Best Weighted MIDI Keyboards – A Spectrum of Experiences

Written by: Zach Wright
Updated:

MIDI, meaning Musician Instrument Digital Interface, is a way for musicians to connect digital musical devices that either make or control sound to each other. If you’re a keyboardist, this means you can control multiple keyboards or sound banks from just one keyboard, increasing the options you have at your fingertips without having to juggle multiple keyboards.

However, if you’re a pianist or keyboardist, you may want to also have the feel and responsiveness of a piano. In this case, you’re probably looking for a weighted MIDI keyboard, so you get all of the feeling of an acoustic piano with all of the benefits of digital music. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the broad spectrum of what's available in the best weighted MIDI keyboards. Then, we’ll talk about the reasons we chose the following keyboards and give you our favorite one. Let’s get started.

Here are the top weighted MIDI keyboards: 

Related:

Best Weighted MIDI Keyboards Reviewed 

AKAI Professional MPK261 - Best MIDI Keyboard Workstation

AKAI Professional MPK261 - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 61 Semi Weighted Keys, Assignable MPC Controls, 16 Pads and Q-Links, Plug and Play

Amazon 

Features

  • Includes 61 Semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive keys for a natural piano feel and response
  • Incorporates 16 assignable drum pads and 24 assignable controllers, including knobs, faders, and switches 
  • Uses 5-pin MIDI input and output
  • Includes a downloadable software package for Mac and PC, including Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3, and SONiVOX Twist 2.

Summary 

The MPK261 is a complete keyboard workstation designed with your MIDI needs in mind. It features semi-weighted keys that provide a natural, realistic piano feel without heavy resistance, plenty of assignable controls, and a professional, downloadable software package to manage your music. The semi-weighted keys won’t have as much resistance as fully-weighted keys, but they will give you more of a realistic feel than average synth keys. 

Pros

  • Features a more natural feeling keyboard 
  • Incorporates plenty of assignable controllers in addition to the keys 
  • Uses 5-pin MIDI input and output to control a variety of instruments 

Cons

  • Only has 61 keys
  • The keys are not fully weighted
  • It does not produce its own sounds because it is a controller only. This keyboard needs to be connected to another keyboard or computer to create sound. 

M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro - Best All-Around MIDI Keyboard

M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro – 88 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With Piano Style Weighted Hammer Action Keys, Beat Pads, and Software Suite

Amazon 

Features 

  • Has a more traditional piano feel with 88 graded hammer action, weighted keys 
  • Includes assignable drum pads
  • Also includes assignable knobs, buttons, and faders for additional effects control of virtual instruments
  • 3 footswitch pedal inputs 
  • Uses a 5 pin midi output
  • Includes downloadable software package with MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, and more

Summary 

The M-Audio Hammer 99 Pro flows seamlessly from live performance to studio recordings. This keyboard workstation offers an impressive graded hammer action feel with weighted keys so you can use your piano experience to maximize your musical expression. It has both USB and 5-pin MIDI outputs, so you can connect to your computer or other MIDI devices, giving you more flexibility in either application. In addition, there are plenty of assignable beat pads, knobs, buttons, and faders, so you can use your keyboard to add effects to whatever virtual instrument you choose to play. 

Pros

  • Realistic acoustic feeling, full size keyboard with 3 pedals
  • Lots of features for the price point, including assignable pedals and knobs
  • Includes both USB and 5-pin MIDI ports for flexibility 

Cons 

  • This keyboard needs a separate sound bank to operate but easily works with a laptop
  • Does not include on-board speakers

See our full buying guide and reviews for 88 Key Midi Controllers: The Top Rated 88 Key Midi Controllers in 2022

Alesis VI61 - Best Budget MIDI Keyboard

Alesis VI61 - 61 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 16 Pads, 16 Assignable Knobs, 48 Buttons and 5-Pin MIDI Out Plus Production Software Included

Amazon 

Features 

  • Available in 3 sizes: 61, 25, and 49 semi-weighted keys to suit your preferences
  • Includes both USB and 5-Pin MIDI Out 
  • 16 Pads, 16 Assignable Knobs, and 48 buttons to use for effects and virtual instruments 
  • Includes downloadable software including MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, XPand!2 
  • USB Plug and Play for both PC and MAC

Summary 

The Alesis VI61 was created to fit just about any budget without losing functionality. Its small size makes it highly portable, although it is still packed with great features. You can choose from 25, 49, and 61 key sizes, depending on the type of music you want to make or the portability you need. 

This keyboard features aftertouch, which allows you to press into the key after it has been played to activate additional effects on the note, such as tremolo or vibrato. The USB plug and play function makes it quick to set up since your computer should automatically recognize the keyboard through the USB port. There are lots of assignable knobs, buttons, and pads to use to create whatever real-time or recorded effects you want to use with your live or recorded music. 

