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What are MIDI Keyboard Controllers?

If you’re a music producer, then owning a MIDI controller is practically essential. Not only are they affordable and portable, but they also come packed with numerous features that enable creative expression. For example, most mini keyboard controllers can be used to control DAW functions, virtual instruments, and plugin effects.

One of the biggest advantages new producers can have is mastering a great MIDI controller. They are fantastically versatile tools, and can level up your music production quickly.

MIDI keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, so you can definitely find one that suits your needs. For example, you could choose a small, portable MIDI keyboard that would be easy to carry around in a laptop bag. Or, if you’re looking for something with more features, you could go for a full-size 88-note model with weighted hammer-action keys. Most of the options we recommend also include additional extras like knobs, pads, buttons and faders to help boost creativity and give you even more control over your software.

The main contrasts between mini MIDI keyboard controllers and regular MIDI keyboard controllers are price, size, weight, and the number of keys.

You can find a perfectly good MIDI keyboard for less than $/£100 if you look around, but spending even a little more money will get you a better quality model with more features. It might also be sturdier and easier to transport if you want to take it on the road.

Many of the best MIDI keyboards come with mapping templates for popular DAWs – Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, etc. This makes it easy to begin producing music as soon as you open the box.

 

The Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers

 

M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49

 

The Oxygen Pro from M-Audio is one of the most recent out of the popular Oxygen series of MIDI controllers. The redefined keybed provides users with four octaves of velocity-sensitive playing, aftertouch, and assignable zones. Although the keys are semi-weighted, they play better than any other synth action keys on the market.

The 16 RGB Pads can be used for note repeat, finger drumming, clip launching, and other MIDI message duties. The faders, buttons, and rotary knobs can also be assigned to any MIDI command. You also get a full set of transport controls with the pitch and mod wheels editable to affect zones on the keybed in different ways.

What makes this USB MIDI interface so great is the DAW integration. You can use it with Pro Tools, Cubase, Ableton Live (the Oxygen ships with a copy of Ableton Live Lite), or any other major DAW; it will instantly map to your software.

Lastly, the arpeggiator, smart scale and chord functions, and OLED screen are worth noting. With other MIDI keyboard controllers, it can be easy to lose track of where a fader or pot is- especially if you frequently switch between instruments or DAW functions. This screen is much easier to read and makes editing parameters simpler. This keyboard controller is great for both studio and mobile use cases.

 

AKAI | MPK MINI MKII KEYBOARD CONTROLLER

The limited-edition MPK mini comes with white keys and an inverted color finish. This MIDI keyboard controller is ulta-compact, making it perfect for traveling musicians and desktop producers. It features 25 velocity-sensitive keys, a 4-way thumbstick, eight backlit velocity-sensitive pads, eight assignable knobs, an onboard arpeggiator, and more. The MPK mini also comes with a bundle of production software and virtual instruments for immediate music creation.

The MPK mini is a MIDI keyboard controller that’s beloved by many for its travel-friendly size and weight. It’s also affordable, which makes it perfect for beginner producers. Plus, it comes with production software and virtual instruments so you can start making music right away.

The MPK mini is an excellent MIDI keyboard controller for those who are looking for something small and lightweight. It’s also one of the more affordable options on the market.

 

 

Native Instruments 

Komplete Kontrol A61

 

Granted, the entire Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol series is really only useful if you use Native Instruments software. And while the A61 doesn’t offer as much functionality as the S-series of NI controllers, I’m including it on this list because it offers an affordable entry point into the world of NI software. And this is software that’s used in hits and film scores time and again.

So for someone entering the music-making world, and needing a leg-up in the software department this could be the best budget MIDI controller. But what do you get for your USB MIDI moolah?

Five octaves of playability, with octave buttons to extend the range of the custom NI keybed, give the user an ample range to play with.

Semi-weighted keys give you the opportunity for expression without taxing the fingertips of less experienced players. The pitch bend and mod wheels are solid, adding further expression to your playing.

You can browse virtual instrument presets directly from the A61, via the OLED screen. Everything’s tagged and organized in Komplete Kontrol, so you can search for the right sound for your track intuitively, and hear a preview before loading it.

Once you’ve chosen your patch, the rotary knobs are pre-mapped to the most convenient controls on the instrument, allowing you to tweak with ease.

There are also dedicated controls for Logic, GarageBand, and Ableton Live on the board. Integration for Cubase and Nuendo is slated to appear in the future.

So this is a great bit of kit if you have, or are interested in, Native Instruments software (including Maschine). The bundled software includes Ableton Live Lite, a couple of lovely synths, an upright and electric piano, and over 2,000 sounds and effects from the Komplete collection. And of course, there’s an upgrade path to boost your sonic palette when you’re ready for more.

 

Novation Launchkey 49 MK2

The Novation Launchkey 49 MK2 is a MIDI keyboard controller that’s popular among both musicians and desktop producers. The MPK mini also comes with a bundle of production software and virtual instruments for immediate music creation.

The MPK mini is a MIDI keyboard controller that’s beloved by many for its travel-friendly size and weight. The velocity-sensitive keys, 4-way thumbstick, 8 backlit pads, 8 assignable knobs make the MPK mini a powerful tool . Plus, it comes with production software and virtual instruments so you can start making music right away.

The MPK mini is an excellent MIDI keyboard controller for those who are looking for something small and lightweight. It’s also one of the more affordable options on the market.

 

KOrg nanoKEY Studio

The Korg nanoKEY Studio is a mobile MIDI keyboard that’s small and easy to transport. This controller has 25 velocity-sensitive keys, eight velocity-sensitive pads, and eight encoders. It also has a Kaoss pad for effects control. This gives the user added flexibility when crafting their sound. 

Additionally, it has other connectivity options, making it a very versatile piece of equipment. It can be used wirelessly with iOS and Windows devices, and does not require batteries.

The Korg nanoKEY Studio is a great MIDI keyboard for anyone looking for an affordable, mobile option. This controller has all the essentials, plus extras like the Kaoss pad for added sound control.

 

NOVATION LAUNCHKEY MINI MK3

novation launchThe Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is the perfect MIDI keyboard controller for traveling musicians and desktop producers. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easy to take with you on the go.  It features 25 velocity-sensitive keys, a 4-way thumbstick, eight backlit velocity-sensitive pads, eight assignable knobs, an onboard arpeggiator, and more. The Launchkey Mini also comes with a bundle of production software and virtual instruments for immediate music creation.

 

 

The Launchkey Mini is a great MIDI keyboard controller. The  accompanying the bundle of production software and virtual instruments gives you everything you need to get started making music right away.

 

 

If you are in the market for a MIDI keyboard controller and want something small and lightweight, the Launchkey Mini MK3 is a great option.

 

 

Enter the World of MIDI Controller Keyboards

If you’re a music producer, owning a MIDI controller is an absolute necessity. To save you some time, we’ve gone ahead and selected some of the most affordable and highly rated models on the market.

With such a wide variety of features and price points to choose from, we’re certain you’ll find the perfect MIDI controller to help take your music production skills to the next level.