2018 Best Midi Keyboard Controllers

We’ve taken a look at some of the feedback we’ve received, as well as some of the most shipped MIDI keyboard products for our 2018 list of the best MIDI keyboard controllers. The same brands that dominated last year, are expected to dominate this year. This list includes all different types of key-counts. For specific key-count lists, please see the sidebar for more links.

Specific key-count lists:

Best MIDI For the Price

See on Amazon

The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key is definitely where you are going to get the most bang for your buck. You can get it for only $99 dollars on Amazon right now, and it is an excellent MIDI with a lot of value for the price.

Features
  • 4-way thumb stick
  • 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads
  • 8 assignable Q-Link knobs
  • Comprehensive production software package included
    • Akai Pro MPC Essentials
    • SONiVOX Wobble
    • Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech
$99 on Amazon – Best Seller

Akai MPK2

See on Amazon Akai-MPK2

Overview

Akai Professional released its first MPK MIDI keyboard controller series to positive reviews. In the music equipment industry, the model and brand quickly became a favorite among musicians. With the Akai MPK2, the company developed an upgrade. This model offers stability, and its general assignable functions are solid. It also comes with a good-sized software bundle. Apart from Akai Professional’s mini version, all of the key-count models feature:

Features

  • Hybrid 3.0 Virtual Synth
  • Sonivox Twist 2.0
  • MPC Essentials software
  • Full-size keys that are semi-weighted with Aftertouch
The company also offers various key-count options and different price ranges. Because of its quality, this unit has a higher price tag than keyboard controllers made by other companies. The Akai MPK2 features
  • A retail price that ranges from $100 to $400
  • Key-count options like mini 25, 25-key, 49-key and 61-key
  • Pitch bend and mod wheels
  • Octave controls
  • An LCD screen with high-resolution

Novation Impulse

See on Amazon Novation-Impulse

Overview

The Novation Impulse offers you a solid build as well as a number of external functions and pads. This is a quality unit since it’s feature-rich and affordable. According to reviews, the Novation Impulse’s build, budget ratio and keypad are near perfect. In fact, the device’s only shortcoming is that it doesn’t come with a software bundle. By purchasing the Impulse, you’ll receive Ableton Live Lite and two solid Visual Studio Team Systems. The keyboard controller’s main features include:

Features

  • A price that varies from $200 to $400
  • Key-count options like 25-key, 49-key and 61-key
  • Assignable elements that consist of eight knobs, nine faders and nine buttons with fewer available on the 25-key model
  • Keys that come with Aftertouch
  • Semi-weighted keys that are ultra-responsive
  • In and out ports
  • A USB connection option

Alesis VI

See on Amazon Alesis-VI

Overview

The Alesis Company is coming into its own in the keyboard control industry. This is on display with the Alesis VI. The company upgraded to the VI series from its original keyboards. If you invest in the new version, you’ll receive elements like semi-weighted full-sized keys that include Aftertouch along with 16 Red, Green and Blue, or RGB, backlit velocity-sensitive pads. Unfortunately, this model does not include a mini keyboard option. However, the 25-key version is a good choice if you need one that’s smaller and more affordable. The Alesis VI comes with standard assignable knobs and buttons, but it does lack faders. Keep in mind that this option is a budget-friendly choice. The device’s main features consist of:

Features

  • A price point that ranges from $160 to $300
  • Key-count options like 25-key, 49-key and 61-key
  • A USB powering system
  • Square-front keys
  • 36 assignable buttons
  • 12 assignable knobs

M-Audio Keystation

See on Amazon M-Audio-Keystation

Overview

If you’re on a tight budget, then consider purchasing the M-Audio Keystation. This keyboard controller for pro tools will give you access to the basics at a price that you can afford. It comes with keys, a mod wheel and a pitch along with a few other fundamental functions. The device’s key make is solid while the synth action is slightly more bouncy than semi and full-weighted models. It also come with a good orchestra-type virtual studio technology, or VST, feature, which is in the SoniVox Eighty-Eight Ensemble. The keyboard controller’s downsides include its limited software bundle and its lack of faders and knobs. However, most musicians only use these extra options during live performances, so if you need an affordable device for creative purposes, then this is the one for you. The product’s main features include:

Features

  • A retail price point that ranges from $80 to $200
  • Key-count options like 32-key, 49-key and 61-key, and 88-key
  • Pitch bend and mod wheels
  • Velocity-sensitive keys
  • Sustain pedal input
  • Transport controls

Behringer U-Control UMX

See on Amazon Behringer-U-Control-UMX

Overview

In many circles, Behringer is one of the best brands when it comes to music equipment that is affordable and durable. With the U-Control UMX, you’ll receive a solid key build as well as several assignable controls. The keyboard controller features 100 virtual instrument sounds in addition to 50 different VST effects. Velocity-sensitive keys and access to an audio interface increase the usability of the equipment item since the features provide external volume control. Behringer’s 61-key option is one of the most affordable on the market. However, the model does lack pads and faders. The Behringer U-Control unit includes:

