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Best Midi Keyboard Controllers EVER! (Full-Fat 2024 Edition)

Which is the best MIDI controller? Is there even such thing? Welcome to our ultimate rundown...

To dub controller as the ‘Best Midi Keyboard 2024’ is 1 thing, but to call it the ‘Best Midi Keyboard Of All Time’ – that’s a big claim!

Especially when nowadays virtually every instrument manufacturer has their own lineup of piano-shaped midi controllers, ranging right from those with 25 keys, all the way up to the full 88. Team that with the fact that no 2 midi keyboards are alike, & you soon realise just how difficult it is to whittle them down to just 1… (gulp).

Aside from keys, virtually every midi keyboard differs in terms of: its software bundle, level of features, price, form factor & portability, build quality, input & outputs, level of DAW integration, key-feel… you get the picture! All of which makes narrowing down the best midi keyboard EVER, a bit like picking your favourite child – near on impossible.

Yet we think we’ve found the answer. Or at the least what we believe to be the best midi keyboard in existence. Want to discover its identity? As well as all the other 25, 32, 37, 49, 61 & 88 key midi controllers that we highly rate? All you have to do, is keep reading.

Can’t wait & want to skip straight to the juicy bit? Find out what we think is the best midi keyboard 2024 in 1 click, by using the menu below…

testing the best midi keyboards on the market

So while there can only be 1 ‘Best Midi Keyboard Of The Year’, that’s not to say we don’t have our fair share of special mentions. We do!

By that we mean those controllers that we feel put up a good fight & deserve at the very least to be considered the ‘Best In Class’. Or in other words, keyboards you’d be wise to consider before reaching your own verdict.

So without further ado, here’s our rundown of the best midi controllers 2024, in order of smallest to largest…

1: Arturia MicroLab 

As far as the best midi controllers go, the MicroLab is a front-runner. Do NOT debate us on this!

In fact, we’d even be tempted to dub this ingenious little device, as the best midi keyboard on sale today, especially for anyone who produces ‘on the go’. The word ‘intuitive’ really sums up this board well! Take a closer look & it shouldn’t be hard to see the reason behind our bold claim…

Despite being one of the most compact midis on the market, the MicroLab is no slouch when it comes to features. Don’t ask us how, but Arturia have somehow managed to squeeze in the same keybed that you’ll find in its bigger brother – the MiniLab MK2. A move that alone, deserves a round of applause & could easily make the MicroLab the best midi keyboard of all time; you’ll seriously struggle to find better quality keys in a miniature midi!!

(Keen Pianists, say “I”)

Team that with the fact the MicroLab retains the touch strips for pitch & mod + comes with Analogue Lab & an ingenious cable-wrap design (you’ll never loose your cable), & we genuinely found it hard to pick fault. Yes, there’s no drum pads or fancy faders, BUT if you’re after is a portable set of good quality keys & don’t want to spend the earth, then the MicroLab is pretty much on the $£€.

Why is this the best mini midi keyboard 2024?

  • That rubber housing for the USB cable is ingenious – the colour options ain’t bad too!
  • Even a midi as small as this comes with Analogue Lab Lite – the same sound budnle you get with the Minilab (its bigger brother). Not to mention Bitwig too!!
  • That keybed – we still can’t get over the fact a keybed this good has been crammed into a controller this compact!
midi keyboard lit up on a production desk

2: M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3

When you think of the best midi keyboard, the Keystation Mini isn’t the first controller that comes to mind. And that’s most likely because, when compared to other midi controllers on the market, the Keystation does appear (at 1st glance) to be a bit ‘basic’.

Aside from a few basic nav controls & pitch & modulation being consigned to a set of buttons, there really ins’t much else to talk about with the Keystation… & thats exactly why we like it. Because instead of trying to cram every feature under the sun into a pocket-sized package, M-Audio have focused on making the Keystation extremely capable in one particular area (clues in the name).

Yep – what really sets the Keystation apart is the keys. No prizes for guessing that! As unlike on most keyboards, you get a whopping 32, opposed to just 25. All of which have a decent feel to them that makes them easy to play in a natural fashion. Despite being lightweight, these keys are not like on/off switches & nor do they bounce back overly fast like you find with other budget midi keyboards. A keen pianists can perform a really good run with this board.

Team that with the bargain basement price + the fact it’s incredibly compact, & it’s not hard to see why the Keystation is (at the very least|) a contender for the title of the ‘best midi keyboard 2024’ – potentially even of all time!

This is the best midi keyboard 2024 because…

  • Keys, Keys, Keys – they’re the centrepiece of this board & give even a regular pianist the room to perform runs without having to shift octaves. Those extra keys really do make a difference!!
  • & if the board isn’t already good enough value, it also comes with a copy of Pro Tools First + access to Avid Effects!
  • Form factor with this board is pretty darn amazing – we can’t think of any 32 key midi keyboard that’s more compact.

HEADS UP: Want to see how these mini midi keyboards compare with their rivals? Jump into our full rundown of the Best Mini Midi Keyboards.

3: Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3

Ever heard someone proclaim that the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is the “best midi keyboard of all time”? If so, then before you roll your eyes & consider their whole statement to be a HUGE over-exaggeration or a case of fanatical ‘fanboyism’, consider this… they may have a point.

See, there’s a reason the Launchkey Mini MK3 is one of the most popular midi keyboards on the market. It’s a pretty much an unbeatable balance of everything. So be you a key-focused player, or a beat-maker, perhaps a mix engineer or just someone who’s looking to get into music production, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 is a solid choice.

