MIDI controllers have become more loaded with features in recent years, a far cry from the simple keyboard-only controllers from several years back.
With a good range of octaves available, the M-Audio AXIOM 49 MIDI keyboard has 49 semi-weighted keys. While the knobs and faders give good functionality overall, users have mentioned that it can take a bit of time to learn how to program these functions. This keyboard is also non-toxic — the M-Audio products are RoHS compliant (the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances criteria).
The M-Audio AXIOM 49 Advanced USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is available at Amazon for $200. The Akai MPK49 Keyboard USB MIDI Keyboard has twelve drum pads that comes with four different banks for the pads, allowing users to have up to 48 drum pads total. While this device is very thorough in its design, it does take some time to figure out how to program every function to a usera€™s preferences.
Studiologica€™s SL-990XP MIDI keyboard provides users with the complete gamut of octaves with 88 keys.
While this MIDI keyboard doesna€™t have a lot of the bells and whistles of other MIDI controllers, ita€™s a great value for the range. The Novation XioSynth 49 MIDI keyboard has 49 keys, filter distortion, three oscillators, and two LFOs.
While at times the panel of the XioSynth seems a bit crowded, and at times confusing for beginners, overall the product is a great value.
I bought an M-Audio Keystation 88-es a few months ago, my first MIDI, and have found it to be really useful and easy to set up and use. MIDI keyboard controllers are becoming more and more popular today, seeing that technology continues to improve and musicians everywhere are slowly beginning the migration process of switching to a digital setup. Fore more information on this aspect of shopping, we recommend reading Sweetwater’sA how to choose your MIDI controller article. Some say MIDI keyboards are one of the most important pieces of music production equipment when building a studio. The original MPK series of MIDI keyboards by Akai Professional took the market by storm and quickly became one of the favorites in terms of MIDIA music equipment. We love this keyboard by M-Audio because of it’s lower retail price for those on a budget.
Alesis has been making their way into the MIDI keyboard game more and more lately, especially with their Q and QX models of controllers. M-Audio makes an appearance again with a keyboard that is very budget friendly, but this has pads, some necessary faders, encoders and other assignable functionality. This keyboard by Korg instruments is even more simpler than the M-AudioA controller we mentioned earlier in the article.
Although it does depend on the musician, try to steer away from keyboards that have numerous other assignable options, such as faders, knobs, buttons, thumb-sticks or pedal inputs…unless these pertain to you.
After sifting through the beginner keyboards in the market, we went with something around the middle-tier of including the essential MIDI controller functions, the stability and build of the keyboard, as well as the overall price in general. What makes this MIDI keyboard also perfect for those of us starting out is their nice little software bundle. Aside from Ableton Live, you’re also getting a nice little virtual instrument which provides sounds for the keyboard to play. Although we were quite careful in our pick for the best beginner MIDI keyboard, we have some near-winners below which fall in different price ranges for you to take into consideration.
A little lesser known among the top brands, this MIDI keyboard is a gem and very affordable at that. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on our latest reviews, guides, information and news! Hello, I’m a university student on a slight budget but am graduating in Music and am a competent jazz player. Music equipment researchers: recording gear, headphones, synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and various other music equipment addicts.
The Roland Worldwide Social Network keeps you connected to the latest products, exciting events, and much more. With 88 pro-quality weighted keys, the A-88 sets a new standard for streamlined, portable MIDI controllers. Featuring Rolanda€™s acclaimed Progressive Hammer Action design with Escapement, the A-88a€™s Ivory Feel-G keyboard provides the functions, appearance, and texture of keyboards found on our flagship pianos.
The A-88 is the perfect MIDI keyboard to get the most out of your software-based pianos, soft synths, and sound modules. If youa€™re looking for grand piano action without the weight and bulk, look no further than the A-88. As iPad music apps continue to evolve and improve, youa€™ll want a pro-quality keyboard to play them. The KS-18Z keyboard stand is attractive, easy to transport, and sturdy enough to hold even the heaviest 88-key keyboard securely.
This well-built, real-feel pedal comes with a non-slip rubber plate a€” essential when performing on hardwood or slip-prone surfaces a€” and an extended cable (2.2m) for stacked multi-keyboard setups. Durable expression pedal for use with keyboards or other Expression-compatible instruments to control a range of functions and effects parameters. This contains information on the A-Series Keyboard ( A-49, A-88) driver compatible with Microsoft Windows 10.
If you have questions about operating your Roland product, please check our Knowledge Base for answers to the most common questions. In addition, we have a library of Ownera€™s Manuals and Support Documents that you can download and reference.
Now many MIDI models feature full mixing controllers, such as knobs, faders, and even transport controls. There are also eight pads that can be assigned certain values, depending on the software being used.
The pitch-shifting knob is also said to be a bit overly sensitive, but overall the keyboard is a great value at the price point.
It also has eight pots, eight sliders, and eight switches that are all assignable to the software being utilized.
