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Best MIDI Keyboard Controller

Though the same brands that dominated last year will most-likely dominate in 2020, innovation will be the biggest thing to set the MIDI keyboard controllers apart. From newer companies such as ROLI to market leaders like Akai both updating and launching new controllers, the MIDI Keyboard controller market has become rapidly oversaturated. To ease the burden of trying to find the perfect MIDI controller, Audio Assemble reviewed a litany of options and narrowed it down to just the nine best controllers.

This MIDI controller master list includes key-beds of different sizes, actions, weighting, and key-counts. For specific key-count lists, see the sidebar for more reviews.

QuickLook – Top MIDI keyboard controllers for 2020:

  1. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKI – Best For Price
  2. Akai Advance 61
  3. Novation LaunchKey Mini MK2 – Best for Travel
  4. Arturia KeyLab MkII 49 & 61
  5. Alesis VX49
  6. Komplete Kontrol S88 – Best for Pianists
  7. M-Audio Code 61
  8. ROLI Seaboard RISE 49
  9. Korg KRONOS – Best for Producers

Table of contents:

1. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII

Best for the Price

Akai MPK Mini MKII
Akai MPK Mini MKII

The Akai’s MPK Mini MKII 25-Key holds the honor of the best selling MIDI keyboard controller in the world and for a good reason. When looking at the market, one can easily spend upwards of a thousand dollars without having any background in creating music. Thankfully, the MPK Mini MKII 25-Key offers reliable performance at an incredible discount.

Building off of 5 years of user feedback, Akai continued to iterate upon the Mini MKII platform by introducing a slew of new features.

Eight assignable knobs allow for finetuning of VSTs and plugins alike, with four-way thumbstick control for dynamic pitch and modulation refinement. The latest update saw the free inclusion of multiple programs, including VIP3.0: Akai’s music software platform that provides musicians with robust hands-on control over their virtual instruments and plugins. Combined with the Akai Pro MPC essentials (also included), one can simply power up the Mini MKII and rock and roll.

Price: $99 and up

Features:

  • Keybed: 25 Shallow synth-action mini-keys
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: Controlled by top-left joystick.
  • Pads: MPC-style velocity-sensitive pads, with Note-Repeat and Full Level.
  • Build: Sturdy, lightweight but plasticky.
  • Knobs: 8 assignable pots
  • Pedal Inputs: Sustain
  • Octaves: 10
  • Extra Features: Built-in Arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes, USB self-powered (no cables required besides the included output cable), free inclusion of Akai Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, and Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech.

Get the Akai’s MPK Mini MKII now

2. Akai Advance 61

Akai Advance 61
Akai Advance 61

After receiving critical and commercial success with their foray into the world of keyboard controllers, Akai hit it out of the park once more. The Advance 61, from Akai’s Professional line, offered unprecedented features and true freedom in designing and refining a tone into perfection.

Featuring an integrated color display, weighted & velocity-sensitive keys, and 8 MPC pads, the Akai Advance 61 offers an authentic equivalent experience to using a piano. The transport control, octave, pad bank, and performance buttons allow for active control over sound.

One feature that truly stands out is its ability to play virtually every VSTi-compatible plugin on the market. The Advance 61 can operate as a standalone VST player, can edit & mix up to 8 VSTs at a time, and comes pre-mapped to hundreds of industry-leading virtual instruments- Massive, Sylenth, Serum and many, many more.

Price: $269-319

Features:

  • Keybed: 61 premium, semi-weighted velocity-sensitive keybed with Key-count options of 25, 49-key, and 61-key.
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: Both present,
  • Pads: 8 pressure and velocity-sensitive illuminated MPC pads
  • Knobs: 8 large, fully-customizable control knobs
  • Faders: rubberized pitch and modulation wheels
  • Pedal Inputs: Expression pedal and footswitch inputs
  • Octaves: 5
  • Extra Features: Included with the Advance 61 are VIP 3.0 Plus, a 16gb and 10,000 sound download from some of the most acclaimed names in music development. Additionally, Vacuum Pro, Loom, Hybrid 3, Xpand!2, Velvet, Transfuser, and Creative FX Collection Plus by AIR Music Tech, Eighty Eight Ensemble by SONiVOX

Get the Akai Advance 61

3. Novation LaunchKey Mini MK2

Novation LaunchKey Mini MK2
Novation LaunchKey Mini MK2

Best for Travel

Novation’s LaunchKey Mini is small, but it packs a real punch. Featuring eight control knobs, 16 RGB pads (with pre-loaded Ableton live compatibility), and the InControl button. All good things come in twos: the Launchkey Mini offers dual octave, track, navigation, and custom-input buttons all able to be used to hone one’s sound on the road.

