October 2021

MIDI Controllers: Aggregated Ranking Report

This report contains an aggregate consensus of MIDI Controller rankings posted by key online experts, as of October 2021.

At a glance - October 2021 Ranking

Scroll horizontally to browse this ranking table
Rank Change Price MIDI Controller
Music Radar
Consordini
The Guitar Junky
E-Home Recording Studio
Spy
Gearank
Digital Piano Judge
Prime Sound
Keyboard Kraze
Music Critic
1
- $114
Akai MPK Mini mkII
-
1
1
-
-
-
-
1
-
9
2
- $119
Akai Pro MPK Mini MK3
2
-
-
4
-
2
-
-
-
-
3
- $133
Novation Launchkey Mini Mk2
-
-
5
-
-
-
-
2
-
8
4
- $428
Akai Pro MPK249
-
-
-
-
-
-
1
-
-
3
5
- $119
Arturia MiniLab MkII
-
-
-
-
-
1
-
4
-
-
6
- $229
Akai Professional MPD226
-
-
-
-
3
-
-
-
3
-
7
- $110
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
3
-
-
6
-
-
-
-
-
-
8
- $499
M-Audio Hammer 88
-
2
-
-
-
-
4
-
-
-
9
- $103
Nektar Impact LX25 Plus
-
-
4
-
-
-
-
3
-
-
10
- $649
Native Instruments Maschine Mk3
-
-
-
-
2
-
-
-
4
-
11
- $200
Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3
8
-
-
-
4
-
-
-
-
-
12
- $320
Nektar Impact LX88 Plus
10
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
9
-
13
- Check price
Roli Seaboard Block
11
10
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
14
- $465
Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII
13
-
-
-
-
5
-
-
-
-
15
+1 $119
M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
-
4
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
4
16
-1 $1099
NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII
-
7
-
-
-
8
-
-
-
-
17
+1 $995
Arturia Keylab 88 MKII
-
-
-
-
-
7
-
-
8
-
18
-1 $600
Nektar Panorama P6
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
5
7
-

We ranked Akai MPK Mini mkII #1 in October 2021 because:

  • 4 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
  • Out of those, 3 experts ranked Akai MPK Mini mkII as #1.
Critic endorsements:
Consordini

A Personal Favorite

Pros
Authentic MPC pads.
Intuitive thumbstick.
Arpeggiator.
Note repeat.
Fantastic software bundle.
8 assignable knobs.
Sustain pedal input.

Cons
Small keys take some practice.

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The Guitar Junky

Pros
Has the learning curve to progress as you go
Fun to use and beginners won't have trouble understanding
Budget-friendly and with the sleek look

Cons
Software seems a bit intimidating at first
Some complaints of flimsy keys

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Prime Sound

Editor's Choice

Pros
Portable
Plenty of bundled software
Excellent value for money
Impressive pad quality

Cons
Comes with just eight pads
Knobs lack a satisfying click and feel lightweight

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Music Critic

Pros
Can easily fit into backpacks and on a production desk.
8 rubber drum pads that are velocity sensitive.

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We ranked Akai Pro MPK Mini MK3 #2 in October 2021 because:

  • 3 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Music Radar

One of the best value MIDI keyboards

Pros
Loads of control
Great bundled software

Cons
Mini keys are certainly mini

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E-Home Recording Studio

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Gearank

Pros
affordable
Its size was seen as a plus for producers that work with laptops and musicians that want to produce music on the go.

Cons
Many felt the keys to be too small and stiff.

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Methodology: combine opinions of key experts

Identify Experts

We identify key publishers and experts that consistently review and recommend MIDI Controllers.

Capture Rankings

For each publisher we find a currently recommended "top 10" list of MIDI Controllers, it must be updated in the last 9 months.

Aggregate Rankings

We put all those lists together and aggregate them. The more frequently a product is recommended, the higher it is in our ranking

Experts chosen for October 2021 ranking

We ranked Novation Launchkey Mini Mk2 #3 in October 2021 because:

  • 3 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
The Guitar Junky

Pros
Many options and controls for more ways to create music
Small and compact
Easy to bring around
Solid build and looks like it's made to last

Cons
Keys may not be the most responsive
Takes a lot of time to set up and learn from

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Prime Sound

Budget Pick

Pros
USB-Powered
Portable and compact design
Comes with Ableton Live Lite 9 software
25 synth-style mini keys

Cons
Lacks a thumb joystick

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Music Critic

Pros
Designed for Ableton Live.
Comes in equipped with 16 velocity sensitive multi-color pads.
8 knobs, control buttons, and dedicated navigation.

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We ranked Akai Pro MPK249 #4 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
  • Out of those, 1 expert ranked Akai Pro MPK249 as #1.
Critic endorsements:
Digital Piano Judge

Pros
Assignable knobs and faders give a full performance workspace.
Easy to set up.
Arpeggiator, note repeat and other inbuilt effects.
Lights up, so you can see what you are doing on stage.
Semi-weighted keys for a piano feel.

Cons
Expensive

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Music Critic

Pros
Has an all-in-one controller with keyboard and trigger pads.
Comes with 8 control knobs, 8 faders, and 8 switches.
Semi-weighted action with 49 full-size keys that are pressure sensitive.

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We ranked Arturia MiniLab MkII #5 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
  • Out of those, 1 expert ranked Arturia MiniLab MkII as #1.
Critic endorsements:
Gearank

Pros
Amazing build quality
The quality of the bundled software also got a lot of commendations.
good feedback.