From a beginner’s perspective, the layout is simple & there’s a serious amount of options for how you can control your sound. Integration with Ableton Live is simple too! As for key-focused players, yes there are just 25 mini keys BUT (& this is a big ‘but’) their feel & playability is pretty much on par with those by Arturia. And as for beat-making, that’s never been so simple thanks to the Launchkey doing away with the usual 8 drum pads, in favour of 16!!

So really, it’s not that hard to see why the Launchkey Mini Mk3 is so popular. It does a LOT of things VERY well. Could that make it the best midi keyboard ever? Potentially.

Here’s why the Launchkey is the best midi keyboard 2024…

  • The Launchkey has shortcuts for days!! Each button has various different functions + the DAW integration (especially with Ableton Live) is seamless.
  • This is one of the best midi keyboards when it comes to keyfeel. Consider the price & this level of control & sensitivity is rare!
  • Everything on the Launchkey is accessible. Despite the majority of the buttons having more than 1 function, it’s pretty straightforward to use.
donner midi keyboard being used to create music

4: Donner DMK 25 Pro

When you hear the phrase: ‘best midi keyboard of all time’, we’d bet a LOT of £$€ that Donner isn’t the 1st brand that comes to mind. But you see that’s what makes Donner midi keyboards (for us at least) a potential front-runner. In terms of midi, they’re the underdog & are in many respects, playing a different game.

The DMK 25 Pro being proof in point; a midi keyboard that doesn’t play by the rules. While the majority of 25 key controllers battle to be the best midi controller in terms of new features/ software perks, the DMK Pro focuses on 1 thing: value. An area where it really does shine!

Compare this budget midi keyboard to what you get from the likes of Native Instruments or Arturia, & you’ll struggle to spot the difference. The DMK 25 Pro isn’t lacking much… aside from 8 velocity sensitive drum pads, the DMK 25 Pro also gives you 4 programmable rollers + 4 faders too! And that’s ontop of a high-def OLED display, pitch & mod strips with a handy light guide & even a midi out jack.

In fact, in some instances the DMK is even more well-equipped than its more pricey rivals. It has better pitch & mod controls than the Akai MPK Mini, more types of control than the Novation Launckey Mini & even has the ‘Note Repeat’ function that some bright spark at Arturia forgot to put in the Minilab 3. Team that with the fact it weighs just over half a kilo + is super thin for travel, & the DMK 25 Pro is seriously hard to fault.

Safe to say, it’s one to certainly have on your radar when deciding on the best midi keyboard of all time.

Donner’s DMK 25 Pro – here’s why it’s the best midi keyboard in 2024…

  • There’s portable & then there’s the DMK 25 Pro. At just 2.6cm thick it’s anorexically thin, not to mention lightweight too. The ideal midi controller for travel.
  • This ‘budget’ midi keyboard is one of the first midi controllers to embrace USB C… ironic or what!!
  • That OLED screen is superb. It’s FAR superior to that used on Akai keyboard & even gives the latest Minilab a run for it’s £$€.

HEADS UP: Want to see how these mini midi keyboards compare with their rivals? Jump into our full rundown of the Best 25 Key Midi Keyboards.

5: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

1 word – integration.

If you’re a fan of the Native Instrument software suite, then you NEED the M32 in your life. Especially if you’re strapped for space! Don’t be fooled by the fact this is the smallest midi controller Native Instruments make; the M32 is arguably the best midi keyboard combo out there when it comes to form factor & integration.

Ask us & it’s pretty easy to see why it’s SO much more popular than the A25 – NI’s chunkier 25-key board, which (we’ll be honest) we really do NOT like. The M32 is lighter, just as well integrated & has more keys, yet occupies a considerably smaller footprint. The only downside being that the keys are slightly smaller. But even though, we do feel having the extra 7 actually makes the M32 the easier of the 2 to play. So really, it’s swings & roundabouts.

And yes, no Native Instruments keyboards come with drum pads – well spotted. But should that be a dealbreaker? We think not. Fact is, to get a controller that’s this well integrated with such a mahoosive software suit for so cheap, is such a rarity in itself. So much so that we’re confident even passionate finger drummers would say the M32 is one of the best midi keyboards on sale today.

Teamed with a Maschine Mikro MK3, this controller is pretty much unstoppable.

Best midi keyboards in 2024? Potentially – here’s why…

  • Some of the best mini-size keys we’ve ever tested. They’re super responsive & offer great feedback!
  • It’s proof size doesn’t matter. It may be the smallest midi keyboard Native Instruments make, but for a compact midi it’s extremely capable!
  • It’s the cheapest way to get your hands on NI’s insane Komplete Kontrol software package, which includes over 6k sounds!!
best midi keyboard controllers for making music

6: Arturia Keystep Pro 3

If you’re the type to who favours synths over virtual instruments, you’re in luck. We’d bet our left leg that the Arturia Keystep Pro is the best midi keyboard you can buy in 2024.

And that’s because it’s everything you find in the original Keystep, only a gazillion better. In other words, if you’re a liver performer (especially for electronic, techno or EDM) then you’d be a fool to click away now. We say so is because unlike the original, the Keystep Pro gives you access to 4 independent tracks. Perfect for your bass, drums, a melodic sound & some sort of pad.

Plus, on each of these tracks you can record up-to 16 different sequences!! The rate at which this controller allows you to use hardware to create a full sound is astounding. As far as workflow’s concerned, it’s a God-send. The keys are also worth mentioning. Being the same set you find in the Minilab (only larger), there’s a lot of feel to what you play. Far more than you’d get with the majority of synths. The keys even have aftertouch!

