• Last updatedLast updated: Dec 31, 2020

8 Best 25-Key MIDI Controllers That Are Both Compact and Functional

View Article Statistics
Play Piano Tips is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Not all top-rated 25 key MIDI controllers are as functional as they are described. These technological advancements have a lot of unique features, and it can be hard to determine which ones stand out. However, we’ve found eight options that complement our quest to find the best 25 key MIDI controller.

On our list, you’ll find a wide array of different options. Some models have full-size keys, while other have mini-sized keys. There are some with basic controls for beginners, and there are some with multiple controls for professionals. We’ve found a nice mix so that wherever you are music-wise, you will be able to find a product for your needs. There are some 25 key MIDI controllers that come with impressive software packages, and there are some that can be synced with iOS and Android devices. Come tale a look at the best options so you can tap into your creative potential.

Editor’s Choice

The time-tested model from Alesis with full-sized keys

  • Premium software included
  • 8 programmable pads
  • Illuminated controls
Read Our Review
9.8
Best Mini Keys

A mini model that is ideal to take with you wherever your next music performance is

  • Velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 rotary encoders
  • Touch sensors for pitch bend and modulation wheel
Read Our Review
9.7
Best Value

A lightweight model with mini keys and attractive price tag

  • 6 control buttons
  • 3 velocity curves
  • Great for beginners
Read Our Review
9.6
Most Diverse Controller

A compact MIDI controller packed with everything a sound producer may need

  • 16 velocity-sensitive pads
  • 8 assignable knobs
  • Intuitive controls
Read Our Review
9.5
Best Software Package

This model features multiple handy controls and comes with a $100-worth software package

  • Full-sized keys
  • 8 pads
  • 8 assignable knobs
Read Our Review
9.4
Upgrade Choice

This device is created with minimalism in mind

  • Compatible with IOS, Android, PC, MAC, and Linux devices
  • Compact dimensions
  • Bluetooth enabled
Read Our Review
9.2
Most Basic 25 Key MIDI Controller

Despite its modest size, this device has it all

  • 4 assignable pads
  • All the necessary controls
  • Synth-action velocity-sensitive keys
Read Our Review
9.0
Best 25 Key USB MIDI Controller

This MIDI controller is super easy to install: just plug and play!

  • 8 assignable pads
  • 4 knobs and 4 sliders
  • 8 control buttons
Read Our Review
8.9

Top 8 25-Key MIDI Controllers Review 2021

1.

Alesis V25Editor’s Choice

Features
  • Keys: full-sized, velocity sensitive square-front keys
  • Pads: 8
  • Controls: 4 assignable knobs and 4 assignable buttons; octave up and octave down
  • Weight: 3.9 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 24.6 x 9.6 x 4.5 inches

More features: premium software included; illuminated buttons and knobs

The Alesis V25 is our Editor’s Choice for the best 25 key MIDI controller. It features square-front keys that are full-sized so you can find all the necessary notes. In addition to the 25 keys, you also get 4 assignable knobs and 4 assignable buttons. There is also an octave up and octave down switch.

The buttons and knobs have a cool, blue illumination to them. Not only is this practical, so you can find your way in the dark if inspiration strikes, but it is cool-looking, too.

Also included in your purchase of the Alesis V25 is premium software. You get impressive tools like ProTools and First Alesis Edition.

What we liked: The Alesis V25 is a great package for those wanting to step into the world of song writing. The keys are a nice shape, and they are full-sized so you don’t have to fumble around.

Furthermore, the addition of necessary software makes this great if you’re starting out. You can really play around with all the tools and find aspects that really work for your music. Even with all the inclusions, the price is still affordable.

As a special bonus, the buttons and switches have a blue backlight to them. This is a nice feature that really makes the controller stand out.

What could be better: The drum pads on the Alesis V25 need a bit of work. They aren’t as sensitive as you may like, and, in some cases, you even need to double-tap them.

2.

Arturia MiniLab MKIIBest Mini Keys

Features
  • Keys: velocity-sensitive
  • Pads: 8
  • Controls: 16 rotary encoders (2 of them are clickable); 2 capacitive touch sensors for pitch bend and modulation wheel; octave up and octave down
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 14 x 8.7 x 2 inches

More features: analog lab Lite, Ableton Live Lite, Grand piano model D included

A lot of times, MIDI controllers make use of mini-keys. While they are smaller in size and therefore more compact, they can be harder to use, especially for people with larger hands. However, the Arturia MiniLab MKII demonstrates that mini-keys can actually be quite functional.

