Top 10 Best MIDI Keyboards On The Market

0 Sep 15 2014 in Reviews

These days, most of us are working in the box. We use a mouse to design sounds, arrange a song, mix it down, and in some cases to compose melodies and phrases.

This is all good and well, but let’s be honest, it becomes boring at times.

Using a MIDI keyboard allows you to step away from the screen for a moment, to have a physical connection with the music you’re creating. Classed as an essential production tool, the MIDI keyboard offers a more intuitive, creative workflow that’s guaranteed to be more enjoyable.

In this post we’ll look at 10 of the best MIDI keyboards on the market, ranging from 25-key entry-level controllers, to fully-fledged high-end models. But before we do that, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a product like this.

Picking the Right Keyboard

With a purchase like this, it’s important to keep three things in mind:

  • Use
  • Size
  • Price

All of these are important. For example, if you like to program drums by recording them in live and you don’t have a pad-based MIDI controller (such as the Akai MPD), then buying a MIDI keyboard that features pads may be worth looking into. If you prefer to record automation rather than draw it in, then a MIDI keyboard with faders and knobs is going to be more valuable to you.

Most people go for the biggest MIDI keyboard they can find, because having more keys is always better, right? The fact is, these controllers aren’t small. They take up room. If you own a 61-key MIDI controller then you’re not going to be able to travel with it. Size is important.

And finally, you have to ask yourself what you’re willing to spend. You can spend anywhere from $50 to over $1000 on a MIDI keyboard, so after working out what you need it for, and what size you’re going to get, consider how much money you want to spend.

Now that that’s out of the way, here are 10 of the best MIDI keyboards on the market.

1. Arturia Minilab

Arturia Minilab

The Arturia Minilab is a beautifully crafted, compact controller with a range of useful features that are sure to enhance workflow and give a creativity boost. The 25-key controller features 8 dedicated pads as well as 16 encoders, making drum programming and automation a breeze. The touch strip pitch bend and modulation controls may feel awkward and clumsy at first, but aside from that, this keyboard is flawless.

It’s also compact enough to fit on any desk, and small enough to take with you when travelling. If you’re looking for a MIDI keyboard that does what it’s supposed to do and a little extra, then this is for you.


  • 25 velocity sensitive keys
  • 16 encoders
  • 8 dedicated pads (two banks, essentially 16 pads)
  • Pitch bend/modulation touch strip
  • Bus-powered
  • Ready-to-go, no drivers needed
  • Packed with Analog Lab software (5000 sounds from popular synths and keyboards)

Price: $90

Learn more about the Arturia Minilab 25-Key and purchase it here.

2. CME Xkey

CME Xkey

Akin to an Apple product in terms of design, the CME Xkey is an ultra portable MIDI Keyboard that works with computers, tablets, and mobile devices. It features a very basic set of controls, including octave up and down buttons as well as pitch bend, modulation, and sustain keys.

We recommend this keyboard for producers who don’t have much space, travel a lot, or have simple needs. Aesthetically, it’s the best keyboard on the market, so if you’re picky about that kind of stuff then it’s a fantastic choice.


  • 25 full-sized velocity sensitive keys
  • Polyphonic aftertouch
  • Brushed aluminum case
  • USB powered
  • Octave change, pitch bend, modulation, and sustain function keys.

Price: $90

Learn more about the CME Xkey and purchase it here.

3. Akai MPK Mini MKII


Akai have brought out a second edition of their highly popular MPK Mini keyboard and it’s awesome. There are many reasons as to why this keyboard is so popular: build quality, functionality, and features. But what really stands out with the MPK Mini MKII is how intuitive it is. The pads and knobs are laid out in a logical fashion, and they’re big enough to not cause frustration.

If you’re looking for something with an array of useful features, then the Akai MPK Mini MKII is the perfect choice. It’s a little less portable than the CME Xkey, but with the added features you’ll find this keyboard well worth your investment.


  • 25 velocity sensitive keys
  • 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control
  • 8 backlit pads
  • 8 assignable knobs
  • Bus-powered
  • Comprehensive software package included

Price: $99

Learn more about the MPK Mini MKII and purchase it here.

4. M-Audio Oxygen 49

M-Audio Oxygen 49

25-key controllers are great. They’re portable and take up hardly any room in your studio. But they can be restricting.

A 49-key controller such as the M-Audio Oxygen 49 on the other hand gives you a bit more to play around with. The feature-packed controller is a great permanent addition to your studio and can also be used easily for live performance with its range of knobs and faders. The Oxygen 49 is a great choice for those of you who like to endlessly tweak things.


