You will agree with me that searching for the best MIDI controller is difficult. It’s like mining for gold in a gold mine.
Or isn’t it? When you come across the best MIDI keyboard, you will enjoy it for life. Fortunately, you have come to the right place.
Therefore, in today’s post, I will spill everything you need to select one out of the best MIDI keyboard controllers out there.
Some people believe you can’t get your hands on the best instrument the first time you try. If you can follow the steps in this article, you can bypass that problem.
Whether you’re just taking the first step into the world of digital music creation or you’re just a seasoned pro looking to update your knowledge of the field, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about the best MIDI keyboard.
But you don’t have to read all the reviews on the best midi controller in the blogosphere before you can get a grasp of what you need.
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a protocol that controls how music hardware and software interact with each other.
Or in simpler terms, it lets you control software synthesizers, digital notation software, digital audio workstations (DAWs), and more.
If you’ve seen what looks like a piano keyboard hooked up to a computer, then you’ve seen a MIDI controller.
In this article, you will learn all you need to know about a MIDI keyboard controller, how to identify the best midi controller, and how to purchase the right one that will suit your needs.
If you have no idea where to start looking, consider this list of the best MIDI controller. Most of them offer a balance of features and pricing that has helped them stand out from competitors.
They are a great place to start to figure out the price points and features you’re looking for in the best MIDI controller.
- 1 The Best Midi Controllers Keyboard
- 1.1 1. 25-key Controller: Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
- 1.2 2. Akai Professional APC Key 25
- 1.3 3. Acorn MIDI Controller Keyboard Masterkey 25
- 1.4 4. CME Xkey Air 25-Key Bluetooth MIDI Controller
- 1.5 5. BEHRINGER U-CONTROL UMA25S
- 1.6 6. Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- 1.7 7. Novation Launchkey 25 USB Keyboard Controller
- 1.8 8. Korg microKEY 25 USB MIDI Keyboard
- 1.9 9. 49-key Controller: M Audio Oxygen 49 IV
- 1.10 10. 88-key Controller: M Audio Keystation 88 II
- 1.11 11. MIDI Pad Controller: Ableton Push 2
- 1.12 12. M Audio Keystation 49 MK3
- 1.13 13. Samson Carbon 49 USB MIDI Controller
- 1.14 14. Alesis V49 | 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- 1.15 15. Samson Carbon 61 USB MIDI Controller
- 1.16 16. M-Audio Keystation 61
- 1.17 17. Novation Launchkey 61 USB Keyboard Controller
- 2 Other Compact Mini MIDI Controllers
- 3 What’s a MIDI Controller Keyboard?
- 4 Benefits of the Best MIDI Controllers
- 5 What Should I Look For In an Ideal MIDI Input Device?
- 6 Important Features to Look for on the Best MIDI Controller
- 7 Consider The Popular DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations)
- 8 What’s the Best MIDI Controller for You?
- 9 Choosing the Best MIDI Keyboard Controller that Suits You Perfectly
- 10 Pay Attention to the input Type on the Device Before Buying
- 11 Know These Terms To Get the Best From Your Device
- 12 MIDI Controller Keyboard FAQs
- 12.1 1. What Does a MIDI Pad Controller Do?
- 12.2 2. What is a MIDI Input Device?
- 12.3 3. What is in a MIDI File?
- 12.4 4. Why use a MIDI Controller?
- 12.5 5. Which MIDI Controller should I buy?
- 12.6 6. Can a MIDI Controller be used as a Keyboard?
- 12.7 7. Are there Good Cheap MIDI Controllers on the Market?
- 12.8 8. What is a USB MIDI Keyboard Controller?
- 12.9 9. What is the use of the MIDI Interface?
- 12.10 10. Pad Vs Keyboard MIDI Controller
- 12.11 11. What can I do With a MIDI Keyboard Controller?
- 12.12 12. Do you need an Arduino MIDI controller?
- 13 Conclusion
The Best Midi Controllers Keyboard
1. 25-key Controller: Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
The Akai MPK Mini is a powerful and versatile controller with several inputs.
This including 25 synth action piano keys (spanning two octaves), eight drum pads, eight assignable knobs, a dedicated octave up/octave down button, a built-in arpeggiator, a four-way joystick, and a USB power source.
The MPK Mini is geared toward the electronic musician who needs full control over their sound manipulation and composition processes.
And with its several inputs (and several input types) the possibilities of carrying out the creative assignment of synth settings and effects are improved.
