The Ultimate Comparison of Best MIDI Controllers 2019

Hey there again!

In this post, we will be looking at the best-selling midi controllers of 2019. As the subject naturally includes a broad range of products by many well-known manufacturers, I want to filter down our options to small midi controllers and control pads aimed at mostly us, who are not able to play the piano or keyboard 🙂

If you ever spent some time in creating audio in your PC or Mac, you would know that it takes a tremendous amount of time to enter MIDI data into your digital audio workstation. In addition, working without a MIDI controller has another drawback. In order to pour your musical ideas into your computer, you need to spend some time figuring out how to enter this data with your mouse and actual keyboard only and you have to try many times to imitate what you hear on your mind unless you are a master at writing and reading music.

Most of us like quick results that leave us the minimum amount of editing efforts after we are done with inputting musical data. During my 20 years of bedroom guitarist career ( :D), I spent loads of my time with “writing” drums, keys and sometimes bass with my mouse only.

And it is a fact that anything possible if you spend enough time. But to me, it is really painful. So in order to save some of my time, I got myself a MIDI controller by M-Audio Keystation 49e (12 years ago?), but since it did not have any pad sections it wasn’t really fun to play finger drums which I was interested in the most. Probably sold it a year later…

Small, portable and efficient MIDI controllers and pads have been always on my radar. Since two years ago, I was still trying to work with my mouse only. But decided to get one for me.

While I was doing some research on this, I got hooked on Keith McMillen brand in terms of their uniqueness and innovation and I am still using their Keith McMillen QuNexus MIDI controller today. As I always mention, I am not affiliated with any brand. But I’m a big fan of this brand I should say. Always following what they are about to release. I have my own opinions about QuNexus and will let you know at the end of this post.

As can be seen here in my “The Ultimate Comparison of 44 Best Selling Studio Monitorsarticle, I love providing comparison charts for my readers here. I believe it makes everything easier to choose. So for this article, I’ll keep the same approach and will give you the ultimate comparison of 25 best selling MIDI controllers (small midi controllers) of 2018.

 

Which Parameter Should You Be Looking At?

As you can see from the charts below, again I have separated 25 best selling MIDI controllers into three price ranges. The prices are not so different than the others, because it’s a highly competitive market segment here since anyone might like to buy one of these regardless of their musical background.

On the other hand, if you are a trained piano or keyboard player, these probably won’t be enough for you but of course, there are other benefits of having a small MIDI controller such as being able to take it everywhere and make music.

In addition, there are some parameters that might help your purchasing decision directly. So let’s talk about them briefly here below.

Aftertouch

Think this is a feature added to MIDI devices in order to apply vibrato, volume and other parameters. Imagine keys and pads have only on and off function. So when you press down, you activate it and when you lift your finger it is off. But with aftertouch, you can add expressions to your playing by having sent different data on the same while your finger is still down.

Pitch Bend and Modulation

As the name suggests, it allows you to bend the pitch of particular notes.

Rotary Encoder

Rotary Encoders are the knobs that you can assign to any MIDI message and turn. I think Thomann’s comparison section does not work properly. I also believe the product parameters are being labelled by different employees which results in some conflicts. For example, there are Rotary Encoders, Rotary Knobs x 2 in comparison charts but when I look at the actual products 95% of the time they meant knobs. 🙂 So I have omitted all the necessary rows down here in order to make things a lot easier for you!

Faders

Again, this is kind of the same thing with rotary knobs, pots or encoders but in fader form just like the ones you see on a mixer. You can assign parameters to faders such as volume, effects mix…etc anything you like really.

Pads

Pads mean softer keys that you can play finger drums, percussion and they are usually placed upon the keyboard itself. But for some products, such as QuNexus it says 25 pads. Let’s take Samson Graphite M25 as an example. It has black & white keys + pads. But QuNexus has 25 pads in the form of a keyboard. On the other hand, nanoKeys by Korg has the same form but I believe they are more like keys rather than pads.

Display

It suggests the small digital screen for monitoring some parameters. Most products here do not have it. You don’t need to worry about this as all of these controllers are quite small sized MIDI devices so most of the time you’ll be monitoring everything via your DAW.

MIDI Interface

You might ask they are all MIDI controllers but what is it all about the interface? It means you can have traditional MIDI outputs so you can use your USB MIDI device to control other MIDI devices. Let say you have MIDI interface on your device and you connect this MIDI out to your old MIDI enabled synth and you can trigger sounds with this.

Sustain Pedal Interface

This helps you to connect a sustain pedal and use it with your MIDI device as you would do on a digital piano.

Mains Operation

With mains out, you can use an external adapter to power up your device. This might help when you connect lots of USB devices such as your audio interface, MIDI device, mouse..etc and run the risk of choking your PC or laptop. I don’t remember having experienced this but again an extra option for you.

Battery Operation

Quite clear I guess? It means you can use your device with battery power so will give you more freedom. 🙂

Special Features

These are unique features that the manufacturers market their products here. The ones get my attention are Bluetooth, Battery Powered, Arpeggiator, CV Input/Output.

Well, please have a look at the charts below for more information. As in my other article, you can directly go to product pages by clicking the model names (Opens in new tab).

Small MIDI controllers ranged between €40 to €49.