So really then, to label the Keystep Pro as just ‘another midi keyboard’ would be a bit of an insult. As not only does it improve the playing experience of your hardware, but it also streamlines how you go about extracting these sounds + makes them easier to use.

So really, if you were to claim the Keystep Pro was the best midi keyboard in 2024, we wouldn’t blame you. As a companion to analogue gear it scores full marks.

Here’s why synth addicts say this is the best midi controller…

  • You get 4 tracks, each of which can record up to 16 different sequences. This is easily one of best midi keyboards for analogue work – no debate.
  • The 37 keys feel super good – they’re nice to touch & have a good travel distance. The keybed’s the same as that on the Minilab.
  • Sheer fun – there’s few other midi keyboards that allow you to work with hardware synths in this way. By few, we mean 1 – the rival to the Keystep Pro, the Novation SL Mk3.

HEADS UP: Want to see how these mini midi keyboards compare with their rivals? Jump into our full rundown of the Best Mid-Sized Midi Controllers.

7: Novation Launchkey 49

If you’re after ‘ultimate’ levels of control at an affordable £$€, then rejoice! Because the Launchkey 49 is exactly that. In fact (slight confession) we’re pretty convinced it’s the best midi controller EVER with 49 keys. A point we make for 1 very good reason – assignable controls!

To get your hands on this level of control at this price range is seriously rare!! Not to mention a major perk. As not only do you get 8 knobs, 9 faders (each with their own individual buttons) & a jaw-dropping 16 drum pads. But you also get integration with hardware synths too! The Launchkey 49 has a HUGE range of arpeggiator features including: swing mutate, deviate & timing.

There’s not debating that this midi controller gives you a LOT of options. Although what’s really sold us on this controller, is its in-depth integration with Ableton Live. Arguably one of its biggest selling features (eyebrows raise). Hook up the Launchkey 49 to your session, & you can control more or less every parameter under the sun, be that track select, pan, mute, volume, mute, play or even pan & send. Heck, even the drum pads can be used to launch clips/ scenes. Very clever!

Team this with 49 semi-weighted keys, & we don’t think it’s too farfetched to say the Launchkey 49 is one of the best midi keyboards of 2024. Yes, for pianists may be a bit of struggle & it may be not be as portable as a 25 key controller, but as an all-rounder we’d struggle to pick anything better.

The Launchkey 49 is the best midi controller of all time, because…

  • Integration with Ableton is spot on – this is easily one of the best midi controllers out there for Ableton users. No joke!!
  • There’s SO much scope for control with the Launchkey. From faders & pads to knobs & keys + integration with hardware synths, this midi has something to aid everyone’s creative process.
  • Where the Arturia Keystep is more suited to hardware synths, the Launchkey 49 can control both hardware & software instruments with ease.
producer using the best midi controller to turn an artist's song into a hit

8: Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII

Got serious £$€ to spend on a midi controller? If so, then you’ll be expecting a serious controller in return – i.e. a midi with serious levels of options that’s built to a seriously impressive standard. Cue the Keylab 49.

A midi controller designed to feel that bit more premium than its rivals (cough) the Launchkey 49, as it’s made entirely out of metal. And by entirely, we mean entirely – even the pitch & mod wheels on the Keylab are polished chrome! A small nod to the fact that this controller is far from your everyday piece of kit.

In fact, when it comes to control, you could say the Keylab is king. With 16 drum pads, 9 assignable encoders + 9 faders, it certainly encourages creativity. Go around the back & this same trend continues. There’s pretty much every input/ output you could possibly think of, including: pitch out, gate out, midi in/ out, 3x AUX ins, CV in – the lot. And yet, that’s just scratching the surface, because there’s 1 main reason why a LOT of producers maintain the Keylab is the best midi keyboard of all time… Integration.

That being with both mainstream DAWs & Arturia’s Analogue Lab software suite. Buy a Keylab 49 & you’ll even get magnetic overlays that allow you to easily change up the labels around each button to suit you specific DAW. Simple, but clever. Although, the highlight/ favourite easter egg for us, was the row of function buttons underneath each fader, which (in Analogue Lab) enable you to easily filter through presets & find new sounds fast – button 1 brings up piano, button 2 electric piano, button 3 organ & so on.

And that’s exactly the thing with the Keylab 49. It’s by no means the cheapest midi controller out there. Nor does it have pianists wetting their pants over the weight of the keys. BUT what it does, is make up for all of that in quality & design.

Find a more intuitive keyboard with 49 keys. Go on – we dare you!

Here’s why the Keylab is a great midi controller…

  • You’ll be hard pushed to find 49 keys that feel more solid. If the best midi controller for you needs to be solid, then the Keylab pretty much ticks every box.
  • This is the smallest Arturia midi controller you can get with User Mode – a way of customising the function of what every knob, fader, pad & button does. You can have up to 10 user templates!
  • For a keyboard of this size, the keyfeel is great! We guess ‘stealing’ the keys from their MatrixBrute synth wasn’t a bad idea.

HEADS UP: Want to see how these mini midi keyboards compare with their rivals? Jump into our full rundown of the Best 49 Key Midi Keyboard Controllers.

9: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2

Once in a blue moon there’s always a keyboard that comes along & shocks the pants off us. A few weeks back, that keyboard was the S61. Arguably the best professional-grade midi controller offered by Native Instruments.