Cons
There are a few who felt that the bundled software is a bit lacking

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Prime Sound

Best Slim Keys Controller

Pros
Impressive portability
16 rotary controllers
Seamlessly integrates with Analog Lab Litem Ableton Live Lite, and other software

Cons
Some might not fancy the touch strip controllers

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We ranked Akai Professional MPD226 #6 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Spy

Best Budget MIDI Controller

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Keyboard Kraze

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We ranked Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 #7 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Music Radar

Ableton-friendly supermini controller gets a sizable update

Pros
Fantastic arpeggiator
MIDI Out
Brilliant integration with Live
Sustain pedal input

Cons
No MIDI adapter included

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E-Home Recording Studio

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We ranked M-Audio Hammer 88 #8 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Consordini

Best Weighted Keys

Pros
Incredibly realistic/responsive feel.
88-keys.
Pitch bend and modulation wheels.
Three pedal inputs.
Assignable fader and wheels.

Cons
Limited functionality.
No drum pads.

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Digital Piano Judge

Pros
Great for learning to play the piano.
Comes with software included.
Hammer action gives more expression and velocity sensitivity.

Cons
Big and bulky model.
The keys are not the best quality.
No pads or sliders.

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We ranked Nektar Impact LX25 Plus #9 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
The Guitar Junky

Pros
Lightweight and can be brought around easily
Can control and map DAW effortlessly
Cool design that lights up when played

Cons
Keys create a dull thud sound when pressed
Not suitable for continued use as you progress

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Prime Sound

Best Value

Pros
Eight velocity-sensitive drum pads are excellent for tapping drum beats
Works seamlessly with most DAWS
Excellent value for price

Cons
Relatively bulky
No semi-weighted keys

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We ranked Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 #10 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Spy

Runner Up

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Keyboard Kraze

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We ranked Novation Launchkey 37 Mk3 #11 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Music Radar

A great choice for Ableton Live users

Pros
Tight control of Ableton Live
Decent compatibility with Logic Pro X
Nice compromise between size and functionality
MIDI output, custom modes allow use with external hardware

Cons
You might not like the pitch and mod wheels above the keyboard

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Spy

Best Keyboard MIDI Controller

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We ranked Nektar Impact LX88 Plus #12 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Music Radar

A piano-sized controller at a great price

Pros
A full-size keyboard
Solid but portable
Great value

Cons
Keys aren't hammer-action

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Keyboard Kraze

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We ranked Roli Seaboard Block #13 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Music Radar

A different kind of MIDI controller keyboard

Pros
A unique playing experience
Good build quality

Cons
Takes time to adapt your playing
Expensive for a two-octave keyboard

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Consordini

Best Alternative Choice

Pros
5D touch.
Versatile and expressive.
Equator software.
It’s expandable.

Cons
Learning curve.
Not as well suited to piano/keys sounds.

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We ranked Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII #14 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Music Radar

A premium keyboard that works with your PC and beyond

Pros
Three well-executed operational modes
Tight integration with Analog Lab

Cons
Pricey

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Gearank

Pros
Its praise for the well engineered keybed.
While trickled down from Arturia's upper echelon offerings, it doesn't compromise anything.
The sturdy housing also makes it well-built for touring.

Cons
The LCD screen could be larger to show more information, but this concern only appeared once in the multitude of reviews.

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We ranked M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 #15 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Consordini

Best Beginner Controller

Pros
Low price.
Lightweight.
Transport controls.

Cons
No pads.
Not the most versatile.

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Music Critic

Pros
49 full-size, semi-weighted velocity sensitive keys with 1/4-inch sustain pedal input.
Comes equipped with octave range buttons, transport controls, pitch bend and modulation wheels.
USB connection.

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We ranked NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII #16 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Consordini

Best All-Rounder (Runner-Up)

Pros
Very good hammer-action keys.
Aftertouch.
Touch strip, pitch bend, and modulation wheel.
RGB color indicators.
Pre-mapped integration with all Complete instruments.
Two high-res colour screens.
Komplete Kontrol and Komplete 12 Select included.

Cons
No drum/sample pads.

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Gearank

Pros
The recovery time of the keys was noted to be faster than what acoustic pianos tend to have but it works well for many users.
This balance between piano-like feel and synth key recovery time is what makes the Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 a hit with both piano players and synth players alike.
Full integration with the Native Instruments ecosystem along with the great feel makes for a great performance and compositional tool.

Cons
Some still felt the keys were too "slow" to recover for their faster synth runs.
This is inherent with the design so you may want to look elsewhere if weighted keys affect your playing style.

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We ranked Arturia Keylab 88 MKII #17 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Gearank

Pros
Glowing reviews are all focused on how good the keys feel to the touch. One reviewer noted that the response feels similar to his Steinberg Grand Piano. A lot of the reviewers said they were more than happy with the amount of control they can get with the KeyLab 88.

Cons
While many found the keys to feel great, others found them to be a bit "spongy", particularly for players used to synth-action keys.

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Keyboard Kraze

Best MIDI Controller For Live Performance

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We ranked Nektar Panorama P6 #18 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best MIDI Controllers” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Prime Sound

Best Weighted Keys Contollers

Pros
Great build quality
Nice semi-weighted keyboards
Extensive integration with several software

Cons
Noisy keys
Only 12 physical pads

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Keyboard Kraze

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