Best Budget MIDI Keyboards 2020 : Buying Guide & Reviews
If you want to take your music-making seriously on the computer or IOS device then it is imperative that you purchase one of the best cheap MIDI keyboards that are in this list, adding that essential item into your home studio, or mobile setup.
These piano style devices can be plugged into laptops and PCs via USB or Bluetooth connectivity enabling you to play with different software instruments that are found on whatever DAW you may be using, also great for any VST synth plugins you may have installed.
There are loads of options to choose from, going from a more compact MIDI design that will fit perfectly into your laptop bag, right up to full-size models with weighted hammer-action keys. A lot of options come with added extras such as buttons, pads, and knobs, and most of these can be specifically assigned to certain commands in the DAW helping you really get the most out of your software.
Prices vary on the features you are going to get but cheap MIDI controllers can be more than good enough for most users, but if you are willing to pay the extra then more advanced features are available such as the weighted keys, pitch shift, and modulation.
Many of the best cheap keyboards MIDI-enabled will contain templates for the most popular DAWs such as Logic, Ableton Live Lite, FL Studios, and more making it easy to get started and set up making music faster. From portability in your keyboard or full-size piano styled models, there are loads of different options available for you to choose, below we have come up with a list of some of the best, offering a bit of choice for every kind of user.
Best Budget MIDI keyboards you can buy right now
1. Akai MPK Mini MK2 Professional MIDI Keyboard
Best Features: Excellent portability. Lightweight and strong. Lots of software and features.
When it comes to MIDI keyboards the Akai MPK Mini Mk2 is a classic that everyone loves and has been a great choice for many years for lots of different reasons. It has been standing at the top of the sales chart for around 5 years, and that is no fluke. Akai have found the perfect balance between features, portability, build quality, and affordability
The feature that stands out the most is the 4-way joystick that can be used for both modulation and pitch bending, there is also a built-in arpeggiator and note repeat functions. These are all great and are utilized in a great way from this keyboard with MIDI abilities, made better with the large supply of knobs and fantastic MPC-style pads.
The MPK Mini MK2 is great as a lightweight MIDI controller that can be transported with no effort at all fitting perfectly into your bag but can also be used for controlling software instruments and plugins in a studio setting. Pretty much everything you need the Mini MK2 from Akai can supply with you what you need at an affordable practical price.
Keys: 25 | Pads: 8 | Controls: USB MIDI | Octaves: Up and Down Buttons | Bundled Software: MPC Beats Software | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB Plug and Play | Dimensions: 7.13 x 12.52 x 1.73 inches | Weight: 1.65 pounds
2. Nektar SE25 Mini MIDI Keyboard
Best Features: Unbelievable value. Nektar DAW integration. Small size fits in a laptop bag.
If portability is key to you, wanting to make music wherever you go then a small MIDI controller keyboard that fits perfectly into a laptop bag could be a great choice for you. The Nektar SE25 is the perfect example of a cheap midi controller keyboard smaller than most of its competitors but still contains all the features and playability that you receive from these bigger models.
The only budget MIDI for keyboard mini keys that is a lower price is the LPK25 from Akai, but that model doesn’t provide any DAW integration. This helps make the Nektar pocket key MIDI controller one of the best value for money machines available.
The DAW integration found in the Nektar is amazing as it works with a varsity of different programs such as Bitwig, Ableton live lite, Cubase, Logic, GarageBand, Digital Performer, Nuendo, Mixcraft, Studio One, Sonar, Reason, Reaper, and a host of other music-making and editing software. All of this for less than $50, you can’t get much better than that.
Keys: 25 | Controls: Transport Controls | Octaves: 6 | Bundled Software: MIDI Software | |Connectivity: USB | Compatibility: iOS and Android | Dimensions: 15.75 x 5.71 x 2.76 inches | Weight: 1 pounds
3. Arturia MiniLab MKII MIDI Keyboards
Best Features: Marvelous build quality. Exceptional keyboard. Analog Lab Lite is great. RGB pads with aftertouch.
