There’s a reason a controller is labelled as the best mini midi keyboard. It’s size!
So while 25 key controllers are the smallest you can go, the majority come fully-loaded with assignable controls. Things like drum pads, encoders and even faders, which while great, do add significant girth as well as expand a controller’s footprint. All of which can hinder portability, and potentially even come across as a bit excessive, especially if all you’re after is just 25 keys.
Exactly where a mini midi controller comes into play. These are keyboards that are literally just that. A set of 25 or 32 keys. Gone are the vast majority (if not all) of the neon-flashing assignable controls, in place of well – nothing. You see, mini midis aren’t about all that. They’re specifically designed to be minimalistic, as well as be the ‘go to’ for any key-focused producer. So it’s no surprise why mini midis are so popular!
Being small they’re ideal to toss in your backpack, as well as not being so space age that pulling one out in a coffee shop sees you attracting funny glances. Plus, most importantly for key fanatics, you’re not paying for endless amount of extras that you’ll never use. So the price is incredibly reasonable too. Exactly why you’d be a fool to overlook these mini 10 mini midi keyboards. How good are these mini midis? Read on to find out.
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The best mini midi keyboards @ a glance…
8 of the best mini midi keyboards you can buy (+ 1 to avoid!!)
Despite the fact that mini midi keyboards have substantially less going on than their chunkier bigger brothers, they’re by no means the same. In fact, these bitesize keyboards pretty much all follow a different recipe. So it’s safe to say that, if you want the best experience, you can’t just take a lucky dip.
Key focused players – there’s a mini midi controller for you. Just as there is for any frantic finger drummer. Keep reading, & we’ll reveal what we deem to be the best mini midi keyboards + give you an overview of why/ why not you should buy one…
1: M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3 (AKA the Alesis Q Mini)
Micro midi keyboards don’t get much more playable than M-Audio’s Keystation Mini. That’s because aside from it being 7 keys up on the majority of other super compact midi controllers, it also excels when it comes to key feel. The board itself feels surprisingly good to play, especially considering its price!
The keys are of course quite light, but they do feel solid. The keybed is also quite shallow, which some may consider a bad thing, but we actually found to make this midi easy to play. If you’ve a habit of doing fast piano tricks, then this board will likely work really well for you. The shallow key depth allows to move across the keybed with little effort. Neither do the keys make an annoying colicky sound either when pressed. They’re super quiet. Although that’s not our favourite thing about the Keystation Mini – that’s its value.
You see, the Keystation Mini is by no means the most expensive mini midi on this list, and yet you get 32 velocity sensitive keys (not 25), as well as a collection of functions including pitch, modulation and even a physical volume knob! Hardly what you’d call scrimping in spec. Oh, and we can’t not mention this board’s superb form factor. It’s incredibly thin! In fact, it’s crazy to think that something so functional could comfortably live in your backpack.
If we had to pick fault though, we’d say the sustain button is a bit unusual. Usually boards come with input for a sustain pedal to free up the pianist’s hands, only with eh Keystation, it does the exact opposite. That being said, it’s probably only pianists who’ll be bugged by this – beat-makers should actually find it quite handy. But all-in-all for this price & 32 keys, the Keystation mini is worth every penny
Why is this the best micro midi keyboard?
* That title isn’t a typo. In fact, as far as we can tell, this mini midi controller from M-Audio is identical to the Alesis Q Mini. They look the same, weigh the same & even include the same software bundle. The only difference we can see is the brand name, so if you’re after a bargain, be sure to check prices for both!
2: Arturia MicroLab
We gave this micro midi keyboard 5 stars for a reason. Many in fact. The main one being that compared to the rest of mini midi keyboards out there, the MicroLab is just so intuitive. That’s because it’s basically a Minilab Mk2 that’s had the encoders and drum pads lopped off the top.
Like the Minilab, it has the two touch strips for pitch and modulation. Strips that’ve been slightly re-engineered for the MicroLab. Hook it up to Analogue Lab Lite (which by the way is also included with this keyboard!) and you’ll see what we mean. Hold shift and each strip works like a computer trackpad, allowing you to navigate your around library without using your mouse. Very clever! However that’s only the start.
