nice looking midi keyboard with laptop in lounge
Music Gear Reviews

7 Best MIDI keyboard controllers & why we like them

Updated: April 2024

This review contains affiliate links to relevant products at no cost to readers.

You’re looking to compare the best midi keyboards to help you produce.

Here are our best picks for MIDI keyboards and controllers plus why we like them.

Our best midi keyboard picks

  1. NOVATION LAUNCHKEY 49 – Best MIDI keyboard controller
  2. KOMPLETE KONTROL S49 MK2 – 2nd best MIDI keyboard
  3. NEKTAR IMPACT GX49 – Best budget MIDI keyboard controller
  4. ARTURIA BEATSTEP PRO – Best MIDI controller for making beats
  5. ARTURIA KEYLAB Essential MK3 – Best USB MIDI keyboard
  6. KORG NANOKEY2 – Best mini portable MIDI keyboard
  7. AKAI MPD218 – Best MIDI pad controller

Skip to our reviews. ↓

nice looking midi keyboard with laptop in lounge

3 things to look out for in a MIDI keyboard controller:

Number of Keys:

The number of keys on a MIDI keyboard either limits you or unleashes you.

Full-sized keyboards are 88 keys whereas most standard MIDI keyboards are 49 keys. Mini and portable MIDI controllers are usually 25 keys. Your decision will be based on your needs. Some may prefer the full-size 88 keys for the piano experience. Most producers will opt for a standard 49 keys due to space constraints.

Controls & buttons:

Control and button options on a MIDI keyboard might enhance your creativity.

Knobs, faders, and pads provide tactile control over software parameters. Allowing you to make precise adjustments and expressive performances. These controls are made to mimic analogue gear, offering intuitive manipulation of digital sounds. They will facilitate real-time interaction with music software, streamlining many production processes. If these practices are important to you then choose a keyboard with comprehensive control options.


MIDI keyboards will vary with connection types which might impact integration into your setup.

USB, 5-pin MIDI, and Bluetooth connections are common with various devices and software platforms. These connections differ slightly in the way they transfer data between your keyboard and device. USB is most convenient with direct connection to devices like music laptops. 5-pin MIDI uses MIDI cables for connecting to MIDI interfaces for setups with hardware synths. Bluetooth is wireless which is awesome for portability but may have latency issues.

1. Best MIDI keyboard controller: Novation Launchkey 49

Price when reviewed:
From $235

Novation Launchkey 49 MIDI Controller

We like:

16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads and 8 rotaries
Great for both studio and live performance
Integrates deeply with your DAW interface
Comes with Ableton Live Lite and other production software!

We do not like:

Some may need full 88 keys for this price

Novation Launchkey 49 comes with 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads. Each pad detects how hard you hit it. Colors change based on what you do, which is a cool visual. It’s got 8 rotaries too. These knobs tweak effects and sound settings in real time.

Controls are easy to reach and responsive. This setup helps you perform on stage smoothly.

Deep integration with DAWs is a big win. Especially with Ableton Live Lite, which comes free. You get a lot of control over the software straight from the keyboard. This saves time and keeps your workflow smooth.

Other software includes sound packs and instruments. These tools are great for anyone making music. They help you start new projects fast. You don’t need to buy extra plugins early on.

Each feature of this keyboard supports creative flow. Whether tweaking a track in the studio or performing live, it all syncs up nicely.


  • 49 velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 RGB backlit pads
  • Eight rotary encoders
  • Nine assignable faders
  • Pitch bend and modulation wheels
  • Transport controls
  • DAW integration buttons
  • MIDI output
  • USB connectivity


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 798mm x 248mm x 78mm
  • Weight: 3.5kg

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

2. Second best MIDI keyboard: Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2

Price when reviewed:
From $645

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2 MIDI controller

We like:

Feels premium with Fatar keybed with aftertouch
Really responsive to your performance expression
Deep integration with the Komplete software
Setup and connection versatile

We do not like:

Limited when using for non-Native instruments
May have too many features for newbies

Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2 uses a Fatar keybed. Feels very premium. Aftertouch feature adds depth to playing. More pressure, more sound variation. Very responsive to your touch during the performance. Expressions come out exceptionally clear.

Deep integration with Komplete software is a major plus. All instruments and effects sync well. Easy control from the keyboard. No need to touch the computer much.

The setup is simple. Connection options are versatile. Works with both USB and MIDI. Fits many studio setups.

Its keys feel sturdy and smooth. Weight is enough for stability but not too heavy. Easy to carry to gigs or move around the studio.

