The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards Under $100

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Controllers

Disclosure

We recommend all products independently of 3rd parties including advertisers. We earn advertising fees from:
• • • • •
Sweetwater
• • • • •

Amazon

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
• • • • •

It can be difficult to choose a good MIDI Controller at lower price points. As retail sites get populated with OEM and unknown brand MIDI controllers, more established manufacturers have started offering budget lines to fill in the need for high quality, full featured MIDI Controllers at prices a hobbyist or beginner can afford.

These days, even affordable MIDI controllers have full features and can fill in the need for backup or touring gear. Others are capable of controlling older hardware synths with 5-pin MIDI. On the upper end of the budget range, some even have assignable controls and pads.

Cheap doesn't necessarily mean compromises. This guide is a collection of the best of the best in this price range, compiled by using data from research updated in June 2021. If you're in the market for your first MIDI controller, or want something to pair with a laptop or tablet for a mobile setup, this guide will help you in your selection.

The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards Under $100

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Nektar SE25

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Nektar SE25 25-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Engineered to feel close to its more pricey siblings, the Nektar SE25 is a minimalist MIDI Keyboard controller features extensively tweaked keys with 3 velocity curves to fit to your playing style.

At 0.88lbs, its also one of the lightest controllers featured in this guide.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth Mini-keys with 3 velocity curves
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: PB1, PB2 (assignable to Pitchbend, Pan, Transpose), S Buttons (sustain, modulation)
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig Studio 8-track
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions:13.18" x 0.82" x 3.93"
  • Weight: 0.88 lbs.

Pros
With a width of 13.18", many users noted that the SE25 is just nearly as wide as their laptops. The compact and portable size of the unit makes a great companion for touring musicians. Many who own the unit love how it fits in a backpack along with their laptops so they can write music anywhere.

Cons
The minimalist functions may be seen as a negative by people who favor knob tweaking and parameter assigning

Overall
Looking for a modestly priced MIDI controller (with a pedigree!) among modestly priced MIDI controllers? Have a taste of the Nektar SE25 and you'll love its sweet simplicity.

Alesis QMini

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$59
Alesis QMini 32-Key USB MIDI Controller Keyboard

The Alesis QMini is a portable MIDI controller that aims to keep up with even your most sporadic of creative moments.

Because of its diminutive size, it can easily fit in your bag along with your laptop for mobile music production and songwriting.

The QMini also includes bundled copies of ProTools and MPC Beats.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 32 Velocity Sensitive Compact Synth keys
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: Pitch Bend, Modulation, Octave, and Sustain buttons
  • Octavs: up/down
  • Bundled Software: Pro Tools, MPC Beats
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 16.46" x 0.78" x 4.13"
  • Weight: 1 lb.

Pros
The compact size was seen as a plus by many users on the go. For mobile music production, this was the first choice of many users for its size. The bundled software and minimal controls make it great for beginners learning the ropes of electronic music production.

Cons
Pitch bend was noted to be unintuitive and users wanted at least a pitch bend wheel to handle the duty. Some users also note driver incompatibilities.

Overall
If you're looking for a small MIDI Controller for portability or are just starting out and want something that doesn't occupy the entire desk, the Alesis QMini is a great place to start.

Arturia MicroLab

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Arturia MicroLab 25-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

At publication time this was the Highest Rated MIDI Keyboard Controller Under $100.

Arturia's Microlab is a compact, budget-friendly 25-key controller that features controls found on larger, more pricey offerings.

According to Arturia, it is "universally compatible"; it can connect with anything from tablets to other class-compliant devices.

Its low power consumption enables it to work even with mobile devices without external power.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth action, Mini-keys
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: 2 x Touch Strips (pitchbend, modulation, preset browsing)
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track, Arturia Analog Lab Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.10 or later, 64-bit , Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit
  • Dimensions: 21.9" x 5.4" x 1.6"
  • Weight: 3 lbs.

Pros

Many reviews praise its compact size and portability along with its aesthetic appeal. The build quality is surprisingly rugged for the price and the included software bundles get you up and running fast. Jon Musgrave, writing for Music Radar gave his verdict as, "may not tick all the boxes for a studio controller keyboard, but as a super portable travelling device it hits the mark".

Cons

The limited controls may be an issue for some, but at this price, there's not much to complain about.

Overall

Some may feel limited by the sparse controls but it's a trade off that's worth the portability and ease of use.

MidiPlus X2 Mini

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
MidiPlus X2 Mini 25-key MIDI Controller Keyboard

Midiplus is a Taiwanese Company specializing in MIDI based Music Gear.

The X2 Mini is their 25-key offering in their compact key range.

