The Best 25 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

The Highest Rated 25-Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

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For the modern producer, a MIDI controller can be a centerpiece to the music production process. These days, many producers prefer smaller MIDI controller setups. Full format controllers not only take up more space, it's not always necessary to have a full range of keys for the compositional aspect of music production. Having a compact form factor also benefits producers on the go that prefer to work on laptops.

They're not designed to replace a full-size keyboard, but rather to offer convenience and portability. Being able to get ideas down faster is the number one benefit of using a compact setup especially for touring musicians.

This May 2021 Edition brings together the best 25 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards across all price ranges so you can find the one that fits your needs the most.

The Best 25 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of nearly 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Nektar SE25

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Nektar SE25 25-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

At first glance, the Nektar SE25 won't grab your attention. It's unassuming size, aesthetics and aggressive price point make it easy to pass up.

Engineered to feel close to its more pricey siblings, the Nektar SE25 is a minimalist MIDI Keyboard controller features extensively tweaked keys with 3 velocity curves to fit to your playing style.

At 0.88lbs, its also one of the lightest controllers featured on this guide.

Key features:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth Mini-keys with 3 velocity curves
  • Pads: none
  • Buttons & Knobs: PB1, PB2 (assignable to Pitchbend, Pan, Transpose), S Buttons (sustain, modulation)
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig Studio 8-track
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 13.18" x 0.82" x 3.93"
  • Weight 0.88 lbs.

Pros

With a width of 13.18", many users noted that the SE25 is just nearly as wide as their laptops. The compact and portable size of the unit makes a great companion for touring musicians. Many who own the unit love how it fits in a backpack along with their laptops so they can write music anywhere.

Cons

The most obvious cons are its lack of features; a necessary compromise for the size and weight reduction.

Overall

If you need a controller you can whip out in a snap and set up for quick inspiration, at a price that won't feel like you spent anything at all, the Nektar SE25 is a great purchase even if you own one (or several!) more expensive controllers.

Arturia MicroLab

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Arturia MicroLab 25-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

Released in 2019, the Arturia Microlab is a compact, budget-friendly 25-key MIDI controller that features controls found on larger, more pricey offerings.

Arturia calls it "universally compatible"; meaning it can connect with anything from tablets to other class-compliant devices.

Its low power consumption enables it to work with mobile devices without external power.

Key features:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth action, Mini-keys
  • Pads: None
  • Buttons & Knobs: 2 x Touch Strips (pitchbend, modulation, preset browsing)
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software:Bitwig 8-Track, Arturia Analog Lab Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.10 or later, 64-bit , Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit
  • Dimensions: 16.6" x 3" x 7"
  • Weight 1.8 lbs.

Pros

Aside from its appearance, many expert reviews praise its compact size and portability. The build quality is surprisingly rugged for the price and the included software bundles get you up and running fast. Dave Gale, writing for MusicTech said, "Above all, you plug it in and just play, and the included software will also make it very appealing to anyone on a tight budget."

Cons

Controls are limited to the basics.

Overall

Despite its colorful appearance, it is anything but toy-like: It still enables creativity to flow into your compositions and its quirky appearance does not get in the way.

Novation Launchkey Mini mk3

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$110
Novation Launchkey Mini mk3 25-key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAWs used for live performance.

The Novation LaunchKey Mini mk3 was designed to integrate primarily with the Ableton Live DAW for full control over sample triggering, note for note performances and on-the-fly knob tweaking.

It also works with other DAWs, but may require more setup time to map controls.

Key features:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth action Mini-keys
  • Pads: 16 x Velocity-sensitive RGB Pads
  • Buttons & Knobs: 8 x Rotary Knobs , Octave +/-, Pitch, Modulation
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software:Ableton Live Lite, AAS Session Bundle, Additional Bundled Plug-ins
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB, 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/8" (MIDI out)
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 12.9" x 1.22" x 6.77"
  • Weight 1.55 lbs.

Pros

Ableton Live users rejoice! Users of this DAW love how well the Launchkey Mini mk3 directly integrates with and controls the DAW. The mk3 version is universally praised as a step up from the previous iteration. In addition to saying it worked well when tested with Logic, John Andrews said at MusicTech, "It’s a fantastic little key, rotary and pad controller that does Live brilliantly and a lot more besides."

Cons

May be too compact for some people more used to larger-spaced pads and keys. Not as comparably optimal for use with other DAWs and may need manual parameter assignment in those cases.

Overall

If your workflow revolves around Ableton Live and want a controller that fully integrates with it, the Novation Launchkey Mini mk3 is a great place to start.

