The Best 49 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

The Highest Rated 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

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49 Key controllers establish a nice middle ground between compact 25-Key controllers and larger to full-size midi controllers. 25 keys may not be enough for 2 handed playing with their octave range and 61 to 88 Key controllers may take up too much of your space, especially if you're running a home studio setup.

Not sure which MIDI controller to buy for your needs? Not a problem! We did the research and found the best of the best from the latest reviews and ratings up to the end of the first quarter of 2020. If you're looking for something with more keys, then take a look at our 61-Key or 88-Key MIDI Controller guides.

The Best 49 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

Nektar Impact LX49+

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$170
Nektar Impact LX49+ 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Impact LX49+ goes beyond what a normal MIDI controller can do. While it is fully capable of giving you musical control over your notes and settings, the LX49+ also makes it easy to control your DAW, including your channel faders, pans and even some plugins.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 velocity-sensitive synth action keys
  • Pads: 8
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Motorized Controls: No
  • Bundled Software: Studio One
  • Power:USB powered.
  • Connectivity: USB and TRS input for sustain pedal.
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.6 or later + Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista.
  • Dimensions: 31.6" " x 10.5" x 3"
  • Weight 7 lb.s

Pros

Users love how it hits the sweet spots between MIDI controller and DAW controller; especially at this price point. The seamless integration with their DAWs also earns it strong positive reviews.

Cons

Users say build quality and materials could be better. Some people had trouble with less popular DAWs with regards to integration.

Overall

The LX49+ is a great, affordable MIDI Controller and more. For the price, it comes packed with features you'd only see in controllers at higher price points.

Arturia KeyLab Essential 49

89
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$209
Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Don't let the "Essential" wording fool you: The Keylab Essential 49 has numerous features that help accelerate your workflow and productivity. Also able to function as a DAW controller, the Keylab Essential 49 sits well as the core of your music production workstation. It also comes bundled with a DAW and great sounding software synth sounds.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 Velocity-sensitive. Synth Action
  • Pads: 8 x back-lit, pressure-sensitive performance pads
  • Arpeggiator: No.
  • Motorized Controls: No.
  • Bundled Software:Ableton Live 9 Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D
  • Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately) / USB bus powered
  • Connectivity: USB , 5-pin MIDI out, 1 x TRS input for expression pedal and sustain pedal or footswitch input.
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.6 or later + Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista.
  • Dimensions: 30.9" " x 9.7" " x 2.9"
  • Weight 6.6 lbs.

Pros

Beginners love how user friendly the Keylab Essential 49 is despite the number of knobs and faders. Everything was easily mappable according to most positive reviews. The unit itself is designed and built well with many praising its aesthetics.

Cons

No power supply included

Overall

The Arturia Keylab Essential 49 doesn't skimp on features and build quality at this price point. It includes everything you need to get started with MIDI controller-focused music production including a DAW and virtual instruments.

Nektar Panorama T4

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$250
Nektar Panorama T4 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Panorama is defined as "an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer." With so many things available at a glance, the Nektar Panorama T4 may look a bit overwhelming at first, but it's amazing integration and initially deceptive user-friendliness thanks to its LCD display quickly dispels that notion. It also includes, Nektarine, a proprietary plugin that allows VST/VST3 plugin control for virtual instruments and effects plugins.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 Synth-action, velocity sensitive with aftertouch.
  • Pads: 8 x back-lit performance pads
  • Arpeggiator: No.
  • Motorized Controls: No.
  • Bundled Software: No.
  • Power:USB bus powered
  • Connectivity:USB, 1 x 1/4" TS (footswitch), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 5-Pin Midi Out.
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.8 or later + Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Dimensions: 32.28" x 10.9" x 3.14"
  • Weight 14.1 lbs.

Pros

Users love the Panorama T4 for it's flexibility and integration to their DAWs. Some praise the feel of the keys and overall build quality, stating that the unit feels "premium". For people using Hammon B3 Organ virtual instruments, the 9 B3drawbars can easily be mapped to each of the 9 faders.

Cons

Firmware updates are reported to be slow and take a while to download but this may have been addressed by the time you're reading this.

Overall

The Nektar Panorama isn't at the high-end of price points but at a glance, it offers many features that are usually found at the upper echelons of MIDI controllers. If you want premium features at a moderate price, this is the Controller to get. Plus points for Hammond organ users for the drawbar mapping.

Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$449
Arturia KeyLab 49 mkII 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard along with the Nektar Panorama P4 and ROLI Seaboard Rise 49.

