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Today we are going to be taking an in-depth look at the best mini MIDI controllers currently available.
I have the opinion mini MIDI keyboards are great for producers to have. Their lightweight and ease of use make them appropriate for many different occasions.
Best Mini MIDI Controllers – A Quick Glance
|Editors Pick||Novation Mini MK3||
|Alternative||Akai LPD 218 Mini||
|Budget||Akai MPK Mini MK3||
The # of Keys on these Controllers Vary from 25 to 32 keys. The keys are smaller than normal keyboards to make them perfect for on the go production. Mini MIDI keyboards are perfect for iPhones and iPads or other tablets.
Before getting into our list, let’s grab a quick understanding of exactly what mini MIDI controllers are.
What Is A Mini MIDI Keyboard Controller?
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and it is a technology that enables musicians to launch and play sounds from their computers or laptops.
The technology for MIDI has been around for 30 years and it is becoming more and more popular with the advancements in technology.
So what is a mini MIDI controller? It is a small keyboard that allows you to send MIDI to your laptop or PC. The reason why they have become popular is that they are extremely portable and often cheap.
Our Top Picks
1) Novation Mini MIDI MK III
The Novation Mini is specifically built for Ableton. It's small enough to fit in your backpack, yet powerful enough to allow you to create beats on the go.
This is Novations newest controller and it’s one of my personal favorites. It comes with MIDI out, meaning that you can use it to control external synthesizers.
I find this to be awesome as a lot of pro producers could take advantage of this.
The Mini MKIII is the perfect keyboard for beginners and it also works great for advanced players as well.
The Novation Mini MK III is easily one of the best mini MIDI keyboards on the market. This thing is great all around, coming locked and loaded with 16 pads and the ability to control a hardware synthesizer.
2) Akai MPK Mini MK 3
The MK3 has a underwent a little bit of a facelift and I think it personally is for the better. One of the notable things added to the MK3 is an LCD interface which allows you to see the parameters and patches you are working on.
The joystick is also something that feels a little bit thicker than its predecessor. This is definitely an improvement as the joystick on the Mini 2 wasn’t all that great.
You will notice that the MPK Mini MK3 has a slimmer design with sharper edges coming in at a weight of just 1.65 LBS.
The key-bed has been slightly tweaked on the MK3, which can only be a good thing as the Mini 2 is one of the most-selling keyboards currently on the market.
Overall, this is definitely one of the best controllers currently available. If you’re looking to instantly start making some tunes, this is a great pick.
3) Akai MPK Mini 2
The MPK mini 2 is one of the premier mini controllers on the market right now.
Akai has made a product that works out of the box immediately with any DAW that you want to use.
Akai knows how to make a reliable product that isn’t going to have simple problems that other keyboards can have.
This is a great product for people who are on the go and have to set up makeshift studios. The Akai MPK mini 2 comes with eight velocity-sensitive drum pads and eight assignable Q-link knobs.
I like that it is really easy to use which is why we think this is best for beginners.
Coming in at 1.63 pounds, the MPK mini 2 is perfect to fit in your backpack if you are looking to take it with you anywhere. It comes with VIP 3.0 and this software makes it easy to control your DAW.
If you are a fan of keyboards that come in different colors, this one is perfect because it comes in red, white or black.
Although it’s a couple of years old, it is still hands down one of the best options available.
Read my full review of this keyboard here.
4) Nektar SE25
This controller is extremely affordable and it comes in at just .88 pounds.
You can read my full review on the Nektar SE25 here.
My overall thoughts on the Nektar SE25 are that it’s perfect for beginners. It doesn’t have a ton of controls on it, so it can be limiting for those who are professionals.
5) Akai Professional LPK25 WIRELESS
The Akai Professional LPK25 Wireless is the first wireless MIDI keyboard controller. This is a unique product as wireless is becoming very popular.
It is powered by 3 AA batteries for up to 12 hours or by a USB cable. The keys are velocity-sensitive and are synth-action.
This wireless keyboard controller comes with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and has a pairing button on the base of the instrument. The Akai Professional LPK25 comes with octave, and sustain buttons. It also has an arpeggiator, like most other products.
