17 Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Groove Mastery (2024)

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In the digital age of music production, MIDI pad controllers have emerged as essential tools for electronic musicians, producers, and beatmakers. These versatile devices allow artists to trigger samples, control software instruments, and bring tactile responsiveness to an otherwise mouse-driven process.

Whether you’re looking to create complex drum patterns, launch clips in a live setting, or just add a touch of human feel to your productions, a MIDI pad controller can be the bridge between your creative vision and the digital realm. In this guide, we’ll delve into 17 of the best MIDI pad controllers available in the market, highlighting their features and helping you choose the one that best fits your needs and workflow.

Our Top Picks
  • Novation Launchpad X
  • Akai MPD218 and Akai MPD226
  • Akai MPD 232
  • PreSonus ATOM
  • Keith McMillen QuNeo
  • Maschine Mikro Mk3
  • Native Instruments Maschine Mk3
  • Akai Professional MPC One
  • AKAI Professional Fire
  • Akai Professional MPC Studio MIDI Controller
  • Ableton Push 2
  • Arturia BeatStep Pro
  • Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3
  • Korg SQ-64
  • Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid Sequencer
  • ROLI Lightpad Block M
  • Nektar Aura
Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Novation Launchpad X
(Image Credit: Novation)

Novation Launchpad X

Next-Generation Grid Controller for Dynamic Performances

Specifications:

  • Pads: 64 Velocity Sensitive Pads with Polyphonic Aftertouch
  • Screen: No
  • Connectivity: USB-C
  • Additional Controls: 16 Buttons, 81 RGB LEDs
  • Software Included: Ableton Live Lite, AAS Session Bundle, XLN Addictive Keys, Softube Time and Tone Bundle

Benefits:

  • Large RGB pads allow for expressive and colorful performances.
  • Four customizable modes (Note, Drum, Scale, and Custom) for various applications.
  • Dynamic note and scale modes enable automatic scale-locking for effortless melody and chord creation.
  • USB-C connectivity ensures fast and reliable data transfer.
  • Lightweight and portable, ideal for live performances and studio sessions.
  • Comes bundled with a robust suite of software to get started immediately.

Overview:

The Novation Launchpad X represents the next generation of Novation’s iconic grid controller series. Designed with the modern producer and performer in mind, it boasts 64 large RGB pads that are both responsive and vibrant. This makes it an excellent choice for those looking to add some flair and dynamism to their performances.

One of the standout features of the Launchpad X is its ability to automatically lock into scales. This makes playing melodies, chords, and progressions both intuitive and error-free. Moreover, with its four customizable modes, users can easily switch between triggering clips, playing drums, laying down melodies, or setting up their custom workflows.

The controller’s integration with Ableton Live is seamless, but it’s versatile enough to be used with other DAWs. Additionally, the inclusion of a generous software bundle means new users will have everything they need to start making music right out of the box.

Final Thoughts:

The Novation Launchpad X isn’t just a mere update to its predecessors. It’s a reimagining of what a grid controller can be. Its combination of powerful features, intuitive design, and robust build quality make it a top choice for both newcomers and seasoned professionals. Whether you’re crafting beats in your bedroom or lighting up the stage with a dazzling live performance, the Launchpad X is built to deliver.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Akai MPD218 and Akai MPD226
(Image Credit: Akai)

Akai MPD218 and MPD226

Two Powerhouses for Advanced Beat Production

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 Thick Fat backlit MPC pads (Both models)
  • Screen:
  • Additional Controls:
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Software Included: MPC Essentials, Big Bang Universal Drums, Big Bang Cinema Percussion

Benefits:

  • Both controllers offer highly sensitive MPC pads that ensure expressive beat-making.
  • MPD226 provides enhanced controls with faders and switches, offering a more tactile experience.
  • Both units come with dedicated software bundles, expanding creative possibilities.
  • The ergonomic design makes them suitable for both studio and live performances.
  • Intuitive controls like Note Repeat and Full Level aid in dynamic performances.

Overview:

Akai’s MPD series has been a staple in the music production community for its robust and responsive pad controllers, and the MPD218 & MPD226 are no exceptions. These MIDI pad controllers offer the famed Akai pads, known for their sensitivity and expressiveness.

The MPD218 is a more streamlined model, focusing mainly on the pads and a few assignable knobs, making it perfect for those who want a straightforward beat-making experience. On the other hand, the MPD226, while retaining the core features of the 218, brings in additional controls like faders and switches, which can be invaluable for those looking to have more hands-on control over their DAW or external instruments.

The included software bundle with both controllers is a boon for producers, especially those just starting. With MPC Essentials, Big Bang Universal Drums, and Big Bang Cinema Percussion, one can dive into beat production without needing any additional tools.

