|Software Music Machine Archive||
Don't let budget constraints stop you from getting the added musical expression that MIDI keyboards provide. There are now plenty of great quality MIDI keyboards that can be bought for under $100 - here are our recommendations.
Aside from providing tactile control over your music without breaking the bank, these top MIDI keyboards are compact and easy to carry around - making them imperative tools for today's on-the-go musicians and producers. Whether you are starting out or you are looking for a portable and reliable back-up, these MIDI keyboards will get the job done. If you're looking for more sophisticated keyboards, then take a look at these premium options.
If you are only looking for small controllers then you might like to look at the gear guide on Gearank.com for 25 key MIDI controllers.
The Arturia MiniLab is our current favorite for the second year in a row, securing the top spot with its stylish appeal, impressive controls and powerful software companion.
To start with, it gives you 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keys that you can play with, while you can adjust the pitch and modulation via two touch sensitive panels on the side. The keyboard aspect alone makes it well worth its affordable price tag.
Now when you factor in the generous amount of extra controls - 16 encoder knobs and 8 backlit performance pads - then it becomes a really great deal that's gives you more than what you pay for. Arturia however is not happy with just impressive hardware, so it pairs the MiniLab with the Analog Laboratory Software making it an even sweeter deal. This software synthesizer has over 5000 classic synth sounds, with samples coming from Arturia's popular vintage analog synth recreations.
Finally, the Arturia MiniLab's stylish exterior will make music making more fun, be it on stage or in your home studio. If style, substance and value for money ranks high in your book, then you should get this. Manufacturer: Arturia | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
Akai Professional MPK Mini MK2
The 2nd generation Akai Pro MPK Mini is easily one of the the most versatile and portable in this price range. It is still the same full featured mini MIDI keyboard as the original, carrying over the same array of knobs, buttons and pads, but this one sports a more intuitive and nice looking control layout - with its back-lit pads and knobs placed in just the right spot. While there are others that offer on-par versatility, the MPK Mini's "hybrid" layout and portability still make it stand out. .
The 25 velocity-sensitive keys offer playability, response and reliability on par with more expensive keyboard controllers, and user reviews are in agreement. There was complaint about the lack of the mod and pitch wheels on the first version, but this is addressed in the gen 2 model, which comes with a nifty pitch/mod joystick. The only thing left to complain about is the mini-size keys, but this is to be expected when portability is prioritized.
Just like the mark 1 version, the most notable feature of this keyboard is the 8 backlit MPC-style pads and 8 knobs. They give you more than enough tools to create cool melodic and rhythmic phrases in real time - without the bulk and having to pay too much. If you are use the pads as much the keys, the Akai Pro MPK Mini is a great deal. Manufacturer: Akai Pro | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
Novation Launchkey Mini MK2
Novation is known for prioritizing compatibility and mobility, even in their portable keyboards. The Launchkey Mini Mk2 continues their design philosophy, a multipurpose DAW controller and mini-keyboard that works with Mac, PC, and iOS devices via the Apple Camera Connection Kit. And more importantly, it continues to lean towards electronic music with its 16 velocity-sensitive multi-color pads, 8 knobs, dedicated navigation and control buttons.
With so many features packed in its compact profile, its surprising how the 25 velocity sensitive keys are not compromised in anyway, users agree that they provide excellent response. While they are smaller, they are better spaced and sized to making transition from standard piano-sized keys easier. Even when its main selling point is probably the multi-color pads, the keyboard section will not let you down, with its premium feel and reliability.
The 16 three-color velocity-sensitive pads and 8 knobs turn this keyboard into a full featured DAW controller that provides great visual feedback. The people that will appreciate these extras will be electronic music producers and DJs (i.e. Ableton Live users). The Launchkey Mini is truly an ideal portable MIDI controller/keyboard companion. Manufacturer: Novation Music | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
Behringer U-Control UMA25S
Behringer hails this controller as "The Ultimate Studio in a Box", and they are not bluffing. This 25-Key USB/MIDI Controller Keyboard comes with a hosts of features you won't find on the other controllers in this list.
UMX250 comes with 25 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, and many are satisfied with its good height displacement. You can access the full 128 tone range via the octave shift function with LED status indicator. Other essential MIDI Controller features include pitch bend and modulation wheels, an assignable fader, 8 real-time rotary controls and 10 assignable switches.