Reviewers loved the MPK Mini’s several input types, calling it an excellent way for beginners to learn more about MIDI controllers. And for more experienced performers to add a feature-packed device to their rack.
At the same time, reviewers tended to be disappointed with the included DAW software, saying that it is poorly made and low on features.
Some users also ran into problems integrating the controller with popular DAWs like Logic or Ableton Live, forcing them to resort to scripts found online to make the controller communicate effectively with the software.
With a bit of tinkering, though, most users enjoyed the experience of using the Akai MPK Mini MK II, especially with its low price point.
- Many different input types
- Small and portable
- Runs on USB power (no extra power outlet necessary)
- Low cost
- Small range (only 25 keys)
- Subpar included DAW software
- Mediocre customer service
2. Akai Professional APC Key 25
The Akai APC Key 25 is a compact MIDI controller for beginner with a sleek design and a beautifully designed backlight.
It does not need a power cable to use it and will not take up too much space on your desk.
It has a great resistance when pushed and the faders are equally sturdy and well designed. Moreover, the faders on it are indented so that you can use it on-the-go.
The only drawback is that it only has a three-color grip and the arrow keys can only be pushed by a single track, however, with time, custom scripts will be available to address this problem.
With less than $100, you can add this great device to your list of items.
3. Acorn MIDI Controller Keyboard Masterkey 25
For its price, the Acorn Instruments Maskerkey is a nice entry-level MIDI controller for musicians and performers.
However, it does not lack in features that are useful to the beginner. You can easily pack it in your backpack and travel with your laptop, which makes it easy to practice the keyboard on the go.
4. CME Xkey Air 25-Key Bluetooth MIDI Controller
The CME Xkey features keys that don’t pivot, which means there is less movement when you are operating it.
This therefore translates into greater speed and efficiency for the busy player. Unlike other controllers, the feel of the black keys is not different from those of the white keys therefore making for a smooth feel like the Korg.
The CME XKey comes with polyphonic aftertouch. This allows you to hold down the key, apply pressure, and the key will respond to the changes in pressure leading to different effects for each key held independently.
5. BEHRINGER U-CONTROL UMA25S
When you are looking to buy a new controller and you are bubbling with lots of requirements, it becomes difficult to settle on a controller that satisfies all your requirement.
With the UMA 25S however, the case is very different.
It has low weight and footprint, comes with easily programmed presets and small keyboard with assignable functions.
It can be controlled easily and quickly with minimal programming and most importantly, it is reasonably priced.
6. Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
If you are looking for a medium sized MIDI beginners controller to use yourself and use as a tool to teach the kids, this is it.
The Alesis Q25 Keyboard Controller works out of the box, easy to setup and compact so that it is easy to move around the house.
Moreover, it is not too small, has a simple interface with only basic features that will not distract the kids.
Not only would it fit the bill – it is a budget MIDI controller – it is also very efficient and has been receiving glowing reviews all over.
7. Novation Launchkey 25 USB Keyboard Controller
If you are looking for a decent MIDI controller in the $200 range with sturdy and durable construction, the Novation LaunchKey 25 is one of the best you can get on the market.
Although the knobs and sliders are on the flimsy side, they are well made and sure endure abuse and lots of long term usage.
8. Korg microKEY 25 USB MIDI Keyboard
Just like the keys found on the MicroKORG XL, the Korg MicroKey offers 25-mini keys that are very playable.
If you are looking for a nice keyboard that you can use on the road or during your leisure period and lay down some tracks on the laptop while you are resting, the Korg MicroKey is the right option.
9. 49-key Controller: M Audio Oxygen 49 IV
Expanding the range of the MPK Mini is the M-Audio Oxygen 49, which covers four octaves of piano keys and includes several additional input types.
The Oxygen 49 offers eight assignable knobs, nine assignable sliders, velocity sensitivity, and USB power.
It doesn’t include the drum pads that come with the MPK Mini. However, this may be a fine trade off when it comes to the extended range of the Oxygen 49.
Users enjoyed the look and feel of the Oxygen 49, commenting on the solid action (which is a very important feature when mimicking the feel of an analog piano keyboard). Users also noted the ease of use with several popular DAWs.
Several users stated that setting up the controller and running it with their setup was a simple matter.
One customer even raved about his ability to take it out of the box, plug it in, and start making music right away.
Despite this, the Oxygen 49 still runs into one of the old limitations of smaller MIDI controllers.
Its decreased range doesn’t allow the full range of expression as easily as an 88-key piano, leaving the player rushing to press the octave up/down button when he wants to go high or low on the keyboard.
While manageable in a home studio setting, it can be impractical during a live performance, according to some users.