Arturia MiniLab MKII 25 key, slim-key MIDI keyboards are a step up form it, predecessor, mostly in the keys featured, they are excellent in both response and action. There isn’t a wheel controller for the pitch or modulation, instead, there are touch strips that have been featured that provide great accuracy whenever the values are adjusted.
The eight rotary controls are great for making custom settings within your chosen DAW, with two of them having clickable controls that are perfect for toggling synth parameters. The clickable control synth setup of the MiniLab MK II is great when combined with the vintage synths that come with the bundled Analog Lab suite. Yes, this is the Lite version which only contains a limited selection of the patches but it is really fun to use giving you a great insight into this program.
There are intelligent macros so you can customize your patches and the sounds are beautiful coming from the amazing V collection that Arturia offers. Regarding the build quality, this cheap MIDI keyboard is one of the best with durability and construction.
Overall if you are looking for a portable controller where the features really outweigh the price tag then these MIDI keyboards should be the choice for you. Setup is easy and the software bundle that comes with the MIDI controller is a great bonus giving you some amazing sound sources.
Although there are a lot of functions this makes the controls sometimes hard to configure if you are not comfortable or used to these keyboards, but they will become second nature in no time.
Keys: 25 | Pads: 8 | Controls: MIDI Controller | Compatibility: DAW and MIDI | Dimensions: 8.7 x 14 x 2 inches | Weight: 3.3 pounds
4. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 Micro Keyboard
Best Features: Portable. More keys than other keyboards of this size. Great software and hardware integration.
Producing the same output functionality as the Komplete Kontrol A-series, the portable and stylish Komplete Kontrol M32 from Native Instruments is a mobile USB 2.0 bus-powered MIDI keyboard that is able to fit 32 mini-keys into its tiny size, along with a full range of MIDI controller options.
Pitch bend and modulation wheels have been replaced with a pair of short touch strips that work great with virtual instruments and are easy to use. There are also eight capacitive knobs, numerous buttons, and a 4D encoder that are all uncompromised when it comes to feeling and size enabling you with a full experience when it comes to searching through and manipulating plugins, operating Maschine, and getting to grips and really utilizing the transport and mix of your DAW software.
There is also a surprisingly informative OLED display that was featured in the A-series is a part of the M32, just as is the Smart Play feature that enables scale snapping, arpeggiation, and chord triggering. This MIDI keyboard also works great as a regular configurable MIDI controller keyboard capable of working with any other software.
The downside to this keyboard MIDI device is the mini keys, they take a bit of getting used to, and larger hands may find them problematic, but once you are completely adjusted to them this best cheap MIDI keyboard can be a great tool.
Keys: 32 | Controls: 8 Sensitive Control Knobs | Connectivity: USB MIDI controller | Compatibility: KOMPLETE KONTROL | Dimensions: 475 x 167 x 50 mm / 18.7” x 6.57” x 1.96” | Weight: 2.27 lbs.
5. Novation Launch Key Mini 25 Key MIDI Keyboard
Best Features: Arpeggiator works really well. MIDI Out. Brilliant integration with Live. Sustain pedal input.
The Novation launch key mini MIDI keyboard has been specifically developed for users of Ableton with this newly updated version the features that are included make up for any that were missing on the previous model. The addition of pitch bend and modulation touch strips are a welcome characteristic along with a hardware MIDI out on a TRS jack, an arpeggiator that has taken new steps into its ability with incredible flexibility and versatility.
There is also a chord memory feature that helps you play chord sequences if you are not the most advanced keyboard player. These features are all available as part of a bundle with different software included which is a great touch.
Although the Lanchkey Mini Mk3 has been designed for Ableton, it will still work great on other DAWs, but if you are an Ableton Live user then this model is no doubt the best choice for usability and functionality.
