Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers All Price Points 2023

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers

MIDI keyboard controllers have nearly taken over the keyboard market in 2023. With the ability to tap into unlimited sounds and streamline your setlist, it’s easy to understand why. In this article, we will break down the best MIDI controllers for all sizes/prices currently available.

Years of playing all of these controllers and reviewing them extensively has went into producing this article for you.

*All of the outbound links are to my favorite retailers, Sweetwater, Guitar Center, and Amazon.

Quick Glance At My Top MIDI Keyboards

Editors Choice Novation SL MK III 49 Key
  • 49 Keys
  • 16 Drum Pads
  • Built-In Sequencer
  • Most Features
  • Bundled Software
  • Aftertouch
Budget Akai MPK 225
  • Drum Pads
  • Bundled Software
  • Most Popular 25 Key Keyboard
  • Great With All DAWs
Best 61 Keys Arturia Keylab MK II
  • 61 Keys
  • Most Durable MIDI Controller
  • Free Bundled VST Software
Alternative Roland A MK II
  • 88 Keys
  • Great Weighted Keys
  • Streamlined For Ease Of Use
  • MIDI 2.0

Not all MIDI controllers are keyboards. Some are classified as drum pads and they don’t have actual keys, just pads.

If you are a keyboardist then you will want to pick a MIDI keyboard controller and if you are a studio producer, you may desire a MIDI drum pad instead so you don’t have to press actual keys.

If you are a musician who owns hardware synthesizers and you’re unsure if you want to invest in a MIDI controller due to the fact you’re not familiar with them, I suggest taking the plunge and diving in.

There is definitely a reason why so many musicians use them and they have become the industry standard from writing to performing.

For the keyboards, I am going to break down 25, 49, 61, and 88 key MIDI keyboards. I will also talk about drum controllers and MIDI foot controllers as well.

Pro Tip: If you aren’t looking to spend a lot of money, check out the best mini MIDI controllers. I break down affordable options that still get the job done really well.

Why Do Bands Use MIDI Controllers Live?

A few stand out reasons: they are simple, they’re portable, and they can give you basically any sound that was used on your record to be played during a live show.

Using MIDI Controllers Live
I use an Alesis Vortex and a Roland FA-08 on stage.

These keyboards are being used at every level for touring bands no matter if you are playing a local bar or an arena.

For the past five years of touring, I would say I have seen them used at probably 85 percent of the shows I have played at while touring around the United States and Canada, by some of the top performers in the industry.

For me, I have always wanted the ability to have the same sounds live as we do on our recordings. A MIDI keyboard controller was a good starting ground for me to see if this was indeed the route I wanted to go.

Using a Laptop with a MIDI Controller

MIDI Controllers are easy to program to your laptop by using a DAW such as Ableton Live or Logic.

The high-grade thing about these keyboards is they are generally not very expensive, which allows you to wet your feet a little bit before making a big investment.

Before I get into my favorite controllers, Nektar has come out with a crazy good keyboard called the Panorama T4. I highly suggest checking out my review on it here. The key-bed is ridiculously good at mimicking a realistic feel.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers Reviewed

To start this list off for MIDI Keyboards, let’s take a look at some great 25 key options.

Novation Launchkey MK3 – Best 25 Key Controller

Best 25 Key Option
Novation Launchkey 25 MK3

The Novation Launchkey MK3 25 is one of the controllers I recommend to everyone who is starting out. It's packed with software, controls, and is compatible with every DAW.

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The Novation Launchkey MK3 has come so far for the original Novation keyboards. The first synth I ever purchased was a Novation, and that was about 8 years ago.

The Novation Launchkey MK3 is one of the best keyboards that you can use with Ableton Live as it is designed for that specific DAW. Right out of the box this will instantly work with your Ableton Live, which means zero set up is required.

The drum-pads on the Mk3 are color-coded for Ableton Live which allows you to stay organized. The color in Ableton will directly match up with the colors on your pads.

Final Thoughts On The Novation Launchkey MK3

The price is what draws me to this controller so much. Novation has made a product that is extremely affordable, yet still very effective.

Akai Professional MPK2 – 25 Key MIDI Controller

Akai MPK 225

The MPK 225 is a portable, yet powerful option for beginners. With a solid number of pads and controls, the MPK225 provides producers with everything they need when starting.

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The Akai Professional MPK2 is one of the best MIDI keyboards. Akai is definitely mentioned frequently when talking about the best controllers available.

