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.
It is my opinion that if you’re a relatively new music producer, you don’t need a crazy MIDI controller. 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.
- Best Budget MIDI Keyboard – Akai MPK Mini MK2
- Best Overall MIDI Keyboard – Arturia Keylab MKII 61
- Best Budget MIDI Pad Controller – Akai MPD218
- Best Overall MIDI Controller – Native Instruments Maschine3
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.
Over the last few years, MIDI controllers have advanced and gotten better in the functionality department. I remember when I first bought one in 2012, the functionality was spotty and it was frustrating. I had to map the pads, whereas now, a lot of stuff is pre-mapped.
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.
Here are some guides that I recently wrote for your experience:
Best Cubase MIDI Controllers
Akai MPK Mini MK2 – Best Budget Option For Cubase
The Akai MPK Mini MK2 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 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 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 my personal favorite controller for Cubase. It’s a brand new controller that has aftertouch and it also is extremely durable.
Akai MPD218 – Best Budget MIDI Controller
The Akai MPD218 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.
The Akai MPD218 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
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.
There’s a wide variety of options to go with for Cubase. I hope that this list helped you decide on which route to go, whether it be a pad controller, a keyboard controller or maybe even both.
Decide what type of production you’re looking to do and then make your decision based off of that. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
I highly recommend checking out the Akai MPK Mini MK2 if you haven’t already, it’s cheap and it’s powerful.