And why – that all comes back to workflow. See, those giant LCD screens should be a big giveaway. This midi controller is packed with intuitive workflow hacks, to the point that we reckon it cut your production time in half. Those screens for instance bring the sounds & presets of the Komplete Kontrol software suite right to your fingertips – finding your next sound has never been so easy!

Team that with the fantastic DAW integration & tedious mouse work soon becomes a thing of the past. Although the clever perks don’t stop there…

Play this keyboard & you’ll quickly come across its party-piece. A light guide that runs across the back of the keys & helps you understand the range of the instrument you’re playing. For instance, with drums the Hi-Hats may be yellow while the Snare may be red. Simple, but SUPER useful! And what’s more, while playing you’ll no doubt notice the feel of the keys. There’s very little key-noise with the S61, & the keys themselves are responsive & allow for good expression.

And yes, while finger drummers will be tutting all the way through this (the S61 has no drum pads), we’d say it’s not a dealbreaker. In fact, all things considered, we’d be more than happy to invest in a separate pad controller if need be.

In other words, the S61 is that good that we’d (in effect) buy it 2 times over. But is the midi keyboard EVER? That’s another question.

Best midi keyboard 2024? Here’s 3 reason why we LOVE the S61…

  • Those 2 LCD screens you find on the front make navigating/ selecting your virtual instruments a complete doddle. The workflow with this keyboard is super smooth!
  • Never did we think a few LEDs could be so useful – the light-guide above the keys makes understanding virtual instruments SO much easier!!
  • Despite being semi-weighted, the keys on the S61 feel super premium. You can really inject some feel when you play.
top down image of a pair of hands keying notes into a midi keyboard

10: Arturia Keylab Essential 61

In the case you’re on a tight budget, but don’t want to compromise on key count or access to Arturia’s Analogue Lab, then the Keylab Essential 61 could easily be the best midi keyboard you’ll find. In fact, that’s pretty much its recipe.

Where the full-fat Keylab 61 will set you back close to £500, this (the Essential) comes in at close to half the price! And yet, as far as we can see you don’t actually sacrifice all that much. Yes, there’s noticeable differences between the 2 – integration with DAWs/ Analogue Lab isn’t as intuitive with the Essential + there’s half the amount of drum pads, a good chunk less inputs/ outputs & the keys do feel lighter to touch. BUT for a good 75% of producers, the Essential is enough.

Point being that while the Essential isn’t the most technically superior, it remains very capable – i.e. at the core, you still get access to much of the same features. The DAW mapping, while not super deep, is certainly no slouch. The keys, while not fully weighted, feel solid. And the casing, while not all metal, doesn’t feel cheap. This keyboard is also light – ideal for gigging or life on the road.

And that’s exactly why the Keylab Essential 61 could be seen as the best midi controller with 61 keys. Because while the Keylab 61 is (for most prods) the one you want, in reality the Keylab Essential 61 is the one you buy. It’s not perfect, yet it makes SO much sense!

This midi keyboard controller is ace because…

  • It’s so well thought out. Even though it kind of is, it doesn’t feel like a budget spin-off of the original Keylab. It’s designed with purpose & feels solid.
  • DAW integration with the Essential 61 is stand-out. Yes, it’s no Native Instruments S Series, but for the £$€ you’ll be hard pushed to find better.
  • For gigging, the lightweight construction is ideal. The Essential is far more ‘rough & ready’ when compared to the original Keylab 61.

HEADS UP: Want to see how these mini midi keyboards compare with their rivals? Jump into our full rundown of the Best Midi Keyboards With 61 Keys.

11: M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro

Through the eyes of a pianist, the Hammer 88 Pro is the definition of ‘fully-loaded’ – i.e. one of (if not ‘the’) best midi controller of all time.

Big claim, although after getting hands-on with this fully-weighted brute, we can certainly see what all the fuss is about. As far as keyfeel goes, the Hammer 88 Pro is pretty much has it mastered. Aside from being fully-weighted & boasting aftertouch, the keys are also graded too. Something that as of 2024, makes this the closest you can get to playing the piano via any midi controller. The playing experience is truly immersive!

Switch out the Hammer 88 Pro for a regular semi-weighted controller & it becomes clear just how much depth you can achieve. Depth that you cannot simply ‘work in’ with a few clicks on your DAW. For harnessing your raw organic sound, this is the ultimate midi controller. No arguments.

Playability aside though, M-Audio also gives you a lot of options; the Hammer 88 Pro has a whopping 16 velocity sensitive pads, each of which have 4 banks + 8 knobs & 9 faders. Our personal favs are the pitch & mod wheels, which are backlit in a ruby shade of red to match the under-glow of the keys. Ace for use on-stage. Team that with its bulletproof build & the Hammer 88 Pro really does feel professional, well thought out & expressive.

But most of all, it feels like common sense.

Here’s why this pro midi is SO special…

  • DAW compatibility with this keyboard is a breeze. We’re yet to come across a mainstream DAW that it doesn’t work/ integrate with + it comes with a free DAW included (MPC Beats).
  • Those keys – Hammer action & graded with aftertouch. Keen pianists will seriously struggle top find a better combo!!
  • Yes, you pay a piano price, but it feels like one. This is a HUGE step up from a conventional midi controller. The red felt running across the back of the keys is proof of that!
music experts reviewing a bunch of good midi keyboards

12: Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII

It’s little wonder why when it comes to full-size midi controllers, the Keylab 88 is considered the benchmark. It ticks virtually all the boxes.

