M-Audio Hammer 88 Fully-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
Arturia Keylab 88 MkII Fully Weighted MIDI Controller
Alesis V161 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard Controller
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Since its introduction in 1983, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) has revolutionized the music industry. MIDI virtual instruments and digital production software is all about enhancing your musical abilities by allowing you to harness thousands of different sounds.
Whether you want to record a full album or just track some ideas in a home studio, a MIDI keyboard is the perfect vehicle to fuel your creativity.
If the M-Audio Hammer 88 isn’t the instrument for you, you’re sure to love one of the other eight amazing MIDI keyboards we’ve featured. So, whether you’re looking for a starter controller or a lavish, high-end keyboard, you’re sure to find a great option here.
The 9 Best Weighted MIDI Keyboards:
|Image||Weighted MIDI Keyboards||Summary||Check Price|
|M-Audio Hammer 88 Fully-Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
Best Choice: Hammer action keyboard, fine controls and dynamic software in a durable package
|Alesis V161 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
Best Value: 61-key model with tactile controls and lots of flexibility for any style
|Arturia Keylab 88 MkII Fully Weighted MIDI Controller|
Premium Pick: Best fully weighted keyboard with outstanding versatility and included software
|NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII Fully Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
High-End Interface: Outstanding interface with DAW integration and tactile feedback
|Novation 61SL MkIII Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
Comprehensive Control Centre: Comfortable enough for new players, yet strong enough to use alone without your entire rig
|Nektar Panorama P4 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
Designed for Reason, but Works Anywhere: Streamlined keyboard that’s great for new players and users with a robust DAW
|Arturia Keylab 88 Essential Semi-Weighted MIDI Controller|
Affordable MkII Alternative: Condenses what’s great about the MkII into a powerful yet reasonable package
|Akai Professional MPK249 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
Superb Design Features: Thoughtful MIDI controller that packs a lot of punch into its 49 keys
|M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard|
Beginner-Friendly Budget Keyboard: Provides all the basic tools at a great price for new players
M-Audio Hammer 88 Fully-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
With fully weighted hammer action and a versatile set of included software, the M-Audio Hammer 88 is the best MIDI controller around. It’s perfect for players who want a streamlined, dependable option.
The Hammer 88’s keyboard is one of the best 88-key MIDI keyboard options on the market. Its fully weighted keys and genuine hammer action mimic the feel of a genuine acoustic piano. And, because the keys are velocity sensitive, you can play with outstanding dynamic control.
A set of wheels controls pitch bend and modulation, while pads and sliders allow you to adjust the volume and octaves. You can also split the keyboard into two zones to record multiple parts with different sounds at the same time.
To connect to your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), the M-Audio Hammer 88 offers USB MIDI ports. It comes with ProTools First and a series of acoustic and electric piano plugins so you can start making music as soon as it arrives.
Alesis V161 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
For outstanding control on a tight budget, it’s hard to top the Alesis V161. This semi-weighted MIDI keyboard controller offers dozens of pads, knobs and buttons along with 61 dynamic keys.
The interface offers plenty of parameters for controlling your output. You’ll find 16 RGB pads at the left of the keyboard that let you finger drum or play samples from your DAW. Next to those are pitch bend and modulation wheels for tactile expression adjustments.
The top of the controller provides 16 assignable buttons and 48 assignable knobs to tweak every facet of your sound. These are perfect for adding standard effects to your base tone or experimenting with new sounds and filters.
The V161 includes a software suite with three piano voicings, Ableton Live Lite and a tailored version of ProTools First. It’s a streamlined pack, but it provides all the basic tools for music production and great value for money.
Arturia Keylab 88 MkII Fully Weighted MIDI Controller
Arturia’s keyboards and synths have earned the company a sterling reputation for expression and durability.
The Keylab 88 MkII is no exception. With a lifelike 88-key keybed, powerful controls and a full complement of outputs, it’s a powerful tool for advanced music production.