The X2 mini features 25 velocity sensitive mini keys, pitch and modulation control via capacitive touch stripes, as well as customizable knobs.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth Mini-keys
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: Pitch and Modulation control - capacitive touch sensitive stripes, 4 customizable knobs; Default setting: T1 (Volume), T2 (Pan), T3 (Expression Controller), T4 (Reverb)
  • Octaves: up/down with transpose
  • Bundled Software: None
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB Type B
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 16.1" x 2.01 x 5.39
  • Weight: 3.4lbs.

Pros
Some had low expectations of the build quality but were surprised at how neat and well made the X2 Mini was when they got their units. The entire chassis is metal and weighs in at just over 3 lbs. Others bought the unit to control analog synths with the X2 Mini's 5-pin MIDI out.

Cons
Some felt the pitch and mod strips felt lacking and preferred the typical roller wheel setup.

Overall
Though not as much of a household name as many MIDI controllers on the market today, for the price, the MidiPlus X2 Mini delivers a lot of quality and utility.

Nektar SE49

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$85
Nektar SE49 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The SE49 is the larger 49-key sibling of the 25-key SE25.

Like the SE25, It features specially designed full size keys that provide tactile feedback with 4 velocity curves for any playstyle.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 Synth-action keys wit 4 velocity curves
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: None
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig Studio 8-track
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B, 1 x Sustain Pedal Input
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Windows and Mac OS X 10.10 or later, 64-bit , Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit
  • Dimensions: 31.69" x 7.75" x 2.5"
  • Weight: 4.85 lbs.

Pros
Users noted the solid build quality and excellent tactile feedback of the keys. While not weighted, some users felt the resistance enabled them to get better feedback on their playing style. The simple layout was seen as a plus from those looking to just control a virtual piano.

Cons
Keys felt too stiff for some who expected more "give" similar to other synth action keys. May not have enough controls for power users.

Overall
The Nektar SE49 is a great buy for people who want a MIDI controller with great feel, full size keys and simple controls.

Midiplus X3 mini

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$85
midiplus X3 mini 37 Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

The Midiplus X3 mini has a semi-weighted keybed with 37 keys, which is quite good compared to what others are offering.

Another cool feature of this MIDI controller is its capacitive touch sensors for that let you control pitch and modulation.

It also has four customizable knobs and 6 customizable buttons that you can assign to specific parameters on your virtual instrument or DAW.

Finally, it comes with 1 old school 5-Pin MIDI out for use with hardware MIDI devices.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 37 semi-weighted keys
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: None
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: None
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B, 1 x 5-pin MIDI out, 1 x Sustain Pedal Input
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: Windows and Mac (Version not Specified0
  • Dimensions: 16.6" x 3" x 7"
  • Weight: 1.8 lbs.

Pros
Value for money leads its most commended traits, while coming in at close second is its keybed feel, which many appreciate. Even those who are used to bigger keys have mostly good things to say about its keybed. Quite a few users are also satisfied with its build quality, which exceeded their expectations.

Cons
There are no noteworthy complaints about the product itself, but there are a few who find the keys too small, and other who complain about the lack of a free USB cable.

Overall
For those with limited budgets that want an affordable MIDI keyboard with more than 25 keys, do check out the Midiplus X3 mini.

Midiplus i61

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$85
Midiplus i61

For people more accustomed to full pianos, a 61 key MIDI controller treads the middle ground between full 88 keys and compact offerings.

The Midiplus i61 is an affordable, 61-key MIDI Keyboard controller with plug and play functionality and an assignable fader for control.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-action / 8 velocity curves
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: Assignable Fader
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: None
  • Power: USB power supply or external DC 9V power supply
  • Connectivity: 5-pin MIDI Out, USB, Sustain Pedal Jack
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 8.26" x 35.8" x 2.36"
  • Weight: 11 lbs.

Pros
Users transitioning from piano felt right at home with the i61's wider note range. It's difficult to find a MIDI Controller with 61 keys (with good reviews) at this price point and for many users, the Midiplus i61 delivers.

Cons
Playing feel left more to be desired. Some felt the unit's build quality could be better.

Overall
If you're looking for a larger MIDI Keyboard that wont burn a hole in your wallet, the Midiplus i61 is an easy choice.

Nektar Impact GX49

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Nektar Impact GX49 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Nektar Impact GX49 is a step up from their SE series and offers more assignable controls with real-time controls that are governed by a single assignable knob.

The transport buttons and footswitch input can also be assigned to parameters.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 Synth, full sized velocity sensitive
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: Pitchbend, Modulation wheel (MIDI assignable), 1 x control knob (MIDI assignable), 7 x Transport buttons with secondary level
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B, 1/4” TS jack foot switch input (MIDI Assignable)
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: Windows and Mac (Version not Specified0
  • Dimensions: 31 5/8″ x 7 3/4″ 2 3/4 “
  • Weight: 4.8 Lbs

Pros
"No Frills" is a phrase often repeated in reviews. Users love how it has everything they need and nothing they don't. Even power users enjoyed using this controller due to its relative simplicity compared to their other controllers. They note that for quick idea sketching, the GX49 delivered.