Something I like about Akai products is that they are easy to map with your software; some cheaper controllers work poorly when it comes to programming pads and triggers.

Akai products come with their VIP software that has some world-class VST’s. This award-winning software instantly gives you sounds that you can use right out of the box without taking time to program anything.

I really like the drum-pads on this keyboard as they are velocity-sensitive and they aren’t buggy at all.

A big problem with cheap products is that the pad functionality isn’t great and they end up being more trouble than they are worth.

8 or 16 Drum Pad Options

Depending on what size keyboard you get, you will either get 8 or 16 drums pads. This 25 key MIDI controller comes with 8 pads and any size beyond that comes with 16 pads. So if pads are something you desire, you might want to purchase a keyboard with more than 25 keys.

AKAI MPK225 MIDI keyboard Pads

The power supply for the Akai MPK2 is a USB cable, like most products. Something helpful with the product is that this keyboard comes with MIDI out and USB.

Overall Thoughts On The Akai Professional MPK2

The Akai Professional MPK2 is an exceptional option for serious producers and musicians.

Click To See Other Key Size Variations

Akai Professional MPD226 – Best Budget MIDI Drum Pad

Akai Professional MPD226

The MPD 226 is fully compatible with all major DAWs and is great for those looking to make beats quickly.

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The Akai Professional MPD226 is a great MIDI drum pad controller with 16 LED lit pads that have 4 different banks.

It additionally comes with 4 faders, 4 switches, and 4 control knobs for maximum control over your device. It comes with the free version of Ableton Live which is a really solid DAW.

The pads on the Akai Professional MPD226 are extra thick and they are velocity-sensitive. Having pads that are velocity-sensitive is important because it gives you the power to play the pads more dynamically, and you can thus play with more expression.

There is MIDI in/out and also USB on this instrument.

This instrument comes with 30 pre-set sounds, with configurations for most of the popular DAW’s.

This drum pad comes with dedicated transport controls and I like how durable the pads feel on it. Often with MIDI instruments, you can come across cheap non-responsive drum-pads and this is just the opposite.

Overall Thoughts On The Akai Professional MPD226

This is a solid option for a solid price. There are other products around the similar price range, but I would suggest this as I love the drum-pads on this controller since they are so multifunctional.

The Akai Professional MPD226 is currently the MIDI controller for those looking to take advantage of using the drum pads.

Native Instruments Maschine MK3 – Best Drum Pad Controller

Maschine MK3 Native Instruments

The Native Instruments Maschine MK3 is a solid look at a drum controller for Ableton. While it's not built specifically for Ableton, it's a great all-around option.

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The Native Instruments Maschine MK3 drum controller is similar to the other Native Instruments controllers in the sense that it’s very powerful.

The UI isn’t super straightforward and extremely easy to use, so be patient and watch videos on youtube to really figure out specific features and functions on this product. The drum pads were also made to be a little bit bigger than your typical MIDI drum products and I really admire this.

Samples & More

This controller comes with 8 GB of really cool high-quality samples. Why is this important? Samples are huge in the music world right now no matter what genre of music you’re in. The more samples you have and can dive into, the better. All of the knobs are touch-sensitive, which creates some cool dynamics when you’re messing with different sounds.

The Maschine is quite expensive, but you will use this for the rest of your production career.

Overall Thoughts On The Maschine Drum Controller

I admire this instrument, but it is very expensive. If you’re looking for a keyboard that is going to be with you for a long time without being upgraded, this is a good choice. This isn’t a product you buy and expect to use for just a year, it is a product you buy and use for many years to come.

Novation SL MKIII Best 49 Controller For Live Music And Studios

Best With 49 Keys
Novation Launchkey MK III SL 49

The Novation Launchkey MK III 49 is the newest version of the famous Launchkey series. The MKIII 49 is an incredible option and one of my favorite choices on the market.

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The Novation SL MKIII 49 key is honestly one of the best options on this list. In terms of compatibility, playability, and portability, it’s hard to match the SL MKIII. Novation has also been crushing MIDI controllers now for as long as I can remember.

If you’re an experienced producer, you will love the fact that you can control external instruments directly from the SL MKIII. You are also able to access an incredible sequencer with the SL MKIII.


