MIDI controller keyboards for beginners and professionals
Selection of the best MIDI controller keyboards for Mac, PC, iPhone and iPad for beginners and professionals for your studio covering the entire price range in 2022.
Table of Contents
Best MIDI Controller Keyboards
A good MIDI controller keyboard is essential for the studio; and the best MIDI keyboards will take your recordings to another level. You’re not sure where to start? We have all the guidance you need here.
These devices can connect directly to your PC or laptop via USB, or in some cases even work wirelessly via Bluetooth, and allow you to play and record with your DAW’s software instruments to record music and any plugins. VST synthesizer you may have installed. Some also double up to offer control over hardware synths, making them a central performance hub for your studio.
There are many options to choose from, depending on your needs. You can go for a compact and portable MIDI keyboard that fits comfortably in a laptop case, or you can go for a full-size 88-note model with weighted hammer-action keys. Most of the options we recommend here also come with additional features like knobs, pads, buttons, and faders to boost creativity and give you even more control over your software.
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MIDI keyboards for any budget
You can get a perfectly decent cheap MIDI keyboard for a lot less than $/£100 if you shop around, but increase your spend even a bit and you’ll get a higher quality model with more features and higher specs. It could also be a bit sturdier; something to keep in mind if you want to take it on the road.
Many of the best MIDI keyboards also come with mapping templates for the most popular DAW: Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, etc., making it easy to get up and running and producing music right out of the box.
We’ve laid out our selections in order of price to help you find the one that’s right for you. Our price comparison widgets have also found the best deals online. If you need further guidance, please press the ‘purchase advice’ button above.
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MIDI Keyboards: Product Guide
MIDI controller keyboards tend to fall into two main categories: compact portable devices with 25 keys and larger desktop options with 49 keys or more. In the compact corner, due to the wealth of features packed into such a small and light footprint, our recommendation at this point is the Novation LaunchKey Mini Mk3. As well as offering out-of-the-box support for Ableton Live, Launchkey Mini also provides pads for launching clips or drum tracks, and useful creative tools like an arpeggiator and chord memory function.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a bigger controller, we recommend Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol S-Series boards, and in particular the Native Instruments Kontrol S61 Mk 2. They have great keybeds, fantastic styling, wonderful Dual-color displays and impressive functionality: These 49-, 61-, and 88-key offerings are hard to beat, and will reduce the amount of time you spend interacting with your computer via mouse or trackpad.
Elsewhere you should check out the Nektar Impakt LX88+, Novation SL49 Mk3, and Arturia KeyStep Pro, which can simultaneously connect to DAWs, hardware synths, and even modular gear.
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List of the best MIDI keyboards
GEARanking‘s selection of the best cheap MIDI controller keyboards for beginners and expensive ones for professionals.
- Nektar SE25 MIDI Keyboard
- Akai MPK Mini Mk3
- Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
- Korg MicroKey 2 Air 25
- Arturia Keystep 37
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
- Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3
- IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49
- Nektar Impact LX88+ MIDI Keyboard
- ROLI Seaboard Block
- Arturia Keystep Pro
- Arturia KeyLab 49 Mk II MIDI Keyboard
- Novation 49 SL MkIII
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII
Nektar SE25 MIDI Keyboard
If you’re someone who’s always making music on the go, this small size MIDI controller keyboard that fits in a laptop bag is perfect for you. The Nektar SE25 firmly proves that features and playability don’t need to be sacrificed for size and portability. With a low price, the Nektar represents incredible value for money.
Plus you can get Nektar DAW integration for Bitwig, Cubase, Garageband, Logic, Nuendo, Digital Performer, Mixcraft, Reason, Reaper, Sonar and Studio One for as little as $60.
