Best MIDI keyboards: buying guide

For some days now you have been considering the purchase of a new MIDI keyboard , to integrate your Home Studio with a product that perfectly meets your needs. Or maybe you would like to replace the one you currently own, because it is not suitable for performing certain functions you had in mind and which have become essential to carry out your musical projects.

You started, therefore, to do the first research but you realized that you still do not have clear ideas about the various models that are on the market and, above all, about the different characteristics of each of them. I have good news for you! I have prepared this guide specifically to help you find the best MIDI keyboards . A few minutes of reading will be enough and you will immediately have clearer the type of keyboard for you!

In the next paragraphs I will illustrate the main elements to take into consideration for a thoughtful and satisfactory choice, then I will suggest the models that I think have an edge. You just have to get comfortable and read this guide carefully. At the end of the article, I assure you that you will have the clearest ideas on which model to buy.


  • How to choose a MIDI keyboard
    • Size and number of frets
    • Weighing the keys
    • Accessories
    • Connectivity
  • Which MIDI keyboard to buy
    • Best cheap MIDI keyboards (under $ 100)
    • Best mid-range MIDI keyboards (between 100 and 300 euros)
    • Best high-end MIDI keyboards (over € 300)

How to choose a MIDI keyboard

Let’s start by clarifying what MIDI is : it is an acronym that stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface . This term indicates both the protocol that regulates the connection between electronic musical instruments and the computer, and the hardware interface (keyboard, controller, sound card) used to produce music.

The MIDI keyboard, in fact, does not produce sounds , but digital signals which are then processed and interpreted by a special music production software, commonly called DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and converted into the selected instrument. If you are interested in the subject, I recommend that you read my guide on programs for making music .

There are many parameters that help to understand how to choose a MIDI keyboard , and it is advisable to know them all to make the best evaluation and thus have the cards in the rules so as not to run into a wrong purchase. In the next paragraphs you will find everything you need to know.

Size and number of frets

The first parameters to consider are certainly size and number of keys . It starts from the very small size of a keyboard with 25 keys (two octaves), then 32 or 37 (three octaves), 49 (four octaves), up to the larger ones of 61 (five octaves), 76 (six octaves) ) and 88 keys (seven octaves – practically a piano).

That said, two aspects need to be reflected upon: the use you plan to make of it and the space available . If your need is, for example, to create a bass line, a drum loop, or insert simple electronic sound combinations, a scaled-down keyboard might be fine. Otherwise, if you intend to produce more complex compositions, made up of chords and phrasing, you will surely have to look at models with at least 61 frets .

The availability of space inside the house and the need to transport the instrument (for example for a live performance), are other elements that cannot be ignored. Carefully evaluate the actual measurements and weight of the chosen keyboard before buying it, as a matter of practicality.

Weighing the keys

The best MIDI keyboards compete to be as similar as possible to the analog instruments they are related to. It follows that some of them are equipped with a weighting system of the keys that intervenes in a decisive way in defining the dynamics of the notes produced, that is their intensity and ability to respond consistently to the pressure of the finger.

We can therefore differentiate them by taking this feature into account.

  • Synth-action keyboard. It is a non-weighted keyboard , therefore suitable for producing flat sounds, such as those of synthesizers, in fact, which do not require a particular expressiveness. The pressure of the key is light, the sound response is immediate and almost unchanged compared to the force used to play it.
  • Semi-weighted (or semi-weighted) keyboard. It represents a middle way between synth-action and weighing and are the most widespread, as they allow a correct mediation between the different stylistic needs. The semi-weighted, therefore, gives a good feeling of control to the pressure of the key and, consequently, to the sound. Furthermore, it has internal mechanisms for managing the weight of the key that are not particularly elaborate, so they are lighter than the weighed ones.
  • Weighted (or weighted) keyboard. Here we are very close to a real piano. If you have a training as a pianist and you don’t need to be particularly eclectic in sonority, this is definitely the choice for you. It is, therefore, not particularly suited to playing fast synth passages, as its weighting mechanisms are very hard and elaborate, which also makes it quite heavy.


The latest generation MIDI keyboards are often equipped with a whole series of accessories that, in addition to stimulating creativity, make them more and more similar to real controllers , increasing their versatility of use. Many of these do not have a specific function, but can be configured in various ways, using the software used for music production.

Obviously, the presence of one or more of these extras affects the final price, so it is necessary to carefully evaluate the need to have them available. Below I will list what they are and their functions.

