Best MIDI Controllers for Music Production in 2022

Although by no means essential, having a MIDI controller as part of your home studio setup can drastically improve workflow and increase your creativity. Using your hands to physically play notes, tap out drum patterns and adjust knobs and faders is a tactile experience that just can’t be replicated by programming beats entirely within your DAW.


So, what exactly is a MIDI controller, and how do you decide which one is best for your setup?


A MIDI controller is an interface that sends and receives MIDI information. MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which is essentially a standard that describes information about the notes being played (pitch, duration, velocity etc).


The controller doesn’t contain any built-in sounds, but instead sends your performance information to either your computer software, or on to other hardware instruments.


There are many different types of controller designed to suit a wide range of applications, studio setups and budgets. In this article I’ll give you an overview of what you need to consider when deciding upon which MIDI controller to buy, followed by a rundown of the Top 10 MIDI Controllers for Music Production in 2022.

 

Choosing the right MIDI Controller


Types of MIDI Controller


  • MIDI Keyboard Controllers - The MIDI keyboard is the most common type of MIDI controller. The number of controller keys, and the size and action of those keys should be important considerations when considering your purchase. If you are a piano player then you’ll probably want a wider key range and may want to consider weighted or semi-weighted keys. Alternatively, if you are just planning on doodling a bass-line or lead, a smaller range of non-weighted keys will probably be sufficient.


  • Pad Controllers - Some MIDI controllers don’t have any keys at all, but instead consist of velocity sensitive pads designed for triggering drums, and melodic samples. A famous example is the iconic Akai MPC which is a classic design dating from the late eighties. Great for finger drumming and getting creative with samples, these intuitive controllers are still really popular today.


  • Hybrid Controllers - Perhaps the best of both worlds, hybrid controllers combine a MIDI keyboard with pressure sensitive pads allowing you to play melodies as well as laying down drum patterns.


Controller Size & Portability


This may seem like an obvious point, but you need to consider how well the controller will fit into your current studio workspace. Ideally you may want a full-size eighty-eight key MIDI keyboard but check your desk space first. What about portability? If you’re planning on chucking your laptop and controller in a bag to take to a studio or go on holiday with you, then you’ll need to opt for a smaller more rugged controller, perhaps with a wireless connection for ease of use.


Compatibility & DAW Integration


Pretty much all MIDI controllers nowadays will work for both Mac and PC however you should still confirm this before you buy. Another consideration however should be the level of compatibility and integration with your DAW of choice. Some controllers such as the Novation Launchkey for example are specifically designed to work with Ableton Live. If you are using an alternative DAW, then you may have to go through additional steps to get your controller and software to play nicely together.


Bundled Software


The great news about MIDI controllers is that even the budget options come bundled with some fantastic music software. Many include virtual instruments or sample libraries, or even Lite versions of complete DAWs. If you don’t yet have an extensive collection of VSTs or haven’t yet decided on which DAW you want to use, then the contents of the included software bundle should be a major consideration when making your choice.


Budget


If you’re just getting started in music production, then it sometimes pays to not overcomplicate your setup. You may find that a simple inexpensive controller is all that you need. Generally however, the more money you pay, the more features and higher specs you’re going to get. With this is mind we’ve compiled a list of the best MIDI controllers based upon two budgets: One for under $100, and the other for under $300. Let’s go!


 

Affiliate Disclaimer

Better Beats Blog is a participant in the Amazon Services Associates Program. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through links in this article. I am however an independent blogger, and all reviews are based on my own opinions.

 

Best MIDI Controllers Under $100


M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3

M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3 MIDI Controller

The Keystation Mini 32 from M-Audio is an incredibly compact budget controller. However, despite its’s diminutive size you get some great features including thirty-two velocity sensitive keys, four assignable controls, as well as volume knob and pitch-bend modulation controls.


It looks great too, with stylish multicolour LED backlighting. The standout feature of this keyboard however is the generous software bundle which features a version of Pro-Tools and Xpand!2 from Air Music Tech.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions (W x D x H): 418 x 105 x 20 mm

Weight: 0.45kg

Key Features: Pitch-bend / modulation control, assignable buttons, LED backlighting

Software Bundle: Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, Air Music Tech Xpand!2

Check Price On Amazon



Korg microKEY 25

Korg microKEY 25 MIDI Controller

The Korg microKEY 25 controller is another great entry level MIDI keyboard. The unit feels sturdy with decent build quality, with a solid key bed. Controls include arpeggiator and sustain button, octave switch button, and a mini joystick which controls pitch-bend and modulation.