So as you can imagine, there’s a LOT that makes this controller potentially the best midi keyboard of all time. For starters, it’s not short of keys. With the Keylab you get 88 full-size hammer action keys that are mounted to one of the best keybeds in the business; a cushioned little number made by Fatar. Just like the Hammer 88 Pro (above), keyfeel for a midi controller is off the scale.

Although where this controller really comes into its own is sound design. Arturia’s suite of software instruments, Analogue Lab (which is coincidentally included with the Keylab 88) seriously opens up the scope for new sounds. Plus, with it being designed to work with the Keylab, navigation is super simple via the built-in screen, which for a midi controller is actually a decent size – shock-horror!! Team that with all the transport controls & this is one seriously integrated piece of kit.

And then of course there’s the controller itself, which aside from packing a strong 16 backlit drum pads & a whole bunch of assignable knobs/ faders, is one of the most solid feeling controllers we’ve ever tested. No joke – the Keylab is built like a tank. Perks of being made of metal opposed to flimsy plastic. Heck, even the splashes of wood down the sides have grown on us.

And you see, that’s why we think the Keylab 88 may be the best midi controller 2024. It’s everything a serious midi controller needs to be, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s retro at heart & it doesn’t try to hide it. For that, we can’t help but admire it.

The Keylab 88 is the best midi keyboard 2024 because…

  • Build, build, build – if we had to put bets on what’s the best midi controller in terms of build, we’d go all in on the Keylab 88.
  • Lovers of hardware are spoilt for choice. This midi controller has virtually every input & output going from Midi In/Out, USB & even inputs for sustain & expression pedals!
  • That Fatar keybed (made in Italy) makes all the difference. For any pianist, those hammer action keys are on-point.

HEADS UP: Want to see how these mini midi keyboards compare with their rivals? Jump into our full rundown of the Best Full Size Midi Controllers.

Don’t shoot the messenger, but… there isn’t one.

See, to claim 1 midi keyboard is ‘the best’ & place it on a pedestal would – to be blunt – be very inaccurate. Because really, what is the best midi keyboard ever, all comes back to who you are.

And seen as though ‘you’ (the cool guy/ gal reading this blog) aren’t the same person, it’s only natural that not everyone is going to agree. But with that being said, we have managed to reach a definitive answer – i.e. track down what we consider to be the best midi keyboard of all time.

So in the case you’re a beginner, then we’d say you can’t go far wrong with the…

Donner DMK 25 = Best Midi Keyboard 2024 for beginners

A midi keyboard that (if you ask us) offers a beginner the best combo you can get.

While being slim & incredibly portable, the DMK 25 isn’t so small that you loose out on tons of features. Despite being just £10 more than the Arturia Microlab (at the time of writing this review), with the DMK 25 you get SO much more!! For that extra tenner, you get 8 drum pads, 4 assignable knobs, 4 assignable faders & more in the way of inputs/ outputs too.

Then go on to consider how this controller can be repurposed & the DMK 25 really does look like an intelligent purchase. We know of a fair few prods who started out with the DMK, before progressing onto slightly more professional boards & yet not 1 of them has gotten rid of it. In fact, the majority still maintain its been the best midi keyboard they’ve ever owned. Why?

Well that all comes back to how the DMK also doubles as the ideal travel keyboard – i.e. something that can be used to produce on location & then flung in a backpack without worry. A trait which really makes it quite the bargain, as it’s in effect 2 midi keyboards in 1.

A gateway to production, which later down the line doubles as a great portable pick for on the road. Talk about good value for £$€!!

Although with that, if you’re not a beginner or one to produce out of a backpack, then you may beg to differ. The best midi keyboard of all time in your eyes may be the…

Novation Launchkey 49 MK3 = Best Midi Keyboard 2024 for beatmakers

And that’s because this midi keyboard is pretty much designed with beatmakers in mind. (cheeky rhyme there).

But seriously – ask us & it’s pretty much the perfect size for playing melodies & getting the most out of your plugins. Being 49 keys, it’s not too big, yet not too small. All of which means it manages to remain reasonably portable + you don’t end up paying for a bunch of keys that you never use.

Although for beatmakers, the real highlight of this midi controller are the drum pads. Mainly because you get a whopping 16 – a true rarity in this price range. To put that into perspective, the equivalent Arturia has just 8. To get 16 pads you’d be looking at the Keylab 49, which (as of writing this blog) retails for over £500… well over double the price of the Launchkey!!

Combine that with the sheer amount of integration you get with the Launchkey (especially with Ableton) & it’s not hard to see why for a beatmakers it could well be the best midi keyboard ever! It’s feature-packed, does wonders for workflow & is exceptional value. In other words, it scores the hat-trick!

That being said though, if you’re more of a keen key-focused player, then 49 keys is likely to be restrictive. In which case, for you the best midi controller of all time will likely be something like the…

M Audio Hammer 88 Pro = Best Midi Keyboard 2024 for pianists

A full 88-key hammer action controller that in 2024, is one of (if not ‘the’) best piano-like experience you can get from a midi controller. The keys are really why you’d buy this board. The hammer actions & graded setup really encourages you to be expressive when you play & helps to add organic depth to your sound. Something you can also achieve with other 88 key boards from the likes of Native Instruments & Arturia. However…

Where the Hammer 88 comes into its own is value. So yes, it doesn’t have all the techno trinkets you find on 88-key Arturia or Native Instruments boards. Neither is it integrated with a virtual instrument suite like Komplete Kontrol or Analogue Lab. BUT since when was a bad thing?

