Best MIDI Controllers: Ultimate Guide For 2023

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In the fast-paced world of music, the MIDI controller is a key tool for pros and budding musicians alike. Whether you’re after a smooth way to craft complex beats, manage your DAW, play with new sounds, or trigger samples, a MIDI controller is a must-have gadget that’s got you covered. But with a dizzying array of features, sizes, and price points to pick from, it can feel like a challenge to find the right one.

This guide is here to make your search easier by giving you a detailed review of some of the best MIDI controllers out there. So, let’s set off on this quest to find the ideal MIDI controller that’ll bring your musical ideas to life.

The Novation Launchkey Mini

Novation Launchkey Mini


The Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 is a compact, lightweight, and highly functional keyboard and pad controller.

It is designed primarily for use with Ableton Live but is also compatible with other DAWs and mobile devices. It’s equipped with 16 multi-colored pads, buttons, and eight rotaries, complete with touch pitch-bend and modulation strips. The mini keyboard is impressively playable despite its size, and the overall unit is engineered for both durability and portability.

The Launchkey Mini Mk3 comes with a generous software bundle, including Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, and membership to Novation’s Sound Collective. The controller also offers an easy set-up process, simply plug it in via USB and you’re good to go!

Key Benefits

  • Portable and lightweight design, perfect for musicians on the go
  • Deep and intuitive control over Ableton Live and compatibility with other DAWs
  • Creative features including an arpeggiator and Fixed Chord mode for easy chord triggering
  • Versatile navigation options for a seamless workflow
  • Compatibility with iOS and Android devices
  • MIDI output for standalone use with hardware synthesizers
  • High aesthetic appeal due to its sleek and stylish design
  • Impressive value for money given the level of functionality offered


The Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 is priced at $109.99, offering excellent value considering its wide range of functionalities. It’s an affordable option for musicians who need a versatile and portable controller.

Pros & Cons

From our perspective, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 has several standout qualities. Its compact and portable design makes it perfect for musicians on the move. It offers high-quality keys and pads, and its seamless integration with Ableton Live is a significant advantage. The controller is versatile, with diverse navigation options and a drum mode for playing drums. Its device option for controlling parameters, arpeggiator, and Fixed Chord mode allow for lots of creative exploration. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, with a sleek and stylish design and features like MIDI output and sustain pedal input.

However, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 does have its limitations. The controller requires additional power to map to mobile devices. Also, some may find the limited number of keys and pads restrictive. Nonetheless, we believe these drawbacks are minor compared to the benefits the controller offers.

The M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro

M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro


The M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro is a top-of-the-line 88-key MIDI keyboard controller. One of its standout features is the graded hammer-action keybed, providing a realistic and expressive playing experience.

The controller is more than just a keyboard; it’s a fully functional interface for MIDI control, complete with innovative features.

It boasts aftertouch, which adds an extra layer of control and expression to your playing. The keyboard also includes pitch and modulation wheels, faders, pads, and knobs for enhanced performance control. The OLED display makes it easy to edit settings for a streamlined workflow. Adding to its versatility, the Hammer 88 Pro offers auto-mapping of frequently used functions in major DAWs and includes M-Audio’s Smart Chord and Smart Scale technology, an arpeggiator, and note repeat function.

Key Benefits

  • Provides a natural piano feel with a graded hammer-action keybed
  • Suitable for both beginners and experienced keyboardists
  • Features Smart Chord and Smart Scale technology, arpeggiator, and note repeat function
  • Comes with a software production package, including Ableton Live Lite and virtual instruments
  • Solid build quality with a metal panel for protection and smooth operation of faders, knobs, and wheels


The pricing for the M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro can vary, so it’s advisable to check with the retailer for the most current price.

Pros & Cons

From my perspective, the Hammer 88 Pro has several noteworthy advantages. The realistic hammer-action keybed stands out, offering a very responsive and authentic playing experience. The extensive array of assignable controls allows for customization and flexibility in performance. Innovative features like the Smart Chord and Smart Scale are also big pluses. The build quality is solid, featuring a metal panel and smooth action on faders, knobs, and wheels, making it an ideal tool for both studio and live performance.