A few users also reported some problems with long-term reliability, though these issues are in the minority.
- Good action to the keyboard
- Several programmable input types
- Ease of use with many popular DAWs
- Excellent beginner keyboard controller
- No drum pads
- Still reduced range from that of an 88 key keyboard
- Occasional issues with long-term use and reliability
10. 88-key Controller: M Audio Keystation 88 II
The M-Audio Keystation 88 offers a clear picture for anyone transitioning from traditional piano to MIDI controllers. The M-Audio Keystation offers all the keys you would expect on a grand piano.
It offers a simple, uncluttered, and straightforward profile to its user. But also comes with the only extra features besides the keyboard being pitch bend and modulation wheels (which are standard for any MIDI controller).
The main benefit of this MIDI controller is how closely it emulates the real thing.
The Keystation 88 comes semi-weighted keys and the full range of a large and expensive grand piano.
Thus, it offers the full range of piano expression for a much lower cost than an upright or baby grand in your home.
Users loved those features as well as the simple interface and ease of use of the product, which works well with notation software and greatly simplifies the process for composers, arrangers, and transcribers.
Performers are inclined toward electronic music creation. However, many are quick to note its lack of input types besides the 88 keys and two input wheels, there’s nothing else to make the Keystation stand out from its competition.
Electronic music composers and performers may want to look elsewhere, according to reviews, unless they’re supplementing the keyboard with another MIDI controller with a few more varied inputs.
- Full 88 key range
- Excellent action
- Ease of use and connection with music notation software
- Relatively cheap price point
- Few input types
11. MIDI Pad Controller: Ableton Push 2
What if you’re an electronic musician geared more towards the sounds and effects you’re creating than the notes you’re playing? Or a performer with a keyboard you’re perfectly happy with but looking to supplement with some more input types?
In these cases, you may want to look at the Ableton Push 2, created by (and specifically tailored for) Ableton Live.
Push 2 offers an 8×8 grid of drum pads and a detailed sample waveform display screen that simplifies the process of creating, editing, and manipulating clips in the popular Ableton Live DAW software.
Users are universally impressed with its attributes and features, praising the ease with which it simplifies their Ableton Live workflow and the efficient and aesthetically pleasing user interface.
The drum pads on the Push 2 can be used for the audio clip and sample manipulation. Thus it provides users more control over the audio they put together in the Ableton Live software.
While it is an extremely useful piece of hardware for interacting with Ableton Live, customers did mention its high price point – which is several hundred dollars.
This is a serious investment to make than the other MIDI controllers discussed here.
Users described that higher price as worth it, though, saying that they had no regret about buying and learning how to use the product.
- Efficient, beautiful layout
- Designed specifically for use with Ableton Live, taking advantage of all of Live’s powerful audio tools and features
- Extremely well-designed controller, increasing production speed and quality when using Ableton Live
- Designed specifically for Ableton Live, offering reduced features with other software DAWs
- Relatively high price
12. M Audio Keystation 49 MK3
With the M-Audio Keystation 49 MIDI controller, you don’t need any software installation to get it started. It works out of the box.
In fact, you can have your first music created in few minutes after setting up. If you are using a Mac or other Apple products with it, you will like this tool because it comes in gray and white color.
It is light, durable, and will sit well on your desk. And for the price, you are definitely getting a deal on the M-Audio Keystation 49.
13. Samson Carbon 49 USB MIDI Controller
The prominent thing about the Samson Carbon 49 is that the velocity sensitivity for note off and note on are fairly consistent.
This means that you can enjoy consistent dynamics when transitioning from lowest to the highest velocity.
Some customers have actually complained that the keyboard feel is not something to write home about, which also makes faster fingering almost impossible.
With these and other limitations, many users have found it very useful and affordable – as it is under $100.
14. Alesis V49 | 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
Alesis V49 is a simple plug and play device that gives you all the functionality you need in a 49-key controller. It is fully weighted keys, lightweight, and compact.
Although it is quite expensive, if you are not worried about the price, it is a nice tool.
This is not just another MIDI beginner’s controller to fill your desk with. It has a solid build and design that should fit your desk perfectly even if you are going to use it in front of your monitor.
The keyboard is solid and it’s a quality product. However, if you are a piano fanatic, this product may not be for you because the performance of the velocity is not impressive.
15. Samson Carbon 61 USB MIDI Controller
The Samson Carbon 61 is a simple MIDI controller for beginner that will help you control synthesizers and other outboard gear in your studio, and that it does effectively.