If anything, we’d say it’s the reason any passionate pianist would dub the Hammer 88 Pro as the ‘best midi keyboard 2023’. It’s key-focused, delivers a stand out playing experience & isn’t trying to be 10,000 things at once. All of which means you don’t end up paying for them. Want proof?

As we write this blog, a Keylab 88 retails for around £1k. AKA: A big dent in your back pocket! Whereas the Hammer 88 pro? That retails for near-on half the price.

Need we say more.

Enjoy this review of the best midi keyboard & eager for more? Be sure to tune into our latest Midi Controller Reviews, as well as get the lowdown on all things Producing Music. And if by then you still haven’t found the perfect midi controller, be sure to also check out our rundown of our Top Midi Keyboard Controller For Logic + another the Best Semi Weighted Midi Keyboards.

drum pads on a midi controller

Or, if you’ve still got as burning question about the best midi keyboard, keep reading to discover even more about which type of midi best suits you…

SPOILER: There is no set midi controller for professionals. However…

The majority of professional producers will invest quite heavily in their gear. So it’s most likely that those midi keyboards used by professionals will include…

  • A set of weighted keys – For any professional producer, but especially those who’re key focused, should at least have a midi keyboard with weighted keys. You VERY rarely come across a pro producer who’s making do with cheap synth action keys. That’s because weighted keys, typically give you more control over your sound & more of a feel for what you’re playing. For keen pianists, a fully weighted set is essential. if anything, it’s likely the 1st thing they’d look for.
  • Intuitive DAW integration – Time is precious, especially for pro producers. So it’s only natural for the majority of these prods to invest in a keyboard that has top notch integration with DAWs. For beat-makers especially, this can often be the deciding factor when choosing what they think is the best midi keyboard of all time.
  • Access to a pro-grade software suite – Not all midi keyboards offer access to their own software instruments, however those that do, will likely be first on the radar of a pro. That’s because stock instruments can limit your creativity quite a bit. Without new & exciting sounds, it’s VERY difficult to create new & exciting music. Most likely why a LOT of pro favour those midi controllers made by Arturia & Native Instruments.

Whether it’s worth getting a midi controller, all comes back to how you’ll use it.

To understand that, you first need to ask yourself the question “what will a midi controller enable me to do?” If the answer to that isn’t very much, then perhaps there’s no need. BUT on the flip-side, if a midi keyboard would allow you to be more expressive, use a wider variety of sounds, or maybe even take your production ‘on the go’, then chances are it’d be a wise bet.

And it’s worth not forgetting that midi controllers aren’t just for making music behind the scenes. Some of the best midi keyboards are even used by DJs to control their tracks, loops & virtual instruments during a live performance. Heck, you can even find Ed Sheeran using a midi keyboard to feed his Chewie 2 looper pedal with chords & sounds.

So to be blunt, if you’re serious about music – even if you aren’t a traditional producer – a midi keyboard could (& most likely is) a wise idea.

Is this really a question??

Yes, Arturia is a good brand. In fact, they’re one of the best midi keyboard brands out there today. And that applies whether you’re hunting for a 25 key or a full size 88 key midi controller. You see, there’s a lot that sets Arturia apart, & therefore good reason to consider their line of midi keyboards. Want proof?

Here’s just 3 reasons why we think Arturia is a brand to watch…

  • They’re innovative – There’s a reason Arturia are the brains behind some of the best midi keyboards of 2022, & that’s their innovative approach. Something that we sensed back in 2016 with the Minilab MK2. Ask us & it’s no coincidence that a LOT of the quirks that you see on the MK2 have since been ‘reproduced’ by other manufacturers. Those touch strips for pitch & mod can be found on keyboards by Novation, Donner & even some more budget midi keyboards for a reason. They’re innovative.
  • Stand-out build quality – If you judge a brand on build quality, then you’d no doubt say that Arturia makes some of the best midi controllers of all time. Even to this day, virtually all Arturia midi keyboards are encased in some sort of metal (not plastic) & in terms of keys, offer superb keyfeel! The keybed made by Fatar which you find in the Keylab 88, is arguably the best that you can get in any midi controller!! Proof that the brand understands pianists.
  • Analogue Lab – When it comes to software instruments, Arturia are the OGs! In fact, that’s how the company first made a name for itself – developing digital versions of analogue synths. Hence the name of their virtual instrument suite: Analogue Lab. A collection of what’s arguably some of the best virtual instruments in existence!! So as far as unique sounds go, Arturia has you covered.

While Donner may be a lot less of a mainstream instrument brand, we’d say so – yes.

And that “yes”, all comes back to Donner’s philosophy. See, while the majority of midi keyboard manufacturers are competing to make the best midi keyboard of all time (i.e. most technically superior), Donner is playing a different game. An approach they tend to take with pretty every instrument or controller that they make…

“Instead of creating a brand new recipe, Donner focus on adapting the existing recipe to make it the best value it can be.” – Alex (Editor)

So take the DMK 25 for instance. While it’s by no means the perfect 25 key midi keyboard, it is by far one of (if not the) best value midi controllers you can buy today. Aside from the fact it has faders (something literally no other 25 key midi does), it’s also incredibly thin & compact. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to get the same amount of features in such a portable package. Not to mention for such a cheap price!

So while Donner is not a conventional instrument manufacturer, when it comes to finding the best midi controller of all time – they’re certainly 1 to watch. #PluckyUnderdogAlert

That depends how you produce & what you intend to use it for.