On the road is where this controller was meant to be, as the LaunchKey Mini is able to power itself from connecting to laptops, micro USB chargers, and even IPads. Included with the LaunchKey Mini are free piano and drums lessons from Melodics, class-compliant no-drivers software, and 4GB of samples from Loopmasters to spark your creativity and capture your compositions no matter where you are.

Price: $99 and up

Features:

  • Keybed: 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keys.
  • Pads: 16 velocity-sensitive RGB backlit drum pads.
  • Build: Lightweight, plastic.
  • Knobs: 8 programmable knobs
  • Pedal Inputs: None
  • Octaves: 1 Up, 1 Down
  • Extra Features: Works with iPad, comes with bonus software. 2 track and navigation buttons. Software for Mac and PC, including Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Novation Bass Station, and V Station virtual instruments and over 4GB of Loopmasters samples

Get the Novation LaunchKey Mini MK2 now

4. Arturia KeyLab MkII 49 & 61

Arturia KeyLab MkII 49 & 61
Arturia KeyLab MkII 49 & 61

The Arturia brand is famous for bringing analog classics back to life through their V collection, and subsequent Analog Lab and Spark collections. Not content with the original KeyLab, the KeyLab MkII has arrived at long last. Due to the company’s extensive history in both the analog and digital audio production worlds, Arturia’s keyboard controllers offer an intuitive design with old-school nods.

Featuring 16 of Arturia’s unique gel pads, nine faders, nine rotary knobs, and its own dedicated DAW, the Arturia KeyLab MkII is a behemoth for a budget. Bundled with Arturia’s Analog Lab software, which has over 6,500 synth presets ready for usage, the controller acts as a hybrid controller synthesizer that gives any user diverse options for any genre.

With the KeyLab MkII, you’ll get access to Piano V and Ableton Live Lite, right out of the box. Offered in both white and black as well as in 49 and 61 keys, even the pickiest pianist can find something to love with the MkII.

Price:$499 to $549

Features:

  • Keybed: 49 and 61 key options are offered, with velocity and aftertouch sensitivity
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: Both present and feel as good as the pads.
  • Pads: 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive RGB backlit pads with another ten assignable buttons.
  • Fader Bank: 9 programmable faders with two banks.
  • Build: Sturdy and extremely ergonomic with wood and aluminum casing.
  • Knobs: 9 customizable rotary knobs with modulation, pitch, and gate control.
  • Pedal Inputs: Sustain, Expression, Footswitch, and Breath-Control
  • Extra Features: Includes Arturia’s Perfect Analog Lab, Ableton Live Lite, Piano V, and the Arturia award-winning preset sound pack V Collection.

Get the Arturia KeyLab MkII

5. Alesis VX49

Alesis VX49
Alesis VX49

A step up from its little brother (the Alesis VI), and a step down from its older cousin (Akai’s MPK2), Alesis VX series in the perfect combination of functionality and affordability. For a company that has never quite found its place in the industry, Alesis has continued to deliver affordable, usable MIDI keyboards and synthesizers for almost four decades. The third entry in Alesis’ base V series, the VX 49 builds off of previous hardware and delivers welcomed new features as well. VIP 3.0, a digital VST library with customizable presets, is included with the Alesis VX 49.

Stocked with full-sized semi-weighted keys that include aftertouch along with 16 RGB, backlit velocity-sensitive pads, the VX 49 simplified its exterior and instead opts for VIP (Virtual Instrument Player)- their 4.3 inch integrated full-color screen found on the center of the keyboard. With VIP, users can entirely visually map and finetune VSTs, plugins, samplers, and more.

Bundled with the VX49 are 7 VSTs from SONiVOX and AIR Music Tech, to visually map out whatever you need right there on the screen. Unfortunately, the VX series seems to be a test run as the VX 49 is the only model that is currently available, but for smaller or larger models with a similar build, Alesis’ VI line will suffice. Even though y. The device’s main features consist of:

Price: $240 and up

Features:

  • Keybed: 49 full-sized velocity-sensitive semi-weighted keys with aftertouch.
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: two rotary wheels with anti-slip coating are featured above the pads.
  • Pads: 16 velocity-sensitive RGB backlit drum pads with out-of-the-box Ableton Live integration.
  • Build: Lightweight, low profile.
  • Knobs: eight 360 degree fully-customizable knobs.
  • Faders: None.
  • Pedal Inputs: expression pedal and footswitch inputs.
  • Octaves: Up and Down.
  • Extra Features: Comes with Xpand! 2, VIP System for auto-mapping, 10,000 music samples, and 7 VSTs.

