Buying the best keyboard controller in the market is a great investment. Unfortunately, only a few people have an idea of the type of controller or features to consider. Also, with so many options available to choose from, you might get even more confused.
We will help you achieve goals and improve the quality of your music production. For this reason we have compiled a detailed guide for buying a controller. Additionally, we have prepared a review of five top controllers that will serve you well.
Best Keyboard Controller Comparison Chart
Alesis V49 - 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 8 Backlit Pads, 4 Assignable Knobs and Buttons,...
AKAI Professional MPK249 - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Semi Weighted Keys, Assignable MPC...
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With 8 Backlit Drum Pads, 8 Knobs...
Best Keyboard Controller Review
Alesis V49 | 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
If you want a keyboard that integrates into any external devices such as a PC, Alesis V49 is perfect. You will experience all the fun of playing on full-sized keys. The V49 is a MIDI controller equipped with 49 full-sized keys. There are also four knobs, four assignable buttons, and eight LED backlit touchpads. Additionally, it has mod and pitch wheels. These send seamless visual feedbacks to the illuminated knobs and buttons.
The v49 is very powerful because it has everything you need in a keyboard controller. Also, its editors’ software is designed in such a way that it can adjust to fit your style. It is easy to edit MIDI messages on your computer screen sent by your keyboard’s control. Besides the V49 editor, you can find the sensitivity that suits your style — Ie by adjusting the velocity of both pads and keys.
Alesis V49 comes with a software suite that targets great user experience. It includes a combination of Ableton live lite 9, first Alesis Edition, Plus Mini Grand, Expand!2, and DB-33. All tools you need to create record and share across the world at your fingertips.
A single USB connection to your PC or Mac will provide both midi and power functionality. It makes work easier for you, allowing you to start making music immediately. The V49 sleek design makes it easier to set in any work station.
- Overall, build quality is great compared to other Alesis products.
- The keyboard is sleek enough to fit en a workstation with a computer or laptop set up.
- V49 key is compatible with V mini Editor Software.
- The keyboard is light, portable, and easy to use.
- You will need to update the firmware at times to prevent the pads from double hitting
- The V mini editor does not come pre-installed, you have to download it from the Alesis website.
Akai Professional MPK249
MPK249 is one of the most advanced keyboards because of its diverse features. It is best for studio and lives performances since it has high responsive keys. Akai Professional MPK249 has 49 semi-weighted keys. They are full-sized, 8 backlit control knobs, switches, and faders. Further, you will not have any trouble connecting to any external musical device as it has 5-pin MIDI I/O.
Over the years, Akai has been using customer feedback to tweak the controller. It has done so in such a way that it offers the best user experience. If you are a software guy, the Akai keyboard contains one of the best packages. For instance, it has MPC essentials software that will give you a genuine MPC workflow.
Another software that comes with this controller is the Ableton lite live. It makes music production easy in a MIDI/audio environment. It creates a virtual environment with all controls and instruments. That helps in MIDI sequencing and digital audio recordings.
Hybrid 3 is a virtual synthesizer software. It can be able to manipulate the analog synths. With a digital touch. This software has revolutionized the capabilities of the professional MPK249 controller. There is SONiVOX Twist software that accompanies the Akai as we. It has a dynamic interface for spectral morphing and serious sound creation
Apart from the deep software integration capabilities, the Akai pro is USB powered. Ready to plug and play on your PC or Mac without any hassle. You will definitely get value for your money to purchase it.
- Super responsive and sensitive drum pads
- Bundled with the best software package
- Decent large and responsive MPC pads
- A little bit heavier, it weighs 13lbs
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 – 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
Introducing the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 – 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller, a must-have for music production enthusiasts. This compact and portable device offers an excellent solution for creating music on the go.
Firstly, the MPK Mini MK3 features 25 velocity-sensitive keys, providing a realistic and responsive feel. Furthermore, the touch-sensitive pads and knobs offer a hands-on approach to music production. This allows for a more intuitive and creative experience.
Moreover, the device’s built-in arpeggiator and chord generator provide endless possibilities for music creation. The arpeggiator can quickly create complex patterns, while the chord generator can produce chords with a single key press, allowing for speedy song creation.
In addition, the MPK Mini MK3’s compatibility with most DAWs and virtual instruments makes it a versatile tool for any music production setup. Furthermore, the device’s USB-powered nature eliminates the need for an external power source. This simplifies the setup process even further.
The device’s OLED display and dedicated control buttons also make navigation and customization a breeze. Users can easily adjust settings and parameters on the fly, allowing for efficient and hassle-free music production.
Overall, the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 – 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is an excellent investment for any music producer looking for a compact, portable, and versatile tool. Its intuitive design and wide range of features make it suitable for both beginners and professionals alike. Whether you’re creating music at home or on the go, the MPK Mini MK3 is a reliable and powerful companion that won’t disappoint.
- Compatible with most DAWs and virtual instruments, making it a versatile tool for any music production setup.
- Its compact size and USB-powered nature make it easy to transport and set up anywhere.
