MIDI Keyboard Controllers are an absolute must in 2020!
But there are so many out there that it is hard to pick one unless you have read this article!
Because here you will find your next MIDi Keyboard Controller!
Let's check them out!
But before we take a look at the top keyboards, let’s say a few things about these devices…
MIDI Keyboard Controllers are made to control VSTs and plugins in your DAW. They don’t produce any sound by themselves unless you connect them to a virtual synthesizer.
That’s why their value increases based on their ability to control different parameters. Some of them come with more keys than others, while knobs, pitch control, and banks differ greatly between various models.
While their abundance might seem overwhelming, you should always remember that the best MIDI keyboard for you is the one that actually fits your needs.
So, now, let’s check out the top models out there! Surely, there is one for you!
If you need a MIDI keyboard controller to use with your Komplete software, you ‘ll certainly want to check out the NI Komplete Kontrol S series.
This premium-quality series of keyboard comes with three models, featuring 49, 61, or even 88 keys that are semi-weighted and feature aftertouch.
The controllers also feature color screens, pitch, and mode wheels, and various knobs and buttons for easier control.
The light guide interacts with the Komplete software allowing you to easily control it, while smart play also uses this system to let you map and use single keys for arpeggios, scales or chords.
Do you also need more controls than the ones you can control with your hands?
Then you’ll certainly appreciate the two assignable inputs for foot pedals that the series features.
Unfortunately, these MIDI keyboard controllers are mainly made with Komplete software in mind, so if you don’t own it, you won’t see their full potential.
It's not every day you come across controllers that satisfy both your budget and performance levels.
Arturia KeyLab series gives musicians and producers alike full features to create and record music intuitively.
Remarkably, the Arturia collection never fails when it comes to software and hardware integration.
In fact, Arturia started bundling hardware and software together long before other companies.
Beyond the striking looks and the rigid case, what’s the big deal about the Arturia KeyLab series?
They say first impressions last.
And the Arturia KeyLab Series does a perfect job with the smart and refreshing layout.
With 9 faders and rotary encoders to the right, the display screen in the center, and the pads to the left of the keyboard, operating the controllers couldn't be easier.
The LED display is more informative providing data of the last MIDI, the name of the control, and its CC value.
Above all, both the KeyLab 49 and 61 dons a key-bed that provides just the right resistance to their weighted action.
Arturia made sure the KeyLab series are MCU/HUI compliant to allow multiple DAW integration without much fuss as you will notice from the key layout.
The Mackie Control and HUI modes can now be switched with ease using the Arturia MIDI Control Center software.
It also allows you to manage MIDI maps, load and save your presets, and customize however you want.
We found it very useful if you want to create user preferences and update your firmware.
To top it off, you also get access to presets from Modular V, Stage V, Piano V, and Farfisa V among thousands of other presets via the browser.
What else do you get?
Looking for a controller with thousands of vintage sounds than you could ever imagine?
Well, the Arturia KeyLab Series Analog 3 and MIDI Control Center is a step up from the competition.
The keybed could’ve been smoother but, overall, there's not much to complain about really.
The Seaboard Rise series is a series of MIDI Keyboard Controllers that comes with two models: Seaboard RISE 25 and Seaboard RISE 49.
Each keyboard has the number of keys that are mentioned in the model’s name.
So, what makes them special?
The first thing you notice with these controllers is the sleek and modern-looking design that makes them both minimalist and beautiful.
But it doesn’t stop there!
This series offers innovative functions, such as vibrato, customizable sensitivity, and the ability to touch and shape sound timbres.
You can even personalize patches with the touch-sensitive track-pad and 3 touch-sensitive faders, or map sound parameters to certain gestures.
Wireless connectivity is also supported, allowing you to use Bluetooth in order to move the controller around. That can be especially useful if you want to place it somewhere away from the computer.
Finally, it ships with a bunch of software including Equator Synth, Strobe2, Bitwig 8-Track, Tracktion Waveform, and Seaboard Dashboard.
If I can be totally honest, Novation’s SL MKIII is set to take the lead if they keep producing keyboards of this caliber.
The idea behind this new innovation was to create a keyboard controller that integrates all the prime features to give you the go-to unit for your entire studio needs.
Are all those compliments about SL MKIII really worth your penny?
Let's find out.
Regardless of your choice between the 49 or 61-key controllers, SL MKIII bridges the gap between hardware and software control.