Features

  • A retail price range of $100 to $150
  • Key-count options like 25-key, 49-key and 61-key
  • 10 switches that are assignable
  • A 128 tone range octave transfer function
  • Eight rotary controls that provide real-time output
  • Access to a USB interface through your personal computer
  • An NI KorePlayer sound segment

Arturia KeyLab

See on Amazon Arturia-KeyLab

Overview

The Arturia brand is famous for providing quality synths and other types of modern-day analog sounds. Because of the company’s experience in this sound area, Arturia’s keyboard controllers offer a slightly different option. The KeyLab features the company’s Analog Lab software, which has 5,000 synth sounds. Arturia used a number of its classic synths to give you access to its diverse options. With the KeyLab, you’ll have the SEM V, Prophet V and the CS-80 V. If you need stunning synth sounds to create your best music, consider investing in this keyboard controller. The extra synth options make it worth the higher price tag. With the KeyLab, you’ll receive assignable features like 10 encoders, 10 switches and nine sliders. In addition, Arturia’s keys come with Aftertouch and are semi-weighted as well as velocity-sensitive. The unit also includes a few pads, so with the KeyLab, you’ll receive many of the industry’s technological advancements. The system’s main features consist of:

Features

  • Pricing that ranges from $100 to $400
  • Key-count options like 25-key, 49-key, 61-key, and 88-key
  • Mod and pitch bend wheels
  • Six transport switches
  • Two clickable encoders
  • A preset editing feature
  • A preset sorting option

M-Audio Axiom AIR

See on Amazon M-Audio-Axiom-AIR

Overview

The Axiom AIR is one of M-Audio’s advanced models. It comes with assignable features like eight knobs, three banks and nine faders. In addition, the keys provide synth-action and include Aftertouch. With this MIDI keyboard, you’ll receive just 12 trigger pads, but the pad quality is high. If you want to kick your style up a notch, you can create personalized velocity curves. A major benefit of this keyboard controller is the addition of Pro Tools Express as well as Ignite by Air. If you already have your digital audio workstation in place, then you may not need the many options that this keyboard provides. However, if you’re considering changing over to Pro Tools, then Axiom AIR will help you get started. The keyboard controller’s main features include:

Features

  • A retail price that varies from $100 to $400
  • Key-count options like 25-key, 49-key and 61-key
  • Compatibility with your personal computer
  • HyperControl software that offers mapping with your digital audio workstation
  • Eight encoders
  • Nine faders
  • Velocity curves to give you custom styling

Korg MicroKEY

See on Amazon Korg-MicroKEY

Overview

The Korg keyboard is a basic option. Because of the unit’s limited features, it is more affordable. The company offers a unique 37-key model, and it is convenient to own since it’s lightweight. This makes the device portable. With the Korg, you’ll gain keys that are velocity-sensitive. Despite the unit’s affordability, the keys have a quality feel. The device is USB powered, and this feature lets you avoid dealing with an adapter. You’ll also receive a key transpose button and an octave shift. If you buy the Korg model, be sure to download the company’s Korg Kontrol Editor for additional options. The keyboard controller’s main features consist of:

Features

  • A price that varies from $70 to $180
  • Key-count options like 25-key, 37-key and 61-key
  • A natural touch keyboard
  • Pitch bend
  • Modulation wheels

ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

See on Amazon ROLI Seaboard RISE 49
Price Point: $1,999.00

Overview

The ROLI Seaboard RISE 49 represents an entirely new way to play a keyboard. The Seaboard doesn’t have keys in the traditional sense. Rather, it has waves that represent the traditional keys of a keyboard. You can play the Seaboard as if it were a standard keyboard, or you can allow your fingers to drift between the waves for greater expressive possibilities.

Pros

  • Glide your fingers above, below or between the waves for pitch changes, volume changes and vibrato
  • Supports aftertouch
  • Sends MIDI data across up to 10 channels simultaneously

Cons

  • Waves do not move as traditional keys would; some keyboard players may find them difficult to get used to
  • No built-in synthesizer; requires an external synthesizer — but does include a software-based synthesizer for Windows and Mac
  • Software synthesizer has steep system requirements
  • Requires a computer for changing settings
  • Mostly black; may be difficult to see without bright light

Features

  • Two playing modes allows you to use touch surfaces for expression or to trigger MIDI events
  • You can adjust the sensitivity of any touch surface
  • Records touch according to five parameters: strike, press, glide, slide and lift

M-Audio CTRL49

See on Amazon M-Audio CTRL49
Price Point: $449.00

Overview

M-Audio has long set the standard for affordable MIDI controllers. The CTRL 49 represents the company’s attempt to capture a portion of the high-end controller market. In addition to its keyboard functionality, the CTRL 49 features faders and buttons for controlling your digital audio workstation, a large color display and drum pads for sequencing percussion loops.