  • On-the-go production – In the case you’re hunting for a keyboard that’s suited to ‘on the go’ production, then we’d recommend putting going for no more than 37 keys. Any more & portability will be less of a focus (i.e. take a backseat) to functionality. Ask us & the M32 by M-Audio offers a good all-round compact package. 32 keys in the space of 25 & pretty much all the production features you need. Including faders!!
  • Piano pieces – If you’re a keen pianist, then deciding on the best midi controller 2022 is likely to come back to factors like key-weight, key-feel & obviously, the amount of keys too. So in other words, the quality of the keybed should be your main focus & less so portability. In this case, having more keys (at least 61) would be your best bet.
  • Beat-making & finger drumming -If you’re a beat-maker or finger drummer, then the best midi keyboard in 2022 (for you) may not even have keys!! Instead, you may be more suited to a DAW control surface or pad controller. The main thing to bear in mind would be the quality/ sensitivity of the pads. Some midi keyboards allows you to adjust this, & others don’t. Although (pro tip), we’d say as a finger drummer, you can’t go far wrong with any Akai controller, as they practically invented the MPC style pad.

Yes, midi keyboards are great for beginners, however that’s not to say ALL midi keyboards are beginner friendly. So to avoid you buying a controller that’s out of your league, here’s a few ways to spot the best beginner midi controllers…

  • They’re small & petit – For all those who say size doesn’t matter, we’re sorry, but… it does. If you’re a beginner it’s likely that your best midi keyboard of 2023, will be something that’s not overly large or rammed with 1000 features. As a general rule of thumb – the larger the midi keyboard, the more complex it is to operate.
  • They don’t cost the earth – 99.999% of the best midi keyboards for beginners will mot set you back a lot of £££. Why? Because they’re aimed specifically at beginners – a type of player who typically doesn’t have a lot to invest in their first midi controller. Besides, as a beginner it’s more about learning to use a midi controller, so if anything heaps of functionality comes as more of hinderance than a help. Hence why the best midi keyboard of all time (in a beginners eyes) is usually cheap.
  • The way they’re marketed – Still struggling to tell if a controller’s beginner friendly? Try looking at how it’s marketed – the language is usually a giveaway. Read a description for the Native Instruments S88 & you’ll soon see what we mean. It’s SO much more complex than that used for the Donner DMK 25.

Really, there’s no answer for this. Although we would say that as a beginner the best midi keyboard is 2 things…

  • Cheap
  • Feature-packed

Reason we’d say so is because as a beginner, build quality & heavy DAW-integration (while important) aren’t really your No1 priorities. For you, a midi keyboard is about getting a flavour for production methods & understanding how you produce.

Hence why affordable controllers like the DMK 25 are SO incredibly popular. Aside from swimming in features (faders, knobs, pads, etc.), they don’t actually set you back all that much £££. Plus, at just 25 keys, they’re compact too – ideal for travelling or mobile production.

NOTE: We must stress how little sense it makes (as a beginner) to invest in pricy midi controllers. Take it from us, there’s nothing worse than spending close to £1k on the best professional midi keyboard of all time, only to realise that a small £80 model would have been a better choice.

Yes – you can learn piano on a midi keyboard, however there is a caveat…

Learning piano then an electronic keyboard may actually be cheaper. Not only that but it’d likely be a whole load easier to use too. Aside from the fact that there’s not 10,000 neon glowing options on a conventional keyboard, there’s also a set of speakers. A key (& important) difference for anyone who’s practicing piano. Reason?

It makes conventional keyboards are far more ‘pick up & play’; with a midi controller, you’d require a computer every time you practice if you want to hear any sort of playback. Something we’d assume you do as a beginner. What’s more, because conventional keyboards are all about the keys, they tend to deliver a better keyfeel too.

So in conclusion – can you learn piano on a midi keyboard? Yes. Would we advise it? Nope.

We think so.

And we say that even though it didn’t make our rundown. Why? Because while the MPK Mini is (in our opinion) not the best midi keyboard out there, for what it enables you to do, it is still very much worth it! Need convincing? Here’s 3 reasons you should consider the Akai MPK Mini

  • It’s seriously popular – Mention the MPK Mini & it’s likely the next man is going to know what you’re referring to; as far as midi keyboards go, the MPK Mini is insanely popular! And that’s because (aside from clever marketing), it’s pretty much the ‘go-to’ for the majority of beginners. Being a 25 key controller it’s also seriously compact & the ideal shape for a rucksack.
  • Works for pros & beginners – One of the biggest strengths of the MPK Mini is its appeal. Unlike a lot of controllers that are designed specifically for certain audiences, the MPK Mini is a bit more universal. It works well for any beginner, just as much as it’s a great portable keyboard for any producer.
  • Rammed with features – Although some of the features you get on the MPK Mini (like the pitch & mod joystick) aren’t to our taste, there’s no getting around just how much the MPK enables you to do. As far as production goes, you can pretty much do it all on this 25 key controller. A particular highlight of the MPK Mini are the 8 MPC pads, which are total heaven for finger-drummers.

Unless you’re purely a beat-maker who rarely uses keys, then yes – weighted keys are necessary.

In fact, weighted keys have a larger effect on your sound than you might think. See, you have to remember that a good amount of what you produce is determined by the relationship between you & the keyboard. So if your keys are unweighted & lack feel, you’re in essence making everything 10x as hard.

Something that ultimately leads to more computer work & excessive fiddling with the mouse. One of the things the best midi keyboards are supposed to eradicate completely. Hence why the majority of professional-grade midi controllers have weighted keys.