- Touch-sensitive pads and knobs, as well as an OLED display and dedicated control buttons, provide an intuitive and user-friendly experience.
- Built-in arpeggiator and chord generator offer endless possibilities for music creation, allowing for speedy song creation and complex patterns.
- With only 25 keys, it may not be suitable for more complex compositions that require a full keyboard range.
- The lack of aftertouch may be disappointing for some users who prefer more expressive playing.
- While the device is generally well-made, some users have reported issues with keys sticking or knobs feeling loose over time.
Nektar IMPACT LX25+
Nektar Impact LX25+ is among the best keyboard controllers in the market. It is affordable, compact, and versatile. You will realize that this controller has vibrant backlit pads and a simple black chassis. All its features and buttons layout well. Also, the build quality is great, compact enough for music-making on the go and for smaller studios.
Despite its low price, Nektar IMPACT LX25 can be reliable to use for many applications. The keys are piano styled and covered to protect dust from entering inside. Also, they are velocity-sensitive synth keys with a smooth action. For controls, there is nothing extraordinary. But it gives you value for your money with those features.
You will be surprised by how the Nektar IMPACT keeps the flow of work going smooth. Since it has full-sized keys, anyone can enjoy it, including beginners, pianist, and pro players. It’s a perfect choice for people seeking complete rock solid and something affordable.
- Easy to map DAW after registering and downloading software from its official website.
- Elegant and high sensitive drum pads accompanied by RGB colors.
- It offers a lot of value compared to other keyboard controllers of the same price.
- It comes with a full-size user manual that contains all functions and its capabilities, as well.
- You have to download some software from their website.
Alesis VI61 61-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
If you want to take control of the virtual instruments and DAW, go for Alexis VI61 USB MIDI controller. It has 61 full-sized, and semi-weighted keys with after-touch. Besides, there are 16 pressure and velocity-sensitive pads that have multi-color LEDs. This means you can color code to customize them for your favorite uses.
With Alesis VI61, you can integrate with the most piece of software seamlessly. For example, you can connect to your Mac or PC using a single USB that provides both MIDI and power functionality. There are 48 assignable buttons and 16 assignable knobs. You can use to them manipulating virtual instruments. Also, effect plugins, tweak parameters, and adjust volume levels.
A premium software suite is available to help you make professional sounds. Plus also operate the controller without a lot of hassle. There is a range of versatile software and pro tools, such as a pro-grade virtual instrument. Other software provided by Alesis to are DB-33, Ableton lives lite 9, plus Mini Grand and Xpand! 2.
It is a straight forward flexible, professional keyboard controller. You can customize it to anything you want to suit your production standards. The design, keys, pads, knobs software, and compatibility with other devices is perfect.
- Fantastic keyboard with nice and bright keys,
- The production software package is available
- Plug and play USB powered support for windows and Mac.
- MIDI keyboard with 61 semi-weighted, square front full-sized with after-touch.
- Pads only light up when struck.
Keyboard Controller Buyer’s Guide
Getting a quality keyboard is very important. Especially if you want to produce high-quality tunes and sounds. To achieve that, you need to consider some factors like features and specifications. You also need to figure out what your need because there is a wide variety of prices, sizes, and features. The following guide is important to help you figure out the best. Whether you are looking for a studio controller or for performing on a live stage.
Mind the Brand
Your keyboard can only be as good as the company that has created it. While some companies have a strong reputation, others make substandard products. Going for the most popular is the best way to go since you increase the chances of getting a long-lasting keyboard. Some of the best brands include Nektar IMPACT, Alesis, and Alesis Launchkey.
Plan based on your Budget
The second aspect that determines the quality of the controller that you get is budget. , the more amount of money you invest in a product, the more quality you get. The same case applies to pianos, and I recommend setting up a good budget before purchasing. That will increase the chances of getting a better performing and quality controller.
Some controllers run up to hundreds of dollars, but you can get a great piece at around $100-$500 price range. Going for a cheaper option may not serve you for a long period and may also lack crucial features. Besides, do not let the fanciness trick you but decide based on its performance or its technology.
Consider the Input/Output Options
Almost every latest controller transmits MIDI through a USB, but if you have a complex set up, these two jacks will simplify everything. The first one is the 5 – pin MIDI din jacks that will allow you to connect external hardware synths and other MIDIs. CV and Gate outputs will enable you to play vintage synth gear (non-MIDI).
To make your performance more expressive, you will need an expression pedal in your rig. Most controllers offer a switch type pedal jack, but some models lack a continuous pedal. This allows you to modulate any controller without taking your hands off the keys in real-time. Make choices, depending on the kind of output volume you want. Because some inexpensive controllers have fixed –CC volume pedals.
Remember Faders, Buttons, and Knobs are very important
Depending on what your workflow is about, faders, buttons, and knobs can be very useful. These are extra controllers found on the keyboard to increase hands-on control. Choosing a keyboard with these controllers makes your key keyboard a hot piece.
Having faders, sliders, and knobs is an advantage since you can modulate your synths in real-time. A computer can carry out those functions, but doing it on the keyboard is much more fun and more authentic. Lately, controllers come with an auto-mapping technology for knobs and faders.
