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:
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.
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.
See our full buying guide and reviews for 88 Key Midi Controllers: The Top Rated 88 Key Midi Controllers in 2024
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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