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Cubase is one of the more popular DAWS and is one that I have grown familiar with. For the most part, it’s easy to use and it allows you to do everything that you would need to do. With this being said, there are MIDI keyboard controllers that work well with it and I want to breakdown some great options for you.
In this article, we are going to break down the best MIDI keyboard controllers for Cubase.
The best keyboard for Cubase is going to be something that has good functionality with the DAW as well as some pads, keys, knobs, and preferably aftertouch.
If you’re using Cubase as your main DAW, here’s a quick look at a few controllers I urge you to check out.
All four of these options are quality picks that I have personally used and really enjoy. If you’re not a serious producer or you’re just beginning, I would recommend picking the MPK Mini MK2.
Cubase MIDI Controllers – A Quick Glance
|Editor’s Pick||Arturia Keylab MK II||
|Budget Pick||Akai MPK Mini MK2||
|Pad Controller Pick||Akai MPD218||
Why Use MIDI Controllers With Cubase
Using controllers with Cubase or any DAW for that matter can greatly benefit your writing and experience. After writing in the MIDI over and over, you may get sick of it and want to look for other ways to write. This is the beauty of a controller.
Controllers give you the freedom to experiment outside of the box and dive into features for each controller.
You will find that most controllers have something different to offer, whether it be pads, faders, keys, sequencers or arpeggiators.
What To Look For In A Controller For Cubase
Functionality: Some controllers have poor functionality and aren’t properly mapped for all DAWS. While this is getting better, if you get a no-name brand one, you could find yourself getting frustrated and confused.
Pads: If you plan on doing beats or triggering samples from your keyboard, you will want to have pads. I personally have my synth changes mapped to my pads on my keyboard. While this is more advanced, you can easily figure it out if you invest the time.
Keys: How do the keys feel? With controllers, don’t expect the best keys. If the keys are that big of a deal for you, I would recommend going the digital piano or workstation route and then just running them as MIDI controllers. I do this with my Roland FA 08 and I love it for the key-bed.
Software: If you’re using Cubase or any major DAW, you may want to get a controller that comes with additional VSTS. I personally always try and get as many VSTS as I can get.
Best Cubase MIDI Controllers
Below are the current best MIDI keyboards for Cubase. There are some inexpensive picks as well as some choices that are a little more pricey. We’ve listed our favorites and it’s up to you decide based on your budget.
Akai MPK Mini MK3 – Best Budget Option For Cubase
The Akai Mini MK3 is a premiere mini controller that is one of the most popular controllers sold. I think it's a great option and I highly recommend it.
The Akai MPK Mini MK3 is one of the most popular controllers in the game currently. It’s cheap, the functionality is great, and it also comes with some pretty nice software.
I recommend this to beginners often as it’s great for portability and it’s easy to use. If you are constantly on the go, the MK2 is perfect.
The pitch bend is the one thing on this controller that I don’t think is great. It’s stiff and it doesn’t give me too much use.
I personally own this portable mini MIDI controller and I absolutely love using it as my second controller.
You can read my full review of the Akai MPK Mini MK2 here.
The bundled software, the functionality, and the portability are really hard to top. I personally recommend this as your first controller, especially with Cubase. You will find that this is really easy to use, yet it still can be used at a high level.
Arturia Keylab MKII 61 – Best Overall Keyboard Option
The Arturia Keylab MKII is one of the most durable controllers on the market. This controller is packed with features and is compatible out of the box with every major DAW.
The Keylab MKII 61 is a rather new controller by Arturia and a good one at that. It comes with 5 control inputs and 16 RGB backlit pads. The pad functionality is some of my favorite with this controller as you will find they’re not too stiff.
You will notice the sleek design with the Keylab MKII and one thing that I need to mention is that keys feel really nice for a MIDI controller.
There is included software and the durability with this controller is top-notch. Arturia typically makes keyboards like tanks. I always make that joke, but it’s no lie. The first time I recorded with one I was blown away by how durable it was. Some controllers feel extremely cheap, and this is not the case.
This is the best MIDI controller for Cubase. It’s a brand new controller that has aftertouch and it also is extremely durable. You will also find this keyboard in our roundup on the best 61 key MIDI controllers.
Akai MPD226 – Best Budget MIDI Controller
The MPD 226 is fully compatible with all major DAWs and is great for those looking to make beats quickly.
The Akai MPD226 is the premier budget controller for Cubase. This is easy to use, it’s cheap, and the pads feel really nice.
The functionality is great with all major DAWS including Cubase. If you’ve had troubles with mapping your controllers, this is a perfect pick as it will be pre-mapped.
This is a great controller keyboard for beginners, that is definitely worth checking out.
The Akai MPD226 is the best current controller for budget choices. It’s a pad controller than doesn’t have keys but allows you to lay down drum beats and trigger samples.
Native Instruments Maschine 3 – Best Overall Pad Controller
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.
Native Instruments Maschine 3 is a high-end pad controller that is arguably the best available. This works with all major DAWS and it comes with additional software as well.
The pads are top-notch and some of the better feeling pads that you can get on a controller. I really enjoy the interface of the Maschine 3 as it is all laid out in a simple and easy to use way.
If you can afford it, the Maschine 3 should be your choice for hip hop production.
This controller has nice pads, great functionality, and unlimited ability.
These are currently the best MIDI keyboards for Cubase available. All of these options are great, depending on exactly what you’re needing to do.
Decide what type of production you’re looking to do and then make your decision based on that. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
What are your thoughts on the launchkey Mk 2 or Mk 3?
Hi tony, solid controllers. I would go for the MK 3!
And what about Komplete Kontrol A? It should also be compatible with Cubase.
Thanks for the feedback! The Kontrol A is a wonderful choice and I will look into adding it on the list!
I’m a MIDI Noop. I bought an Arturia KeyLab MK2 61, but I’m not able to configure it right to work proper with Cubase 10 Pro as you mentioned. Do you have a discription for a one like me. In my opinion it is really a well builded midi controller keyboard, but unfortunately I can’t do anything without adjustment.
I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Yamaha MX49 or one of the Nektars. The MX49 is a great instrument and as a Cubase MIDI controller even includes the AI knob that the Steinberg CC121 has. Of course, Steinberg being owned by Yamaha is bound to be a great advantage over most others. I did buy an Akai MPK mini but sent it back. The integration with Windows came out, I thought, poorly.
Hi George, I will be reviewing the MX49 shortly and adding it to the list!
hello can i ask something too
Is alesis v25 compatible with the cubase program?
I heard the pad controller might be a problem, but I’m not sure…
I add to Frank, the Arturia mk ii 64 does not at all work with Nuendo or Cubase 10 and later. You can either use it as a keyboard or install a Mackie Controller, which renders keyboard and wheels useless but lets you use transport functionality. Sadly, Arturia still seems to think it works and always just replies that it is setup incorrectly.
As a longtime Cubase and Arturia user, I will disagree with your conclusions. With 4 or 5 octaves, a large self positioning slider indicating the current value of the selected Cubase VST parameter, 8 plus one additional sliders, 16 encoders, transport controls, which double as function keys, 9 buttons which can also be Cubase shortcuts, a color LCD with five buttons and a large encoder to navigate the screen which is used to label the parameters of the encoders, sliders and buttons with special optimization for Cubase (also for Reason, Studio One, Logic), vst customization , mixer and inter customization, the Nektar Panorama series is the de facto best midi controller surface for Cubase.