Pros of the Nektar SE25 MIDI
- Excellent price-quality ratio
- Integration with Nektar DAW
- excellent portability
Cons of the Nektar SE25 MIDI
Price: $49 / £44 / €48 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | No. of keys: 25 | Key Size: Mini | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: 6 function keys; assignable PB1 and PB2 buttons for pitch bend, transpose, volume, pan and track; assignable ‘Part Two’ button for octave, MIDI channel, transpose, layer and close; S button for sustain and modulation | Connectivity: micro USB port, sustain pedal input | Power: USB | Software: 8 Track Bitwig | Dimensions (mm): 335 x 100 x 21 | Weight (kg): 0.4
Akai MPK Mini Mk3
The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is in many ways the best MIDI keyboard for most people, especially those looking for a quick and easy way to add simple melodies, bass lines and chords to their projects. What elevates it above a simple keyboard, though, is the addition of eight encoder knobs that can be assigned to virtually any parameter in your DAW, and eight full-size MPC-style drum pads.
What you get, therefore, is a full-service production powerhouse that excels in many different performance situations. It’s small enough to carry in a backpack, but has enough useful features and functions to make it a very useful addition to any studio.
Pros of the Akai MPK Mini Mk3
- a lot of control
- Great software included
Cons of the Akai MPK Mini Mk3
- The mini keys are certainly mini
Price: $119 / £89 / €98 | Compatibility: Mac / PC / iOS | No. of keys: 25 | Key Size: Mini | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Eight Assignable Encoders, Eight MPC Pads, Full Transport Controls, 4-Way Joystick | Connectivity: USB | Power: Bus cable | Software: MPC Beats, Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, Velvet | Dimensions: 32 x 18 x 4 cm | Weight: 750g
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Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
Developed primarily for Ableton users and recently updated, this super-portable MIDI keyboard controller is packed with features. Many of its features are new and were not included in the release. These include pitch bend and modulation touch strips, a hardware MIDI output on a TRS connector, an incredibly flexible and versatile arpeggiator, a chord memory function, and an excellent and rich software package.
Of course, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI Keyboard is not exclusive to Ableton. It also works perfectly with other DAWs, but if you’re a Live user, it certainly represents the best solution at this price point.
Pros of the Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
- fantastic arpeggiator
- Ideal for Ableton users, Live integration
- sustain pedal input
- super portability
Cons of the Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
- Does not include MIDI adapter
Price: $110 / £110 / €116 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | No. of keys: 25 | Key Size: Mini | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Octave Shift, Transpose, Pitch, and Modulation Strips, 16 RGB Backlit Velocity-Sensitive Launch Pads, 8 Rotary Encoders, 10 Function Buttons | Connectivity: USB B Port, 3.5mm TRS Type A MIDI Out, Sustain Pedal Input | Power: USB | Software: Ableton Live Lite, Two Months of Splice Sounds, AAS Session Pack, Softube Time & Tone, Spitfire Audio LABS Expressive Strings, Klevgrand DAW Cassette and R0Verb, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, Novation Sound Collective Membership | Dimensions (mm): 330 x 172 x 40 | Weight (kg): 0.69
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Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 has most of the features of the Komplete Kontrol A-Series. In addition, this portable keyboard with USB 2.0 bus cable, manages to include 32 mini keys and the Komplete Kontrol plugin with all its controls in a minimum space.
The pitch and mod wheels have been replaced with a pair of short touch strips. But the eight knobs, 4D encoder, and numerous buttons are uncompromised in size and feel. Delivering the complete experience when it comes to navigating and manipulating plugins, operating Maschine, with excellent portability and mixer capability from your DAW.
The Series A’s OLED screen is surprisingly informative. It also features the Smart Play function, which allows for scaling, chord triggering, and arpeggio. And of course it also works as a normal configurable MIDI keyboard controller with any other software. The mini keys are the only potential drawback, but if you can live with them, this is the best cheap portable MIDI keyboard you can buy.
Pros of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
- Super portable
- 32 keys – above average for a mini MIDI keyboard
- Software/hardware integration
Cons of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
- Mini keys
Price: $139 / £99 / €119 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 32 | Key Size: Mini | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Eight touch-sensitive control buttons, two touch strips, four-way push encoder | Connectivity: USB | Power: USB | Size: 47.5 x 16.7 x 0.5cm | Weight: 1.45kg
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Korg MicroKey 2 Air 25
The microKey 2 Air line includes 25-, 37-, 49-, and 61-note models, all of which have the benefit of wireless operation via Bluetooth. This feature runs on a pair of AA batteries or USB bus power.