Screen on the keyboard shows info clearly. Helps navigate sounds and settings quickly. Light guide above keys shows scales, chords, and more. Helps with learning new pieces. Color coding matches software, making visual feedback intuitive.


  • 49 semi-weighted keys
  • Two high-resolution color screens
  • Eight touch-sensitive knobs
  • Pitch and mod wheels
  • Arpeggiator
  • Smart Play features
  • Light Guide key illumination
  • Pre-mapped control of Komplete instruments and NKS plugins


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 820mm x 297mm x 84mm
  • Weight: 6.0kg

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

3. Best budget MIDI keyboard controller: Nektar Impact GX49

Price when reviewed:
From $115

Nektar Impact-GX49 MIDI keyboard controller

We like:

Tidy and lightweight – great for small studio spaces
Integrates easily & seamlessly with most used DAWs
Keys have some nice weight to play with
Users reported exceptional customer support from Nektar

We do not like:

Small size means there is limited space for controls
Lacks some basic modulation controls

Ed Sheeran, Justice

Nektar Impact GX49 is tidy and lightweight. Fits well in small studio spaces. It integrates easily with most DAWs. You plug it in, it works. No fuss setup. The keys have a nice weight to them which makes them feel good to play. Not too light, not too heavy. Gives you control over dynamics.

The keyboard is compact which is ideal for limited space. Still offers full features. Has 49 keys, enough for most music projects. Light enough to take on the go. A sturdy build which doesn’t feel cheap.

The connection is through USB. It powers the keyboard and connects to your computer. No extra cables are needed. Works with Windows, macOS, Linux. Compatible with all major DAWs. This makes it versatile for many users.

Renowned exceptional customer support from Nektar. They respond fast. Help you solve issues quickly. This is rare in music tech. Makes a big difference. Good support keeps you focused on making music.


  • 49 velocity-sensitive keys
  • Four velocity curves
  • Octave shift buttons
  • Transpose buttons
  • Pitch bend and modulation wheels
  • MIDI out port


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 798mm x 208mm x 68mm
  • Weight: 2.2kg

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

4. Best MIDI controller for making beats: Arturia BeatStep Pro

Price when reviewed:
From $260

Arturia BeatStep Pro Top
Arturia BeatStep Pro back

We like:

A FEAST of assign control capabilities
Powerful 64 step sequencer
Compatible with MIDI, synth hardware, drum machines
Feels robust – will last until its obsolete tech

We do not like:

Learning curve required for complex control capabilities
No velocity sensitivity

Arturia BeatStep Pro packs a feast of assign control capabilities. It adapts easily. Customizes controls for your setup. You can map numerous functions to knobs and pads.

It features a powerful 64-step sequencer. This allows complex pattern creation. Very useful for live performances and studio production. Sequences are easy to set up and modify.

This controller is compatible with MIDI, synth hardware, and drum machines. Connects through various ports. Ensures seamless integration with most music gear. Makes it a central hub for electronic music setups.

Feels robust, built to last. The solid construction suggests it will endure. It can stand up to frequent use. This MIDI keyboard is going to remain working until the point it’s considered obsolete tech.

The BeatStep Pro also has a USB connection. It powers the unit and transfers data. No need for multiple cables. Simplifies the setup.

It includes features like randomizer and looper. These enhance live performances. Offers creative ways to manipulate sequences on the fly.


  • 16 pressure and velocity-sensitive pads
  • 16 step sequencer buttons
  • Two monophonic step sequencers
  • One drum sequencer
  • Control over MIDI, USB, CV/Gate, and DIN sync
  • Transport controls
  • Performance effects


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 415mm x 163mm x 36mm
  • Weight: 1.45kg

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

5. Best USB MIDI keyboard: Arturia KeyLab Essential Mk3

Price when reviewed:
From $279

Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 key mk3 MIDI controller

We like:

61 keys! – mid-large length
Comes with loads of virtual instruments to start production

Superb integrated DAW controls like faders and and track navigation

Expected performance controls such as modulators and key velocity

We do not like:

No aftertouch functionality which can be limiting

Arturia KeyLab Essential Mk3 has 61 keys. Good size for most players. It includes many virtual instruments. Great for starting music production right away.

Superb integrated DAW controls stand out. Faders and track navigation make it easy. You can mix and tweak tracks directly from the MIDI keyboard. Saves time and effort.

It has expected performance controls. Includes modulators and key velocity. These add expression to your playing. You get more control over the sound dynamics.

