What is Midi Controller?

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what is midi controllerMIDI keyboards, or musical instrument digital interface also called master keyboards, are essential equipment for home studios. But as usual when talking about music, choosing a model can quickly become complicated.

Especially if this is your first time buying this type of keyboard. Here in this article, I am going to tell you what is midi controller and the 10 best midi controllers.

What Is A Midi Controller?

MIDI keyboard controllers are essential for today’s musicians and producers in order to create digital music. And they do it with the help of a device whose keyboard is exactly the same as, for example, a piano keyboard or a synthesizer.

Such a device has knobs, buttons, and sliders. They are used to transmit MIDI signals to external sound modules, i.e. synthesizers, as well as to software synthesizers, hardware, or a software sequencer. All levers and buttons can significantly improve the quality of manual control of any module that is connected to the controller.

Knobs, sliders, toggle switches, and AM wheels provide direct control over real-time digital audio conversion. The result is a very strong sense of authenticity compared to using a mouse.

In technical terms, a MIDI controller is a device with a keyboard, like a piano, organ, or synthesizer, which usually has knobs, buttons, and sliders. All of them transmit MIDI data to external sound modules (synthesizers), software synthesizers, hardware, or a software sequencer. Most keyboards do not have the ability to generate sound on their own, but almost any keyboard synthesizer/terminal can be used to control the sounds and parameters of other devices.

Choosing a MIDI controller may seem like a daunting task at first glance. But the most important thing is to understand what goal you are pursuing. If the keys are not the most important instrument in your track, you just write beats or disappear on tours, then a controller for 25 keys may well be enough. And if your tasks are at the level of Hans Zimmer, then it is better to take a more serious model, with 76 or 88 keys.

Indeed, whether you are looking for a midi keyboard for beginners in order to control a few samples on your computer or on the contrary a complete master keyboard to record professional compositions, you will quickly be confronted with a multitude of models with various functionalities.

MIDI Controller Buying Guide

what is midi controllerWhen choosing the right tool, we recommend considering the following points: keyboard mechanism, number of keys, connectors, controls, and build quality. The bundle also matters: from soft to sustain pedal. Well, do not forget about tactile sensations.

Consider the criteria that once and for all will help you decide which midi keyboard to choose.

Number of Keys:

Naturally, the more keys, the bigger and heavier the MIDI keyboard will be. But on such a keyboard, you can play in several registers at once. For example, to perform academic piano music, you will need a MIDI keyboard equipped with at least 77, and preferably 88 keys. Models with a small number of buttons are suitable for synthesizer players, studio musicians, and producers.

Connection Interface:

Not all midi controllers are equipped with a USB interface. Therefore, if you plan to use the device only when connected to a computer, nothing else is required. But for those cases when the midi keyboard will work as part of a “team” of other musical instruments, you may need a different connection method. The universal type of connection is consonant with the name of this class of devices – the midi interface. The classic MIDI connector uses five pins and cannot serve as a power connection at the same time, unlike USB.

Controllers:

You will also need to prioritize the number of controllers. Thanks to these knobs, you can control your effects. All you have to do is assign the most MIDI keyboard controller number of your effect to each button.

You will find the controller number with the help of the plugin, and how to configure it in the instructions for your keyboard.

Velocity:

Attention all the same for everyone: take a model with key velocity. Velocity is the capture of the speed of depression of the key. It is this option that will allow you to play virtual instruments more or less loudly.

The purchase of a MIDI master keyboard does not necessarily represent a large investment and provides many services. If you push further in the MIDI your possibilities are enormous.

You can put keyboards in cascades, record and correct yourself without the slightest loss, and control your keyboards with pedals.

Size:

To ensure that you can easily install your musical creation equipment, it will be essential to focus first on the size of the keyboard. To define this parameter, consider the installation space available in order to prevent the future instrument from being too bulky in your home studio. The equipment that you already have at your disposal as well as the comfort to have during the games and creation sessions will also be taken into account.