Nektar Impact LX25+

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$110
Nektar Impact LX25+ 25-key USB-MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Impact LX25+ features Nektar DAW Integration that provides pre-mapped controls for most major 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.

Key features:

  • 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.

Pros

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 (since re-branded as Cakewalk by BandLab). 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.

Cons

Despite its reported durability, few people suggested the plastic build wasn't on par with the price.

Overall

Versatility at this price price point is headlined by the Nextar Impact LX25+. A jack-of-all trades for musicians, producers and songwriters.

Arturia MiniLab MkII

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 2600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$119
Arturia MiniLab MkII

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated 25-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard along with the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK III.

The Arturia MiniLab MkII is a mini-laboratory of MIDI controls with emphasis on portability.

To save on space, it features 25 slim keys, but they do have velocity sensitivity.

It features 16 encoders for more control over your DAW software, and 8 customizable RGB pads for triggering samples, with two banks to work with.

Finally, it comes bundled with nifty software which includes Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Lite and UVI Grand Piano.

Key features:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Slim-Keys
  • Pads: 8 RGB Pads
  • Buttons & Knobs: 16 Encoders, Octave +/-, Sustain, Volume
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software: Analog Lab Lite, Ableton Live Lite and UVI Grand Piano
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or Later, Windows 7 or later
  • Dimensions: 14" x 2" x 8.7"
  • Weight 3.3 lbs.

Pros

This MIDI keyboard still gets a lot of positive reviews which gives it some staying power on our top picks. Overall build quality seems to be its strongest trait, and coming in close second is the playing feel of its slim keybed, which many appreciate. Aesthetics and portability often commended. It also scored a number of high ratings with its good compatibility with various devices and software.

Cons

Not many complaints hardware wise, but there are a few who report software compatibility and setup issues in negative reviews even though this may have been addressed in more recent firmware updates.

Overall

If you're looking for a compact MIDI keyboard with a bit more functionality than others in the price range, the MiniLab MKII is worth checking out.

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK III

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 8000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$119
Akai Professional MPK Mini MK III 25-key MIDI Keyboard Controller

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated 25-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard along with the Arturia MiniLab MkII.

Despite being smaller than most MIDI controllers, the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK III Packs a lot of features not usually found on similarly sized and priced controllers.

8 backlit, velocity sensitive pads enable nuanced rhythmic performances while assignable knobs integrate with many major DAWs.

In place of a pitch wheel, the Pitchbend/modulation joystick enables more control from less space, keeping the MPK Mini MKIII at a featherweight 1.65lbs.

Key features:

  • Keys:25 Synth Mini-keys
  • Pads: 8 x Backlit, Velocity-sensitive Performance Pads
  • Buttons & Knobs: 4-way Pitchbend/Modulation Joystick, 8 x Assignable Knobs, Pad controls, Arpeggiator
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software: MPC Beats Software, Sample Packs
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.8.5 or later, Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Dimensions: 12.5" x 1.75" x 7.13"
  • Weight 1.65 lbs.

Pros

For the price, many users felt that the MPK Mini MKIII compromises very little with regard to production flexibility. The pads felt very responsive based on multiple user reviews and the joystick control was also praised for being included as some compact controllers compromise with less tactile features.

Cons

The keys were noted to be too small for larger hands. Others suggested the keys felt cheap.

Overall

If you're looking for a suite of features in a small package, the MPK Mini MKIII is a good, affordable pick.

Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$160
Novation Launchkey 25 MK3 25-key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Mk3 version of the Novation Launchkey 25 was released in 2020, 4 years after the Mk2 version.

The long awaited update features new scale, chord and arpeggiator modes, larger pads and hardware integration.

The inclusion of a 5-pin MIDI DIN connector enables the Launchkey 25 to be used as a controller for hardware synths. T

It also includes a suite of virtual instruments and effects that complement the Ableton Live integration.

Key features:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity Sensitive Synth keys
  • Pads: 16 x RGB, Velocity sensitive Pads
  • Buttons & Knobs: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, 8 x Rotary Knobs, Transport: Play, Stop, Record, Loop,
  • Octaves: +/- 4
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Virtual Instrument and Sample Plug-in Bundle
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain Pedal
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Dimensions: 18.23" x 3.03" x 10.16"
  • Weight 3.99 lbs.

Pros

Users found the new features to be a great improvement over the previous iteration. The chord and scale functions made the creative process for a few of them faster and more intuitive. It also gets high remarks for its Ableton integration. Many users who are accustomed to the DAW found the Launchkey 25 Mk3 integrated seamlessly into their workflow. One user noted that he bought the unit to be able to use his old synthesizer with broken keys.