  • 49 velocity sensitive keys
  • Pitch bend and modulation wheels
  • 8 knobs
  • 9 faders with channel settings
  • Bus powered
  • Instant DAW mapping

Price: $149

Learn more about the M-Audio Oxygen 49 and purchase it here.

5. Alesis Q49

Alesis Q49

If you do want a 49-key but the Oxygen is overkill for you (or too expensive), then you may want to check out the Alesis Q49.

The Alesis controller gets straight to the point with its simple features and minimal design. If you need to get ideas down fast without having to worry about which buttons to press, then this is the keyboard for you.


  • 49 velocity sensitive keys
  • Octave up/down buttons
  • Pitch bend and modulation wheels
  • Data entry slider
  • Bus powered or DC input for standalone use
  • Sustain pedal input

Price: $76

Learn more about the Alesis Q49 and purchase it here.

6. Novation Impulse Series

Novation Impulse Series

Novation make some of the best hardware out there for artists and producers. Their MIDI keyboards feature a standard of quality that can’t be found elsewhere. However, this comes with quite a price tag. The Impulse series keyboards integrate incredibly well with all DAWs, especially Ableton Live, and feature an array of useful production and performance features.

If you’re after an intuitive controller that offers a great set of tools for customization and mapping, then the Impulse range is perfect.


  • Ultra responsive velocity sensitive keys
  • Velocity sensitive backlit drum pads
  • Knobs, faders, and buttons
  • Large LCD control screen
  • USB powered
  • Seamless integration with Ableton Live


  • 25-key: $176
  • 49-key: $283
  • 61-key: $399

Learn more about, and purchase the Novation Impulse:

7. Novation Launchkey Series

Novation Launchkey Series

Novation Launchkey keyboards are much more simplistic in design compared to the Impulse keyboards, yet still boast a wide range of features that Novation customers are familiar with. It’s aimed at live performers with 16 velocity sensitive launch pads, which double as drum programming pads for when you’re in the studio.

The Launchkey comes in 25/49/61 key models.


  • 16 velocity sensitive multi-colored launch pads
  • Ableton Live Lite 9 included
  • Instant DAW mapping
  • Bus-powered
  • Comprehensive software package


  • 25-key: $136
  • 49-key: $183
  • 61-key: $249

Learn more about, and purchase the Novation Launchkey:

8. Nektar Panorama P4

Nektar Panorama P4

The Nektar Panorama P4 is quite a recent addition to the world of MIDI keyboards. So far, it’s proven to be not only one of the best looking keyboards on the market, but also one of the most functional with 93 live performance controls. Oh, and it also features a pro-console channel control fader. You won’t find that anywhere else.

Check out Haywyre using the P4’s larger model, the P6 in his Smooth Criminal performance video to get an idea of the potential this keyboard has.



  • Precision-weighted keys
  • 5 velocity curves
  • Comprehensive TFT display
  • Huge set of controls
  • Pro-console control
  • 16 drum pads

Price: $499

Learn more about the Nektar Panorama P4 and purchase it here.

9. Novation SL MKII

Novation SL MKII

Like the other two Novation keyboards featured in this post, the SL MKII comes packed with a series of knobs, faders, and buttons that can be used just as easily in live performance as they can be in the studio.

The SL MKII is the perfect choice for those looking for a reliable live performance keyboard or feature-packed production tool. It comes in 21, 49, and 61 key sizes.


  • Italian-made velocity sensitive keys
  • Automap software
  • 144-character LCD screen
  • Intelligent illuminated controls
  • Comprehensive software package


  • 25-key: $341
  • 49-key: $394
  • 61-key: $499

Learn more about, and purchase the Novation SL MKII:

10. Roland A-88

Roland A-88

If you’re a professional pianist with a big budget, then the Roland A-88 is a fantastic choice. With 88 pro-quality weighted keys, the keyboard brings the luxurious feeling of playing on a grand piano to the MIDI controller market. It’s also relatively light, despite it’s large size.

It does have a hefty price tag, but there’s a reason for it. This keyboard is perfect for those who want to learn piano as an instrument, or those who have years of experience and want to delve into the world of digital composition and production.


  • Premium quality weighted keys
  • Lightweight for its size
  • Two knobs, two switches, and D-BEAM controller
  • Dual and Split keyboard functions
  • Bus-powered or AC powered
  • Includes Sonar LE

Price: $999

Learn more about the Roland A-88 and purchase it here.

What MIDI keyboard would you add to this list?
Last Modified: 2014-09-23 02:18:47

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