The 10 Best MIDI Keyboards
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in August of 2018. If you're a composer, arranger, producer, or anyone else with a desire to create music, a MIDI keyboard is a godsend. Rather than having to manually enter data into your digital audio workstation's interface click by click, these instruments allow you to input pitch, rhythm, and velocity information in real time. The models we've chosen range from budget-tier picks to pricier, high-end options. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 28, 2020:
Our ranking has undergone just a couple of changes with its latest revision, starting with the upgrading of the Akai MPK Mini MKII to the Akai MPK Mini MK3. This latest incarnation of the popular portable and functional workhorse features an enhanced dynamic keyboard, which is far more sensitive to the nuances of playing, and a significant improvement upon the MKII. Fans will be glad to know it still retains the highly responsive pads and control knobs of the two previous-generation models, which can be assigned to trigger samples and manipulate virtual faders.
Additionally, we switched the Alesis Q88 for the Midiplus X8 Pro, which is a similarly-priced, seven-octave option. While the Alesis is weighty and comparatively lacking in features, the Midiplus is seven pounds lighter and boasts a metal-reinforced shell and touch-sensitive faders to adjust pitch and modulation in real time. It also benefits from a number of assignable controllers that result in a better user experience and make it a more versatile tool for live performance.
June 06, 2019:
This go around, we added a new model to our list, and deemed it worthy of the #1 spot. This model is the Akai Professional MPK 261, a veritable wizard of a MIDI keyboard, with enough knobs, faders, switches, and pads to satisfy even the most demanding musicians and producers. The included Ableton Live Lite and VIP software programs are also a huge plus, as these may actually be of real use to serious musicians, rather than serving as cheap giveaway goodies, like some of the software programs included in other models' product bundles.
We bumped the Alesis Q88 down a few notches to #8 in light of the somewhat disappointing performance and build quality it presents at its price point. It's also fairly heavy, and therefore, difficult to transport, which may be a deal breaker for producers or musicians hoping to buy a lighter MIDI keyboard for the sake of convenience — and we reckon that this subset makes up a large portion of the market.
We bumped the Nektar LX 49+ from #5 to #2 not because it performs better than the other 8 models below it, but rather, because it offers an incredible value for the cost. Our #3 and #4 choices are objectively better, we believe, but they also cost 2.5x more, so those looking for a piece of quality equipment at an affordable price should look to the LX 49+.
Nektar Panorama P6 This keyboard is built to integrate seamlessly with Bitwig Studio, Cubase, Logic Pro, MainStage, Reaper, Reason and Studio One. It features aftertouch, an ability which allows you to add expressive flourishes (like vibrato, cutoff filters, etc.) to the notes you play by pressing down on a key a bit longer and harder than you normally would. Its 12 touch-sensitive pads have 7 velocity curves, enabling a sensitive, dynamic response that few other controllers compare to. Something that sets it apart from its competition — both in function and appearance — is its motorized, 100mm touch-sensitive ALPS fader with which you can manually adjust a track's volume. As you switch between tracks in your DAW, the fader will change on its own in response to the selected track's volume level. Overall, this one will likely appeal most to the serious hobbyist or professional looking for high-end performance at a fair cost. Its customization options will keep you learning new tricks for ages due to all of its adjustable parameter controls and its software integration possibilities. nektartech.com