The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards Under $100

Cheap MIDI Keyboards

MIDI controllers have been fundamental tools for producing music due to their versatility and portability. They provide control over a computer software sequencers and virtual synthesizers, as well as external sound modules. Making music doesn't have to come at a higher cost, so we rounded up a list of highly rated affordable keyboard controllers, with options ranging from 25 to 49 keys. This guide is also great if you are looking for your first MIDI controller.

Contents

The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards Under $100

Gearank Sources Street Price
Korg nanoKEY2 83 450+ $50
Korg microKEY25 84 150+ $80
Arturia MiniLab MkII 90 60+ $99
Korg microKEY2 37 83 40+ $100
M-Audio Keystation 49 II 83 325+ $100
Nektar Impact GX49 86 60+ $100
Novation Launchkey Mini 84 150+ $80
Nektar Impact LX25+ 87 100+ $100
midiplus X4 mini 83 10+ $100

Korg nanoKEY2

83
GEARANK

83 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
Korg nanoKEY2 25-key USB MIDI Controller Keyboard

The nanoKEY2 is a small, compact, and slim MIDI controller built for musicians on the go. It features conveniently spaced keys with a non-conventional design and are velocity sensitive. It also has essential MIDI controls such as transpose/octave buttons, a pitch bend button, a modulation button and a sustain button for a more expressive performance.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 velocity sensitive keys
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: KORG Software Bundle
  • Power: USB bus power: less than 100 mA
  • Connectivity: mini-USB
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X 10.4 or later; Microsoft Windows XP SP3 (32bit), Vista SP2 (32bit, 64bit), 7 (32bit, 64bit)
  • Dimensions: 12.80" x 3.27" x 0.65"
  • Weight: 0.54 lbs.

For its price, many users were satisfied with the value they were getting. Simple to figure out and easy to use were some factors mentioned about this controller. Many of these users were delighted that it's light-weight and portable enough to fit one's bag. Its octave buttons were also proven useful when it comes to accessing a full range of notes. It also directly connects to different computer operating systems and was recognized by different DAWs without any problems.

Since the keys are designed similarly to laptop keyboard-style keys, a few users found it to be a bit awkward and difficult to enter intricate melodic lines. Nevertheless, the keys have a great velocity response.

This is an affordable and travel-friendly controller that you can bring on the road.

Korg microKEY25

84
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$80
Korg microKEY25 USB 25-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The microKEY 25 presents a slim and lightweight build that has mini velocity-sensitive keys similar to Korg's microKORG XL and microARRANGER. It includes a built-in joystick for modulation and pitch bend controls, as well as an arpeggiator, sustain and transpose buttons. It can serve as a USB hub with the use of its two USB ports and is very simple to connect to any computing device since it is class compliant.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 Velocity-sensitive natural-touch keys
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator:Yes
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: None
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: 1 x USB Type B, Apple Lightning - USB camera adaptor (sold separately)
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Mac OS X10.5 or later; Microsoft Windows XP SP3 (32bit), Vista SP2 (32bit, 64bit) or SP1 (32bit, 64bit), iOS8 or later
  • Dimensions: 15.55" x 5.16" x 2.09"
  • Weight: 1.43 lbs.

Apart from its simple and compact design, several reviewers commented on how sturdy and well made it is. It's very light-weight that they found it convenient to bring around and easily record their ideas on their laptop. In regards to its keybed, the miniature keys are quite responsive and have a great feel to them, making it ideal for sequencing simple synth lines and drum beats. They also mentioned that it had a great arpeggiator function. Additionally, there were no compatibility issues mentioned since its class-compliant feature allows users to connect effortlessly to any of their computing devices via USB.

Although its joystick is quite functional, some reviewers preferred wheels over this type of design for pitch and modulation control.

This is a very compact and portable controller with straightforward and uncomplicated operation.

Arturia MiniLab MkII

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Arturia MiniLab MkII

The MiniLab MkII is the follow-up version of the original MiniLab with improved and upgraded functions. Aside from having features usually found in a MIDI controller, it functions as a synthesizer as well with Arturia's own Analog Lab Lite software that has hundreds of quality sounding presets. Its controls include 8 RGB pressure sensitive pads, 16 rotary encoders, and its touch sensors for its pitch bend and modulation control.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 note velocity-sensitive keys
  • Pads: 8 velocity & pressure sensitive pads with RGB backlighting (2 x Banks)
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Octaves: Not Specified
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano, Analog Lab Lite
  • Power: USB powered
  • Connectivity: USB, Sustain pedal jack
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility:USB/MIDI class compliant
  • Dimensions: 14" x 8.7" x 2"
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs.

