Best Midi Keyboards
By: The Gear Dude | Date: 26th April 2020
“How do I use all of these software instruments?” Part of making music at home is being able to take advantage of a wealth of virtual instruments available to any consumer that will invest. These can range from Drums, pianos, synthesizers, orchestral instruments, choirs and a vast world of things that continue to expand daily. Owning a Midi keyboard is a great way to unlock the potential.
Midi keyboards are devices that can look like a small (but can be full size!) piano with programmable pads, faders and encoders commonly connected to your computer through a USB connection or a traditional MIDI cable. You will see them in varying amounts of keys, usually 25, 49, 61, and the occasional 88 which is usually weighted to feel like a traditional piano. The smaller sizes usually have synth action keys and will be able to transpose octaves easily with the click of a button. This article highlights what I believe to be the best MIDI keyboard available at this present time.
Akai MPK II series
Akai is a venerable company in electronic music products and has been for many years. This Japanese company is known for being the creator of the MPC beat making machine. The MPK series comes in a 25-key (MPK225) 49-key (MPK249) and 61-key (MPK261) size options and most retain the same functions and features although the 25 key has a bit less, more on that later.
They all feature semi weighted keys, MPC style pads with RGB feedback, transport controls, pitch bend and modulation wheels, and a backlit LCD screen. The 25-key version has a few less pads and abandons the faders for knobs in pursuit of making it a smaller controller.
In my opinion the Akai MPK is one of the best choices available.
- Large range of pad colors
- Bright LCD screen
- Durable and lightweight
- 25 key version has less pads
- Very similar to previous version
- Somewhat expensive
Akai MPK Mini II
The MPK II series controllers are absolutely excellent devices and fit great onto home recording and production environments but some people are looking for an option that they can use on the go. Enter the MPK Mini MKII.
The Mini version of this industry leading keyboard line keeps the same 8 MPC style pads and 8 assignable control knobs as well as an arpeggiator and a 4 way joystick used for pitch and modulation control. The biggest change you will see when comparing this to the full size ones is that it has 25 mini synth action keys which are much smaller compared to its bigger brother.
Akai has a habit of releasing this keyboard in limited production in different color schemes as well! Check out the photos on the right.
- Small and very portable
- MPC style pads and 25 keys
- Great value
- Mini keys too small for some
- MPC software is difficult
- Cannot adjust velocity
Alesis is a Massachusetts based company that’s been known since the 80’s for making quality affordable gear you can rely on. The V49 (also available, V25 and V61) is a bang for your buck simple keyboard with great features under the hood. In addition to its full sized keys it also has 8 velocity and pressure sensitive pads, 4 assignable knobs and buttons, octave up and down buttons and both a pitch and modulation wheel.
Those who want a bit more from their controller would be wise to look at the VI49. This 49 key (also available, VI25 and VI61) is a similar look but includes some more professional features.
- Great key-bed
- Fantastic value
- No extra frills
- No midi out
- No aftertouch
- Not adaptable to many VST’s
Those who want a bit more from their controller would be wise to look at the VI49. This 49 key (also available, VI25 and VI61) is a similar look but includes some more professional features. Namely the VI49 has semi weighted keys with aftertouch, 16 RBG pads, 36 assignable buttons, 12 assignable knobs and a 5pin midi out as well.
To summarize, if you just need a bang for your buck controller a V49 is a great choice, but if you want more control and options spring for the VI49.
- Great key-bed
- Lots of pads & controls
- Amazing value
- Not as adaptable as some
- Cable protrudes from back
M Audio Keystation 49 MK III
- Low price
- Great feeling keys
- Transport controls
- No pads
- Lack of features may deter some