Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for Home Recording

Any home or professional recording studio is incomplete without a MIDI keyboard controller. As an integral part of the music making process, this controller has become an essential aspect for musicians. A single keyboard is capable of controlling different synthesizer sounds. Moreover, most keyboard controllers are compatible with any MIDI hardware and music software. As digital technology is gaining momentum at a very fast pace, the popularity of MIDI keyboard controllers is increasing along with it. There are different options to choose from for both beginners and professionals, as well as based on an individual’s budget. The following keyboard controllers might be worth looking into, if you are planning to check out one for your home studio.

Nektar Impact LX49+ Keyboard Controller

The Nektar multicolored MIDI controller has 49 synth-action keys that produce distinct notes, modulation wheels and an on-board pitch bend, to render the best performances. The controller also includes eight hypersensitive backlit pads and a 1/4″ foot switch sustain jacket. Moreover, the unit features an inbuilt Bitwig 8-Track DAW and compatibility with any MIDI music application. The controller offers the dual advantage of smart controller functionality, to support almost all popular DAWs and generic MIDI control.

The velocity sensitive keyboard allows you to choose between a hard touch and a soft touch. It also allows you to make your selection from four velocity curves, with gradually increasing dynamics for various playing styles like Cubase, FL Studio, Garage Band, Studio One and more. There are dedicated octave and transport buttons for track up/down, patch up/down, forward, rewind, play, stop, record and cycle. The design of the piano style keys is such that dust does not form on them. The three fixed velocity levels produce a constant output.

Who should buy this?

  • The MIDI keyboard controller is ideal for those who want to minimize the setup time as much as possible and create music quickly.
  • The sleek unit is a good choice for people interested in connecting the same to their Windows, iOS, Linux or OS X computer.

Akai Professional MPK Mini 25-Key Ultra-Portable USBMIDI Drum Pad & Keyboard Controller

The Akai unit has a USB connectivity option that makes it easy to connect to the computer without installing any software driver or external power adapter. The controller comes loaded with many virtual instrument download packages, including VIP 3.0 for virtual effects and perfect integration between hardware and software. It also includes the Preset Editor, AIR Hybrid 3, SONiVOX Wobble 2 and Akai Pro MPC Essentials.

The device features 25 synth-action mini keys, 4-way joystick to offer modulation control and dynamic pitch, as well as eight user-assignable Q-link control knobs to help with setting up plug-ins, mixing and other functions. The keyboard controller also includes dedicated octave up and down buttons, eight rubber drum pads to maintain your originality, a full-size pedal input jack, eight backlit MPC-style velocity-sensitive pads and an inbuilt system to adjust the mode, range and resolution. You can increase the number of pads from eight to sixteen for more creativity using the two banks provided. The MIDI controller is available in red and black colors.

Who should buy this?

  • The keyboard controller is a good bet for those who want a compact unit to use with their computer running on Windows 7/8/10/XP/Vista or Mac OS X 10.5 or later.
  • Users wishing to customize the hardware and software setup options on their computers can do so using this MIDI controller, by downloading the free MKII MIDI Editor.
  • The wide range of hardware controls makes the MIDI keyboard controller suitable for music lovers who would love to indulge in some creating, performing and recording with digital audio workstations and virtual instruments.

Worlde 25-Key USB Portable Tuna Mini MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Worlde MIDI keyboard controller has eight color-coded pads that you can increase to 16 with a simple switching function. Each of the two touchpads, eight knobs and eight faders features a sensor each for accurate and fast response. The unit also comprises dedicated buttons to adjust the octave eight notes up and down. It also includes a USB interface and a delay pedal.

The lightweight keyboard is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers. You can use it with various DAWs such as Cubase, Ableton Live, FL Studio and Live Pro. However, Live Pro works with only Mac systems.

Who should buy this?

  • The compact keyboard controller with its wood finish rim is worth considering by people who give importance to both size and looks.
  • The Kensington security slot that allows you to fix the unit on to a surface makes it a good choice for music lovers, who are apprehensive of their keyboards slipping off the surface.

CME XKEY 37-Key Silver Mobile Keyboard Controller

The mobile keyboard controller has 37 full-sized keys to enhance the playing experience. These keys perform just like the keys of a computer keyboard and get depressed uniformly, irrespective of which part of the key you press. The keys layout and the octave range in the XKey controller are just like that of a traditional piano. The aluminum grille that separates each key helps you to locate the position of each key without even looking at the keyboard.