The MicroKey 2 Air 25 provides the basics but performs much better than many of its rivals. It’s also easy to set up and operate, so if you want to free yourself from the tyranny of cables, you’ve found the MIDI keyboard controller you need.
Pros of the Korg MicroKey 2 Air 25
- Works wirelessly
- Natural Touch Keyboard
- Very compact and portable
- Cheap price
Cons of the Korg MicroKey 2 Air 25
- Mini keys
Price: $139 / £86 / €99 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 25 | Key Size: Mini | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Joystick, Arpeggiator button, Sustain/TAP button, Octave Shift buttons | Connectivity: USB, Bluetooth | Power: USB or batteries | Size: 15.5″ x 5.2″ x 0.20″ | Weight: 0.67kg
Arturia Keystep 37
The Arturia Keystep 37 has enough features of its own to be classified as an upgrade over the original model. Sitting between the Keystep and Keystep Pro, this Arturia features an expanded 37-key section that allows for more complex patterns and melodies to be played. Plus, it adds four assignable encoder knobs, with visual feedback, offering real-time feedback on your DAW parameters.
The sequencer is a joy to use, with the ability to program up to 64 steps directly on the keyboard. This, along with the arpeggiator, can be used within your DAW or to control external hardware or modular synths. All of this makes it a great versatile studio tool that adapts to several different workflows.
Pros of the Arturia Keystep 37
- Sequencer and arpeggiator offer plenty of creative potential
- 37 keys
- Versatility thanks to its great variety of functions.
Cons of the Arturia Keystep 37
- Complex DAW mapping
Versatile MIDI keyboard with clever tricks of its own
Price: $159 / £149 / €159 | Compatibility: Mac / PC | No. of keys : 37 | Key Size: Mini | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Four assignable encoders, transport controls, touch strips for pitch and modulation | Connectivity: USB, Clock Sync, CV/Pitch/Mod Gate | Power: 12v DC or bus | Software: Ableton Live Lite | Dimensions: 55 x 35 x 15 cm | Weight: 1.6kg
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Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol has 25, 49 and 61 key versions available, we include the A25 for its simplicity and practicality. The Series A has some of the features of the Series S, including the 4D encoder – a joystick/rotary control/button combo – for software navigation. It also features eight touch-sensitive knobs for plugin parameter control. In addition, it contains the robust tone wheels and mod. Finally, most buttons are backlit for better control.
There are two major cuts, however: the dual-color LED displays or alphanumeric LEDs on the S25, still languishing on the Mk1, and the unique per-key light guide LEDs. Even with those features removed and the reduced level of Maschine integration, we’re still very impressed by the value proposition presented by the A25 and A-series keyboards in general.
Pros of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
- Top-notch build quality and keyboard bed
- Works with Komplete Kontrol
- Decent software package
- Good value for money
Cons of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
- Bigger and heavier.
Price: $169 / £119 / €149 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 25 | Key Size: Full Size | Key Type: Semi Weighted | Controls: Pitch and Mod Wheels, Transport Buttons, 4-Way Push Encoder, Eight Touch-Sensitive Knobs | Connectivity: USB | Power: USB | Size: 19″ x 10″ x 3.5″ | Weight: 2.4kg
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Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3
The Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3 is the intermediate option with 37 keys – there are versions of 25, 37, 49 and 61 keys. This mini keyboard features a sleek, matte black look and an understated design. It includes 16 backlit velocity-sensitive pads, a compact parameter display, and a set of buttons for keyboard navigation and control. Both the pads and keyboards have been improved for this new generation of MIDI controller keyboard; furthermore, both feel great with decent velocity response albeit without aftertouch.
The Launchkey Mk3 includes a number of new features designed to take advantage of the updated elements of Ableton Live. These include a button to activate Live’s Capture MIDI tool, along with Push-style device control, here making use of eight knobs located on top of the controller. These latest Launchkeys also get great standalone chord, scale, and arpeggiator modes, which can be used with or without a computer. All controllers in the Launchkey line get a hardware MIDI output, so users can take advantage of these features to control hardware synthesizers as well.