Cons
Having only one real assignable dial was said to be a limitation by some users.

Overall
When you need to lay down ideas when inspiration hits you, the Nektar GX 49 is a reliable, compact MIDI controller. Although you might find yourself looking for more controls, its simplicity lets you do quick work unimpeded.

Things to Consider when Buying a Cheap MIDI Keyboard

    Key Size, Weight & Action

    There are several factors to consider when looking for a keyboard controller, and the first one is key size. If you are simply looking for something portable to lay down your ideas, a keyboard controller with smaller keys and build is an ideal choice, thankfully there are quite a variety of them in the entry level market. If you plan to compose for a final project or play live, then you'll probably have to extend your budget to get ones with more features and full-sized keys.

    The number and type of keys that you need will also depend on your playstyle, as well as the space in which you're planning to use the controller. If you are used to using two hands, a 37 or 49 key controller will suffice. A 25-key MIDI controller is good enough if you plan on using them for playing or recording lead, bass and drum lines. Additionally, they are more compact and lightweight which makes them portable enough to bring around. Since you are on a budget, most keyboard controllers under a $100 price range come with semi-weighted keys where the keys have less resistance. As long as they have velocity response, they will provide you a more natural performance. If you need more realistic piano style action, then you'll need to consider more expensive 61-key or 88-key controllers.

    Software Integration

    MIDI mapping can be a tedious task whenever you set up your controller, but technology has made this easier with better compatibility and detection and automatic mapping. Another important point to consider is that some keyboard controllers are designed to integrate better with a specific DAW. Thankfully, these DAW specific controllers are also designed to work with other DAWs, albeit with some configuration work required. Most controllers are designed to let you customize your own MIDI mapping by re-assigning controls at your convenience and preference.

    Transport Controls

    These buttons are used for triggering essential DAW controls like record, pause and play on your keyboard. Since they transmit MIDI data to your DAW, they give you the same level of control without having to reach for your computer keyboard, touchpad, touchscreen or mouse.

    Knobs, Pads and Other Controls

    In addition to transport controls, most MIDI keyboards have extra handy controls, such as knobs, modulation and pitch wheels, and sometimes faders. They can be assigned or automatically mapped to give you more options when it comes to mixing or editing parameters in your DAW. An example of this would be assigning a knob to tweak a synth’s filter. This is very handy when it comes to composing or editing real-time for live performances.

    Power Supply

    Most MIDI keyboard controllers come with USB connectivity, which allows you to connect your controller to a PC, Mac or any other computing device. This is sort of a concern when it comes to draining your device's battery more quickly unless your device is plugged into a power source. It’s more of a concern with iPads, which provide 100mA instead of the common 500mA found in a USB 2.0 slot. In this case, a USB hub or an external power adapter is used to supply power directly to your controller.

    USB MIDI vs 5-Pin MIDI

    Some MIDI controllers still come with at least one 5-Pin MIDI input and one output. These are useful if you have any vintage equipment that you want to control with a modern MIDI keyboard. Most MIDI keyboards come with USB slots since they are compatible with most devices. As mentioned above, the advantage of USB is that it can draw power from a PC or Mac when connected, compared to 5-Pin MIDI slots where you need a separate power supply for the controller. In some cases, some controllers have both connectors. Unless you are going to control hardware directly, without a computer in the loop, then you won't need a 5-Pin MIDI out.

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2018 and the latest edition was published on June 10, 2021.

We began by looking at all the sub $100 MIDI controller keyboards available from major US retailers and placed the 21 most promising on our short-list for closer examination. Then we collected relevant reviews, ratings and forum discussions about each one and processed that data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above - over 11,900 sources were analyzed during this process. We used the resultant ratings to select the highest rated models to recommend above. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Denise Azucena: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using a photograph of the Nektar Impact GX49, Midiplus X3 mini, Korg microKEY25 and Arturia MicroLab.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

Publication of our June 2021

Publication of our June 2021 Edition resulted in the following keyboard coming off the recommended list above, but you can still see our analysis of it: midiplus AK490.

All of the keyboards above

All of the keyboards above are MIDI capable.

Are you referring to the fact that 5-pin MIDI ports have gone out of fashion?

This is great but I wish you

This is great but I wish you would do a best under $300 article, preferably only with 61 or more keys for those of us who are not just guitar players looking to trigger a few loops and very limited samples or riff, i.e truly "play."