Final Thoughts:

Choosing between the MPD218 and MPD226 comes down to one’s needs. If you’re after a simple, pad-centric controller, the MPD218 will serve you well. But if you require more comprehensive control with additional knobs, faders, and switches, the MPD226 is the way to go. Whichever you choose, Akai’s quality and performance won’t let you down.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Akai MPD 232
(Image Credit: Akai)

Akai MPD 232

Elevated Control for the Modern Producer

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 Thick Fat RGB illuminated velocity and pressure-sensitive MPC pads
  • Screen: No
  • Additional Controls: 8 assignable faders, 8 assignable Q-Link knobs, 8 assignable Q-Link buttons, 64-part, 32-step sequencer
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI In/Out
  • Software Included: Ableton Live Lite, Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion, and Big Bang Universal Drums

Benefits:

  • Versatile control set with faders, knobs, and buttons ensuring a comprehensive DAW interaction.
  • Enhanced sequencing capabilities with a 32-step sequencer for intricate patterns.
  • Renowned MPC pads offer sensitivity and expressiveness, perfect for dynamic beat production.
  • Bundled software suite provides a solid foundation for production right out of the box.
  • MIDI In/Out ports enable seamless integration with external gear.

Overview:

The Akai MPD 232 is more than just a pad controller; it’s a comprehensive MIDI control surface designed for producers seeking a deeper level of interaction with their music software. Building on the legacy of Akai’s MPD series, the 232 offers an expanded control set that is both intuitive and powerful.

One of the standout features is the 64-part, 32-step sequencer, which opens up a new realm of possibilities for beat creation and pattern manipulation. This, combined with the iconic Thick Fat MPC pads, provides an unmatched tactile experience for beatmakers.

Beyond the pads and sequencer, the MPD 232 is equipped with a variety of assignable controls. The 8 faders, Q-Link knobs, and buttons allow for versatile manipulation of software instruments, plugins, and DAW functions, catering to a more hands-on production approach.

The inclusion of software like MPC Essentials, Ableton Live Lite, and Sonivox’s percussion libraries ensures that producers have a robust starting point. Whether you’re laying down beats, mixing, or tweaking synthesizer parameters, the MPD 232 offers a control spectrum that is both broad and intuitive.

Final Thoughts:

The Akai MPD 232 is for the producer who wants more: more control, more sequencing capabilities, and more expressiveness. Its balanced feature set makes it suitable for both studio settings and live performances. If you’re in the market for a controller that can elevate your production game, the MPD 232 is a contender worth considering.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: PreSonus Atom
(Image Credit: PreSonus)

PreSonus ATOM

Intuitive Beat Production and Performance

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 full-size, velocity and pressure-sensitive RGB pads
  • Screen: No
  • Additional Controls: 4 programmable rotary encoders, 20 assignable buttons, 8 assignable pad banks
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI
  • Software Included: Studio One® Artist, Ableton® Live Lite, Studio Magic software suite

Benefits:

  • Vibrant RGB LED pads allow for color-coordinated feedback and visual orientation.
  • Tight integration with PreSonus Studio One software for seamless music production.
  • Pressure-sensitive pads enable expressive playing and dynamics.
  • Compact and portable design, perfect for on-the-go musicians and producers.
  • Assignable pad banks and buttons offer customization and flexibility.

Overview:

Designed for both studio and live performance, the PreSonus ATOM reinvents the MIDI pad controller experience. With its vibrant RGB LED pads, users are treated to visual feedback that is as captivating as it is informative. Each pad’s color can be customized, making it easier to identify samples, loops, or instrument groups at a glance.

A standout feature of the ATOM is its tight integration with PreSonus’s own Studio One software. This ensures a frictionless production experience, from drum programming to sample triggering and beyond. However, with the inclusion of Ableton Live Lite, users are not limited to a single DAW, offering versatility in their workflow.

The ATOM’s pads are both velocity and pressure-sensitive, capturing every nuance of a performance, whether it’s a gentle melodic line or a hard-hitting drum pattern. The additional rotary encoders and assignable buttons provide extensive control over software parameters, enhancing the hands-on feel of this controller.

Compact in size but mighty in features, the ATOM is designed with the modern producer in mind. Whether you’re crafting beats in the studio or performing live on stage, this controller offers an intuitive and inspiring interface for your musical ideas.

Final Thoughts:

The PreSonus ATOM strikes a balance between performance and portability. Its tight integration with Studio One, combined with the flexibility of using other DAWs, makes it a versatile choice for any producer. The expressive pads, combined with the RGB feedback, make it not only a powerful tool but also a joy to use. For those seeking a MIDI pad controller that is both functional and inspiring, the ATOM is a top contender.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Keith McMillen QuNeo
(Image Credit: Keith McMillen)

Keith McMillen QuNeo

Revolutionary 3D Multi-touch Pad Controller

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 pressure, velocity, and location-sensitive pads
  • Screen:
  • Additional Controls: Multi-color LED feedback, 251 multi-function buttons
  • Connectivity: USB, optional MIDI Expander for 5-pin MIDI connection
  • Software Compatibility: Any software that supports MIDI

Benefits:

  • Advanced touch sensitivity captures pressure, velocity, and exact finger positions.
  • Multi-color LED feedback provides clear visual cues and enhances live performances.
  • Highly customizable with extensive onboard controls for versatile performances.
  • Durable construction ensures reliability in both studio and live settings.
  • Compact, slim profile makes it easy for on-the-go music creation.

Overview:

The Keith McMillen QuNeo stands out in the realm of MIDI pad controllers, offering a uniquely immersive touch experience. Every pad, slider, and rotary control is designed to detect not just pressure and velocity but the precise location of touches, making it incredibly responsive and expressive.

