We take a look at the 7 best MIDI keyboards for musicians who want total control over their sound in the studio and the live arena
When you need to take complete control over your workflow in the studio or on stage, you need the best MIDI keyboards that offer a world of versatility and dynamic response. There’s a load of different options out there, but there are a select few that we feel qualify as contenders for best MIDI keyboards of all time. So today, we’ve rounded up 7 of the best MIDI keyboards and MIDI keyboard controllers that are perfect for musicians of all levels, £100 and up.
1. Roland GO:Keys GO-61K Digital Keyboard
The Roland GO:Keys GO-61K Digital Keyboard is an easy to use, and most importantly a fun keyboard to create music with. Straight out of the box you get a 61-key keyboard with ivory feel, velocity sensitive keys – ideal for those who know their way around a keyboard. However, if you’re just starting out playing, or you’re a musician who doesn’t play the keyboard as their main instrument, you’ll appreciate the intuitive Loop Mix function which allows you to trigger loop phrases relative to the note you hit.
The on-board performance pads allow you to change parameters such as pitch and use filters where you need them. This is also packed full of immediately accessible sounds that everyone from beginners to pro level players will enjoy – 500 sounds to be exact! Best of all, these 500 sounds are derived from Roland’s acclaimed pro synthesizers, so you've got a massive selection of world class sounds at your fingertips.
The Bluetooth streaming function also allows you to stream your music or backing tracks via your smartphone or tablet, whilst the fact you can power the keyboard via 6 x AA batteries means you can create music anywhere anytime.
2. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A49
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A49 is one of the best MIDI keyboards on the market today building on the success of the "S" series, offering superb control and functionality for music producers of all genres and levels. Straight out of the box you have a streamlined keyboard controller that can control all your virtual instruments and effects via the integrated semi weighted custom NI keybed, 8 x touch-sensitive control knobs and ergonomic pitch and mod wheels. This feels incredible and really brings out the best in your playing.
You do get a full suite of Native plug-ins included such as Kontakt 6 Player, Reaktor 6 Player, Maschine Essentials, The Gentleman (Piano) and many more, so you’re good to go straight out of the box. However, you can also easily integrate the Komplete Kontrol A49 into your existing workflow and it will automatically map to your DAW and plug-ins. In fact, there’s auto-mapping for hundreds of NKS-compatible Plug-In manufacturers like Rob Papen, Spectrasonics, Arturia and many more. It’s USB 2.0 bus powered, can be assigned as a MIDI controller for your existing hardware and allows for instant song creation via the 100+ mapped scales and modes. This is an impressive song writing tool all musicians will enjoy.
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 Keyboard - Just £99
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A49
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61
3. M-Audio Oxygen 25 4G USB MIDI Keyboard
The M-Audio Oxygen 61 is one of the best MIDI keyboards around simply due to the fact it makes music creation entirely portable. This lightweight, but highly professional MIDI keyboard is extremely versatile, offering a 61 full size, velocity sensitive keys as well as 8 velocity sensitive pads that you can use to trigger samples and sounds as well as 9 assignable faders.
This is also one of the best MIDI controllers for those who need to take control of their DAW as you can also use the dedicated transport controls to play, stop and record in your DAW, directly from the keyboard.
This is also ideal for those who are just starting out and need something that they can start to create music with straight out of the box. Not only will the M-Audio Oxygen series work with your existing DAW, but you also get Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools | First and VIP3.0 bundled with it. It’s also USB powered, so you just need a laptop or PC to power it and you’re away! A versatile MIDI keyboard that won’t break the bank.
- M-Audio Oxygen 25 4G USB MIDI Keyboard
- M-Audio Oxygen 49 Mk IV USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- M-Audio Oxygen 61 Mk IV USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
4. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2
Next up we have the new industry standard - Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2. This is the upgrade from the A series MIDI keyboards that we’ve already covered above and features.
Straight out of the gate, you have 61 semi-weighted and very expressive keys to get to grips with. In addition each key benefits from the pro-grade Fatar keybeds with aftertouch as well as a touch strip for expression control – a massive upgrade indeed.
This is one of the best MIDI keyboards for those who need to make quick changes without any fuss as it also includes two high resolution colour screens that makes it extremely easy to browse and preview sounds as well as tweak parameters. We love this MIDI keyboard as the Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2 also offers improved layout that includes a new four direction push encoder and a touch strip that allows you to bend notes n a really organic way.
Finally, the team at Native Instruments have also designed the MK2 S series with more integration opportunities, making it a lot easier to take control, edit, and use MASCHINE, Logic, Ableton Live, Cubase, Nuendo, and GarageBand. If you have a pro-level set up this is ideal.
