Best 49 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards For Studios & Gigs 2021

49 Key MIDI Keyboards Review

The 49 key MIDI keyboard controller is becoming the standard for studios and also for live shows. The reason why it has become such an awesome tool to have is that it is small and portable, yet it allows you to do more than what a 25 key controller can do.

In this article, I am going to break down the best 49 key MIDI controllers that are currently available.

These controllers are a good investment if you are looking to upgrade your synth game or if you are looking to dive more into producing. The higher-end products will stay with you throughout your entire musical journey.

Quick Glance At The Best 49 Key MIDI Keyboard Controllers

Editor’s Pick Novation SL MK III
  • 49 Keys With Aftertouch
  • 8-Track Sequencer
  • 16 Pads
  • Most Dynamic Controller
  • Great For Gigging
Runner Up Arturia Keylab MK II
  • 49 Keys With Aftertouch
  • 16 Pads
  • 9 Encoders/Faders
  • Great Bundled Software
  • Durable
Alternative Akai MPK 249
  • 49 Keys With Aftertouch
  • 16 Pads
  • 8 Faders/Encoders
  • Great Bundled Software
Budget Nektar Panorama T4
  • 49 Keys With Aftertouch
  • One Of My Personal Favorites
  • Great With All DAWs
  • Bundled Software

Best 49 Key MIDI Keyboard Controllers

This guide covers 49 key MIDI controllers, if you want to read about all of the different size MIDI keyboards, you can do so above.

Novation 49SL MkIII – Best 49 Key MIDI Controller

SLMKIII keyboard

The Novation 49SL MKIII is the newest product from Novation and also their most advanced.

This is designed for the studio. It doesn’t mean you can’t use it live, I just recommend it for the studio as it has a lot of features that are meant for the studio.

What I like about this product is it has a sequencer. This is currently one of the newest products on the market, so it has some features that a lot of keyboards don’t yet have.

I was very impressed with this instrument in particular. You can read my full review on this product at Novation SL MKIII review.


I believe that the SL MKIII is a huge upgrade of the MKII. This is currently the best 49 key MIDI controller for studio purposes.

  • 49 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys with aftertouch
  • 8 assignable 360 encoders for easy manipulation of DAW’s, virtual instruments and plugins
  • Comes with Pro Tools
  • Brand new XY pad which provides additional and direct interaction with effects
  • 16 fully assignable velocity-sensitive trigger pads
  • 9 assignable faders let you control your DAW
  • 9 assignable buttons
  • 5 pin MIDI in and out ports

This is currently the best 49 key MIDI controller on the market. It has exceptional functionality, great keys, & provides an incredible workflow.

Arturia Keylab MKII 49 – Most Durable 49 Key MIDI Controller

Arturia 49 MKii

The Arturia Keylab MKII is the new version of the Keylab essential and it making some huge waves in the MIDI department.

The MIDI technology is brand new and it works flawlessly with all of the major DAW’s.

I believe this will surprise a lot of people and become a popular instrument in the coming future.

  • Included Software: Includes Analog Lab with 6500 different sounds, Ableton Live Light and Piano V
  • Keys: 49 and 61 keys with premium quality key-beds with velocity and aftertouch
  • Drum Pads: 16 RGB backlit performance pads
  • Control Bank: 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs
  • Modular Equipment Controls: 4 CV/Gate outputs, controlling pitch, gate, and modulation
  • DAW Compatibility: Can be used with all major DAW’s and comes with overlays for most DAW’s
  • Connectivity: Expression, sustain, CV/Gate, MIDI, USB, and 3 assignable auxiliary pedal inputs
  • Colors: Available in black and white
  • Chord Modes: 2 different customizable chord modes
  • Metal Pitch Bend And Mod Wheels

I believe the Keylab MKII is a solid choice. Arturia keyboards are built like tanks and they are perfect for touring. This is easily one of the best 49 key MIDI controllers available because of this.

Akai Professional MPK249

Akai MPK 249

The MPK series has been at the front line for MIDI keyboards since the beginning and the MPK249 is definitely an example of this. This is just made well all around.

It comes equipped with 49 full size semi-weighted keys and each key is velocity-sensitive. The drum pads are a stand out feature on the Akai MPK249 and they set this keyboard apart from others.

This keyboard is also one of the best 25 key MIDI keyboards as well.