Pros

  • Easy to use and set up. 
  • Offers both 5-Pin and USB midi for flexibility
  • Extremely portable and small 

Cons 

  • Semi-weighted keys are more realistic-feeling than synth keys but not as realistic as other fully-weighted, graded hammer-action keyboards. 
  • It is not available in an 88-key version. 

Yamaha P45 - Best MIDI Keyboard for Beginner Pianists

Yamaha P45 88-Key Weighted Digital Piano

Amazon 

Features

  • 88 Fully-weighted, Graded Hammer Standard keys to give you the best piano-like experience for playability and musical expression. 
  • Includes ten on-board voices and speakers so you can turn it on and play. 
  • Acoustic piano sounds are digitally sampled from acoustic grand pianos. 
  • Easy to use for beginners.
  • The price point makes it a good choice for entry level musicians looking to gain experience 

Summary 

The Yamaha P45 makes an excellent all-around keyboard with its graded hammer standard keys. The weighted action mimics an actual acoustic piano's feeling, volume, and expressiveness, while the on-board piano sounds are digitally sampled from real acoustic grand pianos.

You can use this keyboard as a MIDI controller via a USB port on the keyboard. Just plug it into your laptop or desktop and download the appropriate MIDI software. While the P45 has on-board speakers, you’ll get the best musical sound from a pair of headphones. 

This entry-level keyboard is great for beginner musicians dabbling in digital music or just learning piano for the first time. 

Pros

  • It makes an excellent practice keyboard as well as a MIDI controller 
  • It can be played without external connections 
  • Mimics the feel and sound of an acoustic piano 

Cons 

  • It does not have a MIDI 5-Pin output
  • It can be tricky to connect to a computer 

Korg XE20SP - Best MIDI Keyboard Bundle

Korg XE20SP 88-Key Digital Ensemble Piano - Black Bundle with Stand, Triple Pedal, Furniture-Style Bench, Instructional Book, DVD and Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth

Amazon 

Features 

  • This bundle includes the Korg XE20SP, furniture stand, three pedals, a piano bench, and music light, and a piano book with CD 
  • Has a full 88 Keys 
  • Uses a USB MIDI port 
  • Includes automatic accompaniment to expand your musical capabilities.

Summary 

The Korg XE20SP is a complete package, so you can jump in and get started right away. You’ll have everything you need right out of the box to make music! The 88 key keyboard features Korg’s well-rounded, natural feeling keys, and the furniture stand makes it look like a digital piano. The bundle also includes a three-pedal set for expression, a bench, a light, and a beginner piano book to help you get started. 

To use this keyboard as a MIDI controller, you can use the USB port to attach it to your MAC or PC. You’ll need to use a DAW or some kind of MIDI software to make sounds and record your music. 

Pros

  • Realistic piano feel 
  • Complete bundle to get you started playing quickly 
  • On-board sound and accompaniments

Cons

  • No 5-Pin MIDI connection, just USB 

Roland RD-88 Professional Stage Piano - Best MIDI Keyboard for Stage and Studio

Roland RD-88 Professional Stage Piano, 88-key

Amazon 

Features 

  • Impressive acoustic piano feel with 88 keys 
  • Large on-board sound bank and speakers 
  • Works for both the stage and the studio 
  • USB MIDI/audio 

Summary

The Roland RD-88 blurs the lines between a keyboard, digital piano, and workstation. It offers the most realistic acoustic piano feel while giving you a large sound bank with plenty of effects to work with. However, you can use the USB out to connect to your laptop or desktop to use this keyboard as a MIDI controller as long as you have the appropriate software. 

Pros 

  • Features Roland's famous acoustic piano feel 
  • Plenty of on-board sounds to enjoy 
  • High-quality built-in speakers 
  • Space-saving design makes it work well for gigging or studio use

Cons

  • Can only transmit 2 to 3 MIDI channels at one time
  • It uses USB MIDI only and does not have a 5-Pin MIDI out

Criteria For Choosing The Best Weighted MIDI Keyboards 

There are many things to look for when purchasing a weighted midi keyboard, which is heavily dependent on the purpose of the keyboard you are purchasing. For example, if you are planning on creating digital musical recordings only, you can lean towards a MIDI controller keyboard. On the other hand, if you are looking to create piano recordings or perform live, you’re going to want to lean towards an actual keyboard. 

Keyboard or Controller

There is a wide spectrum of options when purchasing keyboards, and one that we looked at was whether you want a MIDI keyboard or a MIDI controller. They might look the same in some ways, but they have different purposes. 

