The Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers - All Prices

The Highest Rated MIDI Controller Keyboards

Disclosure

We recommend all products independently of 3rd parties including advertisers. We earn advertising fees from:
• • • • •
Sweetwater
• • • • •

Amazon

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
• • • • •

More and more studios from home setups to large pro setups are starting to have MIDI controllers as a hub for creative endeavors. With electronic music elements finding their way into different genres and birthing new ones, the once niche MIDI controller is now one of the most important pieces of gear for any studio.

With this popularity, hundreds of MIDI Controllers now populate the market. It can get overwhelming selecting one that caters to your exact needs. Do you need a controller with clip launching features or one that has weighted, hammer action keys for piano-like response?

This guide will help you select the best for your needs.

For this 2021 edition, several new items have been added to our recommended list below, including the newest iterations of industry leading controllers. Read on to find out which one fits your setup the best.

The Best MIDI 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.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers Under $200

Arturia MiniLab MkII with 25 Slim Keys

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 MIDI Keyboard Controller Under $200 along with the Akai MPK Mini MK III.

The Arturia Minilab MKII is a compact USB MIDI controller with an impressive array of controls, specifically designed to meet the needs of electronic musicians.

What separates it from the pack is its 16 encoders, which allow for realtime control over filters and other parameters, and add to that its built-in RGB lit pads that expand your control options even further.

Instead of using mechanical wheels, Arturia implemented two touch strips for controlling pitch and modulation, adding to the unit's futuristic appeal.

All of these extras add to its 25 synth action slim size keys, which wraps up its instrument functions.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 Slim Synth Action Keys
  • Pads: 8 RGB Pads
  • Controls: 16 Encoders, Octave, Pitchbend, Mod Touch Strips
  • Octave: 4 Octaves (+/-)
  • Zones: 1
  • Automap: Yes (On some DAW Software)
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: OSX 10.7 (Up), Windows 7 SP1 (Up)
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Dimensions: 14" x 8.7" x 2"
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano, Analog Lab Lite

Pros:
From its stylish appeal, to the feel of its keys, and even on to its robust build, response to the Arturia MiniLab MKII continues to be highly positive. Music Radar confirms what most users say by describing it this way: "Amazing build quality, great keyboard". The quality of the bundled software also got a lot of commendations. And while this keyboard is meant for electronic musicians, even those who are into other musical styles chipped in with their good feedback.

Cons:
There are a few who felt that the bundled software is a bit lacking, especially when compared to the previous version, but they are very happy with the improvements on the hardware.

Overall:
If you're looking for a compact yet versatile MIDI controller, then the Arturia MiniLab MkII, with its extensive control options, is highly recommended.

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 MIDI Keyboard Controller Under $200 along with the Arturia MiniLab MkII.

The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKIII is a feature rich, compact, 25-key MIDI Controller for the producer on the go.

Despite its diminutive size, the MPK Mini MK III features 25 synth action mini-keys and 8 backlit performance pads with note repeat.

A 4-way pitch and modulation joystick and 8 assignable knobs rounds out the controls.

The unit also features tap tempo and an arpeggiator.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 88 Fully-weighted, velocity sensitive Fatar Keybed with aftertouch
  • Pads: 16 x RGB Backlit Performance Pads
  • Controls:9 x Rotary Encoders, 9 x Faders, Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • Octave: up/down
  • Automap: no
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI In/Out , 1 x 1/4" TS (sustain)
  • Control Hardware Directly: no
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.8.5 or later, Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Dimensions: 12.5" x 7.13" x 1.75"
  • Weight: 1.65 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: MPC Beats Software

Pros:
First time MIDI Controller users loved the middle ground between simplicity and features the MPK Mini MK III brings. Users looking for an affordable MIDI controller with pads also made the MPK Mini MK III their first choice. Its size was seen as a plus for producers that work with laptops and musicians that want to produce music on the go.

Cons:
Many felt the keys to be too small and stiff. Those looking for great feeling, full size keys didn't like the Mini's smaller keys.