On the downside, the price may be steep for some users. However, considering the features and build quality, it can be seen as a worthy investment for serious musicians and producers.

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61


The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 is a high-quality keyboard controller designed to integrate with the Komplete software package seamlessly.

Available in 25, 49, 61, or 88 key variants, all versions feature a quality Fatar keybed. The Komplete Kontrol browser software bundled with the keyboard allows for smooth and unified browsing of Komplete instruments and effects. Supporting third-party VST integration, users can control and map parameters of their favorite plugins.

The keyboard also supports advanced host integration, facilitating control of transport and track navigation in popular DAWs like Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, and Cubase.

Key Benefits

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 provides a myriad of benefits:

  • Seamless integration with the Komplete software package
  • Versatile control over instruments and effects
  • Precise control with touch-sensitive encoders
  • Enhanced performance capabilities with pitch and mod touch strips, scales, and arpeggio modes
  • LightGuide LED key guidance for better visibility and performance
  • Comprehensive browsing, preset management, and control mapping with the Komplete Kontrol software
  • Inclusion of the Komplete Select bundle with popular instruments


The price of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 varies depending on the version of the keyboard chosen, whether it’s 25, 49, 61, or 88 keys.

Pros & Cons

As a user of the Komplete Kontrol S61, I’ve found several pros and cons that might be useful for potential buyers. On the positive side, the high-quality Fatar keybed is a delight to play on, and its touch-sensitive encoders and advanced host integration provide precise control and navigation. The pitch and mod touch strips, scales, and arpeggio performance modes and the LightGuide LED key guidance system elevate the performance capabilities of the keyboard.

On the downside, some users, including myself, have experienced issues with accuracy and noise from the keybed. Despite this minor setback, the overall usability and versatility of the keyboard still make it a desirable option for music production.

The Akai MPK Mini Mk3

Akai MPK Mini Mk3


The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is a versatile and popular MIDI keyboard that’s a perfect fit for both novices and professional musicians.

It’s compact and portable, making it a great choice for anyone on the move. The keyboard packs 25 mini keys, eight tactile and pressure-sensitive pads, eight rotary controls for easy operation, and a thumbstick for pitchbend/modulation. One of its key upgrades is a much more solid and responsive keybed. The knobs now boast a continuous rotary design, offering both relative and absolute options.

It’s also equipped with an OLED display which provides real-time feedback on controller data. And, it doesn’t stop at the hardware – the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 also comes with a comprehensive software bundle.

Key Benefits

  • A feature-packed MIDI keyboard that’s versatile in operation
  • Ideal for both beginners and professional music creators
  • Compact and portable design for musicians on the move
  • Seamless DAW integration for quick and easy syncing
  • Offers a broad range of creative expression and control over music production


The price of the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 can fluctuate depending on the retailer. It’s best to check out the retailer’s website for the most current pricing information.

Pros & Cons

From our perspective, the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 has several pros that make it a top choice for a mini keyboard controller. It has a compact and portable design, making it perfect for those on the go. The improved keybed and responsive pads, as well as the eight endless encoders, enhance control for the user. The OLED display provides real-time feedback, and the inclusion of the software bundle is a definite plus point.

However, there are a couple of points to consider. The limited number of keys may not be ideal for some users, and the size of the pads could be a tad too small for others. Despite these factors, the Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is a top mini keyboard controller packed with pro features.

The Arturia KeyStep Pro 37-Keys Keyboard

Arturia KeyStep Pro


Arturia’s KeyStep Pro is an amalgamation of the best features of KeyStep and BeatStep Pro, designed specifically for hardware synth enthusiasts.

It’s a MIDI controller and sequencer that offers extensive usability and versatility. The compact and durable design features best-in-class minikeys. With a broad range of connectivity options including CV outputs, MIDI ports, and USB, the KeyStep Pro facilitates easy integration. The comprehensive sequencer with four polyphonic tracks, arpeggiator modes, and the ability to create patterns and scenes make it an exciting and versatile performance sequencer.

While limited software integration may be a disadvantage for some users, its hardware capabilities make the KeyStep Pro a compelling option for those who want to sequence multiple instruments from a single device.