The Arturia Keylab 49 MkII features the same aftertouch-sensitive keybed used in Arturia’s flagship MatrixBrute. It also features 16 RGB backlit performance pads, 9 faders, 9 encoders, 4 CV outputs, 5 expression control inputs, and great software to to back it all up. All these features are housed in a roadworthy aluminum body.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive with aftertouch.
  • Pads: 16 x Back-lit RGB Performance Pads
  • Arpeggiator: No.
  • Motorized Controls: No
  • Bundled Software: Arturia Analog Lab 4, Ableton Live Lite, Piano V 2, Arturia MIDI Control Center
  • Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately)
  • Connectivity:USB, 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 3 x 1/4" (aux), MIDI In/Out/USB, 1 x 1/8" (CV in), 4 x 1/8" (CV out, Gate out, Mod 1, Mod 2)
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.10 or later + Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Dimensions: 31.2" " x 11.7" " x 2.1"
  • Weight 13.8 lbs.

Pros

Reviewers note the Keylab 49 is inspiring with the keybed's incredible feel and response. The aluminum housing is also noted as sturdy and some users who are touring musicians felt the unit was well equipped for travel. Many also liked the included software, saying the sounds were excellent and tweakable to their liking.

Cons

Sine users wanted to have a bigger LCD Screen to display more information.

Overall

For the price, the Arturia Keylab is a MIDI controller that's ready to take on your next tour with its roadworthy construction, excellent keybed, and included software.

Nektar Panorama P4

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$500
Nektar Panorama P4 49-key MIDI Controller Keyboard

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard along with the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII and ROLI Seaboard Rise 49.

Although the Panorama P4 can be used as a general MIDI controller, it has been specifically designed for use with Cubase, Bitwig Studio, Nuendo, Logic Pro, Apple MainStage, Reaper and Reason.

In particular it has a channel strip control with a 100mm motorized touch sensitive fader above the 2 mod wheels which responds to the volume of the selected track in your DAW - select a different track and the fader will automatically move into the correct position. It also gives you access to EQ, sends and inserts.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive with aftertouch.
  • Pads: 12 which are velocity and pressure sensitive - you can set 7 velocity curves. You can set up to 20 pad maps and you can transpose and octave shift them.
  • Octaves: 10 by using Octave Up and Octave Down controls.
  • Arpeggiator: No.
  • Motorized Controls: Yes.
  • Bundled Software: No.
  • Power: One USB port will power everything except the motorized fader - you need an additional external USB Micro B power supply port to power all features.
  • Connectivity: USB & USB Micro B, 5-pin MIDI out, 2 x TRS inputs for expression pedal and sustain pedal or footswitch input.
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.6 or later + Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista.
  • Dimensions: 35.04" x 14.57" x 5.51"
  • Weight 14 lbs

Pros

The 3.5” high resolution TFT screen provides a real time view of all the controls and functions you are currently accessing on your DAW.

A thoughtful feature is that it also works as a MIDI interface - you can send MIDI data from your DAW through the P4 to control other MIDI hardware. You can also plug the P4 directly into other MIDI hardware such as synths and control them directly without a computer.

The most often positively cited feature in reviews is the deep level of integration with the major DAWs listed above - customer reviews often use the adjective "amazing"!

Cons

Users of other DAWs not listed above were generally disappointed that the P4 is not deeply integrated with them - Pro Tools users seemed especially miffed.

Overall

Overall, if you have one of the listed DAWs above, then you'll find the Panorama P4 will improve your work flow immensely.

Novation 49SL MkIII

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Novation 49SL MkIII 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

At first glance, all the buttons, lights, knobs and screens would look overwhelming to the untrained. What the musician sees however is a veritable array of controls for a great amount of tweakability. The Novation 49SL is -just- a 49-key MIDI controller at its core, but with the huge amount of parameters its able to control, and the amount of visual feedback you get from the screens alone, it's depth goes beyond what the amount of available keys offers. The keys themselves are no slouch: a sweet spot hybrid between semi weighted and synth action gives it a responsive but familiar feel.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 semi-weighted/synth style hybrid, velocity sensitive with aftertouch.
  • Pads: 16 x RGB Backlit Pads
  • Arpeggiator: Yes
  • Motorized Controls: no.
  • Bundled Software: No.
  • Power: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Connectivity: 1 x Type B USB, 5-pin MIDI In/Out/Out2/Thru/USB , 1 x 1/4" (expression), 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (footswitch), 1 x Clock out, 2 x CV out, 2 x Mod out, 2 x Gate out
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11.6 or later + Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Dimensions: 32.16" x 11.81" x 3.93"
  • Weight 11.8 lbs

Pros

Deep customization options, great information readouts via the 5 screens, great tweakability are just some of the pros reviewers gave the 49SL. It was considered a workstation in itself by an expert review and is highly recommended for studios centering around electronic music production.

Cons

Knobs and controls feel flimsy for some. This affects its overall roadworthiness.

Overall

If you're looking for an electronic music production centerpiece where it has everything you need to see in one unit, the Novation 49SL MkIII is a great addition to your desk.

