When starting to figure out all the necessary things you need to set up your home studio, a MIDI keyboard is something that seems like an easy choice at first but in this day and age where almost everything is available at unbelievable prices, it’s important to choose the right keyboard that suits your needs and enhances your workflow. That’s why we’ve listed what we think are the Top 5 Affordable MIDI keyboards for your home studio. (in no particular order)
1. NATIVE INSTRUMENTS Komplete Kontrol A25
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25 is a smart, streamlined keyboard which lets you get hands-on with all of your instruments. Find, tweak, and capture your sounds, perform on a best-in-class keybed, and express yourself with the included collection of pro-grade instruments.
- Smart, streamlined keyboard controller for all your virtual instruments and effects
- Informative OLED display for at-a-glance navigation
- 8 touch-sensitive control knobs that are endless.
- Smart Play.
- Full VST and VSTi FX support
- Deep integration with Maschine software
- TRS pedal input, assignable to sustain or expression
- USB 2.0 bus-powered; MIDI over USB
- DAW control over Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, GarageBand, Cubase, and Nuendo
- Best-in-class, semi-weighted custom NI keybed
- An affordable entry point into the NI world.
- Fantastic Build Quality
Ergonomic pitch and mod wheels
Smart Play lets you stay in key with over 100 scales and modes, play chord progressions and arpeggios with single keys, or map any scale to white keys only
Integrated control – no mapping required. You get pre-mapped control of Komplete instruments and effects plus hundreds of Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) plug-ins from top manufacturers via Komplete Kontrol Software
Includes a comprehensive collection of Komplete Instruments & Effects, Komplete Kontrol Software, and Maschine Essentials (full Maschine software plus 1.6GB Maschine factory selection)
- The screen is quite small – though perfectly serviceable – and there’s less backlighting of buttons.
The text display is somewhat small as well, but then what is added is sound previews too
Light Guide, touch strip and MIDI DIN ports as well as those nice big color screens that are there in the S series are omitted for cost-saving.
The A25 is priced at around ₹15000. In terms of their functionality, all three models – 24, 49 and 61-keys – are identical, save for the number of keys. Cost savings do come from somewhere, but they have been very carefully considered. Native Instruments is clearly making a concerted push into the more price-conscious end of the market, be that beginners, schools, and universities or just musicians who don’t yet require higher-end gear. As a portable MIDI controller the A25 really excels, with all the core functionality you need to perform with and control NI’s software. At this price point, it’s never been easier to get into NI’s world.
2. ARTURIA MiniLab 25MKII
Arturia products are known for their value. Not only do they come with an insanely high-quality build, but they also come with some of the most practical software in the industry. Analog Lab is a collection of instruments from their V Collection range, all modeled meticulously off of analog synths. Analog Lab Lite comes with the Arturia MiniLab 25MKII, which is not something you can usually get with a keyboard, making this essentially a hybrid synth.
- 25 synth-style mini keys
- 16 encoders (with 2 integrated into Analog Lab)
- 8 pads (2 banks) with RGB
- Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel strips
- Analog Lab Lite – 500 analog synth presets
- USB powered
- You can tell the build quality has improved from its previous model.
- The new color-backlit pads are velocity-sensitive and can help you map certain sounds to a specific color to help with your workflow. Although there are only 8 pads, the shift button allows you to switch between two banks, which brings the total number of pad assignments to 16.
- On the Arturia MiniLab MkII, the velocity curve can be adjusted to your liking, but Arturia does a great job at deciding a common factory setting for the keyboard’s velocity
- The Keys are incredibly fun to play on because they have a bouncy feel to them.
- The Arturia Minilab MKII comes with the Analog Lab Lite which is packed with 500 preset patches of tasty sounds that you can modulate with the 16 rotary knobs.
- Plug and Play. Pick a sound and experiment with the different parameters and create beats on the fly.
- The touch control mod wheels response is a bit slow and if you’re someone who likes using pitch bend in your playing, this might be a tricky function to use properly.
- For experienced players to use this as the main controller in a permanent setup, the idea of working with such a small controller will probably become tiresome.
- Debatable Build Quality
- The usual compromise of Slim/Mini keys
- Software Installation is not straightforward.
At around ₹10000 it’s one of the few 25-key MIDI controllers that come with an additional soundbank, it’s hard to pass up if you’re looking to stay within budget. The diversity of each sound within Analog Lab Lite is a great addition to enhance your sound selection. Arturia Minilab MKII is a great starting point for both the studio and something you can take on the road and is no doubt a leader among the pack of lowcost MIDI controllers.
3. Novation Launchkey MKII
The Novation Launchkey 25 is your quick and easy solution for producing and performing electronic music using Ableton Live. But even if you use another DAW, you’ll appreciate the Launchkey’s ergonomic layout and just-right feel. Simply plug it into your computer’s USB port and the keys, fader, knobs, and velocity-sensitive RGB pads give you complete hands-on control of Ableton’s session view, instruments, effects, and mixer. Launch your clips, control your effects, play beats, and more with the Novation Launchkey 25.
- 25 synth-style velocity-sensitive keys
- 16 RGB pads
- 8 knobs
- Pitch Bend and Mod Wheel on left
- Transport section (Play, Pause, etc.)