A keyboard can be used as a stand-alone instrument to make music. You turn it on, and it will either have on-board speakers or a headphone jack so you can make music immediately. If it is a MIDI keyboard, then it will have the capability to control or work with other MIDI devices via some kind of MIDI port built into the keyboard. 

A controller, on the other hand, is not a stand-alone instrument. A MIDI controller often looks like a standard keyboard with black and white keys, but it needs to be hooked up to a computer or even another keyboard to make any music because it doesn’t have any preloaded sounds. It may also have additional buttons, faders, and hit pads that a typical keyboard doesn’t have. 

If you want to use your keyboard for live music without attaching it to another device, make sure it has its own soundbank. But if you’re focus is to use your keyboard for recording or controlling a variety of sound banks, you can choose one that is a MIDI controller only. Our list has both, so choose the one that best fits your purpose. 

Both keyboards and controllers can work with MIDI, provided they have the right inputs and outputs. However, a MIDI controller is typically a little bit easier to get set up.

Number of Keys 

MIDI keyboards come in a variety of keyboard sizes. If you’re using your keyboard as a controller only, you might not need a full 88 keys. You may only need a few keys But if you also want to perform classical music or intend to record piano music, you may want to have a MIDI keyboard with a full 88 keys. 

Touch Sensitive and Weighted Keys 

You’ll want weighted, touch-sensitive keys if you are looking for a keyboard that feels like an acoustic piano. These types of keyboards are generally heavier, less portable, and more expensive, but they do feel more authentic when it comes to piano playing. 

On the other hand, if this isn’t important to you, you may be interested in velocity-sensitive keys. These are lighter weight, and while they don’t have an acoustic piano feel, they do allow you to play louder and softer based on how quickly you push down the key. 

This article focuses on weighted or semi-weighted keyboards to give you a more authentic piano experience. 

Full-Sized or Mini Keys

Some MIDI controllers only have mini keys because they are meant to be small, portable controllers. However, weighted keyboards are most likely going to have full-size keys. So if you are looking for an acoustic piano-like experience, you’ll want to choose full-sized keys. On the other hand, if you are more focused on creating music with a variety of digital instruments, you might not mind having a keyboard with smaller than standard keys. 

Size 

MIDI keyboards come in a variety of sizes, depending on how many keys you need. A weighted MIDI keyboard with 88 keys will be the largest and least portable. Many MIDI keyboards are available with fewer keys to give you more portability. 

Extra Controls 

Do you need additional controls on your MIDI keyboard? For example, a MIDI keyboard can control drum sounds using the piano keys. However, if you’re going to be making multiple drum tracks on a regular basis, you might want to use a keyboard controller that also has pads on it. Or maybe you want extra faders and knobs to control sound effects. 

MIDI ports 

MIDI keyboards need an out port to control other musical devices. Some keyboards will have an actual MIDI input/output. Others will use USB outputs so you can hook them up to a computer or laptop. If you plan on controlling other keyboards, you’ll want to look for a MIDI I/o. However, if you’re only ever hooking your keyboard up to a controller, the USB port will work just fine. 

If you can’t find the type of I/O port you want on your keyboard, there are adapters and hubs available to create additional types of connections if you need them. 

Pedals 

Most keyboards are standard with a pedal sustain port or expression pedal port. However, some MIDI controllers do not. If you are looking to create authentic piano music, you’ll want to make sure you have some kind of pedal control. 

Budget

You can’t purchase any instrument without considering your budget. You could spend thousands of dollars finding the ideal keyboard, but if that doesn’t fit your budget, you won’t be able to purchase it. Make sure you know your budget so that you can pick something that suits your needs and your budget. 

Our Pick for the Best Weighted MIDI Keyboard 

MIDI keyboards are available on a broad spectrum of playing experiences. The more piano-like you lean, the fewer on-board MIDI functions you’ll find on your keyboard. On the other hand, the more on-board MIDI functions you have, the less focus on creating a tangible piano-like playing experience. 

And while you can’t digitally recreate the feel of an acoustic piano, you can digitally create instruments and effects. So our choice for the best Weighted MIDI keyboard is the Roland RD-88. We love that it offers the most realistic piano feel you can find in a digital keyboard. We also love that it provides built-in sounds and speakers, so you can just turn it on and play when you don’t want to boot up all the MIDI software. And we love that you can plug it into your Mac or PC to create a digital workstation that offers you all the MIDI capabilities you might need to make great recordings or live performances. 

On the spectrum of MIDI keyboards, the Roland RD-88 truly blurs the lines between performance and recording capabilities and gives you the best playing experience. 

Written By:
Zach has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Being a studio owner for 13 years, he actively helps musicians and producers with technical issues around musical instruments and studio and audio equipment.

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