Like its younger sibling, the Launchkey 49 features a lot of the Launchpad functionality in a keyboard setting. This time, you’re getting more keys and a full fader section. Great for the studio and the stage. Addtionally, the feature set fits quite nicely into the form, making it the perfect size for a studio setup or a live set.

Features:

  • 49 synth-style velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 RGB pads
  • 8 knobs
  • 8 faders
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel on left
  • Transport section (Play, Pause etc.)
  • Class compliant (Mac and Windows)
  • iOS compatible
  • USB powered
  • Software and samples included

Need Something More?

If you’re a seasoned producer who is maybe looking at a serious upgrade or looking into the live performance side of music production, then these options should do the trick.

Novation Launchkey 61 MK2

$249.99

Novation Launchkey 61 MK2 MIDI Keyboard

The biggest of them all, the Launchkey 61 is the closest thing to a full-size keyboard you can get in this line. It’s pretty good, to be honest. Apart from that, it’s got the same same feature set as it’s two predecessors. This is definitely one to go for if you like the Novation-style layout and features, but you want something a bit more playable or something that’s geared more towards live performance.

Features:

  • 61 synth-style velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 RGB pads
  • 8 knobs
  • 8 faders
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel on left
  • Transport section (Play, Pause etc.)
  • Class compliant (Mac and Windows)
  • iOS compatible
  • USB powered
  • Software and samples included

Arturia KeyLab Essential 61

$249

Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 MIDI Keyboard

The KeyLab is one of the most unique options on the market. Not only does it carry the same hybrid synth capabilities as the MiniLab, but also expands the functionality with an array of faders, pads and knobs. Oh, and a full version of Analog Lab (6000+ sounds) Way more creative control over your sounds.

This thing is a studio beast, but could also be used for live performance due to its 61 key set. But, the only down side is no RGB colours on the pads – just blue.

Features:

  • 61 synth style mini keys
  • 10 encoders (with 2 banks – all auto-mapped to Analog Lab parameters)
  • 16 pads
  • 9 faders
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel strips
  • Transport section
  • Various parameter switching buttons
  • 2 dedicated encoders for preset configuration
  • Interactive display
  • Analog Lab – 6000 analog synth presets
  • Class-compliant
  • USB powered

NI Komplete Kontrol A49/A61

$209/$259

On the upper end of the Komplete Kontrol keyboards, we have the A series keyboards, available in 49 and 61 key varieties. They mostly share the same features, but this is a step and a half up from the M32.

While they’re not fully-featured like their sister series, the S series, they definitely pack a lot more into these once-again strangely affordable MIDI keyboards.

Features:

A49A69
49 custom-weighted keys61 custom-weighted keys
Komplete BrowserKomplete Browser
Native Map technologyNative Map technology
Maschine software integrationMaschine software integration
Smart play (chord mode/set)Smart play (chord mode/set)
Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel with Touch ControlPitch Bend and Mod Wheel with Touch Control
USB poweredUSB powered
Class-compliantClass-compliant
Works with NKS instrumentsWorks with NKS instruments

ROLI Seaboard Block

$299.95

Roli Seaboard Block MIDI Keyboard

Ok, we’re starting to get into the weird and wonderful side of MIDI keyboards. Of course, there is always going to be a company who throws a curveball into the market, but ROLI seriously delivers. Combining experimental features with genuinely pragmatic functions, the Seaboard Block is an ideal foray into something a bit more expressive. While it has it’s own unique learning curve, the sounds you can get out of this thing is pretty insane. You just can’t modulate the same controls on your standard MIDI keyboard.

Features:

  • 24 key ‘keywave‘ pressure responsive surface
  • 5D (five dimension) touch technology
  • Wireless connectivity
  • USB-C connectivity with battery life (10 hours)
  • Requires software to be installed on laptop/desktop
  • Includes iOS software
  • 3-month Melodics subscription
  • 3-month MaxMSP subscription
  • Includes library of sounds

Best of the Best

If you’ve got the cash to spare and are looking for the best MIDI keyboard money can buy, then don’t look past these stunning options. Lots of keys, lots of buttons, and features you won’t find on any other keyboard.

ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

$1099.95

Roli Seaboard Rise 49 MIDI Keyboard

Hot damn this keyboard is cool. This one takes musical expression to the next level, like the K-Board/QuNexus but on a chunk of steroids. If you thought the Block was cool (and it is), this one takes that to the professional level by adding a fuller keyboard spread with even more controls. Also, did I mention playing it makes you feel like your hands are floating?

Features:

  • 49 ‘keywaves‘ on pressure-responsive surface
  • 5D (five dimension) touch
  • 1000’s of sounds
  • Software bundle – Equator, Strobe2, Cypher2 Player, Bitwig 8-Track
  • USB connectivity
  • USB-A for charging
  • Wireless connectivit (8 hour battery life)
  • MPE – MIDI Polyphonic Expression
  • Class compliant
  • Host DAW must support MPE to use all of the RISE features, otherwise it functions like a standard MIDI controller

NI Komplete Kontrol S49/S61 MK2

$629/$729

If you though the A series was good, then prepare to be impressed. The S series MIDI keyboards are just really, really good. Not only do you get the sexy form factor with a nice-feeling key bed, but you get tons more enhancing features, like the light guide, advanced chord and scale settings and tight integration with Komplete. By the way, the price here is more reflective of the usual Native Instruments standard.

Features:

S49S69
49 key Fatar key bed61 key Fatar key bed
Komplete Browser with built-in displayKomplete Browser with built-in display
Native Map technologyNative Map technology
RGB LED light guideRGB LED light guide
Smart play (chord mode/set)Smart play (chord mode/set)
Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel with Touch ControlPitch Bend and Mod Wheel with Touch Control
USB poweredUSB powered
Class-compliantClass-compliant
Works with NKS instrumentsWorks with NKS instruments

Akai MPK261

$499

Akai MPK261 MIDI Keyboard

Akai’s larger keyboards have been the staple of studios and live rigs for the many years gone by. That still holds true today. Why? Because the array of faders, pads and highly-playable keys make this a top contender in many producers’ arsenals. All in all, it nails the essentials with a few bells on top, and it just works.

Features:

  • 61 synth-style semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
  • 16 RGB performance drum pads with 4 banks
  • 8 faders, encoders and switches
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel
  • MPC swing, note repeat workflow built in
  • Includes SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble piano plugin
  • USB powered
  • Class compliant

Arturia KeyLab 88

$729

Arturia KeyLab 88 MIDI Keyboard

If you’re wanting an 88 key MIDI keyboard, then the KeyLab 88 is one of your best bets. Although the layout looks a bit odd, the integration with Arturia’s software, mappable controls and amazing keys make this a winner.

Features:

  • 88 synth style mini keys
  • 10 encoders (with 2 banks – all auto-mapped to Analog Lab parameters)
  • 16 pads
  • 9 faders
  • Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel strips
  • Transport section
  • Various parameter switching buttons
  • 2 dedicated encoders for preset configuration
  • Interactive display
  • Analog Lab – 6000 analog synth presets
  • Class-compliant
  • USB powered

Still Undecided?

If you’ve gone through the above options and still can’t decide, check out this great website called controllers.cc. You to specify your exact needs, and it’ll spit out the options.

However, if you just need more time, don’t rush. Buying any big piece of gear is important, and you want to ensure it’s the best choice for you.

If you have any questions about the gear mentioned, or if I straight up missed some good options, drop me a line at [email protected] and ask away. I’ll be there.

About the Author

Aden Russell

With 10 years of music production experience and some marketing chops, I head up the content here at EDMProd. I also make music under Artsea, DJ Colors and Birthed. My pastimes include reading, drinking coffee and taking photos.

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