The Best 61 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

The Highest Rated 61 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards
Sweetwater

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This gear guide is sponsored by Sweetwater and you can click through to their website to read customer reviews, check prices, or make a purchase, however all of the recommendations below have been made by the Gearank team.

61-Key MIDI keyboard controllers are the best balance of portability and pitch range. With enough keys for two-handed playing while having a more compact size for smaller studios and touring. This format is perfect for those looking for a controller that's closer to full size with less compromises on transportability.

This also makes them the ideal mobile controller for keyboardists and pianists, be it for recording, music production or for live performances.

For this 2nd quarter 2020 update, we retain our previous three categories for selection: "Under $200", "Under $500" and "Under $1000"

This update sees the continued reign of the previous update's picks, now updated with new reviews from users (some of them might just be from you!). In order to make this update more relevant, each item features those latest market sentiments in the Pros and Cons reports below.

The Best 61 Key MIDI Keyboards

61 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards Under $200

Nektar Impact GX61

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$120
Nektar Impact GX61 61-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

At publication time this was the Highest Rated 61-key MIDI Controller Keyboard under $200.

The Nektar Impact GX61 is a compact 61 key midi controller that provides essential functionality at a very good price point. It doesn't have much in the way of bells and whistles, but it provides what you'd expect in the price range, full keyboard functionality with a few extras thrown in.

At its core is its synth-action keybed with 61 full-size velocity sensitive keys, so the keys are expected to be light and easy to use. Note that this soft playing feel may throw off users who prefer piano like action, but it is unreasonable to expect premium feel in this price range.

Other features of the Impact GX61 include 7 MIDI assignable buttons, an assignable potentiometer knob, and dedicated controls for octave switching and transpose. It is designed to pair with popular DAWs, including Cubase, Reason, Nuendo, Garageband, Sonar, Logic, Bitwig, Reaper, Studio One and FL Studio. Nektar was able to pack all these features in without compromising portability with its small profile and light weight.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-action / velocity-sensitive
  • Pads: None
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track
  • Power: USB Bus powered
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal Jack
  • Controls: Power Switch, Transport Controls, 7 x Buttons, Assignable Knob and Modulation Wheel, Pitch Bend
  • Automap: Most DAWs (Bitwig Studio, Cubase, Digital Performer, Garageband, Logic Pro, Nuendo, Reason, SONAR, Studio One, FL Studio, Reaper)
  • Octave: 3/+4 Octaves with Transpose Function
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.7 or higher, Windows 7 or higher, iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Dimensions: 7.75 x 38 x 2.75 inches
  • Weight: 6 lbs

Pros

Even those who are critical of this MIDI controller find themselves pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of the Nektar Impact GX61 after taking it out of the box. Many commend its weight and portable size to be just right for mobile use, while others are impressed with how easy it is to setup. Interestingly, many of the users who give it high ratings are guitarists/bassists who want a compact piano in their home studio. This ease of use is visible with the amount of reviewers mentioning that this is their first MIDI controller as well.

Cons

There were a few who found the action to be too light and wished for the same keyboard to be produced in a version with semi-weighted keys. There are a few who want traditional 5-pin MIDI connectivity - you'll have to chose another keyboard if you want this option. Some felt the overall feel of the controller to be "toy-like". Velocities during fast runs tend to have an odd note pop out.

Overall

If you prefer the lighter feel of synth action keys, and you don't need 5-pin MIDI, then the Nektar Impact GX61 should be high in your list.

61 Key MIDI Controllers Under $500

Arturia KeyLab Essential 61

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$259
Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 MIDI Keyboard Controller

"Creativity Defined" is Arturia's tagline for KeyLab Essential 61. And while the "Essential" tag is usually used to market bare-bones gear, The Keylab Essential 61 hosts a slew of features including backlit pads, 9 assignable encoders, 9 assignable faders and MIDI out to name a few.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-action / velocity-sensitive
  • Pads: 8 x back-lit performance pads
  • Bundled Software: Analog Lab, Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D
  • Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately) / USB bus powered (MIDI out requires 9V adapter)
  • Connectivity: USB, 1 x 1/4" (sustain), MIDI Out
  • Controls: 9 x encoders, 9 x 30mm faders, Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • Automap: Most DAWs (Bitwig Studio, Cubase, Digital Performer, Garageband, Logic Pro, Nuendo, Reason, SONAR, Studio One, FL Studio, Reaper)
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.8 or later , Windows 7 SP1 or later, Android , iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Dimensions: 9.7" x 34.7" x 2.9"
  • Weight: 7.2 lbs.

