The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard for Home Recording Studio in 2018

The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard for Home Recording Studio in 2018

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

The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard for Home Recording Studio in 2018.

Whether you want a MIDI keyboard for your tiny studio, or 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. 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-in instruments inside your DAW(music production software).

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.

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 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 few octaves.
  2. Action-type
    The Weighted hammer action is for piano-oriented music, good to have in your studio but are 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 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. 
  3. Aftertouch:
    Aftertouch is when you apply sustained pressure after the key has been struck. But do not expect miracles from cheap and compact gear.
  4. Software integration:
    It is important your MIDI keyboard to perfectly 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.
  5. 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. 

The market is dominated by solid 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.

What else you will need to start music production

Aside from you 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, GarageBand, Image Line’s FL Studio and many more. If you are in the search for a DAW check the best music production software.

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. Surprising we did a wide research on the web and market and find out how to build a home recording studio with under $600.

 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. There are definitely more keyboard controllers that could go into our list, but we kept it nice and simple to make the best possible choice. 

 

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 and can fit anywhere. The tool by Novation might miss 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 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. It is definitely an amazing package. 

conclusion: For such a small tool it has a pretty good range of features. It lacks a proper pitch and mod wheel but Launchkey mini mk2 is an extremely compact tool with reliable build quality, some very useful software. 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 crowd not only for its nice 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 anywhere and weights almost as much as the model by Novation. 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 as, 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 great build quality. 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 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 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 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 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 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 manages to add as many features as possible for its size. I’m not excited of the design but if you can get past 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 its 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 a pitch bend and modulation wheel features that most “mini” tools are missing. 

The final touch is the included software. Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist and AIR Music Tech Xpand!2 to start music production from day one.

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 included DAW software 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: 9/10

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. 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.

Weights 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 as, 2 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: The tiny and totally white tool offers more than it looks and the included software made me think that this cheap MIDI keyboard worth more attention. It’s a new tool compare to the others and there is still not a big amount of reviews to have a better image.

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. So here is a quick look of 3 more models that might fit your needs in a home recording studio.

M-AUDIO AXIOM AIR 32M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32 is a great keyboard controller and very similar to MPK mini that appears on our list above. It is more compact but M-audio still manages 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. it also lacks the usual modulation and pitch-bend wheel. If you use this particular DAW, then is an ideal, extremely affordable and great value-for-money option.

 

NEKTAR IMPACT LX25+Nektar Impact LX25+  as the above is a 25 synth action-type MIDI keyboard. Except for the obvious 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. It comes with Bigwig 8-Track DAW which is interesting but cannot be compared to Ableton Live or other music production software out there. 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts:

AKAI and Novation are two brands that you will see in almost all recording studios, home, semi-pro or pro. Normally, 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 affordable price. Keep those things in mind and you will find yourself going for that MIDI that fits your needs perfectly.

Truth is, you can’t go wrong with any of the above. At this point, it comes down to personal desire and available budget.

If you are a big spender find The best MIDI keyboard controllers for your home recording studio.

If you agree with the above, or strongly disagree, leave your comment below and let us know.

Enjoy your shopping… 

 

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