What separates this MIDI keyboard from the rest is its built-in USB Audio Interface. This is complemented by the bundled virtual instruments, sound samples and music production software. With Behringer U-Control UMA25S, you are getting two pieces of studio equipment and multiple software in one package, a great choice for budding musicians and producers who are starting to setup their home studio. Manufacturer: Behringer | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
Korg MicroKEY 25
The MicroKEY 25 is the latest iteration of Korg’s portable USB MIDI Keyboard controller, and it comes with a unique feature that lets you adjust the playing feel. More importantly this keyboard controller looks nice and clean, and provides personalized keyboard control over your virtual instruments.
Backed by a brand known for producing keyboards that are highly playable and durable, the MicroKey lives up to its name. We agree with the users who rave the unit's reliability on the road, it is most probably the sturdiest among the keyboards within its price range.
Although it will take a bit of time to get used to its smaller keys, your patience will be rewarded with its lighter and portable profile, you can even power it with your iPad. You also have 8 velocity curves to choose from, resulting in a keyboard feel that suits your playing style. And all of these are packed in a compact and elegant looking unit. Manufacturer: Korg | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
IK Multimedia iRig Keys Mini
IK Multimedia is one of the pioneers that helped revolutionize mobile music production, so it is only fitting to see their portable MIDI keyboard iRig Keys Mini in this list. This keyboard is designed for use with your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, it comes with Apple's Lightning cable connector that directly connects to the latest iOS devices. You can also use a regular USB adaptor for it to works with your laptop or desktop.
This affordable keyboard does not carry fancy features, but it does specialize in portability and expressive playabiltiy. Its 25 velocity-sensitive keys have helped make it into one of the most popular MIDI keyboards in the market. And as expected from IK Multimedia, this keyboard is super slim and compact.
Other features of iRig Keys Mini include octave/program up/down buttons, and an assignable volume/data knob. My only complaint is the lack of pitch bend and modulation wheels, but for mobile songwriting and brainstorming, those features are not necessarily needed. This keyboard is best used with smartphones and tablets, but it is also bundled with software apps for making music, so you can use it out of the box with your laptop/computer. Manufacturer: IK Multimedia | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
M-Audio Keystation Mini 32
The sleekest looking and easiest to use of all the MIDI keyboards on this list is the M-Audio Keystation Mini 32. It offers portability and functionality in a no-nonsense package.
This compact Keystation focuses on straightforward keyboard control with 32 velocity-sensitive mini-keys. It does not have the pads and sliders found on other controllers but it does have all the essential controls to make it a great keyboard controller - 4 assignable buttons, 3 other buttons that control pitchbend and modulation and a big knob that controls volume. Although the controls may not be much, it is more than enough for users to give it great reviews.
The low profile keys might put off some piano players but electronic musicians have used its unique feel and action to their advantage, not to mention that the unit is easy to carry around for live performance or for capturing ideas while on the go. As a bonus, Keystation Mini 32 comes with Sibelius First software for a plug and play experience right out of the box. Manufacturer: M-Audio | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
Nektar Impact iX49
The Nektar Impact iX49 is an affordable 49-note MIDI keyboard that comes with impressive playability for its price. Instead of having bells and whistles, this one is a straightforward keyboard, focusing on the size, touch and response of the keys.
It may not have the added pads and DAW controls found on other MIDI controllers, but it excels in providing responsive velocity-sensitive keys. Aside from being responsive, this compact unit features full-size keys that will feel familiar to keyboard players and pianists. It also comes with a volume slider, pitch wheel and modulation wheel for added expression, while the octave control lets you play notes that are beyond the 49 keys available.
This streamlined interface makes enough room for its key sensitivity to shine, and allowing you to focus more on playing the keys than tweaking knobs. Manufacturer: Nektar Tech | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
Samson Carbon 49
The popularity of the iPad helped spark the latest trend of mobile music production, so it is only fitting that the Samson Carbon 49 is compatible with this powerful tablet from Apple. To ensure playing convenience, it even features a nifty iPad stand built into the exterior.
This affordable keyboard offers 49 velocity-sensitive keys, the most keys from among this list, and it also has classic pitch bend and modulation wheels. The keybed is semi-weighted, giving it a better overall feel while still retaining a portable profile.
Mobile keyboardists have had great things to say about the Carbon 49, especially about its durability and easy setup. You can literally set it up to work with your iPad Garage Band app within a minute. Carbon 49 also comes with Komplete Elements software, which has tons of samples and sounds to play with. Manufacturer: Samson | Get the latest price and reviews at Amazon.com
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