Key Benefits

  • Combines the playability of KeyStep and the sequencing power of BeatStep Pro
  • Compact, rugged, and portable design
  • Best-in-class minikeys
  • Wide range of connectivity options (CV outputs, MIDI ports, USB)
  • Comprehensive sequencer with four polyphonic tracks
  • Arpeggiator modes, and the ability to create patterns and scenes
  • Step manipulation, randomization, and beat repeat buttons for enhanced performance
  • Versatile and inspiring performance sequencer


Pricing for the Arturia KeyStep Pro varies depending on the retailer. It’s important to check the prices across different stores to get the best deal.

Pros & Cons

The Arturia KeyStep Pro is a powerful MIDI/CV sequencer and controller that offers several advantages. It’s larger than the BeatStep Pro but remains compact with a three-octave mini keyboard, 16 step buttons, individual color-coded panels for each of the four tracks, and a master panel for project and settings management and transport controls. The extensive connectivity options like USB, MIDI, CV, gate, and mod outputs enhance its usability.

KeyStep Pro’s sequencing capabilities are versatile with real-time recording, step entry mode, polyphonic note entries, and arpeggiator modes with multiple playback directions, ranges, and speeds. The sequencer can be used for drums with 24 individually editable gate lanes and a global setting for mapping MIDI notes to drum triggers.

Despite the many pros, the KeyStep Pro does have some limitations. For those who rely heavily on software integration, the limited software capabilities of the KeyStep Pro may be a drawback. The mini keys may not appeal to all users, and musicians in need of extensive DAW integration might need to look at alternatives. Despite these, the KeyStep Pro is indeed a powerful performance and sequencing hub for multiple devices, offering a range of creative possibilities for both live performances and studio productions.

The Nektar Impact LX88+ midi controller

Nektar Impact LX88+


The Nektar Impact LX88+ is a USB MIDI controller keyboard specially crafted for keyboard players who crave a wider reach. It’s equipped with a semi-weighted 88-note keyboard that has a medium level of tension, along with four velocity curves. It also features pitch bend and modulation wheels as well as transpose buttons to add more depth to your music.

The LX88+ allows you to send up to three zones simultaneously, each with a unique MIDI channel. It has a control panel that includes nine faders, nine MIDI buttons, and eight encoders.

Additionally, these controls can be programmed to send any MIDI CC message and integrate seamlessly with Nektar DAW. The keyboard’s compact and portable design makes it a great fit for both studio and live performances.

Key Benefits

  • Advanced DAW integration for seamless control of popular DAWs, thus enhancing workflow efficiency
  • 88-note semi-weighted keyboard with medium tension for a realistic playing experience
  • Customizable keyboard zones and programmable controls to cater to different playing styles and preferences
  • Compact and portable design suitable for both studio and live performance use
  • Affordable price point, making it a cost-effective option for musicians and producers


We recommend checking with official retailers for up-to-date pricing. However, considering its numerous features and functionality, it’s safe to say that it offers great value for money.

Pros & Cons

Having spent a significant amount of time with the LX88+, I’ve come to appreciate the myriad of features and capabilities it brings to the table. One of the first things I noticed was its intelligent and expressive performance control. This offers musicians like myself an expansive degree of freedom, allowing us to shape our sound and music exactly as we envision. What enhances this experience even further is its seamless integration with most of the popular Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). This integration, combined with the various customization options and programmable controls, creates a user experience that feels both flexible and intuitive.

Another standout feature for me is the keyboard itself. With its 88-note semi-weighted keys offering medium tension, playing the LX88+ feels close to playing a real piano. This realistic playing experience is a significant advantage for us keyboard players who often yearn for that authentic touch. Moreover, even with all these features packed in, the design remains compact. The portability of the LX88+ is remarkable, making it equally suited for studio recordings and live performances on stage.

However, no instrument is without its caveats. While the LX88+ integrates well with many DAWs, I did notice some limitations with its integration with Ableton Live. For those who primarily use or prefer Ableton, this could be a potential downside. It’s always essential to ensure that your equipment complements your workflow, and in this case, Ableton users might need to weigh this aspect carefully.