10 Best Midi Controller

Choosing the best midi keyboard for creating music and recording in the studio. We have studied the entire range of popular tool manufacturers and made a rating with the best options for beginners and professionals. The top includes models from different price categories, which received high ratings in customer reviews.

1. Donner N-32 MIDI Keyboard Controller 32-Key:

what is midi controllerAn important feature of this MIDI controller is the built-in arpeggiator. In addition, there is a Fixed Chord function for triggering chords with a single key. Donner N-32 MIDI Keyboard Controller 32-Key works great with Logic and Reason, as well as with any HUI-compatible DAW. But it provides full integration with Ableton Live. In session mode, the 16 sensitive RGB pads match the colors of the clips, making the operation as clear and simple as possible.

Pros
  • Midi Out and Sustain Pedal jacks
  • Quality assembly
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • AAS Session Bundle, Ableton Live Lite, Spitfire Audio LABS Virtual instruments, AAS Session Bundle, Klevgrand DAW Cassette Plug-In, Klevgrand R0Verb Plug-In, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, included
Cons
  • No visible deficiencies were identified

2. PreSonus ATOM Production/MIDI and Performance Pad Controller:

what is midi controllerOne of the lightest options. The device works on the principle of Plug and play. 4 memory banks are available to the user. PreSonus is renowned for its reliability and build quality will not disappoint. This model is ideal for those who are just starting to get acquainted with most MIDI keyboard controllers and a large number of controls will not come in handy yet. In addition, there is a wireless version of the keyboard.

Pros
  • Compact size
  • Good assembly, no backlash
  • Works with any software
  • No driver installation is required
  • Akai provides a discount on the purchase of Ableton Live
Cons
  • A meager set of software included
  • There is only a micro USB connector
  • Few regulators

3. Novation Launchpad Mini Portable MIDI Controller:

what is midi controllerNovation Launchpad Mini Portable MIDI Controller is one of the best midi keyboard controllers. The keyboard mechanics are borrowed from the popular Keystep model. Minilab MKII is available in four colors: white, black, deep black, and limited edition inverted.

There are 16 knobs, 8 sensitive pads, and 2 touch controllers available on the controller. Everything can be assigned by default, or independently of the parameters you need. One of the most important advantages of this device is the excellent set of software that comes with it.

Pros
  • Dongle for Ableton live lite, UVI Grand piano Model D, and Analog lab lite workstation
  • There is a sustain pedal jack that can be remapped
  • There are enough knobs and pads to stay within the controller and jam
  • You can create and save presets in Analog lab lite
Cons
  • You have to memorize hotkeys
  • Analog lab lite for beginners will seem like overloaded software

 

4. Midiplus AKM320 Midi Keyboard Controller:

what is midi controllerOne of the notable details of this model is the small OLED screen. It helps in navigating through virtual instruments and presets, and it is also convenient to follow the settings of various parameters with it. In addition, specifically for this model, the manufacturer has developed a reduced keyboard mechanism. The Komplete Kontrol proprietary application can work not only with any DAW but also in standalone mode. As expected, along with the controller you get a set of interesting software.

Pros
  • Built-in fret presets, arpeggiator, and chord generator
  • Integration with Logic Pro X, GarageBand, Ableton Live and Maschine
  • Ableton Live 10 Lite, Maschine Essentials, Komplete Kontrol, Monark, Reaktor Prism, Scarbee Mark 1 and Komplete Start included
Cons
  • The controller is sharpened exclusively for the NI Komplete Kontrol proprietary application
  • There is no Hold button

 

5. M-Audio Oxygen 61 Midi Keyboard Controller:

what is midi controllerMusic veterans will enjoy the pitch and modulation wheels that this model is equipped with. Most keyboard controllers are equipped with touch strips, which seem unusual and not very convenient. Also, M-Audio Oxygen 61 Midi Keyboard Controller will be a godsend for novice producers due to a set of software and keys to learning platforms. The device weighs only 4 kg, so it can be used not only in a home studio but also in live performances.

