10 Best MIDI Keyboards in 2021 (Review)
Whether you’re a veteran music producer or a hobbyist, a reliable MIDI keyboard is one of the most critical components of any music production setup. A MIDI keyboard, also known as a keyboard controller, typically includes piano keys, music controls, pedal inputs, and a host of other components that can help you produce music.
If you’re hoping to find the best MIDI keyboards in 2021, our comprehensive buying guide is the internet’s top resource. First, we’ll take a look at the top ten MIDI keyboards on the market and examine their features and key specifications. Next, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to ensure you purchase the perfect MIDI keyboard for your production set-up.
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The Best MIDI Keyboards
1. Akai Professional MPK MIDI Keyboard
The Akai Professional MPK MIDI Keyboard is an advanced keyboard controller that has a variety of high-performance components. This model includes 25 keys, all of which are velocity-sensitive for added performance. You’ll have access to eight Q-link knobs, eight backlit MPC-style pads, and a four-way thumbstick.
Most of the core components are assignable, which means you can use your software to customize the effects and sounds that come from the keys, pads, and knobs.
If you’re looking for a portable MIDI keyboard, this is an excellent option. It’s easy to carry and offers USB connection and power. That means that you won’t have to worry about finding complicated adapters or cords to set this keyboard up on a new computer system.
Aside from the physical attributes associated with this MIDI keyboard, you’ll also benefit from an excellent software bundle. This particular product comes loaded with Hybrid 3, SoniVOX Wobble, VIP 3.1, and MPC Essentials. All these core software components provide unique recording and production benefits—you’ll even have access to over 1,400 unique sounds.
2. Korg 25-Key Midi Controller Keyboard
If you’re searching for a simple, portable MIDI keyboard controller that can help you produce excellent sounds, the Korg 25-Key Midi Controller Keyboard is one of the most reputable options available. Its slim, minimalist design makes it barely noticeable on your desk.
This particular model is created to help laptop users access a MIDI keyboard that doesn’t take up much space. Placed at the bottom of your laptop, it effectively becomes an extension of your computer’s keyboard, and the USB-enable design means that it will work with almost any computer.
The only downside to this lightweight keyboard controller is that it doesn’t have the same advanced features as other products on our list. With only 25 keys and a lack of clear color coordination, it’s easy to see why this is a keyboard controller that is more suitable for beginners and those who need a simple option that’s transportable and easy to set up.
The keyboard is manufactured by a company that has specialized in manufacturing electronic musical equipment for over 50 years. Korg first began producing its hardware in 1962 and has since grown into one of the most prominent companies in the industry.
3. Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
The Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller features 49 velocity-sensitive keys. You’ll also benefit from octave up and octave down buttons that provide a full range of sounds and effects. It’s an excellent product if you’re hoping to take advantage of the full features included in your music production software.
In total, there are eight additional pads and four knobs included on the keyboard, which can allow you to plug in virtual instruments and manipulate a variety of effects or external components. The V49 software is extremely flexible and allows you to control the sounds, inputs, and velocity of the keyboard.
Some of the best features included with this keyboard are located in the external software included in the package. In addition to the core software, you’ll also receive Pro Tools (First Alesis Edition), Mini Grand, DB-33, Xpand!2, Eleven Lite, and Live Lite 9. These software products provide virtual instruments, cloud storage space, elastics pitch, and a host of other features that you typically have to pay a premium for.
4. Akai Professional LPK25
The Akai Professional LPK25 is a MIDI keyboard controller that’s built with portability in mind. If you’re searching for a compact MIDI keyboard that benefits from 25 mini keys and an affordable price tag, this is an excellent option. This particular model is USB powered, so you can take it with you on-the-go and plug it into almost any computer or laptop.
You can change the octaves using ‘up and down’ buttons, which increase your sound’s overall range, as well as program the keys to emit almost any type of sound. It’s excellent for melodies, basslines, and more.
In terms of synth sound features, you’ll find an in-house arpeggiator that can help you find musical inspiration and eases the process of recording new songs.
One downside to this product is that it doesn’t include any high-end software in its core package. Still, you can use this keyboard controller with a range of different software products, including GarageBand, Sonar, ProTools, Fruity Looks, Logic, and more.
Considering this product incorporates a basic, portable design at an affordable price point, it’s definitely a good option if you’re looking for your first keyboard controller.
5. Alesis V25
The Alesis V25 is another 25 key, USB-enable keyboard controller that offers portability and access to world-class software. It includes eight backlit pads, four assignable knobs, and four custom buttons that you can use to develop your music.