Overall:
The Akai Professional MPK Mini MK III ticks a lot of boxes for users that want something to just plug into their laptops and make music on the go. It was also a hit with first time MIDI Controller users. Inspiration can strike anywhere and any time so get the MPK Mini MK III if you want something you can bring along with your laptop setup.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers Under $500

Novation Launchkey 49 MK3

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$230
Novation Launchkey 49 MK3

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

Novation has taken user feedback on its Launchkey MK2 series and implemented improvements in the MK3 series.

Aside from being a keyboard controller, it also includes Ableton Live clip launching pads that double as performance pads.

The Novation Launchkey 49 MK3 features new compositional tools like new scale modes, chord modes, and a mutate feature that rearranges your patterns to form new musical ideas.

The new iteration now features MIDI out via 5-pin MIDI DIN Connection - this enables control of analog synths.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 Synth action, velocity sensitive keys
  • Pads: 16 x RGB, Velocity-sensitive Pads
  • Controls: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, 8 x Rotary Knobs, 9 x 45mm Faders, Transport (Play, Stop, Record, Loop)
  • Octave: up/down
  • Automap: Yes (Ableton Live)
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI Out , 1 x 1/4" (sustain)
  • Control Hardware Directly: yes
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Dimensions: 31.06" x 10.16" x 3.03"
  • Weight: 6.68 lbs..
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Virtual Instrument and Sample Plug-in Bundle

Pros:
Users generally praise the Launchkey 49 MK3's versatility. It kickstarted a lot of creativity for many users, some saying that the unit's intuitive controls and amount of learning resources available online helped them get their musical ideas faster. The Ableton Live integration was labeled as flawless and every virtual instrument was easy to control with the Launchkey 49 MK3. Integration with other DAWs was noted to be easy even with some manual assignments needed.

Cons:
Some complaints about the keybed's quality were raised; particularly the feel, sensitivity, and note triggering.

Overall:
If you're looking for a controller that's fully integrated with Ableton Live, but versatile enough to be used with other DAWs, the Novation Launchkey 49 MK3 is a great pick.

Novation Launchkey 61 MK3

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$280
Novation Launchkey 61

The largest of the Launchkey MK3 series, the Launchkey 61 MK3 carries over the features of the lineup including performance pads, assignable faders and knobs, and the new compositional tools for scale and chord modes

With 61 keys, two handed playing becomes easier, especially for people accustomed to the piano.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 Synth action, velocity sensitive keys
  • Pads: 16 x RGB, Velocity-sensitive Pads
  • Controls: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, 8 x Rotary Knobs, 9 x 45mm Faders, Transport (Play, Stop, Record, Loop)
  • Octave: up/down
  • Automap: Yes
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI Out , 1 x 1/4" (sustain)
  • Control Hardware Directly: yes
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Dimensions: 31.06" x 10.16" x 3.03"
  • Weight: 6.68 lbs..
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Virtual Instrument and Sample Plug-in Bundle

Pros:
Users note that it integrates flawlessly with Ableton Live. People upgrading from other controllers also note the ease of integration and mapping that the Launchkey 61 MK3 has. The custom modes are deeply integrated and are easily edited.

Cons:
The keybed was noted to be the weakest point of the unit. This complaint is common with the Launchkey series and users hope that this will be improved upon in the next iteration. MIDI CC doesn't always work with other DAWs as one user observed.

Overall:
Given its feature and key count, the Launchkey 61 MK3 is an incredible value. Its seamless integration with Ableton Live and ease of customization score big on users. Get it if you want an affordable, fully integrated, large format controller for Ableton.

Arturia KeyLab 49 mkII

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499
Arturia KeyLab 49 mkII 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The KeyLab 49 has a few things in common with Arturia’s flagship MatrixBrute synth; namely the latter's velocity sensitive aftertouch keybed.

With 9 faders, 9 encoders, 4 CV outputs, 5 expression control inputs, including great bundled software, the Keylab 49mkII is nothing short of feature-packed.