There were several improvements from its predecessor as mentioned in reviews written by both experts and customers. The keys were one of the features that really stood out due to their excellent response and action. As an alternative to wheel controllers, its pitch and modulation strips provided accuracy whenever the values were adjusted. In his KeyboardMag review, Francis Prève mentioned its eight rotary controls have two clickable ones ideal for "toggling synth parameters. This is particularly evident when using the MiniLab Mk II in conjunction with the bundled Analog Lab suite of vintage synths. Granted, it’s the lite version, but even the slimmed down selection of patches hits all of the sweet spots. It includes intelligent macros for customizing your patches, and it sounds wonderful thanks to its basis in Arturia’s topnotch V Collection." In regards to its build quality, it's quite sturdy and well constructed. It's also worth mentioning that users had no problem with setting it up and found the software bundle an excellent bonus.

Since it has multiple features and functions, it took a while for some users to figure out the controls. Some of them also found it to be not as intuitive as they would have liked.

If you are looking for a portable controller where the value outweighs the price, this is an excellent choice.

Korg microKEY2 37

83
GEARANK

83 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Korg microKEY2 37 Mini-Key MIDI Controller

Korg's microKEY2 is the second generation controller based on the original microKEY. Similar features retained from the first generation are its compact size, simple design, and basic controls, while new features added to this version include iOS support via Apple Camera Connection kit (sold separately) and an assignable damper pedal jack.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 37 Natural Touch keys
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator:Yes
  • Octaves: -4 to +4
  • Bundled Software: ARP ODYSSEY duophonic synthesizer, the MS-20 analog monophonic synthesizer, the Polysix polyphonic synthesizer, the all-embracing Mono/Poly analog synthesizer, the M1 which was the original music workstation, the Wavestation digital synthesizer, and the MDE-X effect plug-in.
  • Power: USB bus power
  • Connectivity: 1 x Assignable switch jack, 1 x USB Type B
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion or later; Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 or Later (32bit/64bit); iOS8 or later
  • Dimensions: 22.24" x 5.47" x 2.13"
  • Weight: 2.21 lbs.

There are minimal reports of connectivity issues, a testament to this controller's compatibility with the many Operating System versions that we have today. Most users mention that it is effortless to set up and that it is easily recognized by the DAWs their using. Even with its smaller size keys, many find that they it is not hard to avoid hitting other keys by accident. Other controls, including its modulation and pitch wheel, are also very smooth and responsive, while the octave buttons provided a solid feel.

There are a few who are not satisfied with the resistance of the keys, due to their lightweight design but this is more of a preference. Some mention that it didn't have much variation when it comes to velocity response, so they end up adjusting the velocity values in their DAW.

This is a great controller if you want a minimal and basic set up to use for composing at a fair price.

M-Audio Keystation 49 II

83
GEARANK

83 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
M-Audio Keystation 49 MkII

The Keystation 49 II showcases a light-weight build with velocity sensitive synth-action keys. This controller has transport and directional buttons that allow you to control your DAW, as well as an assignable slider for volume controls. In addition to being class complaint, it is also compatible with iOS devices which adds to its portability and convenience, ideal for those who use an iPad for sequencing music on the go.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys with natural piano feel
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Octaves: Not Specified
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble, AIR Music Tech Xpand!2
  • Power:USB-powered
  • Connectivity: USB
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: USB Class Compliant
  • Dimensions: 32.1" x 7.5" x 2.8"
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs.

Customer feedback is mostly positive, with many commending the Keystation 49 II for its straightforward and uncomplicated controls and functions. Many users consider its forty-nine keys to be a great trade-off for its price, since it has all the essential controls and the keys have good velocity response and solid feel. Being a 49-Key controller, it is quite large, but it fits well on a desk without taking too much space, and it is light enough to conveniently carry around.

Some users are bothered by its lack of aftertouch, which is more of a preference for those who are used to playing full-sized keys.

The M-Audio Keystation 49 II is a good choice for those who want an affordable and portable controller with more keys to play with.