One feature that sets this keyboard controller apart is the responsive lighting built into the system. When you use the keyboard’s control knobs and pads, the light will provide feedback to confirm you’ve manipulated the right components. This helps you avoid mistakes during the recording or production process.
There are buttons for changing the octave up or down. This function allows you to take advantage of the full range included in a traditional keyboard. It replaces the need for a longer product.
Lastly, when you purchase this product, you’ll also receive access to ProTools (Alesis Editions) DB 33, Xpand 2, Eleven Lite, Mini Grand, and Live Lite 9. These software programs offer everything from world-class production to virtual instrument set-ups.
6. Midiplus AKM320 Midi Controller
The Midiplus AKM320 Midi Controller offers a few more core keys than the 25-key options on our list. You can also use an ‘Octave Up’ and ‘Octave Down’ button to access the keyboard’s full range. While it isn’t as large as a full MIDI piano keyboard, you’ll be able to access just as many sounds.
In addition to the traditional keys included in the keyboard controller, you’ll also have access to a volume slider, sustain pedal input, pitch wheel, and modulation wheel. The keys are velocity-sensitive, which can help you access the quality of sound that you need for high-end production.
As you won’t need an additional driver to use this keyboard controller, it’s an excellent option if you need something flexible and easy to set up. Simply plug in your USB cable and begin using the keyboard with your favorite music production software.
7. Arturia MiniLab MkII
The Arturia MiniLab MkII is a unique keyboard controller that is both compact and highly functional. Unlike the other mini keyboards on our list, this particular model includes a range of additional buttons and features that you don’t often find packed into a device of this size.
This keyboard controller benefits from a sleek, intuitive design that won’t draw attention to your computer or workspace. There are 25 keys, but you can use the octave buttons to change the range of the keyboard output.
In addition to traditional keys, you’ll also find 16 total pads that offer a variety of functions. They are pressure-sensitive, which means you can customize their outputs depending on the way you interact with the hardware. The backlighting included in the system also helps you avoid mistakes.
Lastly, you’ll find 16 rotary encoders and two capacitive touch sensors. The touch sensors offer modulation and pitch bend. Those who purchase this keyboard controller will also have free access to UVI Grand Piano, Ableton Live Lite, and Analog Lab Lite.
8. M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3
If you’re searching for a full-size MIDI keyboard, the M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 is one of the best options on the market. With 61 keys included in the keyboard controller, you won’t need to switch octaves to get a full keyboard range out of this product.
While it’s less portable than some of the other alternatives on our list, its lightweight design still ensures it’s easy to carry and transport. This MIDI keyboard controller also contains directional buttons, modulation and pitch wheels, octave buttons, a volume fader, and more.
In addition to hardware controls, you’ll find premium software is also included in the 61 MK3 package. ProTools First, Eleven Lite, Velvet, and Hybrid 3 are just a few of the software products you’ll receive free access to if you decide to purchase this keyboard controller.
While the M-Audio Keystation is more expensive than many of the options on our list of top MIDI keyboard controllers, it’s easy to see why this hardware system is so popular with its users. If you want access to a full range of keys and extensive customization options, it’s hard to go wrong with this product.
9. Korg MicroKEY 237
The Korg MicroKEY 237 is a unique 37-key MIDI keyboard controller that offers more functionality than a traditional 25-key keyboard controller. You’ll also benefit from in-house software that helps you edit music and record songs.
While the ‘Kong Control Editor’ isn’t as advanced as some third-party software options, it’s still a useful tool for beginners. You’ll also be able to connect this to other software products.
The MircoKEY is compatible with Windows, MAC, iPhone, and other Apple products—it’s an iOS compatible device. If you’re looking for a keyboard controller that can be adapted to almost any computer format, the 237 is one of the best options.
Still, while this is an excellent product, it’s essential to note that it doesn’t have the same number of pads and additional components as other MIDI keyboards on our list. If you’re looking for an advanced product that offers access to a wide range of inputs, this won’t be your best option.
10. M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32
If you’re looking for a compact keyboard that offers tons of functionality, the M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32 is a serious contender. While there are 32 keys built into this keyboard, the real strength lies in the eight pads and full suite of performance controls at the top of the keyboard.
The M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32 markets itself as an excellent product for producers that need to build loops and beats, and it’s easy to see why. With 32 keys and eight customizable pads, you’ll have everything you need to produce high-quality melodies, sounds, and tracks.
The keyboard is built to adapt to different software programs, which is an excellent feature if you’re planning on using this keyboard controller across multiple software and hardware devices.
While this isn’t one of the cheapest MIDI keyboards on our list, you’ll find that the system offers plenty of value to its users. If you want an advanced keyboard controller that isn’t too bulky, this is an excellent option.
