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25 key MIDI keyboard controllers can be used for touring musicians, bedroom producers, and even full-time studio producers. They are kind of the in-between controller that works well for anyone from beginners to seasoned veterans.
The reason is simple: they are usually packed with enough features to experiment and create, affordably priced, and are still small enough for smaller studios.
I was once in search of a portable MIDI keyboard as I was touring for about 4 years straight. During this time, I purchased a few different controllers and brought them in the van. What I found was certain controllers are far more durable than others.
MIDI functionality also greatly varies from controller to controller.
It is my opinion that a 25 key controller can be perfect for those who are frequently traveling and are looking for something to bring with them. If you’re merely looking for something with full-sized keys and still trying to stay in an affordable price range, I would heavily recommend one.
- 1 25 Key MIDI Keyboards At A glance
- 2 Why Use A 25 Key Controller?
- 3 Things To Look For In A 25 Key MIDI Controller
- 4 Difference Between 25 & 49 Key Controllers?
- 5 Best 25 Key MIDI Controllers 2019
- 6 Do You Need A Controller To Make Beats?
- 7 My Thoughts On 25 Key MIDI Controllers
- 8 Conclusion
25 Key MIDI Keyboards At A glance
This is a nice budget pick. It works well and doesn't have any functionality problems.
The Novation Impulse 25 is a solid choice. The pads work nicely and the encoders are also fully compatible with major DAWS.
Before diving deep, check out some of these other guides I’ve written that I think you will enjoy:
Why Use A 25 Key Controller?
Ease of use: 25 key controllers are about as convenient as it gets. They’re a little bit bigger than mini MIDI controllers, however, they also offer you bigger keys and usually features.
Portability: While they might not fit in your backpack as a mini controller would, they are still quite portable. I toured with a 25 key controller and I frequently would place it under a van seat. It was portable, yet still durable enough for the road.
Offers A Different Feel: Some producers like to have a larger controller and a smaller controller. It creates a different kind of feeling depending on the track and people that you are working with. Sometimes it’s nice to just grab the smaller controller and start working.
Things To Look For In A 25 Key MIDI Controller
Keys: You’re not going to find weighted keys on a 25 key keyboard. With this being said, the keys can still vary greatly from controller to controller. I recommend finding a controller that has aftertouch as it will be a heavily used feature.
Pads: Not all controllers will have drum pads. If you’re planning on creating beats you may want to find a controller with pads. Pads will help with triggering samples and launching scenes.
Other Controllers: Some options will have pitch bend and pitch modulation wheels/strips. I typically like to have wheels as opposed to strips. With this being said, the strips are good if you’re traveling frequently.
Bundled Software: You can find some controllers that come with free software. The free software is usually VSTS or DAWS. VSTS are going to be your best friend when it comes to writing music on your controller. DAWS are basically your command center, as you will be doing most of the work inside your DAWS.
Weight: The weight is important if you’re planning on traveling frequently. If you’re planning on just keeping it in your studio, this won’t matter as much. 25 key controllers will usually range from about 4 pounds to 8 pounds on the high-end.
Difference Between 25 & 49 Key Controllers?
You may see that certain brands make the same model controller with a different number of keys. This might lead you to wonder, is there a difference outside of the keys?
The answer is, yes, there can be a difference. Sometimes the larger controllers will add more features than the smaller controllers. For example, a 25 key controller that has 8 pads may now have 16.
There’s also going to be a difference in weight and price.
Best 25 Key MIDI Controllers 2019
Akai MPK 225 – Best Overall
The Akai MPK225 is the premier 25 key controller. It has a solid build, great MIDI functionality, assignable aftertouch, 8 encoders, and 8 drum pads.
This keyboard is great for touring, as it works really well with Ableton Live, and it is also fantastic for studios.
The pad functionality is great, which makes this a perfect pick for hip-hop artists who are making beats on their keyboards.
This is one of the more popular keyboards that you see touring keyboardists using, due to its portability and Ableton functionality.
- 25 velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch
- 8 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads
- 8 encoders
- pitch-bend and mod wheels
- 1 sustain input, 1 USB input, 1 expression input
- Included software: VIP 3.0
- Power: Bus-powered
- Weight: 6.09 pounds
Overall, the MPK225 delivers in performance, durability and its bundled software. This keyboard will last you years as a portable option. If you’re looking for more keys, this is also available in 49 and 61 keys.