And believe it or not, when they say it's an all-in-one studio hub, it's serious business– MIDI, sequencer, CV and software control – all designed into one beautiful instrument.
Connect to your hardware MIDI and build tracks via the 8-track polyphonic sequencer with or without the computer.
Novation’s collaboration with Ableton now gives Live users a smooth experience.
Users are also offered “Deep Integration” with Logic and Reason as well as HUI compatibility with Pro Tools, Cubase, and Studio One.
This means the keyboard can open up any DAW.
To monitor all the parameters, you have 5 color LCD screens for full visibility.
Furthermore, SL MKIII supports 16 full-color velocity-sensitive RGB pads, eight sliders, 59 backlit buttons, and 4 GB of Loopmasters sounds and samples.
The semi-weighted keybed comes with the highest scan rate of 10 kHz, eight faders, and eight knobs.
In other words, you get hands-on experience with your music.
The controllers’ rear panel gives you an array of connections including USB, MIDI in/out, two CV/gate and Mod outputs, plus Out 2/Thru on 5-pin DIN sockets, quarter-inch TRS and TS jack inputs.
Now, check out the good and the bad
AKAI has been a reputable brand in the MIDI controller niche for years now, and the MPK Series is no exception to the rule.
This series comes with three models that range from the smallest 25-key size up to 61 keys.
In fact, this series consists of the MPK225, MPK249, and MPK261 keyboard controllers, with each one featuring respectively, 25, 49, and 61 keys
What is best about this series is the flexibility it offers.
All models feature semi-weighted keys, along with a variety of pads and knobs (and faders in larger models) that you can assign to any parameter you wish.
All three models also feature pitch and mod wheels.
The build quality of all the models is sturdy, ensuring long-term durability that makes your investment really worth it.
The only issue?
They are not really suitable for beginners, as they need some time to get used to the way they work.
The French company Arturia has been around for a long time in the audio niche, and you can really see that in the Arturia Keystep Pro.
This 37-key MIDI controller that comes with mini-keys and compact size to be easily transported, doesn’t sacrifice anything for being small.
In fact, this is one of the most complete small MIDI controllers, as it comes with literally everything you need:
There are also other features that are not often found in small keyboards, such as MIDI IN and OUT ports, that make a connection with other devices easy, as well as a sustain pedal port for those who are used to having a pedal on their feet.
Unfortunately, all these features come at a pretty high price, compared to other 37-key MIDI controllers on the market
Are you looking for a MIDI keyboard controller that is particularly sensitive to your touch and movements?
Then you have to look no further than the Seaboard Block Series!
This Series made by ROLI comes with controllers that translate your movements such as strikes, glides, and pushes to musical expression.
They feature Bluetooth wireless MIDI connectivity, as well as wide compatibility with both Windows and iOs.
Each model comes with a particular bunch of software and plugins that you can use for musical creation.
Their appearance is minimalistic and modern-looking, as they come in plain black color that makes them almost disappear.
This series is really recommended to those of you who want to experiment with a unique keyboard controller.
On the downside, you might find out that these keyboards are too “particular” to be used as your primary MIDI keyboard controllers.
News flash: Nektar has expanded its MIDI controller keyboard line with the release of Panorama Nektar T4 and T6.
Keeping the end-user in mind, this keyboard controller has extensive MIDI functionality and advanced performance features.
You’ll definitely forget the mouse as you take charge of all the parameters while browsing and loading patches directly from your T4 and T6.
That’s just for starters.
Stick around for a more in-depth look at Panorama Nektar T4-T6’s
Boasting Panorama keybed with five-velocity curves and aftertouch, the synth action keys are springy, yet fell firm.
Some additional cool features include Key Repeat and Pad Repeat buttons just above the Pitch and Mod wheels.
When engaged, the key or pad you press next will repeat until you release the buttons.
This enhances performance levels giving you more fun at the controls.
Here's the real score.
Panorama T4 and T6’s deep DAW integration.
You get the next level control over your instrument plugins, mixer, and in any VST/AU compatible DAW.
This means controlling everything without looking at your laptop.
If you're a finger drummer, get to work with the eight conspicuous velocity and pressure-sensitive pads.
Apart from being expressive, they can be triggered at an extremely low threshold.
To assign sounds, simply activate Pad Learn, choose a pad, and play a note.
On top of that, the Chord function allows you to trigger up to 6 notes with one press of the pad or key.
Nektarine control manager software allows you to take control of VST, or AU plugins directly from the system.