Keys: 25 | Pads: 16 | Controls: Touch Strips | Octaves: Yes | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB | Dimensions: 12.99 x 6.77 x 1.61 inches | Weight: 1 pounds
6. M-Audio Oxygen 49 USB MIDI Keyboard
Best Features: Large 41 key. Versatile. Lightweight.
One of the best cheap MIDI keyboards available is the M-Audio Oxygen 49, mainly due to the fact that it makes music creation portable with the compact size. Lightweight but really professional MIDI keyboards, extremely versatile offering loads of customizable controls with the 41 velocity-sensitive keys plus 8 velocity-sensitive pads that can be linked as triggers for samples and sounds, there are over 8 assignable faders.
This MIDI controller is also one of the best for people who want to take full control of their DAW as there are dedicated transport controls to play, stop and record in your DAW, directly from your keyboard.
This keyboard for MIDI is also great for beginners getting into the world of DAW use and starting their music-making journey straight out of the box. Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools comes with this MIDI keyboard but the M-Audio Oxygen series all work with pretty much any pre-existing musical software you may own already.
These MIDI keyboards are USB powered so the only thing you need is a laptop or computer that has your software installed and you are away. This MIDI keyboard has everything you need, with over 8 assignable faders and even more velocity-sensitive pads.
Keys: 49 | Pads: 8 | Controls: Keyboard Controller | Octaves: Yes | Bundled Software: ProTools | First | M-Audio | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB | Compatibility: Macintosh and Windows | Dimensions: 9.56 x 32.04 x 3.7 inches | Weight: 6.39 Pounds
7. Korg MicroKey 2 Air Wireless MIDI Keyboard
Best Features: Works wirelessly via Bluetooth. Adequate Natural Touch keyboard. Very compact size.
The micro key 2 Air from Kork comes in a range of different key sizes going from 25, to 37, 49, and 61 note modes, but all include Bluetooth connectivity which enables you to wirelessly connect to your computer or laptop. There is a USB connectivity available if you want to keep things wired, or your device doesn’t have that ability, but if you are using Bluetooth you will need 2 AA batteries to power up your MIDI Keyboard.
There aren’t the most extensive amounts of controls installed onto the micro key 2 air 25 but the basics are provided, and it does play a lot better than many of its rivals on the market. The operation and setup are really easy, so having that cleaner option of no wires is great, especially if you like to create on the move the wireless option is much more convenient.
Keys: 25 | Controls: MIDI Controller | Octaves: Yes | Bundled Software: Yes | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB and Wireless | Dimensions: 46 x 16.5 x 7.2 cm | Weight: 1.07 Kg
8. Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
Best Features: Full-size keyboard. cross-platform capabilities.
Right from the get-go, the Alesis V49 MIDI keyboards feature great design, nothing that we haven’t seen before but love is felt in the design and finish giving you the knowledge of it being a good product. The simple sleek design overall is pretty minimal with a mainly black coloring and cool blue backlit shades found on the buttons, pads, and knobs, making it look stunning in dark rooms.
For such a budget MIDI controller the device feels professional and solid which is everything you want in these kinds of products.
The features that come with the Alesis V49 are great but you can see there have been a few sacrifices made with the inclusion of a full-sized piano-style keyboard. There seems to be a lack of what many see as standard controls that are expected on any MIDI keyboards. Apart from the 49 full-size keys, there are eight programmable trigger pads, four programmable knobs, six buttons, and two rubber-coated wheels that work with the modulation and pitch bend. That is basically everything, apart from the addition of a sustain pedal that can be included.
Still, one of the best cheap MIDI keyboards as it offers loads for the price and is definitely enough for first-time users to get their hands involved in the musical world. Compatible with both Macs and Windows machines which is great for any kind of user with different DAW, such as Ableton Live Lite that is included in the software. Putting the great looks aside the main reason people buy this MIDI keyboard is the performances that it can offer.
