The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards Under $100

The Highest Rated Cheap MIDI Keyboards

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These days, the only thing keeping anyone from making music is the motivation to do so. Just a few years ago, Cheap MIDI controllers were hard to come by and once a few started popping up, they started selling fast. Today, it's actually becoming a challenge to pick a good MIDI Controller out of all the offerings out there now.

An affordable MIDI controller can also be a great backup or touring companion as most models are portable but still relatively full-featured. Some of the most basic ones still allow you to control software sequencers and virtual instruments and even external sound modules. Others on the higher end of this scale (but still in the budget range) have additional pads and knobs for DAW control.

Cheap doesn't necessarily mean that you compromise on quality and features. This guide is a collection of the best of the best at this price range, compiled by using data from research updated in May 2020. 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

Nektar SE25

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ 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 on 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.

Midiplus AK490

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$60
midiplus AK490 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

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

Midiplus is a Taiwanese brand that manufactures audio gear. The AK490 is their 49 Key MIDI Controller offering that features both USB and 5-Pin MIDI I/O. This means that you can use the AK490 to control other hardware instruments.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 Velocity Sensitive, Synth Action keys
  • Pads: None
  • Controls:Pitch, Mod, Octave
  • 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: 21.9" x 5.4" x 1.6"
  • Weight: 3 lbs.

Pros
Although there are other MIDI Controllers at this price with a few more features, the AK490 has grown a cult following from analog synth enthusiasts because of the 5-Pin MIDI I/O. One user mentioned that he was able to use an old vintage synth with busted keys by plugging it into the AK490.

Cons
Key action leaves a lot to be desired and is described by users as "cheap" and "mushy".

Overall
At first glance, the AK490 may not offer much. Under the hood, it may seem underwhelming but what makes it great is an often forgotten option at this pricepoint which is the 5-Pin MIDI I/O. Get it if you want an affordable MIDI Controller for both your software and hardware synths.

Nektar SE49

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$80
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

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ 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 a good when 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.

Arturia MicroLab

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$89
Arturia MicroLab 25-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

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.

Korg microKEY25

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$90
Korg microKEY25 USB 25-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The microKEY 25 presents a slim and lightweight build that has mini velocity-sensitive keys similar to Korg's microKORG XL and microARRANGER.

It includes a built-in joystick for modulation and pitch bend controls, as well as an arpeggiator, sustain and transpose buttons.

It can serve as a USB hub with the use of its two USB ports and is very simple to connect to any computing device since it is class compliant.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity-sensitive natural-touch keys
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator:Yes
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: None
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B, Apple Lightning - USB camera adaptor (sold separately)
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X10.5 or later; Microsoft Windows XP SP3 (32bit), Vista SP2 (32bit, 64bit) or SP1 (32bit, 64bit), iOS8 or later
  • Dimensions: 15.55" x 5.16" x 2.09"
  • Weight: 1.43 lbs.

Pros
Apart from its simple and compact design, several reviewers commented on how sturdy and well made it is. It's very light-weight that they found it convenient to bring around and easily record their ideas on their laptop. In regards to its keybed, the miniature keys are quite responsive and have a good feel to them, making it ideal for sequencing simple synth lines and drum beats. Several users also described the arpeggiator function as 'great'.

Cons
Although its joystick is quite functional, some reviewers preferred wheels over this type of design for pitch and modulation control.

Overall
The Korg microKEY25 is portable controller with a straightforward and uncomplicated operation. Get it if you want a small MIDI controller to pair with a mobile tablet or laptop setup.

Nektar Impact GX49

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ 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 would be its 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 playing style, as well as the space you're planning to use the controller. If you are used to using two hands, a 37 or 49-key MIDI controller would 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 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 power supply. 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

This guide was first published on April 13, 2018 written by Denise Azucena and the latest comprehensive update was published on written by Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Alexander Briones and Denise Azucena.

We began by seeking out the most highly rated MIDI keyboard controllers with street prices below $100, taking into to consideration the latest reviews up to mid May of 2020. For this update, we still limited our scope to those that are available from American online retailers, and we ended up gathering over 4,900 reviews, ratings and recommendations from actual users and experts. All these data were processed via the Gearank Algorithm to produce a rating out of 100 for each, the result of which were used to narrow down the list to the deserving few. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.

Comments

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."

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