The Top 8 Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards for beginners in 2020!
Are you looking for a mini MIDI keyboard? Are you a beginner with a limited budget? Our top picks for the best cheap MIDI keyboard will give you the answers.
Whether you want a MIDI keyboard for music production or your live performances, our choices for the best cheap MIDI keyboard are ideal.
The tool that will make your room look more like a studio is now more affordable than ever. Choices vary, and the following cheap MIDI keyboards are so light and compact that they can even fit in your backpack. There are brands for every taste in the market. AKAI, Novation, Arturia, Alesis, and M-audio stand out with no real winner.
What is a MIDI keyboard controller
MIDI keyboard is not an instrument and therefore does not produce any sounds or samples. The keyboard controller sends commands to your computer over a USB connection. The job of a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is to send a series of messages to other instruments so that they will generate a specific sound. These instruments can be sound modules or plug-ins inside your DAW(music production software). If you want a keyboard with internal sounds, check the best digital pianos or the best synthesizers.
Those commands are not limited to key playing only. You will definitely find the usual modulation and pitch-bend wheel on every keyboard. You can play a piano note soft or loud, as well as, add drum beats, add effects to your sound through your DAW, and more.
Does a MIDI keyboard need an audio interface? No! You can start using your MIDI keyboard, with no need for an external audio interface in your studio.
Connect your MIDI keyboard to any device with USB port, such as Laptops and Desktops. You can also connect it to your iPad, but you will need an adapter.
There is no need for setting up the MIDI keyboard to your computer. Just plug-and-play!
How to pick the right tool for you and what to look when you one
In case you are looking for 49key MIDI keyboards or more, and you have free space in your studio, check the best MIDI keyboard. Otherwise, we limit our search and look for specific characteristics.
- Key count:
25keys are ideal for travel and small home recording studios. Most producers go for keyboard controllers with 49 keys. 61 and 88 key models also exist in the market but are not for our list. In fact, for a cheap MIDI keyboard, we will take a look at 25 key controllers, but keep in mind there are buttons to go up and down a few octaves.
The Weighted hammer action is for piano-oriented music, good to have in your studio but is a bit expensive. Semi-weighted is the most popular type and similar to weighted hammer actions but with less resistance. And last, the Synth-action type feels more electronic. In our list, you will mostly meet the synth-action type of keyboards. You will also see models with velocity-sensitive key action-type, which just means that they respond to how soft or hard you play a note. If you slightly touch a key, it will capture a note very softly, whereas if you smash a key, it’ll register the note with max strength.
Aftertouch is when you apply sustained pressure after the key has been struck. But do not expect miracles from cheap and compact gear.
- Software integration:
It is crucial for your MIDI keyboard to correctly integrate and perform with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Most of our picks offer a Lite version of Ableton Live. The “auto-mapping” lets you handle the buttons, pads, and knobs on the MIDI controller, and the DAW will capture your playing. In case a MIDI keyboard is not integrated with your DAW, you can still manual correspond each control to an action.
- Performance controls: Unless you go for a simple keyboard, most of the new models have numerous features. Do you want Drum pads, knobs, or more faders on your keyboard? If you are planning to perform live, then yes. Those are the features you need.
- Budget: Since this is a list with the top cheap MIDI keyboards, we will be looking at affordable choices, under $100.
Although a MIDI keyboard is an optional tool, I can’t imagine a producer without one.
Our choices for the best cheap MIDI keyboard were as usual, based on features, built-quality, price tag, customer reviews, and personal experience. The market is dominated by reliable midi keyboards for beginners. To be considered as a cheap midi keyboard, the price tag should be around $100. Our list is exclusively by models in this price range. More keyboard controllers could go into our list, but we kept it friendly and straightforward to make the best possible choice.
Top 8 Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard for beginners – 2020 Reviews
1. AKAI MPK MINI MK2
|+ Extremely light and portable|
|+ Top rated|
|+ 4way joystick for pitch modulation|
|+ Included softwares|
We start our list of the best cheap MIDI keyboards with one of the smallest and lightest tools in the market. MPK mini MK2 has won the crowd not only for its lovely design. Same as the above, you will find dozens of tutorials on the web to help you start and teach you a few tips.