Pros

  • “Setlist” feature allows you to pre-load the effects and patches for quick access during live performances
  • Works seamlessly with most DAWs
  • Ample lighting makes controls easy to see in low-light situations
  • VIP software allows control of any VST instrument

Cons

  • Some have complained that the software download process can be confusing
  • Screen is not touch sensitive

Features

  • Semi-weighted keys for a more natural feel
  • Color display
  • Nine faders
  • Eight buttons
  • Eight knobs
  • Eight drum pads

Korg Taktile

See on Amazon Korg Taktile
Price Point: $420.00

Overview

The Korg Taktile is one of the few MIDI keyboard controllers that works as a MIDI controller and DAW interface and has its own pre-programmed sounds. The Taktile features the entire sound library of the Korg Triton synthesizer, which was used by artists such as David Bowie, Trent Reznor and Timbaland. The Taktile also features ample buttons, faders and knobs for controlling your DAW.

Pros

  • Supports USB power
  • Includes templates for popular DAW packages such as Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase and Sonar
  • Includes licenses for an extensive library of recording software and software synthesizers
  • Because it has built-in sounds, it works without a computer

Cons

  • Doesn’t support aftertouch
  • Some may consider the sound library of the Triton synthesizer somewhat dated, but the Triton is nevertheless a benchmark of electronic music — and you can still use the Taktile to control any external synthesizer
  • You may need to download some DAW templates from the Korg website
  • Doesn’t accept any power but USB
  • The only audio output is an amplified stereo headphone output

Features

  • MIDI keyboard controller with built-in sound library
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • Eight faders
  • Eight knobs
  • 16 buttons (eight on the 25-key version)
  • Two wheels
  • Trackpad

Quick Look: Most Popular

MIDI Keyboard Controller Price Point Best For
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key $99 on Amazon
or
3 payments of $33 on American Music Supply
Affordable, portable, and most popular choice – especially for beginners or producers on a budget
M-Audio Keystation 88 II 179.49 on Amazon This 88 key Midi Keyboard controller is new to the popular list in 2018 and is the only one of it’s kind.
Behringer U-Control UMX $150 and up on Amazon Another very popular choice among the affordable MIDI keyboard controllers. Behringer is also known to have great customer service.
Alesis V61 | 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad $150 and up on Amazon 61 Key Insturment that also has a drum pad installed on the machine. Great for multitasking while still having a solid keyboard with nice playing keys.
Novation Impulse $299 and up on Amazon With an affordable price and plenty of physical DAW controls, the Novation Impulse provides lots of value for the money.

Last Considerations

Once you’ve connected a keyboard controller to your computer system, you’ll need to access its software location. Newer computers generally do this automatically, but if yours doesn’t, then you may need to install a drive from the keyboard or online to obtain software recognition. When considering keyboard controllers for pro tools, make sure that the unit’s software is operational with your computer’s operating system. Fortunately, most of them are compatible. Also, assess each unit’s portability, software bundle and cost. Be sure to evaluate your needs to determine whether your creative method requires faders, knobs and buttons. With the right device, you’ll have control over the major elements of modern music’s hardware and software.
  • It’s nice you have the price range and the important features of each item. This makes it easier to decide on one quickly. Thanks for the list…

    • audioassemble

      Thanks Charlice!

      We are also currently in the process of updating this page for 2017 including new products and new perspective. Please share!

      • Thank you for the quick reply audioassemble.

        I’ve shared with friends. And I will be expecting the updates.

        It would even make sharing easier if there are conspicuous buttons somewhere around the articles…

      • Roddrick Barnaba

        Could you scan two posts down and answer my question? Thanks.

  • Moderate_In_The_Extreme

    Do you have any opinions on the Roland a-800 Pro? I’d be interested to hear…

  • Roddrick Barnaba

    I am stuck between the Akai Mpk series, Novation SL series, and the Novation Impulse Series. I am producing r&b and rap music. Do you have a preference?

    • Olaf Kliemt

      Nektar Impact LX+ or Panorama series

      • Roddrick Barnaba

        REALLY? I was expecting the MPK.

  • Good list…

    Useful for people who are read to buy now as they can see a good comparison of the best items and come to a conclusion quickly…

  • Joel J

    There are 4 main keyboard controllers advertised as “Virtual Instrument Controllers” – Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol, Akai Advance, Alesis VX, and M-Audio CTRL. The last three there all use VIP software, while NI uses Komplete Kontrol software for virtual instrument control. So far, you’ve only listed M-Audio CTRL series, which is probably the least popular of the 4. I’d recommend at least mentioning the others, since the 4 of them are the main competitors of each other. (although Akai and Alesis are owned by the same company, so they’re not really competing)

  • Δημήτρης

    Very nice article and good deals for the best midi keyboards.. Truth is that semi-weighted keyboards dominate the market this days..

    In my studio i use the M-AUDIO AXIOM with Ableton Live and Logic Pro x and i’m very very satisfied. I have it for many years and has last hardship with me transferring it everywhere i play live 😀