The Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for Home Studio

The best MIDI keyboards for home recording studios, semi-pro and pro. What to look for before you buy one.

The Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for Home Studio

The Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for Home Recording Studio – Updated in 2019

In 2019, most of the MIDI keyboard controllers in the market offer stunning features and endless possibilities to perform in your home recording studio.

If you are looking for the best MIDI keyboard controller for music production, or to play virtual instruments, in every DAW out there, including Ableton, Logic Pro, Cubase, FL Studio and many more, you are in the right page. 

Getting the right equipment for your studio and live performances are essential. MIDI keyboard is a must for every producer. Without one the in your studio, the music production won’t be as comfortable and productive. Luckily you don’t have to spend a lot on any of our choices for the best MIDI keyboard controllers. The prices variate from very low to medium level. Everything depends on your needs, and we will discover an option for everyone.

What is a MIDI keyboard?

MIDI keyboards do not generate sounds of their own. Instead, they are used to play sounds to other electronic devices such as sound modules or software synths, that in some cases are installed inside your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) simply sends a series of messages to other instruments on how to generate a specific sound. In 2019, MIDI keyboards offer more than keys, knobs, and buttons. Features such as velocity-sensitive pads, sliders, and display screen are here to make producer’s life better.

Typical MIDI messages:

  • Note On – A key has been pressed. 
  • Note off – A key has been released. 
  • Key Pressure – How hard the key is pressed. 
  • Pitch Wheel Change – The pitch of the note has been bent.

There are various factors to consider when you buy a MIDI keyboard

  1. Key count:
    It’s pretty clear that the first thing you will need to decide is how many keys you desire in your keyboard. Very popular, cheap and ideal for often transportation is the 25 key controllers, which are also perfect for small home recording studios. 49 keys offer additional capabilities in your studio and also available at very reasonable pricing. 61 and 88 key models also exist in the market for a fair price, but unless you are a professional key player, then it is probably not necessary to search for one.
  2. Action-type:
    The second most important thing to take under consideration is the action type of your MIDI keyboard. 
    Synth-action type feels more electronic and is not recommended for music production and semi-pro recording studios. Semi-weighted is the most popular and the best middle choice for beginners and more experienced key players. The weighted hammer action type is for piano-oriented music, and are not conventional keyboards in the market.
  3. Aftertouch:
    Aftertouch is when you apply sustained pressure after the key has been struck. Monophonic type is the most common, while polyphonic is for skilled players.

Except for the key relative characteristics of a  MIDI controller, there are a few more things to consider

  1. Software integration:
    Does the MIDI keyboard come with automatic configuration options to integrate with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)? Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, Reason and Cubase are the most common among others. Check the best music production software for more information.
  2. Included software:
    Beginner musicians, hurry to unpack and plug-in the midi keyboard. Often users forget about the included software. All of the best midi keyboards in the market offer music software in their package. Some are extremely useful for starters as well as pros. The introversion of a DAW, most commonly Ableton Live, and a couple of sample banks and virtual synths will help you to start music production immediately. 
  3. Performance controls:
    Do you want MIDI pads, knobs or more faders on your keyboard? The extra controls that automatically integrate with your software will give a more natural way of performance.
  4. Durability:
    I don’t know about you, but I want every tool in my studio to be sturdy with excellent build-quality that will guarantee a long-life product. To some, may not be an issue, but I don’t want to deal with a broken or loose button/key/knob during a busy period.

Other preferences to look after are the size and weight for portability. Same with I/O options -MIDI via USB, iOS, 5-pin, gate outputs- and brand preference -AKAI, Korg, Novation-.

Here are five of the best MIDI keyboard controllers for your home recording studio. After consideration of features, including software, reviews, price tag, and personal experience. The models below offer keyboards with 25, 49, 61, and in one case 88 keys. However, the comparison between those models was made according to 49 key-count controllers.

In case your budget is under 100 dollars check the best cheap MIDI keyboard in 2019.

TOP 7 BEST MIDI KEYBOARD CONTROLLERS – REVIEWS

1. AKAI MPK2 25(pro & mini)/49/61

AKAI MPK 249

Check price on Amazon.com

The best seller of all MIDI keyboard controllers, highly recommended by users and with excellent ratings at online stores. AKAI MPK2 is available with 25 mini and 25 pro/49/61 keys. All key models of AKAI MPK series 2 are of premium quality. There are powerful competitors but it surely worth the first place for the best MIDI keyboard.

