Making music and music production becomes easier and handy with MIDI controller keyboards. They come in various sizes, with more controls, pads, and knobs on-board, which can easily be connected to Mac, PC, or to iOS devices.
Some even come with Bluetooth connectivity for a quicker setup. So, you can proceed with making music and beats anytime, anywhere. Yet, there is no single controller keyboard on the market that could better address your needs and your preferences.
So, if you are a serious musician, you really need to burn the midnight candle and do research. Fortunately, we’ve gone that far and taken the best notes, so you would not go to that extremes anymore. Check our list below and learn how to choose the best that is suitable for your needs.
10 Best MIDI Controller Keyboards 2021
Nektar Impact GX61 Controller Keyboard
Nektar is a great brand when it comes to MIDI controller keyboard. And, this 2019 one of the most well sought out premium 61-note keyboards is the Nektar Impact GX61 Controller Keyboard.
It has pitch-bend and modulation wheels, two multi-colored octave buttons, dedicated transpose buttons, and more, with a total of 14 MIDI-assignable buttons.
Octave buttons allow you to go up and down the keyboard range in -3/+4 octaves, while transpose buttons allow you to go up to +/- 12 semi-tones of the keyboard range.
It’s packed with the reliable Nektar DAW Integration that helps you connect to the most popular DAWs to date. It includes the Bitwig 8-Track DAW that gives you more pleasure when using the controller. Compatible with Mac, Windows PC, and iOS devices, easy for you to integrate this with your computer system.
- The keyboard is great with nice aftertouch
- It’s light and compact great for on-the-go musicians
- The cheapest on the list
- But give value for your money
- Some users say that the keys are just too loud
- Free software is not that good
- Very limited
M-Audio 32 Keys Keystation Mini 32
If you are looking for a reliable controller keyboard for portable music production, M-Audio 32 Keys Keystation Mini 32 is the one for you. It has velocity-sensitive, synth-action 32 keys with pitch-bend, modulation and sustain buttons for more expressive performances.
With these, you’ll expand your capacity for a more heartfelt and impactful performance.
The pitch-bend, mod and sustain buttons allow you to create dynamic performances or musical productions on your Mac or Windows PC. It’s USB-powered, class-compliant with USB-MIDI connectivity support to connect to iOS devices via the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit.
It’s bundled with the Ignite software from AIR Music Technology and the Ableton Live Lite.
- Lightweight and compact
- Perfect for small studio
- Plug-and-play connectivity
- Can easily connect even to phones
- Sturdy construction
- Awesome velocity curves feature
- Better with arpeggiator
- Better if it comes with micro USB which is used in most Android-based phones
- Especially the black ones
Novation Launchkey 61
Using Ableton Live software is one of the quickest ways to make electronic music. To make beats and music production more amazing, you can use it with the Novation Launchkey 61.
It comes with 61-key synth-style keyboard, 16 velocity-sensitive pads in two rows, eight knobs, navigation and control buttons, and more. It is connected via USB wherein you have full control of all the buttons, instruments, and mixers to make your music production more interesting.
Even if you don’t use Ableton Live you’ll still get studio-grade beats and music, since it’s also designed to integrate with the major music software with its ‘In Control’ feature. It can connect right away even without a software driver or power cable to Mac OS 10.12 Sierra, Mac OSX, and Windows 7,8, and 10.
- A perfect device for beginners to really master their craft
- The keyboard is great to play with
- Light and portable
- Can map and works well with Ableton Live
- The build is quite poorly and cheaply made
- Steeper learning curve before getting the hang of it
Nektar Impact LX88+
An 88-note MIDI controller keyboard gives you a lot of options and controls, like the Nektar Impact LX88+. It comes with everything a professional musician needs to get serious with his career.
It can be easily connected to Mac, Windows PC, and iOS devices and quickly be integrated with any DAW via the Nektar DAW Integration.
Make an expressive and perfect performance with its semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive 88 keys, pitch-bend and modulation wheels on board, nine faders, MIDI buttons, eight encoders with four velocity curves, and three fixed curves among others.