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2 With Komplete 12
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 Mk2 With Komplete 12 Ultimate
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2 with Komplete 12
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2 with Komplete 12 Ultimate
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 with Komplete 12
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 With Komplete 12 Ultimate
5. Novation Launchkey 61 MK2 USB MIDI Keyboard
The Novation Launchkey series is a staple of the MIDI keyboard world, and the Novation Launchkey 61 MK2 USB MIDI Keyboard, in particular, is easily one of the best MIDI keyboards for those who need a wide range of features.
This series is relied upon by professional live and studio musicians as it offers instant control over your sound and is the easiest way to produce and perform electronic music whilst using Ableton Live. Simply plug in the Launchkey via USB and the keys, faders and RGB pads instantly map to your session view, effects, instruments and your mixer for hands on control.
This is actually the best MIDI keyboard for Ableton Live users as each of the 16 pads and 61 keys are not only designed to offer instant control, but are velocity sensitive so you can really add a new some serious expression to your sound. Best of all, everything on this including the knobs and faders have been crafted for years of hard use – ideal for the live musician. In addition, the full colour RGB LEDs match the colour of your clips so you know where you are at all times.
However, should you use something other than Ableton, you’re all good as it can control all major music software with this MIDI keyboard. The fact you get Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station and V-Station virtual instruments along with 4GB of samples from Loopmasters make sit ideal if you’re just starting out too.
6. Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 MIDI Keyboard
The Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 MIDI Keyboard is yet another MIDI keyboard controller that focuses on one major ingredient of music making – fun!
The Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 offers extensive control over your DAW as it maps effortlessly to your existing set up and to the included software. In this bundle you get Arturia mini V, Stage-73 V synths, plus Analog Lab (6500+ sounds), Ableton Live Lite, and UVI Grand Piano Model D making it an impressive option for those just starting out too – it’s everything you need to make music!
Its dedicated DAW Command Center has been designed for quick access to the most commonly used functions whether you’re mixing tracks or recording live. For this reason, we believe it’s one of the best MIDI keyboards by far. A slick design encourages a positive playing experience as you have 61 velocity and pressure sensitive pads with RGB backlighting, as well as 9 rotary and fader knobs which provide superior dynamics and even more control. This is great to play when recording or using in a live scenario.
Thanks to the amount of software included, you can not only start to record straight away, but you can access hundreds of world class plug-ins sounds and instruments as soon as you’ve installed the software.
It’s USB powered so there’s no need for adaptors and batteries either. A portable powerhouse!
- Arturia Keylab Essential 49 MIDI Keyboard -White
- Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 Limited Edition Black
- Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 MIDI Keyboard - White
- Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 Limited Edition Black
- Arturia Keylab 88 USB MIDI Keyboard, White
- Arturia KeyLab 88 Keyboard + V Collection 7 Software Bundle
7. ROLI Seaboard RISE 49 Keywave Controller Keyboard
One thing that the ROLI Seaboard RISE 49 Keywave Controller Keyboard has over other MIDI keyboards is superior expression and dynamic capabilities. This thing is like an extension to your fingers offering fluid response that effectively lets you glide from key to key and slide notes up and down without having to move from the key.
The Seaboard RISE 49 actually provides its signature Five Dimensions of Touch known as Strike, Glide, Slide, Press and Lift. These 5 different aspects offer something that other keys simply cannot. The Strike responds to the velocity and force with which you make contact with a keywave, the Glide responds to the horizontal movements across the keywave whilst the Slide responds to vertical movements of your finger. Furthermore, Press responds to the continuous pressure after the initial strike a whilst the Lift expertly responds to how fast or slow you liftoff from the keywave. The ROLI seaboard responds exactly how you want it to.
We think it’s one of the best MIDI keyboards as it sets a completely new standard in terms of expression and playability and thanks to the Bluetooth connectivity which transmits MIDI wirelessly, the bespoke soft case, the hardwearing material and the fact the USB rechargeable internal battery supports up to 12 hours of wireless play it’s also completely portable.
It’s Windows and iOS compatible and can work with a wide range of DAWs including those on an iPhone and iPad, too – machining it a must have for musicians who use a variety of different hardware or operating systems to create music.
Want to go smaller? The Roli Seaboard is also available in smaller set ups such as:
- ROLI Seaboard Blocks Mobile MIDI Keyboard
- ROLI Songmaker Kit
- ROLI Seaboard Rise 25 Keywave Controller Keyboard
Shop a full range of MIDI keyboards over at PMT online today or call in to your local PMT store to speak to our experts about the best MIDI keyboards for your needs. We’re here to help and can help you get the right option for your musical endeavours.
Watch our video for more great MIDI keyboard options