In terms of sound, you also get buttons for this keyboard’s various chord functions, as well as a sustain button too. But now for the party piece – the keys! Which are exactly the same as those you’ll find int he Minilab Mk2!! All of which means the key feel on MicroLab insanely good, especially for a controller of its size. That keybed is on-point. It also means the keys are semi-weighted, opposed to unweighted. Another nice touch! Speaking of which…
Around the edge of the Microlab you’ll also find a good amount of rubber. Something that gives this board another layer of durability in comparison to its rivals. Inside of which you’ll also find a channel, which (rather cleverly) is home to your USB cable. The cable is integrated into the design and runs all the way around the outside of the MicroLab. Ace, because you never have to worry about loosing it.
Now of course the MicroLab isn’t all thumbs up. As a micro midi controller, it is quite thick when compared to its competition. It’s also by no means the cheapest, but to be honest, we’re not bothered. the amount of functionality you get with this controller more than makes up for it.
Why is this the best mini midi keyboard?
3: Korg microKEY 25
While some mini midi controllers can feel like an afterthought, the Korg microKEY 25 feels anything but. In fact, you really get a sense that Korg invested a lot of time in this board. The 25 velocity sensitive keys feel are up there with some of the best we tested. And the build is no slouch either
In contrast to a lot of micro midis, the microKEY doesn’t feel overly budget. The plastics feel high grade, there’s a good weight to it too, and very little in the way of key noise. No annoying clicky sounds here! What’s more, the keybed is actually quite deep. To be honest, it’s pretty similar in depth to those you find in fully-loaded 25 key midi like the Arturia Minilab Mk2 or the Novation Launchkey Mini. We’re particular fans of its smooth keypress, as well as the fact that the keys have good resistance to them. Not something you find on every micro midi.
Other notable features include a built in arpeggiator, sustain button and a joystick for pitch and mod. Now, well be honest, for that we (personally) prefer touch strips. However, if you’re into Jazz or Blues, you can certainly use the extra wiggle you get with the joystick to give your sound that bit extra groove. Only catch is that being a joystick, it always returns to centre.
And yes, we realise the microKEY 25 is by no means the most portable micro midi out there. It’s pretty chunky to be honest. Not that it’d deter us though, as it in comparison to a full-size 25-key it’s still compact enough to be useful ‘on the go’.
Why is this the best micro midi controller?
4: Akai LPK 25 Wireless
For those who’ve had it with cables, then the LPK 25 by Akai could well be a solid choice. Why? Because this latest version is actually wireless and allows you to send midi data directly to your DAW using Bluetooth 4.0. Something that also means that this is a midi keyboard that works with not only with computers and laptops, but also tablets and smartphones too. Ideal for ‘on the go’ production.
However despite this, you still get a USB in the box, which is a nice touch. Especially when you consider that to be wireless, this micro mini keyboard is battery powered. So if the batteries run out of juice, all you have to do is pull out the cable and you can continue making music! Speaking of which, this mini midi offers a lot for that, all despite its size. It boasts an arpeggiator, tap tempo button, buttons to change the octave + a programme button, which works with the keys allow you to put the controller in different modes.
And if that wasn’t enough, the LPK 25 even comes with a port for a sustain pedal! A really nice upgrade from the previous model, especially considering its a feature that even some of the best mini midi controllers don’t offer. Key wise, the LPK 25 is much as you’d expect for a controller of this size. The keys are light, although they do have some decent travel to them. In regards to velocity, the sensitivity is there with this controller. Virtually as soon as you press the key, you get sound.
The only slight snag we have with this micro midi is the size. Let’s just say that all this ‘wirelessness’ comes at a price. Aside from being heavier than the previous gen LPK 25, it’s also slightly thicker too. A trade off you’ll have to consider should you choose to invest. But with that being said, the LPK 25 was incredibly small to begin with, so if you ask us the wireless connectivity is well worth the hype.
Why is this the best mini midi controller?
