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.

For many years now, the MIDI keyboard controller has been a ubiquitous tool in the home studio. Along with your standard fare of piano keys, these useful instruments often double up as controllers often offering up a slew of buttons, faders and knobs to streamline your workflow.

The 61-key format is a popular one among music producers and multi-instrumentalists offering a sweetspot of 5 octaves, capable of handling most contemporary popular music without craving for more range.

Sure, you could go with a smaller 25-Key or 49-Key MIDI Controller but those might leave you wanting more. On the other side of the spectrum, classically trained pianists might prefer a full 88-Key MIDI Controller but you'll be sacrificing more portability and might not have the desk space in your home studio.

So without further ado, here are the best 61-key MIDI keyboard controllers for studio and performance use dictated by the market and measured with our proprietary Gearank rating. Let's take a look!

The Best 61 Key MIDI Keyboards

Author & Contributors

Alden Acosta Alden Acosta

I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. I also studied music for 6 years majoring in percussion and jazz studies with a minor in classical piano.

Nektar Impact GX61

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 1800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$130
Nektar Impact GX61 61-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cons

  • No 5-pin MIDI connectivity
  • Light feeling non-weighted keys

Pros

  • Essential functionality (DAW transport, octave/transpose controls, pitch and MIDI assignable modulation wheel) at a good price point
  • Class compliant - easy to setup and works with most DAWs and OSs right out of the box including iPad (Apple Camera Connection Kit Required)
  • Small profile and light weight - easy to transport and will fit most home studio set ups
  • Great build quality for the price

The Nektar Impact GX61 is a simple and 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 decent synth-action keybed with 61 full-size velocity sensitive keys, the keys are light and easy to use. Note that this soft playing feel may put off those who prefer action similar to acoustic pianos, but it is unreasonable to expect ultra premium feel in this price range and considering the extras you get such as 7 assignable buttons (effectively controlling 14 MIDI functions with the shift button) designed for DAW transport control, a large MIDI assignable potentiometer knob (volume by default), and a MIDI assignable modulation wheel, the value proposition is solid.

Other features of the Impact GX61 include octave up/down buttons with multi-colored LED indicators that show the exact status, Transpose up/down buttons with LED indicators (assignable to send Global MIDI Channel or Program), and your run-of-the-mill pitch bend wheel and 1/4” TS jack foot switch input that's also MIDI assignable.

It is designed to pair with popular DAWs, including Cubase, Reason, Nuendo, Garageband, Sonar, Logic, Bitwig, Reaper, Studio One and FL Studio. But being a class-compliant device makes this work with virtually any DAW or OS. You can even pair this with an Apple Camera Connection Kit to use with an iPad!

Nektar was able to pack all these features in without compromising portability with its small profile and light weight.

I find myself pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of the Nektar Impact GX61 right out of the box. Its weight and portable size is just right for mobile use, and I'm impressed with how easy it is to setup. I recommend this to guitarists or bassists like myself who want a compact piano in their home studio. Its ease of use makes this perfect as your very first MIDI controller as well.

The key action is a bit on the light side and I wish they produced a version of this keyboard with semi-weighted keys for those (like me) who prefer that feel. Also, I was hoping for regular 5-pin MIDI connectivity - you'll have to chose another keyboard if you want this option. The overall feel of the controller can be described as "toy-like" but not enough to feel low quality. During fast runs, odd notes pop out here and there in terms of velocity level.

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

Specifications

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-action / velocity-sensitive
  • Pads: None
  • Power: USB Bus powered
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track
  • Connectivity: USB, 1/4” TS Jack Foot Switch Input
  • Controls: Power Switch, Controls, 7 x Transport Buttons (MIDI Assignable 2 functions per button) , 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: up/down 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

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Guitar Junky Charles Vallena 90/100
YouTube John Mike 50/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 1700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cons

  • Getting it to work with analog synths has a bit of a learning curve

Pros

  • Good feeling semi-weighted keys inspire confidence in your playing
  • A plethora of useful bundled software such as VST instruments and starter DAWs
  • Includes a 5-pin MIDI output that works with hardware synths

The M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 has everything you need to get started with music production.