The MPK249 comes fully equipped with Ableton live lite, which allows the user to immediately start diving into software sounds. Ableton is one of the most popular DAWS in the music world today and any software that is compatible with it is a good thing.

For those who are looking to dive deeper in to production, check out my guide that highlights the best free DAWs for music production.

The Akai MPK249 comes with 16 RGB illuminated pads each with 4 banks making a total of 64 pads that are all touch-sensitive.

Its USB-MIDI is a 5 pin MIDI input & output. The MPK249 is optimized to directly connect to your Mac or PC and start working at the highest level. I have found that the MPK249 doesn’t have serious glitch problems like some of the cheaper MIDI keyboards out there.

  • 16 RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads
  • Comes with VIP3.0
  • 49 full-sized semi-weighted keys
  • USB-MIDI with 5-pin MIDI input & output
  • 24 assignable knobs, faders, and switches
  • Assignable foot-switch jack and 1 expression jack
  • Weight: 12.6 pounds

I can’t say enough good things about this keyboard from a studio or gigging perspective. Its extremely easy to use, high-quality, and portable.

Nektar Panorama P4

Panorama P4 49 key

The Nektar Panorama P4 is Nektar’s best MIDI keyboard. This keyboard is loaded with features including 12 pads with pressure and velocity sensitivity, 16 encoders, 9 faders, 10 assignable LED buttons.

A big feature on this MIDI controller is aftertouch on the semi-weighted keys. The keys on this keyboard really feel good compared to other controllers.

A lot of musicians have mentioned that they are using this with the Logic DAW and that it is really compatible with it. The good thing is that every DAW works really with this MIDI keyboard. Sometimes MIDI controllers can be flunky with certain DAW’s, not this one though.

I really like this product and this is also one of the newer keyboards out there. I do like the newer products because they typically have worked out bugs that other keyboards haven’t yet. One thing about the Panorama is that it is heavier than most at 17 pounds.

  • Aftertouch and semi-weighted keys
  • 16 encoders, 9 faders, 10 assignable LED buttons
  • 12 pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity
  • 17 pounds
  • Mod-wheel and pitch-wheels

I believe this is a great keyboard, however, I do prefer the T4 over the P4. If you’re really digging the motorized controls, this would be your pick.

Akai Professional Advance 49

Akai Advance 49

The Akai Professional Advance 49 is a very powerful keyboard for serious players. It has an extremely powerful engine and it comes with a 4.3-inch high-resolution full-color screen with dedicated interface buttons.

This is high-end and the nice thing about Akai, is they come with great software as noted above.

If you’re a musician who is looking for a keyboard for touring, we recommend the Akai Professional MPK249 because it will do everything you need and it won’t be as expensive.

Let’s look at some features below:
  • Integrated 4.3-inch high-resolution full-color screen with dedicated interface buttons
  • The screen provides 1:1, real-time feedback of plugin parameters
  •  8 large, endless and continuously variable control knobs
  • 49 semi-weighted velocity-sensitive key-bed with aftertouch(These keys are a little stiffer and they feel better to the touch than most controllers)
  • Virtual Instrument Player software for unprecedented virtual instrument preset management, control mapping, and multi patch creation
  • 8 velocity – and pressure-sensitive MPC pads with RGB illumination
  • Pad bank for octave, transport control, and performance buttons
  • Pitch and modulation wheels that are rubberized
  • Expression pedal inputs

I think that the Professional Advance 49 is solid. With this being said, I don’t know that I really would recommend it over the MPK249.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2

Native Instruments S49

This is extremely powerful and is really a high-end MIDI controller. The quality of the Komplete Kontrol is top-notch. As for the key bed, it is a fatar semi-weighted key-bed and it is one of the things that makes this a standout instrument.

This MIDI keyboard controller comes with Komplete 11 select, which has some awesome software synths on it so you can immediately get started diving into sounds. One thing that the Komplete Kontrol doesn’t have, is pads for launching clips or making beats.

This product is a bit more powerful, so it does require a more powerful MacBook or PC to run it. If you’re using a Mac or PC you are going to want at minimum an intel core 2 duo with 6 GB of ram or more.

It has a nice built-in pitch shifter that many users have left really positive reviews on.

There have been some users who have had problems with the controller not syncing with their computers and being buggy. Most of the reports are from people saying that it isn’t working with Pro Tools.

