The Best Budget Compact Midi Keyboard Controllers are some of the most useful and effective tools a musician or recording engineer can use in a studio or home studio setting. However, people are often overwhelmed or confused about the subject because of the vast amount of information surrounding the product.
In this article, we’re going to help you narrow down your choices and understand which unit is best for you. To do this, we compiled a list of the best budget compact midi keyboard controllers.
Besides our own review, we’re going to go over the pros of each one, as well as a few minor cons. After that, we’re going to go over our buyer’s guide and common questions surrounding the subject.
Best Budget Compact Midi Keyboard Controllers Comparison Chart
AKAI Professional LPK25 - USB MIDI Keyboard controller with 25 Velocity-Sensitive Synth Action Keys...
Best Budget Compact Midi Keyboard Controllers Review
As noted, down below are a few of our favorite products in this subject.
We provided a positive review of each product. And as noted, each product will have a list of pros and a few minor cons.
First up on our list is a fantastic midi keyboard from Midiplus. One of the most attractive things about it right away is the price. You might think that because of the price it won’t be as versatile as some of the more expensive variations out there.
However, this is not the case. It has everything you want to have and more. For example, it has heavy-duty pitch and mod wheels. They’re not just buttons either. Which allows you to get better control of those features.
Besides that, one of the other attractive aspects of the product is how it has a backlit octave and transpose buttons. Something that makes everything easier.
Some of the more expensive midi controllers don’t even have transpose buttons which is why it’s surprising that an affordable midi controller like this has them.
The volume slider on this is great. It works so smooth that it makes any task feel like it’s nothing.
The size of the controller is perfect. It’s small, easy to put away, and great to move from place to place.
Besides the actual product, it comes in a great sturdy box to keep it in. Allowing you to safely put it away for the times you won’t be using it.
All in all, there is no reason you shouldn’t get this product. You truly get your money’s worth with this. If you want a compact midi keyboard with a 32 key range, then this is the product for you.
I highly recommend this product. You won’t be disappointed!
- Respectable Company
- Not The Greatest Build Quality
Next up on our list is another great midi keyboard controller from Akai Professional. Simply put, this is easy to use, affordable, and extremely versatile.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice how useful it’s wireless feature is. For example, the wireless feature allows you the ability to play it anywhere within a reasonable range. It can connect easily to a computer or tablet via Bluetooth pairing.
You’ll notice how much it does a great job with its keyboard representation. You can literally feel the keys like a true piano when you play them. This is unique since most midi controllers look and feel more like buttons than keys.
It’s extremely easy to use. All you have to is plug it into your computer’s USB port by using the cord which they provide. On top of that, it doesn’t require any batteries.
The buttons on it are great. Some of which up can allow you to go up an octave or lower an octave. Something I’m sure you’ll use all the time to get notes you want.
All in all, this controller is extremely well built. Despite being light, it feels great. The size is worth noting since it’s nice and compact.
It’s so compact you should be able to fit it in a laptop bag. Allowing you to easily bring it with you on the go.
Definitely check this product out! You won’t be disappointed.
- Great Keys
- The USB Port Can Break Somewhat Easily
Next up, we have another product from Midiplus. Just like their other product on this list, it’s fantastic.
The keys themselves work great. The feel and sound of it all are exactly what you could hope for. Not to mention how impressive the volume sensitivity and range of the product is.
If you’re used to playing a real piano then you’ll love the feel of the keys on this. The keys are very firm and feel just like a real piano. So, if you prefer the feel of a real piano, you’ll definitely be happy with the feel of this controller.
The USB set-up is extremely easy to do. All you have to do is plug it in and it should connect right to your DAW software.
Despite it being a very affordable product, it has a ton of great features. For example, the LEDs on it are perfect. They can let you know if you’ve switched octaves, as well as chords and other great little features directly from it.
The mod and pitch on the device work exactly how they should. Yes, there might be better mod and pitch devices out there, but for the price, it’s extremely solid.
All in all, it’s another fantastic product we have on our list. For 32 keys and a ton of extra buttons and knobs, you can’t go wrong with this price. You won’t find a ton of midi keyboard controllers with as many features as this one around the same price.
I highly recommend this product. You won’t be disappointed!
- Easy to Use
- Cheap Material
Next up on our list, we have a product from IK Multimedia. Just like the other products on this list, it’s great.