The customized pressure sensor under each key and button establishes the connection to the circuit board. This renders details such as 128-step full range velocity intensity, with the appropriate polyphonic after-touch control and 16,000-step pitch-bend control. The mobile keyboard controller is lighter than an iPad.

Who should buy this?

  • The flat silver colored aluminum panel, with a holder at the back and a black and white keyboard panel makes the recording unit highly desirable for those who give importance to ruggedness and style.
  • The compact and lightweight aspects ensure that the controller is an ideal choice for people who want to carry their keyboards with them, when they are on the move.

Arturia MiniLab MKII 25 Slimkey Controller

The Arturia controller is preloaded with 6 presets and 500 excellent synthesizer sounds. There are two capacitive touch sensors for pitch modulation and blending, apart from rotary knobs and eight pressure and velocity sensitive performance pads with RGB lighting.

The unit also has 16 rotary encoders that you can assign according to your preferences, for controlling the already installed DAWs. These DAWs are Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano and Analog Lab Lite. With them, you can record and create music of your choice, while adding string machine, organ, piano and synth sounds at the same time. The rugged design makes the keyboard controller capable of withstanding rough use.

Who should buy this?

  • This ergonomic MIDI keyboard controller is sure to meet the needs of people who would like to add sound effects of various musical instruments to their music.

Novation Launchkey Mini 25-Note MKII USB Keyboard Controller

The Novation USB keyboard controller delivers dynamic control while allowing you to do mixing without losing focus and adding effects like filters or reverbs. The unit has dedicated control and navigation buttons, 8 knobs and 16 multicolor velocity sensitive drum pads with backlit display. There is also a mini launchkey keyboard, dedicated for Ableton Live DAW.

You can connect the controller to a computer using just the USB cable provided and no drivers at all to get started with your sessions and effects right away. With this device, you will spend less time fiddling with a mouse. It is compatible with both Windows and Mac and is preloaded with Novation Bass Station, XLN Audio Addictive Keys and Ableton Live Lite, apart from sounds of multiple virtual instruments and more than 4GB samples of Loopmasters.

Who should buy this?

  • Music lovers particularly fond of the Ableton Live Lite DAW must consider this USB keyboard controller to perform and produce electronic music, because of its dedicated mini keyboard for the same.
  • If you want truly expressive drumbeats, this MIDI controller can help you with its 16 RGB velocity-sensitive pads.

Midiplus AKM320 MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Midiplus AKM320 MIDI keyboard controller has 32 mini velocity-sensitive keys, each of which plays a different note. It also includes modulation and pitch wheels, transpose and octave buttons for up and down adjustment, a sustained pedal input, a volume slider and a USB cable and interface.

The lightweight black and white mini size controlleris compatible with computers working on Windows XP and above, or Mac OS X operating systems.

Who should buy this?

  • This unit is a good idea for those who want all the basic functions in an easy to operate keyboard controller.
  • People with a preference for a simple interface for their controller must give a thought to buying this recording device.
  • Its thin body makes it easy to carry outdoors or with you, wherever you go.

M-Audio Keystation 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

The M-Audio controller connects easily to your computer with the USB powered cable that comes along with the recording unit. The device has 49 full size velocity-sensitive and synth-action keys along with octave-range buttons and directional and transport controls. It also comprises a 1/4″ sustain pedal for connecting an external control pedal, to render expressive performance and separate modulation and pitch blend wheels for dynamic performance.

The keyboard controller is bundled with Eighty-Eight Ensemble, a virtual piano from SoniVOX and the popular Ableton Live Lite DAW. It is compatible with Mac OS and Windows based computers.

Who should buy this?

  • This keyboard controller is an excellent option for people who are interested in playing a virtual piano.
  • You can consider checking out this MIDI keyboard controller, if you are passionate about sequencing music or creating and recording music, using your music software without a track pad or a mouse.

Alesis VI49 Advanced 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller

The Alesis controller has 16 RGB multicolored backlit pads along with 49 square front, full size and semi-weighted keys. The Octave up/down buttons allow you to play a wide range of melodies, chords and bass lines. It also contains 36 buttons and 12 knobs that you can assign, to have complete control over your instruments, plugins and digital audio workstations. Additionally, they help you to close and open filters, adjust volume levels and activate effects according to preferences. The modulation and pitch wheels ensure expressive and creative control.