  • Pitch and mod wheels, plus touch strip for expression control
  • Fatar key-bed with 49 semi-weighted keys
  • Full VSTi support
  • Chord mode(plays chords by playing just one note)
  • Two high-res color screens
  • Weight: 15.4 pounds
  • Aftertouch

This is overall a nice selection. It is expensive, but for some, it is perfect.

M-Audio Code 49

M-audio Code 49

The M-Audio Code 49 comes in black and in white. This instrument has a very cool look and it and it has some serious power. I would say this is easily M-Audios finest product and it competes with some of the best on the market.

The Code 49 comes with 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys and four assignable zones for layering and keyboard splitting. There are 8 assignable 360 degrees encoders so you can see the VST’s you are using. I like this keyboard for making beats for hip-hop and electronic music.

This comes with Pro Tools and it also comes with 16 velocity-sensitive pads for maximizing beat production. It also has an XY for HID control and it is a unique way for controlling parameters in virtual instruments.


Novation Impulse 49

Impulse 49

The Novation Impulse 49 is loaded with features and one of the things that stick out are the transport controls.

These buttons allow you to control your DAW with play, stop, record, rewind, fast forward and a toggle switch.

A cool feature is the multi-function drum pads. These allow you to warp arpeggios, roll beats, and launch clips in Ableton Live. This comes with Automap 4, which gives you instant mapping to things needing to be controlled. It also comes with expression and sustain pedal inputs.

The Novation Impulse 49 comes with a full DAW/plug-in control surface so you can take instant control of all of the major DAWS right from your keyboard. The only downside we could find on this instrument is the sliders feel on the cheaper end.

Let’s take a look at the specs below:
  • Automap software
  • Expression and sustain pedal inputs
  • Comes with Ableton Live Lite
  • Precision semi-weighted keyboard with aftertouch
  • Weight: 11 pounds
  • 5 pin MIDI in and out ports
  • Power: USB

I believe the Impulse is still a good option. It’s been around for a while now and there are definitely better choices, however, this is still high-quality.

IK Multimedia iRig Keys 

IK MultiMedia 49

The IK Multimedia iRig Keys is a fairly new MIDI keyboard. This was built to be really portable and it works with I-phones, I-pads, Macs, and PCs.

The Irig keyboard isn’t going to give you the firepower that some of the other products will give you, but it is good for being extremely portable.

This keyboard comes with a massive software bundle so you can immediately start playing music with your instrument. It comes with touch controls and this is something that some musicians either like or hate.

These touch controls control pitch and modulation. To use the strips you just slide your fingers up and down, bending the pitch.

The iRig can run off batteries and or USB. I like keyboards that have the ability to use batteries just in case I break a USB cable and don’t have the time to buy a new one right away. The battery life on these is actually pretty good as well.

I like that the iRig comes with 8 drums pads for the musician. The drum pads enable the musician to be able to do more.

  • Fully portable, with an interface
  • Full-size velocity-sensitive keys
  • Comes with over $750 of VST’s
  • Headphone input

This is a great budget option for people with tablets, iPhones, and Androids. If you are in the market for a new tablet, check out this guide here where I break down the best tablets for music production

ROLI Seaboard RISE 49

Seaboard Rise

This instrument is crazy. I played this last year at a guitar center and spent a couple of hours messing around on it.

It doesn’t feel like a MIDI keyboard and the keys definitely take some adjusting to get used to it. It is full Bluetooth compatible, making it unique in the sense that it doesn’t need a USB cable.

I have heard of defect problems with these over time. However, Rise said that this was only on the beginning models and the kinks have been smoothed over.

This is definitely a different approach to a controller, but if you’re wanting something that is different, it’s a fun option. I recently did a review of another Roli product that is similar. You can check out the Roli Songmaker Kit review here.

  • Crafted using high-quality materials
  • hardware-software integration
  • Full MIDI compatibility with Bluetooth and USB
  • Comes with Equator, the first multi-dimensional software synthesizer

I think this good for producers who are looking to shake things up a little bit. There are definitely others on this list that I think there are much more user-friendly, but this has a place as well.

My Budget Picks

Below are our top budget 49 key MIDI controller picks.