Nektarine works discreetly to give you a hands-on experience in creating amazing sounds while turning the knobs.
In a rush?
Take a quick scan into the pros and cons of Panorama Nektar T4-T6.
Let’s imagine this for a moment…
You are a piano or keyboard player that wants to experiment with a MIDI keyboard controller, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on it.
What about an affordable MIDI keyboard controller that would come with semi-weighted, full-sized keys?
Well, there’s a whole series that can do that!
The Novation Impulse series comes with three models, that feature respectively 61, 49, and 25 keys. You only sacrifice the faders for the latter, in order to make it more portable!
In general, all three models come with knobs, pads, pitch and mod wheels, and a small LCD screen that allows you to constantly control your parameters.
The keyboards are lightweight and compact in order to be carried around with ease.
They are especially easy to install, as you just have to plug them into your USB port.
The only drawback is that the knobs and pads have a plasticky feel, despite the overall solid build quality.
A quick look at the Roland A-800 Pro and you’ll know it's purposed for both on-stage and studio.
Coming with two power options, USB or DC power, this MIDI controller keyboard is a beast with 61 velocity-sensitive keys.
On the face of it, it's easy to dismiss this system just as any other keyboard. Until you get a feel of the keys!
If you're thinking, “What's the catch?” Well, there isn’t one.
Roland is a reputable manufacturer of keyboards and this is another fantastic piece worthy of your studio.
First off, looking at the front panel it seems like accessibility was at the top of the list.
With 45 fully assignable controls - 9 sliders, 9 knobs, and 4 buttons, plus transport controls, everything is right at your fingertips.
Add the 8 velocity-sensitive Dynamic Pads, conveniently placed for easy reach, and you have full control of your tunes.
The A-800 Pro is equipped with FPT Low-latency MIDI Transmission.
In other words, you're assured of super-low latencies that give you the real instrument feel.
Now consider the pitch/modulation stick. Comparing this to the typical plug and play option that comes with other keyboards, it still elicits mixed reactions from some people.
But you know what?
Its integration means more control with less interaction with your mouse.
And, if you feel like working in dim light, the buttons are backlit with LEDs.
One advantage about the Roland A-800 Pro is that you don’t actually need an AC adapter.
You can power it up using USB. This means you can use it anywhere, so long as you have a computer.
So, what do you get with this MIDI controller keyboard?
If you research online and among other forums, you won't find a USB keyboard that creatively offers prime features at such a competitive price.
Now the ball is in your court.
Get your Roland A-800 Pro today and upgrade your studio!
The Novation Launchkey is another series of MIDI keyboard controllers that comes in four sizes: these include models with 25, 37, 49, and 61 keys.
The keys are velocity-sensitive but unfortunately, they are not fully or semi-weighted.
So, what makes this series stand out?
Well, these controllers are really easy to install and use!
You just have to plug them in a USB port and they work!
Plus, their intuitive interface is really good for beginners, especially because it is very well combined with Ableton Live.
Speaking of software, the Launchkey series comes with a useful bundle that includes among others Ableton Live 10 Lite, Serato Sample LE, Splice Sounds, Spitfire Audio LABS Expressive Strings, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Klevgrand R0Verb, Klevgrand DAW Cassette, and AAS Session Bundle.
Moreover, these controllers are pretty lightweight so they are easy to carry around.
All in all, I would highly recommend the Novation Launchkey Series to beginners, as these models are pretty straightforward about the way they can be used.
For those of you on a really tight budget, I would advise you to take a look at the Nektar Impact LX series.
This series comes with two mid-sized models with 49 and 61 keys respectively.
What is really nice is that they feature a variety of controls that include keys, pads, knobs, buttons and wheels, to ensure that you can control your sound in a multitude of ways
These keyboard controllers are USB powered so that they don’t need any external power.
Furthermore, they integrate well with all major DAWs, and they ship along with Bitwig that you can use to make music.
The only problem is that the key action might seem a little too light, especially to piano players.
However, many users have reported that once they adjusted their playing to the key action, it causes no significant problem in their musical expression.
Do you wish for a budget-friendly MIDI keyboard controller?
Then you really need to check out the Alesis VI Series!
This series that comes with three models (25, 49, and 61 key versions) can cover pretty much everyone’s needs!
The keys are full-sized and they are complemented by 8 velocity-sensitive backlit pads and 4 assignable knobs and buttons.