It does not require any MIDI interface or cables, just plug it and plug it to your system with the USB cable which comes in with it and start working.
It has a well-set keybed and they are quiet during operation. You can easily assign functions to different software, thanks to its assignable knob and sliders.
16. M-Audio Keystation 61
The M-Audio Keystation 61 is an elite MIDI controller for performers, musicians, and pro piano players.
It comes with VSTi piano instrument, Ableton Live, and Eight Eight Ensemble so that you can start playing some sounds immediately after unboxing.
While the setup is smooth, some users have found that the keybed is not arranged in the proper manner to encourage proper technique.
To enjoy this unit, you have to make lots of hand adjustments. However, if you are looking for a complete package, this M-Audio model will not disappoint.
17. Novation Launchkey 61 USB Keyboard Controller
The strongest point of the Novation Launchkey 61 is its auto-mapping feature. It helps make your work flow smooth.
It is solidly built, easy to setup, and works well with Ableton Live 9 and above. Not only is the keyboard lightweight, the knobs also feel nice and tight.
If you are a constant traveler, you will like this MIDI beginner controller because it is svelte and easy to use.
The keyboard is not the greatest when it comes to feeling, but it makes up for that with good resistance from the knobs.
The faders are equally designed well, although if you are looking for an MPC feel, you may be disappointed.
Other Compact Mini MIDI Controllers
Aside from the budget MIDI controllers that we already have on this list, many other mini MIDI controllers are available on the market.
They are easy to use for travel and it makes sense to include them here to expand your options further.
1. M-Audio Keystation Mini 32
Unlike the Mini MK2, the M-Audio Keystation is Mini is cheaper and comes with more keys. It is powered by USB. It is portable and easy to travel with it.
There are more than 20 reviews on this product, it has Octave-shift control, modulation and pitch buttons.
With its velocity-sensitive keys, it is one of the cheapest alternatives to the Mini MK2, although you will have to do without some features on the MPK Mini.
2. Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
If you are looking for a Mini controller with nice synth sounds and velocity-sensitive keys, the Arturia MiniLab is worth a look.
It can easily fit into a portable setup with its strength coming from the Analog Lab software – which includes hybrid synths with 5,000 sounds.
Although the keys are less in quality than other models out there, it is still one of the best for traveling.
3. Korg microKEY 25 USB MIDI Keyboard
This is another unit from Korg with transpose and Octave key features. It is one of the highly rated Mini controllers on Amazon. It is thin, lightweight and requires no driver for installation.
4. M-Audio Axiom AIR Mini 32
With over 40 reviews, the Axiom AIR Mini is a highly rated controller on Amazon. This keyboard features advanced keyboard features in a portable package.
Ableton Live Lite, Octave Up and Down button, pitch bend and modulation buttons are some of the pizzazz unique to this unit.
What’s a MIDI Controller Keyboard?
While the keyboard is one of the most common types of MIDI controller input, it’s by no means the only kind.
There are varieties of input depending on your needs. Some of the popular input types are including fader arrays, drum pads, standalone buttons, and other customized products and interfaces.
Each type of controller has its own advantages and disadvantages. Many of the most advanced musical instruments combine several different features on one device.
For example, a MIDI controller on the lower end of the price scale might have just a piano keyboard and a few faders.
A MIDI keyboard on the higher end of the price scale might have a piano keyboard, faders, drum touchpads, pitch and mod wheels, knobs and buttons.
The more types of options there are on the MIDI keyboard, the more control you can have over your music creativity.
This is a vital feature in many audio creation applications. However, a MIDI Controller should not be misunderstood for a musical instrument or actual sound or digital music file format like MP3.
Benefits of the Best MIDI Controllers
- MIDI is compact. Do you have a small storage space in your studio to house another incoming device? Fine. A keyboard of this type won’t take too much of your space.
- Manipulate your notes with ease. It is easy to change notes without recording again and again which can quickly become boring and cumbersome.
- The Best MIDI controller is versatile. A MIDI keyboard describes only the notes to be played and these notes could be sent to any instrument. Hence, the entire composition could be changed.
- MIDI Controller Keyboard helps you set up the right sound stream in your gadgets. It has already been installed into them so you can easily get the perfect sound stream.
What Should I Look For In an Ideal MIDI Input Device?
Before you can choose the best MIDI controller that’s just perfect for you, you need to first think about what you are about to use it for.
If you get it right in this department, then you are not far away from getting your hands on a sweet, shining keyboard that suits your preferences.