Controls are fully programmable to send MIDI CC messages to be used with any hardware or software. It has eight velocity-sensitive pads with the “Pad Learn” feature that lets you select a pad, play a note on your keyboard, and assign it to play the sound the next time you use it.
- Good construction
- Solidly built Keys feel great
- Integrates with FL studio easily
- Has cool features and pads are great too
- Some complain of inconsistent keys
- Mostly the black ones
- Might have inconsistent friction with the knobs and faders
Akai Professional MPK249
With an all-in-one keyboard controller like Akai Professional MPK249, it’s easy for you to do music production in the studio or on stage. Designed to be compatible with widely used music software, this controller is USB-powered so you can plug-and-play as you go with your Mac or Windows PC.
It has 49 semi-weighted keys that are pressure-sensitive and has an aftertouch for a more energetic and lively production.
It also comes with 16 MPC-style pads in four banks, which expand to 64 total assignable pads. Likewise, it has eight control knobs, faders, and switches in three banks, which expand to a total of 24 assignable knobs, faders, and switches.
Packed with the VIP software with a very powerful hands-on control solution that helps you play with virtual instruments and effects. It’s designed with deep software integration, great core technologies and workflow – way better than its predecessors.
- Works great
- Very easy to use and playable
- Hardware is reliable
- Programmable knobs and switches are something you can trust
- Might run into problems when you download software
- Takes time to adjust and to learn to play the keyboard well
Nektar Panorama P4 49-key MIDI Controller Keyboard
Integrates with Bitwig Studio, Logic Pro, Mainstage, Cubase, Reaper and Reason, Nektar Panorama P4 is definitely a choice of the best MIDI controller keyboards this 2019. In fact, it’s a great semi-weighted keyboard with velocity-sensitive 49 keys and aftertouch.
You can comfortably play with the 12 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads, 100mm ALPS motorized fader, four zones with controller filters, and programmable changes.
In addition to the above-mentioned controls, you can take advantage of the 16 encoders, nine faders, and 10 assignable LED buttons. There are 20 preset locations that store all settings, including F-keys maps, links to the keyboard, and more.
Overall, you’ll get 93-real time controls, which make it a great controller keyboard for leading music software like Logic Pro, Cubase, Bitwig Studio, and more.
- Indeed can be used in any environment
- Deeply integrates with most music software
- Great built quality and not flimsy even when it’s made of plastic
- Incredible keys
- Pads need to be a little sensitive
- Resistance on black keys is a bit higher than on the white
Nektar Panorama P6 61-key MIDI Controller Keyboard
If you want a longer keyboard, go for the Nektar Panorama P6. It has 61-note weighted, velocity-sensitive keys with an aftertouch for more expressive performance. Aside from the keys, all features are found in the Nektar Panorama P4 49-key MIDI Controller Keyboard.
So, just enjoy the real-time 93 controls packed in this 61-note keyboard. This can be easily integrated and mapped to the most popular music software in the world like Cubase, Logic Pro X, Bitwig Studio, Nuendo, and Reason.
- Quality build with a nice feel of the keys
- Integrates well with music software like Cubase or Reason
- Gives great value for money
- Keys have mechanical noise
- Especially the white ones
- Action is different between white and black keys
- Pads may not be responsive
- Need a forceful touch
Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer Tabletop Synthesizer
If you trust Roland on your musical instruments, you can also rely on Roland Tabletop Synthesizer. It comes with professional sound design with great production techniques and controls. So, you can easily tap, tune and tweak with hands-on controls for a more enjoyable performance.
You can make alterations to the samples, adjust the decay and tuning. Also, enjoy the effects onboard like filters on toms and cymbals, delay on a rim-shot, precision reverb on instruments, and more. You can use the buttons or the velocity-sensitive pads to make your production more amazing.
In addition, all the instruments, sample sounds, and master effects are saved in the design kits, so you can easily access them during your performance. There’s an SD slot where you can pull out samples and import your mono or stereo sounds via an SD card.