Pros

Users praise its DAW integration and programmability. Long term durability is also a plus as some reviews from touring musicians note that the KeyLab survived rigorous gigging and touring.

Cons

Some report velocity inconsistencies. Keybed felt "toylike" for some.

Overall

For the amount of features and tweakability, the Keylab Essential 61 presents a great value. Get it if you're on the lower middle end of the budget and need a tour-durable controller with numerous assignable parameters.

Roland A-800PRO

86
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$400
Roland A-800PRO 61-Key Midi Keyboard Controller

The A-800PRO follows Roland's tried and tested formula of combining technology, quality and reliability in a package that is priced just right to appeal. It comes packed with many features for its price, with 45 assignable controls that include sliders, knobs, transport, buttons and more. But its more than just a numbers game because its main feature is still the quality of its velocity sensitive keys and pads.

Besides its wealth of controls, Roland also designed the A-800PRO to be easy to use, with convenient software integration.

The Roland A-800PRO is light compared to other 61-key controllers, especially when considering the many things that it can do.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 61 / synth-action / velocity-sensitive / aftertouch
  • Pads: 8 pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity
  • Controls: 45 assignable controls: knobs, sliders, buttons, transport and more
  • Automap: With any Active Controller Technology enabled DAW
  • Bundled Software: Cakewalk Production Plus Pack and three other instruments and production software
  • Power: USB powered and can use an optional power adapter (sold separately)
  • Connectivity: USB, 5-pin MIDI Connectors (IN & OUT), DC IN Jack, Footswitch and Expression pedal jacks
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.4 or higher, Windows XP (SP2) Vista, & 7 compatible
  • Dimensions: 3.63 x 39.5 x 9.88 inches
  • Weight: 9 lbs

Pros

The Roland A-800PRO has a long list of commendable traits, from its soft touch synth-action keys, to its easy software integration, along with its iOS compatibility and portability. The 61-key synth-action keybed gets the most positive mentions, with plenty of reports saying that it is easy and inspiring to play, especially for non-piano players. It is popularly used with Sonar, but it works just as well with other mainstream DAWs like Reason, Ableton Live and more. Another often repeated plus is the relatively light weight.

Cons

Piano players who prefer weighted keys will have to look elsewhere, because this one is as synth as it gets. Some users expressed concern on the unit's durability because of its mostly plastic components, but this is the price to pay if you want a portable lightweight 61-key controller. There are some experienced users who complained about deep editing problems, thankfully these are workable and may not effect its other functions. One user reported problems with ProTools integration though this may have been addressed in a software/firmware update since.

Overall

If you want a reliable and portable MIDI controller, then the Roland A-800PRO is your best bet. With its big name backing and good user ratings, this is well worth considering.

Arturia KeyLab mkII 61

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499
Arturia KeyLab mkII 61

At publication time this was the Highest Rated 61-key MIDI Controller Keyboard from $200 to $500.

With this price point offering so many features already, Arturia steps up to the challenge not by adding more features, but by making integrations so easy that you can get to writing or performing right away.

Arturia provides Analog Lab, Piano V and Ableton Live Lite as a bundled suite to get your creative juices flowing faster out of the box. Arturia presents the KeyLab as a near-universal controller for almost any major DAW on the market.

All of this is wrapped in an aluminum chassis to stand up to the rigors of road use.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-action / aftertouch
  • Pads:16 RGB-backlit performance pads
  • Bundled Software: Analog Lab, Piano V, and Ableton Live Lite
  • Power: USB Bus powered, 9V DC power supply (sold separately)
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal Jack
  • Controls: Power Switch, Transport Controls, 9 rotary encoders, 9 faders, 16 backlit RGB performance pads, Modulation Wheel, Pitch Bend, Misc. Assignable Buttons
  • Octave: 3/+4 Octaves with Transpose Function
  • Compatibility: Mac OS 10.10+, Win 7+ PC, iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Dimensions: 11.7" x 34.5" x 2.1"
  • Weight:17.64 lbs

Pros

The KeyLab mkII 61 gets consistent praise for its solid build quality and component quality. Users also love its ease of integration with their existing setups with no complicated driver setups or mapping.