All housed in a sturdy aluminum body.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive with aftertouch.
  • Pads: 16 x Back-lit RGB Performance Pads
  • Controls: 16 Encoders, Octave, Pitchbend, Mod Touch Strips
  • Automap: Yes (On some DAW Software)
  • Connectivity: USB, 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 3 x 1/4" (aux), MIDI In/Out/USB, 1 x 1/8" (CV in), 4 x 1/8" (CV out, Gate out, Mod 1, Mod 2)
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: OSX 10.7 (Up), Windows 7 SP1 (Up)
  • Power: USB Bus Powered
  • Dimensions:31.2" " x 11.7" " x 2.1"
  • Weight: 13.8 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano, Analog Lab Lite

Pros:
The KeyLab 49 mkII earns much of its praise for the well engineered keybed. While trickled down from Arturia's upper echelon offerings, it doesn't compromise anything. The sturdy housing also makes it well-built for touring.

Cons:
The LCD screen could be larger to show more information, but this concern only appeared once in the multitude of reviews.

Overall:
With its excellent keybed as the star, the KeyLab 49 is sure to satisfy the most sensitive of touches; a feat in itself for a MIDI Controller.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers Under $1000

Yamaha MX61 Music Synthesizer V2

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$770
Yamaha MX61 Music Synthesizer V2

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated MIDI Keyboard Controller from $500 to $1000 along with the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII.

The Yamaha MX61 V2 is a hybrid synth/controller.

It is a full-featured synth with circuit-level modelling thanks to Yamaha's VCM (Virtual Circuit Modelling) FX module and MOTIF sound engine.

As a MIDI Controller, it features MIDI via USB or 5-Pin connection.

It can also function as a DAW controller with assignable knobs, including the AI knob.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 61 Synth-action, touch sensitive keys
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, 4 assignable knobs + Multifunction AI Knob, Octave, Transpose, Synth controls
  • Octave: up/down
  • Automap: Yes
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI In/Out ,1 x 1/8" (aux in), 2 x 1/4" (main out), 1 x 1/4" (Headphones), 2 x 1/4" (sustain, controller)
  • Control Hardware Directly: yes
  • Compatibility: OSX 10.7 (Up), Windows 7 SP1 (Up)
  • Power: 12V DC power supply (included)
  • Dimensions: 38.7" x 11.7" x 4.4"
  • Weight: 10.6 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Cubase AI included, FM Essential iOS synth app

Pros:
Users who bought the MX61 V2 were excited and inspired by the unit's multiple features. As a synth, the unit was noted to have a lot of depth with access to advanced parameters available when needed. One user in his 70s was happy to be able to compose music with, it both as a standalone synth and as a MIDI Controller. Others loved that they didn't need to buy a second keyboard since the MX61 V2 was able to do everything they need.

Cons:
The unit is noted to have a bit of a learning curve especially with the advanced parameters. The Instruction manual was not as helpful as some users would have hoped and tutorials online were noted to be limited.

Overall:
If you want a MIDI Keyboard that doubles as a synthesizer or vice-versa, the Yamaha MX61 V2 is an excellent choice and would fit a variety of needs, especially when you get past the learning curve.

Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$999
Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated MIDI Keyboard Controller from $500 to $1000 along with the Yamaha MX61 V2.

The Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII is a full-size MIDI Controller with 88 Fatar weighted keys.

It also features a complete suite of controls, pads and faders that are all fully assignable to any parameter in your DAW.

Other nifty features include a music sheet/ipad stand and a laptop extension shelf.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 88 hammer action, Weighted Fatar TP/100LR Keybed
  • Pads: 16 x RGB Backlit Performance Pads
  • Controls:9 x Rotary Encoders, 9 x Faders, Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • Octave: 2 Octaves (+/-)
  • Automap: Yes
  • Connectivity: 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 3 x 1/4" (aux pedals), MIDI In/Out/Thru/USB, CV; Pitch out, Gate out, Mod 1, Mod 2, CV in,
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, 64-bit , Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit
  • Power: External AC adapter
  • Dimensions: 50.9" x 12.7" " x 4.4"
  • Weight: 32.4 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Software

Pros:
Glowing reviews are all focused on how good the keys feel to the touch. One reviewer noted that the response feels similar to his Steinberg Grand Piano. A lot of the reviewers said they were more than happy with the amount of control they can get with the KeyLab 88.