Build quality feels solid. Seems like it will last a long time. Connects via USB, which also powers it. No need for an external power supply.

Setup is simple. Works well with major DAWs. No complicated installation is needed. You can start creating music fast.


  • 49-note velocity-sensitive keyboard
  • RGB backlit performance pads
  • Nine faders and nine rotary encoders
  • LCD screen for parameter feedback
  • Chord mode
  • Smart DAW integration
  • MIDI out, sustain pedal, and expression pedal inputs


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 798mm x 248mm x 84mm
  • Weight: 3.85kg

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

6. Best mini portable MIDI keyboard: Korg NANOKEY2

Price when reviewed:
From $70

Korg NANOKEY2 mini MIDI keyboard

We like:

Light as a feather and fits in most bags
Easy USB plugin and simple to use
Looks stylish on your travels

We do not like:

25 keys will restrict your playing obviously
Limited dynamic range

Korg NANOKEY2 is really light. Fits in almost any bag easily, great for traveling. This makes it a go-to for mobile musicians.

It connects via USB. Just plug it into your laptop and you’re ready. Setup is hassle-free. It looks stylish too. Matches well with your other tech gadgets. Makes a good impression when you pull it out in public.

Its keys are velocity-sensitive. This means they respond to how hard you press. Good for expressive playing despite the small size.

It’s powered by a USB connection so no need for an external power source. This keeps your setup simple and clean.

The NANOKEY2 supports various DAWs. Integration is smooth. You control software instruments directly from the keyboard.


  • Slim, lightweight design
  • 25 velocity-sensitive keys
  • USB-powered operation
  • Octave shift buttons
  • Pitch bend and modulation buttons


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 320mm x 83mm x 13mm
  • Weight: 244g

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

7. Best MIDI pad controller: AKAI Professional MPD218

Price when reviewed:
From $125

AKAI Professional MPD218 MIDI pad

We like:

Responsive pads for capturing nuanced beat making
Simplicity of USB connectivity
Easy to program flexibility for tailored setups
Reasonable price point for aspiring producers
Comfortably fits into most backpacks

We do not like:

Restricted number of pads for advanced users
No aftertouch limits expressive playing
Limited software bundle

AKAI Professional MPD218 has responsive pads. Great for capturing nuanced MIDI pad drumming. It connects with just a simple USB. Plug it in, and you’re ready. No need for extra cables or power sources.

Programming is easy and has flexibility for tailored setups. You customize it to fit your workflow.

The price point is reasonable. Good for aspiring producers on a budget. Doesn’t break the bank.

It fits comfortably into most backpacks. Easy to carry around. Take it to gigs or work on music anywhere.


  • 16 thick, velocity-sensitive MPC pads
  • 3 banks for a total of 48 assignable pads
  • 6 assignable Q-Link knobs
  • Dedicated transport controls
  • iOS compatibility via the Camera Connection Kit (sold separately)


  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 9.1″ x 7.9″ x 1.6″
  • Weight: 1.65 lbs (0.75 kg)

Where to buy?
Check price on Amazon

Best MIDI sustain pedal:

m-audio sp-2 MIDI sustain pedal

We like:

Feels like a realistic pedal
Smooth and responsive

Price last checked: From $32

What is a MIDI controller?

A MIDI controller is a device that lets you control music software or hardware with your hands. It sends signals to your computer or other gear to make music. You can use it to play virtual instruments, tweak settings, or trigger sounds. One benefit is its versatility—it works with many software programs and instruments. At first, some may find it complex to set up. Also, not all MIDI controllers are made the same—some have more features or better build quality than others. Despite these drawbacks, MIDI controllers can greatly enhance your music-making experience.

What is MIDI?

MIDI, short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a music production technology. It allows electronic musical instruments and devices to communicate with each other. However, it has limitations, like its inability to transmit audio. MIDI only sends control information, not actual sound. Still, it’s essential for tasks like recording, editing, and playing back music.

What key size do I need?

Choosing the right key size for your keyboard depends on your needs. Smaller keys are more compact and portable, ideal for travelling musicians or those with limited space. However, they may feel cramped for players with larger hands or those used to full-sized keys. Full-sized keys offer a more natural playing experience and better mimic traditional pianos. They’re preferred by professional pianists and those who prioritize comfort over portability. Consider your playing style and space constraints when deciding on key size.

How many keys do I need?

When deciding how many keys you need on a keyboard, consider your musical goals and playing style. If you’re a beginner or need a portable option, a keyboard with 25 to 49 keys may suffice. They’re compact and suitable for basic melodies and chord progressions. However, if you’re a serious pianist or composer, opt for a keyboard with 61 to 88 keys for full musical expression. More keys provide a wider range of octaves and allow for complex compositions. Keep in mind that larger keyboards take up more space and may be less portable.