This keyboard’s 88 fully weighted keys feel like a digital piano boasting aftertouch and hammer action. These features offer the precision and dynamic touch of a grand piano, with a smooth response and lifelike textures.
The 16 onboard pads offer RGB backlighting so you can see them easily on any stage
Along with the nine faders and nine rotary knobs, you can assign each pad to customize your workflow and streamline the interface. The transport controls make it easy to tweak every facet of your sound as you record.
The back of the Arturia Keylab 88 MkII provides a full complement of outputs, including a USB port and a 5-pin MIDI input and output. Once you connect to your DAW, you can also take advantage of Arturia’s Analog Lab software pack, with thousands of piano, organ, brass and string sounds.
NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII Fully Weighted MIDI Keyboard
If you want a MIDI controller with a powerful yet refined interface, the NI Komplete Kontrol S88 is for you.
As the name implies, this MIDI controller offers comprehensive onboard controls and a dynamic weighted keyboard for discerning players and producers.
The keybeds are fully weighted with Fatar hammer action and aftertouch for a realistic feel and lifelike accents. With 88 keys onboard, the Komplete Kontrol S88 can handle any piece of music you throw at it.
The interface offers two high-res digital screens allowing you to navigate quickly through different menus and tweak your sound.
There are also traditional buttons and knobs for more tactile feedback and a pair of smooth pitch and modulation wheels.
Along with the hardware, the interface includes 14 different instruments and effects to get you started playing music. And with USB connectivity, MIDI in/out and two assignable effects inputs, the Komplete Kontrol S88 can fit naturally into any rig.
Novation 61SL MkIII Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
The Novation 61SL MkIII is a semi-weighted MIDI keyboard controller designed to be the centerpiece of your studio. With five color LCD screens, velocity-sensitive controls and an onboard sequencer, it puts everything you need at your fingertips.
This keyboard controller provides 61 semi-weighted keys. They’re springy and lightweight for easy playing with just a bit of resistance. The action will be instantly familiar to synth players, though pianists won’t have trouble with the switch either.
The control setup lets you rely less on your computer and more on tactile feedback from the wheels, pads and faders. The keys feel semi-weighted with synth action. They’re perfect for players used to digital pianos and traditional synth keyboards.
The onboard eight-step sequencer is another great feature that lets your record directly as you play or punch notes for each step. If you want to loop short tracks or lay down a base for more playing, this sequencer is easy to use and keeps your workflow streamlined.
This MIDI controller keyboard is optimized for seamless integration with Ableton Live, but it can also stand alone or work with DAWs like ProTools.
Nektar Panorama P4 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
Nektar’s Panorama P4 only offers 49 keys, but don’t let the size fool you. Its array of controls and powerful DAW integration make it a streamlined MIDI keyboard controller that punches well above its weight.
You’ll find 49 semi-weighted keys onboard with five velocity curves that allow you to adjust the weight to your exact liking.
Overall, the keyboard controller is large enough to accommodate parts over multiple octaves but still more compact than 61- or 88-key fully weighted MIDI keyboards. For more flexibility, the keyboard also splits into four distinct zones.
The onboard motorized fader offers console-level control at your fingertips.
You can use it for fine adjustments as you play, or let it adjust to your saved settings naturally. It’s particularly useful in mixer mode, where the P4 works seamlessly with your DAW to mix and master tracks.
Twelve RGB velocity-sensitive pads offer a canvas for effects, drums and samples. For greater precision, you can also assign any of the 90 onboard controls to your preferred functions.
Arturia Keylab 88 Essential Semi-Weighted MIDI Controller
Arturia’s Keylab 88 MkII is one of the most popular MIDI controllers on the market.
If, however, you need the performance of the MkII on a tighter budget, Arturia’s own Keylab 88 Essential is the perfect alternative.
Arturia describes this keyboard as offering a “hybrid piano-synth feel.” It’s velocity sensitive, with a lighter touch for quick, responsive passages. And, with 88 keys, it’s got plenty of room for multi-octave passages.
