35 Best Selling MIDI Keyboard & Controller Buying Guide

Hey there again! Back again with another helpful buying guide for those who seek a MIDI controller and keyboard (up to 25 keys) for their audio production needs.

In this post, we will be looking at the best selling MIDI keyboards and controllers for different budgets and needs!

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 (up to 25 keys) aimed at mostly for 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 enjoyable 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 had 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.

If you want to check out my review of “Keith McMillen QuNexus Review Portable MIDI Keyboard & Controller“, please visit the individual page 🙂

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 Monitorsand “50 Best Selling USB Audio Interface Buying Guide“, 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 35 best selling MIDI controllers (small midi controllers/keyboards) of 2020.

Also, please let me tell you that this article has been thoroughly renewed and updated!

Which Parameter Should You Be Looking At?

As you can see from the charts below, again I have separated 35 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).

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you are able to scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

Small MIDI keyboards & controllers priced between €40 to €75

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you are able to scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

BrandAkaiKorgAlesisNektarAkaiAlesiSwissonicKorgMiditechMidiplusAlesisAkai
ModelLPK 25nan­oKEY 2 blackV miniSE25LPK 25 wire­lessQ25EasyKey 25microKEY 25Midistart Music 25X2 miniV25APC Keys 25
AftertouchNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNo
Pitch Bend / ModulationNoYesYesYesNoYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Rotary Encoder004000100448
Fader (Amount)000001101000
Pads0040000000840
DisplayNoNoYesNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
MIDI interfaceNoNoNoNoNo1x Out1x OutNo1x OutMIDI OutNoNo
Sustain Pedal ConnectionNoNoNoYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYesNo
Mains OperationNoNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Battery OperationNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNoNo
Special FeaturesN/ACompact designincl. Softwareincl. Download Bitwig 8Bluetooth LE, battery-poweredN/AAluminium HousingArpeggiatorN/AN/Aincl. SoftwareAbleton Controller
Sales Rank7349332138223546511618
Price€43€45€49€49€58€58€59€59€59€68€73€75

Here on this first chart, I have listed some options priced between €40 to €75. As you can see, even the prices are relatively cheaper than the rest, we only have 2 options that have made it to the top 10. Akai LPK 25 and Alesis V mini seem like good options for those who don’t want to bust the bank!

Small MIDI keyboards & controllers priced between €75 to €110

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you are able to scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

BrandAkaiArturiaKorgM-AudioNektarIconArturiaAkaiCMEAkaiIK Multimedia
ModelMPK mini MK2MicroLabmicroKEY Air 25Oxygen 25 Mk4Impact LX25+iKey­board 3XMiniLab MKIIMPK Mini MK3Xkey 25MPK mini­playiRig Keys 2 Mini
AftertouchNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoYesNoNo
Pitch Bend / ModulationYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Rotary Encoder800881168045
Fader (Amount)00011000000
Pads80088088080
DisplayNoNoNoYesYesYesNoYesNoYesNo
MIDI interfaceNoUSBNoNoNo1x OutNoNoNoUSB1x In, 1x xOut
Sustain Pedal ConnectionYesNoNoYesYesYesYesYesNoYesNo
Mains OperationNoNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
Battery OperationNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNoYesNo
Special FeaturesArpeggiator, Note Repeatincl. Analog Lab LiteBluetoothTransport Functionincl. Download Bitwig 8incl. iMap SoftwareN/AArpeggiator, Note Repeatpolyphonic Aftertouchintegrated Speaker, Arpeggiator, 128 SoundsN/A
Sales Rank532402914441149343
Price€79€79€82€85€88€88€92€99€101€105€109

Here in the second chart, we have a more interesting overview of products. As you can see, Arturia MiniLab MKII and Akai MPK Mini MK3 seem to be the top seller! However, it was due to a glitch in terms of categorisation of those products.

Arturia MiniLab MKII has been categorised as Virtual Instruments and Samplers by Thomann and it’s the number 1 selling item which deserves it by all means! However, when you want to have an overview of MIDI keyboards and controllers (up to 25 keys), Arturia also shows up.

But since it’s an excellent choice and very affordable, I would like to add it to the list!

Also, note that Akai MPK Mini MK3 is pretty assertive too! It’s the number 1 selling product in MIDI keyboards and controllers (up to 25 keys) category. So would be one of the safest bet you can try here!

Small MIDI keyboards & controllers priced between €120 to €250

*Visitors on mobile devices; Did you know that you are able to scroll the comparison charts horizontally? Try yourself with the below chart!

BrandKorgAkaiAlesisNative InstrumentsAkaiNovationNovationIK MultimediaCMEM-AudioKeith McMillenAkai
Modelnan­oKEY StudioMPK mini MK2 – AIEP3 BdlVI25Kom­plete Kon­trol A25MPK Mini MK3 – AIEP3 BdlLaunchkey 25 MK3Impulse 25iRig Keys I/O 25Xkey Air 25Oxygen Pro 25QuNexus

Read my review

MPK 225
AftertouchNoNoYesNoNoNoYesNoYesYesYesYes
Pitch Bend / ModulationYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Rotary Encoder888988840809
Fader (Amount)000000120100
Pads8816081688016258
DisplayNoNoYesYesNoYesYesYesNoYesNoYes
MIDI interfaceNoNo1x OutNoNo1x Out1x In, 1x xOutNoNoNo1x In, 1x xOut
Sustain Pedal ConnectionNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNoYesNoYes
Mains OperationNoNoYesNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoYes
Battery OperationYesNoNoNoNoNoNoYesNoNoNoNo
Special FeaturesBluetoothArpeggiator, Note Repeatincl. Softwareincl. Software BundleArpeggiator, Note RepeatN/AAutomap-Control-Softwareintegrated Audio InterfaceBluetooth, battery-powered, polyphon aftertouchN/ACV Inputs and OutputsArpeggiator, Note Repeat
Sales Rank602730132412181925628826
Price€122€125€138€139€139€159€168€179€179€195€198€248

And finally, our third chart! Here we have a bit more expensive models. Even though they are less affordable in comparison to the above models, we still have some of the best sellers in this table.

Native Instruments Kom­plete Kon­trol A25 is a complete product that offers a wide array of controls. On top of this, we have also Novation Launchkey 25 MK3 which has pads and rotary encoders which makes it a complete winner while being still really affordable for many customers.

I have also included my choice which Keith McMillen QuNexus MIDI controller as I’m really impressed how small yet capable of doing everything I need. To me, it’s not an affordable option; however, I’m blown away by the fact that you have a piano-style layout while having smart sensor pads in a very small layout.

I have just released a dedicated review page for my QuNexus, so please keep reading and also don’t forget to check it out!

Which MIDI Controller/Keyboard have you picked up?

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! 🙂

I have also just released an individual review of my QuNexus, please visit my content and let me know what you think; “Keith McMillen QuNexus Review Portable MIDI Keyboard & Controller“.

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, the previous company I worked for made a big purchase from another 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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