The Korg microKEY2 Air-25 midi controller

Korg microKEY2 Air-25


The Korg microKEY2 Air-25 is a compact keyboard controller that’s perfect for portable use and desktop setups. It’s part of the microKEY Air range, with each model named after the number of keys it has.

The microKEY2 Air-25 shines with its wireless connectivity, offering a hassle-free music-making experience without the need for cables.

It also has a range of controls, including an octave select, an arpeggiator, sustain/tap options, and a joystick. The wireless operation is smooth and low latency, making it a versatile choice for both on-the-go and desktop music production.

Key Benefits

  • Wireless connectivity for a cable-free music-making experience
  • Versatile MIDI options, including an arpeggiator, sustain/tap options, and a joystick
  • Compact and lightweight, perfect for carrying around
  • Operates with low latency wirelessly
  • Suitable for both portable use and desktop setups
  • Wirelessly connects to iOS apps
  • Sturdy build quality ensures durability
  • The arpeggiator is a handy tool for live performances


As for the pricing, it varies depending on the model and where you choose to buy. It’s always best to compare prices from different retailers to find the best deal.

Pros & Cons

As a compact and versatile keyboard controller, the Korg microKEY2 Air-25 has its strengths and limitations. On the plus side, it offers wireless connectivity, a sturdy build quality, and a good keyboard feel. Its versatile MIDI options and compact size are also noteworthy. With these features, it’s easy to see why it’s a reliable and portable choice for musicians and producers.

However, it’s not without its flaws. The Bluetooth connectivity, while generally smooth, does have a minor issue. Each time the device is turned off, it requires removing and repairing. Moreover, the mini keys may not be suitable for everyone. But overall, the benefits outweigh the cons. It’s a MIDI controller that offers a great playing experience. Just remember that the choice between the 25-key and the more extensive 37-key model depends on your individual needs and preferences.

A White Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 midi controller

Arturia KeyLab Essential 49


The Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 is a feature-packed MIDI controller keyboard that delivers robust build quality and seamless integration with Arturia Analog Lab software.

It’s designed to fit right into your digital audio workstation (DAW), with easy programming options for keys and pads, slider and rotary encoder parameter control, and DAW transport using the Mackie Control/HUI protocol.

While its keyboard action is tight and quiet and the casing is rigid, it does come up short on some advanced performance features such as aftertouch and key zoning and layering. Regardless, it makes up for these with its eight mapping modes, user-friendly MIDI Control Center app, and impressive software bundle.

Key Benefits

  • Robust, durable build quality
  • Excellent integration with Arturia Analog Lab software
  • Tight, quiet keyboard action
  • The availability of two color options (black and white) for aesthetic variety
  • Integration with DAW for easy programming and control
  • Eight mapping modes for sliders and rotary encoders
  • User-friendly MIDI Control Centre app with numerous customization options
  • Comes with a decent software bundle


We recommend that potential buyers check the current market pricing from official retailers.

Pros & Cons

Speaking from our experience with the Arturia KeyLab Essential 49, there’s a lot to love about this MIDI controller keyboard. With a solid build quality, it’s designed to withstand the rigors of regular use. Its integration with Arturia Analog Lab software is seamless, making it a joy to use, and the keyboard action is tight and quiet.

The eight mapping modes offer versatility, and with its user-friendly MIDI Control Centre app, you can customize to your heart’s content. Not to mention, you can choose between two color options, black and white, to suit your preference.

However, it’s worth noting that it lacks some advanced performance features, such as aftertouch and key zoning and layering, which may be a constraint for some users. But overall, the pros certainly outweigh the cons for the Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 – it’s a solid piece of equipment that prioritizes critical features over unnecessary extras.

Why Your Home Studio Needs A MIDI Controller

Whether you’re a novice or a professional music producer, a MIDI controller or a MIDI keyboard in your home studio can significantly boost your creative process and streamline your workflow. Take MIDI keyboards, for example. They’re designed like pianos and come packed with features like extra octaves, velocity control, weighted keys, drum pads, volume faders, and knobs. This design doesn’t just make composing across octaves a breeze, but it also gives your music a more natural and expressive sound by allowing real-time recording and capturing variations in dynamics and pressure.