This USB bus-powered keyboard controller is class compliant making it work with almost all operating systems including iOS when paired with a lightning camera connection kit.

If you're transitioning from piano to MIDI controller, the full size, semi-weighted keys will feel more familiar than synth action keys more commonly found at this price point.

It also includes a generous suite of bundled software including Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, AIR VST instruments and more.

The M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 is one of those rare cases of "less is more". The design is streamlined and simple. Also, I give props to the feel of the keys and the bundled software that offers great value.

Getting it to work with analog synths has a bit of a learning curve, with its keyboard doubling up as many of the advanced system buttons it takes a bit of trial and error making sure the settings are right on both devices. But nonetheless, having a 5-pin MIDI output and the ability to do so is a Godsend.

If you're looking for your first simple MIDI keyboard controller with semi-weighted keys and need a suite of software, the M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 is a great starter pick.

Specifications

  • Keys: 61/ full-sized / semi-weighted / velocity sensitive
  • Pads:No
  • Power: DC power supply, USB bus powered
  • Bundled Software: AIR Music Mini Grand/Velvet/Xpand!2, Ableton Live LIte, Pro Tools First, Skoove, Touch Loops, Melodics Tutorial
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal Jack
  • Controls: pitch/mod wheels, volume slider, octave +/-, cursor keys, and transport controls
  • Octave: up/down fully assignable buttons
  • Compatibility: Mac OS 10.10+, Win 7+ PC, iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Dimensions: 7.44" x 39.2" x 2.68"
  • Weight:9 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube John Mike 70/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Novation Launchkey 61 MK3

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$280
Novation Launchkey 61

Cons

  • The light-weight keys feel a bit cheap

Pros

  • Great integration with Ableton Live
  • The knobs, faders and pads are all well-built
  • Overall weight is low making it highly portable for a 61-key option

For Ableton Live users, the Novation Launchpad series enables the DAW to be an instrument in itself. The Launchkey series takes that a step further by combining clip launch buttons with synth-action keys.

The Launchkey 61 MK3 shares the same new features as other products in the new MK3 lineup such as new chord and scale modes, arpeggiator, larger pads and other under-the-hood tweaks like hardware control for improvements worthy of the MK3 tag.

Whether you are new or accustomed to the Launchpad/Launchkey workflow, the ease of integration with Ableton Live is one of this keyboard's strongest suits. Despite how complicated it looks, I felt the Launchkey 61 MK3 was intuitive for both composing and arranging.

Not really a con but more of a wish, being a guitarist, I would like to have seen aftertouch implemented on this keyboard. That extra dimension of expression would have been a fun addition akin to how a guitar responds to the pressure you apply on the strings while playing a note. Is it too much to ask? Maybe on the Mark IV.

Also, the light keyboard action is not the best I've felt.

If you're a producer who uses Ableton Live, the Launchkey 61 MK3 is a great, full-featured MIDI controller and clip launcher with easy integration and good compositional tools.

Specifications

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / synth-action
  • Pads:16 RGB-backlit performance pads
  • Power: USB Bus powered
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Virtual Instrument and Sample Plug-in Bundle
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal Jack, MIDI out
  • Controls: Power Switch, Transport Controls, 8 rotary knobs, 9 x 45mm sliders, 16 backlit RGB performance pads, Modulation Wheel, Pitch Bend, Arm/select buttons, Octave up/down buttons, Track navigation buttons, Capture MIDI/quantize/click/undo buttons, Scene launch button, Device select/device lock buttons, Arp/scale/fixed chord buttons
  • Octave:up/down
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, Windows 7 SP1 or later, iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit
  • Dimensions: 10.16" x 37.48" x 3.03"
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube loopop 84/100
Sound On Sound Robin Vincent 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$549
Arturia KeyLab mkII 61

Cons

  • Knobs and faders are on the right side making it tricky to manipulate with your left hand while playing with your right

Pros

  • Excellent build quality and componentry
  • Easy integration with almost any major DAW on the market
  • Comes bundled with Arturia's Analog Lab V and Piano V virtual instruments and works seamlessly with their entire software instrument suite

With other keyboards in 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. They provide 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.

I have to give Arturia praise for this keyboard's solid build and component quality. I also love its ease of integration with my existing setup with no complicated driver setups or mapping.