The Arturia MiniLab MKII comes with 25 keys and a lot of extras. There are 16 rotary encoders for the utmost of customization. There are extra buttons and a lot of features to allow you to create music without any constrictions.

What we liked: The Arturia MiniLab MKII uses an inverted color palette. The white keys are black, and the black keys are white. The result is a very striking color scheme. There are also extra buttons lined by bold colors for a futuristic look.

With your purchase of the Arturia MiniLab MKII you also get impressive software. These include analog lab lite and Grand piano model D. You can really play around with the software to see what you come up with.

As you’re playing on the Arturia MiniLab MKII, you’ll notice that the keys are very sensitive. This is a really important feature as it allows you to take control of your music. Subtle differences in how you press the keys will really show in the music you create.

What could be better: The Arturia MiniLab MKII is quite heavy at 3.3 pounds. While this is still definitely manageable, it’s at the very high end of the scale for MIDI controllers. While still portable you will want to keep in mind the extra weight.

3.

Nektar SE25Best Value

Features
  • Keys: velocity sensitive
  • Pads: none
  • Controls: 6 buttons (octave up/down, PB1/PB2, sustain, part 2)
  • Weight: 0.9 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 15.8 x 5.7 x 2.8 inches

More features: 3 velocity curves (default, soft, hard)

There’s a perception that 25 key midi keyboards are unaffordable. However, that isn’t the case with the Nektar SE25. Our Budget Pick proves that you can have a well-designed MIDI keyboard and not have to pay an exorbitant amount.

The Nektar SE25 is incredibly lightweight at just 0.9 pounds. It can be packed away with you anywhere you go. In addition to the 25 keys, you get 6 buttons on the side. They allow you to change the octave up or down, as well as sustain the notes. Other great features include 3 velocity curves.

What we liked: The Nektar SE25 packs a real punch in terms of what you get. The 6 buttons that control your sound are nice and reliable. The 25 keys are mini-sized, but you can still play them well.

With the side buttons, you actually get a lot of control over your music. The buttons were made so that you get all the controls you need, even in a small space.

What could be better: While the mini-keys create a nice sound, they are still smaller than normal. If you have larger hands, they may not work for you. The last thing you want is to get frustrated by continuously hitting the wrong note.

Design-wise, while there is nothing wrong with the Nektar SE25, it is definitely not as splashy as other models. There is no backlighting, and the standard black coloring is a bit boring. This is definitely not a deal breaker, but something to consider.

4.

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3Most Diverse Controller

Features
  • Keys: velocity sensitive
  • Pads: 16, velocity-sensitive
  • Controls: 2 touch strips, 8 assignable knobs; transpose buttons; play and record, arp, fixed chord, stop/solo/mute, scene launch buttons; octave down / octave up
  • Weight: 1 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 13 x 6.8 x 1.6 inches

More features: 3-year warranty; Ableton Live Lite included

There are some MIDI controllers that only have 4 buttons on them. Then there is the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3. There are almost too many buttons to name them all. Some highlights include track select and record, as well as rhythm, beat, and octave controls. This is the controller you want to create truly spectacular recordings.

The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has 25 mini-keys at the bottom. At the top are RGB-coded pads that make it easy for you to select them.

What we liked: The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has it all. You can play music, create music, and record it all. While there are a lot of controls, they are all intuitive. After spending an afternoon playing around, you should be able to become quite comfortable with the whole controller.

A really nice feature of the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is the programmable RGB pads. You can assign different colors to the pads for a truly customizable experience.

Finally, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 comes with an impressive 3-year warranty. This isn’t an exceptionally expensive product, so having a warranty of this length is rare. You won’t have to worry about any technical issues or defects.

What could be better: While the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is impressive, it’s a shame that the keys are mini-sized. With all the bells and whistles of buttons and controls, the keys can seem to get lost in the design. Furthermore, the keys don’t seem as high quality as they should be. If you have bigger hands or aren’t the most delicate piano player, this might not be the best option for you.

5.

M-Audio Oxygen 25 IVBest Software Package

Features
  • Keys: full-sized, synth action velocity sensitive
  • Pads: 8
  • Controls: 8 assignable knobs; transport buttons; octave up and octave down; assignable fader
  • Weight: 4 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 19.4 x 9.6 x 3.7 inches

More features: on-board LCD screen

When shopping for a MIDI controller, there are two many options. You can find a standalone controller or you can find one that comes with software in a package. If you’re just starting out, having a software package is a really nice option. The M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV is definitely one of the best 25 key midi controllers with software.