MPK2 25/49/61 has semi-weighted keys with aftertouch, and the keyboard also includes a variety of performance controls. The 25key-model has 8 RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads, eight control knobs, and four switches. The two biggest models with 49 and 61 keys offer 16 pads, eight knobs, eight switches and also eight faders. The pitch bend and mod wheel complete a perfect MIDI keyboard for any studio and every use.

These MIDI keyboards are compatible with all major DAW’s (Logic, Ableton Live, FL Studio, etc.). The construction may look cheap with plastic chassis, but it’s actually tough enough to handle abuse in your studio. A control layout with backlit LCD screen powered by a USB connection to the computer is here to make your job easier.

Conclusion: AKAI MPK2 has very strong competitors but it surely worth the first place in our list for the best MIDI keyboards. They are not the cheapest in their category, but if your pocket can afford one, I would highly recommend it. The package also includes the Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3.0 virtual synth, SONiVOX twist 3.0, and MPC Essentials software to get you started. 

Note: MPK2 mini is perfect for live performances, light, portable and very affordable. Synth-action and small spring-loaded keys are not ideal for a studio, but there are other options for your recording studio as well.

Musicians who use it: Avicii, Skrillex, Dr.Dre,  Rodriquez Jr., Pole Folder, UNKLE. As well as the majority of electronic music producers.

Key-count models:25/49/61
DAW compatibility:All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type:Semi-weighted
Build quality:8.5/10

        

 

 

 

 

2. Novation Launchkey 25/49/61 MKII

Check price on Amazon.com

Novation Launchkey MK2 is the ideal keyboard controller to produce and perform electronic music with Ableton Live. It can integrate with all major DAW’s but since it comes with Ableton, why not use it right away. Except for Ableton Live Lite, you will also find Bass-station and V-station plug-in instruments, as well as, over 4GB of Loopmasters samples to start music production from day one.

Faders, knobs, and velocity-sensitive RGB pads are quite popular features in almost all new MIDI keyboards. The 16 pads (two rows of eight) will give you immediate access to launch clips, control FX, play beats and much more. The eight solid rotary knobs to tweak your instruments and effects, and nine dedicated faders to easily adjust the volume of your channels – only the 25-key model is missing these faders.

Launchkey 49 is tough enough to take abuse and handle often transportation. There is nothing that stands out on this tool, although at this price range I don’t know if you could find more. The only minor problem here is the lack of MIDI connectivity. So in case, you want to connect it with a sound module, you are likely to be in a dead-end. 

Conclusion: This all-in-one, MIDI keyboard controller, is ideal for both professional and beginner performers. And if you are not sure yet, just check the user ratings, reviews, and included softwares. It is probably the best value-for-money choice on our list. 

Key-count models:25/49/61
DAW compatibility:All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type:Semi-weighted / Synth-style
Build quality:8/10

 

3. M-Audio Code 25/49/61 (new model)

M-Audio Code 49 Black

Check price on Amazon.com

Code 49 has a special place in my home recording studio. I have spent countless hours in the studio with it and has accomplished me in dozens of live performances without a single problem. Strangely I found some not so good reviews about the construction, and also many customers experienced lousy customer support. If you found yourself in the same position, let us know with a comment below or a private email through our message form to improve our content and reviews.

M-Audio Code is available with 25, 49 and 61 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch. All key-count models offer 16 amazing velocity and pressure-sensitive pads for beat production, clip launching, and more. Plus, eight encoders and nine faders to perform live while manipulating your DAW, virtual instruments and plugins. The pads, as well as buttons, knobs, and faders, are color-coded to indicate what mode they’re in. There is also a small LED display that provides informative feedback, like the display of parameters and settings.

Let’s take a look at what this package comes with. Start with Ableton Live Lite and ProTools to compose, record, and edit your musical ideas.  Eleven Lite, Velvet (virtual electronic piano plugin), Hybrid 3 (analog synth), Xpand!2 (multi-workstation), Mini-Grand (Multiple acoustic piano sounds), DB-33 (for classic tonewheel organs), and Loom (modular additive synthesizer). Furthermore, the Touch Loops’ 2GB sample library with 500+ sounds is a superb addition to your collection.

Conclusion: From the first look, the appearance is attractive with solid construction and nice feel on the keys. M-audio properly used every space of the controller to give you a compact tool that you won’t have a problem transferring it around.

Key-count models:25/49/61
DAW compatibility:All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type:Semi-weighted
Build quality:8/10

 

4. Roland A-500 PRO MIDI KEYBOARD 32/49/61

Roland A-500 PRO MIDI KEYBAORD

Check price on Amazon.com

You are probably familiar with some of the products produced by the legendary Roland. From synthesizers and drum machines to stage pianos and drum sets. It is very rare to check a recording studio and not find at least one tool with the name Roland on it. 