MPK mini fits everywhere and weighs almost as much as the model by Novation; see below. It has 25 “mini” synth-action keys, but they are probably the smallest keys compared to the rest. The 8 MPC pads with note repeat are big and spaced wide enough to enable comfortable playing. As well, 8 rotary knobs, which, however, are weak, offering very little resistance when twisted.
The feature that stands out is the 4-way joystick for dynamic pitch/modulation adjustment. It might be small but is durable with the sturdy build quality. It is so small that you may not even need a DJ backpack. AKAI MPK mini includes three available software to download. AKAI Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, and AIR Hybrid 3. Great package for beginners, as you can produce, record, and mix your ideas from the day, you receive the package.
Conclusion: It has a perfect size, reasonably good features, a reliable brand, and is available for an excellent price. I’m not a fan of this 4-way thumb-stick to control your pitch/mod, so I personally dislike the absence of a proper pitch bend and modulation wheel. You can also find MPK mini in a beautiful limited Black edition. Available also with a passionate Red and White appearance.
Musicians who use it: Stephan Botzin, Mathew Jonson, Jan Blomqvist
2. NOVATION LAUNCHKEY MINI 25 MK3 (new)
|+ Extremely light and portable|
|+ 16 velocity/sensitive multicolor pads|
|+ Tough Build|
|+ Including two softwares and Loopmasters samples|
Most would pick the best seller AKAI MPK mini as their beginner MIDI keyboard, but Launchkey mini 25 is a worthy opponent. Launchkey Mini is equally well, compact, affordable, and it’s actually impossible to pick a winner between those two. It weighs as much as a book and can fit anywhere. The tool by Novation offers Pitch/Mod Wheel, Arpeggiator, and MIDI-OUT; 3 features that were missing from the previous model.
The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has 25 synth-action keys, 8 dedicated knobs, and control buttons. The 16 velocity-sensitive multicolor launch-pads can accommodate different sounds to each drum pad to play when tapped. Also, the keyboard is compatible with the iPad and can work with iOS devices via Apple’s camera connection kit. It is not included in the package, but it’s sold separately.
This USB Bus-Powered midi keyboard integrates perfectly with Ableton Live. All the controls map and work immediately with the music production software. A lite version of the software is included in the package. Along with the Novation soft-synth bass station, the V-station, and Loopmasters samples. It is a fantastic package.
Conclusion: For such a small tool, Launchkey 25 Mini MK3 has a pretty good range of features. The previous MK2 was missing a proper pitch and mod wheel, but the new model comes packed. It is an extremely compact tool with reliable build quality and some handy software. The price tag justifies the title of the best cheap midi keyboards.
Musicians who use it: Davide Biale, Black Tiger Sex Machine
|Number of keys||25|
|DAW compatibility:||All major DAW’s|
|Keyboard action type:||Synth-action|
3. ARTURIA MINILAB MKII 25
|+ Vintage look|
|+ Including softwares|
|+ Tough Build|
|+ One of the lightest mini midi controllers.|
The new MiniLab MKII 25 has a minimal design that is hard to resist. You will also find it with a coll, vintage wood panel that is inspired by analog synths. Most of the models here have big siblings in our list of “the best MIDI keyboards” — no exception with this great but also affordable midi controller.
Weighs less than 2 pounds making it the lightest midi controller in the market. Except for the 25 velocity-sensitive slim-keys, Arturia still manages to include 8 velocity-sensitive RGB backlit performance pads. As well, two banks of full-size rotary encoders, which 2 of them are clickable. The pitch and modulation touch-strip controls may not be ideal but are useful.
The package includes the Analog Lab and Ableton Live Lite. Analog Lab 2 software offers over 5000 synth and keyboard sounds from Arturia’s award-winning V Collection. It’s without a doubt a great addition in any home recording studio.
Conclusion: This tiny, and totally white tool offers more than it looks, and the included softwares make it an excellent value-for-money purchase.
