Buyer's Guides

Best MIDI Keyboards In 2024: Enhance Your Studio

Our guide to the best midi keyboards to suit all studios great and small.

MIDI keyboards are often also referred to as MIDI controllers, and it’s an apt name — these little devices put you in control of your music and help you take it to the next level. 

So it goes without saying that choosing the right one for you can be a big decision, especially with so many brands, varieties, prices and sizes to pick your brains over. That’s why Headliner is here for you with this guide that covers all needs and budgets.

Whether you lovingly call them MIDI keyboards or controllers, they’re best known for having piano keys that allow you to play and record music using MIDI software instruments. 

But they’re also fantastic for controlling other features in your DAW such as effects, and some of these products can also plug into studio hardware. So it’s safe to say they are a solid investment for any musician and/or producer. And with most devices using USB, it really is a case of plug-in and play. 

So let’s run headlong into this list of the best MIDI keyboards that money can buy...

Nektar SE25

  • One of the best midi keyboards for beginners

  • Will fit in your laptop bag

Do you often find yourself making music while dashing around? Then a smaller MIDI keyboard that fits perfectly into your on-the-go bag might be what you’re after. The Nektar SE25, however, still offers immense value despite being diminutive.

It’s also the cheapest MIDI controller on this list, so could be the best one for you if you’re looking to grab one for under £50/$50. 

Its size does mean it will do more or less exactly what you’d expect a smaller keyboard to offer, but it does so brilliantly. Its DAW integration with Bitwig, Cubase, Garageband, Logic, Nuendo, Digital Performer, Mixcraft, Reason, Reaper, Sonar and Studio One means the bang for your buck is very impressive.

Undoubtedly one of the best budget midi keyboards, complete with real midi controller features.


Akai MPK Mini Mk3

  • Lots of free software included

  • A controller that truly puts you in control

The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is often touted as the best MIDI keyboard for beginners, and we’re going to struggle to disagree here. Beyond that, it’s also a great controller for the needs of most, if you don’t need anything too advanced. If you’re looking to get relatively simple chords, basslines and tunes into your music, Akai has made it nice and easy with the MPK Mini Mk3.

If you’re worried it looks too simplistic, its eight encoder knobs are fantastic for integrating with and controlling your DAW, and a further eight MPC-style drum pads are another stunning feature from Akai. And while it fits in your backpack, it also has enough things going for it to ensure it belongs in any pro-studio also.


Korg microKEY2 Air-25

  • One of our favourite compact options

  • Works as a wireless keyboard

When making your decision regarding the best MIDI keyboard for you, it’s important to note that they come in many varieties including 25 keys, 37, 49, 61 – even 88 keys. Some want their MIDI controller to almost resemble a full piano, whereas others want a small item they can chuck in their rucksack. 

The little Korg microKEY2 Air comes in 37, 49 and 61 note models, the most compact of which being this little Air-25 model, from one of the synth world’s most famous and respected names.

The wireless option is fantastic, just bear in mind you’ll need a couple of AA batteries if you want to go wire-free, otherwise, the Air-25 works with USB. It’s also leaning much more toward the title of keyboard rather than controller as there aren’t too many buttons besides the keys. 

That said, it serves up the basics brilliantly, and more impressively than many rivalling keyboards of the smaller persuasion. Worth noting the microKEY title should be taken fairly literally; the keys are quite mini, in case that presents a problem for you.


Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3

  • Very affordable product from a huge name

  • Arpeggiator is a great feature

When it comes to the joyous, physical experience of controlling a DAW with a MIDI keyboard/controller, some musicians' thoughts will dart to Ableton Live. And the Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 was very much created with Ableton in mind and does so superbly with lovely extras like pitch bend, modulation touch strips, and one of the best arpeggiators to be found on this list. That’s before even mentioning all the software bundled with the purchase.

That said, it works very nicely with the other DAWS in the game also, but it’s very noteworthy that if you are an Ableton person, you’re very unlikely to find a better option at such an affordable price point, below £100/$100. It’s also one you can travel with and the features at this low budget are excellent.


Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

  • Compact but has more keys than most mini-keyboards

  • Great software and hardware integration

Native Instruments absolutely belong in the best MIDI keyboards and controllers conversation, as they sell truckloads of the things. Features aplenty here, with eight capacitive knobs, a 4D encoder among many other buttons that make the Komplete Kontrol M32 excellent for operating Maschine or your DAW.

It works fantastically as a compact 32-key keyboard/controller, the only trade-off being its portable size means smaller keys. 

Many users find they get used to them, however. It’s very difficult to make complaints about the Kontrol M32, as it’s such an excellent device for its highly affordable price at under £100/$100. Easily one of the greatest in the lower budget range.


Alesis V49 MKII MIDI Keyboard

  • Great performance instrument

  • Piano keys action are top notch

As you might expect with some MIDI keyboards and controllers, the keys can be mini and as far from a real-life piano as you can get. Not so with the Alesis V49 MKII MIDI Keyboard, where the keys are full-size, and have a very pleasing spring action and synth action. 

Add to the mix assignable hardware controls, and it’s hard not to argue that this is among the very best budget MIDI keyboards you can get your hands on.

Since being redesigned, this keyboard now has lots of extra controls, with eight pads, function buttons, modulation wheels, pitch bend and more. And do you want your controller to do more than play the synths and instruments in your DAW? 

Well, this Alesis keyboard also includes a free bundle of MPC Beats music production software. Which is so easy to get started with, you’ll be whiling the hours away with kicks and hi-hats in no time at all.


IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2 Mini

  • Plenty of features for a keyboard below £100/$100

  • Lots of included software

Another of the best MIDI keyboards you should consider if you’re not keen to spend more than £100/$100 is the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2 Mini. This model has 25 mini keys, and note that this range also offers a 37 mini key and then the Pro with 37 full-sized keys, if you can spend a bit more.

The keys are well-sprung and decent if you don’t mind keyboards and controllers with mini keys. The program buttons, a set button, assignable rotaries and more features ensure this is a MIDI keyboard with plenty of features for its low price. And that’s before mentioning a fantastic software bundle also.


M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKV

  • Great arpeggiator

  • Chord and scales mode will come in handy for many

The Oxygen 49, a cheaper alternative to M-Audio's Pro 49, doesn’t have all the features as its sister product, but it remains a great MIDI keyboard controller as we jump just above the £100/$100 mark. In place of the Pro's OLED display, the Oxygen 49 has a 3-segment LED display. It has access to 16 sound sources from the front panel during programming, albeit not simultaneously.

The dedicated MIDI out port is absent, but the biggest difference is how the Oxygen 49's functions are mostly activated through soft keys and the "secondary modes" accessible from the keybed. It features Smart Chord and Smart Scale modes, which many will find fantastic for songwriting and composition, along with an exceptional arpeggiator.


M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3

  • Lots of keys in a compact instrument

  • Great build

Perhaps let’s call this one of the best MIDI keyboards in the intermediate price bracket if a cheap keyboard for you can’t cross the $/£100 line. However, this second entry from M-Audio with the Keystation 61 is pretty fantastic at a very reasonable price of approximately $/£126. 

Perhaps the best thing about it is, while being one of the slimmest and most compact keyboards/controllers in this list, it gives you five octaves to play with, clocking in at 61 keys.

And its slim size doesn’t mean you’re compromising with mini keys with no spring — each key is semi-weighted and is high quality, as expected from M-Audio. 

This keyboard is, in fact, mainly about the keys rather than lots of buttons and controls, so it's a fantastic choice if you’re more pianist, less DJ. There’s also an 88-key version at approximately $/£150.


Arturia Keystep 37

  • The strum function is a lovely touch

  • Arpeggiator and sequencer are fantastic

Nestled between the Keystep and Keystep Pro, the Arturia Keystep 37 presents a tasty upgrade from the original model, which has garnered admiration. With its 37-key layout, it empowers musicians to get locked into intricate patterns and melodies. 