  • Knob. Also called rotary potentiometers, they are very useful for managing the volume and intensity of any effects assigned to the sounds.
  • Fader. They are vertical sliding controls, used to intervene on different sound parameters, such as tone , sustain , attack .
  • Pitch and Modulation. These are wheels (in some cases joysticks) that are used to modulate the pitch and intonation of the notes while playing. Essential in particular in electronic music, they are now present, practically, in all models
  • Pad. Some keyboards have a handy pad with backlit buttons, which can be used, for example, in creating drum loops and rhythm patterns .
  • Octave. The Octave button is essential on smaller models, with few keys, as it allows you to virtually increase the octave range of the keyboard.

Two other features to take into account are the aftertouch (i.e. the possibility of activating a midi control at a second, stronger pressure of the key) and the arpeggiator , which generates a sequence of notes, starting from the one played, in the scale. selected.

Finally, I suggest you also take a look at the software that, almost always, are included in the sale of the instrument. Often these are basic versions of the main music production programs on the market, expansions or virtual instruments, which can be very useful and interesting.


The connectivity is another element to take into strong consideration. A MIDI keyboard, in fact, can be equipped with different connection options to an external device. All have a USB port for connecting to the computer via the supplied USB cable. Some also have a MIDI out port , for connecting to an interface equipped with MIDI in .

The Sustain Jack and the Volume Jack are, on the other hand, two sockets to which a sustain pedal (which simulates the right piano pedal) and a volume pedal, respectively, can be connected. The latter is very useful if you want to manage the volume without using your hands, so as not to interfere with the performance.

In high-end keyboards there are also outputs called CV (Control Voltage) , which allow you to connect them to a second synth to double the sound performance, or to drive some features.

Finally, some are also equipped with a predisposition for connection with iOS devices , for which however, the Apple-USB camera adapter must be purchased separately .


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Few models are equipped with a Bluetooth wireless connection , for remote control , through the use of special apps on mobile devices .

Which MIDI keyboard to buy

It’s time to take action! You have now learned all the essentials for determining which MIDI keyboard to buy . Without hesitation, read the models I have chosen, divided by price range in order to make it even easier for you to find your next MIDI keyboard.

Best cheap MIDI keyboards (under $ 100)

There are various models of cheap MIDI keyboards on the market , which you can take home for less than 100 euros. We are speaking, however, of models produced by brands that have always been synonymous with guarantee and quality in this area. I have selected a few that are worth considering carefully.

Alesis Qmini 32

This 32-key entry level Alesis keyboard is a gem. Extremely portable, it is as essential as it is practical. If you are looking for a compact model for your music productions, this is definitely worth considering. It has a control area with a few but essential buttons, such as Octave, Transpose, Pitch and Volume. It is compatible with all music production software.


Alesis Qmini – Portable 32-note MIDI Controller Keyboard with …

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M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3

The M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 is a great budget solution for your Home Studio. It has 49 non-weighted keys and a good control area, essential but intuitive, with ergonomic Pitch and Modulation wheels and Octave buttons. It supports USB and MIDI connectivity, to which it adds the predisposition for connection with iOS devices , for which, however, the Apple-USB camera adapter must be purchased separately. In addition, it has an input for a sustain pedal, a feature that should not be underestimated.


M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 – USB MIDI Controller, 49 Tab Mute Keyboard …

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Korg microKEY2-49

Still in the segment of the cheap 49 keys, I cannot fail to mention the Korg microKEY2 . The essential style must not be misleading: it is a model with a limited size, but which makes the naturalness of the touch its real strength. In addition to the pitch and modulation knobs, it allows you to connect a pedal for sustain. This keyboard is also ready for connection to iOS devices via Apple-USB camera adapter sold separately.


KORG – MICROKEY2 49 Midi Controller Keyboard, Black

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AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

Let’s go back to an extremely compact 25-key keyboard, the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 . This model has more professional features than others in the same segment: it is, in fact, enriched by the presence of numerous Controller- type accessories , including a pad for the production of rhythms and a comfortable joystick for 4-way management of pitch and modulation. . The built-in arpeggiator, then, is a gem for models of this range. To this we must add the presence of a small but very useful display. In short, a concentrate of innovation and versatility.


AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 White – USB MIDI Controller Keyboard …

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Best mid-range MIDI keyboards (between 100 and 300 euros)

Let’s go up a step to take a look at some more performing and professional keyboards. In the mid-range there are models starting from 49 up to 88 keys, some synth-action and others semi-weighted, equipped with a multitude of really interesting controls.

Alesis VI49

The Alesis VI49 has 49 semi-weighted keys for a range that offers already more elaborate playing possibilities. The top panel features a good range of knobs and buttons, allowing you to easily control filters, sounds and effects. On the left it has 16 backlit pads and the inevitable pitch and modulation wheels. The limit of the VI49 is in the outputs, as it only has MIDI and USB ports.


