The best MIDI controller is a device that administrates all the parameters of the performance of an audio signal. The term MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and is used to describe a protocol and connectors that facilitate the connection and communication between electronic musical instruments and computers. Recently, there have been many new MIDI controllers and keyboards coming out on the market, which has made it harder to weed out the good ones from the bad ones. To make things easier, we have boiled this down to a selection of 4 aspects that you must take into consideration when buying a MIDI keyboard.
The first thing that you need to inspect before investing in a MIDI controller is the extra controls that it may or may not have. While it may not seem like an absolute necessity at first, you’ll be amazed how important these additional controls can be to your recording process.
Another aspect you need to consider when buying a MIDI controller is the portability of the device. If you think you need to travel a lot, it is better to look for a controller that is portable and mobile. If you select the wrong type of MIDI controller, you may feel restricted during your travels.
Number Of Keys
Another prominent aspect is the number of keys a MIDI controller has to offer. Some controllers have just 15 keys, while others offer as many as 40 keys for different purposes. The number of keys a controller has is usually directly proportional to the price of the controller, so make sure you know what you’re getting into and if you plan to use those extra keys.
And finally, the last aspect to consider is your budget. It doesn’t make sense to shop for a MIDI keyboard out of your budget, doesn’t it? Plan your budget ahead and compare MIDI controller that are within that budget.
If you keep all of the mentioned above in mind, we feel like you will make an educated decision when buying a MIDI controller. To help our readers, we have compiled a list of what we believe the best MIDI controllers on the market in 2016.
Table of Contents
- MIDI Controller Reviews
- Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Drum Pad & Keyboard Controller with Joystick
- Novaton Launchkey 61 USB Keyboard Controller for Ableton Live, 61-Note MK2 Version
- M-Audio Keystation 49 II – 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Pitch-Bend & Modulation Wheels
- M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller
- Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen
- M-Audio Axiom AIR 25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Ableton Live Lite and Ignite by AIR
MIDI Controller Reviews
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Drum Pad & Keyboard Controller with Joystick
Akai Professional has always been the choice of professionals when it comes to MIDI controllers. In my opinion, they produce the best MIDI controller. This product comes with 25 keys which provide better control over the quality and sound of your recordings. The MPK Mini MKII is also portable, which only adds to its functionality. The product weighs only 1.6 pounds, which is significantly lighter than most MIDI keyboards available in 2016. A feature that we like is that it is powered by a USB connection to your computer, and Akai Professional usually releases many free instrument download packages which are something I always look forward to. It comes as a surprise to no one that the MPK Mini MKII 25-Key ranks so high on our list of the best MIDI keyboards.
Furthermore, Akai Professional has introduced extra buttons for commonly used features like note repeat, octave up, octave down, and full level. The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Drum Pad & Keyboard Controller with Joystick is available for a very reasonable, an absolute bargain in my opinion.
Novaton Launchkey 61 USB Keyboard Controller for Ableton Live, 61-Note MK2 Version
Novaton is an organization that has always been synonymous with quality when it comes to MIDI controllers and keyboards. Even though their products are more expensive than most of the other MIDI controllers, They are known for their durability, quality, and functionality.
Despite its relatively high price tag, this product continues to be a success. The reason behind its success is the undeniable high-level performance of the item. The Novaton Launchkey 61 USB Keyboard Controller for Ableton Live, 61-Note MK2 Version is one of the few that has software which is compatible with both Mac and PC. Another added benefit of this already impressive MIDI controller is that it can work perfectly without any driver or power cable, which makes it the ideal choice when traveling.
M-Audio Keystation 49 II – 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Pitch-Bend & Modulation Wheels
M-Audio may not be a household name yet in the field of MIDI controllers and keyboards, but we feel it has outdone itself with its 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Pitch-Bend & Modulation Wheels. This MIDI controller offers all the features that the other items on this list do and then some. Right off the bat, you have 49 full-size keys on the top panel, all of which are velocity sensitive. If that wasn’t enough to convince you to buy this product, there are also octave buttons as well as dedicated buttons for transport and other advanced features. There are also wheels for modulation and pitch blend control.
It is powered by a USB connection to your computer and is built to last forever. Weighing in at a ridiculously 4.5 pounds, it is considerably lighter than most MIDI controllers available in the price range. Speaking of the product’s price, the ever-reliable M-Audio Keystation 49 II – 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Pitch-Bend & Modulation Wheels is available for a very fair price.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller
As mentioned above, M-Audio is not an established brand in this niche, but it is continuously challenging the status quo with high-quality products like the M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV, which has eight pads, eight knobs, and nine faders. All these different switches control different aspects of the sound such as the octave level and pitch blend. Moreover, the eight knobs mentioned above can be manually assigned to vary the output of virtual instruments and plugins.
What we love about this product is that it has a LED screen, and while this screen may not be the brightest or sharpest, it is an important feature because it shows the currently set value of all parameters and updates them in real time. Like every other product on this list, this MIDI controller can be charged with a USB connection and is among one of the best products we have reviewed so far. With this highly functional product, you will soon realize why it deserves a place on our list of the best MIDI keyboards.
Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen
As we said at the beginning of this list, Akai Professional has always been the choice of professionals. This is evident from the fact that this shortlist has its second Akai Professional product in its top 5 spots. The MPK249 is a 49-key USB MIDI keyboard & drum pad controller that has sixteen different pads, eight knobs, and eight faders, all of which can entirely change the feel of your audio. Moreover, the 49 keys mentioned above are highly pressure sensitive, which allows them to get input from the user at the slightest contact. This lets you glide through your keyboard without having to mash the keys and allows making music to be a smooth process.
This product also has an LCD screen which displays all the relevant information about your MIDI controller including the active octave. Furthermore, it has total plug-and-play connectivity with both Mac and Windows systems, which increases the product’s functionality.
M-Audio Axiom AIR 25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Ableton Live Lite and Ignite by AIR
Our final product on the list, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it is another M-Audio item. We know that at this point, we may look like we’re only endorsing M-Audio products, which simply isn’t the case. It is impossible to have a discussion about the best MIDI controller without mentioning the name of M-Audio’s Axiom AIR 25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Ableton Live Lite and Ignite by AIR.
It may be the most expensive products on this list, but it is one of the most cost-effective as well. You get the best MIDI controller that has all the features you could hope for. Its roll button was made specifically to replicate the sound of drum sets, while the 16 trigger pads respond perfectly to both velocity and pressure. Thus, the type of music you produce will be dependent on how hard you slam these pads. This allows the artist to express himself better and is one of the main reasons why this product costs so much more than the other items on our list.
Best MIDI Controller – The Final Verdict
All the products mentioned above are extremely viable options to consider and explore when buying a MIDI controller. However, some of them are more lightweight than others, while some offer more regarding performance and functionality. If we were to choose one item on the list, we would opt for the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII. We say this because this product doesn’t cost much yet still offers the best features that MIDI keyboards of a higher price range do.