Get the Alesis VX49

6. Komplete Kontrol S88

Best for Pianists 

Komplete Kontrol S88
Komplete Kontrol S88

The latest release of Native Instrument’s flagship MIDI controller, the Komplete Kontrol S88, brings a plethora of new additions to the already elite system. Some of the improvements are long-awaited quality-of-life changes, such as the ergonomic pitch and mod wheels, a unique touch strip for advancing tracks and tweaking synth elements, and Smart Spring memory foam damping for the fully weighted 88 hammer keys.

In addition to the smaller improvements, NI’s real innovation comes with the newfound access to all of your production tools, right at your fingertips. With this latest release, the Komplete Kontrol S88 now has two high-res color screens- allowing for visualizing, mixing, and editing, all from the hardware.

The dual screens allow for in-depth sound design and creative applications, such as a sampler on one display and a synthesizer mid-tweak on the other. For those who know of the convenience of using dual screens in everyday production, this elite system will quickly become the center of your production setup.

In addition to the 1:1 keyboard experience, the Komplete Kontrol S88 comes pre-loaded with the Komplete 12 Select Bundle- containing Massive, Monark, Drumlab, Phasis, Replika and more. Three sound packs are included with said bundle, offering the “True School,” “Velvet Lounge,” and “Deep Matter” sound packs.

Lastly, the Komplete Kontrol S88 offers out-of-the-box integration with MASCHINE, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Cubase, Nuendo, and GarageBand. For users of FL Studios and other DAWs like Reaper, only a few driver downloads are required before you are ready to master your production.

Price: $1,049

Features:

  • Keybed: 88-key hammer-action Fatar keybed with a real piano feel
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: two rotary wheels with anti-slip coating are featured above the pads.
  • Pads: 16 velocity-sensitive RGB backlit drum pads with out-of-the-box Ableton Live integration.
  • Build: Lightweight, low profile.
  • Knobs: eight 360 degree fully-customizable knobs.
  • Faders: None.
  • Pedal Inputs: expression pedal and footswitch inputs.
  • Octaves: Up and Down.
  • Extra Features: Comes with KOMPLETE 12 SELECT: 14 premium instruments and effects, including THE GENTLEMAN, Massive, Monark, Drumlab, Phasis, Replika, Reaktor, and more.

Get the Komplete Kontrol S88

7. M-Audio Code 61

M-Audio Code 61
M-Audio Code 61

The Code 61 is one of M-Audio’s most striking MIDI controllers. Designed with the ergonomics of its player in mind, the Code Series of controllers has great quality-of-life features that genuinely make a difference when playing for extended periods. It comes with eight assignable knobs, three banks, and nine faders.

For keyboard customization, Code 61 has personalizable pressure sensitivity for any key hits. The DAW integration of the Code 61 is another fantastic element of the controller: simply map commonly used shortcuts to your daw itself, saving you the process of manually loading presets and post-processings for each sample you want to use.

A significant benefit of this MIDI controller is the addition of Pro Tools First as well as Ignite by Air. While most producers tend to stick with a few different DAWs for the majority of their careers, Pro Tools’s name recognition alone warrants at least booting it up once. The inclusion of both Mackie and HUI transport control makes connecting to your DAW as easy as plugging it in.

Price:$349

Features

  • Keybed: 61 full-size, velocity, and pressure-sensitive keys with aftertouch.
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: Two faders.
  • Pads: 16 backlit fully-customizable velocity-sensitive pads.
  • Fader Bank: 9 assignable faders.
  • Build: Sturdy, but does not have the same benefits of a metal body.
  • Knobs: 8 assignable 360 encoders
  • Pedal Inputs: Sustain and volume pedal inputs.
  • Octaves: A 128 tone range function.
  • Extra Features: Fully assignable XY pad for HID control as well as controlling multiple parameters in VSTs. Additionally, Code 61 includes the aforementioned VIP3.0, Hybrid 3.0, Loom, and Ableton Live Lite.

Get the M-Audio Code 61

8. ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

ROLI Seaboard RISE 49
ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

If you had a Facebook or Twitter account during 2015, you’ve most likely seen viral videos of the ROLI Seaboard. Subsequently, winning Best of Innovation from the CES in 2016 proved that those viral ads were much more than just vaporware. The ROLI Seaboard RISE 49 represents an entirely new way to play a keyboard. The Seaboard doesn’t have keys in the traditional sense. Instead, 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. Operating somewhere in between a theremin and a piano, the ROLI Seaboard is a truly unique tool for creating music. The gliding of the keys allows for the creation of atmospheric, ethereal soundscapes as well as incredibly tense, dramatic swells. With “Press,” “Glide,” and “Slide” Touch Faders, the Rise 49 inputs, and audio processes can be directly altered.