Included in the software package Ableton Live lite, AIR Music Tech Xpand, and SONiVOX Twist. With these applications, you can create anything your mind can dream of.

What we liked: The M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV has a lot of great features. In addition to the impressive software package, there are multiple buttons and knobs. There are 8 pads as well as buttons to control the octave and fader.

Visually, the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV is quite unique. It has a classic black and white color scheme but its punctuated with a unique orange color. This gives the controller a real pop of personality.

Another nice feature is that the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV contains full-size keys. If you plan on spending a lot of time composing on this controller, then having full-size keys will lower the frustration level and increase your creativity.

What could be better: The M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV weighs 4 pounds, which is very heavy. There is also a lot of depth height in the dimensions, so just be aware of the extra space needed to store or move this controller.

6.

CME Xkey AirUpgrade Choice

Features
  • Keys: full-sized, velocity sensitive
  • Pads: none
  • Controls: sustain button; pitch bend and modulation buttons; octave up and octave down
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 15.3 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches

More features: USB and Bluetooth connectivity; works with IOS, Android, PC, MAC, and Linux

The CME Xkey Air is a state-of-the-art MIDI controller which is obvious as soon as you look at it. Its monochromatic, all-white look is very futuristic. The 25 keys are all full-sized, and at the right you have a number of useful buttons and switches. There are buttons to move the music an octave up or down, as well as sustain the notes you are playing.

The CME Xkey Air is only 1.3 pounds so it is incredibly portable. It can connect with USB and Bluetooth and works with all operating systems.

What we liked: The look of the CME Xkey Air is really impressive. While other MIDI controllers are doing their best to look hi-tech, this product really knocks it out of the park. You can leave your keyboard in any room and know that it will seamlessly blend in with its surroundings.

As for sound, expect only the best from the CME Xkey Air. It has velocity sensitivity and plays on a professional level. Even though you only have 25 keys, you still sound as if you’re playing at a full-size piano.

The CME Xkey Air is incredibly easy to get started. Simply plug it in and start playing. It is compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems. There’s even a wireless, Bluetooth option for connectivity.

What could be better: Unfortunately, despite the higher price tag, you don’t get a lot of extras with the CME Xkey Air. There is no extra software, and there aren’t many options to play other instrument sounds on the keyboard.

7.

AKAI Professional LPK25Most Basic 25 Key MIDI Controller

Features
  • Keys: synth-action velocity-sensitive
  • Pads: 4
  • Controls: arpeggiator, sustain button, octave up and down, and tap tempo
  • Weight: 15.9 oz.
  • Dimensions: 13.4 x 3.8 x 1.1 inches

More features: USB powered; no driver installation required

There are those who need professional-grade MIDI controllers, and there are those who want to just mess around with their music. For amateurs, a basic product like the AKAI Professional LPK25 is absolutely perfect. It is budget-friendly, and while it doesn’t have a ton of extras, it has enough to make this a worthwhile purchase.

The AKAI Professional LPK25 has 4 side buttons that allow you to sustain the music, move the notes an octave up or down, and a few other options. The keys are mini-sized but are still velocity sensitive.

What we liked: The AKAI Professional LPK25 is perfect for beginners or even teenagers. It’s not overwhelming and is a great place to start if you want to begin experimenting with music. The controls are simple and easy to use, so you can start playing right away.

Furthermore, you can simply plug the USB cord into any device. It is compatible with Android, iOS, and PC setups. If you want a wireless option, there is one available, However, it is twice the price of the AKAI Professional LPK25.

What could be better: The AKAI Professional LPK25 is a basic MIDI controller. It is not expensive, but you also don’t get a lot with it. The keys are mini-sized, so that can be a deal-breaker for people with larger hands. This really isn’t for experienced music makers. However, it is still great for those just starting out.

8.

ammoon Worlde Panda miniBest 25 Key USB MIDI Controller

Features
  • Keys: velocity sensitive
  • Pads: 8
  • Controls: 4 assignable control knobs and 4 assignable control sliders; 8 control buttons: CC mod, mod, bank, prog, pitch down / pitch up, octave down / octave up
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 12.6 x 7.5 x 1.2 inches

More features: Plug and Play USB 2.0 cable

The ammoon Worlde Panda mini uses a USB cable to connect to devices. This can be a tricky situation because if your USB cable isn’t strong enough, the signal can get lost in transmission. However, this MIDI controller is dependable.