Novation Impulse 25 – Great For Ableton
The Novation Impulse 25 is a great option that has a decent key-bed, good pad functionality, and an easy interface.
There are two wheels that work for modulation and pitch-bend that are pretty well built.
The Impulse 25 has 8 encoders, 8 pads and one fader that help stream-line your sessions for ease of use.
I owned this controller for a couple of years and I have to say, it works well. 25 key controllers are not going to blow you away with their key-action. This is important to note because I always see people saying, “the keys feel cheap.” Of course, they do.
They’re not meant to feel like pianos, they’re meant to be budget options to allow you to control your DAW. When it comes to controlling DAWS, these are perfect and they work well with free DAWS and paid DAWS.
- 25 velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch
- 1 sustain input, 1 expression input
- USB type B
- Weight 7.72 pounds
- Encoders: 8
- Pads: 8
- Faders: 1
- Controllers: 1 pitch-bend, 1 mod-wheel
This controller is a little bit cheaper than the Akai MPK225, so for this reason, people on a budget could choose this. You’re not going to miss out on too much, I just personally prefer the MPK225.
Novation Launchkey MK3 Mini – Best Budget Pick
This keyboard is one of the coolest looking controllers you can find and it is currently the best mini MIDI controller option available.
This has 25 keys, but it is important to note that the keys are mini.
The Launchkey MK3 mini is one of the most portable options, weighing under 1.5 pounds. You won’t be playing crazy piano parts on this, but you will be taking advantage of its sequencer, arpeggiator and 16 pads.
If you’re looking to control external hardware synths, you can do so with the MIDI out port on this controller. This is great as a lot of mini options do not have this feature.
I am truly impressed with this option, and that’s why I’ve included it with the full-size 25 key options.
Another great thing with this keyboard is that it’s bundled with some amazing software including some piano VSTS. I like that, as having a great piano sound is key for a lot of different styles of music.
- 16 back-lit LED drum pads
- 25 mini keys
- 8 rotary knobs
- pitch modulation and pitch bend sliders
- Fixed Chord Mode: Makes chords easier for beginners
- MIDI Out
I believe that this is the best budget pick. You get smaller keys that aren’t as functional, but additional features that the above picks don’t have.
The Nektar Impact LX25 is a total budget controller that actually has some great functionality.
The DAW integration is great with FL Studio, Repear, Studio One, Ableton Live, and all of the other major DAWS.
This doesn’t feel as solid to me as the MPK225, but it’s also over $100 cheaper. The important thing with this controller is that it has 25 full-sized keys and good MIDI functionality. It simply works and allows you to test the waters.
It is important to note that this controller works best with Bitwig 8.
- Encoders: 8
- Faders: 1
- Controllers: Pitch-bend and mod-wheel
- 1 sustain pedal input
Overall, the Nektar LX25 is a solid budget controller. There aren’t a ton of negative reviews for this keyboard as it is affordable and works well.
Do You Need A Controller To Make Beats?
No, you definitely don’t. If you wanted, you could simply write everything in on your computer. The problem with this is that it gets old real fast, and it can be rather limiting.
25 key MIDI controllers are great because they’re affordable, innovative, and easy to travel with. You don’t have to break your bank on one and you will see results immediately in your productions.
They instantly provide you with more capabilities and features that you can experiment with when it comes to making beats and triggering samples.
My Thoughts On 25 Key MIDI Controllers
I personally think they’re a smart purchase if you’re the following:
- A new producer
- A bedroom producer with limited space
- Looking to create beats
- On a budget
There are so many things that you can do nowadays with a 25 key keyboard. I believe that not having access to a MIDI controller as a producer ultimately hurts you in the end as you can truly do a lot with them.
I believe that 25 key MIDI keyboards are an essential part of to production game. The one thing that can be limiting is the fact that there are only 25 keys.
If you’re looking for a MIDI keyboard for beginners, I recently wrote a super in-depth review here.
With this being said, these aren’t meant to be your main controllers. You should have this as your portable option for traveling and then use a full-size controller with 61 or 88 keys as your main. This will allow you to play it like a piano.
Let me know below if you think I should add any other options. I have purposely left some out as I didn’t want to overload you with options, as I feel like these are the best picks.