The multi-color LED feedback system is one of QuNeo’s standout features, granting users immediate visual cues. This is especially beneficial during live performances, where rapid pad changes and swift adjustments are commonplace. The myriad of colors not only indicates the status and information of touches but also adds a visually arresting element to performances.

Interfacing seamlessly with a wide range of software and hardware, the QuNeo is as versatile as it is innovative. Its slim profile and lightweight design belie its robust construction, ensuring that it withstands the rigors of both studio use and live shows. The inclusion of 251 multi-function buttons provides an unparalleled level of control and customization, ensuring that musicians and producers can tailor the device to their exact needs.

Final Thoughts:

Keith McMillen’s QuNeo is not just another MIDI pad controller; it’s a leap forward in expressive control for electronic musicians. By capturing every nuance of touch, it offers a playing experience that is both intuitive and deep. Whether you’re a finger drummer, a DJ, or an electronic music producer, the QuNeo promises to enhance your creativity and redefine your interaction with music software and hardware.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Maschine Mikro Mk3
(Image Credit: Native Instruments)

Maschine Mikro Mk3

Compact Groove Production Powerhouse

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads
  • Screen:
  • Additional Controls: Note Repeat, Step Sequencer, Swing adjustments, and more
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Software Compatibility: MASCHINE software, and includes MASCHINE Essentials library

Benefits:

  • High-quality, responsive pads suitable for intricate finger drumming and triggering samples.
  • Intuitive workflow facilitates pattern creation, sample chopping, and song arrangement.
  • Compact and lightweight design ideal for portable setups and tight studio spaces.
  • Direct access to essential functions and parameters with dedicated buttons.
  • Integrates seamlessly with the broader MASCHINE ecosystem and other Native Instruments products.

Overview:

The Maschine Mikro Mk3 by Native Instruments is a compact yet feature-packed MIDI pad controller designed for groove production and beat-making. As the smaller sibling to the flagship MASCHINE range, the Mikro Mk3 manages to encapsulate the core features and functionality in a more portable format, making it an ideal choice for those starting with beat production or those needing a compact solution for on-the-go music creation.

The 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads are one of its standout features, offering tactile feedback and dynamic response. This ensures that from subtle, nuanced beats to more aggressive rhythms, the Mikro Mk3 captures every touch. Coupled with the high-resolution monochrome display, it provides instant visual feedback, making sample slicing, sound tweaking, and pattern creation more intuitive.

A notable advantage of the Mikro Mk3 is its seamless integration with the MASCHINE software. This provides users access to an expansive sound library, powerful sampling tools, and intuitive sequencing functions. Additionally, with dedicated buttons for functions like Note Repeat, Step Sequencer, and Swing adjustments, the workflow is further streamlined, reducing the need to dive into software menus.

Final Thoughts:

The Maschine Mikro Mk3 is a testament to Native Instruments’ commitment to providing top-tier production tools in a compact format. While it may lack some of the more advanced features of its bigger counterparts, it compensates with its portability, affordability, and straightforward operation. Whether you’re a budding producer or a seasoned beat-maker looking for a secondary device, the Mikro Mk3 is a worthy addition to any setup.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Native Instruments Maschine Mk3
(Image Credit: Native Instruments)

Native Instruments Maschine Mk3

Comprehensive Beat-Making and Production Workstation

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 ultra-responsive, multi-colored performance pads
  • Screen: Two high-resolution RGB color displays
  • Additional Controls:
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, MIDI in/out, 2 Line inputs, 2 Line outputs, Headphone output
  • Software Compatibility: MASCHINE software, Komplete Instruments and Effects

Benefits:

  • Packed with advanced features making it a versatile tool for both studio and live performance setups.
  • Superior pad sensitivity facilitates expressiveness, suitable for various genres and playing styles.
  • Dual screens allow users to slice, browse, tweak, and perform without looking at the computer.
  • Robust integration with MASCHINE software provides a seamless and intuitive beat-making experience.
  • The built-in audio interface makes it a one-stop solution for producers, eliminating the need for additional gear.

Overview:

Native Instruments’ Maschine Mk3 stands as an iconic piece in the beat-making community, known for its comprehensive features and integrated software experience. As a successor to the previous models, the Mk3 introduces significant improvements in both hardware and software, solidifying its position as a favorite among professionals and enthusiasts alike.

One of the most celebrated features is its 16 multi-colored pads. They’re highly sensitive and responsive, catering to nuanced finger drumming, melodies, and chord progressions. These pads, combined with the touch-sensitive encoders and touch strip, provide a tactile and immersive experience that feels both intuitive and powerful.

Another highlight of the Mk3 is its dual high-resolution screens. Whether you’re tweaking sounds, slicing samples, or browsing presets, these screens provide a clear view of your selections and adjustments, minimizing the need to rely on the computer. This is particularly useful in live performance settings, where quick navigation and adjustments are crucial.

The inclusion of a built-in audio interface is a game-changer, especially for those who want a streamlined setup. With the Maschine Mk3, you can record, sample, and playback without the need for external audio gear, making it a truly all-in-one production solution.