There aren’t any pads or knobs on this wireless product, but if you’re not looking to make beats or get crazy transport controls, you will be fine. Another plus on this keyboard is it extremely light coming in at .08 pounds.
This is the best wireless controller currently on the market. It’s not buggy and gets the job done perfectly.
6) Alesis V Mini
The Alesis VI Mini is a pretty impressive instrument that is loaded with most of the features that you will need as a producer or musician.
It works well with all of the major DAW’s and there has been a lot of praise behind it.
It comes with 25 velocity-sensitive keys that are synth-action.
I like that the Alesis V Mini also comes with 4 backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads and 4 backlit assignable knobs to control your DAW. It comes with octave, pitch bend, modulation, and sustain buttons.
The Alesis V Mini comes with Xpand2! which is a virtual instrument that gives you over 2,000 sounds right out of the box. This only weighs 1.1 pounds which makes it one of the lightest available.
I believe this is a nice option, however, it’s not my personal favorite.
7) Instruments Komplete Kontrol 32 Micro
The Komplete Kontrol Micro 32 comes fully packed with instruments from Native Instruments. The capabilities this provides with U-HE and Native instruments are unmatched for this price and size.
Native Instruments made a solid keyboard with the Kontrol 32 Micro.
It’s not flashy, but it does everything you want it to do and more.
It is ultra-portable and light-weight and one of my favorite features it has is Smart Play.
I recently did a full review of the Kontrol 32 Micro here. Check out my thoughts.
With the Kontrol 32, you are getting a great product, but it definitely has some limitations. Overall, still a great option.
8) IK Multimedia iRig Keys MINI2 25
The iRig MINI2 is made by Apple and it is unique in the sense that it works with basically any device. You can hook this device up to your iPhone, Android, tablet, and PC or Mac.
As far as being portable, this is probably the most portable controller on the market seeing how it only weighs .9 pounds. It comes with lightning, USB and micro-USB cables.
If you want something to use as your secondary controller for days when you might be on vacation, at school or just on the go, this is a great choice. This controller is definitely very basic as far as controls and what you can do with it.
My overall thoughts are that the Irig is a great option for the price. I love how functional it is with tablets and cellphones. They also make this in the size of 37 keys.
9)M-Audio Oxygen Pro 32
The Oxygen Pro Mini is actually one of my favorite picks on this list. The reason why I don't have it higher is that you will need Pro Tools or Studio One full versions to be able to take advantage of all of the controls.
M-Audio has put together a great product with the Axiom Oxygen Pro Mini. It comes with 32 velocity-sensitive keys and VIP 3.0. This software is great because it gives musicians so much control with their keyboards.
The M-Audio Air Mini comes with three transport controls, 5 navigation buttons, and 8 pads for maximum control. There are dedicated pitch, modulation and sustain buttons on this device.
This is unique because you typically don’t see pitch and modulation controls being buttons, rather being wheels or strips.
Overall, this keyboard has 32 keys rather than 25, so that’s a plus, however, I don’t put this on the same level with Novation and Akai.
10) Akai Professional LPK25
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.
The Akai LPK 25 is the classic keyboard as it was one of the first compact controllers.
This doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles as some of the other products mentioned, but for basic functions, it will get the job done.
It is extremely portable coming in at 1.4 pounds. Its keys are velocity-sensitive and it might feel a little bit on the cheaper side compared to the MPK series.
Overall, I think this is a bit dated and wouldn’t recommend it anymore.
Is A Mini MIDI Controller A Good Investment For A New Producer?
I would say absolutely. It allows you the freedom to play notes, play beats and control MIDI. This also makes it so you’re not spending a fortune right off the bat.
If you like what your keyboard does for you, but feel a little limited and want to dive deeper, you can upgrade to a 49 key MIDI controller. If you’re a producer who’s on the go, check out our guide on the best Bluetooth MIDI controller.
Why Would Someone Be Interested In These?
Mini MIDI keyboards are not just for touring musicians, they can also be used in the studio and even for live shows. These are very affordable and they serve a variety of purposes.
If you’re someone who doesn’t really play the piano, a small controller would be a smart purchase seeing how the keys are smaller.
