The 6 Best MIDI Keyboards on Earth Today

A MIDI keyboard is an essential piece of music production gear for any home studio. Choosing the right controller allows you to easily input melodies, harmonies, basslines, and more into your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

With so many options on the market, it can be tricky to determine which keyboard is right for your needs and budget. This definitive guide breaks down the 6 best MIDI keyboards available today based on performance, features, and value.

How to Choose the Best MIDI Keyboard

Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a MIDI controller:

Number of keys: 25, 49, 61, or 88 key varieties allow for different levels of playability and portability. 25-keys offer easy travel while 88-keys give you the full piano range.

Controls: Knobs, faders, pads, and buttons allow you to manipulate software instruments and effects. The more controls the better in most cases.

Connectivity: Most keyboards today use USB-MIDI but some offer 5-pin DIN ports for connecting hardware synthesizers. Wireless Bluetooth MIDI is also an option.

Software Integration: Some keyboards have deep integration with popular DAWs like Ableton Live or Logic Pro for quick workflow.

Feel and response: The keyboard mechanism and velocity/aftertouch sensitivity greatly affects playability. High-end keyboards feel extremely realistic.

Sequencing and arpeggiation: Built-in step sequencers and arpeggiators allow you to easily create patterns and melodic ideas.

Form factor: Keyboards come in different form factors and layouts to suit various studio spaces and user preferences. Consider desktop vs keyboard style.

The 6 Best MIDI Keyboards

Based on the above criteria, these keyboards stand out as the top all-around options:

1. Arturia KeyStep Pro

The best overall MIDI keyboard

The Arturia KeyStep Pro is the ultimate MIDI keyboard for sequencing electronic music both in the box and out.

It packs a 32-step polyphonic sequencer with multiple lanes, arpeggiator, chord mode, and tons of connectivity. The slim-key bed provides velocity and aftertouch response for expressive playing.

With CV/Gate outputs, you can control vintage synths alongside the excellent integration with Arturia‘s soft synths. At under $500, the features are unbeatable.

Key Specs:

  • 37 velocity-sensitive slim keys with aftertouch
  • 32-step polyphonic sequencer
  • Arpeggiator and chord modes
  • CV/Gate, MIDI, USB, Clock syncing

Ideal for: Electronic music producers looking for deep sequencing capabilities alongside playing virtual and hardware instruments. The KeyStep Pro is the best of both worlds in a portable package.

Arturia KeyStep Pro

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2. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88

The best high-end MIDI keyboard

The Komplete Kontrol S88 from Native Instruments sets the new standard for premium MIDI controllers.

You get an fully-weighted Fatar keybed—the pinnacle for realistic piano playing feel. The Smart Play features like scales, chords, and arpeggios make it effortless to compose music in any key.

What‘s more, the keyboard deeply integrates with NI‘s Komplete instruments and effects for a seamless production workflow.

If money‘s no object, the S88 delivers best-in-class software control alongside top notch keyboard action.

Key Specs:

  • 88 fully-weighted hammer-action keys
  • Pitch bend, mod wheels, touch strips
  • Smart Play features for melodic composition
  • Tight NI software integration

Ideal For: Producers and keyboardists looking for realistic piano playing feel with tight DAW/plugin control. If you demand the highest quality keybed, the S88 is for you.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88

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3. Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3

The best portable MIDI keyboard

The Akai Pro MPK Mini MK3 packs a surprising amount of production power in a compact and portable package.

It‘s one of the most playable mini keyboards thanks to its velocity-sensitive, synth-action keybed. The 8 backlit drum pads are fantastic for finger drumming and launching clips.

With an arpeggiator, sustain button, and assignable Q-Link knobs, you have plenty of creative tools at your fingertips despite the tiny footprint.

For mobile music-making, the MPK Mini MK3 gives you the most features and responsiveness in a truly portable MIDI form factor.

Key Specs:

  • 25 velocity- and pressure-sensitive keys
  • 8 MPC-style drum pads
  • Q-Link control knobs
  • Arpeggiator and sustain features

Ideal For: Music producers and performers looking for the most portable, playable keyboard with drum pads and controls. Great for travel and tight studio spaces.

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3

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4. Roland A-800 PRO

The best MIDI keyboard for controlling hardware

The Roland A-800 PRO is a versatile MIDI keyboard designed for studio and stage use controlling hardware synthesizers.

It has an impressive set of connectivity options including USB, MIDI DIN, and old-school 5-pin DIN sync ports. This makes it easy to integrate with all types of music gear.

While the keybed is basic, you get 9 faders, 9 knobs, transport controls, and MIDI-mappable buttons for manipulating outboard gear. There‘s even an iOS dock for connecting to iPhone/iPad.

For a master MIDI controller station that plays nice with external instruments, the Roland A-800 Pro is a top choice.

Key Specs:

  • 88 keys with velocity sensitivity
  • USB, MIDI DIN, iOS connection
  • 9 faders and knobs
  • Transport and Mappable controls
  • 5-pin DIN sync ports

Ideal For: Producers with lots of hardware synths looking for a central MIDI control station. The connectivity and controls greatly aid external gear workflow.

Roland A-800 PRO MIDI Keyboard Controller

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5. Native Instruments M32

The best premium portable MIDI keyboard

For producers loving the Native Instruments ecosystem, the M32 keyboard controller provides an ultra-portable way to access their tools.

Weighing under 3 pounds, the M32 is incredibly slim and easy to travel with. Yet you still get 32 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys along with an array of clickable encoders.