The best mini midi keyboard (around £50): best for beginners…
5: Midiplus AKM322
As far as the best mini midi keyboard for beginners goes, the AKM322 puts up a good fight. That’s because despite the reasonable price, you do get a surprising amount of functionality – we dig those extra keys! Opt for the Midiplus and you get 1 endless data encoder as well as 3 knobs. A pair of octave buttons, transport controls, a slider to control the volume and even a built-in arpeggiator! Something that we found works really well, especially when teamed with this board’s tap tempo feature.
It’s also nice to see a chord mode too – another useful perk for any beginner. And if that wasn’t enough, opposed to pitch and mod being assigned to buttons, with the Midiplus gives you physical wheels! A rare spot for a micro midi keyboard. Flip the AKM322 around and you’ll even find an input for a sustain pedal! Safe to say this keyboard really does open up your options as a beginner.
Now obviously, in terms of build, this board is no Arturia, but to say it’s one of the cheapest micro midi controllers you can buy, it’s no disappointment. In fact, the main area where we would say that the Midiplus falls short is the keys. If you’re a heavily key-focused player, you may want to take a rain-check. The key feel is a tad stiff, meaning the keys don’t react in a way that makes it easy to perform long runs. Although, for those who aren’t hardcore pianist (a beatmaker perhaps), we wouldn’t worry. If anything, we’d rejoice, as the Midiplus packs a lot of control and functionality into a small package.
Why is this the best mini midi keyboard?
Here’s the most portable mini midi keyboard…
They say size isn’t everything.
Well, in the case of compact midi controllers it really is!! Because the core job of any compact keyboard controller is to make the job of making musical note-taking seamless; something that prods can do in 5 minutes ‘on the go’ using a controller that’s small enough to lug around in their backpack. So while of course, there are controllers that are loaded with pretty much all the features you’ll ever need (the Arturia MicroLab), in the case you’re just after something functional & small, then you may actually be able to save yourself some£$€.
Exactly why if you’re searching for the smallest possible midi for the road, we’d recommend checking out the…
6: Nektar SE25
For those after a compact micro midi keyboard, then the SE25 takes the trophy. But that’s not just because of its size. Granted, at just over 30cm in length (basically as long as ruler), it’s ideal for use ‘on the go’. What really impressed us about this mini midi keyboard is that when compared to its rivals, all this ‘compactness’ doesn’t actually come at much of a cost.
Compare it to the Akai LPK25 Wireless, and while the Nektar is practically the same in length, it’s nowhere near as thick. The difference between the two comes in at over 0.5cm, which on a controller that’s so small, is a BIG deal! Perks of not being battery powered we guess. What’s more, to say it’s so small, the key feel on the Nektar also impressed us.
In fact, we prefer its keys over those you find in the LPK 25. The keybed feels slightly softer & there’s a bit more character to the way they play. Most likely because the velocity sensitivity really works on this board – the keys don’t feel like on/ off switches. Really, the only real drawback of the keys we found was the level of key noise, which is noticeable during play. Play the SE25 alongside the Keystation or the Microlab, you would notice a difference. Then again, neither of those controllers quite master portability like the Nektar or are as cheap to buy, so we’d say you should take that with a pinch of salt.
Form factor aside, the Nektar also comes with the usual transport buttons, as well as octave up/down and a sustain button too. A button that can also be assigned to modulation! Although, for us the real highlight of this portable mini midi keyboard, is how well integrated it is with the majority of DAWs. Whether you be a Cubase, Logic, Reason or Studio One user, this compact midi has you covered. And that’s exactly why the SE25 is so great. It’s not trying to pack 10,000 features into a microscopic space. It’s merely simplicity at its best.
Why is this the best mini midi controller?
Best hybrid – a mini midi keyboard with a few more features…
Not all mini midi keyboards are just 25 keys & a few transport controls.
So if you like the idea of a compact midi keyboard but don’t want to sacrifice most of the perks you get with a full-fat 25 key controller, then don’t despair – you DO have options. And while these may not be the most compact choice for producing ‘on-the-go’, they do offer the most variance. Come to think of it, for a beginner who’s looking to understand more about producing & get a feel for how they produce best, these hybrid controllers may be the perfect answer.
