Originally published on December. 19, 2015 and updated on June 29, 2017 by Denise Azucena & Jason Horton .
MIDI Keyboard Guides
We have a range:of helpful keyboard guides for you:
This is the 2017 updated version originally by Jason Horton with Denise Azucena researching and writing the summaries of all the new keyboards we've added this year.
The great thing about 25 key MIDI controllers are their portability and the small amount of space they take up.
They're not designed to replace a full size keyboard, but rather to offer convenience - that said some of the higher-end options are packed with an impressive range of features these days.
- Things To Consider When Buying A 25 Key MIDI Controller
- The Best 25 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards
Things To Consider When Buying A 25 Key MIDI Controller
What Type Of Connectivity Do You Need? It's becoming ever more commonplace for MIDI controllers to only have USB ports on them, so if you need to directly control instruments that only have the MIDI style 5 pin DIN connector then you'll need to ensure the controller you buy has a standard 5 pin MIDI out port, otherwise you'll also have to buy a USB to MIDI converter. When I was reading reviews from people who had returned a MIDI controller to the store they bought it from, the number one reason was because they bought one that only had USB when they needed a 5 pin DIN out MIDI port.
Key Size & Weight. Although some 25-key controllers have full sized keys, many don't. Most of them also don't have full weighted keys. If you're a piano player and you need these features then read the specifications carefully. If you do need something bigger then take a look at our guide to 49 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards.
Power Supply. If you need one for portable use with a laptop or tablet then you need one that takes its power from USB, however this comes at the cost of draining your device's battery more quickly. You also may have problems getting enough power from the iPad which provides only 20% of the USB 2.0 standard of 500mA - if you have a problem you'll need to get a powered USB hub.
Pads, Mod Wheels, Aftertouch If you need these features then read through the specifications carefully as some of the lower priced options don't always include these.
The Best 25 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards
|Akai Professional LPK25||84||1200+||$69|
|Keith McMillen Instruments K-Board||85||50+||$79|
|Nektar Impact LX25+||87||20+||$100|
|Akai APC Key 25||84||175+||$130|
|Novation Impulse 25||87||100+||$200|
|Akai Professional MPK225||87||60+||$250|
|Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S25||89||70+||$399|
|M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK IV||81||125+||$119|
Akai Professional LPK25
The LPK25 is primarily intended as a portable device and that's the feature that most reviewers rated most positively particularly by laptop and MacBook users.
- Keys: 25 velocity sensitive mini keys with synth action.
- Pads: none.
- Buttons: Arpeggiator on/off, Tap tempo, Sustain, Latch (used to change arpegiator notes), Program select, and Octave +/-.
- Octaves: 9 with the Octave Up and Octave Down buttons.
- Bundled Software: AIR Ignite - editing controls are mapped to the LPK25.
- Power: USB powered.
- Connectivity: USB.
- Compatibility: Mac OS X + Windows 8, 7 and XP - still in testing for Windows 10 and not yet officially supported.
- Dimensions: 13.4" x 3.8" x 1.1"
- Weight 0.9 lbs
The only thing that was complained about by multiple reviewers was that the USB port broke - there were only a small number of reviewers who experienced this but it would still pay to take care when plugging or removing the USB cable. Some did report that they were unhappy with the lack of features such as Mod wheels and Pads, but it was deliberately designed without those to keep the price down and portability high.
Keith McMillen Instruments K-Board
Artists such as Diplo, Plaid, and Jack Conte have used the K-Board.
It is class compliant making it effortless to connect with any computer or device. The Smart Fabric features built into each key makes them velocity, pressure, and location sensitive, which allows for greater real-time performance control. This small-sized yet sturdy controller is convenient and portable enough for quick music making on the go or if you want a minimal workspace at home.
- Keys: 25 keys with pressure and tilt
- Pads: 1 Pitch bend pad
- Buttons & Knobs: Octave up/down buttons, 1 Sustain button, 1 Velocity on/off button, 1 Pressure on/off button, 1 Tilt on/off button, 1 Toggle on/off button
- Octaves: -2 to +3 Octaves
- Bundled Software: None. Recommended software listed on manufacturer's website
- Power: USB bus powered
- Connectivity: Micro-USB
- Compatibility: Class Compliant. System requirements for software editor: Mac OS 10.5 or later + Windows 7 or greater
- Dimensions: 12.8" x 3.3" x 0.43"
- Weight 0.76 lbs.