BrandIK MultimediaAKAIKorgKORGAlesisSamsonKorgKorg
ModeliRig Keys 25LPK 25nanoKEY 2 BlacknanoKEY 2 Limited BlueV miniGraphite M25nanoKEY 2 WhitenanoKEY 2 Limited Orange
AftertouchN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Pitch Bend / ModulationN/AN/AYESYESYESYESYESYES
Rotary Encoder00004800
Fader (Amount)00000000
Pads00004400
FaderN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
DisplayN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
MIDI interfaceNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo
Sustain Pedal ConnectionN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Fader(s)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
USB-portYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Mains OperationN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Battery OperationN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Width (mm)301 mm340 mm325 mm325 mm317 mm363 mm325 mm325 mm
Height (mm)40 mm28 mm13 mm13 mm38 mm42 mm13 mm13 mm
Depth (mm)120 mm97 mm83 mm83 mm140 mm156 mm83 mm13 mm
Weight400 g600 g200 g200 g600 g700 g200 g200 g
Special FeaturesCompact designCompact designSoftware IncludedCompact designCompact design
Shipping Weight687 g721 g397.40 g391.70 g916 g1010 g408.20 g398.50 g
Sales Rank359334013234138
Price€44€44€45€49€49€49€49€49

 

Small MIDI controllers ranged between €55 to €75.

BrandKorgMidistartSwissonicSwissonicAlesisAKAIIK MultimediaAlesisAKAI
ModelmicroKEY 25Midistart Music 25EasyKey 25 AAS BundleEasyKey 25Q25LPK 25 wirelessiRig Keys MiniV25APC Keys 25
AftertouchN/AN/AN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/AN/A
Pitch Bend / ModulationYESYESYESYESYESN/AN/AYESN/A
Rotary Encoder001100048
Fader (Amount)011110000
Pads0000000840
FaderN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
DisplayN/AN/AYESYESN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
MIDI interfaceNo1x Out1x Out1x Out1x OutNoNoNoNo
Sustain Pedal ConnectionN/AYESYESYESYESYESYESYESN/A
Fader(s)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A0
USB-portYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Mains OperationN/AN/AN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/AN/A
Battery OperationN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/A
Width (mm)395 mm380 mm495 mm495 mm482,6 mm365 mm301 mm623 mm310 mm
Height (mm)53 mm80 mm68 mm68 mm60 mm36 mm40 mm114 mm40 mm
Depth (mm)131 mm240 mm210 mm210 mm184 mm124 mm120 mm244 mm190 mm
Weight700 g2300 g2800 g2800 g2000 g500 g400 g2500 g800 g
Special FeaturesArpeggiatorAluminium HousingAluminium HousingNoneBluetooth LE, battery poweredincl. SoftwareAbleton Controller
Shipping Weight1003 g2930 g3380 g722.7 g814.60 g727 g2400 g1210 g
Sales Rank252928152617392413
Price€55€58€58€58€58€66€68€73€75

 

Small MIDI controllers ranged between €75 to €165.

BrandAKAIKeith McMillenM-AudioiCONAKAINektarMidistartKeith McMillen
ModelMPK mini Mk2K-BoardOxygen 25 Mk4iKeyboard 3XMPK mini MK2 whiteImpact LX25+Midistart Music 25 Bag BundleQuNexus
AftertouchN/AYESN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AYES
Pitch Bend / ModulationYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Rotary Encoder808188N/AN/A
Fader (Amount)0010011N/A
Pads8258088025
FaderN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
DisplayN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
MIDI interfaceNoNoNo1x OutNoNo1x OutN/A
Sustain Pedal ConnectionYESN/AYESYESYESYESYESN/A
Fader(s)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
USB-portYESYESYESYESYESYESYESN/A
Mains OperationN/AN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/AN/A
Battery OperationN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Width (mm)317 mm325 mm492 mm530 mm317 mm476 mm380 mm325 mm
Height (mm)44 mm11 mm94 mm74 mm44 mm267 mm80 mm84 mm
Depth (mm)181 mm84 mm243 mm189 mm181 mm69 mm240 mm11 mm
Weight700 g300 g1800 g2400 g700 g1800 g2300 g320 g
Special FeaturesArpeggiator, Note RepeatClass Compliant with Mobile DevicesTransport Functionincl. iMap SoftwareArpeggiator, Note Repeatincl. Download Bitwig 8NoneCV Inputs an Outputs
Shipping Weight1110 g443 g2430 g3470 g1120 g2610 g3180 g454.10 g
Sales Rank13014497195081
Price€79€81€82€88€88€88€88€164

So Which One Would You Choose For Yourself in 2019?

As I mentioned, I had already chosen one for my around two years ago and went for Keith McMillen QuNexus MIDI controller. Do I like it? Yes, a lot actually I’m in love with it!

It’s very expressive, very durable and with its software I can just switch to different presets very quickly. The unique thing about QuNexus is that you can actually “Tilt” every key up and down. This gives you a pitch bend effect on every key. But one thing I don’t like about it is that the “Bend” button is not that precise. Since I have this, I can create the base of my songs and projects really quickly. I highly recommend any Keith McMillen products because I am a huge fan! 🙂

There are two videos of me playing my Keith McMillen QuNexus MIDI controller. 

For finger drumming please have a look at my Yavuz Çetin & Erkan Oğur Dünya and for simple keys playing please watch my Levent Yüksel Med Cezir Fretless Guitar Cover video!

Also, there are really strong products here on the charts. I personally have experience with Alesis, AKAI, M-Audio and Nektar devices. During those years in the musical instruments industry, I also had the chance to meet quite influential people from these brands.

The only brand I am NOT going to recommend is Samson. Sorry! In this last year, my ex-company made a big purchase from an old dealer and we had many Samson products including all of their MIDI keyboard lines, speakers, microphones…etc

But all the MIDI keyboards were returned by customers. This is why you should be following my reviews, I have insider information in the musical instruments industry. 🙂

Before I finish, I would like to wish you guys a happy new year! Hopefully, I’ll be working really hard on this website and provide you with the best quality content in MI business. Please keep in touch and do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. I’m ready to help anyone 🙂

Osman

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