The First Thing You Should Consider is the Music Notation:
If you’re looking for a simple interface for music notation software like Finale or MuseScore, you’ll probably do fine with a plain piano keyboard MIDI controller.
You’ll save a handful of time and effort when you don’t have to input notes by hand. And most importantly, you’ll be able to integrate notation into your composition or transcription process easily.
If You are into Digital Music Creation, and:
you create digital music in applications like Reason, Live, or ProTools, you’ll be looking for a bit more besides the basic keyboard input.
Look for a MIDI controller that has a piano keyboard and enough drum touchpads. If you can find one that also comes with few mixing-board-like features like faders and volume knobs, that’s fine too.
Also, take into consideration your budget. You don’t have to spend an enormous amount if you don’t need to!
And if You are into Digital Music Performing:
If you’re a performing or touring musician, you’ll need all of the features noted in the Digital Music Creation section above.
In addition, you’ll also need to keep in mind your performance needs. The backlight buttons may be a necessity in low-light environments.
And since space is at a premium for many performers and groups, you may be able to get by without a full 88-key controller and save yourself some headaches while packing.
Simply put, the more features you have on your controller, the better. Just make sure you fully understand how to use and troubleshoot all before getting in front of a crowd.
Important Features to Look for on the Best MIDI Controller
A couple of other features to keep in mind for any application are:
- Velocity-sensitivity: A velocity-sensitive keyboard will transmit information about how hard you’ve pressed any given key when you press that key. If your controller isn’t velocity-sensitive, it’ll tell your synths that you’ve hit a key at the same strength no matter how hard you press it.
- After-touch: With after-touch, you can transmit velocity data beyond that of the initial key press. For instance, you can press a key hard, then let up slightly (without releasing fully) and continue to increase the pressure. This will create a strong initial accent, quick drop-off, and a slow increase in strength again. Such expressive capabilities exist mainly on the higher-end MIDI controllers. Therefore, these powerful abilities should not be overlooked when you’re shopping.
- Weighted hammer action: This offers the most realistic emulation of a real piano, with a similar resistance and bounce that you would find in real wooden keys.
- Synth-action: This is the closest to an organ in feel. When you press a key, you’ll feel less resistance and quicker response than with weighted hammer action. Semi-weighted action:
- Semi-Weighted Action: offers a balance between these two, creating a quicker responding key than hammer weighted action but a more realistic feel than synth-action keyboards.
- Action and Responsiveness: This is another feature to look out for. Keep in mind what kind of feel you want the keys to have when you press them. Or as pianists call it, the “action” of the keyboard.
Consider The Popular DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations)
Finally, you should consider the DAW you already have installed on your computer. A DAW is a software that encompasses some or all of a studio’s capabilities on your computer – from recording to editing, effects to synthesizing. Some popular DAWs include Ableton Live, Reason, Propellerhead, Logic, ProTools, and Garage Band. Just about any DAW worth it is salt will have some level of MIDI connection capability.
This will allow you to play notes, program inputs, and record changes in the DAW itself. Many MIDI controllers come with DAW software in the box, which is usually slightly lower quality than bigger names like Live or Reason. However, it can be an excellent starting point for learning how to use a DAW if you don’t know how already.
What’s the Best MIDI Controller for You?
Which of these options is the best MIDI controller should you buy? The answer largely depends on how you’re planning to use the controller.
1. MIDI Controllers are Versatile, Powerful Machines When used Correctly
They enable composers, producers, arrangers, and performers to interact more intuitively with their digital music creation software than they could with a standard keyboard and mouse.
This is what most MIDI controllers have in common.
These devices have a wide variety of input types, keyboard sizes (or lack of keyboards entirely), and DAW software quality.
This means that what you choose is dependent on the type of hardware and software you already have.
It is important to do your research well before purchasing. Take time and plan out what features you would like on the best MIDI controller.
- Be clear on your budget.
- Read reviews and watch videos carefully so that you have a good idea about how to use whichever controller you pick.
- And finally, how much experience you already have with electronic music creation.
If you can, try out the model you want to buy at a local music store or a friend’s setup if they’ve got any in stock.
The better informed you are, the more satisfied with your end purchase you’ll be. This is a significant point to note when spending money on any instrument.
No matter what kind of controller you end up buying, have fun and enjoy the process.
2. MIDI is a Huge Step Forward in Music Technology
It gives people around the world access to miniature orchestras that can fit in a small space as your laptop.
The technology is still growing and evolving. You’re in a perfect position to take advantage of this advancement by pick out the controller that best suits your needs.