The controls can take some getting used to with the layout but not enough to make you feel frustrated by it. The keys are very responsive, even riveling some of the higher-end models, suiting piano layers due to the full-size design. The knobs and wheels are accurate, firm, and feel really nice to use. Overall a great machine that performs well across multiple ranges of DAWs and cross-platform computing.
Keys: 49 | Pads: | Controls: V49 Usb-Midi Controller | Octaves: Yes | Bundled Software: Ableton Live Lite 9 And Xpand!2 By Air Music Tech | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB | Compatibility: Windows and Mac
9. M-Audio Oxygen Series 61 Ignite MIDI Controller
Best Features: Great build quality. Sensitive keys. The perfect first MIDI keyboard.
M-audio has always been a great company releasing amazing products that have been developed to the highest levels providing the users with great user experience, all at a budget price. The Oxygen 61 MKIV is no difference, with its full-sized keyboard with synth-action keys that will rival some of the more expensive models on the market at the moment.
An addition to the keys is the controls that have 8 velocity-sensitive pads, 9 faders, and 8 assignable knobs, making the usability that much better-making customer commands from different areas of the keyboard. The automap functionality is great for first-time users making this model even more enjoyable to use, working with some of the more industry-standard DAWs such as ProTools, Logic, Cubase, Reason, Fruit Loos, and more.
All of these features are helped with the stylish design that comes with the Oxygen 61 MKIV with a sleek and uncluttered design used helped to promote better productivity of working. Most people who have used this product have been pleasantly surprised as it exceeded their expectations providing good traction, low noise operation, and the perfect amount of recoil within the key response.
There are no stand out complaints that come with this MIDI keyboard, mainly just personal specific needs such as color-lit pads, or more buttons. Overall the keyboard is great, the price is low for a full-sized keyboard like this with all the MIDI features that are included helping customize your DAW experience making it more efficient and enjoyable.
Keys: 61 | Controls: DAW | Octaves: Yes | Bundled Software: Avid’s Ignite Software | Power: USB | Connectivity: USB | Compatibility: Windows | Dimensions: 35.7 x 9.4 x 3.7 inches | Weight: 7.5 pounds
Guide to Buying the Best Cheap MIDI Keyboards
Number of keys
All of the best MIDI keyboards that we have featured on our list contain an octave switch button, giving you a full range of note pitches available from even the smaller 25-key devices. That being said, and if you are someone who wants to learn how to play the piano properly with both left and right hands then it is probably better to opt for a four active key styled controller such as the 49-note or even the 61 note keyboards for 5 octaves. If space isn’t an issue and you are not that fussed on the portability of your keyboard then the 88-key piano-sized controller could be a great choice.
Portability can be a great feature if you like to make music on the move, or even like to enjoy your music with others in different settings. The smaller 25 key MIDI keyboards could be the best choice for you, some even fitting inside a laptop case. These keyboards may not have the same kind of features and if you are looking to play with both hands you may want to choose a larger cheap MIDI keyboard with a 49 key range.
The feel of the instrument can be a big thing, especially if you are a more seasoned piano player before you have delved into the world of MIDI controllers. With this, it is mainly budget that is going to affect the overall feel that you are going to get, as the more expensive models are going to include things such as weighted keys and better response. Some keyboards come with mini keys too, these help fit more key range in a compact size, but aren’t the best for every user and also take some extra time getting fully acquainted with them.
Transport controls are specifically designed triggers essential for DAW controls such as pause, play, record, all on your keyboard. Since they transmit all the MIDI data to your DAW they give the same level of input control making it easier for you to use rather than reaching over to your laptop, computer keyboard, or mouse every time you want to stop, play, or record.
In addition to the transport controls, most MIDI controllers have extra controls such as knobs, modulation, faders, and pitch wheels. They can be customized and assigned to different mixing or editing parameters inside your DAW. It is a world of experiments that you can continue to explore finding new and exciting ways to make different sounds and efficiently using your best cheap MIDI controller. These custom controls can be great in a live setting and in composing scenarios making them a really versatile and useful tool.