Pros of the Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3
- Ableton Live control -great option for Ableton Live users-
- Logic Pro X Compatibility
- Good balance between size and functionality
- MIDI output, custom modes allow use with external hardware
Cons of the Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3
- You may not like the pitch and mod wheels above the keyboard
Price: $179 / £180 / €199 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 37 | Key Size: Full Size | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Pitch and Mod Wheels, 16 RGB Velocity-Sensitive Pads, 8 Knobs | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB | Size: 258 x 555 x 77mm
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IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49
The IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49 combines a MIDI keyboard controller and audio interface in a single unit. Plus, it’s designed to be as compact as possible without compromising playability. It also comes with a spectacular list of bundled software. Unweighted keys that are light and responsive, with reasonable travel and minimal lateral movement. On the side of the integrated audio interface it sounds very good, and it works at up to 24 bits / 96 kHz.
The iRig Keys I/O 49 is small enough to fit on any recording studio table. Equipped to handle basic recording functions and general-purpose MIDI control both on stage and in the studio. Furthermore, it comes with an extraordinary software package. This MIDI controller keyboard offers very good value for money.
Pros of the IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49
- MIDI control and audio I/O in one
- Impressive selection of bundled software
Cons of the IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49
- Only one mono input
- basic keyboard
Price: $299 / €360 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 49 | Key Size: Full Size | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive, Synth Action | Controls: 2 Sliders for Pitch and Modulation, Octave, Program Shift and Transport Controls, 5 Programmable Touch-Sensitive Knobs, 8 Velocity-Sensitive Pads | Connectivity: USB, Neutrik mic/instrument/line input combo jack with 48V phantom power, balanced stereo, and headphone outputs | Power: USB or batteries | Size: 69.3 x 20.8 x 6.5cm | Weight: 2.18kg
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Nektar Impact LX88+ MIDI keyboard
There are many options for MIDI buyers on the market, but if you are looking for one with a piano-sized 88-note keyboard, the Nektar Impact LX88+ is your choice. Thus, Nektar’s Impact LX88+ has a semi-weighted 88-key USB keyboard. It also comes equipped with extensive DAW control via nine sliders, nine buttons, eight knobs, eight pads, and transport controls.
Despite the many features, the LX88+ is reasonably sized and light enough to be portable. Also, the 88 keys of this Nektar feel good and the mechanical noise is quite low. However, many users won’t be happy that the keys aren’t full weighted hammer action; but at this price you can’t claim that much and it’s worth giving it a try.
Pros of the Nektar Impact LX88+ MIDI keyboard
- A full-size keyboard
- solid but portable
- Cheap price
Cons of the Nektar Impact LX88+ MIDI keyboard
- Keys are not hammer action
A piano-sized controller at a great price
Price: $319 / £249 / €289 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 88 | Key Size: Full Size | Key Type: Velocity Sensitive, Semi-Weighted | Controls: 8 Knobs, 9 Faders, 9 Assignable Buttons, 6 Transport Buttons, 8 Velocity-Sensitive Pads | Connectivity: USB, MIDI out port, 1/4-inch TS jack pedal input | Power: USB or network | Size: 127.6 x 27.9 x 8.9cm | Weight: 8.2kg
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ROLI Seaboard Block
The ROLI Seaboard Block is a completely different animal than the rest of the list. In line with more expensive Seaboards, it’s a continuous pressure-sensitive surface that responds to even the most subtle gestures, allowing for great expressiveness.
Using its 24 wave keys, you can shape notes as you play, adjusting the character of the sound with your finger movements. The Seaboard block works as a portable, multi-touch, wireless MIDI controller for concerts, travel, or the studio. The younger brother of the Seaboards achieves the luxurious feel of his older brothers at a much cheaper price.
Plus, with its expandability across other products in the Blocks range, you’ll have a professional-grade tool that commands attention and delivers high quality everywhere. A unique and innovative experience.
