Gear Review: The 11 Best MIDI Keyboards Under $200
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A MIDI keyboard serves as a powerful tool for creativity, expression, and efficiency in your studio. It expands your sonic palette, provides an intuitive interface for music creation, and offers flexible control over your digital instruments and software. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced producer, having a MIDI keyboard can greatly enhance your music production experience.
What Does A MIDI Keyboard Do?
A MIDI keyboard is a musical instrument controller that utilizes the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) protocol for communication with computers and other MIDI-compatible devices. It resembles a traditional piano or keyboard, featuring keys that transmit MIDI data, including note information, velocity, and duration. This MIDI data is used to control sound modules, software synthesizers, or digital audio workstations (DAWs).
By playing and triggering virtual instruments and samples, musicians, producers, and composers can create melodies, chords, and rhythms with a wide range of sounds and textures. The MIDI keyboard offers a tactile and expressive means to input music into digital environments, allowing musicians to exercise precise control over dynamics, articulation, and timing. Many MIDI keyboards also incorporate additional features like knobs, sliders, and pads that can be assigned to manipulate parameters such as volume, filters, effects, and more, thereby expanding creative possibilities and enabling real-time sound manipulation.
The Top 11 MIDI Keyboards
The Akai MPK Mini MKII is a compact and portable MIDI keyboard controller. It features 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys, eight backlit drum pads, and eight assignable knobs. The keyboard offers plug-and-play functionality via USB, making it easy to connect to your computer or other MIDI devices. Bundled with software packages, it provides a range of sounds and virtual instruments to get you started. With additional features like an arpeggiator and octave control, the MPK Mini MKII is a versatile and affordable choice for musicians and producers.
The M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 is a MIDI keyboard controller that offers a simple and streamlined design. It features 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, providing a natural and expressive playing experience. The keyboard includes assignable buttons and a modulation wheel for added control over your music. With USB-MIDI connectivity, it easily connects to your computer or MIDI-compatible devices without the need for additional drivers. The Keystation 49 MK3 is designed for efficiency and convenience, making it a great choice for musicians and producers seeking a reliable and affordable MIDI keyboard for their studio setup.
The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is a compact and feature-packed MIDI keyboard controller. It offers 25 mini keys that are velocity-sensitive and responsive. The keyboard includes eight RGB backlit pads and 16 rotary knobs, providing versatile control over your music production. With its seamless integration with popular music production software, the Launchkey Mini MK3 offers an intuitive and efficient workflow. It also features a powerful arpeggiator and chord modes, allowing for creative melodic exploration. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced producer, the Launchkey Mini MK3 is an excellent choice for its compact size, comprehensive controls, and seamless software integration.
The Nektar Impact LX25+ is a compact MIDI keyboard controller known for its extensive functionality and affordability. It features 25 velocity-sensitive keys that offer a responsive playing experience. The keyboard includes eight pads, eight knobs, and transport controls, allowing for seamless integration with popular DAWs. The Impact LX25+ also incorporates Nektar DAW integration technology, providing instant control and mapping for various software applications. With its comprehensive MIDI programming options and dedicated performance features like the modulation and pitch bend wheels, the Impact LX25+ offers musicians and producers a versatile and value-packed MIDI keyboard option for their studio setup.
The Arturia MiniLab MKII is a compact MIDI keyboard controller that packs a punch in terms of functionality and versatility. It features 25 slim-keys that are highly responsive and touch-sensitive, offering a comfortable playing experience. The keyboard includes eight RGB backlit pads and 16 rotary encoders, providing ample control over parameters and triggering of beats and samples. The MiniLab MKII comes bundled with Arturia’s Analog Lab software, which offers a vast library of high-quality sounds and virtual instruments. With its sleek design, intuitive controls, and seamless integration with popular music production software, the Arturia MiniLab MKII is a go-to choice for musicians and producers seeking a powerful and portable MIDI keyboard solution for their creative endeavors.
6. Alesis V49
The Alesis V49 is a versatile MIDI keyboard controller that offers a balance of functionality and affordability. It features 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, providing a realistic and expressive playing experience. The keyboard includes assignable buttons, knobs, and pads, allowing for extensive control over parameters and triggering of various functions. With its USB-MIDI connectivity, the V49 seamlessly integrates with your computer or MIDI-compatible devices, making it easy to incorporate into your music production setup. The V49 also comes with bundled software, including Ableton Live Lite and Xpand!2, offering a range of sounds and tools to jumpstart your creativity. With its intuitive design and comprehensive features, the Alesis V49 is a reliable choice for musicians and producers seeking a versatile and affordable MIDI keyboard solution.