The addition of four encoder knobs, each assignable and accompanied by visual feedback, puts real-time monitoring of DAW parameters at your disposal.

Its sequencer permits direct programming of up to 64 steps right on the keyboard itself. This, coupled with the arpeggiator functionality, can be harnessed within your DAW or coupled with external hardware or modular synths. The Keystep 37 is quite a versatile studio workhorse.


Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3

  • One of the best midi keyboards for Logic Pro and Ableton users

  • Lovely balance between size and features

If you’re looking for the best MIDI keyboard and identify as an Ableton or Logic user, you may have come to the right place. Novation’s Launchkey 37 Mk3 (like many of the models here, this series also comes in other key-number variations if you want more or fewer keys) looks lovely, and in particular, is a fantastic Ableton Live controller.

This is thanks to features such as a button that activates Live’s Capture MIDI tool, and a device control in the likeness of Push. The 16 backlit pads are delightful, and the pads and keys have a great feel to them also.


Novation FLkey 37

  • Puts you in control of FL Studio’s most important features

  • High-quality pads

You have to understand why Novation appears multiple times in the best MIDI keyboards conversation — simply because they’re just so good at making the things. And after discussing one of their products that works joyously with Ableton, we are now headed to the world of FL Studio, for which Novation’s FLkey 37 keyboards were created. There is also a ‘Mini’ version of the controller.

If you hate mini keys, fear not, the 37 keys here are full-size, like on most synthesisers. A non-essential but adorable feature is the velocity-sensitive pads changing colour depending on what you’re using them for. Ah, aesthetics! All the buttons are backlit, working nicely in those trendy low-lit studios. A no-brainer for FL Studio users.


IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O 49

  • Big software bundle

  • MIDI control and audio interface in one convenient package

Hold onto your hats, we’ve now cleared the £/$200 hurdle so we are now firmly discussing the best MIDI keyboards and controllers that will cost you a few hundred. The iRig Keys fully justifies this by not only being a MIDI keyboard but also an audio interface in one convenient package.

And it does both of these things without being a massive product. And don’t worry, there’s no compromise on the keys which are light to the touch but perfectly responsive. The audio interface offers up to 24-bit/96kHz. 

Thanks to its concise nature, it will fit nicely onto your desk even if you have loads of gear/are just plain messy, and you can’t argue with the large software bundle included.


Nektar Impact LX88

  • Full-size keyboard

  • But still easy to travel with

It’s time to drink some sweet Nektar, with this best MIDI keyboard compendium’s first full-size keyboard with the Impact LX88. In fact, it can be tricky to find a full 88-note MIDI controller, approximately piano-sized. But said limitations are not negative when they lead you to this instrument, with its 88 semi-weighted keys, and USB-connectivity.

It's not just for keyboardists, you can also get the most out of your DAW with nine buttons, nine sliders, eight pads and knobs and more. All this might make you think this Nektar keyboard will be a nightmare to lug around, but it's actually very light and portable. The keys aren’t hammer-action, just in case that is your deal-breaker, but we think that’s very fair considering its great price.


Arturia Keystep Pro

  • Arp and drum modes are great for creativity

  • Top-notch sequencing tools

Arturia certainly offers a diverse range of controllers, especially since they've introduced the KeyStep Pro. It combines analogue and digital sequencing capabilities with its 37-note keyboard, making it a great choice for melodic work.

If you're after a controller that excels in melodic sequencing but is also a flexible hardware control, the KeyStep Pro is one of the best all-in-one options on the market. While bigwig keyboardists and pianists might be deterred by its compact size, musicians who enjoy modular setups and hardware will likely be over the moon with this one.


Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII

  • Works seamlessly with Arturia’s Analog Lab

  • Great choice of operational modes

Hello (or bonjour) again, Arturia. The French software and hardware revolutionaries return with very good reason, as the KeyLab 49 MkII is in fact their flagship controller keyboard, with a choice of 49 and 61-key models in either black or white. It's among their most premium products and partly designed to work brilliantly with their Analog Lab 3 software.

It's a MIDI keyboard that feels strong and robust, with great key action, and the pitch and mod wheels feel fantastic too. You have three operational modes at your disposal: the aforementioned Analog Lab, DAW, and User. Not cheap, but it easily justifies its price tag.


Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII

  • Playing assistance on hand

  • Integrates with DAW and Komplete

From some stores, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 is right on the nose at £/$500, so we’re obviously in the upper echelons of the best MIDI keyboard pricing. But hopefully, at this point, you can agree that Native Instruments is a very safe and trusted pair of hands in this arena. Particularly with great DAW and Maschine integration, you can mix, navigate and edit your projects from this device, so you don’t need to keep reaching for your mouse.

The MkII also updates with 17 extra function buttons and two high-resolution colour screens. It offers a lot more in general, with excellent visual feedback, and an amazing amount of integration to assist with your workflow. As expected, it works symbiotically with the Komplete software package.


Novation 49 SL MkIII

  • One of the best sequencers on this list

  • Brilliant for both digital and analogue control

Our penultimate best MIDI keyboard and controller sees another entry from MIDI legends Novation, with a pretty stunning piece of kit which does so much. It has not one, not two, but an eight-channel onboard sequencer, and digital and analogue output. It is a little more advanced than some of the plug and play keyboards above, but once you are set up, this thing is an absolute beast.

You can control and sequence analogue hardware, plugins, DAWs and, of course, MIDI instruments. In other words, the potential of this MIDI keyboard is fairly limitless. To be able to do so much from one piece of gear is seriously impressive. And once you adapt your workflow to the SL MkIII, you could seriously fall in love with the thing.


Roland A-88MKII

  • A larger instrument that still manages to be compact

  • One of the best midi keyboards with weighted keys 

And the final claim to being the best MIDI keyboard in the year 2024 comes from one of the very biggest names in the world of keyboards, Roland. Their A-88MKII sees an update to a pretty legendary MIDI keyboard and controller, retaining its 88 full-size piano action keys. 

And the good news is it still manages to be compact and not too heavy, making it a happy companion in both the studio and for live work.

The keys have accurate ‘Ivory Feel’, hammer action and 3-sensor key detection. In other words, you won’t get closer to a living, breathing piano than on this particular MIDI keyboard. 

And given that it’s quite the investment in terms of price, the MIDI 2.0 support means you needn’t worry about suddenly needing to change keyboard shortly after this one. To sweeten the deal further, the new backlit pads and knobs, Control Change buttons, onboard arpeggiator and lots more make this a truly classy MIDI keyboard. You’ll really struggle to find many that can claim to be better.


Best Midi Keyboards FAQ: Faders, Buttons, Pads & Knobs — What Are They All For?

Faders are traditionally found on a studio’s mixing console to control the volume levels of each channel. On a MIDI keyboard, they may have default settings to be volume faders, or even EQ controllers for your individual tracks. Happily, you can change this to suit your needs. In fact, you can set the different faders to have their own jobs.

Knobs are faders but simply in a different format. Great example uses are tweaking EQ, or a more pleasing and physical way of working with the effects on a MIDI instrument than using a mouse, much like a hardware synthesiser.

Pads, which often look extra cool by being backlit, in most cases come in between eight and 16 (occasionally more or fewer) and can be used for MIDI functions. For example, you could hit one to start a loop, or map them to a sound and hit the pads like a sampler. They are very commonly used as drum pads, with the touch responsiveness making this really fun and physical.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this meander into the wonderful world of MIDI keyboards. As you can see, they come in all shapes, sizes, and corresponding prices. There’s no doubt that one of these is tailor made for you and your musical needs. We wish you happy perusing and playing!

Further reading: Setting up a home studio: Basics you need to know!