Final Thoughts:

The Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 is more than just an incremental upgrade; it’s a statement of intent. With advanced features, enhanced software integration, and a focus on workflow efficiency, it’s a powerhouse that deserves a place in any modern production setup. Whether you’re crafting beats in the studio or performing live on stage, the Maschine Mk3 is a trusted companion that promises reliability, flexibility, and unmatched musicality.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Akai Professional MPC One
(Image Credit: Akai)

Akai Professional MPC One

Standalone Music Production Center with Unrivaled Capabilities

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive RGB pads
  • Screen: 7-inch high-resolution multi-touch display
  • Additional Controls: 4 touch-sensitive Q-link rotary encoders
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0, MIDI In/Out, SD card slot, 2 Line inputs, 2 Line outputs, Headphone output
  • Software Compatibility: Standalone operation (no computer required)

Benefits:

  • Standalone functionality allows for production without the need for a computer.
  • Intuitive workflow with a multi-touch screen, making editing, sampling, and sequencing a breeze.
  • Comes with a rich sound library and several integrated synth engines for vast sonic possibilities.
  • 16 dynamic pads provide an expressive platform for beat-making and performance.
  • Comprehensive connectivity options cater to both studio and live environments.

Overview:

The Akai Professional MPC One elevates the art of beat-making with its powerful standalone capabilities and a rich set of features. As part of Akai’s renowned MPC series, the MPC One combines the best of vintage workflow with modern-day technology, offering producers an unmatched creative experience.

One of the standout features of the MPC One is its 7-inch high-resolution multi-touch display. Whether you’re chopping samples, sequencing drums, or tweaking synth parameters, the responsive screen offers a fluid and interactive experience that feels both intuitive and expansive. This, combined with the 16 RGB pads, ensures that producers have a tactile and visual interface that streamlines the creative process.

Akai’s MPC One is not just about beats; it’s a complete music production hub. With several built-in synth engines, producers have a vast sonic palette to explore, from classic sounds to modern textures. And with 2GB RAM and 4GB onboard storage (expandable via SD card), users have ample space to store samples, sequences, and projects.

Another notable advantage of the MPC One is its ability to function entirely without a computer. This standalone operation is a blessing for live performers and producers who prefer a dedicated instrument for their craft. Yet, the device doesn’t skimp on connectivity options, ensuring that it can easily integrate into any setup.

Final Thoughts:

The Akai Professional MPC One is a testament to Akai’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of music production. With its standalone operation, feature-rich interface, and expansive sound capabilities, it caters to both the needs of modern producers and the nostalgia of the MPC legacy. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned beatmaker, the MPC One promises a blend of flexibility, power, and musicality that’s hard to match.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: AKAI Professional Fire
(Image Credit: AKAI)

AKAI Professional Fire

The First Dedicated Hardware Controller for FL Studio

Specifications:

  • Pads: 4 x 16 Matrix of Velocity-Sensitive RGB Pads​
  • Screen: Graphical OLED display
  • Additional Controls: Assignable controls and dedicated transport controls
  • Connectivity: USB for power and data transfer
  • Software Compatibility: Integrated tightly with FL Studio

Benefits:

  • Specifically designed for a seamless experience with FL Studio, enhancing workflow.
  • The 64-pad matrix allows for intuitive beat sequencing and pattern creation.
  • Multiple modes enable versatile production methods, from step sequencing to performance.
  • RGB backlit pads offer color-coded feedback, providing a visual guide during production.
  • Touch-capacitive knobs provide instant control over FL Studio's channel and mixer functions.

Overview:

The AKAI Professional Fire represents a significant leap forward in the integration of hardware controllers with digital audio workstations, particularly for FL Studio users. Designed in close collaboration with Image-Line (the makers of FL Studio), the Fire provides an optimized hands-on experience, bridging the gap between software and hardware in a cohesive manner.

At the heart of the Fire is its 64-pad matrix. These RGB backlit pads offer a dynamic and colorful feedback system, enabling producers to craft beats, trigger samples, and build patterns with a visual guide. Depending on the selected mode, users can engage with these pads as a step sequencer, note player, drum pad, or performance tool, providing a versatile range of creative options.

One notable feature of the Fire is its four banks of touch-capacitive knobs. These offer direct control over various FL Studio functions, from channel settings to mixer adjustments, enhancing the tactile experience and making mixing and tweaking more intuitive.

The OLED screen on the Fire ensures that users have essential information right at their fingertips, from mode selection to parameter values. This, coupled with the dedicated transport controls, means that producers can handle most aspects of FL Studio without frequently reaching for the mouse or keyboard.

Final Thoughts:

For FL Studio enthusiasts, the AKAI Professional Fire is nothing short of a game-changer. It represents a tailored solution that enhances the software’s capabilities, providing a more interactive and immersive experience. Whether you’re sketching out ideas, crafting beats, or performing live, the Fire offers an intuitive interface that feels like a natural extension of FL Studio. It’s a must-have tool for anyone looking to elevate their FL Studio workflow.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Akai Professional MPC Studio MIDI Controller
(Image Credit: Akai)

Akai Professional MPC Studio MIDI Controller

Compact Design Meets Legendary MPC Production Power

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 RGB backlit velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
  • Screen: High-resolution LCD display
  • Additional Controls: 4 touch-sensitive control knobs, assignable Touch Strip
  • Connectivity: USB for power and data transfer
  • Software Included: MPC Software 2 (integrated)

Benefits:

  • Provides iconic MPC workflow in a compact and portable design, suitable for on-the-go production.
  • The 16-pad layout ensures authentic drum programming and beat-making capabilities.
  • Integrated with MPC Software 2 for an expansive production toolset, including sample editing, sequencing, and mixing.
  • Touch-sensitive control knobs allow for precision tweaking of parameters and effects.
  • Harnesses classic MPC features like Note Repeat and Swing, ensuring the signature MPC feel.