Pros
  • Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, AIR Music Mini Grand, AIR Music Xpand!2, AIR Music Velvet, Touch Loops included
  • Connectors: for sustain pedal, MIDI messages, for the external adapter
  • Compatible with iPad
  • Subscription to Skoove and Melodics
Cons
  • Noticeably budget mechanic

 

6. AKAI Professional MPK Mini Play MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller:

what is midi controllerThe MIDI keyboard is equipped with 49 keys with synth mechanics, which allows you to freely play in two hands. An impressive variety of faders, knobs, and buttons. And of course, it should be noted that for its price the controller is equipped with everything necessary for full-fledged work.

Pros
  • DAW integration: Bitwig, Cubase, Digital audio workstation, FL Studio, GarageBand, Logic, Nuendo, Reaper, Reason, Sonar, Sonar, and Studio One
  • Many assignable regulators
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Linux
Cons
  • Lack of a MIDI Out connector
  • Subjectively not the best keys

 

7. M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 – Semi Weighted 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller:

what is midi controllerThe M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 – Semi Weighted 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is impressive both technologically and physically; it’s solidly built and sleek, with a keyboard that’s a joy to play. Equipped with a screen that allows you to quickly navigate through the ultra-complete library of sounds, the settings are made with great ease, making it ultra-easy to handle, which is an undeniable attraction for real-time performances.

Pros
  • Full integration with libraries VST complete and DAW Logic Pro X and Ableton Live
  • The ability to preview a preset without having to turn it on
  • Plugin set Monark, The Gentleman, Reaktor Prism, Scarbee Mark I, Komplete Kontrol Software, Kontakt 6 Player, Reaktor 6 Player, Guitar Rig 5, Maschine Essentials
Cons
  • No MIDI Out connector

 

8. Nektar GX61 61-Key MIDI Controller

With this keyboard, you can easily dive into the creative process. The instrument is equipped with everything you need: 88 semi-weighted velocity-sensitive keys, 9 faders, 8 encoders, and integration with many DAWs. The Nektar GX61 61-Key MIDI Controller is a powerful yet easy-to-learn controller. Nektar doesn’t use software “intermediaries” so you can work in your own sequencer.

Pros
  • Integration with many DAWs
  • The presence of connectors MIDI Out and sustain pedal
  • It is possible to connect an iPad
Cons
  • There are no VST libraries in the package
  • Gray labels for controls are hard to read on a black controller

 

9. M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini MIDI Controller:

With the M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini MIDI Controller, you won’t spend much time on all sorts of settings. The control panel is not cluttered, making it easy to learn and use the tool without sacrificing functionality. The controller is not too massive – this makes it easy to move it around the studio or take it with you to performances. Despite the slightly outdated design, the device looks decent.

Pros
  • Compatible not only with PC and Mac but also with iPad
  • Reliable assembly
  • MIDI output for connecting to external synthesizers
  • Ableton Live 10 Lite, Sonivox 88, Xpand! 2 included
  • No additional drivers are needed
Cons
  • No power adapter included
  • The mechanics obviously don’t feel like true weighted keys
  • Short USB cable included

 

10. Alesis Q88 MKII – 88 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller:

Alesis Q88 MKII – 88 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is one of the best midi controllers. Feelings while playing repeat the sensations of touching the piano. This controller is suitable for both studio and live performances. Thanks to the TFT color display and the knob in the center of the dashboard, you can easily navigate through all the functions of the MIDI device.

Pros
  • Fatar TP/100LR hammer action is used
  • Full metal body
  • Multiple jacks: MIDI in and 2 outs, one expression pedal input, one multi-pedal input
  • Free SL Editor software included
  • Sustain pedal included
  • No driver installation is required
Cons
  • For such a price, no obvious minuses were found

Conclusion

The MIDI controller will become an indispensable part of your setup: with it, you will definitely facilitate the process of composing and arranging. The device is suitable for both beginners and professional producers and composers who work with DAW. It doesn’t matter if you’re composing on the go, in your equipped home, or in a project studio. Even the technique of playing the piano does not matter much.