Cons

While many found the integration and mapping to be easy for most DAWs including the included Ableton Live Lite, others found that there were some activation issues on the other bundled software but upon further investigation, they had received items that have been tampered with - always buy from a trusted retailer. Newer reviews since our last update have mentioned that the latest software updates have better license protection.

Overall

In an already crowded market, Arturia shines through many other offerings in the price range by being feature packed and easily integrated; as long as you have purchased the item from a reputable retailer, licensing problems won't be an issue.

61 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards Under $1000

Nektar Panorama P6

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Nektar Panorama P6 61-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Much like its name, the Nektar Panorama P6 is a MIDI keyboard controller that covers all bases, and does so effectively. With 93 real-time controls, it is hard to run out of things to do, and all of this is provided for without compromising the quality of the keys and its overall build.

With its combination of traditional feeling keys and modern control features, this MIDI keyboard is designed to cater to a wider audience. Pianists will be more than happy with the Panorama P6's weighted piano style keys true to the shape and feel of acoustic pianos. Keyboardists and electronic musicians will appreciate the wealth of controls available, especially the pads and faders.

Its nice display monitor is also noteworthy, providing excellent visual queues that complement both live performance and studio recording work.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 61 weighted / piano-style / velocity-sensitive / aftertouch
  • Pads: 12 pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity
  • Octaves: 10 by using Octave Up and Octave Down controls
  • Controls: 16 knobs and 10 faders with 1 motorized fader
  • Automap: Bitwig Studio, Cubase, Nuendo, Logic Pro, Reaper and Reason
  • Power: USB powered / Optional power adapter (sold separately)
  • Connectivity: USB, USB Micro (for additional power), 5-pin MIDI ports, Footswitch and Expression pedal jacks
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.6 or higher, Windows Vista, 7 & 8 compatible
  • Dimensions: 42 x 5.9 x 15.4 inches
  • Weight: 17 lbs

Pros

The Nektar Panorama P6 continues to gather positive reviews and ratings, with its build quality and playing feel as its best traits. Reports are consistent in saying that it integrates really well with their software of choice, with Cubase and Reason getting the top mentions. Interestingly, instead of complaining about its relatively high price, there are some who praise it for its value for money.

Cons

There are some keyboardists who complain about the action difference between the white and black keys, but it may very well be because of their muscle memory being used to a different playing feel. Mentions of this issue have decreased as of this 2020 update.

Overall

This is an excellent feature packed MIDI keyboard controller for anyone who wants more control and musical expression. Well worth its price tag considering its easy software integration and control capabilities.

Yamaha MX61

88
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$770
Yamaha MX61 61-Key Synth MIDI Controller Keyboard

Yamaha makes a lot of things from Motorcycles to Musical instruments. This jack-of-all trades approach to the company however, does not mean they compromise on individual products they put out.

The Yamaha MX61 is a hybrid Synthesizer/Controller with 1000 sounds from their proprietary Motif XS Soundbank built-in without compromising well thought out DAW integration as a dedicated MIDI controller.

Key Features:

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-style / velocity-sensitive
  • Pads: None
  • Bundled Software:Cubase AI, Steinberg Prologue, Yamaha YC-3B
  • Power: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Connectivity: USB (to host/to device), Sustain Pedal Jack, In/Out, Foot Controller
  • Controls: Pitch Bend Wheel x 1, Modulation Wheel x 1, Assignable Knob x 4, [DATA] dial x 1
  • Octave: Octave up/down
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.7 or higher, Windows 7 or higher, iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Dimensions: 11.7 x 38.7 x 4.4 inches
  • Weight: 10.6 lbs

Pros

The number 1 mentioned pro is the fact that it's a hybrid; meaning they can opt to use it as a standalone synth or a controller for virtual instruments. Reviews for it's soundbank aside, The Yamaha MX61 functions well as a MIDI controller according to many reviews. Users mention DAW integration as very good with most major DAWs supported.

Cons

Some reviewers complained about the lack of pads and the specificity of the product as either a synth or a midi controller with compromises on both accounts. For the price, it felt cheap for some owners.

Overall

If you need both a controller AND a synthesizer with an amazing bank of sounds, the MX61 scores high give or take a few compromises that many people can live with. If you need a dedicated synth OR controller, there are better options. For the jack-of-all-trades musician, the MX61 is a perfect match for you.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$779
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2

At publication time this was the Highest rated 61-key MIDI Controller Keyboard from $500 to $1000.