Overview:

Akai Professional’s MPC Studio MIDI Controller is a testament to the brand’s commitment to bringing the legendary MPC workflow to the modern digital age. With a design that is both sleek and portable, the MPC Studio offers producers and beat-makers the power of an MPC in a form factor that easily fits into a backpack.

Central to the MPC Studio is its array of 16 RGB backlit pads. Known for their responsiveness and feel, these pads provide an authentic beat-making experience, reminiscent of classic MPC units. Whether you’re tapping out rhythms, triggering samples, or launching sequences, these pads become the heartbeat of your production.

Integration with MPC Software 2 means that users have access to a comprehensive production environment. This software provides a host of tools, from sample chopping and sequencing to mixing and arranging, all designed to complement the hardware’s capabilities.

Touch-sensitive knobs on the MPC Studio add a tactile dimension to the production process. Whether you’re adjusting filter cutoffs, tweaking effects parameters, or shaping envelopes, these knobs provide real-time, hands-on control.

A standout feature of the MPC Studio is its retention of iconic MPC capabilities. Features like MPC Swing impart a unique groove to sequences, while MPC Note Repeat facilitates rapid hi-hat rolls and rhythmic patterns, ensuring that the classic MPC vibe is always within reach.

Final Thoughts:

The Akai Professional MPC Studio MIDI Controller is a fusion of legacy and innovation. For those who cherish the MPC workflow but desire a modern, compact solution, the MPC Studio is a perfect fit. It delivers the essence of what makes an MPC special, all while integrating seamlessly with today’s digital production landscape. Whether you’re in the studio or on the move, the MPC Studio is a reliable companion that ensures your beats always resonate with that unmistakable MPC feel.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Ableton Push 2
(Image Credit: Ableton)

Ableton Push 2

Transforming Live Production with Deep Integration

Specifications:

  • Pads: 64 velocity and pressure-sensitive RGB backlit pads
  • Screen: High-resolution color display
  • Additional Controls: 8 touch-sensitive encoders, 11 touch-sensitive function buttons
  • Connectivity: Built-in audio interface with two balanced inputs, ADAT, MIDI in and out & USB for power and data transfer
  • Software Compatibility: Ableton Live 10 (and above)

Benefits:

  • Crafted specifically for Ableton Live, providing an unparalleled level of software integration.
  • 64-pad matrix allows for playing drums, launching clips, and expressive melodic performances.
  • High-resolution display aids in sample slicing, parameter tweaking, and visual feedback directly from the controller.
  • Encoders and function buttons offer immediate access to various features within Ableton Live, reducing the need to touch the computer.
  • An enhanced workflow for beat-making, sound design, and live performances.

Overview:

The Ableton Push 2 stands as a revolutionary controller designed specifically for Ableton Live, one of the most popular digital audio workstations in the music production arena. Push 2 isn’t just a MIDI controller; it’s a powerful instrument that brings Live’s interface into the tactile realm.

Central to Push 2 is its grid of 64 RGB backlit pads. These pads serve multiple functions – from launching clips and playing instruments to sequencing and more. They are incredibly responsive, capturing every nuance of a performance, making them ideal for both studio production and live performances.

One of the standout features of Push 2 is its vibrant color display. This isn’t just a mere visual enhancement; it fundamentally changes the interaction with Ableton Live. Whether you’re chopping samples, adjusting envelopes, or browsing through your library, the display offers a detailed visual representation, allowing you to make music without constantly resorting to your computer screen.

Push 2’s encoders and function buttons further solidify its role as a command center for Ableton Live. These controls offer quick access to a myriad of features, from mixing and device control to browsing and loading sounds. This level of integration means that the Push 2 becomes an extension of the software, blurring the lines between hardware and the digital realm.

Final Thoughts:

Ableton Push 2 is more than just a controller; it’s a powerful expression of what’s possible when hardware and software merge in harmony. For those deeply embedded in the Ableton ecosystem, Push 2 is an indispensable tool that elevates the creative process. By bridging the gap between the tactile and digital, Push 2 offers a music-making experience that is both intuitive and deeply expressive. It’s a testament to Ableton’s vision of the future of music production, where the boundaries between the artist and the tool become indistinguishably blurred.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Arturia BeatStep Pro
(Image Credit: Arturia)

Arturia BeatStep Pro

A Versatile Sequencer and Controller in One Compact Package

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
  • Screen: Yes
  • Additional Controls: 16 rotary encoders, transport controls, sequence buttons
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI In/Out, Clock In/Out, Drum/Gate Out

Benefits:

  • Multiple sequencers allow for complex multi-instrument compositions and live performances.
  • Highly tactile interface with backlit pads and rotary encoders for hands-on control.
  • Integrates seamlessly with both hardware and software, bridging the gap between modern and vintage gear.
  • Robust connectivity options make it an excellent hub for a live or studio setup.
  • Comes packed with advanced features like chaining mode, randomization, and polyrhythmic sequencing.