Nektar Panorama T4 – Best Budget 49 Key MIDI Controller

Panorama t4

This is the successor to the Panorama P4. I think Nektar personally did an amazing job with this product and I believe it is truly one of the best on the market right now. I did a full review on the Panorama T4 here.


The Panorama T4 is a brand new keyboard that, in my opinion, absolutely rocks. What also makes the Panorama T4 so great is the fact that is relatively cheap. Because of this, I would say it is the best 49 key MIDI keyboard near its price-point.

Launchkey 49 MKII

Launchkey 49

I found that the very first Novation Launchkey controllers were not very durable. A lot of the faders and the pitch wheels broke off quite easily and the keys themselves were not what I had hoped for.

Novation has come a long way and this is the 49 key keyboard we recommend for budget MIDI controllers.

This is made specifically for Ableton Live, so it will work with that daw right out of the box. The fader knobs on this product have been re-approached and have gotten some positive feedback on them.

The Launchkey 49 comes with 16 assignable and velocity sensitive pads. It also works great with all DAW’s, not just Ableton Live.

This is important because some products have problems with certain DAWS. The Launchkey would be a great instrument for someone just beginning to produce music and for someone who might be new to keyboards.

A Closer Look At the Launchkey 49

Novation has really improved the aesthetic of their controllers as well. The Launchkey 49 II looks sleek with full-color RGB pads to match the color of your clips when using Ableton. This controller comes in at a reasonable price and it is really an improvement for Novation.

There are some musicians who swear by Novation. It’s all about user-friendliness and comfortability. The Launchkey 49 has a lot of different features for also being on the cheaper end.

Let’s take a look at the specs of the Launchkey below:
  • Maximum control with Ableton Live
  • 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, 8 knobs for navigation and control
  • USB powered
  • Comes with software: Ableton Live Lite, Novation bass station, and V station
  • 8 knobs for tweaking your sounds
  • 16 RGB velocity-sensitive pads
  • Weight: 8.6 pounds

I believe this is a fantastic controller for beginner producers. It’s also good for producers who have a lot of experience as well. If you’re on a budget and looking for something relatively easy to use, this is your pick.

Nektar Impact LX49+

LX 49 +

The Nektar Impact is going to be a little bit cheaper than some of the other ones listed and it comes with a little bit of a cheaper feel.

However, we like this controller for someone who is just getting into MIDI controllers and not looking to spend a ton of money right away.

This has had some user reviews talking about the faders being on the cheaper side, but when you start to get to the lower price range, you will start to find this.

It comes with 8 assignable pads and the keys are all full size. Some of the cheaper controllers are going to come with smaller keys, so this is a nice feature.

Roland A-49

Roland A-49

The Roland A-49 has a very nice key-bed. The topic of nice key-beds always come up when talking about Roland keyboards. It seems like their key-beds are always quality.

Click here to check out my favorite Roland keyboards in 2020.

Something musicians talk about with this MIDI keyboard is the key-bed action feeling really good.

The Roland A-49 comes with a D-beam controller. This is a Roland staple as it is on most of their keyboards. This is a synthesizer that allows you to play it by putting your hand over the D-beam sensor. It can make some crazy noises and it also looks cool when you’re playing it with your hand in the air.

The Roland A-49 doesn’t come with as many features as some of the other controllers, but as far as getting your basic needs done and being quality, it is good for that.

  • D-beam
  • Great synth-action keys
  • Transpose, octave, and pitch buttons
  • Very light-weight

I believe the A-49 is a great choice. It’s definitely on the cheaper end and it’s super functional. I would definitely recommend this as a cheaper option for musicians.

Samson Carbon 49

Carbon 49

The Samson Carbon 49 is a keyboard that is definitely more so on the budget end. This is going to give you the basic features of a controller at a cheaper price.

The keys are velocity-sensitive and it also has a sustain pedal input for sustaining notes. The best thing about this keyboard is that it comes bundled with some Native Instruments software and it’s a cheap MIDI keyboard.

This controller does feel a little bit cheaper and it doesn’t come with any faders or drum pads. It comes with the traditional MIDI out and USB connections.

The feel of this key-bed is something many musicians are not huge fans of. This is mainly because this is meant to be an entry-level MIDI keyboard and not high-end. Entry-level controllers are good for being just that, entry-level.