The ammoon Worlde Panda mini has 25 keys as well as a whole host of controls. It has 8 pads and 4 control knobs. With the sliders, you can move the pitch up or down, as well as the octaves. It has a standard black and white design that looks quite modern.

What we liked: The ammoon Worlde Panda mini is easy to setup. Simply turn it on, plug in your USB cord, and away you go. You don’t have to install any drivers, making this a nice and simple controller.

With the ammoon Worlde Panda mini, you can connect to many different devices. It is compatible with Windows and iOS systems. It can also be used with Garage Band, Lgrand Piano, and many other programs.

Weighing 2.1 pounds, this is a nice, mid-weight MIDI controller. It isn’t the lightest product on our list, but it is definitely not the heaviest. This makes the ammoon Worlde Panda mini easy to move around.

What could be better: Unfortunately, the keypad and piano keys are not the sturdiness. As you press the keys, they feel really plasticky. While the performance is still good, the experience might be lessened by this construction.

Buying Guide

Get ready to unleash your creativity! The perfect 25 key MIDI controller is just around the corner. Now that you know what the top options are, consult our Buying Guide to help you navigate all the terms and features you can expect to find.

Features to consider when choosing a 25 key MIDI controller

8 Best 25-Key MIDI Controllers That Are Both Compact and Functional25 key MIDI controllers give you endless possibilities when it comes to making music. However, they are all unique in their own ways. Before you purchase a new 25 key MIDI controller, take a look at these important features so you can find an option that will work best for your needs.

Keys features

All 25 key MIDI controllers have, well, 25 keys. This is a combination of black and white keys and is made to mimic the layout of a real piano. The biggest categories of these keys is if they are mini or full-sized. Full-sized keys mean they are the same size as you would find on a piano. Mini-sized means they are shorter in length.

Some people are absolutely fine with mini keys. They get used to them and have no issues. However, there are those who can get easily frustrated by having to use smaller keys. It’s harder not press mistaken keys, especially if you’re trying to press the black keys.

The Alesis V25, the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV, and the CME Xkey Air are great options if you want full-size keys.

Pads

You might see on some MIDI controllers a set of pads. These are square-shaped and smooth on their surface. Pads are normally used to incorporate drum sounds. However, sometimes you can program these pads to make other sounds or samples of sounds.

Not all MIDI controllers have pads, and their inclusion is a personal preference. If you have no need for drum sounds, then there’s no sense paying for them.

If you would like to have pads on your MIDI controller, there are some great options. These include the Alesis V25, the Arturia MiniLab MKII, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3, M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV, and the ammoon Worlde Panda mini.

8 is the standard number of pads. This should be adequate for your needs. The exception is the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3, which has a whopping 16 pads. If you’re someone who likes drum beats or a lot of sound samples, then this is a great option.

Controls: knobs, touch sensors, buttons

8 Best 25-Key MIDI Controllers That Are Both Compact and FunctionalThe beauty of a 25 key MIDI controller is that you have complete control over the music you are creating. In addition to playing the right notes on the keyboard, you also have a host of knobs, sensors, and buttons that can alter the sound.

However, not all MIDI controller on our list have a lot of options. The AKAI Professional LPK25 has a more basic approach. It includes an arpeggiator, sustain button, octave up and down, and tap tempo buttons. The Nektar SE25 is similar in its basic functions.

If you want a MIDI controller that has more power, there are plenty to choose from. The ammoon Worlde Panda mini, the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV, and the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 are all excellent options. They have fade sliders and multiple button options.

The only caution when it comes to controls is that you really want to be aware of what you need. If you’re just looking for a mini keyboard you can play around with, then all the extra controls aren’t necessary. However, if you are a professional songwriter, then you will want to really pay attention to these options.

When in doubt, it can be beneficial to purchase a product with more control options. Even if you are just a beginner songwriter, you may find you have a real knack for the craft. In this case, having the ability to do more instead of less with a MIDI controller can lead to more inspiration and more creativity.

Dimensions and weight

One of the really nice aspects of 25 key MIDI controllers is that they are small in size. These controllers are meant to be portable. You can take them from the bedroom to the kitchen and even to school or work. However, although you would say that all of the options on our list are technically lightweight, there is a lot of difference in this category.