Overview:

The Arturia BeatStep Pro stands as an impressive blend of a controller and a sequencer, delivering unparalleled versatility to modern producers and performers. Its design caters to the needs of both hardware enthusiasts and software-centric artists, acting as a bridge between different worlds of music production.

At the heart of the BeatStep Pro are its sequencers. The two monophonic sequencers are designed for melodies, baselines, and more, while the drum sequencer caters to percussive elements. Each sequencer is equipped with 64 steps, allowing for intricate patterns and progressions. Additionally, features like the ability to chain sequences and use polyrhythms greatly expand the device’s potential.

The interface of the BeatStep Pro is designed for hands-on control. The 16 backlit pads are not only useful for triggering samples but also for programming sequences in a tactile manner. The rotary encoders provide instant access to parameters, and the transport controls ensure smooth playback and recording.

Connectivity is a major strength of the BeatStep Pro. It boasts a variety of ports that cater to both the digital and analog realms, making it a central hub for any setup. This makes it incredibly versatile, fitting effortlessly into an array of musical scenarios, from studio production to live performances.

Final Thoughts:

Arturia’s BeatStep Pro redefines the possibilities of what a compact controller can achieve. Its combination of powerful sequencing capabilities, tactile control, and broad connectivity makes it an invaluable tool for modern musicians. Whether you’re looking to control vintage synths, drum machines, or digital audio workstations, the BeatStep Pro stands as a versatile and reliable centerpiece that fosters creativity and efficient workflow.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3
(Image Credit: Novation)

Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3

Elevate Your Performance and Production with Advanced Controls

Specifications:

  • Pads: 64 velocity and pressure-sensitive RGB pads
  • Screen: No
  • Additional Controls: Dedicated control buttons, function buttons, and setup options
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C, MIDI In/Out/Thru, 3.5mm TRS outputs (x2)
  • Software Included: Ableton Live Lite

Benefits:

  • 64 responsive and vibrant RGB pads offer visual feedback and enhanced performance capabilities.
  • Inbuilt four-track sequencer allows for the creation of patterns directly on the device.
  • Novation's chord mode facilitates the easy creation of harmonies and chord progressions.
  • Seamlessly integrates with Ableton Live, offering an intuitive and hands-on experience.
  • MIDI in/out/thru provides versatile connectivity options for both hardware and software setups.

Overview:

The Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3 offers a blend of powerful features and user-friendly controls, tailored for artists who seek a robust and intuitive pad controller. As the third iteration of the renowned Launchpad Pro series, this device combines Novation’s trusted design with innovative features, making it a favorite among electronic music producers and performers.

Central to the Launchpad Pro Mk3 is its array of 64 RGB pads. These pads are not just colorful, but also velocity and pressure-sensitive, allowing for expressive performances and sequences. Whether you’re launching clips in Ableton Live or playing drum patterns, these pads offer tactile feedback and visual cues.

One of the standout features of the Mk3 version is the inbuilt sequencer. This four-track, 32-step sequencer empowers users to craft patterns and progressions directly on the device, without the need for an external DAW. This is complemented by unique features like chord mode, which simplifies the process of chord creation and progression.

When it comes to integration, the Launchpad Pro Mk3 shines with its seamless compatibility with Ableton Live. However, its adaptability doesn’t end there. With dedicated MIDI in, out, and thru, the controller can also connect to external hardware, expanding its usability beyond just software-based music production.

Final Thoughts:

The Novation Launchpad Pro Mk3, with its combination of vibrant pads, advanced sequencer, and DAW integration, is a force to be reckoned with in the world of pad controllers. Its design focuses on providing an intuitive and enriching user experience, making it an ideal choice for both stage performances and studio sessions. For musicians seeking a versatile and comprehensive pad controller, the Launchpad Pro Mk3 is a formidable option that promises creativity and efficiency.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Korg SQ-64
(Image Credit: Korg)

Korg SQ-64

Step Up Your Sequencing Game with Advanced Flexibility and Control

Specifications:

  • Pads: 17 x 4 plus global
  • Screen: OLED display
  • Additional Controls: Dedicated mode buttons, function selectors, rotary encoders
  • Connectivity: MIDI In/Out/Thru, USB Type-B, Sync In/Out, 3 CV Out, 8 Gate Out

Benefits:

  • Provides 4 tracks of polyphonic sequencing, allowing for complex compositions.
  • High-precision 64-step pads offer visual feedback and hands-on control.
  • Versatile connectivity options cater to both hardware and software setups.
  • Compact and durable design ensures portability and longevity.
  • OLED display ensures clarity and easy navigation through functions.

Overview:

The Korg SQ-64 is an advanced polyphonic step sequencer designed to offer unparalleled control and flexibility to modern musicians and producers. Packed with features, this sequencer takes the capabilities of traditional step sequencers to the next level, accommodating the diverse needs of contemporary music creation.

At its core, the SQ-64 boasts 4 tracks – three melody tracks and one dedicated drum track. This configuration allows users to craft intricate melodies while simultaneously managing percussive elements. Each track offers a whopping 64 steps, giving ample space for detailed and extended sequences.