The SL MKIII gets my pick for the best option with 49 keys. It’s extremely user friendly and has endless capabilities to tap into.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol 2 – S49 Key MIDI Controller

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol 2 49

If you use Komplete, this is an incredible option. The power the Komplete Kontrol gives you when it's used with the right DAW and software is unmatched. You also get Komplete 13 with it for a limited time.

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The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol 2 is a very powerful and expensive instrument. The key-bed is one of the things that gets many people as it has a faster semi-weighted key-bed.

This is a big deal since most 49 key MIDI keyboards don’t have very good key-beds. The keys have aftertouch which is a big plus since some don’t.

If you are looking at this instrument you will want to make sure you have a powerful PC or Macbook as it is very CPU intensive. The pitch-shifter is really accurate on this product and it is one of the things musicians tend to genuinely choose.

Overall Thoughts On The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol

I do approve of this product, but it is expensive and it’s not for everyone as there is a big learning curve, but when it’s working properly and the user knows what they’re doing, it’s very useful. The only downside is the price and it may not work properly at times with pro-tools.

Alesis VI 61

Alesis VI 61

The Alesis VI61 is an alternative choice that I enjoy. The keys have solid action and this controller works out of the box with most major DAWs.

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The Alesis VI 61 comes with 61 semi-weighted keys and 16 drum-pads. There are a total of 48 different buttons that are assignable for triggering and mapping.

You can use these buttons to control your VST’s and tweak them to your liking. Some people like being able to do this on their keyboard rather than having to do it on their computer.

It comes with free software including Ableton Live Lite and AIR Xpand!2. You will find that the nicer 61 key instruments come with keys that have aftertouch and this is one of them.

The Alesis VI 61 has MIDI in/out and USB, so it is versatile when it comes to connecting to your computer or other synths. You don’t have to install any drivers for this to immediately work with your MAC or PC.

One thing that is quite simple is the program mapping with this product. Many musicians have talked on forums about how easy it was to program.

Overall Thoughts On The Alesis VI 61

The mapping on the Alesis is what stands out as well as having 48 buttons to program. You can have a lot of fun when you have this many controls at your command.

Don’t forget to check out my roundup of the best 61 key MIDI keyboards available. This list covers a few more options in great detail.

Nektar Panorama T6 61

Nektar Panorama T6

The Nektar Panorama T6 comes with 8 pads and a solid key-bed. This controller is fully compatible with Logic Pro X as well.

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The Nektar Panorama T6 61 is often forgotten about.

This has been designed to be used with Cubase, Nuendo, Bitwig Studio, Logic Pro, Mainstage, Reaper, and Reason.

Should you really enjoy Mainstage, but you have Windows, here are some of the best Mainstage alternatives.

The Panorama has a channel strip control with a 100mm motorized touch-sensitive fader that is located by the mod wheels and it works with the volume of your selected track in your DAW.

For pads, it has 12 velocity-sensitive pads that have a remarkably great response to them.

Overall Thoughts On The Nektar Panorama T6 61

I believe this is a truly powerful instrument and it is one of the only products on the market with the motorized touch-sensitive faders.

Arturia Keylab 88 MKII – Best MIDI Controller For Live Performance With Weighted Keys

Best 88 Key MIDI Controller
Arturia Keylab MK2

The MK2 is built like a brickhouse. It's not extremely heavy, it gives you a ton of control for both live and studio, and it is the most durable controller I've played to date.

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Arturia recently released this controller and it is fantastic. The functionality is top-notch as well as durability. This beats its predecessor in every single way, from the key-bed to the functionality. You can read my full review on the Keylab 88 MKII here.

Overall Thoughts

This is currently the top pick when it comes to 88 key controllers. Arturia really knocked it out of the park as there weren’t a lot of great picks for 88 key controllers.

When it comes to 88 keys, this is one of the best controllers currently available.

Nektar IMPACT LX88 Best Budget 88 Key Controller

Nektar LX88+

The Nektar LX88+ is a lightweight option for those on a hard a budget still desiring 88 keys. The functionality is pretty good with most DAWs as well.

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The Nektar IMPACT LX88 + is an 88 key MIDI keyboard that has semi-weighted keys and comes with some fun bells and whistles. It’s hard to find 88 key MIDI controllers that have faders and pads, but this one has just that.

The instrument control feature allows you to take control of your DAW and control your instrument very easily.

There are 6 transport buttons including rewind, stop, play, and fast forward. Nektar designed this to work with most of the major DAW’s so all of the faders and buttons should work immediately.