Let’s look at some of the specs below:
  • 49 velocity-sensitive keys
  • Comes with Native Instrument’s Komplete Essential’s
  • 14 control parameters and  dedicated transpose and volume buttons
  • 8.1 pounds

This keyboard is as basic as you can get. It’s cheap, it works and it comes with some included software. 

M-Audio Keystation 49 II

MK 2 Keystation

The Keystation 49 II is a sleek and slim MIDI keyboard that doesn’t give you a ton of features, but it will provide you with the basics. It comes with 49 full-size synth-action keys that are velocity-sensitive. It doesn’t have any pads, knobs or faders, so if you’re looking for something in that realm, this isn’t going to be your pick.

The Keystation 49 II is built for playing virtual instruments on your PC and Mac. This is extremely light and this is definitely one of the pluses. I would recommend this to people who don’t need a lot of features from a keyboard.

Modulation and pitch bend on the Keystation 49 II give it some excitement and allow the musician to get creative with their playing. Another plus is it comes with Ableton Live Lite for instant music production.

  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Power: USB
  • Transport buttons
  • Modulation wheel
  • Pitch bend wheel
  • Octave buttons
  • Volume slider
  • 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys

Overall, this is a basic controller that is decent. I would recommend others on this list over this one. If you’re looking to purchase on a budget, this would is the best 49 key MIDI controller under $100.

Things To Consider When Buying 49 Key MIDI Keyboards

Pads & Knobs
Rotary Knobs
Pads & Knob Layout & Functionality Is Important

The first 49 key MIDI controller that I owned was the original Launchkey. I actually liked having the 16 pads and 8 knobs right next to each.

However, I was unimpressed with the durability and functionality of the knobs. The broke extremely easily and they were to the point that they were changing MIDI values without me even touching them.

One thing you should be aware of is that the knobs on controllers often feel quite cheap. You will want to baby them as much as you possibly can. I know that seems annoying, but they are usually fragile.

Note: I broke my knobs while on tour and it was frustrating to deal with it each night.

Pad functionality will vary greatly from controller to controller. You will want pads that work seamlessly with each DAW if possible. Also, try to stay away from pads that double trigger often as this is the most annoying thing in the world when tracking.

Keyboard Faders

It is important that the faders on your keyboard are functional with different DAW’s and that they are durable. As you can see above, my first controller’s faders were not durable. These faders would also change values on me and parameters while I was performing.

Make sure that if your keyboard has faders, they actually work. There’s no point to having faders that aren’t functional.

Type Of Keys

When deciding on which type of keyboard you want, you will want to decide which type of keys work best for you. There are a few different types of keys-beds that are worth mentioning here.

Synth-Action: Most MIDI keyboards are going to come with synth-action keys. This is one of the cheapest options for keys, but they do have use for MIDI keyboards. The keys are made of plastic and they use springs instead of weights to return the keys to their original position.

Semi-Weighted: These types of keys are mix between weighted keys and synth-action. They combine springs with light weights in order to return the keys to their original position.

Diagram of piano keys
Image Source:


The best 49 key MIDI controller is currently the Novation SL MKIII 49. For budget picks, we recommend the Nektar Panorama T-4 49 key MIDI controller.

  1. If money is a not an option and you’re trying to decide between the AKAI MPK 249 and the Arturia MK2 Keylab 49 what would you pick?

    1. Hi Nathaniel,

      If money isn’t a concern, I would go with the MK2 Keylab 49. However, at that point, I would say to check out the brand new Novation SL MK3. It has a built-in sequencer and arp with great DAW control.

  2. Hey Chris,

    This is a GREAT, comprehensive analysis! I am torn on which to choose, I have the Arturia MiniLab now and like it for the DAW control. I would like to upgrade to the Arturia Keylab 49 to max my piano skills but already own the V7 collection so kind of pointless. I have the Maschine. Could the low-end Komplete Kontrol work as a DAW control for Ableton and to handle my Maschine? Or would you recommend the Novation? What about Nektarine for Ableton? I’m trying to max out at $400 or so. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Toby! For that price point, I would suggest the Arturia Keystep Pro 37 key. This thing can control everything you need it to, it has aftertouch and it really is an advanced controller. You’ll be spending about $200 more if you go up in keys and want this same ability.

      If you want something that works well for playing the piano, I would also recommend saving up for a digital piano and using that for when you need to more keys to lay down some pianos! I use my Roland FA 08 for times like that.

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