What you should know about MIDI controller connectivity

There are a few key points to assessing MIDI controller connection. USB connectivity is the most common and convenient option. Its easy plug-and-play functionality with computers and other devices makes setup a breeze. Some MIDI controllers offer 5-pin MIDI connectivity. This connection is for older hardware or standalone MIDI equipment. Bluetooth connectivity is growing, offering wireless convenience for tablets and smartphones. While convenient, Bluetooth may introduce latency issues, affecting the timing of your music.

Consider DAW Integration for your purchase

When choosing a MIDI controller, DAW integration is crucial. It affects your workflow and productivity. Seamless integration allows for easy control of your digital audio workstation (DAW). This simplifies tasks like instrument selection and parameter adjustment. It streamlines your workflow, saving time and effort. However, not all MIDI controllers offer the same level of integration. Some may require additional setup or mapping. This can be time-consuming and frustrating. You should research controller compatibility with your preferred DAW before purchasing. Ensure the MIDI controller meets your workflow needs.

What controls does my MIDI controller need?

Your MIDI controller needs essential controls for music production. These include keys for playing melodies and chords. Knobs and sliders adjust parameters like volume and effects. Pads trigger drum sounds or samples. Transport controls manage playback and recording. Modulation and pitch bend wheels add expression. While more controls offer flexibility, they can be overwhelming for beginners. Consider your workflow and preferences. Ensure your MIDI controller has the necessary controls for your music style. Research different models to find the right balance of features. Experiment with controls to discover their functions. Choose a MIDI controller that fits your needs and enhances your creativity.

Will MIDI Keyboards replace digital pianos?

MIDI keyboards won’t replace digital pianos. They have different uses. MIDI keyboards offer versatility and software integration. They’re popular with music producers and electronic musicians. However, digital pianos mimic acoustic pianos’ sound and feel. They are preferred by pianists for practice and performance. While MIDI keyboards can replicate piano sounds, they won’t match digital pianos’ authenticity. The best digital pianos often come with weighted keys for a realistic playing experience. Both MIDI keyboards and digital pianos have strengths and limitations. The choice depends on your musical needs and preferences.

Is USB MIDI better than MIDI?

USB MIDI and traditional MIDI both have their pros and cons. USB MIDI is convenient for modern devices, like computers and tablets. It’s easy to connect and doesn’t need extra hardware. However, traditional MIDI with its 5-pin DIN cables offers reliability and low latency. It’s been the industry standard for years. USB MIDI might cause latency issues, especially with older hardware. Your choice depends on your setup and preferences. If you prioritize convenience, USB MIDI is great. But if reliability and low latency matter more, traditional MIDI will be better. Consider your needs and choose what works best for you.

Is it better to use MIDI or audio?

Choosing between MIDI and audio depends on your needs. MIDI offers flexibility and editability. It’s great for creating and arranging music in software. With MIDI, you can change notes, rhythms, and sounds easily. Plus, it uses less storage space. However, audio captures the sound as it is. It’s better for recording live performances or acoustic instruments. Audio files can’t be edited as flexibly as MIDI. They also take up more space on your computer. Consider your workflow and what you want to achieve. If you intend on producing EDM or electronic focussed music go for MIDI. But if you want to capture live performances with acoustics, choose audio.

What are 5-pin MIDI cables used for?

5-pin MIDI cables are essential for connecting MIDI devices. They transmit MIDI data between instruments, controllers, and computers. With a 5-pin MIDI cable, you can control external hardware synthesizers, and drum machines from your MIDI controller. These cables are reliable and widely compatible, making them a staple in music production studios. However, they have limitations. 5-pin MIDI cables can only transmit MIDI data, not audio. They do require separate cables for each MIDI device, which may clutter the workspace.

How would I connect my 5-pin MIDI to my computer?

To connect your 5-pin MIDI to your computer, you’ll need a MIDI interface. Plug one end of the MIDI cable into the MIDI OUT port of your MIDI device, like a keyboard or synthesizer. Then, connect the other end to the MIDI IN port of your MIDI interface. Next, plug the USB end of the MIDI interface into your computer. Install any necessary drivers for the MIDI interface, and your computer should recognize your MIDI device. This setup allows you to send and receive MIDI data between your hardware and software, enabling you to control virtual instruments and record MIDI performances directly into your DAW.

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