Ask us & this is the best hybrid mini midi keyboard on sale today…
7: Alesis V-Mini
Can’t be without assignable pads and knobs, but don’t want overload? The V-Mini may just be the midi for you. Reason being that this is essentially a V25, with half of the functionality stripped out. Not that it’s a bad thing though. The V-Mini offers a good balance between a micro midi controller and your conventional 25 key.
So unlike the V25 on which it’s based, this midi gives you 4 drum pads and 4 knobs. You got 8 of each with the V25. And yet straight off the bat, the pads are a significant improvement. One of our gripes with the V25 was that the pads felt a bit numb. Good news is that with the V-Mini, you no longer need to hit them like you’re playing ‘whack-a-mole’! The function buttons, which range from octave up/down, to pitch, modulation and suspension feel really nice to press too. As for the knobs, they’re not endless encoders like you get with the Arturia Minilab, but they’re smooth to use and light up which is nice.
The keys themselves have also been downsized from full sized keys to mini keys. And while we were fans of the full size bed on the V25, this mini set may just pip them to the post. The resistance just seems slightly more fine tuned, and despite them being mini, we didn’t have any issues with hitting wrong notes. In fact, piano trickery is quite easy to do on this board. Another plus of V-Mini.
To be honest, we really like this controller! The only real drawback we have is the fact that knobs do somewhat intrude on its portability – they’re pretty high. So if you were to use the V-Mini as a portable controller, we’d advise investing in case/ carry bag. But other than that, we’re sold.
Why is this the best mini midi keyboard?
Budget no option? Buy this mini mini keyboard…
In the case that £$€ is no option, then there really is only 1 mini midi keyboard to go with.
And that’s because it’s the only expensive mini midi that does something different. See, this pick from Roli isn’t just an expensive remake of another midi keyboard – oh no! In fact, it pretty much turns the entire production process on its head, to the point that you less so ‘make’ your music than ‘feel’ it into existence. As far as expressive play goes, this mini midi keyboard takes the biscuit.
To understand why we think this is the best mini midi keyboard you can buy today, keep reading…
8: ROLI Seaboard Block
If you’re one to splash the cash, then you may want consider the Seaboard Block. Why? Because we’d say that out of ANY midi keyboard you can buy – be that a mini midi keyboard or something full-size – this allows you to be the most expressive. How it does so is through the way in which it registers your input.
On a conventional midi controller, your keyboard is split up into notes – not with the Seaboard Block. Instead, the Block is more a touch sensitive pad, that registers your input depending on where and how you touch it. Call it 21st century alternative to keys.
So as you can imagine, at first the Seaboard Block is a bit of a learning curve. There’s various finger movements to master, as well as the characteristics of the board to take into account. Slide your fingers up for instance and you create a wonderful rising sound. However, once mastered, this extra freedom really does make for some interesting results. Have a go with this and suddenly a conventional keyboard controller feels rather restrictive.
To truly understand what we’re getting at, take a look at this…
Why is this the best mini midi controller?
Avoid this micro midi keyboard @ all costs!
SPOILER: Not all mini midi keyboards are worth the £$€.
In fact, with them being some of the cheapest midi keyboards you can buy, there’s actually quite a few that you’d be wise to avoid. Especially if what you’re looking for in a midi keyboard is playability & freedom of expression. See, not every mini midi keyboard has the keys of an Arturia, nor the wireless perks of an Akai.
So to avoid yourself pouring you money into a glorified toy, rather than a semi-pro piece of music kit, here’s what we consider to be the micro midi keyboard that you should avoid @ all costs…
9: KORG nanoKEY2
While Korg make some great midi keyboards, if you ask us, the nanoKEY 2 ain’t one of them. That star rating is us being kind.
What first attracted us to this board was partially its quirky design, but also that price – it’s cheap! However, from what we can tell, there’s a good reason for it.
We’ll be honest, the nanoKEY 2 feels more like a children’s toy than a serious piece of equipment. There’s budget and then there’s this. However, the reason this simply cannot be crowned the best mini midi keyboard is those keys, which are by far some of the most irritating that we’ve ever come across.