Most musicians found this MIDI controller to be very straightforward to use with their computer, table or phone along with necessary adapters. It provides customizable parameters and response settings for users who want different options. The rubber matte feel and light-weight design are physical features many people cited positively in their comments and reviews saying things to the effect that it was very sturdy and resistant to drops or even liquid spills.
This controller is not really suited for piano playing because of the small keypad design, although it's mentioned to be great for soft synths, percussion, and MIDI triggering.
This is a good choice if you want a small, simple and durable MIDI controller to make music on different devices other than your main computer system.
The microKEY25 comes in a simple light-weight form that has the right amount of functional features. It's technically Korg's smallest piano-style MIDI controller in terms of dimension, which makes it easy to carry around and saves space for other gear. Compatible with Mac, iOS, and Windows operating systems, this USB-powered controller is easy to set-up with no driver installation needed.
- Keys: 25 velocity-sensitive Natural Touch keys
- Pads: none
- Buttons & Knobs: 1 joystick, 1 arpeggiator button, 1 Sustain / TAP button
- Octaves: -4 and +4 with the Octave Up and Octave Down buttons
- Bundled Software: KORG Bundle Software PIN Card
- Power: USB powered
- Connectivity: USB
- Compatibility: Mac OS X10.5 or later, iOS (1 Lightning USB Camera Adapter is required) , Windows 7, 8.1, 10, XP & Vista
- Dimensions: 15.55" x 5.16" x 2.09"
- Weight 1.43 lbs.
Both Mac and PC devices instantly recognized this controller once users plugged it to their computers. Many reviewers reported it had fully responsive keys and buttons, integrating easily with DAWs they used. The main appeal is its small and compact size, making it convenient for users to place it in their bag and take it anywhere they go.
Since the joystick is an alternative to the common pitch/modulation wheel design, some find it a bit difficult to control at first. Some users find the keys too small and it takes some time to adjust to the size.
This is a great choice for those who want a MIDI controller with basic functions combined with easy portability. It's also a good choice for those who are new to MIDI controllers.
The CME Xkey is highly rated by iPad, Mac, and Windows users. It is clear though that iPad users are the biggest fans and this is in no small measure due to the fact it only draws 25mA of USB power via the CCK - no external power is ever needed.
The standout features are the keys which are full sized, velocity sensitive, and have polyphonic aftertouch, in addition to sporting pressure sensitive pitch bend and modulation buttons that send continuous MIDI control data. It's also built from aluminum but only weighs 1.32 lbs.
- Keys: 25 full size pressure sensitive with polyphonic aftertouch.
- Pads: none.
- Octaves: Octave Up and Octave Down buttons.
- Bundled Software: A free app for iOS, Mac OSX, and Windows for configuration. You can find a long list of compatible apps here.
- Power: USB.
- Connectivity: Micro USB connector.
- Compatibility: Mac OS X, iOS, Windows and Android. You need a CCK to use it with an iPad.
- Dimensions: 15.27" x 5.31" x 0.62"
- Weight 1.3 lbs
The only consistent negatives reported where that some say the keys make too much noise and that they can be too sensitive to velocity.
Overall it's very highly rated and is currently the 25-key controller of choice for the iPad.
Nektar Impact LX25+
The Impact LX25+ features Nektar DAW Integration (here's a list of integrated DAWs) that provides pre-mapped controls for most DAWs. It has dedicated navigation and transport controls and presets that allow you to integrate controls within your DAW. The velocity sensitive keys come in a full-size piano-style build for real-time synth and piano playing.
- Keys: 25 note velocity-sensitive synth-action keyboard
- Pads: 8 velocity sensitive pads
- Buttons & Knobs: 1 Pitch bend wheel, 1 Modulation wheel, Octave Up and Octave Down shift buttons, Transpose Up/Down shift buttons, 8 potentiometers, 1 30mm faders, 6 dedicated transport buttons, 5 preset locations store control settings, 1 Page button (for Nektar DAW Integration only)
- Octaves: 9 octaves
- Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track
- Power: USB powered
- Connectivity: 1/4” TS jack foot switch input (MIDI Assignable), USB port on rear panel, and USB bus powered. Connects to iOS via Apple Camera Connection Kit (separate purchase)
- Compatibility: USB Class compliant. iOS, OSX, Windows XP, or higher, Linux (MIDI driver software required)
- Dimensions: 18.75" x 10.5" x 2.75"
- Weight 4 lbs.