- Single mappable fader
- Class-compliant (Mac and Windows)
- iOS compatible
- USB powered
- Software and samples included
- The Launchkey features what Novation call synth-weighted keys on the controller. These keys have a nice spring in them, which will work well for playing synth instruments.
- 16 velocity-sensitive pads. These are the same pads that are included in the Launchpad controller and have great visual feedback in Live.
- Integration with Ableton Live. The Launchkey is at its best when used in conjunction with Ableton Live with amazingly seamless integration. The transport functionality helps you navigate your project by launching and recording clips on the fly, which can really help speed up your workflow in Live.
- Bundled Software. First, you get a copy of Ableton Live Lite, which is great if you haven’t used Live before and you also get the Novation Bass Station and V-Station virtual instruments, plus 4 GB of Loopmasters sample content. So you get quite a bit of software to use with the controller if you don’t already have.
- The keys are slightly narrower than your standard piano keys. If you’re used to bigger scale keys it might take some getting used to.
- If you prefer piano-style weighted keys, you may not like the feel of the keys.
- Pots and sliders are not as well built as the keys, pads, and body of the controller
- No Aftertouch
The Novation Launchkey MKII is super useful for Ableton Live users. At around ₹15000, the Launchkey is a great feature-packed MIDI keyboard controller for its price. The synth keys feel great if you want to perform with synth instruments. You can switch easily between instruments and all the controls are mapped to it. Plus you can use the pads to trigger and change Live’s clips. It can also work very well with other DAWs using its InControl technology.
4. AKAI MPK MINI MK2
The Akai MPK Mini MK2 is known to be a small MIDI keyboard controller. Not just because it only has 25 keys — in terms of length, it’s about the same size as a 13-inch Macbook Air, as you can see in the picture above.
- Small and compact, the MPK Mini is close to being perfect for those who consider portability a must
- Pitch and mod joystick is an ingenious, space-saving feature and is highly usable
- 8 velocity-sensitive drums pads that almost feel like Akai’s signature MPC machine and 8 assignable rotary knobs that you can use for basic mixing or tweaking synth effects
- Excellent value for money — one of the cheapest 25-key MIDI controllers with full-size keys, assignable pads, and knobs
- The Akai MPK Mini MK2 is bundled with three different software: MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech.
- Good build quality; packed with features, including plenty of buttons and useful 4-way pitch controller
- Improved keyboard from MK1
- Lightweight and small size make it one of the most portable 25-key controllers around
- As expected, keys are very small and may cause your fingers to feel cramped, especially when playing for long periods of time
- Velocity settings on the keys cannot be adjusted, which may lead to your MIDI notes sounding all over the place
- The MPK Mini has no transport controls, so controlling your DAW means having to reach over to your keyboard or mouse
- Keys lack aftertouch and have limited velocity sensitivity
- Only 8 pads limit usability. Forget about building complex drum kits.
- Knobs feel lightweight and don’t have a satisfying click
- No pattern editor in arpeggiator; not useful in performance settings
If you value something compact while allowing you a wide degree of versatility in terms of controlling your DAW, then you can’t go wrong with this model — the Akai MPK Mini MK2 is definitely a steal at the price.
It is a decent looking keyboard controller with a focus on portability. It is smaller than most laptops and will fit into your backpack easily. Although it looks “chunky”, the controller is actually lightweight at just 1.65lbs. For its price, this is one of the better-built MIDI controllers you can buy. There is nothing about the Akai MPK Mini MK2 that will blow your mind as far as performance goes. But there is also nothing that will disappoint you either. On the whole, a perfectly good controller that does everything well enough to satisfy most users.
5. M-AUDIO OXYGEN 25MKIV
The M-Audio Oxygen 25 MKIV is created for musicians and producers and includes a full selection of controls and cutting edge software to enable musicians to create music.
- 25 full-size, synth-action velocity-sensitive keys
- 8 velocity-sensitive trigger pads for beat production, clip launching, etc and 8 assignable knobs for manipulating virtual instruments and plugins with an assignable fader to mix your productions with ease.
- Transport buttons let you control your DAW without reaching for the mouse
- DirectLink automatically maps controls to popular DAWs: Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, and more
- LCD screen provides instant parameter feedback
- Sustain pedal input for further creative control
- USB-powered, plug-and-play support, and USB-MIDI connectivity
- Includes Ableton Live Lite and SONiVOX Twist, AIR Music Tech Xpand! and VIP3.0
All in all, the M-Audio Oxygen 25 is a great MIDI keyboard controller. It’s not the most ideal keyboard if you’re looking for something ultra-compact for maximum portability, but it’s a great choice for a tabletop MIDI controller for composing your beats with. At around ₹10,000 it’s hard to go wrong with this keyboard. If you don’t mind paying a little bit extra for the brand name, the M-Audio Oxygen 25 MKIV is a great keyboard for your home studio.
All of the above mentioned MIDI controllers are great value for money. Some of them have some features that others don’t but at the end of the day it all really comes down to what your requirements are in accordance with your budget.
Prioritizing factors such as the type of keyboard action, percussion/ drum pads, display, faders, portability, the included software, etc will help you pick the right MIDI controller for your home studio.
DJ / Electronic Music Producer
Co-Faculty at Beatworx Studio
Artist at Afterworx