Nearly all MIDI keyboards are going to be compatible with the most popular operating systems however, some devices do not have the drivers required to run on operating systems such as Windows or Apple. There is also the option of mobile phone compatibility which isn’t always available, it is more common to buy special adapters that will connect these cheap MIDI controllers to your mobile device.
Compatibility shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to modern products, as most of them come with USB data transfer which is really reliable. The ability to connect to a tablet is also becoming something seen more regularly giving you the freedom to create when you are not at home.
The way a MIDI keyboard works and its functionality are very much determined by its design. A great example is the Ammoon Worlde Panda Mini that has a design that you commonly see, it contains keys and controllers that are positioned for maximum efficiency. Control buttons are usually seen close to the keys so that it takes minimum effort to reach them as you are playing.
All of these components still need to fit in your own workspace using a compact size for most keyboards, and since mouse movement is reduced keeping the MIDI keyboard location were you aren’t going to be restricted is normally a design feature that has been purposefully done.
There are lots of different warranties available on the market at the moment, most common being coverage for around 1-2 years. In some cases an extended warranty can be purchased from the manufacturer, this gives you the ability to think of your production at a wider scale.
If you are going to be making music for what is more than a hobby then durability is key at least until you become fully comfortable with your new keyboard. It can sometimes take a while to get used to all the features such as the banks, prog, pitch up and down so the warranty is good for getting fully accustomed to your controller.
ProTools is one of the most popular software and a lot of new producers are using it, the lite version is a stripped back edition which is still even used by a lot of professionals. It is a great step in the right direction f you start learning your craft on a software that is being used by the elite, as it assures you it is a reputable company and something that you should be working with.
Ableton Live is another popular choice and it is sometimes included in pack offers with a selection of instrument sounds. For ultimate results, it is great to use this program in conjunction with other programs making your workflow as good as it can be.
Logic Pro is another program that is commonly used and offers a lot within it. It is only available on IOS but if you are lucky enough to have any kind of apple product then this should be the DAW you are opting for. Like with a lot of Apple software, Logic Pro often updates giving you new sounds and tools that have been developed and enhanced by the apple team.
Eleven Lite is a great program that offers lots of vintage amp and cabs for a more modern way of approaching the most recognized sounds. Xpand 2 is advised to be used in its four active slots in each patch. Each part is recommended for its own MIDI channel and is a great way in creating individual parts.
User profiles and memory
When it comes to saving your work and settings, user profiles are really important. It is advised that you look for a keyboard that can remember your preferences after you turn it off, but this being said, the memory of a device is closely linked to the number of options you will have. Even the more affordable options come with 2GB of memory in the sounds so that means you will have no problems creating a profile with all of your own custom settings to get you started.
How to master your MIDI keyboard
If the world of MIDI keyboards is new to you there are a few things that you need to get yourself familiar with. As well as taking classes, you can learn a lot from playing on your own. Online videos and tutorials are a great place to start but many manufacturers now offer complex training manuals that will guide you through playing some simple songs.
Once you are up to scratch on the basic things you can go online and check out different communities such as VIP platforms where you can share your experiences with others and see how they have gone on with things themselves. In most cases, it is better to learn the basics on a simple keyboard, even if it is spring-loaded, this is true to some extent as at the beginning you do not need to over complicate things for yourself.
Another way to pick things up faster is with the design of the drum pads. With different light up colors, you can quickly obtain your own pre-defined control and not have any need to worry about each individual drum pad. This option is seen on many entry-level MIDI keyboards as well.
What are midi controllers?
Midi controllers are any device that generates and transmits a musical instrument digital interface. This MIDI is triggered in specific software or DAWs to create different instrument sounds, so a keyboard could be making the sound of a drum set or a guitar within the software.