One minor gripe with the layout of this keyboard is how the knobs and faders are on the right side. This makes it a bit tricky to manipulate those controls with your left hand while playing with your right. This might be a very personal thing but I would have preferred this control bank more on the center or to the left of the keyboard.

In an already crowded market, Arturia bests many other offerings in the price range by being feature packed and easily integrated - as long as you're okay with the quirky layout, this is a great option.

Specifications

  • Keys: 61 / full-size / semi-weighted / aftertouch
  • Pads:16 RGB-backlit performance pads
  • Power: USB Bus powered, 9V DC power supply (sold separately)
  • Bundled Software: Analog Lab, Piano V, and Ableton Live Lite
  • 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: up/down with transpose
  • 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

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Reviewer's Revival ​Brother Charles 90/100
Gearspace Arthur Stone 100/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Yamaha MX61 V2

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$770
Yamaha MX61 Music Synthesizer V2
At publication time this was the Highest Rated 61-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard.

Cons

  • Its large number of features require a lot of time to master

Pros

  • Extra value of being both a synth and a controller
  • Integrates well with most popular DAWs
  • Low weight makes it quite portable
  • Good range of quality built-in sounds
  • Built-in USB audio allows digital recording

The Yamaha MX61 V2 is a hybrid of a synthesizer and MIDI controller with some DAW Control features.

As a MIDI Controller, it is a class-compliant device which makes it plug and play compatible with major operating systems including iOS with an Apple camera connection kit.

DAW controls include transport, mixer and even virtual instruments.

Being a synth that doubles as a MIDI controller is certainly the star feature of the Yamaha MX61 V2. It's fairly uncommon to find a hybrid device in this category where there are no compromises with regards to its function as a controller. The AI Knob's ability to tweak controls that you mouse over is also a cool plus.

Although the focus of this guide is MIDI Controller functionality, I'm very pleased with the sound quality of the MX61 V2's synth and sound library borrowing select sounds from the MOTIF XS, Yamaha's more expensive synthesizer workstation line.

There's no such thing as a free lunch and the MX61 V2's rather expansive feature set has a bit of a learning curve and I had to look up tutorials online to make most of the unit.

If you're looking for a Synth/MIDI Controller hybrid and are ready to dig deep to maximize its functionality, the Yamaha MX61 V2 is right up your alley.

Specifications

  • Keys: 61 Synth action, touch sensitive
  • Pads: None
  • Power: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI included, FM Essential iOS synth app
  • Controls: 9 knobs and 40 Buttons, Pitch & Mod Wheels
  • Octaves: Octave Up and Octave Down Controls
  • Connectivity: 1 x 1/8" (aux in), 2 x 1/4" (main out), 1 x 1/4", USB 1 x Type B, 1 x Type A, MIDI I/O 5-pin
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.11 or higher, Windows 7 SP1 or higher, iOS
  • Dimensions: 38.7" x 4.4" x 11.7"
  • Weight: 10.6 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube MeXKeys 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

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 componentry, 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 to get.

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 a 5-pin MIDI out 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 some of 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

The first edition was published during March of 2016 and the current edition was published on August 31, 2022.

We looked at all 61-key MIDI keyboard controllers available from US based retailers and put the most promising 24 on our short-list to produce ratings for - you can see them in our Music Gear Database. We then collected ratings, reviews, forum comments and feedback about each keyboard that we processed with the Gearank Algorithm to produce ratings scores out of 100 for each one short-listed - we processed over 11,200 sources for this, a 21.7% increase over the previous edition. Finally we selected the highest rated models to recommend above. For more information about our methods see 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

Alden Acosta Alden Acosta

I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. I also studied music for 6 years majoring in percussion and jazz studies with a minor in classical piano.

I am a multi-instrumentalist and bedroom producer who owns a Behringer UMX25 25-Key MIDI controller that I have quickly outgrown. I have had the privilege of using MIDI controllers of all formats including 49-key up to 88-key keyboards. I find that the 61-key format is perfect for my needs in music production and supporting roles in ensemble performance.

Contributors

Raphael Pulgar: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII and Novation Launchkey 61 MK3.

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

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.