Cons:
While many found the keys to feel great, others found them to be a bit "spongy", particularly for players used to synth-action keys.

Overall:
If you're accustomed to playing piano and would love to have the same response in a MIDI Controller, the KeyLab 88 is a solid pick and is peerless at this price point.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers Over $1000

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1099
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2

The Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 is a controller that fully synergizes with Native Instruments' KOMPLETE virtual instrument and audio library.

Despite being made specifically to control KOMPLETE, it is also capable of being mapped to other software and can function as a general DAW controller.

The full 88-key Fater keybed gives a sense of familiarity to piano players while offering premium feel and response to users accustomed to synth action keys. The fast recovery of the keys aids in performing faster staccato phrases especially for synth sounds.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 88 Fully-weighted, velocity sensitive Fatar Keybed with aftertouch
  • Pads: 16 x RGB Backlit Performance Pads
  • Controls:9 x Rotary Encoders, 9 x Faders, Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • Octave: 2 Octaves (+/-)
  • Automap: Yes
  • Connectivity: 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 3 x 1/4" (aux pedals), MIDI In/Out/Thru/USB, CV; Pitch out, Gate out, Mod 1, Mod 2, CV in,
  • Control Hardware Directly: Yes
  • Compatibility: OS X 10.11 or later, 64-bit , Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit
  • Power: External AC adapter
  • Dimensions: 50.9" x 12.7" " x 4.4"
  • Weight: 32.4 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Software

Pros:
Users that want more dynamic response and touch sensitivity love the Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2's fatar keybed. The recovery time of the keys was noted to be faster than what acoustic pianos tend to have but it works well for many users. This balance between piano-like feel and synth key recovery time is what makes the Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 a hit with both piano players and synth players alike. Full integration with the Native Instruments ecosystem along with the great feel makes for a great performance and compositional tool.

Cons:
Some still felt the keys were too "slow" to recover for their faster synth runs. This is inherent with the design so you may want to look elsewhere if weighted keys affect your playing style.

Overall:
For the best combination of Native Instruments integration and acoustic piano playing feel, there is no substitute for the Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2.

Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$1849
Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller

At publication time this was the Highest Rated MIDI Keyboard Controller Over $1000.

Piano maker Kawai throws a curveball to the MIDI Controller market with the VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller.

Instead of piling on controls, screens and faders, the VPC1 aims to replicate the feel of a true, hammer-action piano, not dissimilar to their acoustic piano offerings.

That forms Kawai's design philosophy for the VPC1: a product designed for the discerning piano player that prefers to use the best virtual piano instruments.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 88 RM3II Wooden-key, Graded-hammer Action with Counterbalancing
  • Pads: None
  • Controls: None
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI In/Out , 1 x Damper, 1 x Sustain, 1 x Soft (Includes Triple-pedal Unit)
  • Compatibility: OSX 10.7 (Up), Windows 7 SP1 (Up)
  • Power: USB Bus Powered, AC Adaptor
  • Dimensions: 54.33" x 16.75" x 7.33"
  • Weight: 65 lbs.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano, Analog Lab Lite

Pros:
Reviewers love the keys. Positive reviews note everything from the look and feel, the response, the velocity curves and the silent mechanism of the keys. This makes it perfect for studios that want to offer premium piano recordings with virtual instruments while satisfying the performers and allowing them to express themselves. They also liked how the controller can be powered by USB without any external power supply.

Cons:
Not portable. 2 Jacks required for the triple floor pedal. May not be the best to control other virtual instruments

Overall:
If you own a studio or are a piano player that desires the most realistic feeling Piano format MIDI controller on the market today, look no further than the Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller.