The LED screen combined with illuminated knobs and buttons offer uninterrupted visual feedback. Similarly, the 16 velocity-sensitive trigger pads provide illuminated RGB feedback for launching clips and producing beats. The USB device comes with its cable for connection and has a 5-pin MIDI output and a USB MIDI output. The unit features a free download of Ableton Live Lite and the AIR Xpand!2 virtual instrument. It is compatible with Mac OS X 10.7/10.8/10.9 and Windows 7/8/Vista/XP operating systems.

Who should buy this?

  • The MIDI keyboard and drum pad controller is an indispensable unit for those who want to do away with the mouse and control the software using just knobs, pads and buttons.
  • The 49-key unit is ideal for people interested in finger drumming or launching clips with exceptional response.

Korgmicro KEY2-61 Powerable USB MIDI Controller with Pedal Input

The natural touch mini keyboard has 61 velocity-sensing well-proportioned mini keys for excellent playability and easy chording. The joystick and sustain/tap buttons help to increase the liveliness of your performance. The transpose and octave shift features provide access to the entire MIDI note range. It also includes a damper pedal jack input to connect a pedal for complete control over all the functionalities. The waterfall size of the keyboard allows you to play glissandos very easily.  

The MIDI controller comes bundled with the KORG KONTROL editor software and a wide range of free music software. The unit is compatible with iPhones, iPads, Windows, and Mac computers.

Who should buy this?

  • The lightweight and slim unit is ideal for those who want to own a compact controller with a straightforward and uncomplicated design.

Roland A-300PRO Keyboard Controller

The keyboard controller features 32 velocity-sensitive keys that incorporate channel after touch functionality. It has 45 controls in the form of transpose, buttons, sliders, knobs and others that you can adjust according to your preferences. There are also eight dynamic pads for you to try out MIDI triggering and finger drumming.

The unit is loaded with the Cakewalk Production Plus Pack that includes production software and the sounds of three musical instruments. The USB input makes the connection process very easy, without the hassle of tangling of multiple cables.

Who should buy this?

  • The white and black keyboard controller with backlit buttons and colorful knobs is ideal for people truly passionate about music and looking forward to render their best performances.

iRig Keys Pro Full-Sized 37-Key MIDI Controller

The iRig Keys Pro controller has 37 full-sized velocity-sensitive keys on a 3-octave keyboard. It also has pitch bend and modulation wheels, multiple assignable controls, a mini potentiometer and a volume adjustment knob, apart from backlit soft-touch buttons for adjusting the program and octaves. There is an input slot for connecting an expression pedal or a sustain pedal.

The MIDI controller comes with micro-USB, USB and lightning cables for connecting to a wide range of devices. The unit is compatible with Mac, Windows, Android, iPads and iPhones. It is loaded with SampleTank 3 SE, iLectric Piano, iGrand Piano, has six expansion libraries for Windows and Mac,apart from a wide range of sounds.

Who should buy this?

  • The controller is a great choice for those who would like to connect the unit to different devices.
  • It is ideal for people looking for compact controllers that they can carry with them in their bag.

Akai Professional MPD18 Compact Pad Controller

The MPD18 has 16 pressure and velocity sensitive pads. These pads allow you to access three sound banks and produce 48 different sounds. They also make the tracks sound quite realistic. The Note Repeat feature in the controller allows you to input various patterns such as drum rolls and hi-hats very fast. 

The user-assignable Q-Link controllers give you real time control over any parameter in the MIDI software that you use, while the Q-Link fader controls the most often used parameters. Like the software, the Akai unit can take control over MIDI hardware like drum machines, synths, sequencers, samplers and others. The black and white device is compatible with Windows and Mac based systems.

Who should buy this?

  • This compact pad controller is a very good option for people who want an easily portable device or a small sized unit because of space constraints.
  • The MIDI USB powered controller is a perfect accompaniment for any musician like a DJ, a producer or a programmer.