One thing you’ll notice about this unit is how great it is for music production. Since it’s so compact, you can do just about any music production you want with it on a portable computer wherever you want.
On top of that, it comes with a free bundle software package. In the package, you get Sample Tank 4 SE; a complete sound instruments library. You also get the Grid which is am electronic drums kit. Simply put, it’s easy to carry despite it having full-sized keys.
The plugins alone are what make this such a great product to get. You’ll be shocked at how many you’ll get with just a purchase of this.
For controls, this can get the job done. For example, it has pitch bend, mod wheels, a volume dial, octave up and down buttons, and a program change up and down buttons. It pretty much covers all of your bases for what you need with a keyboard midi controller.
As for power, it gets it power from an easy to use USB port. There are separate adapters you can buy in case you prefer to use it for a lightning apple product.
All in all, it’s a great product. You will not be disappointed with it, and it can fill any midi controller need you might have.
- Easy to Use
- Flimsy Build
Last on our list, we have a great product from Korg. This is the only controller on this list that doesn’t look like a keyboard. However, don’t let this distract you from how great of a product it is.
Let’s start with the price. The price is extremely affordable and reasonable for what this unit can do. Despite it being affordable, it’s very durable as well.
There’s a good weight behind this product, and the size is great for portability.
One of the more interesting aspects of the design is the backlights on it. They’re surprisingly more useful than you might expect.
Other than how the product looks and feels, it works great as well. For example, it’s very easy to map. Meaning if you go ahead and take the time to learn the software used to program it you can completely customize it.
What surprised me the most about this product is how responsive the keyboard is. If you do any sort of music production on a DAW software and you don’t feel like bringing out a drum pad, this can get the job done.
Typically speaking, a midi controller has occasional lag for tracking rhythmic tracks. However, this is not the case with this unit.
All in all, this is a fantastic midi key controller. As noted, don’t let its nontraditional appearance sway from checking it out.
- Tracks Great
- Respectable Company
- Cheap Build
For information on full size keyboards. Read our reviews for Best Keyboard Controller Review & Buyer’s Guide.
Best Budget Compact Midi Keyboard Controllers Buyer’s Guide
A midi keyboard controller generates and transmits midi data to MIDI-enabled devices. In simple terms, this is a way musicians and sound engineers can create certain sounds from midi data.
Sounds such as a synth, a drum track, and much more. They’re very useful to use if you want to manipulate sound in a certain way.
They’re also great if you don’t have the ability to record certain instruments since they can replicate just about anything.
It’s important to note that midi keyboard controllers don’t generate their own sound. They may look like a keyboard, but you can’t just plug it in and use it without a proper DAW software to generate the sound you want.
All in all, they’re useful to explore all genres of music since they provide more of a dynamic range of options available to record with.
How to Choose A Midi Keyboard Controller
There a ton of reasons as to which midi keyboard controller is best for you. Reasons such as budget, goals, sound requirements, and much more should play a major factor in your decision-making process.
If you own, have plans to own, or work at a professional level studio then you should purchase a midi controller that is great quality. Otherwise, you’ll find that your controller will be broken within a few months.
As a professional recording engineer, you should never short yourself with the gear you buy. This is self-explanatory and I’m sure you already know this. You’re better off buying a top tier product since it’ll last longer, work better, and allow you to accomplish more tasks.
If you’re a beginner or just want a basic midi keyboard controller then you shouldn’t waste your money on an expensive product. Always start small so you can have a general understanding of how they work, and you can go from there.
Once you’re more experienced and have a general notion of wanting to improve, then you should go ahead and check out some of the more expensive variations.
In simple terms, do research. Make sure the product you’re buying will work for what you want to accomplish. If you have no idea what you want to accomplish then just look up which product is best for beginners.
It’s really as easy as that, and you shouldn’t overthink it.
Although this article only listed compact midi keyboard controllers, we’ll go over the other sizes available for these products.
Compact variations are usually under 32 keys. Anything over 32 keys usually means that they’re not small enough to be classified as “compact”.
Other than compact variations, you can find other variations that have 49 keys, 61 keys, or 88 keys.
Usually the more keys a controller will have, the more expensive it’ll be. However, you can definitely find a professional level controller that has 32 or fewer keys.
Don’t let the size of the controller sway into your decision making. The build quality, versatility, and price should be your main concerns.
