To dub controller as the ‘Best Midi Keyboard 2023’ 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 as of 2022. 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 2022 in 1 click, by using the menu below…
The best midi keyboards EVER @ a glance…
Our rundown of the best midi keyboard controllers 2023
So while there can only be 1 ‘Best Midi Keyboard Of 2022’, 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 2022, in order of smallest to largest…
Best Mini midi keyboards 2023…
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 2023?
2: M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3
When you think of the best midi keyboard (2022), 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 2022’ – potentially even of all time!
This is the best midi keyboard 2023 because…
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.
Best 25 key midi controllers 2023…
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 2023…
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 2023…
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.
Best midi keyboards with 32/ 37 keys 2023…
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 2023? Potentially – here’s why…
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 2023.
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 2022, 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…
Best 49 key midi keyboards 2023…
7: Novation Launchkey 49
If you’re after ‘ultimate’ levels of control at an affordable £$€, then rejoice! Because the Launchkey 49 is exactly that. In fact (slight confession) we’re pretty convinced it’s the best midi controller EVER with 49 keys. A point we make for 1 very good reason – assignable controls!
To get your hands on this level of control at this price range is seriously rare!! Not to mention a major perk. As not only do you get 8 knobs, 9 faders (each with their own individual buttons) & a jaw-dropping 16 drum pads. But you also get integration with hardware synths too! The Launchkey 49 has a HUGE range of arpeggiator features including: swing mutate, deviate & timing.
There’s not debating that this midi controller gives you a LOT of options. Although what’s really sold us on this controller, is its in-depth integration with Ableton Live. Arguably one of its biggest selling features (eyebrows raise). Hook up the Launchkey 49 to your session, & you can control more or less every parameter under the sun, be that track select, pan, mute, volume, mute, play or even pan & send. Heck, even the drum pads can be used to launch clips/ scenes. Very clever!
Team this with 49 semi-weighted keys, & we don’t think it’s too farfetched to say the Launchkey 49 is one of the best midi keyboards of 2022. Yes, for pianists may be a bit of struggle & it may be not be as portable as a 25 key controller, but as an all-rounder we’d struggle to pick anything better.
The Launchkey 49 is the best midi controller of all time, because…
8: Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII
Got serious £$€ 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…
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.
Best midi controllers with 61 keys 2023…
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 2023? Here’s 3 reason why we LOVE the S61…
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…
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.
Best midi keyboards with 88 keys (full-size) 2023…
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 2022, 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 in 2023…
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 2022. 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 2023 because…
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.
What is the best midi keyboard 2023? Our editor’s choice…
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 2023 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 2023 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 2023 for pianists
A full 88-key hammer action controller that in 2022, 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.
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…