Small enough to fit in a backpack, the microKey 25 also comes in a Bluetooth version (at extra cost) if you want wireless control whilst on the move. Bundled software includes the Korg M1 LE software.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions (W x D x H): 395 x 131 x 53 mm

Weight: 0.65kg

Key Features: Arpeggiator, pitch-bend / modulation joystick

Software Bundle: Korg M1 LE Software Synthesizer

Check Price On Amazon



AKAI MPD218

AKAI MPD218 MIDI Controller

The MPD218 is a sleek black controller, with a solid construction and rubberized pads to ensure it doesn’t move around on your desk. The sixteen velocity and pressure sensitive pads are satisfyingly chunky, with eye catching red backlighting.


The controller also comes with six endless controllers and sixteen preset slots. You can store three pad layouts and three encoder settings per preset, which gives you loads of sound options. In terms of value for money, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better pad controller at this price point.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions (W x D x H): 237 x 200 x 39 mm

Weight: 0.65kg

Key Features: 16 pressure sensitive MPC pads, 6 assignable rotary knobs

Software Bundle: Ableton Live Lite

Check Price On Amazon



Arturia Microlab

Arturia Microlab MIDI Controller

The Microlab is a ‘smart’ twenty-five key keyboard controller from Arturia designed to be used anywhere. Ideal for on-the-go production it has a protective rubberized case, and even features an integrated cable recess which means nothing will get damaged when packing away in a bag.


Controls include pitch-bend / modulation touch sensors, a sustain key, and a useful utility key.

It’s the included bundle though means this controller should warrant your serious consideration. You get a range of software including UVI Grand Piano, Analogue Lab Lite and Bitwig 8-Track. The Microlab also comes in a range of cool looking colours (black, orange and blue).


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 414 x 130 x 37 mm

Weight: 0.77kg

Key Features: 2x pitch-bend / modulation touch sensors

Software Bundle: Analogue Lab Lite, Bitwig 8-Track, UVI Grand Piano Model D

Check Price On Amazon



AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 MIDI Controller

Coming in at just under our $100 budget is the AKAI Professional MPK Mini. This hybrid controller combines a two-octave key-bed with 8 backlit MPC pads and 8 assignable encoders. Features include pitch-bend and modulation via a small joystick controller, a built in arpeggiator, and even a small OLED display which gives you visual feedback when you touch an encoder.


The software bundle is also very generous, including MPC Beats, 6 instruments (Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand and Velvet), as well as 2GB of sound content.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 318 x 181 x 44 mm

Weight: 0.75kg

Key Features: 25 keys, 8 MPC pads, 8 encoders, 4-way pitch/mod joystick

Software Bundle: MPC Beats, 6 virtual instruments, 2GB of sound content

Check Price On Amazon

 

Best MIDI Controllers Under $300


Alesis V61

Alesis V61 MIDI Controller

If you’re in the market for a budget sixty-one key MIDI controller that still has plenty of functionality, then the Alesis V61 could be the right choice for you. Although the full-sized keys are its main attraction, the controller also has eight velocity sensitive backlit pads, and plenty of assignable knobs and buttons. It also sports pitch and modulation wheels and a sustain pedal in.

Software wise, the included bundle consists of Ableton Live Lite, and Xpand!2 from Air Music Tech.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 1120 x 243 x 114 mm

Weight: 5.2kg

Key Features: 61 full-sized keys, 8 backlit pads, pitch/mod controls, sustain pedal in

Software Bundle: Ableton Live Lite and Air Music Tech Xpand!2

Check Price On Amazon



Arturia Keylab Essential 49

Arturia Keylab Essential 49 MIDI Controller

The Arturia Keylab essential series contains everything you would expect from a modern controller. The controls are well laid out and intuitive, with a useful LED display and preset selector centred in the middle, backlit drum pads, MIDI disposition and transport controls on the left, and 9 assignable encoders and faders on the right.


The included software includes Ableton live Lite and Arturia’s fantastic Analogue Lab software. On the controller, the drum pads double up as software shortcuts which enable you to switch between your DAW and the Analogue Lab controller mappings software at the touch of a button.