Drawing from their experience as a developer of virtual instruments, Native Instruments designed the Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2 to make it intuitive and versatile. And to do just that, they put two full-color displays into the unit, along with complementary knobs and buttons that can be auto-mapped or custom assigned as you please.

As expected, it integrates nicely with their own Komplete Select software, which is bundled with the keyboard.

Note that the S61 MK2 does not come with pads, but it comes with a semi-weighted 61-key Fatar keybed with aftertouch.

Key Features:

  • Keys: Fatar 61semi-weighted / synth-style / velocity-sensitive / aftertouch
  • Pads: None
  • Octaves: Octave Up and Octave Down Controls
  • Controls: 9 knobs and 40 Buttons, Pitch & Mod Wheels
  • Automap: Komplete Software, Cubase, Logic, Ableton Live, Maschine
  • Power: USB powered / Optional power adapter (sold separately)
  • Connectivity: USB, 5-pin MIDI ports, Footswitch and Expression pedal jacks
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.11 or higher, Windows 7 SP1 or higher
  • Dimensions: 39.6 x 3.3 x 11.7 inches
  • Weight: 14.4 lbs

Pros

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2 continues to rake in high ratings with its keyboard feel, good software integration and portability. Even those who have qualms about compatibility issues with other software still commend its playability. There are also a good number of users happy with the bundled Komplete software, both in terms of ease of use and sound. Its intuitive design and portability also come up often in reviews.

Cons

While it integrates nicely with many popular software applications, there are still some complaints from those who are using non-compatible software.

Overall

With its bundled software and good integration, the NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2 MIDI controller can technically be considered as a true instrument, making it a great buy for many.

Things to Consider When Buying a 61-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

  • Key Size & Weight

    Most keyboard controllers come with semi-weighted synth action keys, and the reason is simple, they provide a good balance of playability, dynamics and portability which many prefer. There are some 61-key controllers that come with weighted and full-size keys that cater to pianists, just keep in mind that these are often heavier, bulkier and more expensive.

  • Key Sensitivity and Aftertouch

    Velocity sensitive keys measure the speed of the keys as you press them, allowing for more accurate and detailed control over the sound. Because of the expressive control it provides, it is now a standard feature for most MIDI keyboards. Some even offer multiple velocity curves to choose from, allowing you to personalize the feel of the keys. Aftertouch detects pressure applied to keys while they are held down, this data is then converted into MIDI for controlling vibrato, volume and other parameters. Since it requires more mechanical components, expect to pay a bit more for keyboards with Aftertourch.

  • Pads, Mod Wheels, Motorized Controls

    The more control options a keyboard has, the more control you can have over your instrument and your DAW software. The downside is that they can distract, and they may take more time to setup, and not to mention they help jack up the price. For example, having motorized knobs and faders is definitely an advantage, and not to mention cool, but it's a feature that you must invest a considerable amount of money in. Check out the Nektar Panorama P6 if you're looking for this feature.

  • Transport Controls

    Having dedicated buttons to control your DAW on your keyboard is convenient. Being able to play, rewind, fast forward, stop and more right on your keyboard will save you the hassle of moving back to your computer, and more importantly - help you avoid disrupting your train of thought and inspiration.

  • What Do You Want To Control?

    USB MIDI keyboard controllers are primarily designed for use with computers or tablets. The USB port has become its standard connection. These days, most USB keyboards are class compliant, using basic USB drivers to work on different operating systems. This means that they can work with iOS devices like the latest iPad and iPhone. If you're looking for a controller that can also work with standalone synths and other non-USB external hardware, you'll want to look for ones with 5-pin MIDI connection.

  • Auto-Mapping

    While manually configuring your keyboard controller allows for better personalization, this can be very time consuming if not downright frustrating, especially for beginners. We recommend going for those that can automatically configure themselves via auto-mapping, which reduces setup time and allows for plug and play functionality. Having auto-mapping for every DAW is next to impossible, but you will want one that works with your preferred software. Note that some manufacturers provide instructions, or better yet, a download link for quick installation and auto-mapping with many of the popular DAWs.

  • Power Supply

    It's impressive how these 61-Key MIDI keyboards can still be USB BUS powered, but it's better when the keyboard offers multiple power options like the ability to be plugged to a power outlet or run on batteries. The more options you have, the easier it is to adapt to various stage and studio scenarios. Note that the iPad's USB port provides lower power levels, which may not be enough to power more complex MIDI keyboards.