- Amazing sound quality
- Easy tweaks to make the performance interesting
- Easy to use with great potentials underneath
- Additional variation modes and automation
- Two major plus
- Feels a bit light and fragile
- Effects lack in character
- Added depth makes it kind of slow
Ableton Push 2 Controller Instrument
Designed for Ableton Push 2 Controller Instrument ensures a perfect music production. It’s a great keyboard controller with the new sampling workflows that allow you to slice beats, play, and manipulate samples at the tip of your fingers.
Very interesting how you can play or step sequence beats, chords, and even automation with this controller keyboard.
You can make use of its large multi-color display and the eight touch-sensitive encoders for controlling the instruments, mixers, and live browser navigation.
You make something from scratch with its great hardware and its full-featured software. Simply browse load or preview from any sound or instrument library and use it for your next music production and performance.
- Has solid body with reliable controls
- Allows better improvisation and mapping
- Performs incredibly
- Making workflow a lot smoother
- Kind of expensive and might lack some bells and whistles
- Not on the product quality
- It’s difficult to register the product for the warranty
Akai Professional MPD226
Built to answer the needs of musicians, Akai Professional MPD226 is made for real players. They have listened to the reviews and what customers really want in a MIDI controller keyboard this 2019.
And, Akai Professional gives you a great instrument with great controls and features without breaking the bank.
Among its features are four faders, control knobs, and buttons, arranged in three banks to give you 36 total controls. In addition, it has 16 thick fat MPC pads in four banks that give you 64 total assignable pads.
You can enjoy this user-friendly controller keyboard since, with its plug-and-play USB interface, you can immediately send over MIDI information to your Mac or Windows PC without the need for software drivers. And, it comes with free software so you can make music right away.
- Easily programmable
- Great pads and controls
- Small and easy to integrate with other equipment
- Might need more effort to get started
- Pads need to be triggered twice
- Some play twice
- Even if triggered only once
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MIDI CONTROLLER KEYBOARDS 2021
Going through this list is not easy, especially if you are not serious enough in finding the right MIDI controller for you. Since you’ve come to end of our review, we’ll give you some tips on how we come up with the list, as well as our recommendation.
Knobs, Switches, and Controls — The more controls you have on-board in your MIDI controller keyboard, the better hands-on controls. Sweetwater discusses these controls and how it can affect your performance in making music.
Key Count — Depending on your needs, you might be satisfied with a 25-note keyboard, or a 31, 49, 61 and even 88. However, you also need to consider portability, playability (one hand or two) and space.
Of course, if you are on the go, you don’t want an 88-note keyboard, unless you want to travel with more baggage.
Performance Pads — Playing with pads is more convenient than playing the keys. You can easily trigger finger drums and loops with these performance pads. Yet, there are so many things to check on this aspect alone, including sensitivity, aftertouch, banks of pads for assignability, and more.
Automapping — Integrating MIDI controllers with your DAW is both beneficial and cumbersome at some point, especially if you have a hard time mapping the controls to your DAW. So, it might be wise to consider this functionality when buying a new controller keyboard, says Wire Cutter.
Still, a lot is getting confused on how to enjoy the MIDI controller keyboard. Well, this YouTube video gives you a great overview on what a MIDI controller is and how to maximize its use.
The video also includes products and explains its features, so you know what’s the use of each control in this device.
OUR CHOICE FOR THE BEST MIDI CONTROLLER KEYBOARD 2021
Both Nektar Impact LX88+ and Akai Professional MPK249 are neck to neck when it comes to price and features. It’s hard to say which one is really the best, given their pros and cons, as well as the features which they excelled.
One is great for home studios with its wide reach, while the other is compact which can be used when traveling.
However, though their performance and playability are almost comparable, one excels in connectivity. And, in this aspect, Nektar Impact LX88+ is really the winner. It’s the most versatile 88-note keyboard which you can connect even to your phones without any problem.