Pros of the ROLI Seaboard Block
- A unique playing experience
- Good build quality
Cons of the ROLI Seaboard Block
- Not for traditional musicians who like traditional keyboards
- High price for a 2-octave keyboard MIDI controller
Price: $349 / £279 / €329 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | Number of keys: 24 | Key Size: Full Size | Key Type: Keywave | Controls: None | Connectivity: USB-C (MIDI out), Bluetooth | Power: USB | Size: 11″ x 5.5″ x 1″ | Weight: 0.65kg
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Arturia Keystep Pro
Arturia has a pretty wide range of controllers ranging from the simple and inexpensive MicroLab MIDI keyboard to the multi-format sequencing tools of BeatStep Pro. Now comes KeyStep Pro to fill one of the few remaining gaps in that lineup. The Arturia Keystep Pro combines BeatStep’s cross-format analog and digital sequencing with a 37-note keyboard, making it more suitable for melodic work.
KeyStep Pro has four sequence channels, each of which can record a sequence of up to 64 steps. Each of them is polyphonic, up to 16 notes per step. Tracks 2, 3, and 4 are each equipped with an arpeggiator, while Track 1 functions as a 24-part drum sequencer.
The KeyStep Pro is one of the best MIDI controllers that do it all, for melodic sequencing tasks and flexible hardware control. Its compact size may put off serious ‘performers’ – Novation’s SL Mk3 remains the best CV-equipped device on that front – but modular musicians and hardware lovers will probably enjoy this one.
Pros of the Arturia Keystep Pro
- Convenient mix of analog and digital I/O
- Lots of creative sequencing tools
Cons of the Arturia Keystep Pro
- Mini keys are unlikely to appeal to serious players
- Pitch and modulation controls are small
Price: $399 / £369 / €399 | Compatibility: PC, Mac, iOS | No. of keys: 37 | Key Size: Narrow | Key type: Velocity and aftertouch sensitive | Controls: Four-track controller/sequencer, with drum and arp sequencing modes. I, 4 CV voices with pitch, gate and mod/velocity outputs, clock in/out/reset | Connectivity: USB, sustain input, speaker and line out | Power: USB or network | Dimensions: 589 x 208 x 38mm | Weight (kg): 2.7
Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII MIDI keyboard
KeyLab is Arturia’s flagship MIDI keyboard controller, and the MkII comes in 49- and 61-key versions. The MkII’s keyboard and pads are bolstered by DAW controls and deep integration with Arturia’s included Analog Lab 3 software. Although similar in design to the KeyLab Essential, the MkII is a very different unit, with a higher price tag and a more sophisticated feel.
Thus, the aluminum case feels robust and the Pro-Feel keyboard is excellent, providing good sensitivity throughout the speed range. The metal pitch and mod wheels are light and responsive. KeyLab MkII is intuitive from an operational point of view, with three different modes: DAW, Analog Lab and User. Additionally, it features ten user-configurable presets, selected via dedicated mode buttons in the center.
The KeyLab MkII not only offers excellent playability with a great keyboard. It also tackles DAW control and synth editing with aplomb. It also features CV connection and stand-alone operation and the price seems justified.
Pros of the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII MIDI keyboard
- Three well-executed operating modes: DAW, Analog Lab, and User
- Tight integration with Arturia’s Analog Lab
Cons of the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII MIDI keyboard
- Expensive, but worth what it costs
Price: $449 / £439 / €469 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 49 | Key Size: Full Size | Key type: Velocity sensitive with aftertouch | Controls: 16 RGB backlit performance pads, control bank with 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs | Connectivity: Expression, Sustain, CV/Gate, MIDI, USB and 3 Assignable Aux Pedal Inputs | Power: USB network with optional adapter | Size: 79.3 x 29.7 x 5.3 cm | Weight: N/D
Novation 49 SL MkIII
The Novation 49 SL MkIII You can connect the Novation 49 SL MkIII to a computer and use it to control your DAW. Plus, with a built-in eight-channel sequencer and multiple forms of digital and analog output, you can do so much. This MIDI keyboard has a very simple and friendly configuration for all the functions it has. However, given all the options and functions it has, it requires time to get to know it and configure it to your own personal style.
The ability to sequence and control analog hardware, MIDI-equipped instruments, plugins, and your DAW, all from one interface and controls. Thus, this DAW is ideal for those looking for more flexibility, adaptability and greater creative functions, this is the great option. On the other hand, if you are looking for one that is plug-and-play -connect and play-, this MIDI controller will not be very friendly for you.