Best 61 Key MIDI Controller Selection Methodology

This guide's first edition was published during March of 2016, written by Alexander Briones and the latest edition was published on , written by recording engineer Raphael Pulgar.

We looked at all 61-key MIDI keyboard controllers in the sub $1000 price range available from US based retailers and put the most promising 23 on our short-list - you can see most of them in our Music Gear Database. We then collected ratings, reviews, forum comments and feedback about each keyboard that we used when reporting on the pros and cons above as well as to process with the Gearank Algorithm to produce ratings scores out of 100 for each one short-listed - we processed over 3,500 sources for this. Finally we selected the highest rated options to recommend in each price bracket above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Can you guys do a list on

Can you guys do a list on MIDI keyboards that include sequencers that are not just arps? I'm currently on a hunt for a midi keyboard that has a sequencer that does not work like an arp or have to be step recorded. More like an MPC type of sequencer but does not have to be made by Akai.

Im curious to why the SL

Im curious to why the SL MKIII by Novation is not on any of these lists.

The Novation 61SL MkIII was

The Novation 61SL MkIII was on our short-list for this guide however it didn't have high enough ratings for us to recommend it above.

You can see all 3 Novation controllers that we considered along with their current ratings here.

Quick question, the MAudio

Quick question, the MAudio Code is pretty dope, was it considered for this list?

Yes the M-Audio Code 61 was

Yes the M-Audio Code 61 was considered but didn't have high enough ratings for us to include it in the recommended list above - you can see its ratings here.

What about Acorn Masterkey 61

What about Acorn Masterkey 61? It's a marvelous midi keyboard, synth-sized keys, and it's about 100 USD.

It didn't quite have high

It didn't quite have high enough ratings for us to recommend it when we published the current version of this guide.

However, I've just updated our ratings for it and it's very close - it would have a good chance of making the recommended list above if we updated today and is currently on our short-list for consideration when we next update this guide.

it says "The 61-key keybed is

it says "The 61-key keybed is semi-weighted, which gives it a synth style action..." which is it? semi-weighted and synth action are 2 diff things.

how do we know which do or

how do we know which do or don't have full-sized keys? can we assume if it doesn't specifically say so that they aren't?

Has anyone used two or more

Has anyone used two or more of these stacked to run Hauptwerk virtual organs? If so, which one and how did it feel to play tracker organs vs other organs?

I read all the reviews and

I read all the reviews and you consistently left out the part if they have a built in arpeggiator. Do you know how hard it is to find a 61 key weighted midi controller with a built in arpeggiator that can sync to incoming midi clock and has editable patterns? Why doesn't someone make that? Closest and only one to be found is the Novation Impluse 61, but it's keys are only semi-weighted, and barely at that.

if you're buying a MIDI

if you're buying a MIDI controller, why would you need a "built in" arpeggiator? there are tons of plugins that you can use. that's probably why you aren't seeing it on MIDI controllers.

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your feedback Lisa.

Arpeggiators that sync to MIDI aren't always included in manufacturers' specifications, however we will pay closer attention to this when we next update this guide and will try to include that information for as many keyboards as possible.

Our Gear Database is designed

Our Gear Database is available to help you answer questions like this because it lets you look up an individual piece of gear or create lists of gear to compare.

I made a list of all the 61-key MIDI controllers in our database and sorted them by Gearank from highest to lowest rated - you can view the list here.

With a Gearank score of only 69 the Arturia KeyLab 61 is currently the 2nd lowest rated option in our database and as a result we haven't recommended it in this guide.

Novation hasn't specified it

Novation hasn't specified it exactly, but based on the length of the keyboard I'd say tentatively yes. I'll post back if I can get more specific information.

Novation has sent me the

Novation has sent me the following answer:

"The Launchkey range features a synth-style keyboard with the key depth/size being full size".

I've updated the details above to make clear that the keys are full size.

Would you recommend a

Would you recommend a beginner to begin with a 61-key controller?

Yes. The main thing for a

Yes. The main thing for a beginner is if it has all the controls, buttons and knobs you need to control your DAW or plugins. 61-key controllers typically have more of those than smaller options.

We mistakenly reported the

We mistakenly reported the Novation Launchkey 61 as having aftertouch keys but it does not. I have corrected the error above.

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