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is a compact and powerful MIDI keyboard controller designed for music production and performance. It features 32 compact keys with a light-touch feel, making it ideal for mobile setups and tight studio spaces. The keyboard integrates seamlessly with Native Instruments’ Komplete software, offering deep integration and control over virtual instruments, effects, and presets. It includes dedicated navigation and control buttons, along with eight touch-sensitive knobs, allowing for quick and intuitive manipulation of parameters. The Komplete Kontrol M32 also features an OLED display that provides clear visual feedback and browsing capabilities. With its portable size, comprehensive integration, and high-quality construction, the Komplete Kontrol M32 is a fantastic choice for musicians and producers looking for a compact and feature-rich MIDI keyboard controller.
8. Roland A-49
While this is a bit of stretch on budget, it’s one of the best MIDI keyboards out there, and for a little extra money you get incredible build quality, playability, and portability. The Roland A-49 is a MIDI keyboard controller that offers a sleek and minimalist design combined with high-quality performance. It features 49 full-size keys that are velocity-sensitive and provide a responsive playing experience. The keyboard’s compact and lightweight design makes it highly portable, suitable for both studio and on-the-go use. The A-49 includes a range of assignable controls, such as knobs, buttons, and modulation/pitch bend wheels, allowing for versatile parameter control and expression. With USB connectivity, it easily integrates with computers and MIDI-compatible devices, making it compatible with a wide range of music production software and hardware. The Roland A-49 is a reliable and user-friendly MIDI keyboard controller choice, offering professional-grade features in a compact package.
The M-Audio Oxygen 49 IV is a MIDI keyboard controller that has gained popularity among musicians for its performance capabilities and versatile features. It offers 49 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys that provide a responsive and expressive playing experience. The keyboard includes a range of assignable controls, such as eight knobs, nine faders, and eight velocity-sensitive pads, allowing for flexible parameter control and triggering of beats and samples. With its built-in transport buttons, users can easily navigate and control their music production software or DAW. The Oxygen 49 IV also features DirectLink mode, which provides instant and automatic mapping to popular DAWs, streamlining the workflow and eliminating the need for manual setup. Overall, the M-Audio Oxygen 49 IV is highly regarded for its performance-oriented design, comprehensive control options, and seamless integration with music production software, making it a favored choice for musicians and producers seeking a reliable and feature-rich MIDI keyboard controller.
10. Behringer U-CONTROL UMX610
The Behringer U-CONTROL UMX610 is a versatile MIDI keyboard controller that offers a range of features suitable for both studio and live performance use. It features 61 full-size keys with velocity sensitivity, providing a comfortable and expressive playing experience. The keyboard includes eight rotary encoders, nine assignable faders, and eight velocity-sensitive drum pads, allowing for precise control over parameters and triggering of sounds and samples. With its built-in USB audio interface, the UMX610 offers convenient audio connectivity and recording capabilities. It also includes a range of assignable buttons and transport controls for seamless integration with music production software or DAWs. The U-CONTROL UMX610 is appreciated for its affordable price point, extensive control options, and sturdy build quality, making it a popular choice among musicians and producers seeking a feature-rich MIDI keyboard controller.
The M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 is a versatile and affordable MIDI keyboard controller that offers 61 full-size velocity-sensitive keys. It provides a simple and straightforward design, focusing on essential features for music production. The keyboard includes pitch bend and modulation wheels for expressive control, along with octave buttons for accessing a wide range of notes. With its USB-MIDI connectivity, the Keystation 61 MK3 seamlessly integrates with computers and MIDI-compatible devices, making it compatible with a variety of music production software and virtual instruments. It is also class-compliant, requiring no additional drivers for easy setup. The M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 is a popular choice for musicians and producers who seek a reliable and affordable MIDI keyboard controller for their studio or live performances.
MIDI keyboards are important for a studio because they provide a versatile and expressive tool for music production. They allow musicians and producers to easily input melodies, chords, and rhythms into their software, providing a more natural and intuitive interface compared to programming with a mouse or keyboard. MIDI keyboards enable hands-on control over virtual instruments and software synthesizers, allowing for dynamic and nuanced performances. They also offer assignable controls like knobs, faders, and pads, which enhance workflow efficiency and provide real-time parameter manipulation. MIDI keyboards facilitate seamless integration with other MIDI devices, allowing for complex MIDI routing and layering. Overall, MIDI keyboards play a crucial role in enhancing creativity, productivity, and the overall musical experience in a studio setting.
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