Nektar Impact GX49

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Nektar Impact GX49 49-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Nektar Impact GX49 features transport and navigation controls for you to play, record or navigate without constantly reaching for your mouse or computer keyboard. This controller also has assignable buttons that you can manually integrate with your DAW even if you own software that's not supported by Nektar's DAW Integration. It is also compatible with iOS devices, such as iPads, and can be connected with the use of an Apple camera connection kit.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 full-sized velocity sensitive key
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Octaves: -3 to +4
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track DAW software
  • Power: USB bus powered
  • Connectivity:1/4” TS jack foot switch input, USB port,Connects to iPad via Apple Camera Connection Kit (not supplied)
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: USB Class compliant
  • Dimensions: 31.63" x 7.75" x 2.75"
  • Weight: 4.8 lbs.

Many keyboardists find the Nektar Impact GX49's overall build and construction to be good. They are also pleased with the touch, feel and velocity response of its keys, as well as its extended range. It has the essential controls that are practical and non-intimidating to those who are new to MIDI controllers. In his MusicRadar review, Dan Goldman mentioned its functions accessed via Setup button "allow custom MIDI set-ups/assignments to be made/ stored if you don't want to use the included DAW templates (your custom settings are stored on power cycle). It's a shame that you can't store more than one custom set-up onboard, but it's all very intuitive."

There are some reports of DAW incompatibility, thankfully most of them note that Nektar's customer service is very helpful which led to them eventually getting the issues resolved.

This is a well-built and simple controller that makes your workflow more productive.

Novation Launchkey Mini

84
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$80
Novation Launchkey Mini MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Novation Launchkey Mini is a compact and miniature controller (hence the name) designed for Ableton Live. It includes 16 backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads that are mapped to Ableton Live's session view and can be used for triggering loops, beats and launch samples. Additionally, it has eight knobs that allow you to tweak, or assign, parameters and effects. Since it's class compliant, it offers plug-and play compatibility with most operating systems.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 note velocity sensitive mini-key keys
  • Pads: 16 multi-colour backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
  • Arpeggiator: No
  • Octaves: Not Specficied
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite 9
  • Power: USB bus powered
  • Connectivity: USB Connectiviy
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: Microsoft Windows 7, 8; OS X 10.9-10.10
  • Dimensions:12.79" x 6.89" x 1.69"
  • Weight: 2.38 lbs

With the right amount of features, including its pads, knobs, and buttons, this controller provides a lot of value for its size. It's small and compact enough for travel and works well with Ableton Live. Many users are delighted that it provides a more hands-on experience whenever they compose or play music. They also find the bundled software synths to be a great addition to sequencing electronic music.

Some users find its plastic keys to be pretty stiff and a bit springy. Some also caution that its miniature keys take a while to get used to.

This is an excellen portable controller for beginners and performers who want a reliable yet cheap backup controller for on-the-go gigs.

Nektar Impact LX25+

87
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$100
Nektar Impact LX25+ 25-key USB-MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Impact LX25+ features Nekta's DAW integration where it intelligently maps its controls to the corresponding parameters and controls of several commonly used DAWs, such as Digital Performer, FL Studio, GarageBand, and Logic Pro. It has full-sized velocity sensitive keys with 4 velocity curves and an option to choose one of the 3 fixed velocity levels for a more consistent performance. It also has the essential controls such as pitch and modulation wheels, knobs, 30mm fader, and velocity sensitive pads.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 25 note velocity-sensitive synth-action
  • Pads: 8 velocity sensitive pads
  • Arpeggiator:
  • Octaves: Not Specified
  • Bundled Software: Bitwig 8-Track DAW software
  • Power: USB bus powered
  • Connectivity: 1/4” TS jack foot switch input, USB port, Apple Camera Connection Kit (not supplied)
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: USB Class compliant, no driver is needed for: Apple iOS, Apple OSX, Windows XP, or higher, Linux (MIDI driver software required)
  • Dimensions: 18.75" x 10.5" x 2.75"
  • Weight: 4 lbs

Living up to its integration feature, this controller is reported to work well with any compatible DAW. Since it is also class compliant, a number of users mentioned that they have no issues with setting up. Many also commend its hardware quality, stating that the knobs and pads are quite tactile and sturdy. The rest of the controls are intuitively and strategically laid out, while its full-sized keys also make it comfortable to play since there's more space for your fingers.

A few users find the keys to be a bit stiff and springy, which isn't really an issue when it comes to playing and recording synth lines.

At a fair price range, this is a great controller for a simple home recording set-up.

midiplus X4 mini

83
GEARANK

83 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
midiplus X4 mini MIDI Keyboard Controller

The midiplus X4 mini is a portable and compact MIDI controller that has a simple design with the essential features needed for sequencing MIDI. It features transport and 4 assignable encoders, octave buttons, LED display, pitch bend, and modulation touchable strips.