Choosing the Best MIDI Keyboard Controller that Suits You Perfectly
The best MIDI Controller Keyboard offers you a great advantage if you enjoy having fun with your music production software, playing synths through the computer, or even hooking up sound modules and controlling them with a MIDI controller.
The beauty of using a MIDI keyboard over a controller is that you can enjoy the sound immediately.
Since the MIDI keyboard has an internal sound generator and a sound output, you can easily discern and feel the sound you are playing on the keyboard.
While a MIDI controller needs some kind of MIDI in/out to help with sound generation, the best MIDI keyboard can give you immediate feedback.
You can easily open up a new song of your choice and add suitable software.
Moreover, if you are using a USB MIDI controller keyboard, it will enable you to play with a grand piano in a comfortable manner.
In fact, using your personal computer keyboard will not give you the same comfort level that you derive from using this device.
Furthermore, the large keyboard of your personal computer will not be suitable when you want to hop from here to there.
There are many options for MIDI keyboards available on the market. If you know where to look, you can choose the best option at affordable prices.
However, while buying a MIDI controller keyboard, you need to take care of the following as they will help gain the most from your MIDI keyboard:
MIDI programming is often completed with the help of a keyboard controller. A keyboard offers a user-friendly interface.
Furthermore, most musicians and performers are comfortable using the format of a common keyboard.
It allows them to perform chordal and melodic parts with equal élan while they can easily carve out a new rhythmic pattern as per their choice.
The fun part is, unlike a common keyboard, the MIDI keyboard controllers do not create any noise. That is, there will be no disturbing sound while you play the music on your GarageBand.
Weighted or Non-Weighted Keyboard. Every individual can have their own choice. A weighted keyboard is compatible to offer the exact feel of playing a real piano.
The issue of weighed or non-weighed is important as it represents the amount of effort the player will have to put for pushing down a key to produce the sound they desire.
Unlike the non-weighted keyboard, a weighted keyboard will allow you to have the same feel as if you are playing a real grand piano.
In the market, weighted keyboards are often costlier than non-weighted keyboards. Therefore, managing your music on a weighted keyboard may prove to be easier
Size of the MIDI Controller Keyboard. Another feature you need to consider when buying a MIDI keyboard controller is the size of the keyboard.
You have to decide on how many keys you want. A grand piano contains 88 keys but that doesn’t mean that you should opt for a keyboard controller with 88 keys.
It depends on the space available in your studio and the expertise you have in playing the piano.
If you have enough space and you feel you are able to produce excellent music for which you need all keys of a piano, you may opt for a large MIDI keyboard controller with all 88 keys.
Otherwise, look into smaller keyboard controllers with 25, 37, 49, or 61 keys
Pay Attention to the input Type on the Device Before Buying
Though there are several different input types available with most keyboard controllers, this article will sort all the MIDI keyboard controllers below by key count.
This is a good way to get an idea of the controller’s intended purpose. Small 25-key controllers, packed with inputs, are very useful for creating and editing digital music.
Larger 88-key controllers with velocity sensitivity and aftertouch offer more control for composers and live performers.
It is as helpful to take note of the number of input types and their varieties as it is to take note of the key count when comparing different MIDI controllers.
These extra inputs can mean the difference between a relatively limited experience with your controller and one offering several more options and a higher level of interactivity.
It is important to note that nearly any MIDI controller can be used for nearly any of these purposes, though some require more setup and practice than others for a given purpose.
Know These Terms To Get the Best From Your Device
You’ll often see words like assignable and programmable when you are reading about knobs, buttons, and faders.
They refer to the ability of the player to control particular settings on his DAW. They are customizable programming that comes to an enormous amount of opportunity for personalized setups, greatly expanding a MIDI controller’s capabilities.
MIDI Controller Keyboard FAQs
1. What Does a MIDI Pad Controller Do?
You can use a MIDI pad controller for drums.
It can also be used to change Octaves and stabs so give your music a more natural feel. The beauty of this device is that it is inexpensive.
You can use it in conjunction with other devices for your live performances and music production. However, it cannot replace your regular MIDI controller.
It should only be a subsidiary device for use where you can’t access your MIDI controller.
Here is the deal:
When you are shopping for a pad controller, ensure that there are large arrays of pads and controls on it.
The pads should be playable and responsive. It should be easy to configure. It should also come with a USB connection so that it is easy to use.
2. What is a MIDI Input Device?
A MIDI input device is just a protocol.
You can use it to record and play music on a synthesizer. And it can work with any computer system.
Since it is a set of commands, a MIDI input device does not play or record music directly. Rather, it transmits how music is produced. Do you know the best part?
