It might be the physical connection you have to software synths or it might organize and give you access to an array of hardware synthesizers and sound modules. These days it probably does both. But increasingly, MIDI controller keyboards are not content with simply letting you play notes, they can have cool features built-in like arpeggiators, sequencers, and chord modes. Or maybe they act as a hub for all your sounds while giving hands-on control over your DAW. This may also be the year when MIDI 2.0 controllers will begin to emerge.
In this list of best MIDI keyboard controllers for 2021, I’ve selected the ones that I believe offer something interesting and could be the next keyboard to take center stage in your studio or performance.
Top 10 best MIDI keyboard controller in UK 2021
1.M-Audio Oxygen 49 IV
If you’re looking for an affordable, well-rounded MIDI controller, you will want to do yourself a favor and check out the M-Audio Oxygen 49 IV. As the name suggests, this keyboard comes equipped with 49 keys, which are velocity-sensitive. The user will also be able to take full advantage of 8 velocity-sensitive trigger pads, which allows the musician to produce their own beats and launch clips. The controller also contains 8 assignable knobs and 9 assignable faders. The combination will provide the musician will enough control to manipulate their music, until it is just perfect. The unit is also equipped with transport buttons. These give the musician the ability to seamlessly control their DAW, without needing to touch the computer’s mouse or trackpad. The controller comes with the SONiVOX Twist and the Ableton Live Lite. With this combination and the included USB cable, you will be able to start using the keyboard, as soon as it arrives!
2.Nektar SE25 MIDI keyboard
If you’re someone who’s always making music on the move, a pint-sized MIDI controller keyboard that’ll fit in a laptop bag is an essential item. Nektar’s SE25 demonstrates firmly that features and playability needn’t be sacrificed for the sake of size and portability. Only outpriced in the budget MIDI controller stakes by the ever-so-slightly cheaper Akai LPK25 (which doesn’t provide any form of DAW integration), Nektar’s new pocket powerhouse represents incredible value for money.
3.Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL S61 MK2
This is the upgrade from the A series MIDI keyboards that we’ve already covered above and features. Straight out of the gate, you have 61 semi-weighted and very expressive keys to get to grips with. In addition each key benefits from the pro-grade Fatar keybeds with aftertouch as well as a touch strip for expression control – a massive upgrade indeed. This is one of the best MIDI keyboards for those who need to make quick changes without any fuss as it also includes two high resolution colour screens that makes it extremely easy to browse and preview sounds as well as tweak parameters.
4.Arturia – KeyLab 49
While the KeyLab keyboards are suitable for use with any DAW or softsynth with a bit of programming, it’s the included Analog Lab software that’s likely to make this the preferred option for vintage analog synth enthusiasts. As well as 5000 synth sounds to tweak, owners of Arturia’s V Collection of synths will be able to create their own presets and store it in Analog Lab for later use. Arturia’s focus on vintage sounds might not be for everyone, but those who appreciate the quality of analog will love having the next best thing to a rack of classic gear in their studio.
5.M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
The M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 is not the smallest keyboard we have seen, we can start there. The model’s iconic predecessor has been referred to as the ultimate expression and this device follows suit, adopting 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys that not only ensure the most natural feel but also allow you to capture every subtle nuance. Among these keys, you’ll find the expertly-located octave range buttons that will let you manipulate the lead lines, extend the cords, and product sub-heavy basslines. Aside from that, the device features volume faders, giving you deep control of the plugins.
6.Novation Launchkey 37 [MK3] MIDI Keyboard Controller
This great little keyboard provides a good compromise if you’re after a portable keyboard for beat making and studio control. While it’s lovely back-lit chord mode is a useful feature for beginners, it has enough technical specs to satisfy more advanced producers too. The Launchkey 37 doesn’t come with any software, and it may take some effort to get it to work with your preferred DAW. However, the Sound Collective sample pack is a good one and it is nicely optimised for use with Ableton.
7.Novation Impulse 61 Keys USB Midi Controller Keyboard
The Novation Impulse is an old MIDI controller, but the keyboard is one of the best I’ve played, and it even comes close to surpassing the semi-weighted 73-key variation of the Nord Stage 3.
Basically, semi-weighted keys feel somewhat like light piano keys, making them a happy medium between weighted and synth-action keys. Either way, keys aren’t the Impulse’s only advantage. There is a good amount of controls here such as pads, faders, and buttons, which unfortunately feel less premium due to their age. The SL does have the edge here, especially in terms of integration.
However, Novation’s built-in Automap software works well enough for most plugins and DAWs, though some of the more recent plugins aren’t supported.
Most of the common ones are still used to this day though, and I didn’t find many failures while using it. The Impulse is a great keyboard at a good price, and one might even call it a good ‘impulse’ buy, pun intended.
8.Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
The Komplete Kontrol M32 is a micro-size keyboard controller. It has 32 compact keys but these shouldn’t be mistaken for “minikeys.” They are smaller than a regular keyboard, but they have a smooth synth-action and feel great under your fingers. You have octave up and down buttons and two touch strips to provide pitch bend and modulation or whatever you want to map them to. But the cleverness behind the M32 is to be found in the software. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol software is the backbone of all their controller keyboards. It’s an instrument and plug-in host for any software plug-ins that support their NKS standard. When they do, then all the knobs and controls on the M32 are instantly and automatically mapped to relevant controls on the synthesizer, instrument or effect. There are transport controls for your DAW and some special integration with Native Instruments’ included Maschine groove sequencer. Built into the keyboard is Smart Play, which includes different scale and arpeggiator modes, instant chords and tunings so that you never play a wrong note.