Although relatively lightweight for its size, the Arturia Keylab Essential 49 feels sturdy and well built. If the forty-nine key version is not a good fit for your desktop, it also comes in larger sixty-one or eighty-eight key versions.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered, Mains Operation

Inputs / Outputs USB, MIDI out

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 748 x 248 x 76 mm

Weight: 3kg

Key Features: 49 keys, 8 pads, LCD display, pitch/mod wheels, sustain pedal in

Software Bundle: Arturia Analogue Lab software, Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano

Check Price On Amazon



Novation Launchkey 61 MK3

Novation Launchkey 61 MK3 MIDI Controller

The Launchkey series from Novation is specifically designed to integrate seamlessly with Ableton Live. The controller comes in four sizes, with all versions having 16 pads, 8 encoders, a MIDI out and a sustain pedal input. The sixty-one key version also comes with nine faders and fader buttons.


The controller has impressive build quality. The keys are standard sized, and both the keys and pads are velocity sensitive. The deep Ableton integration allows you to control pretty much everything directly from the controller including instruments and effects. You can also launch clips and scenes when in Ableton Session View.


The Launchkey also has useful scale and chord modes and a really powerful arpeggiator. When you combine all these features with an excellent bundled software package, it makes the Novation Launchkey 61 MK3 a great choice of controller if you use Ableton Live, but still worth a consideration if you don’t.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB, MIDI out

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 952 x 278 x 77 mm

Weight: 3.4kg

Key Features: 61 keys, 16 RGB pads, pitch bend & mod wheel, sustain pedal input.

Software Bundle: Ableton Live Lite, Serato Sample LE, AAS Session Bundle, XLN Addictive keys, Klevgrand ROVerb, Spitfire Audio LABS-Expressive Strings

Check Price On Amazon



Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61 MIDI Controller

Available in 25, 49, and 61-key versions, the A-series from Native Instruments includes most of the same features as their flagship S-Series, with the exceptions being no lightguide, and a small OLED display in place of the larger displays on that model. It’s still incredible value for money though, with great build quality, solid feeling semi-weighted keys, and a host of assignable encoders and other features.


The controller is designed primarily to work within the Komplete Kontrol NKS ecosystem, This allows compatible instruments and effects to be selected, previewed, and controlled directly from the controller without having to touch your DAW. This works really well and saves a great deal of time when trying to find the right sound.


The included software bundle is probably the most impressive in this list. It includes over 2000 sounds, and seventeen high quality instruments and effects including Reaktor Player, Guitar Rig Player, and Monark.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 984 x 257 x 89 mm

Weight: 4.7kg

Key Features: 61 keys, 8 encoders, 4D encoder, pitch/mod wheels, OLED display

Software Bundle: The Gentleman, Monark, Scarbee Mark I, Reaktor Prism, Reaktor Blocks Wired, Reaktor Player, Kontakt Player, Guitar Rig Player, Komplete Kontrol, Maschine

Check Price On Amazon



Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3

Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 MIDI Controller

If you’re looking for a fun controller to tap out some drums, lay down a bassline, or even create some chords, the Maschine Mikro from Native Instruments could be your perfect beat making companion. Like the Komplete Kontrol keyboards, the Maschine series also makes use of NKS, which makes browsing your library to find inspiring sounds using the inbuilt screen an absolute breeze.


The Maschine Mikro can be used as either a standalone device, or in combination with your favourite DAW. It’s solidly built, and the illuminated pads look and feel great to use. The controller allows you to alter your sounds without touching your DAW, and also contains a “Smart Strip” that can be used to add expression to your performances.


Included in the price is a library of factory sounds, as well as a copy of Massive, Monark, and Reaktor Prism.


Specs

Power: USB Bus powered

Inputs / Outputs USB

Dimensions: (W x D x H): 320 x 177 x 45 mm

Weight: 1.12kg

Key Features: 16 illuminated pads with after-touch, dual-touch smart strip, encoder

Software Bundle: Maschine software, 1.6GB factory sounds, Massive, Monark, and Reaktor Prism

Check Price On Amazon

 

Conclusion


All the MIDI controllers listed above are great options for music production, whatever your level of experience. Each option offers something unique, and your choice in the end will come down to personal preference.


One thing we can guarantee however, is that adding a MIDI controller to your studio setup will enable you to be more hands-on with your music production, fire up your creativity, and streamline your workflow.


I hope you found this article useful.


Have a great day and Happy Producing!


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