You don’t have to install any drivers with this keyboard so you won’t be pulling your hair out trying to figure out how to get its software to work.

You can program the buttons to work with a variety of different MIDI messages and one nice way to use these is to program them to change your synth sounds. I like taking advantage of this as I am constantly changing synthesizers on my keyboards.

If you’re using 88 key controllers it’s probably because you want a lot of different sounds to be able to play at once. This has split mode and that comes in handy for being able to do that.

Overall Thoughts On The Nektar Impact LX88+

Overall, this is a good option that isn’t terribly expensive. I personally believe there will be a better option coming out soon though for 88 key controllers.

Akai Professional LPK 25 Wireless MIDI Keyboard

AKAI Professional LPK25 - USB MIDI Keyboard controller with 25 Velocity-Sensitive Synth Action Keys for Laptops (Mac & PC), Editing Software included,MultiColored

The LPK 25 is the oldest option on this list. It's extremely budget, but it's not on the level as the top options on my list.

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The Akai Professional LPK 25 Wireless is the first wireless keyboard and this is a MIDI controller that is perfect a college student or someone who needs something portable.

If you like working on your phone or laptop on the go, this will be perfect for you. I really like this product since its wireless technology is surprisingly really nice.

Overall Thoughts On The Akai Professional LPK25

I am a huge fan of the Akai MIDI controllers because they work with any DAW right out of the box. The Bluetooth on this works great and you get a nice portable option here.

Behringer FCB1010 – Best MIDI Foot Controller

Best Foot Controller
Behringer FCB1010

The FCB1010 is one of my trusy touring friends. I use this as part of my keyboard rig as a means to launch tracks, trigger bass parts, and play specific bass lines.

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I have been using the Behringer FCB1010 live for over a year now. I have nothing but good things to say about it.

Durability and ease of use are the things that stick out with this product. If you would like to read more about these types of controllers, I wrote a roundup of the best MIDI foot controllers on the market.

Overall Thoughts On The Behringer FCB1010

Overall, this is my favorite foot controller. I use this currently in my band and the programming was a breeze. It is durable when it comes to gigging and the foot pads don’t break easily.

What To Look For In A MIDI Keyboard Controller

MIDI Controller Illustration
What Are You Looking To Control?

If you are looking to just control a computer, then all of the products listed will do this. Some of the controllers will offer more than others in the sense that they have more features.

If you want to control a hardware synthesizer or a synthesizer module, you will need to get an instrument that comes with a 5-pin MIDI out port.

Software Compatibility: 

The good thing about modern controllers is that they have come such a long way with compatibility with the major DAWS you run them with.

In 2012 these were quite the nightmare to configure. Most of the products will work right out of the box with the software of your desire and some of them are made specifically for certain DAWS.

A good amount of the keyboards come with software and VST synths for out of the box control.


It is important to figure out what features you are looking for in an instrument. Most of these come with knobs, modulation wheels, pads, and faders. The pads, faders, and knob will help with creating beats.

Transport Controls: 
MIDI Controller Transport Controls

These are the buttons on your instrument that give you full access to your DAW’s playback and recording controls. These buttons make it so you can maximize your productivity while working.


It is important to figure out your price limit so that when you look at the products you have an idea of what works with you for your desired price.

Key Weight And Size: 

Synth-action keys are the most popular when it comes to keyboard controllers. Synth-action keyboards are usually made with plastic keys and use springs instead of screws to return the key to its resting position.

If you’re not a pianist, you will most likely prefer these over-weighted keys because they’re easier to play. All of the keyboards below come with full-size keys, which are preferred typically over smaller keys.

Power Source: 

Most are USB powered and just plug into your laptop or tablet. If you don’t want to drain your battery as fast, you can use a powered USB hub or buy a controller that has its own power source.

How Many Keys Do you Want?

How Many Keys Do You Need on a MIDI Controller

This is an important question and one that you should really think on. I believe it is easier to break it down by whether or not you are a pianist and what you’re trying to do.

Are you a studio musician who is looking for enough keys to make noise and lay down ideas? If so, then a 25 key keyboard will get the job done easily.

If you are a musician who is playing live and wants to split your keyboard with multiple sounds, go with something bigger like a 61 or 88 key.

You could do 49, but for a small increase in price, you can get more keys. If you go with 88 keys, you can get one that has weighted keys and that’s a huge plus for a serious pianist.

