Akai Pro MPK mini 25-Key
One of the more popular products out there, because of its compact size and sturdy build; great for on-the-go production. 25-key velocity-sensitive mini keyboard; ideal for your mobile recording setup. You get eight backlit, velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads (2 banks, 16 total). The Pads can send note information, MIDI CCs and program changes. The Eight assignable Q-Link knobs will let you adjust virtually any parameter. It doesn’t have any wheels though. Read more…
Akai Pro LPK25 25-Key
More compact than the MPK, the Akai Pro LPK25 is about a foot long but has several features including an arpeggiator, sustain button, and tap tempo. Its a scaled-down version of the MPK series of keyboard performance controllers, Read more…
M-Audio Oxygen 49-Key USB MIDI Controller
Good intuitive layout with the transport buttons conveniently-placed. The Oxygen 49 features eight assignable knobs and nine assignable sliders, plus dedicated transport and track select buttons make it perfect for both production and performance. The DirectLink mode automatically maps these controls to common DAW functions. Built-in factory presets offer support for popular virtual instruments right out of the box so there’s no complicated setup required. Read more…
M-Audio Keystation 88ES Midi Controller
Works flawlessly with any music creation software. Those who play the piano will like the feel and response of this full 88-key keyboard, available in a lightweight package (22 lbs). It’s bus-powered, so one simple USB cable is the only connection you need to power it. The pitch and modulation wheels plus slider and buttons make it a great controller for playing as well as for programming. Read more…
M-Audio Keystation 61ES 61-Key Semi-Weighted USB MIDI Controller
Good value for money and the semi-weighted keys feel wonderful.
This 61-key velocity-sensitive keyboard can be easily integrated in any computer music environment; use it along with any music education or music creation software. It is USB bus-powered and requires no external power supply. You can use it in studio to control software synths and external sound devices with the assignable slider, pitch and mod wheels. Read more…
If you spend a lot of time in the studio, you would definitely agree that having the biggest keyboard instrument is not always welcome.
In most studios, there’s hardly any space for a considerable size keyboard between the monitors and the other gear. While you may want to use an 88-key Motif or Fantom, at times, it just is not feasible to have it in your studio, on your desk.
Placement of equipment is important, especially if you are working musician, for you to be more efficient. That’s why smaller MIDI controllers (37 and 25 keys), and the ones with built-in audio interface, are becoming so popular!
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use a 49 or 61 or even the 88-key keyboard, if you have the space by all means go ahead and use it. There are many who use both a compact controller (usually placed just below the computer screen) and their full-sized synth workstation (place on the side).
There are some controller models that come with teaching software as well, however not many find it very useful, as most of the users are already past the “learning music” stage. They would any-day prefer a controller with better keys and more knobs, sliders & controls.
Some may also have this dilemma of choosing between a controller and a mini sized synth, but if you’re mostly going to work with soft synths, a controller will suit fine. Most of these can easily be programmed to control other synths as well; you can use its midi clock to sync up with other synths in your studio/performance chain.
A midi keyboard controller can be a good alternative to the regular music keyboard, provided you do most of your music related stuff on a computer. Since a midi controller is used to trigger software based sounds, it is also used a lot by other musicians like guitar players and DJs.
If you have already seen a controller keyboard, you will definitely have observed all those faders, knobs and buttons, which obviously exist so that you can easily control the various sound related parameters.
Piano players will find options of weighted keys and keyboards with more than 61 keys so they can continue to play or create classical stuff on these controllers.
If you want a really mobile setup or are cramped for space, you may consider midi controller keyboard with built-in audio interface. It usually includes a built-in preamp and so you can connect a microphone and get started.
Most midi connections nowadays are getting USB based, so if you have a similar setup you may choose to buy USB midi controller keyboard, else you may choose one that comes with a 5-pin MIDI connector.
The Popular Types
There’s a reason that these controllers come in various sizes and for different prices. Do you often meet clients for giving demo of your musical ideas that you have created? I’m sure you won’t have means and energy to lug around larger equipment. The smaller ones are meant specifically for those/ Most of the 25 key ones do not come with pitch/mod wheels though! If that is not a concern then these mini keyboards are excellent products and some of them also come with very playable MPC pads.
Then there are pianists who prefer weighted keys. They basically want a bigger keyboard, but with much fewer buttons, something that is close enough to a piano. You do get 88 key controllers that come with the minimum necessary buttons including the wheels, and have keys that offer similar resistance to the key on a piano. Best part is that these just needs to be plugged into the USB port of your computer and you are instantly setup for some action.
Those who have played on keyboards like Yamaha or Casio before might find the controller keys a bit “springy” in the beginning. But as you get used to it, you may in fact start liking that action because of their nice and subtle responsive nature.
For those who do a lot of programming, a minimalistic design is usually not suitable and they find it difficult to program if the keyboard lacks dedicated programming buttons. For them, lots of knobs and features are always welcome.
Overall, you need to select one that fits in your budget, is lightweight and compact as far as possible, does exactly what you want it to do and that too without any problems in setting it up.
Most of these keyboards only have a couple of ports, the USB and the sustain pedal. You should definitely consider going in for a solid and handy piano style sustain pedal.
If you are a Garageband user, you may also want to check out the hugely popular Jam Pack sounds.
Best Midi Controller Keyboard Reviews
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