Novation 61-Key SL MKII USB MIDI Controller Keyboard

The SL MKII USB MIDI Controller Keyboard has a professional design, with a wide range of touch-sensitive illuminated controls in the form of LED rings around eight encoders that offer visual feedback without any delay. The keyboard also has eight soft trigger pads and two 0.25” jack sockets, for a sustain pedal and an expression pedal.  The large 144-character LCD screen instantly displays the name and value of any button, fader or knob that you touch. Moreover, LED rings light up around the controls that are in use for easy identification. 

The controller keyboard features the Automap 4 Control software to help you assign more than 56 hardware controls to different software parameters easily. It also includes the Xcite+ Bundle comprising various samples and loops, the Ableton Live 7 Lite and a full-fledged soft-synth. This unit also works well with other popular DAWs like Logic 9, Cubase, Pro Tools, Sonar and Reason/Record. The Novation device is compatible with computers working on Windows (versions 7/8/10) and Mac OS X (versions 10.8/10.9/10.10).

Who should buy this?

  • The MIDI device is a good option for those who want to experience the thrill of playing a real musical instrument with excellent build quality.
  • The Novation SL MKII is ideal for people interested in producing their own beats or creating their own samples, because of the soft feel programmable trigger pads.
  • The rotatory touch-sensitive Speed Dial encoder controls what your mouse focuses on, instantly making it a good choice for both performers and composers.

Akai Professional MPK261 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen       

The Akai USB controller has 61 pressure sensitive full-size and semi-weighted keys. There are 16 MPC style RGB illuminated pads that you can assign according to your preferences, using four banks. There are also 24 Q-Link controllers that comprise of eight switches, eight faders and eight control knobs, all of which are user assignable through three banks. The unit also has an expression jack and two assignable footswitch jacks and various parameter and transport controls for DAW integration. The unit has a USB-MIDI port with 5-pin MIDI output and input.

It is loaded with the VIP music software that helps you in rendering virtual effects and playing virtual instruments. The controller also features SONiVOX Twist 2.0, Hybrid 3 by Air Music Tech, Ableton Live Lite and Akai Pro MPC Essentials. The MIDI controller is compatible with Windows Vista/XP/7/8/10 and Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher. You can also make the device compatible with iOS by using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit.

Who should buy this?

  • The professional controller is suitable for producers and musicians interested in composing, improvising, recording, remixing and editing music spontaneously.
  • The 16 levels and MPC note repeat feature makes the device ideal for people who want to build various sequences with the MPC style pads.
  • Studio composers and performers will find this keyboard and drum pad controller useful because of its flexibility and software integration.

M-Audio Oxygen 61 MKIV | 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller

The M-Audio versatile M-Audio MIDI keyboard controller has 61 velocity-sensitive synth action, full-size keys, eight trigger pads, eight knobs and nine faders. The velocity-sensitive trigger pads help in producing beats, clip launching and other functions. You can assign the eight knobs for manipulating and mixing instruments and plugins. The position of the Octave Up and Octave Down keys is such that, you can access the entire note range without any problem.

The Oxygen 61 MKIV comes pre-loaded with a wide range of music software that comprise ProTools |First, Xpand!2, Eighty Eight Ensemble, Twist , Ableton Live Lite, Eleven Lite and Virtual Instrument Player.

It also has a huge 2 GB sound library with over 500 sounds such as; deep driving bass, one shot drum hits and sultry music loops from Touch Loops.

Who should buy this?

  • The large number of preloaded sounds makes the 61-Key USB MIDI keyboard & drum pad controller worth considering by people who want to explore different sounds.
  • The controller is a good option for those who want to try creating, performing and producing theirmusical ideas while also editing the same at some point of time.

Conclusion

Many renowned manufacturers like Akai give you a wide range of MIDI keyboard controllers to make your choice. When you decide to go in for one of these recording units, you must analyze various factors. One of the first things you will have to do is determine why exactly you are going to use it. It can be music production, beat making, playing live, mixing or a combination of these. Next, you must understand what purpose the different features on the keyboard including keys, faders, knobs and pads serve. Once you do this selection, decide how many of the chosen features you will need for your requirement. Most devices have a combination of all features though the numbers may vary. Do not forget to overlook the DAW compatibility. Finally, check for the ruggedness and durability of the instrument. Once you are able to narrow down on these parameters, it will become relatively easy to pick out the right MIDI keyboard controller that makes your home recording experience truly memorable.   

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