Aside from feeling more like buttons than actual keys, we’d say they’re also the noisiest ever fitted to a controller. Just like a conventional keyboard, they make a loud (rather obnoxious) clicky sound. So much so that we’d never see this working ‘on the go’. You’d get funny glances from every direction.
Want our advice Korg? Stick to the microKEY.
What is the best mini keyboard controller? Our editor’s choice…
Now while the micro midi keyboard segment has EXPLODED over the past couple of years, the point of all these midis remains much the same.
Virtually all micro midi controllers are aiming to be substantially smaller than your average 25 key. Yet retain much for the functionality, no scrimp too much on quality and at the same time, be light enough to be deemed portable. Oh and not forgetting coming in at a reasonable price. Quite a hard brief if you ask us, however we have found what we think is the best mini midi keyboard you can buy today.
Call it the best ‘Jack of all trades’. The one that doesn’t quite perhaps ace every requirement of a mini midi, but does deliver the most all-rounded package. Our pick for the best mini midi keyboard 2023, is…
The Arturia MicroLab (in that sexy Lacie-shade of orange)
Aside from being reasonably compact and travel friendly, the MicroLab packs a LOT into such a small package. We really like the fact that with this mini midi, you get the exact same keybed as you find on the MiniLab. Not to mention the touch strips, which we actually think they’ve improved. Certainly in terms of navigating Analogue Lab, they work at treat.
And that’s another major reason why the Arturia is the best mini midi keyboard out there. Despite it being the foetus of the Keylab series, you still get access to the same 500+ sounds that you get with the Minilab. Ananlogue Lab Lite is a major bonus of buying this mini midi!
Right – you know what, this is going to turn into an essay if we’re not careful. This midi is that kooky that we could go on about its perks for a long while. So to make life easy for you, here’s the bare bones of why we picked the MicroLab. These are all the boxes we think it ticks & why…
- Keybed & Key Feel – The MicroLab packs the same great feel that you get with the MiniLab. Regular readers will know, we really like this keybed. You won’t find a micro midi controller with a better & more fuller keypress.
- Software & Sounds – Alongside Bitwig Studio (a DAW), the MicroLab also gets you access to Arturia’s sound suite, Analogue Lab Lite. In other words, the exact same access you get with the Minilab. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get additional sounds such as UVI Grand Piano!
- Ruggedness & build – As with all things Arturia, the build on this micro midi is stand-out. We’re particular fans of that rubber around the sides, which gives your controller another layer of protection
- Design – That integrated USB cable, which sits inside the rubber outer is just ace! That alone makes this ideal for ‘on the go’ production in our mind. With this mini midi, lost cable anxiety is a thing of the past!!
- Customisability – One thing we’ve always thought Arturia boards do lack is a splash of colour. So it’s great to see they’ve taken the leap with the MicroLab. You can get this micro midi in 3 colours, which is great, especially considering that at the time of this review, the sky blue and that sexy Lacie orange are quite a bit cheaper than the black! Who’d have though it – custom colours can actually cost less!
- Price – While it’s by no means the cheapest mini midi controller out there, for what you get, the price is far from unreasonable. Out of all the keyboards listed, we’d say the MicroLab is hands-down the best value.
And yes, while we do realise that all these features do impact the portability of the MicroLab, we’re not overly fussed. For that keybed, Analogue Lab Lite, those intuitive touch strips and that ingenious rubber outer, it’s a trade-off that we’d be happy to make.
We’re pretty sure that 99% of you (be you beginners or seasoned producers) would agree too.
Enjoy this review of the best mini midi keyboards & eager for more? Tune into our latest Midi Controller Reviews, as well as all our Knowledge On Music Production. Recently, we also did a full rundown of the most popular 32/ 37 Key Midi Controllers + another on Best Midi Keyboard With Weighted Keys, which may also be worth checking out.
Or if you’ve still trying to decide whether a mini midi controller is for you, keep reading & we’ll answer any more of your burning questions…