Specifications:

  • Keys: 49 force sensitive keys
  • Pads: None
  • Arpeggiator: None
  • Octaves: Not Specified
  • Bundled Software: None
  • Power: USB powered
  • Connectivity: USB, MIDI OUT, sustain pedal
  • Control Hardware Directly: No
  • Compatibility: USB Class Compliant
  • Dimensions: 27.68 x 5.39 x 2.01
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs.

With its sleek and simple design, many consider the x4 mini's build quality to be outstanding, especially since its body is made out of metal. A number of users found the LED display useful for providing visual feedback for controls. When it comes to controls and parameters, its knobs rotate smoothly while its buttons have a tactile feel to them. It is also worth mentioning that setting up this controller is quite effortless, as attested to by many reviewers.

Some reports mention that its keys lacked velocity curve and some notice minor height differences.

This is a very practical and cost-effective mini keyboard controller that will make a great addition to anyone's musical tool box.

Things to Consider when Buying a Cheap MIDI Keyboard

    Key Size, Weight & Action

    There are several factors to consider when looking for a keyboard controller, and the first one would be its key size. If you are simply looking for something portable to lay down your ideas, a keyboard controller with smaller keys and build is an ideal choice. If you plan to compose for a final project or play during live performances, we recommend you go with full-sized keys for an optimum experience.

    The number and type of keys that you need will also depend on your playing style, as well as the space you're planning to use the controller. If you are used to using two hands, a 37 or 49-key MIDI controller would suffice. A 25-key MIDI controller is good enough if you plan on using them for playing or recording lead, bass and drum lines. Additionally, they are more compact and lightweight which makes them portable enough to bring around. Since you are on a budget, most keyboard controllers under a $100 price range come with semi-weighted keys where the keys have less resistance. As long as they have velocity response, they will provide you a more natural performance.

    Software Integration

    MIDI mapping can be a tedious task whenever you set up your controller. With the continuous advancement of modern technology, most digital audio workstations are able to detect and automatically map modern MIDI controllers. Some keyboard controllers are designed to integrate quickly with a specific DAW, so your choice can also be affected by the type of DAW software you have. Thankfully, these DAW specific controllers are also designed to work with other DAWs, albeit with some configuration work required. Most controllers are designed to let you customize your own MIDI mapping by re-assigning controls at your convenience and preference.

    Transport Controls

    These buttons are used for recording, pausing and playing your work with a DAW or sequencer software. Since they transmit MIDI data to your DAW, they give you a more hands on experience with your controller without having to reach for your computer keyboard, touchpad, touchscreen or mouse.

    Knobs, Pads and Other Controls

    Aside from the transport controls, most MIDI keyboards have extra handy controls, such as knobs, modulation and pitch wheels, and sometimes faders. They can be assigned or automatically mapped to give you more options when it comes to mixing or editing parameters in your DAW. An example of this would be assigning a knob to tweak a synth’s filter. This is very handy when it comes to composing or editing real-time for live performances.

    Power Supply

    Most MIDI keyboard controllers come with USB connectivity, which allows you to connect your controller to a PC, Mac or any other computing device. This is sort of a concern when it comes to draining your device's battery more quickly unless your device is plugged into a power source. It’s more of a concern with iPads, which provide 100mA instead of the common 500mA found in a USB 2.0 slot. In this case, a USB hub or an external power adapter is used to supply power directly to your controller.

    USB MIDI vs 5-Pin MIDI

    Some MIDI controllers still come with at least one 5-Pin MIDI input and one output. These are useful if you have any vintage equipment that you want to control with a modern MIDI keyboard. Most MIDI keyboards come USB slots since they are compatible with most devices. As mentioned above, the advantage of USB is that it can draw power from a PC or Mac when connected, compared to 5-Pin MIDI slots where you need a power supply. In some cases, some controllers have both connectors. Unless you are going to control hardware directly, without a computer in the loop, then you won't need a 5-Pin MIDI out.

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Selection Methodology

We began by seeking out the most highly rated MIDI keyboard controllers with street prices below $100 and available from American online retailers which gave us 18 keyboards to put on our short-list for closer examination. We collected ratings and reviews from retailers, publications, forums, videos and blog posts - this gave us a total of more than 5,900 sources. In addition to reporting on and summarizing those sources above, we processed those data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce a rating out of 100 for each one on the short-list and selected the highest rated options to recommended above. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.

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