Cons

While improvements were made with integration with other DAWs, some still found that the controller takes a bit of work to integrate with DAWs like Studio One.

Overall

If your primary DAW is Ableton live and want a MIDI controller with great songwriting aids, hardware synth control ready, all in a compact format, the Novation Launchkey 25 Mk3 is an excellent choice.

Akai Professional MPK225

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Akai Professional MPK225 Keyboard & Pad MIDI Controller

The Akai MPK225 certainly isn't the cheapest 25 key controller out there, but it is 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.

It includes semi-weighted keys and aftertouch, Full RGB pads, 10 octave range and great software bundled to get you going.

Key features:

  • 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

Pros

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 premium build quality and robust feel.

Cons

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. As of this 2021 edition, fewer reviews refer to this so it may have been resolved by firmware/software updates.

Overall

With it's premium build and features, the Akai Professional MPK225 will satisfy even the most finicky performer. Don't let the "Professional" tag scare you off; it's just as inviting and inspiring for beginners and hobbyists alike!

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 (link to Amazon.com).

  • 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.

Best 25 Key MIDI Controller Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2015 and the latest edition was published on May 23, 2021.

We looked at all the 25 key MIDI controller keyboards available at major online American music gear retailers and selected 27 of them to put on our short list for closer examination - see them in the Music Gear Database. We then gathered feedback on each one in the form of ratings, reviews and forum discussions and analyzed that information with the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 for each of them. This process provided us with the information to report on each of the highest rates ones we recommended above. Over 23,900 review and rating sources were analyzed during this process. 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

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of nearly 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Denise Azucena: Supplemental writing.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Product research, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK III, Arturia MiniLab MkII and Novation Launchkey Mini mk3.

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

Comments

USB Midi only keyboards are

USB Midi only keyboards are no good if you want to connect them straight up to a 5 Pin midi DIN sound module or something like a Korg Volca FM etc.
The author's Amazon link to a USB to Midi adapter is no use in this case. That device only works with an actual computer which also powers it. To connect a USB Midi keyboard to a Volca module or other sound module, you need a 'USB Midi host adapter'. Google is your friend here.

Good point. I am looking for

Good point. I am looking for a very small keyboard with an actual midi output - the only one so far I have found is the Alesis Q25.

I really like your review,

I really like your review, maybe you can also add novation impulse 49 and not only 25. Thanks

I too am waiting for Arturia

I too am waiting for Arturia Minilab MK2 - people say that it has improved much and is better that many competitors for this price in mini MIDI segment.

Also, do you take negative reviews into account? Because there has been some noise around M-Audio Oxygen line quality issues - lots of reports of keys acting weird, triggering double notes, not triggering at all etc. So, I'm not sure if your current pick is safe to recommend unless M-Audio get their stuff fixed in some new M5 edition.

Our ratings take account of

Our ratings take account of all types of reviews including positive and negative. You can learn more about how our ratings are calculated, and what they mean, in How Gearank Works.

It's so annoying that you

It's so annoying that you didn't list whether the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S25 has full-size keys. That's the most important consideration, in my opinion.

I'd be interested in a

I'd be interested in a comparison of Bluetooth-enabled versions of these devices.

I wonder why the Arturia

I wonder why the Arturia Minilab is not on the list

The Arturia MiniLab has been

The Arturia MiniLab has been discontinued and replaced by the Arturia MiniLab MkII which didn't have sufficiently high enough ratings to be included in this guide at the time of publication - it is on our watch-list and we may recommend it if it scores high enough when we next update this guide.

NOVATION SL25 MK2 has 8

NOVATION SL25 MK2 has 8 encoders, 8 pots, 8 touch-sensitive faders, 8 pads, pitch/mod expression stick, XY pad, and 25 full size keys, speeddial, and automap for automatic DAW and VST control.

I always use 5-pin MIDI. Don

I always use 5-pin MIDI. Don't understand why manufacturers dropped the 5-pins and make things more complicated with USB plug adapters. Happy to see here a clear overview of 5-pins keys, great help to me in buying the right hardware. Thanks a lot!

Great helpful article, thanks

Great helpful article, thanks! It was really helpful that you included whether or not they each had actual midi ports.

I'm glad you found that part

I'm glad you found that part useful. When doing the research for this gear guide I was surprised to find that a number of people had bought keyboards with only USB MIDI when they actually needed one with a classic 5-pin MIDI port.

I have updated the Key

I have updated the Key Features above to include the weight of each of the keyboards.

I've made an additional

I've made an additional update to include the dimensions of each keyboard - this is useful when deciding what type of keyboard stand or stand attachment to get.

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