3 Key Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Midi Controller Keyboard
Now that you’ve explored our MIDI keyboard reviews, it’s time to decide which product is most suitable for your production needs. Below, let’s take a look at three things to keep in mind when you’re purchasing a MIDI keyboard.
Most of the music tech in a MIDI keyboard is packed into its software bundle. If you want to avoid spending extra money after you purchase your keyboard, ensure there is software included in the package. As your software bundle plays an integral role in the functionality of your keyboard controller, it’s just as important to research the software’s capabilities as it is to research the keyboard’s capabilities.
Keep Your Computer’s Capabilities in Mind
As your keyboard controller will need to connect to your computer to operate, it’s essential to keep your computer’s capabilities in mind when you purchase a MIDI keyboard. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a position where you can’t benefit from the full power of your keyboard. Most MIDI keyboard controllers will include information about operating system requirements—check them before you make a purchasing decision.
If you’re planning on using an Apple device, you need to ensure that your MIDI keyboard is iOS compatible. While this will primarily depend on the software that you’re using to produce your music, it’s always essential to double-check.
If you’re going to invest money in a new keyboard controller, make sure that it comes packed with great features. Whether it be control knobs, backlit pads, assignable faders, note repeat functions, pedal inputs, transport controls, or a sustain pedal input, extra features can help you get the most out of your music production.
In some cases, musicians prefer to use semi-weighted keys, which can provide the same feeling as a traditional keyboard. This can help traditional musicians transfer into electronic music without the need to adapt to new playing styles.
If you’re searching for MIDI keyboards for beginners, options with too many features can be overwhelming. Newcomers are often better off sticking to the basics. Make sure to research which features you need to produce the type of music you’re targeting.
What are the Different Sizes of MIDI Keyboards?
One of the primary differences you’ll find in MIDI keyboards is their size. In many cases, the size of your keyboard will impact how many inputs you can benefit from. Our MIDI keyboard controller guide contains various product sizes.
If you’re searching for a mini-keyboard, the most common product will be a 25-key MIDI keyboard. This being said, there are also plenty of 32-key MIDI keyboards that feature on our list—these are also considered to be compact options.
Outside of these two smaller MIDI keyboard options, you’ll find 49-key MIDI keyboard designs and 61-key MIDI keyboard designs. A 61-key product is considered to be full-sized, even though it doesn’t have the same number of keys as a traditional keyboard (101 keys).
Keep in mind that many of the smaller keyboards also have octave buttons that ensure you can reach the same ranges that you find in many full-size keyboards. Still, many music producers find it easier to use larger systems if they have enough space in their studio.
Either way, it’s critical to remember that a keyboard controller’s keys are only one component of its functionality. You’ll also need to consider its extra pads, control knobs, and wheels.
How is a MIDI Keyboard Different from a Regular Keyboard?
Many new producers make the mistake of thinking keyboards and MIDI keyboards are the same product. In reality, these are two entirely separate tools and have different purposes.
Traditional electronic keyboards are a musical instrument that often mimics the sounds and layout of a piano. A keyboard can function without the need for external software—it’s a standalone instrument that may also include its own speaker system. For this reason, traditional keyboards are popular with musicians who perform live shows and require a transportable instrument that doesn’t need additional software, speakers, or equipment.
MIDI keyboards are different from traditional keyboards in that they require computer software to operate. In many ways, MIDI keyboard controllers are only as powerful as the software that you have operating on your computer.
How to Connect Your Keyboard to a Computer
The method you use for connecting your keyboard controller to your computer will vary depending on the product. That’s because, in recent years, several USB MIDI keyboard options and Bluetooth MIDI Keyboard options have entered the market. If you purchase either one of these types of keyboards, you can connect them to your computer via the USB input or the Bluetooth connection on your dashboard.
The Bluetooth designs mean that you can benefit from a fully wireless MIDI keyboard. It’s an excellent option if you’re looking to declutter your workspace.
If you’re using a traditional MIDI keyboard that doesn’t have USB or Bluetooth capabilities, you’ll need a ‘MIDI to USB’ converter cable. In most cases, this cable will be a single cable—one side will be USB, the other side MIDI. Connect the USB device to your computer and the MIDI side to your MIDI keyboard.
Your manufacturer will most likely provide you with this type of input. Otherwise, you may need to purchase a converter from an electronics supplier.
If you’re planning on using your MIDI keyboard at multiple locations, it’s often best to choose a USB-enabled device. If you’re visiting other homes, studios, or offices, having a universal input makes it much easier to connect your keyboard controller to any hardware device that you come across.
No matter what, your MIDI keyboard controller will come with extensive instructions on how to connect it to your computer or iOS device. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for the best results.