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Alesis Q88

If you have a piano approach, aren’t particularly interested in accessories and don’t want to spend an exaggerated amount, I recommend you consider this 88-key semi-weighted Alesis model . In fact, it has few but essential controls, such as pitch and modulation, USB ports, MIDI and for a sustain pedal. Furthermore, the weight is not excessive and this is undoubtedly another strong point of this model.


Alesis Q88 MKII – 88 Note MIDI Controller Keyboard with Sensitive Keys …

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M-Audio Oxygen 49 IV

The Oxygen 49 IV has 49 keys but, compared to others in this segment, they are synth-action. For the low cost, however, it has a good assortment of accessories: 8 pads, 9 faders, 8 freely assignable knobs, the two pitch and modulation wheels, a USB port and one for the sustain pedal. Compatible with all software, it also includes a package of free programs for macOS and Windows.


M-Audio Oxygen 49 IV – USB MIDI Controller Keyboard with 49 Keys, 8 Pa …

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M-Audio Oxygen Pro 61

I invite you to carefully evaluate this M-Audio , also from the Oxygen line , with 61 semi-weighted keys and a rich set of controls. In addition to 16 pads, 9 faders, 8 knobs and the pitch and modulation wheels, this model is embellished with an auto-configuration button, which allows automatic parameter mapping with the music production software. It is also equipped with two interesting technologies: Smart Chord , which allows you to obtain a complete chord by pressing a single note and Smart Scale., which automatically excludes the “wrong” notes, that is, not belonging to the selected scale. It also has aftertouch and arpeggiator and, from the point of view of connectivity, USB, MIDI and sustain pedal outputs. In short, there is really a lot to experiment with the Oxygen Pro 61 .


M-Audio Oxygen Pro 61 – 61-key USB MIDI controller keyboard with pa …

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Best high-end MIDI keyboards (over € 300)

In this segment you will find professional tools, which basically adapt to all needs. In these keyboards, particular attention has been paid to mechanics, materials, software and extra equipment.

AKAI Professional MPK261

A 61-key semi-weighted aftertouch by Akai. Equipped with 24 controls, divided between 8 potentiometers, 8 faders and 8 switches, it has an internal software that allows simple and intuitive management of their assignment, via a large and backlit LCD screen. The 16 pads can be virtually associated with 4 memory slots, for a total of 64 possible combinations. The arpeggiator, virtual instruments and effects and a series of additional time management functions enrich a very complete software framework. From the point of view of connectivity, we have both USB and MIDI ports, 2 jacks for sustain and volume pedals, predisposition for connection with iOS devices (the Apple-USB camera kit must be purchased separately). Compatible with all major DAWs, it is integrated with a software package from the MPC line, produced by Akai Professional,


AKAI Professional MPK261 – MIDI Controller Keyboard with 61 Semi -…

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M-Audio Hammer 88

Certainly could not miss a model with 88 weighted keys , in this segment. The Hammer 88 keyboard from M-Audio is ideal for both professional musicians and students looking for an experience as close as possible to that of a real piano. It has the essential controls for pitch, modulation, octave and volume and USB connectivity, MIDI and jack for the pedals. A very interesting professional software package completes the offer.


M-Audio Hammer 88 – Piano, USB MIDI Controller Keyboard with 88 Ta …

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Novation 49SL MkIII

The Novation is definitely one of the most qualitative brands in all respects. This model is compatible with all DAWs, but is particularly integrated with the Ableton Live software , thanks to the close collaboration between the two houses. At the same time, the very rich set of integrated software and an advanced sequencer makes it perfect also as a stand alone keyboard , without the need for connection to a computer. The control expressed through the multitude of pads, knobs, faders, buttons and wheels is truly impressive. Connectivity USB, MIDI, jack for volume and sustain pedals, is completed by the presence of a clock outfor synchronizing the metronome with other instruments. The keys are semi-weighted, with aftertouch.


Novation – 49SL MkIII keyboard controller

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Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII

Arturia keyboards have always been an example of quality and robustness. The Keylab61 MkII has 61 very dynamic and sensitive semi-weighted keys, capable of capturing the nuances of touch. The top panel is entirely occupied by a rich variety of accessories: 8 faders, a command center for the DAW with 16 buttons, another 4 dedicated chord management, two wheels for sound modulation and 16 pads.

The central display, equipped with a knob, allows easy navigation of the internal menus. In the rear connection panel there are several options: in addition to the USB and MIDI outputs, it has 5 accessory outputs for the pedals and 4 CV outputs. The software equipment is also precious, with Ableton Live Lite and some virtual instruments.


by Abdullah Sam
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