The face of the keyboard includes pitch bend and modulation wheels as well as nine faders, nine rotary knobs and nine dynamic pads.
At the center of the console, this MIDI controller offers an LCD screen and DAW control center. The jog wheel and pads let you control your DAW voicings and effects without needing to log into your computer.
The back side of the keyboard is streamlined, yet still provides everything you need to get started: a MIDI input and output, USB connector and sustain pedal input.
Finally, the Keylab 88 Essential offers access to Arturia’s Analog Lab voicing library. The voices are all drawn from the company’s famous Arturia V Collection and provide a great taste of different instruments for players in all genres.
Akai Professional MPK249 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
Akai’s Professional MPK249 offers 49 semi-weighted keys with a streamlined, intuitive design. It’s got enough power to serve as any player’s main MIDI controller, although it’s also intuitive enough for new players.
The keys themselves are velocity sensitive, with a full-size shape to feel like a real piano. Behind the keybed, the MPK249 offers two modulation wheels, 16 RGB pads and a set of faders and knobs.
The RGB drum pads offer four banks each, for 64 total pads on tap. You can use these for sampling, beatmaking, or adding extra melodics on the fly. The knobs, faders and switches are all assignable, so you can adjust the interface exactly to your liking.
The software complement is another plus. The MPK249 comes loaded with Ableton Live Lite: a DAW that’s powerful enough to get you started making music immediately. There are also virtual synths and Akai’s MPC Beats software, so you can cut entire tracks with just the MIDI keyboard controller.
M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 Semi-Weighted MIDI Keyboard
Rounding out our list is the M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3. This semi-weighted MIDI keyboard offers M-Audio’s build quality and virtual instruments with outstanding value for money.
The keyboard provides 61 full-size keys with velocity sensitivity, for a natural piano feel. You can also use the octave up and down buttons to extend the range like an 88-key MIDI keyboard.
The left panel houses the keyboard’s controls, including modulation and pitch wheels, transport controls and a master volume fader. The layout is simple and streamlined, so you can focus on your music instead of your computer.
Along with the keyboard itself, the Keystation 61 MK3 includes a set of useful add-ons. An included sustain pedal lets you extend notes for dynamic, resonant legato.
The Keystation also provides access to a tailored version of ProTools First and multiple instrument plugins to get you started making music. These digital instruments include real piano samples, electric pianos, strings and synths.
How Do I Choose A MIDI Keyboard?
As you evaluate each MIDI keyboard controller, you’ll need to keep a few main factors in mind: the number of keys, the action, the extra controls and the inputs and outputs.
The number of keys is the most obvious limitation on a MIDI keyboard. With fewer keys, you won’t be able to cover as many octaves at once. MIDI controllers range from 49 to 88 keys, although 61-key and 88-key controllers are the most popular types. These sizes offer you enough range to play nearly any part without compromising.
If you want a more compact controller, a 49-key model might work well for you. These keyboards provide enough range for most synth parts and they save you space and money compared to a full-size digital piano.
The action is another important factor. Most weighted MIDI keyboards are either fully or semi- weighted. Fully weighted keys mimic the feel of a real piano, with velocity-sensitive expression and outstanding touch for accents and trills.
You might also find keys advertised with “hammer action.” These use genuine hammers like you’d find in a traditional piano, so you get more dynamic touch and depth.
Semi-weighted keys offer less resistance and a bit less dynamic expression than hammer action models. They tend to be more affordable and feel closer to the action on many synths — so, if you’re used to playing synths, you’ll feel right at home.
Beyond the keyboard itself, the best weighted MIDI keyboard controllers give you a wide array of controls at your fingertips. These normally include wheels, knobs, pads and sometimes faders.
Having lots of different controls makes it easy to adjust different facets of your sound on the fly. Knobs are great for adjusting effects and EQ parameters, while pads are great for adding accents and faders are built to control your volume.