Choose a suitable Key count or type
Typical keyboard controllers usually contain 25, 49, 61, or 88 keys. So what factors can you consider when choosing the number of keys for your keys? The 49 key controllers are the most popular among artists because of its size, and you can play it with both hands. But, the most important factor to look at is the type of music you want to create. Also, the amount of space that is available at your work station or studio.
If you want a smaller keyboard, go for the one with 25 or 32 keys. They are portable and also contain almost all the major features that you need. There are several different types of keys. They depend on materials used in making them. Heavier keys are expensive compared to the lighter keys. But many controller brands make use of plastics, which are light. Some producers may choose to pick some specs depending on their personal preferences.
Go through the keyboard action type
The action-type of a keyboard is very important when determining its quality. The manner in which keys respond to any action made on them is what we call keyboard action. You need to feel comfortable as a player when using your controller; otherwise, you will not have fun with it. There are three basic action types that you can choose from.
Weighted hammer action– This ideal for artists that play piano oriented music. Many controllers with this kind of action type have 88-note keyboards. Additionally, they are made in such a way that they mimic pianos’ actions.
Semi-weighted action– It has less key resistance compared to the weighted hammer action. However, it has a slightly springier release with some semi-weighted actions.
Synth-action– A synth action keyboards contain light loaded keys like electric organs. They respond to any actions fast and also when returning to their resting positions. If you are not a pianist in nature, a synth-action keyboard can be your perfect match.
After-touch and performance pads
The best way to add a perfect expressiveness to your playing is by an after-touch. After long pressing on the keyboard, you can feel a tasty vibrato. It comes from the residing extra key pressure. Wouldn’t you like to have a keyboard with that feature?
Performance pads are medium square sized buttons that you can use to trigger loops or play drums. Many keyboard placers prefer using the performance pad. This is Because its velocity sensing is more authentic compared to sticking to the keys alone. Performance pads, knobs, LCD screens, and faders occupy some space on the deck. It makes our keyboard a little bit larger if you want a more clinical keyboard, to consider those features when purchasing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a keyboard controller?
A keyboard controller is a device with a selection of knobs, drum pads, buttons, and a synth or piano-style keys. It was developed for live performers to control many synthesizers from one place. Today, a keyboard controller is flexible enough as it can connect different devices. For instance, laptops with the help of a MIDI USB cable.
How many keys should I get on my MIDI controller?
49 is the average number of the most used MIDI controller. But, you should pick depending on what you intend to use it for. For example, if you need a professional controller, then I recommend going for as many keys. Because it increases your abilities and blows your mind. For beginners, you can start off with fewer keys such 25 or 32, then advance to 40s, and so on.
Can MIDI keyboards play without a computer?
It is possible for MIDI keyboards to play without a computer. But you need to connect it to something (synthesizer) that generates tones or sounds. A midi controller does not make any sound because it’s a piece of hardware. It only manipulates a given software. In this case, you can use a synthesizer and a pair of speakers to play it without a computer.
How much does a good keyboard cost?
You can get a good keyboard from as low as $100 and as high as $3000. The best way to know the right one for you is to narrow down to specs. Of course, features and quality get better as you go high.
Which is a better keyboard or piano?
A keyboard is better for carrying around, and it’s easy to play. Piano, on the other hand, is a little bit sophisticated. For example, the volume of its notes depends on how hard you strike a key. In the keyboard, settings are pre-configured while in a piano, you need some knowledge.
Is 25 key MIDI controller enough?
A 25 key MIDI controller is enough if you play single-handedly. It’s also good for traveling because it fits easily in bags. But, if you are a professional and mostly play with two hands, then you should go for at least 49 keys.
Choosing the best keyboard controller is easy. Especially if you know the specs, brand, and number of keys that you want. Don’t forget to check the number of drum pads or its compatibility with other devices. Additionally, it is important to check the software that comes with your keyboard.
This is because they will be very useful during production. When choosing the number of keys that you want, consider things like space. Depending on your work station or experience level. Like a beginner, you can go for a few keys then upgrade to more as you advance.
Remember, there are other things that you must consider before purchasing a keyboard. , for example, the velocity of the keys and after-touch effects. Alesis v49 is amazing because it gives you a chance to experience a touch of piano on its 49 full-sized keys.
The Akai Professional MPK249 is very advanced as it offers many unique features. Nektar IMPACT LX25+ is affordable and has velocity-sensitive vibrant backlit drum pads. If you are seeking for something that is more compact and versatile.
Novation Launchkey Mini 25-Note is the real deal. For Alesis VI61, it’s all about taking control of your virtual instruments. It has a DAW with an unbeatable software package.
About the Author
Michael-B is a Music Producer, Musician, and Formally Trained (and was Certified by the Recording Institute of Detroit in 1986) Recording Engineer. As of 2022, He's built 3 home recording studios go back to 1987, where he wrote, played all the instruments, and recorded his music. Michael B is also a Writer, Chief Editor and SEO of TrackinSolo.com