MIDI keyboards serve as a communication bridge between your device and the computer, sending messages about the pressed key, control adjustments, and velocity. This data is then mapped to a virtual instrument in a DAW or other software applications. So, you’ll find MIDI keyboards a cost-effective and flexible way to experiment with and learn different instruments and sounds. Plus, they’re compatible with various software applications, including VST instruments, synths, drum machines, and sampler VSTs.

Now, let’s talk about MIDI controllers. They’re fantastic for creating drum loops or beats and triggering one-shot sounds. They’re more portable and often come with pads, knobs, or faders for adjusting and modifying sound in real-time. This means you can quickly create melodies, adjust effects and attributes in real-time, program drums faster, and get instant feedback. What’s more, MIDI controllers enhance your workflow and save time, and their versatility means you can customise them with options for different sizes and controls.

But remember, MIDI keyboards and controllers aren’t standalone devices. They need to be connected to a computer or other devices with sample libraries or software capable of MIDI control. While they’re not strictly necessary for creating music, they certainly boost creativity and improve workflow in a home studio.

So, whether you’re just starting out in music production or you’re a seasoned pro, think about investing in a MIDI controller or keyboard. They can really enrich your home studio, offering a wide range of possibilities for creating music. They’re key tools for modern music production, enhancing creativity, streamlining workflow, and adding a human touch to digital music.

What Is A MIDI Controller?

A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller is a key piece of gear in the digital music creation process. It’s a device you use to send MIDI data, which could be anything from note information to controller data to a computer or other hardware. This data then triggers sounds from an external source, like a virtual instrument in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or another piece of hardware.

MIDI controllers come in all shapes and sizes, including keyboards that range from 25-keys to 88-keys. You’ll find keyboards with non-weighted keys or progressive hammer-action keys that mimic the feel of a traditional piano. But it’s not just about keys, MIDI controllers also offer drum/sample pads, sliders, assignable knobs, and other control features. And remember, MIDI controllers aren’t just traditional keyboards; they can also be pad controllers and grid controllers.

But a MIDI controller’s purpose goes beyond just music creation. You can use them to control lighting and other performance effects in a live context and even program algorithms and computer code for creating new and unpredictable forms of music.

The intuitive nature of MIDI controllers gives you a more tactile and hands-on approach to music creation, capturing the subtle nuances and expressions of a performance. They’re a more musical alternative to creating music with just a mouse. MIDI technology has revolutionized the music industry, allowing for precise control, synchronization, and automation of various instruments and equipment. So, MIDI controllers are a must-have tool in any studio setup, enhancing your workflow and providing a more musical and intuitive experience.

Taking the Lead with MIDI Controllers

From high-end models packed with features to smaller, portable options, today’s market is overflowing with MIDI controllers that’ll suit your needs, tastes, and budget. We’ve journeyed through this vast landscape, highlighting gems in every category. But remember, the real magic of MIDI controllers isn’t in their specs and features but in their potential to transform.

Each MIDI controller is bursting with potential — to simplify music production, spark experimentation, and boost your creative expressions. Whether you’re drawn to the portable Akai MPK Mini Mk3, the feature-loaded Arturia KeyStep Pro, or the sturdy Arturia KeyLab Essential 49, every controller has one goal: to make music creation more accessible, intuitive, and fun for you.

As you explore the world of MIDI controllers, remember there’s a MIDI controller out there for everyone. Find what clicks with your style, needs, and budget. Every detail, from the number of keys and ease of integration to hardware durability and software compatibility, plays a part in unlocking the controller’s full potential.

Don’t forget MIDI controllers aren’t just about pressing keys or tweaking knobs. They’re about finding your unique sound and perfecting your music production skills. They’re your conductor’s baton, your artist’s palette, your writer’s pen. They’re the tools that’ll bring your musical vision to life, turning every note, and every beat into a symphony of innovation. And in this grand orchestra of creativity, you’re the maestro.

So, get ready, and set your stage.


Andrew Scrivens

Andrew Scrivens

I am a live musician and guitar teacher from Brisbane, Australia, with extensive experience playing live, in the studio and for TV shows. I play in many venues, studios, music shops and with my students and as such am exposed to a lot of different gear. I form my opinions based on my experiences playing instruments in these locations.

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