4. M-AUDIO OXYGEN 25 MKIV
|+ Tough Build|
|+ Included softwares|
|- A bit bulky|
|- Outdated design and looks|
All of the best cheap midi keyboards in our list have the size and dimensions to fit everywhere. M-audio Oxygen 25 MKIV weights 4 pounds. It is light but still doubles the mass of Launchkey or MPK mini. Oxygen was the midi keyboard I start using in my home recording studio and left me nothing but satisfied.
The keyboard includes 25 full-sized, synth-action, and velocity-sensitive keys. As well as 8 velocity trigger pads, a fader, and transport buttons to let you operate your DAW quite efficiently. The reviews suggest that it is a durable tool that will last hardship.
Oxygen 25 MKIV integrates with all major DAW’s, and the package comes with a lite version of Ableton Live. Plus, the SONiVOX Twist and AIR Music Tech Xpand!2 to start music production from day one.
Conclusion: It is amazing what you can get for under $100. The new line of Oxygen keyboards manages to add as many features as possible for its size. I’m not excited about the design, but if you can get past this, it surely worth the money.
The keyboard by M-audio can work with iOS devices via Apple’s camera connection kit (it is not included but sold separately).
Musicians who use it: Gareth Emery, Flux Pavilion, I See Monstas
5. ALESIS V25
|+ Cool design|
|+ Included softwares|
|+ Light and portable|
|- Not very durable|
Alesis Vmini or V25? There are only a few differences between those two, but I would personally pick the V25 for just a few extra bucks.
Even if Vmini has a beautiful design and it’s easy to transfer everywhere you go, V25 is superior in features. It includes 25 velocity-sensitive keys, 8 velocity pads with a beautiful “spacey” blue LED illumination, 4 assignable pots, and buttons. You will also find a pitch bend and modulation wheel features that most “mini” tools are missing.
The final touch is the included softwares. Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist, and AIR Music Tech Xpand!2, to get started with music production from day one. Nevertheless, V25, like all the rest MIDI keyboards are compatible with every DAW, such as Reason, Logic Pro, and Cubase.
Conclusion: Alesis V25 is a midi keyboard with a very nice captivate design. V25 is a mini, cheap, and portable midi keyboard, perfect for every musician on the road. The included DAW software and apps complete an excellent package for a very affordable price.
Musicians who use it: Tendts
6. M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32
|+ Extra Octave|
|+ Light and durable|
|- Lacks proper jog wheels|
|- Small keys|
M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32is a great keyboard controller and very similar to MPK mini that appears on our list above. It is more compact than MPK, but M-audio still manages to add an extra octave and give us a 32 key-count keyboard.
The 8 velocity-sensitive trigger pads and 8 more assignable knobs will give you immediate access to control over FX, panning, and more. Instead of the typical jog wheels, there are dedicated pitch bend, modulation, and sustain performance buttons. Plus, 3 dedicated transport controls, 5 navigation buttons, and ten memory locations for saving your custom settings.
M-audio gear is typically durable. However, there are a couple of reviews talking about the plastic covering of the keyboard that tends to get scratched easily.
The package also comes with Pro Tools First music production software to capture your ideas quickly and start composing music right away with professional results. Also included the award-winning VIP with unparalleled access to your virtual instrument and effect collection.
Conclusion: A keyboard controller with 32-keys, velocity-sensitive pads, all the controls you need, the brand name of M-audio, and for just under 100 dollars.
7. Akai APC keys 25
|+ Ideal for Ableton users|
|+ Light and durable|
|+ Good for live performance|
|- Lacks proper jog wheels|
Akai APC Keys 25 is perfect for Ableton Live users. It maps ideally with the DAW and combines keyboard and controller functions in one machine. If you do not use Ableton Live, it probably doesn’t worth a place in your home studio.
With the secure USB plug-and-play connectivity and the 25 synth-action mini keys, you will be able to create melodies, compose bass lines, and play chords. The only extra you will need to offer is inspiration and ideas.