Should I Get A MIDI Controller or a Synth?
While a MIDI keyboard controller and a synth might look alike, the two instruments provide very different features.
With a MIDI controller, you can get the feel of a genuine grand piano and the sound of any virtual instrument. To use one of these weighted MIDI keyboards, you’ll need access to a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for virtual instruments and voicings.
If you just want a device to play plugins from your DAW, you might only need a MIDI controller. These keyboards don’t offer onboard oscillators to generate sound, but they provide outstanding touch for playing virtual instruments. Because they’re not standalone instruments, they’re often cheaper than real synths as well.
On the other hand, synth keyboards provide built-in oscillators to generate sound on their own.
These engines can run without input from a DAW, which makes them great for touring pros and players who want to streamline their rig. They tend to be more expensive than MIDI controllers, however, and don’t provide as many sonic options.
If you want to have the most sounds at your fingertips, a MIDI controller will be the better pick for you. While you’ll need to keep it connected to your computer or audio interface, you can swap out plugins to get new voicings whenever you want. Many DAW-based plugins offer more control over every aspect of their sound, so you can also tweak your output to your heart’s content.
If you don’t like using a DAW to get your voicings, a synth might work just as well. Many players like the tactile, analog feel of synthesizers and prefer to use them rather than virtual instruments.
What is The Best MIDI Keyboard for Beginners?
Beginners need a MIDI keyboard controller that’s easy to use, yet provides enough depth to grow with. If you’re looking for your first keyboard, you should evaluate the size, action, controls and included software.
While the size of a keyboard is crucial for pro players, beginners can often work well with a smaller instrument. Both 49- and 61-key MIDI keyboard controllers are common because they’re cheaper and more compact than an 88-key MIDI controller. Often, keyboards include simple buttons to shift the octave range up or down on your command.
The action is another important factor to consider. Genuine piano action is great for all players, but beginner weighted MIDI keyboards often use semi-weighted action instead. Instead of fully weighted MIDI alternatives, this provides a bit of resistance for a synth-like feel. It’s a good substitute for beginners, although dedicated piano players might prefer fully weighted keys.
The controls on a keyboard affect how much work you can do from your controller itself. While you can work around keyboards with fewer controls, you’ll need to rely on your DAW for more adjustments. Some players prefer to do everything with their controller alone, while others like to have their computer nearby for fine-tuning.
If you’re a beginner, look for a keyboard with an efficient, intuitive interface. Having durable, consistent controls is more important than having lots of faders available. However, more drum pads and knobs will give you more control over your sound.
Assignable controls are another great feature, because they let you customize which controls affect which parameters. This makes your keyboard unique to you and helps you stay focused on making music.
Included software is a major bonus for beginners, because it lets you get started producing without purchasing extra plugins. If you want to start with music production immediately, look for MIDI keyboard controllers with their own software included in the purchase price.
Many keyboards offer a streamlined DAW to get you set up. These programs, like ProTools First and Ableton Live Lite, provide enough features and controls to get new players on their feet. While professional producers might need a more robust feature set, these basic programs are more than adequate for most users.
Along with a DAW, the best MIDI keyboard controllers include virtual instrument plugins. These offer sampled instrument voices — usually pianos, synths and strings — that you can play directly through your MIDI controller keyboard. They’re perfect for new players starting to build their library of virtual instruments and plugins.
Among all of the MIDI keyboards we’ve highlighted here, a few stand out as the best options. The Alesis V161 is a great all-around beginner keyboard. It’s got 61 keys and a smooth interface for a very reasonable price.
Arturia’s Keylab 88 Essential is another outstanding beginner keyboard. It condenses the best features of the renowned Arturia Keylab 88 MkII into a streamlined, dynamic option with good synth action and access to Arturia’s Analog Lab software.
How do you use a MIDI keyboard controller in your live rig? Do you prefer a MIDI controller or a standalone synth? Let us know in the comments below.