Pros of the Novation 49 SL MkIII
- Flexible range of digital and analog control
- Good easy to use sequencer
- The component system makes it easy to manage and edit the template
Cons of the Novation 49 SL MkIII
- No swing per channel
Price: $599 / £540 / €616 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 49 | Key Size: Full Size | Key Type: Semi-Weighted, Synth-Style, Velocity Sensitive | Controls: Pitch and Mod Wheels, 16 Velocity-Sensitive Drum Pads with Full-Color RGB Backlighting, Page and Scene Start Buttons, 8 Continuous Rotary Buttons, 8 Sliders, 6 Transport Controls, Octave/Transpose Buttons, track buttons, 5 TFT RGB screens | Connectivity: USB, MIDI Out / Out2 / Thru, Sustain & Expression Pedal, Footswitch, CV / Gate / Modulation 1 & 2, Clock Out | Energy: Electric network | Size: 32″ x 12″ x 4″ | Weight: N/A
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII
The Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII is an intelligent MIDI keyboard controller that offers pre-assigned control of Native Instruments Komplete instruments and any third-party plugins that support the NKS standard. Compared to its predecessor, the Komplete Kontrol MkII also adds two high-resolution color displays, along with an additional 17 function buttons. There’s also tighter DAW and Maschine integration, making it possible to mix, browse, and edit projects from the hardware.
As before, there’s a Fatar keyboard and light guide, plus it adds proper pitch and mod wheels instead of touch strips. That said, a single horizontal touch strip is provided and can be used for additional expression. Thus, this new Kontrol S61 Mkii now offers more features. You can do so much more from the device itself, with better visual feedback and much deeper levels of integration front and center in your workflow. If you are already a user of the Komplete software suite, the Kontrol S61 MkII will be your best option.
Pros of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII
- Tight integration of Komplete and DAW
- Provides playing assistance
- Use it with the mouse to be faster
Cons of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII
- No sliders -sliders-
Price: $699 / £559 / €569 | Compatibility: PC, Mac | Number of keys: 61 | Key Size: Full Size | Key type: velocity sensitive with aftertouch | Controls: Pitch and Mod Wheels, Touch Strip, Two High-Res Color Displays, Light Guide, 4-Way Push Encoder | Connectivity: USB | Power: USB | Size: 100 x 29.7 x 8.4 cm | Weight: 6.55kg
Tips when buying a MIDI keyboard
What key size do you need?
For simple input of drum beats, bass lines, and simple melodies and basic chords, smaller MIDI controllers with mini keys should work fine. These have the advantage of being cheaper and more portable than their bigger brothers and taking up less space in your work area. These days, some people find that the mini keys can be just as responsive and easy to play as the full-size versions.
Instead, if you’re coming from a piano or keyboard, you may need the more traditional playing experience that full-size weighted keys provide. Fortunately, there are options for everyone.
How many keys are enough?
The best MIDI keyboards featured here come with octave shift buttons. This means that the full range of note pitches can be accessed even from a 25-key device, simply by pressing a couple of buttons. That said, if you’re a more advanced player or want to learn to play with both hands, it’s best to go with a four-octave 49-note keyboard, or a five-octave 61-note keyboard. If space isn’t an issue, you can even go for a piano-sized 88-key controller if you’d like. However, for basic melodies and chords, a smaller keyboard will work just fine.
Connectivity: what you need to know
With a large number of producers now working ‘in-the-box’ on a single computer or laptop, you don’t necessarily need a MIDI output unless you have some hardware MIDI synths to connect it to, but some controllers come with the traditional 5 -pin MIDI output ports. The smaller TRS mini jack MIDI outputs are also becoming more popular and offer the same functionality. All of the controllers in this guide can be powered via the USB port, and if you want to play proper piano parts, a sustain pedal input is a must.
It’s always helpful to be able to control your DAW’s transport and adjust the parameters of your software instruments from your keyboard instead of your computer. Once you’ve added remote transport, ie via a physical keyboard or controller, you’ll have a hard time going back to the mouse for actions like play, pause, and arm recording. If you stick to a DAW and find a controller that features deep integration, and many do today, then you’re in luck.