ROLI Seaboard Rise 49

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$1200
ROLI Seaboard Rise 49 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated 49-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard along with the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII and Nektar Panorama P4.

The ROLI Seaboard Rise 49 is not your average MIDI Controller. Instead of mechanical keys, it employs the company's proprietary "keywave" design: A set of raised portions where keys would be but are more "squishy" than stiff. Each "keywave" not only controls velocity by how hard you perform but also modulation according to where you perform. It is even capable of smooth (and note independent!) glissando effects when you run your fingers above the keywave portion for smooth transitions.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 Keywaves , velocity sensitive with aftertouch and modulation
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: No.
  • Motorized Controls: No
  • Bundled Software:Equator software synthesizer
  • Power: Rechargeable battery / optional 9-12V 2A DC port
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type A, 1 x USB Type B, MIDI via USB/Bluetooth
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.6 or later + Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista.
  • Dimensions: 32.8" " x 8.3" x 0.9"
  • Weight 12.13 lbs

Pros

The Seaboard Rise 49 opened up a great deal of creativity in a lot of its users. Many consider it like learning a new instrument because effects like vibrato, pitch bends and other effects are in play aside from just playing notes. It is relatively easy to get used to the different feel of the keywaves according to some users.

Cons

The non-standard keys alienated some users, saying that it was hard for them to get used to it. Some third-party virtual instruments need to be painstakingly set up to be compatible with the device.

Overall

If you're looking for a different experience with keys and are looking to explore new dimensions in expression with your keyboard playing, the ROLI Seaboard Rise 49 is the key (no pun intended) to unlocking new creative directions.

Budget 49 Key MIDI Controller

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 Impact GX49 is a light-weight and compact controller that has Nektar's DAW Integration feature, making it compatible with most major DAWs. With its dedicated set of transport and navigation controls, this controller lets you efficiently produce music without reaching for your computer mouse or keyboard. The class compliant feature allows this controller to connect to any computer system or device.

Key features:

  • Keys: 49 note full-sized velocity sensitive keyboard
  • Pads: No
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Motorized Controls: No
  • Octaves: Up and Down Octave Buttons: 3 Octaves Down, 4 Octaves Up
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track included
  • Power: USB Powered
  • Connectivity: 1/4” TS jack foot switch input (MIDI Assignable), USB port, Connects to iPad via Apple Camera Connection Kit (not supplied)
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Class Compliant. Windows, OSX, iOS and Linux (you may need to install a MIDI package such as JACK)
  • Dimensions: 31.63" x 7.75" x 2.75"
  • Weight 4.8 lbs

Pros

Both users and experts found the the keys to be responsive and have a rigid feel. In his MusicRadar review, Dan Goldman said the keyboard had "a nicely deep key travel and the well-balanced springy feel facilitates fast accurate playing, both for synth lines and sounds that normally demand a weighted action". Most reviewers gave positive responses for its ease of use since it provided the essential controls they needed in a controller. A few people mentioned that they had to contact Nektar support and reported that their customer service was excellent.

Cons

A couple of users report some dissatisfaction with the keybed saying it's a bit noisey.

Overall

This is a great choice for beginners and keyboardists on a budget.

Things to Consider When Buying A 49 Key MIDI Controller

  • What Do You Want To Control? If you only want to control computer software then all of the options above will do that, although some offer more control options than others. If you want to control external hardware, such as a stand alone synth, then you'll need to get one that explicitly says it will do that - most of the ones that come with a 5-pin MIDI out port do that and we tell you above on each description whether or not it meets that need.

  • Software Integration. Most of the MIDI keyboards we recommend below come with presets or automatic configuration options that make it easy to integrate with most major DAWs - sometimes you have to download some extra files from the manufacture's website to do that. I've tried to indicate which major applications each keyboard integrates well with, but if you're unsure then feel free to ask about your particular software and the particular controller you're interested in and I or someone else here will advise you.

  • Transport Controls. These are dedicated buttons to control standard DAW recording controls such as Play, Stop, Rewind, Fast Forward etc. They can be a very handy feature because you can keep your recording workflow going without having to reach for your computer mouse.

  • Motorized Controls. These are seriously cool, but usually only found on larger than 49 key controllers, but the Nektar Panorama P4 above does have this feature.

  • Key Size & Weight. Some 49-key controllers have full sized keys but some don't. Many also don't have piano style full weighted keys with 'synth action' keys being the most popular. If you're a piano player and you need piano style keys then read the specifications carefully or look at 88-Key controllers instead.

  • Power Supply. If you need one for portable use with a laptop or tablet then you need one that uses batteries or takes its power from USB, however USB power comes at the cost of draining your device's battery more quickly. You also may have problems getting enough power from the iPad which only provides 100mA instead of the USB 2.0 standard of 500mA. If you have a problem getting enough power from an iPad you'll need to get a powered USB hub (link to Sweetwater.com) or use a power adapter to supply the keyboard directly.