Keys that if you’re lucky, are fully-weighted. And for those few that can afford a top of the line midi controller, come with hammer-actions.

Controlling a midi keyboard is one thing, but using it to perform live is something else altogether.

So while the majority of midi keyboards will suffice inn some way or another in a live setting, some are better suited than others. Although that really all depends on how you’d use a midi controller when performing.

If you’re a key-focused player for instance, it’d be wise to not hold back when it comes to size. Yes, small midi keyboards do work for live performance – there’s plenty of 25 key midis that would be fit for purpose. However, if you’re looking to perform solid piano pieces, you need as many keys as possible, especially if you want to play your piece in 1 take. We’d say at least 49 keys.

Whereas if you’re more of a finger-drummer or button/ effects type performer, then assignable controls should be a bigger focus. As should screens & connectivity – something where keyboards like the Native Instruments S Series really come into their own. And on the topic of bright screens…

Don’t forget that not all stages are well lit. Hence why another small (but rather important) detail to look for, would be how they keyboard controller lights up. Most midi controllers will have at least some sort of lighting, be it backlit pads or LEDs inside assignable switchgear. Heck, some of the best midi keyboards even have backlit keys.

All things to bear in mind when selecting the best midi controller for live performance.

Choosing a midi keyboard is a LOT like finding the perfect partner – no mean feat!

We say so, because (as you’ve probably gathered by now) there’s a whole lot to consider when buying a midi keyboard in 2023. It’s not a walk in the park! Exactly why having some form of guide/ tick-list would likely come in use. With their being that many midi keyboards out there, now more than ever, it’s harder to pinpoint what is the best midi controller for you.

So without further ado, here’s our take of that tick-list…

  • Build quality & design – If you’re investing any sort of money into a controller, you need to be confident it’ll last & crucially, is built to deal with what you’ll be using it for. Fail to do so & you may as well take a lighter to your credit card. Before spending BIG mkoney on a midi controller, be sure to get a good idea of how you produce. That way you can get your hands on a keyboard that compliments your workflow, not hinders it.
  • Keys, Keys, Keys – If you use keys even in the slightest, it’s only wise to consider what style & weight of keys you like best? Are you alright with mini keys? Or are full-size more your thing? And can you deal with semi weighted? Or is fully weighted the only way to go? Establish this & you’ll instantly be able to whittle down your search into a shortlist.
  • Integration & software – DAW integration is huge, especially if you already pledged your allegiance to a certain platform. Don’t forget: your DAW is the centrepiece of any producer’s workflow, so by buying a midi controller that doesn’t integrate with you desired software, you’re essentially shooting yourself in the foot.

FYI: Notice that one thing we don’t mention is price. And that’s because we’d encourage you to forget it altogether, as to find the best midi keyboard of all time you really only have to do 1 thing: judge a midi controller on its features. Besides, what’s the extra tenner if it gets you the features you need to produce a hit record. Small price to pay if you ask us.

Yes & no.

See, whether it’s easier to make beats with a midi keyboard really all comes back to how you produce. Remember: even though a LOT of producers use midi controllers to make music, it doesn’t mean it’s the right route for you.

Saying that though, midi controllers are certainly one of the most flexible ways to produce music; in many ways a midi controller teamed with a DAW takes away the need of knowing how to play an instrument altogether. All of which comes back to their design & how expressive they allow you to be.

Something that means that 2 producers who use the same midi controller to make the same beat, could go about it in a very different way. One might use keys to tap out their melody & before adjusting it on their computer, while another could tap it out using drum pads & make tweaks by assigning certain parameters to the assignable switchgear.

Factor in that midi controllers also integrate with DAWs + most feature intuitive transport controls, & unless you’re SUPER analogue, it’s hard to see how a midi keyboard wouldn’t make beat-making easier. If anything, that’s what they’re designed for.

Search for the best midi keyboard 2023 & you’ll no doubt come across a fair few budget midi keyboards. All of which (on the surface) look very similar to their more expensive brothers. All very tempting, but what exactly do you sacrifice by going ‘budget’?

Here’s 3 characteristic to consider…

  • Features – It doesn’t take a genius to see that a smaller footprint = less space for additional features. Not that it matters if you’re after a bare basics midi keyboard. But, if you’re after a decent level of options, including responsive drum pads, full-size keys & gadgets like a screen, then a budget midi controller may not be for you.
  • Keys – While you can get cheap 88 key midi keyboards (the Alesis Q88 for instance), what you won’t get in this budget range of keyboard is fully-weighted keys. The keys in a cheap midi controllers are virtually all semi-weighted or synth action. Something to seriously consider if you’re a keen pianist who’s after a controller with a lot of feel. Key size is also not something to overlook, as budget midis often come with mini-size keys, which can be problematic for those with big hands.
  • Build quality – If you see a midi keyboard as a cheap way to expand your level of control, then this may not be too much of an issue for you. However if you intend your midi controller to be a workhorse & last you a long time, then you’d be foolish to overlook build quality. Go budget & you’ll likely find that the materials used aren’t what you’d call heavy duty. Nor are the keys solid either. It’s not uncommon to come across a budget controller that suffers from excessive key-wobble.

* As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. Simple as.

It’s pretty simple to connect a midi controller to your PC. In most cases, midi controllers are plug-in-&-play.

However, there can be some hurdles. For instance, you may need to download & install drivers or alter various settings in your DAW, depending on both your computer, the midi keyboard itself & which DAW you’re using.

To get a better idea, be sure to check out our article on Connecting A Midi Controller To A Computer.