Some users have also complained that the drum pads arena€™t as responsive as expected, but they most likely take some time getting used to in order to get rhythms correct. With pitch and modulation wheels, as well as 100 memory locations, the SL-990XP is made for playing.

It has inputs for volume and sustain pedals, though neither are included with the keyboard. Therea€™s also a X-Gator patch programmer thata€™s designed to gate any patch for creating 16-32 step rhythm patterns, which synchs to a MIDI clock. Some users have mentioned that the key action isna€™t overly responsive, but ita€™s still a great value for the money. I know people who still abide by analog equipment for mixing and mastering, but still use their MIDI controller frequently for various functions in their studio. Whether it’s synth-action, semi-weighted, full-weighted or equipped with aftertouch, it all comes down to preference.
A lot of keyboards coming out nowadays include drum pads, typically within the 8-16 count range with 3-4 possible banks.
Such as knobs, faders, buttons, arpeggiators, mod and pitch bend wheels, or various other performance controls. Akai, Alesis, Arturia, Novation and Korg are quite popular, but there are also some lesser known brands who make high-quality MIDI controllers.
Or if you want an alternative to MIDI, read our top 10 best digital pianosA or 10 best synthesizers article.
Novation music makes us scratch our heads in confusion withA how a controller of this caliber can have such a solid build, include pads and other external functions at almost half the price of it’s competitors. Stated to be one of the best 25 key MIDI keyboards in our opinion previously, the Oxygen’s keys are very nice quality, being full-sized, velocity-sensitive and synth-action.
It’s a step down from our all-time best Impulse previously spoken about, so we recommend going with this if you want to save a hundred dollars or so. In our opinion they’re one of the top 5 best brands when it comes to affordable gear. To our avail, a lot of the popular brands offer simple, more basic solutions for beginners or those who don’t want any of the fancy additional functions or software. Some with digital audio workstations such as Ableton Live Lite, others with virtual instruments and effects plug-ins…but do you really need these? Fortunately today, it has become so big that most programs map with controllers flawlessly. If you’re looking for a controller with only pads, check out our best MIDI pad controller article. I remember when I first bought my first MIDI keyboard I was a bit daunted by all of the extra features and pretty much only used the pads and keys for a good year or two. You can technically not even touch your mouse with the Oxygen — you just have to read some of the manual to learn how to do so. If you haven’t chosen a software to start learning to make your music yet, it comes with Ableton Live Lite (one of the most popular digital audio workstations out there!). You can download some free sounds around the internet, but for starting, their inclusion of SONiVOX Twist gives you some nice synth sounds to play with out of the box. If you dont necessarily need drum pads on the controller, this is one to look at as it doesn’t have many additional features and gives you just the eseentials.
Offering only keys (albeit a rather nice key-bed for the price), you get the essentials for under $100. The keys are velocity sensitive as well, plug-and-play via USB, and it also includes a nice little touch with pitch and modulation wheels (assignable to warp sounds).
What’s better about this keyboard is the inclusion of drum pads, a thumb-stick and a few encoders in case you need these functions (or you may end up learning how to use them down the road, so keep in mind!).
It also comes with 4 assignable knobs and 4 assignable buttons, not to mention a pitch and modulation wheel as well.
I’m looking for a semi-weighted 88 key midi controller to use with mainstage in logic for authentic piano, organ and synth sounds.
We like to review, guide, and provide new information to our fellow music equipment junkies. Its Ivory Feel-G weighted keyboard a€” a trusted asset found on high-end Roland workstations and digital pianos a€” brings a new level of grand piano luxury to the portable MIDI controller market.
Ita€™s equipped with advanced sensor technology, and the white keys feature a comfortable, moisture-absorbent surface that feels like real ivory.
It provides clean connections via its recessed rear panel so you can place a computer monitor or laptop in the perfect position for creating music. The elegant Ivory Feel-G keyboard plays like a true grand, with superb action and natural resistance-gradation from the low to high keys. Some models also have integrated effects, vocoder microphones, and drum pads for a wider range of options overall. With weighted, hammer action keys, pianists and producers alike will love the natural feel of this MIDI keyboard. Many users have stated after using this keyboard they find it hard to go back to un-weighted controllers.
Therea€™s over 200 patches pre-installed, and well-known producers and musicians designed many of them. Most of these come in different key counts, provide various additional functions as well as includeA pads and some decent software bundles. You’ve got 16 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pads, semi-weighted full-sized keys with aftertouch. The drum pads are a bit smaller than the Akai or Oxygen (which bugged us at first but we ultimately were able to get used to it), but it does have assignable faders and buttons (no knobs), as well as pitch bend and mod wheels.
The U-Control UMX is rather unique, featuring a solid build of keys and a few assignable controls. Not to mention the very nice key make, which are semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive and have aftertouch.
MIDI keyboard controllers are becoming more of the norm as time goes on, especially with the continuing rise of digital setups, whether it’s for the home, semi-pro or professional studio.
Although, we list a few that have some extra features that still come in an affordable price as well. This is again where personal preference comes in — how big of a keyboard player are you? M-Audio equipment is one of our favorite MIDI controller creators and their Oxygen model is in our opinion a great middle-ground to start if you are a MIDI beginner.