The 40 tri-color LED pads to launch clips, and 8 assignable knobs will immediately integrate with Ableton Live. Tri-color lighting provides visual feedback and displays statuses of loaded, playing, and recording. They are, however, a bit tiny, and if you struggle with small buttons, you will have a negative experience with that one. It also has dedicated buttons for Octave Up/Down and Sustains, but it lacks the usual modulation and pitch-bend wheel.
For sure one of the best cheap MIDI keyboard controllers for Ableton Live. For more hardware to control Ableton Live or other DAW’s check the best Ableton controllers. If you are using FL Studio as your main DAW, we would highly recommend the new AKAI Fire controller.
Conclusion: If you use this particular DAW, then it is an ideal great value-for-money option. Akai APC keys 25 includes Ableton Live Lite to compose, record, remix, improvise and edit your musical ideas. It might not be the perfect portable keyboard but is compact enough, for what it offers. Furthermore, you will find the virtual synthesizer Hybrid 3.0 and Sonivox Twist and Toolroom Records artist launch packs with a premium collection of sample packs.
8. NEKTAR Impact LX25+
|+ Proper sized keys|
|- A little heavy|
|- Outdated look|
Nektar Impact LX25+ is as the above a 25 synth action-type MIDI keyboard. Except for the visible 8 LED pads and knobs, it also features an LED display that provides visual feedback such as the active keyboard octave range during setup and configuration.
The MIDI keyboard by Nektar offers 8 velocity-sensitive pads for groove and beat creation. They look and feel, however, a bit plastic and harsh but will get the job done.
It comes with Bigwig 8-Track DAW, which is exciting but cannot be compared to Ableton Live or other music production software out there. Nevertheless, it integrates with all major DAW’s such as Logic Pro, Ableton, Pro Tools, FL Studio, GarageBand, Reaper, Reason, Sonar, and Studio One.
Conclusion: Considering its price, this is a great intro MIDI controller for your studio. Impact LX25+ has a solid build, the synth-action keys feel good, and there are all the necessary buttons to control your DAW without the need of a mouse.
These were our top picks for the best cheap MIDI keyboard controllers for beginners. It is pretty amazing what you can get with just 100$.
MIDI keyboards are useful for many jobs and projects. You can learn how to play piano, you can play notes in your DAW or VST instruments, and use it as an “instrument” at your live performances.
What else will you need to start using the MIDI keyboard in your studio and compose music?
-Music Production Software: Aside from your MIDI keyboard controller, all you need to get started is a DAW (digital audio workstation). Also known as music production software, it might be included in the package of your MIDI keyboard. Some of the most common DAWs are the Ableton Live, Apple Logic X, GarageBand, Image Line’s FL Studio, Cubase, and many more. For the most popular professional DAW check the best music production software.
How to record your MIDI keyboard? You simply connect your MIDI keyboard to your computer with a USB cable. Open your DAW, find in preferences your keyboard model, and it will auto-map your keyboard to your DAW’s interface. Then pick your virtual instruments such as piano, guitar, synthesizer, or drums, and you are ready to start recording. Check out the best free VST plugins to connect your MIDI keyboard and start making music from day one.
All MIDI keyboards above are compatible with every music production software out there. Whether you use Ableton Live, FL Studio or Logic Pro X, to produce and record music, these keyboards will serve you well.
In case you have just started building your home recording studio, you are probably already overwhelmed with information and options. From studio-quality headphones to computer and studio software, you will probably believe that you will need to spend a fortune.
We did extensive research online and found out how to build a home recording studio at under $600.
AKAI and Novation are two brands that you will see in almost every recording studios, home, semi-pro, or pro. Typically, people usually use the keys to measure the quality of the MIDI keyboard, but there is no logic on that. Highly durable, cool design, brand reliability, and amazing features are now available for a very budget-friendly price. Keep those things in mind, and you will find yourself going for that MIDI that fits your needs perfectly.
The market is filled with a vast variety of cheap, light, sturdy, affordable, and portable MIDI keyboards to connect to your Ableton, Cubase, FL, or Logic Pro and start music production and beat making. The truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of the above cheap studio MIDI keyboards. At this point, it comes down to personal desire and the available budget.
If you have anything to add to the above, leave your comment below and let us know.
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