The design of the SQ-64 is thoughtfully curated with an array of dedicated mode buttons, function selectors, and rotary encoders, ensuring intuitive operation. Furthermore, the OLED display serves as a focal point, guiding users with essential information and facilitating smooth navigation.

When it comes to connectivity, the Korg SQ-64 is a versatile beast. Apart from the traditional MIDI and USB connections, it offers a plethora of CV and Gate outputs, making it a perfect bridge between classic analog gear and modern digital setups.

Final Thoughts:

For those seeking an advanced sequencing solution, the Korg SQ-64 stands as a beacon of innovation and utility. It successfully merges the charm of classic step sequencing with the demands of modern music production. Whether you’re a modular synth enthusiast or a DAW-centric producer, the SQ-64 promises to enhance your musical journey with its dynamic features and robust build. It’s not just a sequencer; it’s a powerful tool that redefines the boundaries of music creation.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid Sequencer
(Image Credit: Pioneer)

Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid Sequencer

Multi-Track Sequencing Redefined with Unparalleled Workflow

Specifications:

  • Pads: 4x4 Responsive, playable pads
  • Screen: Yes
  • Additional Controls: 16 track dynamic sequencer, Groove Bend & speed modulation
  • Connectivity: MIDI In/Out/Thru, USB Type-B, CV/Gate, Clock In/Out, DIN Sync In/Out

Benefits:

  • Versatile 16 tracks cater to complex musical arrangements and real-time pattern creation.
  • A plethora of connectivity options seamlessly integrates with diverse studio gear.
  • Unique features like Harmonizer and Groove Bend inspire new creative directions.
  • Intuitive interface with multicolored LED pads promotes visual feedback and hands-on control.
  • Offers rapid pattern chaining and arrangement capabilities for fluid composition.

Overview:

Pioneer DJ’s venture into the sequencing domain presents the Toraiz Squid, a multi-track sequencer that pushes the envelope of creativity and functionality. Aimed at both studio producers and live performers, the Squid is a testament to Pioneer’s commitment to innovation and quality.

The standout feature of the Toraiz Squid is its 16 tracks, each boasting 64 steps, which provide an expansive canvas for musical exploration. The multicolored LED pads offer tactile feedback and real-time pattern creation, making the sequencing process interactive and engaging.

A unique selling point of the Squid is its specialized features. The Harmonizer allows users to generate evolving chords and melodies, while the Groove Bend offers a novel way to modulate rhythm in real-time by tilting the unit. With features like Speed Modulation, artists can experiment with time-signature changes, creating dynamic shifts in their sequences.

In terms of connectivity, the Squid ensures compatibility with a wide range of gear. MIDI, USB, CV/Gate, and even DIN Sync options ensure that both analog and digital equipment can be seamlessly integrated. This makes the Squid a central hub for all sequencing needs.

Final Thoughts:

The Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid Sequencer is more than just a step sequencer; it’s a creative powerhouse. The convergence of intuitive design, groundbreaking features, and robust connectivity ensures that it caters to both novice and seasoned musicians. For those who wish to take their sequencing game to new heights and explore uncharted musical territories, the Squid is a worthy companion. Its blend of innovation and practicality truly sets it apart in the crowded landscape of music sequencers.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: ROLI Lightpad Block M
(Image Credit: ROLI)

ROLI Lightpad Block M

Touch-Responsive Surface for Limitless Musical Exploration

Specifications:

  • Pads: 225 microkeywaves for pressure-responsive control​
  • Screen: No
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth LE, USB-C, MIDI, 8 DNA connectors
  • Software Compatibility: Integrates with ROLI's NOISE app, BLOCKS Dashboard, and more

Benefits:

  • 5D touch technology offers unparalleled expressive capabilities with slides, presses, lifts, and more.
  • Micro-LED illuminated surface allows for instant visual feedback and dynamic interactions.
  • Modular design means it can be connected to other ROLI BLOCKS for expanded functionality.
  • Wireless operation provides mobility and ease of use.
  • Compatible with a range of applications, expanding its potential uses and integrations.

Overview:

The ROLI Lightpad Block M stands out in the world of MIDI controllers due to its emphasis on touch and expressivity. Harnessing ROLI’s groundbreaking 5D touch technology, this device responds to even the slightest movements, allowing musicians to craft sound with a level of nuance rarely seen in traditional controllers.

At the heart of the Lightpad Block M is its 225 micro-LED silicone surface. This not only looks striking but offers tactile feedback and visual indicators that can guide performance and composition. Whether you’re triggering loops, playing melodies, or modulating sound parameters, the touch-responsive surface ensures that your interaction is dynamic and multi-dimensional.

Integration is a significant advantage of the Lightpad Block M. It works seamlessly with ROLI’s NOISE app, a comprehensive sound and music-making platform. For those seeking more advanced controls, the BLOCKS Dashboard software allows for customization and integration with leading DAWs.

The modular nature of ROLI’s design means that the Lightpad Block M can be paired with other BLOCKS, like the Seaboard Block or the Live Block, expanding its capabilities even further. This adaptability makes it an excellent choice for both budding musicians and seasoned pros.