This MIDI controller has all the essentials for most users, which makes it a good value for its price. Many reviewers confirmed it worked seamlessly with most DAWs, such as Logic Pro, FL Studio, Garageband, and Sonar. Users discussed how the controls, keyboard, and pads were responsive and easy to manage when it comes to their production workflow. Even with its multiple features, it has a lightweight build that makes it portable enough to carry around.
Although a few people suggested the plastic wasn't on par with the price, this controller is quite durable.
This MIDI controller is great if you are looking for something that has multiple functions for producing music without going overboard on budget.
Akai APC Key 25
The APC Key 25 is a hybrid of an Ableton Performance Controller and keyboard designed for performing musicians and composers alike. It features a multicolor clip-launching grid used to trigger sound clips or samples. The tri-color lighting shows three clip statuses—loaded, playing, and recording that provides visual feedback so you can perform efficiently without looking at your computer. The controls are pre-mapped with Ableton Live for easy set-up while the knobs assignable for custom mapping options.
- Keys: 25 note velocity-sensitive keys
- Buttons & Knobs: 1 Sustain button, 1 Play/Pause button, 1 Stop All Clips button, 1 Shift button, 4 Directional arrow buttons, Scene Launch buttons: Clip Stop, Solo, Rec Arm, Mute, or Select, 40 backlit clip-launch buttons in 5x8 matrix, 8 270º knobs with 4 modes
- Octaves: 10 octave range with octave up/down buttons
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, SONiVOX Twist, and Toolroom artist launch packs
- Power: USB powered
- Connectivity: USB
- Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.5 or later + Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 & 10;
- Dimensions: 12.25" x 7.6" x 1.6"
- Weight: 1.7 lbs.
This MIDI controller integrates so well with Ableton that it lets users manage controls smoothly without them relying too much on a computer keyboard or mouse. Many users found this great for triggering MIDI and launching loops, which makes it ideal for live performance. The build of this controller overall is very durable and compact. For a lot of controls and features, it's relatively affordable and easy to set-up.
The downside for this controller is its lack of velocity control. Some users compensate by adjusting velocity within their DAW. Since the keyboard comes in a smaller size, it's not as playable for those who prefer full-sized keys. In his MusicRadar review, Mark Delaney said the keyboard has a "kinda squishy feeling, but definitely good enough to get an idea down, or to use onstage for simple melodies or bass parts."
This is a good choice for electronic musicians and beginners alike.
Novation Impulse 25
Although not rated as highly as the Akai MPK225 above, the Novation Impulse 25 is very popular with Ableton users as reviewers report that it works very well with this DAW. Its Automap software also supports Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase, Reason/Record, Sonar and Live.
- Keys: 25 velocity sensitive piano style keys with assignable aftertouch.
- Pads: 8 velocity sensitive pads.
- Buttons: 6 function buttons (4 with LEDs), 3 control switch buttons with LEDs.
- Octaves: 9 with the Octave Up and Octave Down buttons.
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station VST and AU plug-in, and Automap DAW and plug-in control software - NB the Automap feature doesn't work with Pro Tools AAX plugins.
- Power: USB powered and includes a DC power socket for an optional power adapter.
- Connectivity: USB and 5 pin din MIDI in and out sockets.
- Compatibility: Mac OS X + Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP.
- Dimensions: 22.4" x 15.1" x 6.29"
- Weight 7.72 lbs
It also comes with an Arpeggiator which is well liked although it does not have a latch key. The most often cited negative is that the knobs are a little loose making precise positioning a bit finicky.
The Pads and the overall build quality are often cited positively in customer reviews.
Akai Professional MPK225
The Akai MPK225 certainly isn't the cheapest 25 key controller out there, in fact it's the highest priced option in this list, but it is the most highly regarded by people who have bought one and reviewed it. While some small controllers are primarily intended as an input device, Akai have designed this to be a completely playable instrument and that's one of the reasons it's so highly regarded.
- Keys: 25 full size semi-weighted with aftertouch.
- Pads: 8 which are velocity and pressure sensitive and they light up MPC style (with full RGB).
- Octaves: 10 by using Octave Up and Octave Down controls.
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite DAW, MPC Essentials software sampler, and the Air Hybrid 3 and SONiVOX Twist virtual synths.