Click here to check out my favorite keyboards for making beats.

Do I Need A Sustain Pedal Input?

Using a Sustain Pedal with a MIDI Controller is Recommended

This depends on whether or not you’re using this keyboard live or as a studio controller. If you’re using a 49 key keyboard live, we recommend using one with a sustain pedal, as you might want to sustain certain parts.

Especially if you’re using a piano VST, you will definitely want the sustain pedal. MIDI data has gotten a lot better over the years as far as sustain to the point where it is reliable now.

Using A Laptop With A MIDI Controller Live

When you use your laptop live you will most likely want to buy a longer USB cable unless your keyboard is wireless. Make sure you keep the light sensitivity down on your laptop.

This will make it so your laptop doesn’t overheat as easily. With all the lights on stage, it is easy for your laptop to overheat.

Using a fan is also a really smart thing to do. This will keep your laptop cool while you use it for the best results possible. Always bring backup USB cables in case you break one during a show.

Do I Need Pads?

No, you don’t need pads on your keyboard. Having the pads just gives the musician a little more freedom, however, you can still program drum sounds from your laptop without having to use the pads.

One thing I will say is it is much easier to have drum pads if you’re just starting out. You have to be a pretty experienced music producer to feel comfortable programming intricate drum parts on the computer.

Also, for live music, having drum pads can really help how much you are able to do as a performer. I have my pads on my keyboard switching all of my synthesizer sounds from my laptop, so I can have over 6 different sounds per song.

I have found that if you take the time with keyboards, you can have a setup that allows you to play everything from the album and if you just don’t have enough hands, you can set the pads to trigger certain parts you’re not playing.

How Important Is Aftertouch?

You don’t absolutely need aftertouch, however, it is a feature that allows the keyboardist to really express themselves. What happens is MIDI data is sent to your laptop when you press down on certain notes harder than on others.

A knock on controllers was that you couldn’t be as expressive on them as on a hardware synth, this is changing with aftertouch.

Are MIDI Controllers Good For EDM Music?

Yes, these are actually probably the most used keyboards for electronic music. The good thing about these controllers is that most of them come with trial versions of DAW’s and they also come with VST software so right out of the box you can access brand new sounds.

What Kind Of USB Cable Do I Need For My Controller?

The most common USB cable you will be using will be a USB A/B cable. A tip that is really important is that when I first started using controllers I purchased cheap USB cables.

Don’t do this, they’re really not that expensive, so spend the extra couple dollars to get something that will be reliable and not cut out on you on-stage. It can be embarrassing if you lose power to your instrument.

If yours also has a power supply, you can use the USB and still keep the power in just in case the cable gets unplugged.

I recommend purchasing a longer USB cable as you never know how much ground you’re going to have cover on-stage. Stages can get pretty cramped and if you only have a 10-foot USB cable it will definitely haunt you at some point.

Which VSTs/Plug-Ins Are a Must Have?

This is a very common question in the controller world and it is extremely important. There are so many different VST’s that you can download and start using for your keyboard.

VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology and these are the synthesizers that you will be downloading for your instrument. Most controller keyboards come with some VST’s, but we also want to give you some of our favorites.


Nexus is one of the premier EDM VSTs. This VST has been used on so many iconic EDM tracks and as you start using your controller with these sounds, you will start to recognize some of the patches. This VST is very easy to use with a keyboard compared to other VST’s as well.

Nexus is known for having some of the best presets directly after download. I’ve been lucky enough to use Nexus on tons of songs and I have always been happy with it. Here is a guide to some amazing Nexus presets that we put together.


Sylenth is another really popular VST that is used all of electronic music. This VST has some really good bass sounds as well as some crazy sounding leads. Keyboards work very well this VST as it is definitely on the easier side to use.


This is our favorite VST for sampled vocals and beautiful sounding string patches. The first time I used this VST with my controller I was blown away by the sounds. There is a small learning curve with this VST, but it still on the easier side. The one thing with this VST is you can’t do that much customization with the sounds compared to other VST’s.

Arturia V Collection

For vintage, analog lovers, this VST is really fun. Some of the synths in here sound so good.

You’re going to get tons of pads with this VST. This VST is good for keyboard players looking to player synth-pop and synth-rock as it loaded with great sounds from the 80s.


The Komplete VST includes Battery and Massive. Both of these extremely popular in hip-hop production today. Battery comes with really good hi-hat and 808 samples.