Things to Consider When Buying a MIDI Keyboard Controller

  • Keybed: Key Size, Weight, Action, Velocity and Aftertouch

    Not all keyboards follow the standard piano size and action because it's not always applicable, especially when considering portability. This is the reason why compact controllers come with slim size keys, which requires some technique adjustment for those who are used to standard size keys.

    Key weight and action refers to how hard you have to press the keys to trigger a sound. Synth action keys have the softest playing feel, while fully weighted (hammer action) ones need a bit more force, similar to an acoustic piano. Others offer something in between, which they call semi-weighted. Velocity sensitivity refers to how the keys respond to the dynamics of your playing or how forcefully you press the keys. While Aftertouch adds effects depending on the pressure you apply as you hold down a note.

    Your choice of size, action and sensitivity will boil down to your budget and preference, which is usually similar to what you are used to playing.

  • Number of Zones

    Zones let you split the keyboard into multiple sections which each transmit on separate MIDI channels. An example of this type of usage is when you have one sound module for bass sounds and another for piano or synth sounds and you split the keyboard so that your left hand plays the bass sounds while your right hand plays the other sounds. These days many MIDI controllers do not have this feature built-in, but DAWs and some plugins will allow you to set virtual zones to your preference. Note that you need this feature on the keyboard to do it when directly controlling hardware without a computer in the loop.

  • Mod Wheels, Pads and other Control inputs

    If you're looking for more control over your notes, you'll want a controller with pitch bend and modulation. Other features like encoders, buttons and faders allow for even more expressive control over parameters in real time, and they can be used to control your DAW software and plugins.

  • Controlling Hardware Directly vs Connecting to Computers

    Most are now using MIDI controllers to trigger virtual instruments in computers, and this is done mostly via USB, but there are some that allow for wireless use via Bluetooth. To trigger other hardware like analog synthesizers, you'll need a controller with a 5-pin MIDI cable connection.

  • Auto-Mapping & Software Integration

    While most MIDI controllers have auto-mapping, they are usually limited to specific software. And since DAWs and plugins can be very different - it will benefit you to get a MIDI controller that is designed to integrate well with your preferred music production software, otherwise you'll have to manually map the keyboard to your software.

  • Transport Controls

    Transport controls allow you to gain control of essential recording and playback controls right on your MIDI keyboard, this usually includes play, record, stop, forward, rewind - much like old tape machines.

  • Motorized Controls

    Some controllers come with motorized knobs and faders, which mechanically move to match the current settings in your DAW. This is a convenient feature to have, but since it requires additional moving parts it adds to the overall weight and bulk of the unit, and will generally add to the cost.

  • Power Supply: USB, Batteries & A/C Adapters

    If you are going for portability, look for MIDI keyboards with built-in rechargeable batteries. If you're going to use the controller on a fixed setup and you want to reduce cable clutter, then go for those that draw power from USB. If you're going for units that draw power from wall warts (AC Adapters), you'll need to ensure that you have enough nearby electrical ports to plug into. Note that if you chose USB power with an iPad then you may need to get an additional powered USB hub due to the iPad's lower power output than standard USB allows for.

  • Dimensions & Weight

    Balancing portability and functionality is tricky yet important if you want to be musically productive. If you're going to make music while on the move, you're going to want to sacrifice some features and go for something light and compact. On the flipside, you should go for bigger controllers if you're style of music requires you to play conventional piano style music - these are ideal if they are simply going to stay in your home studio.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controller Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2018 and the current edition was published on June 17, 2021.

Since we have published guides for top rated MIDI keyboards based on their number of keys, we decided to focus on finding the best MIDI keyboard controllers within popular price ranges. To achieve this, we gathered a huge amount data from relevant reviews, ratings and discussions that totaled to over 55,200 sources for 107 MIDI keyboards. The sources were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 that we used to rank the controllers within each price bracket. 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.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the Kawai VPC1, Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII and NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

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

Comments