Otherwise, you’re still able to traditionally assign sounds to your keyboard through your software.
We love the software bundle of the Oyxgen — just enough without sacrificing too much of the price of the controller. Feel free to check out the other versions if you want to save some money or think 49 may be too overboard.

Just keep in mind that it’s only 25 keys and they are mini (smaller than normal sized keyboards). It also comes with a nice virtual instrument called Eighty-Eight by SONiVOX, which has some nice piano sounds.
USB bus-powered operation allows for a clean, simple setup, while the two knobs, two switches, and D-BEAM controller are all easily accessible and intelligently arranged to make your workflow fast and fluid. For quick control over your external instruments, the A-88a€™s dedicated Dual and Split buttons let you instantly access layers and zones.
There are only some manufacturers that make budget model MIDI keyboards under $500, like M-Audio, Novation, Studiologic, and Akai. Ableton Live Lite 4 is bundled with the MIDI keyboard, so users can start playing and recording immediately. The Akai MIDI keyboard also has a tap tempo feature that allows users to manually select a speed.
Users can even plug in a guitar directly to the controller for DI recording at the same time they use a microphone.
The key make is solid for the price and is synth-action (a bit more springy than semi and full-weighted, which I like) and comes with a nice orchestra-type of VST in the SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble.
Overall build and stability are great as expected from Novation (not as good as Akai but still solid) and it comes with Novation V-Station and Bass Station VST (PC and Mac), as well as their Novation apps for the iPad, so it’s a huge plus if you use iOS for music (seems to be getting more popular lately). It is USB powered so you don’t have to hassle with an adapter and you also get an octave shift and key transpose button, alongside the nifty pitch bend and mod wheels.
The keys are synth-action and have aftertouch and you’re able to create your own velocity curves if you want to get fancy. As we saw in our top 10 MIDI keyboard controllers article, there are numerous models and brands out there that offer very nice makes of keyboards. We try to find the perfect middle ground of a keyboard without fancy stuff yet still provide a solid key-bed or pad-make at an affordable price.
If that’s a concern for you, we give you a few options of keyboards that provide this. They are nice not only for recording a more ‘natural sounding’ drum beat but also to play around with and jam! The 8 knobs included can be assigned for mixing, particuarly certain effects for manipulation. The Oxygen 25 keyboard and Oxygen 61 controller are also great options if you want a different key count. If you plan on becoming accustomed to some of the more additional features and think you may need it, we recommend grabbing this as a long-term investment.
For players looking for great weighted-keyboard action in a portable package, the A-88 is the best MIDI controller available. Other settings can be accessed via the Function button, which lets you use the keys to perform additional tasks printed above the keyboard.
You can also map the A-88a€™s controllers automatically to SuperNATURAL instruments such as the INTEGRA-7 sound module or JUPITER-80 and JUPITER-50 synthesizers. If you need some sounds to go with your controller, remember to check out our top 10 best VST plug-insA post.
You have a lot of options in terms of key-count and price, ranging from a mini 25-key to a full on 61 key.
It’s also got the standard assignable buttons and knobs but unfortunatelyA no faders. Grab it if you don’t care about software and can sacrifice a little build for a cheaper price but still want pads that will get the job done.
It comes with 100 virtual instrument sounds and 50 different VST effects, although some of these are just a bit preset-sounding in our opinion. Lastly, a huge hit with this keyboard is the inclusion of Pro Tools Express and Ignite by AIR. Many keyboarders will not go under 49-keys because they’re efficient in playing and need to use both hands. You could assign a reverb effect to one knob and turn it up and down as you please for a particular track, etc. You first have the 25-keys (they are mini) and are synth-action as well, but it also comes with a thumbstick which allows you to do some pitch and modulation controls. A bit more expensive than the Novation keyboard but if you’re looking for a better software bundle, an arpeggiator and an overall better build, grab an MPK2.
Just an overall solid keyboard and we recommend you grab this if you want to keep it simple and cheap. The keys are relatively nicer, not as good as the Akai or Novation but they still do the trick (you get what you pay for). Doesn’t come with any price-adjusting software bundle either, besides the free download of theirA KORG KONTROL Editor.
I’ve also heard of some saying 61 is the only way to go as it gives them an even bigger range for playing. However, you get a slightly less better build and a bitA lower-quality of a software bundle and no faders.
An 88-key MIDI keyboard is rather rare, but it’s an option and some even swear by this because it is the default count for a piano.
Not to metion the pretty hefty software it comes with.You can read our full review of the Akai MPK Mini MkII for more info. It also comes with it’s own audio interface for some external control of the volume and other functions. Grab this if you want a convenient keyboard that doesn’t take up half of your entire desk, or if you travel with your gear a lot. On the other hand, a 25-key keyboard is difficult to use both hands with, but if you want a smaller solution and can get away with it they are ideal for those looking to save money.
Check out their new V-model as well if you need an even cheaper option (no pads with them, however).

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