This VST gives you a lot of control and is very different from other VSTs for your keyboard. It has a crazy wavetable where you can customize your sounds.

If you find yourself searching for Serum presets, I put together a detailed list here.


This VST sounds like it is straight from the ’80s. This is a clone of the Oberheim, which is the same keyboard that “Jump” and “Tom Sawyer” were recorded with. Your keyboard will definitely provide you with some fun with this VST.


This is a great all-around VST for your controller. This will give you a ton of sounds with a lot of control options.

MIDI controllers are built to control sounds and access sounds. These are all solid options for your keyboard.

What Is A MIDI Keyboard?

What is a MIDI Keyboard Controller?

A keyboard controllers an interface that gives the musician or producer control over sounds and function. It doesn’t have built-in sounds because it uses sounds from VST’s. These are also known as “soft synths.”

MIDI keyboard controllers give you complete control over your DAW and VST’s. Some are built for specific DAW’s and have specific features for each DAW.

These keyboards will still work with other DAW’s they just have extra features for certain DAW’s. We mention the keyboards that are built for specific DAW’s above.

I recommend using your keyboard with the DAW it is built for just because you will have extra features to play around with and get more in-depth with.

I noticed that when musicians use their MIDI controller that’s built for a specific DAW with other DAW’s it can get a little buggy and have problems.

What Is A DAW?

DAW stands for digital audio workstation.

DAW’s are used for recording, editing, and producing audio files. A DAW is going to be extremely important in the sense that most of the work you do with your keyboard will be on your DAW.

This is the place you will be recording all of your songs and production ideas. Check out our favorite DAW’s.

See my list of the best free DAWs here.

Ableton Live: 

Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAW’s for live music. Over the years it has become extremely reliable for live music with your keyboards. I’ve been using Ableton Live now for 5 years touring in a band and with every update, it just gets better and better.

Ableton Live can also be used with a 49 key keyboard for making records in a studio, it is just more popular for live music right now. Finding a controller for Ableton Live can really help a beginner musician looking to learn a DAW since Ableton Live is one of the easier DAW’s to operate.


This daw can be used with your instrument for recording music. This DAW isn’t as popular as Ableton Live, but it’s getting more and more popular over time. A lot of people use this for mixing.


You can use a controller to record into Cubase. Cubase is one of my favorite DAW’s due to the simplicity of it. Cubase is becoming very popular in the recording world and it is starting to challenge pro-tools.


This daw is good for beginners and it is also built to work well with controllers. This DAW used to be entry-level, but over time it has gotten better and better. There is a MIDI keyboard built for FL-Studio, but it is universal.

I recently put together an extensive list of the best FL Studio Plugins.


Pro-Tools is a very common DAW and is used at the highest level of recording. I don’t know of any bands using Pro-tools live with keyboards, but this DAW is great for recording.

The More Controls On Your Controller, The Better

The more controls you have on your instrument, the better off you will be, typically. I want a keyboard to do functions that I have to learn about to use.

The more your keyboard can do, the more you will learn and the more groundbreaking things you can get into.

One thing to note is that the best MIDI controllers typically provide you with more functions. I like to have a MIDI controller that allows me to tweak as many parameters as I choose and at a quick pace.

The controller controls a VST and this is what produces the sound we here. They aren’t going to have stock sounds, as they rely on using VST’s from a laptop or PC to generate the sounds.

MIDI Keyboards That Are Bluetooth

Bluetooth MIDI controllers are new to the MIDI world. I am surprised by now that every controller isn’t Bluetooth, but I think we will get there soon enough.

Having a controller that is Bluetooth would help in the sense that you wouldn’t have to worry about running a long USB or MIDI cable across the stage for live shows.

Is It Possible To Be A Music Producer Without A Controller?

Yes, it is possible. However, you will most like want some sort of keyboard to plug into your laptop so you’re not just programming all of the notes.

MIDI Controllers in the Studio

You can program the notes using a mouse, but this will take a very long time to come up with parts.

Even if the music producer is trying to save money, not having some sort of keyboard can hinder them when producing.

You can use these for so many different things while producing that it would only be a setback to not be using one.

MIDI Controllers Vs. Hardware Synthesizer

A MIDI keyboard controller comes with many more features than a hardware synthesizer. Hardware synthesizers will always have a place in the music world, but controllers are starting to take over the synthesizer world.