Final Thoughts:

The ROLI Lightpad Block M transcends the boundaries of traditional MIDI controllers, offering a fusion of touch, light, and sound that feels futuristic. Its focus on expressivity and integration makes it a valuable tool for any modern musician, whether they’re composing, performing, or producing. Its compact size and wireless capabilities also mean that it’s perfect for on-the-go music-making. If you’re looking for a unique way to interact with sound and music, the Lightpad Block M is a must-consider.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers: Nektar Aura
(Image Credit: Nektar)

Nektar Aura

Seamless Beat Creation and DAW Integration

Specifications:

  • Pads: 16 hyper-sensitive RGB illuminated pads
  • Screen: OLED display
  • Additional Controls: On-board step sequencer, a flexible pad repeat engine, and plugin control​
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI Out, footswitch input
  • Software Compatibility: Integrates seamlessly with popular DAWs and includes Nektarine 2.0 software

Benefits:

  • Vibrant RGB-backlit pads provide visual feedback and are responsive to nuanced performance techniques.
  • Comprehensive onboard controls including rotary encoders and an OLED display for in-depth parameter adjustments.
  • Deep DAW integration allows for efficient workflow and control over your sessions.
  • Comes with the Nektarine 2.0 software, enhancing the control over VST/AU plugins.
  • Built-in step sequencer and pad repeat engine allow for intricate beat creation and manipulation.

Overview:

The Nektar Aura stands as a testament to what’s achievable when beat creation meets DAW integration. With its 16 RGB-backlit pads, users get immediate visual feedback that can be tailored to their preferences, and these pads are not only velocity-sensitive but also respond to pressure, making beat creation deeply expressive.

But the Aura isn’t just about tapping out beats. It incorporates a suite of controls, from rotary encoders to a crisp OLED display, ensuring that artists have command over every aspect of their music. This is especially evident in its deep DAW integration, allowing users to dive into their sessions without ever needing to touch their computer.

The included Nektarine 2.0 software pushes the boundaries even further, offering control over VST/AU plugins directly from the Aura. And for those moments of inspiration, the onboard step sequencer and pad repeat engine facilitate rhythm creation in ways that are both intuitive and intricate.

Final Thoughts:

The Nektar Aura is more than just a MIDI pad controller; it’s a hub for musical exploration and DAW command. Its combination of tactile pads, comprehensive controls, and in-depth software integration makes it a formidable tool in any digital musician’s arsenal. Whether you’re crafting beats, controlling plugins, or managing your DAW session, the Aura ensures that every action is seamless, expressive, and efficient. For those serious about their digital music journey, the Nektar Aura proves to be an invaluable companion.

FAQ Buying Guide: Best MIDI Pad Controllers

MIDI pad controllers are essential tools for modern music production, offering tactile control over software instruments, samples, and beat-making. With an array of options on the market, selecting the right one can elevate your creative workflow. This guide will address common questions to help you choose the best MIDI pad controller for your needs.

Selecting the right MIDI pad controller can significantly impact your music production and performance. Consider the controller’s playability, compatibility with your software, additional features, and how it fits into your setup to find the perfect match for your musical needs.

  • What is a MIDI Pad Controller?

    A MIDI pad controller is a device featuring a series of pads that send MIDI signals to a computer or synthesizer. They’re primarily used for triggering sounds like drum hits or samples and can often control other functions within music software.

  • Why Use a MIDI Pad Controller?

    Pad controllers offer a more intuitive and expressive way of inputting MIDI data compared to traditional keyboards, especially for percussion and rhythm parts. They can also enhance live performances and add a tactile element to your production setup.

  • What Should I Look for in a MIDI Pad Controller?

    • Pad Quality: Look for velocity-sensitive pads that can capture the nuances of your playing.
    • Size and Number of Pads: Consider the number of pads you need and the controller’s overall size.
    • Additional Controls: Some controllers include knobs, faders, and buttons for extra control.
    • Integration: Ensure it’s compatible with your DAW and other software.
    • Build Quality: A sturdy build is preferable for durability.
  • Are All MIDI Pad Controllers Velocity-Sensitive?

    Most modern controllers are velocity-sensitive, allowing for dynamic playing, but it’s always good to check.

  • Wired vs. Wireless: Which Is Better?

    Wired controllers are more common and provide reliable, latency-free connections. Wireless options offer flexibility and portability.

  • Do I Need a MIDI Pad Controller with a Built-in Sequencer?

    A built-in sequencer can be useful for standalone operation or for creating patterns on the fly, especially during live performances.

  • How Important Is the Software Bundle That Comes with the Controller?

    While not crucial, a good software bundle can add significant value, offering instruments, samples, and sometimes even DAWs to get you started.

  • Can MIDI Pad Controllers Be Customized?

    Many controllers offer customization options like assigning different functions to pads, changing pad colors (if RGB backlit), and adjusting sensitivity.

  • How Much Should I Expect to Spend on a Quality MIDI Pad Controller?

    Prices vary widely based on features and brand reputation. Entry-level controllers can be under $100, while professional-grade models may cost several hundred dollars.

  • What Are Some Reputable Brands for MIDI Pad Controllers?

    Akai, Novation, Native Instruments, and Arturia are among the top brands known for their quality MIDI pad controllers.

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