The Roland A-500 PRO MIDI keyboard controller is available with 32, 49 and 61 velocity-sensitive keys with channel aftertouch. We saw in all previous models the section with 16 big performance pads to trigger a bunch of stuff. This is not the case here. The interface offers only 8 very small dynamic pads, making it hard to perform in your studio, let alone live performances.

As soon as you connect A-500PRO with your virtual instrument or DAW, you have 9 knobs, 9 sliders, 4 buttons, and a small display screen so you do nothing blindly. There is also a rubber-coated Pitch Bend/Modulation Stick that offers simultaneous control of both functions. That is not the ideal option for all producers and performers.

Conclusion: If performance pads are essential for you, better check some other MIDI keyboards. It is affordable, durable, and manufactured by a company with over 30 years of experience in the industry. Also worth mentioned is the stable, high speed, and low latency MIDI Transmission using Roland’s proprietary FPT (Fast Processing Technology).

Key-count models:25/49/61
DAW compatibility:All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type:Semi-weighted
Build quality:8/10

5. NOVATION IMPULSE 25/49/61

NOVATION IMPULSE 49

Check price on Amazon.com

The Novation Impulse is the most budget-friendly MIDI keyboard in our list. The 49-key count model is our value-for-money pick, and for sure an option cannot go unnoticed. Impulse is also available with 25 and 61 keys. So, check your open space in your studio, and purchase accordingly. Ideal place for your MIDI keyboard is between you and your computer monitor.

The keys are semi-weighted with aftertouch. On the left side, you will also find a pitch bend and mod wheel. All key-count models have eight multi-function drum pads and eight knobs, and the two larger keyboards also have nine faders for a full DAW control surface.

The built is solid but not as good as AKAI MPK2, and this is the only minus compare to its competitor. However, there are not many complaints in reviews about broken or loose buttons or knobs.

Conclusion: Novation impulse is an excellent solution for your studio and very friendly for your pocket. The built could be better, but I wouldn’t worry a lot about it, especially if you are not planning to take it everywhere you go. The package comes with Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station synth, and a Loopmasters sample pack. Everything you need to start, record, mix and master your musical ideas.

Musicians who use it: Deadmau5, Giorgio Moroder, Far Too Loud

Key-count models:25/49/61
DAW compatibility:All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type:Semi-weighted
Build quality:7.5/10

 

6. ARTURIA KEYLAB 25/49/61/88

ARTURIA KEYLAB 49

Check price on Amazon.com

Even tho I use an Axiom49 in my studio, Arturia Keylab is my personal favorite MIDI keyboard. I especially like its vintage design and appearance but most important the very nice feel of the keys.

Arturia Keylab has semi-weighted action type keys with aftertouch. Instead of the basic 25/49/ and 61 key-count models, Keylab is also available with 88 velocity-sensitive keys for a full piano experience. Actually, the 88 key model is perfect and one of the best MIDI keyboards for practicing or playing the piano. Like all MIDI keyboards in our list, Keylab has a numerous of performing functions such as nine faders, ten knobs, and 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive backlit pads for the three largest key-count models.

The build is similar to Impulse, reliable but not substantial. I notice quite a few comments and bad reviews about keys and knobs getting bad for no reason and after a short period of use. Friends I work with and use an Arturia Keylab didn’t experience any problem so far. Drop your comment below if you encountered a similar problem.

Conclusion: Nice vintage appearance with wooden side panels and features that are not lacking in anything compared to its competitors. The price tag of this MIDI is close to the above, but with a very economic 25-key choice. The big plus of this purchase is the Analog Lab synth software with nearly 6000 sounds. Sounds from Prophet and Jupiter are pure quality, so if you just start building your home studio and don’t want to start spending big for synthesizers, I highly recommend the Arturia Keylab.

Musicians who use it: Moby, Stephan Bodzin, Hans-Peter Lindstorm, Steve Angello 

Key-count models:25/49/61/88
DAW compatibility:All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type:Semi-weighted
Build quality:8.5/10

7. NEKTAR PANORAMA P4/P6

NEKTAR PANORAMA P4

Check price on Amazon.com

This MIDI keyboard is for the big spenders who want top quality tools that will last for years. Nektar Panorama is the smallest series in our list with two models, the P4/P6 with 49 and 61 notes respectively. The best way to close our list of the best MIDI keyboards.