There are many command sets on the MIDI input device – these include pitch bend, modulation wheel, velocity, etc.
Often, you can use this device to create music and play it on a sound card, which is on your computer system.
3. What is in a MIDI File?
A MIDI file is just a format that contains information about the player of music. Like a MIDI input device, it does not play the sound directly and it cannot control the sound. But, it is very light. And…
This is why it is put to a variety of uses such as cell phone ringtones, computer sounds, and sounds generate from other devices.
Since it is just a set of instructions, it often uses less disk space than the audio that is produced.
So for instance, you may end up with a final product – the sound – that is 50kb in size while the file that produced it is no more than 5kb.
4. Why use a MIDI Controller?
If you are looking for a way to create high-quality beats, then you need to allow the MIDI controller to come to your rescue. Even the best MIDI controller is an inexpensive device.
They are easy to use and often enable you to manipulate your music software and other virtual instruments.
If you are a music producer, you need something that can help you create music the moment you sit down. You don’t have the luxury of boredom.
You can start making music immediately you bring out the device from its package. And if you are a touring musician, a MIDI controller can help you record and play your favorite sounds especially when you are performing live.
When buying a MIDI controller, ensure you are buying one that will help you improve your workflow.
It should allow you to record, play, stop and repeat your loop as much as you want. This means it should have the play, stop, and record buttons.
Next, look for pitch bend and modulation wheel. You don’t really need sliders since they are not motorized. And since they are not motorized, it may be difficult to mix well.
5. Which MIDI Controller should I buy?
It all depends on your preferences. You also have to consider your experience with MIDI controllers in general and what you want to achieve with one.
If you are a beginner, you can start with a 25-key MIDI controller. They are cheap. And often comes with all the features you might need.
This set of the keyboard also comes cheap. You can easily master it and gain the necessary experience before moving on to the more advanced keyboard.
Here is the kicker:
If you have had some experience with MIDI controllers in the past, you might want to base your choice on features and performance.
Most people tend to go with 49-key and 61-key MIDI controllers since they are in the middle of the pack. But, if you are a pianist, you may want to choose the 88-key model with hammer-action keys.
This will help you get accustomed to it easily. You can also add other options like sliders, buttons, knobs, pitch bend, and modulation wheel.
6. Can a MIDI Controller be used as a Keyboard?
A MIDI controller and a keyboard are the same things. Whatever you can do on a keyboard is also possible on a MIDI controller. It’s just like saying what’s the difference between a car and a vehicle.
Here is the reality: A MIDI controller is more comprehensive than the term ‘keyboard’ just like the term ‘vehicle is more comprehensive than ‘car’.
So, the term ‘MIDI controller’ is mostly used to refer to devices that have keys or pads on it. The keyboard, on the other hand, is mostly concerned with devices with keys on them.
7. Are there Good Cheap MIDI Controllers on the Market?
No doubt, there are. However, you need to be careful. Most devices dubbed “cheap” are not that good. But, if you research well, you will be able to secure a good cheap controller.
We have included some of the best keyboards on this page. Not only are they cheap, but they are also very light, easy to travel with, perform excellently.
8. What is a USB MIDI Keyboard Controller?
A USB MIDI keyboard controller is a USB powered controller. This means you can connect it to your system with only a USB cable.
Some models MIDI keyboards have multiple connection inputs while others are single.
The advantage of buying a USB MIDI controller is that you can power it outside your studio. You don’t need a power adapter to use your MIDI controller as long as your computer is with you.
Moreover, you can save on your energy bills since you are only making use of your system.
9. What is the use of the MIDI Interface?
A MIDI interface can accept the MIDI plug. They send and receive MIDI signal. A MIDI interface can serve as a bridge between your computer and DAWs and it is the link between your electronic instruments. Its function is to transmit MIDI information.
Since they are simple devices, MIDI interfaces are inexpensive, so that adding them to your setup should not be discouraged by the price alone. They have MIDI in and out ports and provides 1×1 or 2×2 MIDI.
Although most manufacturers are now focusing on USB as the main connection for their devices, old music hardware still has the traditional MIDI ports on them.
And if you have hardware instruments in your setup, you need an interface.
Fortunately, manufacturers are now incorporating both USB and MIDI ports in newer models. Thus, you have the flexibility and complete control over your hardware and software.
If you are planning to buy one, you can choose from portable, big, or mobile MIDI interfaces.
10. Pad Vs Keyboard MIDI Controller
In your pursuit of the ultimate collection of music hardware, you may want to know the difference between a pad and a keyboard MIDI controller.