Using this proprietary system, one can control how each key will behave when pressed and what the sound will transform into after gliding your finger. To top it all off, Roli includes a suite of production tools all without additional cost. Equator, Strobe2, Cypher2 Player, Tracktion Waveform 8, and Bitwig 8-track are all a part of the Rise 49 experience.

Price: $1048

Features:

  • Keybed: 49 Velocity-sensitive 5D Touch gel “keywaves” keys.
  • Pads: None.
  • Build: Extremely durable rubber mixed with another plastic-like polymer.
  • Knobs: None.
  • Pedal Inputs: continuous pedal input (1/4th inch jack)
  • Octaves: 2 Up, 1 Down
  • Extra Features:  XY pad with additional Z parameter, allowing for mapping of X, Y, and Z controls. Free VSTs and plugins like Equator, Strobe2, Cypher2 Player, Tracktion Waveform 8, and Bitwig 8-track. Wireless playability and audio output, simply connect to a BlueTooth speaker, and you’re ready to play.

Get the ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

9. Korg KRONOS

Korg KRONOS
Korg KRONOS

Korg’s KRONOS is one of the best MIDI controller workstations on the market. Rather than relying on a DAW, the KRONOS offers state-of-the-art onboard sound generation, built with over 50 years of experience in digital audio. Multitrack audio, including MIDI recording, provide the utility of a studio while being portable enough for easy transportation.

For displays, KRONOS has a full touch-screen display, powered with the Korg software TouchView. Some standout features include Set List Mode, which saves custom presets and performance cues for ease of access, and Smooth Sound Transition, which eliminates audio imperfections when switching effects.

MS-20 filtering, Polysix Chorus, wave-sequencing, KARMA, and Drum Track all are built into the system as well. Indeed for those looking for their perfect mobile studio, the Korg KRONOS MIDI controller will be the last board you need to purchase.

Price: $3,000.00 to $3,799.00

Features:

  • Keybed: Natural Touch Semi-Weighted for the 61 key, RH3 (Real Weighted Hammer Action 3) for the 73 and 88 key models.
  • Pitch Bend / Modulation: Korg’s renowned 4-way Vector Joystick and a touch-sensitive pitch ribbon.
  • Faders: Eight faders
  • Knobs: Eight customizable knobs
  • Pads: 16 buttons
  • Extra Features: 9 pre-built sound engines, thousands of built-in effects, 21gb of audio programs, dynamic voice allocation (autotune and vocal layering), and Open Sampling System (create, alter, and produce your own samples).

Get the Korg KRONOS

Top MIDI Keyboard Controllers in 2020: Summary

The MIDI Keyboard Controller market is incredibly oversaturated. Speaking from experience: People will waste money on shoddy, low-quality equipment and they’re often more willing to lose money than spend time researching their options.

Skimping on hardware punishes in the long run: If your MIDI controller is operating incorrectly, there’s a decent chance that your fans will wonder why a guitar was emanating mysterious chords when synths were supposed to be played, or why a drum hit is coming out of your brass VST.

Of course, you don’t only need the appropriate software to get this kind of thing done; this can all be done via a MIDI controller. That’s one of the reasons that people love keyboard MIDI instruments, especially; they’re able to mimic what sounds you want to accomplish with exacting accuracy.

There is a slew of examples of these controllers out there. Many of them require a bit of tinkering to work with your DAW correctly; you can download software to automate specific tasks while others require nothing more than a setup screen. Through my objective research, I believe that I have put together a strong list of standouts at a variety of different price points. Whatever option you choose, it doesn’t take much time to get started and have fun making the sounds of your dreams — until, of course, you spill champagne after your first show and break it.

Check out our guides on Best MIDI Controllers for Beginners, Best 61 key MIDI Controllers, and Best DAW.

  • 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…

    • Its a beaut. Has a nice feel, and has a ton of control functions for the price.

  • 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.

        • Tite Trax

          What DAW do you use? I have the Nektar and it works ok with Sonar Platinum. Not great, but ok. The drum pads are especially nice though. They feel just like an MPC and they are more dynamic and responsive than Akai’s midi controllers IMHO.

  • 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 😀

  • Tite Trax

    What’s going on with the CTRL49? Everybody is pulling it from their shelves. Sweetwater, Thomann, etc.

    • Interesting. Definitely does look like its being pulled. Want to dig up more details and email us at listen@audioassemble.com?

      • Tite Trax

        I found all that I could find hence the question I posed, “What’s going on with the CTRL49?”.

  • genericid

    Get your prices right, M-Audio CTRL 49 is not $250, it’s $350, ugh.