The keyboard is a cut above the rest in our list, with weighted and velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch. Panorama has 12 pressure and velocity-sensitive pads, nine faders, 16 encoders, ten assignable LED buttons and a 3.5″ TFT display. A full keyboard, big and heavy tool, so unless you have a stable place to put it, it will be trouble to move it or transport it.

If you use Cubase, Logic Pro, Bitwig Studio or Reason, then you will not find many keyboards with such a deep integration like Panorama P4/P6. If from the other hand you are using Ableton Live or any other DAW that is not listed above then it is quite possible you will experience problems with integration, and it will leave you with an overall disappointment.

Conclusion: If you don’t use any of the DAW’s mentioned before, don’t buy this MIDI keyboard. Otherwise, you will end up with a tool that you will only use on special occasions. Even if it’s a bit pricey Panorama is an excellent tool with a high-quality build and with a fantastic experience on specific DAWs, and it is definitely worth every penny. It is probably one of the best MIDI keyboards to play the piano.

Musicians who use it: Haywyre

Key-count models:P4/P6
DAW compatibility:Cubase, Logic Pro, Bitwig Studio and Reason
Keyboard action type:Weighted
Build quality:9/10

These were our top picks for the best MIDI keyboard controllers in the market.

All MIDI keyboard we reviewed today can be quickly connected to your computer via USB, and play any virtual instrument (piano, guitar, violin, bass, drums). They will also work with nearly all DAW’s available (Ableton Live 10, Logic Pro X, Cubase, FL Studio, Pro Tools, Garageband, Reason and more) and some of them offer deep integration with these softwares. And finally, all are available at a reasonable price, giving the fact that you get high-end MIDI keyboard controllers, by the most popular brands in the market. 

People Also Ask:

  • How to connect the MIDI keyboard to MAC or Windows PC? You can hook up your MIDI keyboard to your computer or laptop via USB. Which is most often included in the package you buy. There also no restrictions regarding your prefereed music production software as well. 
  • How to setup my midi keyboard? As long is connected to your computer, there is no further setup required. You might only want to check if your DAW will automatically map it.
  • What is the use of MIDI keyboard controllers? MIDI keyboards do not have internal sounds. If you want to play music straight from your keyboard, you should take a look at the best digital piano, or best synthesizer keyboards. MIDI keyboards are used to control other digital devices or virtual instruments including piano, guitars, synths and drums.
  • Do I need an audio interface for my MIDI keyboard?  No, you do not need an audio interface to properly use a MIDI keyboard. Unless you want to connect MIDI IN/OUT, which in that case you will need an audio interface with the same available connectivity.
  • Can you play MIDI keybaord without a computer? Yes, however, you will need the audio interface we just mentioned, and you can connect also a sound module which will produce the notes you will sent via your MIDI keyabord.
  • Can you make music without a MIDI keyboard? Of-course, but playing the keys is far more natural than clicking the mouse or screen of your iPad.
  • How to use MIDI keyboard controllers? You can go install completely for free one or many of the best free VST plugins and start using your MIDI keyboard to play the piano, guitar, bass or synthesizer.

What more you will need to start music production:

If you decide today to purchase one of the MIDI keyboard controllers of our list you are almost ready to produce your first track. I assume you already have a computer or laptop to connect your MIDI and install the included DAW. The only important thing that is missing now is excellent sound output. 

Studio quality headphones and studio monitor speakers are also essential to produce a song. Some of the best studio headphones under $100 used by musicians such as Mick Jagger and Paul Van Dyk are now available for under 100 dollars. If you can afford a bit more, you can check the best headphones for music production in 2019.

When you are ready to record instruments and vocals, you will also need a studio microphone and an audio interface to connect it with. The market for recording mics has limitless options, but thankfully you can still get one of the best studio microphones for under $300.

For a complete studio setup guide, check how to build your home recording studio with under $600.

Final Thoughts…

It’s pretty amazing what tools you can get at this price range. But as in most studio tools, each person’s needs are different. Take into consideration the factors we mentioned at the beginning of the article, and you will be able to find the best one for you. We did the research and gave you everything you will need to know.

With a wide range of features, brand, and price, we tried to have a variety of products that will fill up the needs of most of you reading this. 

In case you wondered why we picked only seven if there are so many great MIDI Keyboards out there. The answer is simple…
Why bother you with dozens of choices if seven will cover pretty much the needs of every producer out there. All options will fit perfect in any home recording studio, and no matter which one you go with, you won’t be disappointed.

If you want a keyboard with sounds, find more at the 8 Best Synthesizer Keyboards under $500.

Do not hesitate to post your comments and questions. My team and I would be happy to help!

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