The reason why these are becoming so popular is because of the rise of the music producer industry. With it becoming more and more easy for producers and bands to make music out of their bedrooms with their laptops, controllers have shined. This is because a gives the musician access to literally any sound the can possibly want by using VST’s.

MIDI keyboards can access VST’s that emulate all of the best hardware synthesizers. I used to be a musician who would rather play hardware synthesizers, but after years of making music and touring, I’m really starting to like where the controller world is heading.

The best hardware synthesizers do offer unlimited creative control. But, the learning curve on hardware synthesizers can also be a little grueling. This is not saying to not purchase a hardware synthesizer, because they are absolutely great, it’s just MIDI controllers are also great.


This review is updated on a weekly basis so that you can rest assured that everything is up to date and extremely current. Let us know your thoughts on the list below.

  1. Sorry for so many questions and my poor english jajajaj, but i sell my Korg Krome, because i buy a mac book and my home studio and for practice, i prefer the midi software, like Keyspace, for example.
    I play the keyboard in a band for rock vintage music 70s,80s,etc. and for jazz, bossanova, i dont know what midi its better for me, but this post really help me to find my appropriate keyboard, Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Carlos, thanks for the question!

      I would highly recommend the Arturia Keylab MK II and I would use it with Ableton Live.

      Watch a few videos of Ableton Live and you should be gigging in no time!

      1. Thanks bro!!!
        i had a Arturia MPK 1 and dont’t like the keybed, its better the mpk2?
        And do you prefer the arturia mpk2 to akai 261?

        1. One more question, here in México the Arturia mpk2 and the Akai mpk 261 cost 600 dlls aprox (new) and sell a used (looks like new) komplete kontrol s61 cost 800 dlls aprox.

  2. Hi Chris!

    Thanks for this informative breakdown. Could you shed some light on how the Akai MPK249 compares with the Arturia Keylab MKII 49?


    1. Hi there!

      I would go for the Keylab MK II 49. I like the key-bed more and it also has a couple of extra features such as 1 x 1/8″ (CV in), 4 x 1/8″ (CV out, Gate out, Mod 1, Mod 2)

  3. Thank you so much for this article!!! I need to get up to speed on all of this, and this was the most complete and easiest to understand that I could find anywhere. Everything I needed to know in one place, and in a way I could understand having very little knowledge going in. Much appreciated.

    1. Hi Laurie, I’m glad this helped! Let me know if you have any questions as I have experience with all of these MIDI controllers!


  4. Man, the Novation keyboards came so far in this department. I remember my first Novation MIDI controller and it was horrible. Pure nightmare. I have had the newest one now for 2 years and it is truly fantastic.
    Keep up the good work!


    1. Hey Franklin,

      Thanks for the note! I totally agree, the old Novation keyboards were not my favorite. I’m glad I never gave up on them as they are essential for my live performance now.

  5. Any article that claims to know which controllers are best that has a list this long and doesn’t even mention the Linnstrument or any other alternative to the boring old “key and pad” layout. Is either a paid endorsement or a flat out farce. Why are there so few good articles about the real innovations in midi controller inventions? We get it. Piano blah blah… Now how about the rest of us who are sick of keys?

    1. Re: ”Piano blah blah… Now how about the rest of us who are sick of keys?” You could always take up the ukelele, mate! 🙂

      1. I have taken up the uke. And that’s sort of my point. I’m a guitar player and that’s where I began my music playing journey. If I’m not mistaken I believe that’s where most or a giant portion of modern music players get started. With playing guitar. So why do few midi controlers for people who aren’t pianists. Yeah huh huh huh…. I said pianists. Besides. The keys are well represented in the midi controller department. The latest if I’m not mistaken is the keyboard that you can sort of tremolo and slide between keys. What’s it called. The … rolli or whatever. You know which one I’m referring to im sure. At any rate. There are plenty of awesome ideas out there that aren’t keys and this article seems to turn a blind eye to them all. Boo. Hiss.

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  7. Hi Chris,
    I’m playing in a Tom Petty tribute band, using a Kurzweil PC3X, which I’ve had for about 15 years, and a Roland VR-09. Most of the sounds needed for the music are piano, organ, and some pads. I need to get some sort of alternate system for fly away gigs. I was thinking that a laptop or two and then asking the venue to have two midi keyboard controllers waiting for me. This would spare me from taking my keyboards on a plane. What would you recommend using as far as software and the overall setup?

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