The best cheap MIDI keyboard for home recording studio

The best cheap MIDI keyboard for home recording studio

The best cheap MIDI keyboards for live performances and small recording studios.

Either you want a MIDI keyboard for your tiny studio, either for 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 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

MIDI keyboard is not an instrument and furthermore does not produce any sounds or samples. Midi devices are meant to control your sound modules, music softwares or the plug-in instruments inside your DAW. 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. 

How to pick the right tool for you and what to look when you one

In the case your pocket can afford big spending and you have free space in your studio check “the best MIDI keyboard“. Otherwise we limit our search and look for specific characteristics.

  1. Key count25keys are ideally for travel and small home recording studios. 49/61/88key models also exist in the market but are not for our list.
  2. Aftertouch: Aftertouch is when you apply sustained pressure after the key has been struck. But do not expect miracles from cheap and compact gear.
  3. Action-typeSynth-action type feels more electronic, Semi-weighted are the most popular and Weighted hammer action are for piano-oriented music. However, now we will only meet synth-action type of keyboards.
  4. Software integration: It is important your MIDI keyboard to integrate and perform excellent with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Most of our picks offer a Lite version of Ableton Live. Check also the best music production software.
  5. Performance controls: Unless you go for a simple keyboard, most of the new models have numerous of 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. 

The market is dominated by solid midi keyboards for beginners. To be considered as cheap midi keyboard, the price tag should be under $100. Our list is exclusively by models in this price range.

If you are searching to build a home recording studio with under $600 this is your guide.

 Although a MIDI keyboard is an optional tool, i can’t imagine a producer without one

 

BEST CHEAP MIDI KEYBOARDS

1.NOVATION LAUNCHKEY MINI 25-NOTE MK2

Novation Launchkey Mini 25

We start our list of the best cheap MIDI keyboards with one of the smallest and lightest in the market. Weights as much as a book or a pineapple and can fit anywhere. The tool by Novation might misses a pitch bend and modulation wheel but has all the features to ideally perform live.

The Novation Launchkey mini mk2 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. In addition, the keyboard is is compatible with 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. 

conclusion: For such a small tool it has a pretty good range of features. It lacks of a proper pitch and mod wheel but Launchkey mini mk2 is an extremely compact tool with reliable build quality, some very useful softwares. And not forget the price tag that 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
Portability: 10/10

Check price on Amazon.com  

 

2.AKAI MPK MINI MK2

AKAI MPK MINI 25

Most would pick the best seller on Amazon store, AKAI MPK mini for the best cheap midi keyboard. Launchkey mini is equally well, compact, affordable and it’s actually impossible to pick a winner between those two. MPK mini MK2 has won the crowed not only for it’s nice design. Same as the above you will find dozens of tutorials on web to help you start and teach you a few tips.

MPK mini fits anywhere and weights almost as much as the model by Novation. It has 25 “mini” synth-action keys, 8 MPC pads with note repeat, arpeggiator and 8 assignable control pads. The feature thats stands out is the 4-way joystick for dynamic pitch/modulation adjustment. It might be small but is durable with great build quality.

AKAI MPK mini includes three available softwares to download. AKAI Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, and AIR Hybrid 3. Great package for beginners, as you are able to produce, record and mix your ideas from the day you receive the package.

conclusion: It has a very good size, fairly good features, reliable brand and is available for a very good 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 nice limited White edition. Available also with a passionate Red appearance.

Musicians who use it: Stephan Botzin, Mathew Jonson, Jan Blomqvist 

Number of keys 25
DAW compatibility: All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type: Synth-action
Portability: 10/10

Check price on Amazon.com

 

3.M-AUDIO OXYGEN 25 MKIV

M-AUDIO OXYGEN 25 MKIV

All of the best cheap midi keyboards of our list have the size and dimensions to fit everywhere. M-audio Oxygen 25 MKIV weights 4 pounds. It is light but still double the weight 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 size, 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 easily. the reviews suggest that 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 1. 

conclusion: It is amazing what you can get for under $100. The new line of Oxygen keyboards manage to add as  any features as possible for it’s size. I’m not excited of the design but if you can get pass this, it surely worth the money.

The keyboard by M-audio is able to 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

Number of keys 25
DAW compatibility: All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type: Synth-action
Portability: 8.5/10

Check price on Amazon.com

 

4.ALESIS V25

ALESIS V25

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. The only plus of Vmini is it’s compact size and weight.

Even if Vmini has a nice 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 nice “spacey” blue LED illumination, 4 assignable pots and buttons. You will also find pitch bend and modulation wheel, features that most “mini” tools are missing. 

The final touch are the included softwares. Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist and AIR Music Tech Xpand!2 to start music production from day one. It is a cheap midi keyboard

conclusion: Alesis V25 is a midi keyboard with a very nice captivate design. The good features are not missing but it is not a portable tool as “mini” midi keyboards are. the softwares complete a nice package for a very affordable price.

Musicians who use it: Tendts 

Number of keys 25
DAW compatibility: All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type: velocity sensitive
Portability: 8.5/10

Check price on Amazon.com

 

5.ARTURIA MINILAB MKII 25

ARTURIA MINILAB MKII 25 

The new MiniLab MKII 25 has a minimal design that is hard to resist. 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.

Weights less than 2 pounds making it the lightest midi controller in the market. Except the 25 velocity-sensitive slim-keys, Arturia still manage to include 2 banks of 8 velocity sensitive RGB backlit performance pads. As well as 16 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 Arturias award-winning V Collection. It’s without a doubt a great addition in any home recording studio.

conclusion: The tiny and totally white tool offers more than it looks and the included softwares made me wonder why it is not higher in our list. Well, it’s a new tool and there is still not a reliable amount of reviews to have a better image. In case customer reviews come clean i will have to rewrite this article.

Number of keys 25
DAW compatibility: All major DAW’s
Keyboard action type: velocity sensitive
Portability: 10/10

Check price on Amazon.com

 

There are still some very good options in the market that barely missed our list of the best cheap midi keyboard

M-AUDIO AXIOM AIR 32M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32 is a good example and could replace the other m-audio of our list. It is more compact but M-audio still manage to add an extra octave and give us a 32 key-count keyboard.

 

akai-apc-key25Akai 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.

 

NEKTAR IMPACT LX25+Nektar Impact LX25+ comes with Bigwig 8-Track DAW which is interesting but cannot be compared to Ableton Live or other music production softwares.

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