- Power: USB powered and can use an optional 6V DC, 1A, power adapter (sold separately).
- Connectivity: USB and 5-pin MIDI out and MIDI in.
- Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later + Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP. It is also iOS compatible but you'll need a CCK and external power supply as well.
- Dimensions: 19.25" x 11.75" x 3.63"
- Weight 6.09 lbs
Being an Akai controller it also comes with a lot of MPC features including Note Repeat, Full Level, and an arpeggiator.
The common aspects highly rated are the quality of the pads (not surprising given that Akai invented them) and the quality of the keys which has been Akai's weak point in the past on small controllers. The other most commonly praised feature is the overall quality of build.
The main downside, which was reported by a few Mac users, is that it doesn't work as well with Logic Pro X out of the box as some other controllers - it takes a bit of extra configuration to get the most out of Logic..
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S25
The S25 from Native Instruments' Komplete Kontrol series is designed to integrate with NI Komplete instruments.
Its main feature includes the Light Guide - LEDs above each key that offers visual feedback on performance controls, such as chord / arpeggiator or scale mode. The triggered notes light up once a key is pressed in chord or arpeggiator mode, while the notes in a scale light up on the keyboard in scale mode. Instead of the traditional pitch and modulation wheels found in many MIDI controllers, this controller has multi-purpose touch strips that offer different pitch and modulation settings.
- Keys: 25 semi-weighted keys with monophonic aftertouch.
- Pads: none
- Buttons, Knobs and Other Controls: 3 Perform Buttons, 6 Transport control buttons, 1 Pitch Strip, 1 Modulation Strip, Control Section: 2 Page buttons + 8 Control knobs, Navigate Section: Browse, Instance, Back, Enter and 2 Present buttons
- Octaves: Not Specified
- Bundled Software: Controller Editor, Komplete Kontrol S-Series Software Bundle
- Power: Power Adapter
- Connectivity: MIDI In/Out , 1/4" TS connections for expression and sustain pedal
- Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.10, 10.11 or macOS 10.12 + Windows 7, 8, or 10
- Dimensions: 19.9" x 10.8" x 3.3"
- Weight: 7.16 lbs.
Many reviewers gave positive feedback for its metal finish design and sturdy build. The controls felt solid, secure and are very straightforward to use. It works seamlessly with the NI Komplete software pack that comes with it, as well as with other DAWs with minimal mapping. Other than playing simple keyboard melodies, many have found the keyboard versatile enough to use for synth work or triggers with the help of control buttons and the Light Guide feature.
This controller is a great choice if you are looking to invest in a user-friendly and good quality unit for making music - particularly with Native Instruments' software.
This is where we sometimes present options that didn't quite fit into our main set of recommendations, but which you might also find quite helpful.
M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK IV
Although the Oxygen 25 MK IV isn't as highly rated as it was when we first published this guide back in 2015, I've decided to include it as my Editor's Pick because despite the competition from newer options it is still very popular with Gearank readers.
One of the features positively mentioned in user reviews is its full size keys set in a compact unit which is quite portable.
Many also like the DirectLink feature which allows you to automatically configure the Oxygen 25 to work with Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic Pro X, GarageBand, and Reason. Some people found that the auto setup didn't work for them and this was the main reason some people gave it negative reviews.
- Keys: 25 full size velocity sensitive.
- Pads: 8 which are velocity sensitive.
- Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite DAW, SONiVOX Twist virtual synth, and AIR Music Tech Xpand!2 multitimbral workstation.
- Power: USB powered only.
- Connectivity: USB.
- Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later + Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
- Dimensions: 19.37" x 9.56" x 3.7"
- Weight 3.8 lbs
The 8 knobs can be assigned to control plugins, and the assignable fader can control things like the master mixer, in your DAW - this saves you from having to use your mouse for these functions.
Overall it is highly regarded and the top rated 25 key controller under $125.
We looked at all the 25 key MIDI controller keyboards available at major online American music gear retailers and selected 19 of them to put on our short list. We then gathered feedback on each one in the form of ratings, reviews and discussions and analysed that information both with the Gearank Algorithm to produce scores out of 100 for each of them, and to provide us with the information to report on each of the highest rates ones we recommended above. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.
Although there are many more 25 Key controllers available, we recommend only buying ones that have a Gearank above 80 - if you go much lower than this you're starting to get into ones that are below average.
If you have any questions or comments please post them below.