The keyboard integrates seamlessly with NI software like Maschine, Komplete Kontrol, and The OLED screens provide visual feedback when tweaking parameters.

For NI-centric producers needing maximum portability without sacrificing software control, the M32 is the recommenced choice.

Key Specs:

  • 32 slim velocity- and pressure-sensitive keys
  • 8 touch-sensitive encoders
  • OLED display screens
  • Tight NI software integration
  • Ultra-portable form factor

Ideal For: Native Instruments Maschine and Komplete users who want a minimal, road-ready controller for producing on the go. Super portable while still enabling software control.

Native Instruments M32

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6. Novation Launchkey Mini MK3

The best MIDI keyboard for Ableton Live

Ableton Live users should look no further than the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3.

Beyond excellent build quality, this compact 25-key controller offers deep integration with Ableton for quick workflow. Automap seamlessly maps knobs and faders to device parameters.

The 16 velocity-sensitive pads trigger clips and scenes elegantly. You also get transport and navigation controls, an arpeggiator, and MIDI out.

For intuitive control of Ableton sessions in a highly portable form, the Launchkey Mini MK3 delivers best-in-class functionality.

Key Specs:

  • 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys
  • 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads
  • 8 assignable knobs, faders
  • Transport and navigation controls
  • Automap integration for Ableton

Ideal For: Ableton Live users wanting a portable MIDI keyboard and pad controller optimized for clip launching and device control. Deep Ableton integration right out of the box.

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 For Ableton Live

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Things to Consider When Buying a MIDI Keyboard

Beyond the keyboards above, there are a few key considerations when choosing any MIDI controller:

What‘s your budget? MIDI keyboards range from $100 entry-level options to $1,000+ high-end controllers. Determine how much you can spend.

What do you want to control? If you mainly work ITB in your DAW with plugins, you need lots of knobs/faders. For controlling hardware synths, connectivity and keyboards feel trump extras.

How will you use it? Performance focused keyboards prioritize playability and pads while production centered controllers offer more controls.

What computer connectivity does it use? USB-MIDI is most common but Bluetooth MIDI allows for wireless operation. Some keyboards also offer standard 5-pin MIDI connections or CV/Gate for analog synths.

Do you need a Built-in audio interface? Some keyboards feature audio interfaces to conveniently connect studio monitors and mics for recording. This adds cost but simplifies your music rig.

Who makes the best keyboards? Top MIDI keyboard manufacturers include Native Instruments, Arturia, Novation, Akai Professional, M-Audio, Nektar, Korg, Roland, Alesis, and more. Research all the options in your budget range.

The Benefits of Using a MIDI Keyboard Controller

Adding a dedicated MIDI keyboard to your home studio setup unlocks a range of benefits:

Natural feel: Playing a keyboard to input melodies, basslines, and harmonies feels more dynamic vs using your mouse or laptop trackpad. The velocity sensitivity adds expressiveness.

Faster workflow: With knobs, faders, and buttons at your fingertips, it‘s quicker to control parameters for instruments, effects, levels, and transport functions compared to clicking with your mouse.

Better software integration: Leading MIDI keyboards come with deep DAW and plugin control integration for popular platforms like Ableton Live and Logic Pro. This gets you up and running faster.

Enhanced performance abilities: Whether playing live on stage or streaming on Twitch, keyboards with pads, faders, and controls make your performances more engaging and playable.

Focus on music: Not having to stare at your computer screen when composing allows you to focus on playing and creating. It‘s more intuitive and ergonomic.

Compact and portable: Many modern MIDI keyboards offer impressive portability without sacrificing features. Bring compact controllers anywhere you go to produces tracks on the move.

Frequently Asked Questions

What‘s the difference between MIDI and a digital piano?

While digital pianos generate their own sounds, MIDI keyboards strictly control external sound sources like virtual instruments, synthesizers or drum machines. So MIDI keyboards tend to offer more controls, connectivity, sequencing, and software integration compared to digital pianos.

How many keys do I need?

25-key MIDI keyboards provide high portability for travel while still enabling melodies and basslines. 49-keys can cover more intricate chording while adding octaves. 61-keys work well for two-handed piano parts and splits. 88-keys give you the full piano range for the most versatility.

Do MIDI keyboards come with sounds?

Some MIDI controllers come with included software instruments from proven developers like Arturia. However, the keyboard itself does not produce sound. It simply triggers external tones generators like virtual instruments, iPad apps, or hardware synthesizers.

Can MIDI keyboards integrate with iPad music apps?

Yes, many feature class-compliant connectivity allowing you to use iPhone and iPad synthesizer apps like Korg Gadget, Animoog, iSEM and more. Some keyboards also offer wireless Bluetooth MIDI to connect to mobile devices.

What gear do I need to use with a MIDI controller?

To make sound you‘ll need virtual instrument plugins installed in a digital audio workstation like Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Pro Tools or Garageband. Alternately you can control hardware synthesizers, drum machines or samplers via MIDI or CV connections on some keyboards.

Summing Up the Best MIDI Keyboards

If you‘re ready to step up your music production game, adding one of these top-rated MIDI keyboards dramatically improves workflow, software control, and performance flexibility compared to only using a computer and mouse.

We recommend considering your budget, ideal number keys, production style, computer connectivity requirements, and special features like pads, controls and deep DAW integration as you shop for the best option for your needs.

Both home studio producers and live performers benefit from having a dedicated MIDI controller keyboard in their creative arsenal, no matter which DAW they use or instruments they want to control.

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