Best MIDI keyboard Thrifter 2021
The days of needing to be signed to a record label to produce your own professional-sounding music are over. There are just a few key items you'll need to get started. A MIDI keyboard controller allows you to plug into your computer and record the notes you play as you work on your music, but they really become useful with the right software or DAW (digital audio workstation). Setting up your keyboard with a DAW like ProTools or Ableton Live unlocks endless possibilities for your music, allowing you to completely change its sound and tone or even play other digital instruments using it.
- Best MIDI keyboard: AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
- Best for Ableton Live: Novation Launchkey Mini MIDI Keyboard
- Best on a budget: midiplus 32-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller (Deluxe)
- Pro Tools included: Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- All the keys: Arturia KeyLab 88 Essential 88-Key MIDI Controller
- The Pro choice: Roland A-500PRO MIDI Keyboard Controller
- Total control: Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
- Choose your size: M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller
Best MIDI keyboard: AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3Staff Pick
Start producing your own music with AKAI's MPK Mini compact keyboard and pad controller. This USB-powered MIDI keyboard features 25 velocity-sensitive keys along with a 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control, an integrated arpeggiator, eight knobs to assign to plugins at your leisure, and eight backlit beat pads.
Best for Ableton Live: Novation Launchkey Mini MIDI Keyboard
The Novation Launchkey Mini was designed for intuitive control of the popular software, Ableton Live. It has 16 backlit pads, more than most MIDI keyboards, to help with beat-making, as well as eight rotary controls, pitch and mod touch strips, and sustain input functionality.
Best on a budget: midiplus 32-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller (Deluxe)
The midiplus MIDI keyboards are some of the most affordable ways to get started. This deluxe, 32-key model has velocity-sensitive keys, three rotary knobs, and a built-in arpeggiator, though there's also a 49-key version available if you're looking for more room to play.
Pro Tools included: Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
The Alesis V49 MIDI Keyboard Controller features 49 full-sized, velocity-sensitive keys and a variety of backlit pads, buttons, and knobs to help with beat production. Best of all, it comes with a range of premium music software including Pro Tools | First Alesis Edition, Abelton Live 9 Lite, Eleven Lite, and more.
All the keys: Arturia KeyLab 88 Essential 88-Key MIDI Controller
Don't be held back by the smaller MIDI keyboards out there. If you're looking to work with a full-size keyboard that has 88 keys, the Arturia KeyLab 88 Essential is an excellent pick. This lightweight keyboard is equipped with velocity-sensitive keys along with a range of knobs, faders, and pads that will seamlessly integrate with your DAW.
The Pro choice: Roland A-500PRO MIDI Keyboard Controller
Roland designed its A-500PRO MIDI Keyboard to be appropriate not just for home use but professional studio use, too. This model is equipped with 45 assignable controls — knobs, sliders, buttons, transport and more — as well as eight dynamic pads and 49 keys. There are 32-key and 61-key models you could also consider.
Total control: Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
Arturia's MiniLab MkII is one of the best portable MIDI controllers. It's a 25-key model with 16 assignable knobs to control your DAW as well as eight backlit pads and two capacitive touch sensors to assist in pitch bending and modulation. It also includes Analog Lab Lite and Ableton Live Lite so you can get started producing right out of the box.
Choose your size: M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller
The M-Audio Keystation is a compact, semi-weighted MIDI keyboard controller that's USB powered and gives you easy control over your DAW with its built-in volume fader, transport and directional buttons. It comes with a premium software suite that includes Pro Tools | First M-Audio Edition. Plus, if you're looking for a different size, this keyboard is available with 32, 49, 61, or 88 keys.
One final note
While most MIDI keyboards feature much of the same functionality, the keyboard you ultimately choose can have a huge effect on your production output. The smaller-sized MIDI keyboards are really excellent for laying down tracks anywhere you go, and they're also a lot easier to store in your home, but it can be a little bit trickier playing when you don't have a full set of 88 piano keys in front of you. Luckily, if this is a concern of yours, there are several sizes of MIDI keyboards to choose from including full-size models like the Arturia KeyLab 88 Essential MIDI Controller.
The best MIDI keyboards always include more than just keys to play, though nothing quite compares to the spread of dials and pads that the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 delivers. Along with 25 velocity-sensitive keys, this USB-powered MIDI keyboard is equipped with eight backlit MIDI beat pads that are also sensitive to how hard they're pressed, as well as eight 360-degree knobs to assign to different settings on your DAW. It even comes with a complete music production starter kit that gives you hundreds of sounds to work with right out of the box.
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