Best 49 Key MIDI Controller Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on February 17, 2016 and the latest comprehensive update was published on April 30, 2020 written by audio engineer Raphael Pulgar with additional research and writing by Jason Horton.

Our selection criteria included all controllers that are widely available from major US-based music equipment retailers, this is to ensure we only recommend items that you can readily buy online or at any good local music gear stores.

For this update, we began by updating the Gearank scores of all the 49 key MIDI controllers in our Music Gear Database to better reflect the most current market sentiments, then we looked to see which newer keyboards we should add to our short-list for consideration. During this procedure we collected information from over 4,500 online ratings, discussions and reviews, all of which were processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce scores out of 100 for each controller. We then used the scores to feature only the best of the best in this guide.

As always, if there is a controller that you feel we should consider adding to this guide, and it's not already in our database, then please let us know in the comments below. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

How can 8 keyboards with so

How can 8 keyboards with so much price difference, all have gearank scores at either 89 or 90? I can't help but thinking the score is flawed and may not be much help to consumers who are trying to understand the reviewer's HONEST opinion about these products. Do they all have pretty much the same score because the reviewer is afraid of making any of the manufacturers unhappy with a lower score?

Hi Larry,

Hi Larry,

It looks like there's a misunderstanding about what a Gearank Rating score is.

A Gearank Rating it is not a representation of our opinion about a product, it is a statistical representation of the collective opinion of the owners and users of a product and in addition to the rating number we also provide the number of sources each rating is based upon - EG: "90 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews." We provide further explanation in How Gearank Works.

This is similar to how a retailer's 5 star ratings are not the opinion of the retailer, but the opinions of the people who have bought it.

The reason so many of the rating values you see above are similar is because we have only recommended the keyboards with the highest ratings. If you look at the list of 49 key controllers in our Music Gear Database, you will see that most of them have lower ratings than the ones we have recommended. We believe this helps consumers save time by only presenting the products with the best reputations.

To summarize, the reason that the items we recommend in our guides tend to have similar ratings is because we usually only recommend the items with the highest ratings, and those ratings are determined by actual owners and users rather than by our opinion.

I hope this clears up the issue, but please let me know if there's something else you'd like explained.

Jason.

Thank you for your response.

Thank you for your response. I entered my original comments under the wrong assumption that Gearank provides comparison reviews without understanding "How Gearank Works" - I was researching online for midi controller reviews and came upon your site. I stand corrected - your explanation made sense to me.

Unfortunately it's no longer

Unfortunately it's no longer available from most retailers so you pretty much have to buy it second hand these days.

Hi, thanks for making this

Hi, thanks for making this comparison review article. I know this is a "best" list according to your own statistics, but I'm very much surprised that the 2 midi controllers I'm comparing to buy one or the other right now are not in your list.

In my research, most "best" list from other sites includes "M-audio Code" and "Novation Launchkey MkII". Launchkey is even number 1 from those other sites too.

I'm very much curious why these 49 key midi controllers aren't in your list. Because if I'm convinced enough, i will buy the "Akai Professional MPK249" as that is very easy to reach right now.

Thank you for asking that

Thank you for asking that question because it made me ask myself the same question about the Novation Launchkey 49 Mk2.

To find the answer I have reprocessed the Gearank scores with fresh data for all 16 of the 49 Key keyboard controllers in our database.

The Novation Launchkey 49 Mk2 has increased it's Gearank score to 86 which means that we can now recommend it.

On the other hand, the M-Audio Code 49 remains one of the lowest rated 49 key controllers, with a current Gearank score of only 76, so it still hasn't earned it's way into a list of controllers we would recommend.

Thanks for this excellent

Thanks for this excellent comparison summary. Really helpful. If you decide to do an update, a couple of other items that impact my buying considerations are whether the keyboard has a port for an expression pedal, and also the weight of the keyboard for those of us who are looking for portability. Also curious what you think of the m-audio ctrl-49 when it comes out soon.

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your feedback.

I will put it on my to do list to add information about pedal ports and keyboard weights.

All I know about the M-Audio CTRL-49 is what I've read about it and some videos from NAMM - it certainly looks good and packed with features and I'll be looking forward to seeing how well it is received when it finally hits the stores.

It also have VIP on the

It also have VIP on the Ctrl49 that allows you to download VSTs or Presets from VSTs to be able to be used on the board standalone (perfect for musicians that don't want to have to also hook their laptop up during a live set) that means you can play straight off the MIDI controller itself

This is incorrect. You can

This is incorrect. You can control VSTs that are on you computer using VIP on the CTRL49. It does not play the VSTs as a standalone.

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