The full-size keys are semi-weighted and feel great. You get 16 MPC pads, which are very customizable right down to changing the color of each pad. The pads feel very musical, and respond well to your playing dynamics. It has 8 assignable knobs, 8 faders, and 8 switches, pitch bend and modulation wheels, 1 assignable footswitch jack and 1 expression jack, amongst more bells and whistles.
10.Nektar Impact LX49+
The Impact LX49+ goes beyond what a normal MIDI controller can do. While it is fully capable of giving you musical control over your notes and settings, the LX49+ also makes it easy to control your DAW, including your channel faders, pans and even some plugins. It hits the sweet spots between MIDI controller and DAW controller; especially at this price point. The seamless integration with their DAWs also earns it strong positive reviews. But users say build quality and materials could be better. Some people had trouble with less popular DAWs with regards to integration.
How to buy best MIDI keyboard controller in UK 2021
These keyboards are great for any musician, whether you are an experienced pro, or you just want to start learning how to mix your sounds. There are quite a few extras and features that come with them, though, which means you should be looking out for some key features. You’ll find all of them below, but there is one thing you should remember. Your keyboard needs to be one that you feel comfortable using. Playing, operating, fiddling with, all of it needs to be what you want; not what you’re expected to have.
Number of Keys
There are a number of different sizes for these keyboards, and the number of keys dictates the size. That’s why when you are deciding on the number of keys; you also need to consider both your budget and the size of the space you have available. Usually, they come in the following key numbers:
The less keys, the smaller the keyboard, and you also need to think about your experience. If you are just starting out, 25 keys are going to be perfect for the situation. If you are a professional, however, you likely won’t be satisfied with anything less than 49 keys. However, if you are composing sequences, key numbers won’t really matter; it will be about the sliders, knobs, and additional features.
This is an important quality for any keyboard, as it is the manner in which it responds to playing. It’s about you feeling comfortable, enjoying the sound being created, and making the music you want. Generally, the action you want is based on the way you are used to playing, and that is why you will likely be drawn more to one of the below options.
Weighted Hammer Action
This controller type has 88 notes and is able to replicate the mechanical actions of a classic piano. It’s a difficult thing to achieve because the keyboard is designed so differently to a piano, and so it uses a series of weights and springs in order to do so. The semi weighted hammer action is exceptionally good at recreating the sound and feel of a traditional piano.
Semi Weighted Action
This is very similar to the weighted hammer models, but there is a lot less resistance. The release has a little more spring to it, and the sound remains very pleasant. The piano sound is not as accurate, but it is also a very popular option among those with Midi keyboards.
These are a lot like an electric organ in terms of sound and feel. It has spring-loaded keys that are incredibly light and can be moved with great speed. Additionally, they return to their resting place much faster for more versatility while playing. This is a huge advantage when you need to play quick sections of music, and it is also a great help to those who are not keyboard players naturally but perhaps play guitar as a main instrument.
People often ask if this is something they need. I always say yes, because it makes playing a lot more versatile and lets you be more creative. The aftertouch adds expression to your music, and it saves you needing to use your spare hand to fiddle with various controls. You have to spend a little more, but it is so worth it. It’s something you don’t realise you need until you try it out for the first time.
Inputs and Outputs
As a standard, you will find that Midi keyboards have the standard USB setups. It’s the way they transmit MDI, and you generally don’t need to worry about anything else. However, there are some models that include other types of jack. They can make your life easier and are as follows:
5-pin MIDI DIN
This one lets you connect external Midi instruments, like hardware synths,
so you can mix things up a little.
CV and Gate
These outputs will let you modulate vintage synth gear for a more diverse playing range.
This is all down to the way you like to play. If you are into traditional keys, this probably isn’t for you. The performance pads are comfortable, and sense velocity, and many keyboards can support at least eight of them.
You can use them to play drums and trigger loops, or even use them to sense an aftertouch. However, you should remember that a bank of pads will make your keyboard a lot heavier to carry and handle; despite the great additions.
Knobs, faders, and Buttons
It’s not just for playing tunes; there is a lot more you can do with a Midi keyboard. Knobs, faders, and various buttons can make the experience a more exciting one, as well as add flexibility to your music creation. The exciting thing is that you can actually buy separate control panels (as well as multiples) that connect to your keyboard; keeping things creative as well as customisable.
Auto Mapping and Integration
I quite like this feature, and it goes nicely with all of the knobs and faders. The way it works is that you set it up in such a way that it corresponds with your specific software applications. It saves you a lot of work and time, so that you can focus more on being creative and letting the music flow as opposed to playing with all the settings.
These allow you to layer your sounds, which means you can mix things up and create more intense music that you want to listen to. You can define their channels, octaves, key ranges; the whole lot. Many basic boards will have two zones, but four is a good number if you want to get really creative. For the professionals, there are even more available, and it can depend on the number of keys as well. They overlap with each other, and it just provides more flexibility, which many artists need.
These keyboards need a power supply. There are many keyboards that can be powered with a USB port, but the Midi is not one of them. You will need a separate mains power supply, which usually comes with the keyboard so that you can get started right away. This also means that you get more work and power out of it, so there is a greater range with a Midi keyboard than others on the
All in all, there are many musicians out there that would like to be able to enhance their music. Equipping yourself with the top MIDI keyboard controller is a necessity and will give you added control and convenience. Of course, finding the best one is thoroughly complicated and traveling down this road alone is unrealistic. This is why you will want to read the information above and allow it to guide you towards the best midi controller for your individualistic needs and desires!