All of them have a nice feel, making your playing very intuitive. Plus, they are illuminated, offering constant visual feedback.
Moreover, the octave up and down buttons let you access the full keyboard range, while you can also use the pitch and modulation wheels to expand your sound palette.
Although these models are not expensive, the build quality is not cheap. The materials that have been chosen are of high quality and ensure the durability of the controllers.
Finally, they come with both USB and MIDI connectivity, so that you can choose what fits you better.
What about a budget-friendly but decent series of MIDI keyboard controllers? Does this even exist!
The NI Komplete Kontrol A series comes with three different models that feature either 25, 49, or 61 keys.
Their keys are both semi-weighted and full-sized, keeping the models familiar to keyboard players.
The controls are pretty simple to grasp and that makes these keyboard controllers ideal for beginners in digital music production.
Plus, it comes with sturdy build quality, something that is not common with affordable controllers.
What adds to its value, even more, is that it comes with more than 6,700 sounds and 13 GB of content.
Its software bundle includes Monark, The Gentleman, Scarbee Mark I, Reactor Prism, and many more.
It’s hard to find any flaws at this price point, but it is true that the built-in screen is too small to actually depend on it to control parameters.
Summing up, the NI Komplete Kontrol A series is a great series for starters, as well as for those who want a pretty simple keyboard controller that does the job and doesn’t cost a fortune.
Do you wish for a MIDI keyboard controller that would be flexible, portable, and affordable?
Well, this is not just a dream!
The M Audio Oxygen series manages to deliver all three qualities with three different models: Oxygen 25, Oxygen 49, and Oxygen 61 which feature 25, 49, and 61 keys respectively.
So, what actually makes these controllers flexible?
In fact, they come with 8 velocity trigger pads, 8 assignable rotating control knobs, and 9 assignable faders (only Oxygen 49 and Oxygen 61) that allow you to fully customize all the controls!
Additionally, this series comes with really lightweight controllers, letting you carry them wherever you wish.
The package features Ableton Live Lite for your musical productions, as well as useful plugins.
What is best, is the low price tag: this series makes flexible keyboard controllers affordable for pretty much everyone.
The only issue we found is the plastic finish that makes it look a little cheap.
In the music world, when a favorite brand like M-Audio releases a new equipment, our antennas become fully tuned to catch wind of what’s new.
The M-Audio Code Series is a game-changer.
Any serious artist or musician looking for a solid MIDI Keyboard with improved mechanics and added features will want to own one.
So, what new features can you expect from M-Audio’s Code range?
Consisting of three models with 25, 49, or 61-key versions, these keyboards are bus-powered and use USB connectivity.
Integrating the aftertouch function in these models brings a new perspective.
And the fact that they are fully functional with a large screen for better visual, makes them even more interesting.
The main controllers are conveniently placed just below the display.
And you know what else?
A built-in X/Y pad is a new cool feature in these MIDI Keyboards.
If you haven’t heard about X/Y touch controller, it’s a black 4-piece grid on the top right corner of the board that allows you to control your parameters.
Think about it like a laptop touchpad. Its main function is to manipulate the sound by assigning different filters and EQ to your liking.
To lay bare the functionality of the pads, the location is rather unconventional.
But who wants the usual?
Located on the left side, and at the edge instead of above the keys, you don’t have to change hands while paying the keyboard and the pads.
As for the synth-type keyboard, apart from the aftertouch, there are four velocity curves and 3 modes that offer fixed values of 64, 100, and 127.
So, why should you buy M-Audio Code Series?
For what it's worth, M-Audio Code Series is a reliable MIDI keyboard with features fit for both studio and live performance.
The additional features including the X/Y pad make this equipment unique.
All in all, the CODE has impressive capabilities and a controller designed for optimal performance.
If you wish for a keyboard controller that would be modeled out of your Apple Bluetooth keyboard, there is nothing better for you than the CME Xkey Air!
This is actually a series that comes with two models (with either 25 or 37 keys) that both feature sleek and modern-looking design in plain white color.
What’s more, they are wireless!
You can connect them via Bluetooth to your computer or tablet, without the cable fuss and they have no audible latency to worry about.
Their size and low weight also make them easy to transport, so they are perfect if you want to make music on the go.
However, please note that they come with a disadvantage: there is no battery status indicator, so you have no information if the MIDI controller will shut down in the middle of the show…
If you plan to buy these models, you’d better charge them fully right before using them.
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