Something many people refer to these instruments to is a keyboard beat maker. This is because they are used by so many music producers to make beats.
If you’re someone who is going off to college, it would also be a wise purchase. It is crazy how powerful, yet portable these are.
Just in the last couple of years, the advancement has been pretty remarkable in the MIDI controller realm and the MPK mini and the Novation LaunchKey mini are two of the best purchases you can make.
The best keyboard for making beats is going to be a device that has drum pads as well as control parameters. You can read more about making beats at the link above where I break down my favorite products for beats.
What’s The Difference Between Mini MIDI Controllers And Normal MIDI Controllers?
The biggest difference between Mini keyboards and normal MIDI controllers is weight and the number of keys. Mini keyboards are built to be extremely portable while still being as durable as they can be.
Compact keyboards typically come with 25, 32 or 37 keys and the keys are smaller than a normal controller. With a small MIDI keyboard, the musician typically isn’t looking for expressive playing so this isn’t a problem.
Both Akai and LaunchKey are the standard and we think both of these products are quality. We are also going to highlight a few other compact instruments that we like as well. We hope that you find this review helpful and learn from this post.
Things To Consider When Buying
What Are You Going To Be Using Your Keyboard For?
If you are going to be using your instrument for beats or launching clips, you’re going to want to buy one with pads. I recommend a one with pads and knobs because there’s a lot more you can do with them to learn on.
What Kind Of Software Is Included?
Most of these come with software and it’s important to know what kind of software they come with. We will highlight this for each of the products below.
If you are looking into portable compact MIDI controllers you want to know how much each of them weighs in case you are looking to take it with you and set up make-shift studios on the go.
Most of the products we’re looking at are going to have synth-action keys. For players who don’t play piano, this will probably be preferred since they’re easier to press down. They also won’t be as durable, but these aren’t meant to be played super hard anyway.
Sustain Pedal Input:
Sustain pedal inputs are important if you want manually sustain notes while recording.
What Do I Need To Use It?
They are USB powered so you will need a USB cable and a laptop, MacBook or a tablet to plug it into. These keyboards don’t typically have internal sounds so you will want to do research on what kind of virtual instruments you want to use through your computer.
What Kind Of Keys Will My Mini Keyboard Controller have?
The keys on your instrument will be synth-action keys. These are cheaper feeling keys and they are not weighted. None of the keys will be weighted. This is because the keys are very small on these types of controllers.
The keys are so small that there would be no purpose in having weighted keys. Weighted keys would also increase the weight of the keyboards and the purpose of these is to be portable and light.
Is A Small MIDI Keyboard The Best For Live Music
No, I would say it’s not. These can be handy and used in live music, but I wouldn’t say they’re the best. The reason being that you’re limited to what you can play do live. I prefer using a larger keyboard so I can do more.
I don’t think that they are necessarily bad for live music, just not as useful as they could be. Their purpose isn’t really for live music though, it’s more so for convenience for musicians who are traveling.
The keys are smaller on mini MIDI controllers so they can be a little bit more difficult to play and that’s why I would recommend using a larger keyboard.
How Do I Use My Laptop With These
It is actually very simple to use a laptop with your instrument. You simply will just use a USB cable and plug it into the USB port of your laptop. The good thing with modern keyboards is that you don’t have to worry about downloading a ton of software to make it compatible.
As far as being as durable as a normal size keyboard, they are not.
As far as playing the keys, the keys will be durable, but I don’t recommend hammering the keys like you’re playing a real piano.
You don’t want to break a key because you’re trying to play it too hard.
They do not typically have aftertouch and this is a feature that is important to some musicians. This is pressure-sensitivity for after your press the keys down.
It registers how hard you’re holding the keys down and it can make your keyboard use vibrato or other effects. Aftertouch is something you don’t need, but once you play a MIDI keyboard with aftertouch, you will want one with aftertouch.
Our pick is the Novation Mini MK3 , but we know that any of these keyboards is great for its purpose.
If you’re picking solely on price, go with the Novation because it will typically be a little bit cheaper.
If portability is what you are looking for, I recommend checking out my favorite keyboard amps. These are great options for traveling.
If you enjoyed this article and found what you are looking for, let me know in the comments below!