Although the difference is not much, changing from keyboard to pad can have a great effect on your workflow. And having both gives you the best of both worlds.
Pads are simply grid-based performance controllers that you can use to trigger parameters like loops, sounds, and effects.
It also lets you launch clips, play drum racks and control your mixer. The best of them have illuminated pads but lack keys like MIDI controllers.
MIDI controllers, on the other hand, are devices that send commands to other devices – these can be VSTs (Virtual Instruments), DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), etc.
They usually have keys, sliders, knobs, faders, etc. Although they cannot produce sound on their own, you need them in your setup if you are a musician, live performer or a producer.
Moreover, they are both different from a guitar, which is covered in another post.
11. What can I do With a MIDI Keyboard Controller?
You can do many things with a MIDI controller. You can produce music with it and use it to trigger specific events on your computer.
It also makes it easy to map triggers between your hardware and software than actual USB data. If you scroll up this guide, you can also read on other benefits of a controller.
12. Do you need an Arduino MIDI controller?
An Arduino MIDI controller is an open-source project, micro-controller kits that enable you to create devices that can control other physical devices.
This means that anybody can design it according to his preferences. It consists of a hardware and software part.
The hardware includes the shields and boards. You can purchase the boards as a DIY or pre-assembled kit.
There is more than one official board and they are manufactured by Smart Projects, SparkFun Electronics, and Adafruit Industries.
While the board serves as the heart of the controller, the shields provide motor controls for GPS, 3D printing, and LCD. Many of them are available as DIY kits.
Shields can read inputs and turn them into output. The software includes the sample program and other IDE (Integrated Development Environment).
One of the benefits of the Arduino software is that it can be used to create robots as well as many other applications.
The advantage of the Arduino MIDI controller is that beginners can easily learn it and it is flexible enough for the expert. It can run on your Mac, or Linux, or Windows system.
Aside from its application to music production, you can use it to build interactive prototypes, prove mathematical principles, and helps you get started with programming and robotics.
You can also use it to experiment with new musical instruments. Because of the large community behind it – it is open-source – you can use it to learn many new things.
Fortunately, it is inexpensive (micro-controllers are not cheap to get and preassembled modules could cost less than $50).
Arduino MIDI controllers are cross-platform and open-source. They have extensive hardware and provide an un-obstructive programming environment.
We spent several hours researching different keyboards to come up with the best MIDI controller, reading the opinion of experts, and going through user reviews to determine that the best MIDI keyboard controller is the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII for most people.
Most people have selected this over the competition because of its flexibility in use, decent price, and good sensitivity.
Our Best MIDI Controller is the Akai Professional MPK Mini 25-Key Controller
It comes with velocity-sensitive keys and you don’t have to mess with the MIDI settings before you can get started.
So if this is your first keyboard, it should give you not much trouble. This model also contains lots of control knobs, control banks and responds very fast to touch.
If this model is not available anywhere, we recommend you look at our other picks below. We have selected different models to fit different budgets, people with large hands as well as those with smaller hands.
As much as the Akai Professional Mini is our first pick, the others are also capable of giving you a nice MIDI experience.
For a more robust model, we recommend the M-Audio Oxygen 49 MK IV
It is great for those who already have experience with MIDI controllers and want a larger device. At around $140, it is a bit pricey but it gives you an expansive keybed compared to the Akai Mini.
It will incorporate with any DAW with ease and with the sustain pedal input, you can have more creative control in your production.
It comes with 9 assignable faders and transport buttons that allow you to mix with ease and have complete control over your DAW.
The Most Expensive Controller in this List is the Ableton Push 2
It is specially designed for Ableton users and those who want the experience that is different from other MIDI pads.
With this pad, you can edit and play music without your computer – it can help you divorce your computer and concentrate on your music production.
It has a solid and well-placed pad as well as an intuitive color display. Even though it comes with lots of extras, it still lacks key features like a tilt mechanism and a custom case.
Bigger and Cheap
For those with larger hands and those that want a piano-like keyboard, the M-Audio Keyboard with 88-keys will give you all you want.
If you are a professional and have been in the game for a while, you may want something that can give you an experience similar to a piano.
In that case, the M-Audio Keystation 88 is your best choice. With 88 semi-weighted and velocity-sensitive keys, this powerful controller will help you control and play virtual instruments on your Mac or PC with fun.
If you are looking for a unit that you can use for everyday use, this may not be suitable. Its design makes it even suitable for professionals working in the studio or those with larger hands.