Types of Keyboard Action
The way a keyboard responds to a press is referred to as a keyboard action. Something every musician and recording engineer has a different preference for what they want to feel.
People typically want something that they’re used to. There are three different types of keyboard action; weighted hammer action, semi-weighted action, and synth action.
Weighted hammer action means that the controller is trying to exactly replicate the feel of a normal piano. Usually, 88-key controllers try to do this. If you’re a piano player then you’ll probably prefer a weighted hammer action controller.
Semi-weighted hammer action means that the controller has a weighted action, but with less resistance. They’re not a realistic piano response, but not as springy as a synth action.
Synth-action means that the controller feels like an electronic organ. The keys are extremely light and easy to move around. If you’re a traditional piano player then you’ll hate controllers like this. However, if you need something to record fast parts then you should definitely go with a unit like this.
Most midi keyboard controllers have pads on them. These pads are used to track drums or trigger loops. Something you’ll find very useful.
Most of these product variations have around eight or more pads on them that you can use.
However, cheaper controller pads tend to lag when tracking. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding on which product is best for you.
As noted, your budget completely depends on what you want to accomplish. If you’re a beginner then you should get something that works decently, but isn’t a million dollars.
If you’re striving to be the greatest recording engineer ever, then you’ll need a professional midi keyboard controller.
There is a ton of information surrounding this product online so use it. Don’t just read the positive reviews on something. Read the negative reviews too so you can see if there might be an issue with something.
Typically speaking, the more expensive the product is, the better it’ll be. It’s really as simple as that.
However, you can narrow down your choices by choosing what key count, keyboard action type, and how many pads you want.
Faders, Buttons, Knobs
Besides the keys on a controller, you’ll usually find a wide array of faders, buttons, and knobs. All of which play a different factor in manipulating the midi data you transmit.
In simple terms, if you want to add a higher or lower octave, add a vibrato effect, or something else, you can do so by one of the buttons on your controller.
Typically, the more faders, buttons, and knobs a controller has, the more expensive it’ll be.
Always read up how each of these holds up quality-wise. Besides that, if you have a certain requirement, double-check to make sure the midi controller you decide on can provide that for you.
For buying information on full size keyboards. Read our reviews for Best Keyboard Controller Review & Buyer’s Guide.
“Q & A’s”
Can I use my keyboard as a midi controller?”
Most DAW software support the ability to use a basic keyboard as a midi controller. However, you will be severely limited with a keyboard instead of a proper keyboard midi controller.
If you’re tight on cash and just want to get a general idea of what you can accomplish with midi, then try using your keyboard. Just remember to keep mind that you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more with a keyboard midi controller.
Can you use a midi keyboard without a computer?”
Yes, midi keyboards can technically be used without a computer. However, you’ll need to find something to replace the computer.
Since a midi keyboard doesn’t create any sound on its own, you’ll need an interface to generate sound for it.
You can use a computer, tablet, or tone generator to create sound for a midi keyboard.
Always check with what works with the midi keyboard you want. Otherwise, you might waste money on something you can’t even use.
How do you hook up a midi keyboard?”
Just about all midi keyboards are hooked up to a computer by a USB or another type of cording.
Once the midi keyboard is all hooked up and ready to go, then you just need to go on your DAW software and search for it. Most DAW software will easily present what’s hooked up.
They’re typically very easy to set-up and use. People don’t usually face issues with hooking them up unless they have a cord issue. To avoid this, look up what cord you need to hook it up and if you meet the specific requirement.
Hopefully, you were able to determine what the Best Budget Compact Midi Keyboard Controllers is best for you.
Other than that, you should be able to fully understand the information behind these products and why they’re needed for a studio setting. With factors such as versatility, portability, and more in mind.
For a quick recap, we went over five compact midi keyboard controllers that we recommended. We went over why we liked each product, and listed the pros and a few minor cons of them all.
After that, we discussed a buyer’s guide to this subject. Starting with which product you should choose and different key types.
Next, we went over performance pads, different kinds of budgets, faders, knobs, and buttons. All of which have different advantages and disadvantages of each product.
After that, we discussed common questions regarding the subject. Such as using a keyboard as a midi controller, using a midi controller without a computer, and how you hook a midi controller up.
In conclusion, you should be more comfortable with deciding what the Best Budget Compact Midi Keyboard Controllers is best for you.