The lightest option of all is the AKAI Professional LPK25. Weighing 15.9 ounces, it is just under 1 pound. This MIDI controller is made to be portable. You don’t even need a bag to carry it. Another lightweight option is the CME Xkey Air, which comes in at 1.3 pounds.

On the other end of the spectrum is the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV, which weighs 4 pounds. The Alesis V25 is similar, coming in at 3.9 pounds. While these options are still not technically heavy, relatively speaking, they are. Generally, the more features that a MIDI controller has, the heavier it will be. So, even if you have to sacrifice on size, you will still get a lot of practical applications.

As for dimensions, 25 key MIDI controllers are similar in size but again range according to their design. The Alesis V25 is one of the larger products on our list. Its dimensions are 24.6 x 9.6 x 4.5 inches. The M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV is also quite heavy, measuring 19.4 x 9.6 x 3.7 inches. It shouldn’t come at a surprise that the two MIDI controllers that weigh the most have the largest dimensions.

When thinking about size and weight, just be sure to visualize where your MIDI controller will live. While they are small, some of them really aren’t that small. You will particularly need to pay attention to the length of a MIDI controller. You will need a lot of free space, such as a desk or a table. Without the appropriate space, your area can be too cluttered, stopping you from succeeding in your task.

Connectivity

8 Best 25-Key MIDI Controllers That Are Both Compact and FunctionalMIDI controllers need to connect to a device in order to make sound. They don’t have speakers and therefore another device, such as a PC, laptop, and sometimes even a smartphone is needed. The main way to connect to an external device is through a USB cable.

This is an easy option. The USB cable is simple to use, and you can have your MIDI controller up and running in just a few minutes. However, you do need to be careful with your cord. Sometimes, a USB cable is an older one, and information isn’t sent as quickly as you would like. Lag time can be really annoying, especially with music. If you find that the notes you’re trying to create aren’t being registered through your computer fast enough, you may want to replace your USB cord. Thankfully, this is a relatively inexpensive purchase.

Another way that some MIDI controllers can connect to devices is via Bluetooth. Having a cordless option is beneficial in many ways. Most notably, you don’t have to worry about an extra cord cluttering your workspace.

However, Bluetooth comes with its own cautions. If your internet strength isn’t strong enough, your Bluetooth signal can start to fade. This happens a lot if you have multiple devices turned on at the same time, all drawing the same internet signal.

Furthermore, you need to have a newer device to pair with. Otherwise, it might not be able to hold the signal.

If you’re looking for a 25 key MIDI controller that can connect via Bluetooth, checkout the CME Xkey Air. It’s fashionable and technologically advanced.

Software included

There are now many 25 key MIDI controllers that come with a software package in your purchase. This is both a good and bad aspect. If you already have this software, then a package is unnecessary and ultimately just adds to the expense of the product. However, if you’re starting out, then a software package is a real bonus. It allows you to test out different types of software feature. Plus, the package bundle is usually less expensive than if you were to buy all the individual software separately.

The Alesis V25 has a great software package. It comes with Pro Tools, Ableton Live Lite 9, First Alesis Edition, and Mini Grand.

Another nice choice is the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV. It comes with Ableton Live lite, AIR Music Tech Xpand, and SONiVOX Twist. While the AKAI Professional LPK25 isn’t wireless, there is an upgraded version that gives you this option.

Other features

8 Best 25-Key MIDI Controllers That Are Both Compact and FunctionalThe really special thing about 25 key MIDI controllers is that they are all unique. As a result, there are many extra features you may not be aware of.

A one-year warranty is fairly standard with tech gadgets. However, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 comes with an impressive three-year warranty. There’s a good chance that you’ll want to replace your MIDI controller with a new model in three to five years, just because of the changing technology. It’s nice to know there’s a company that will see you through this lifespan.

Another important feature to be aware of is design. While how a MIDI controller looks does not affect how it sounds, it is an important feature. Your MIDI controller is where you create. If you’re not inspired by it, your creations may lack a bit of life.

The CME Xkey Air has one of the most impressive designs on our list. It has an all-white color scheme, punctuated only by the black keys. It is sleek, stylish, and definitely futuristic.

Another nice feature, design-wise, is the inclusion of backlighting. The Alesis V25 has neon blue light surrounding its drum pads. Meanwhile, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 makes use of RGB lighting for its pads. You can even customize the colors for a really cool design.

One final feature to look for is if you don’t need to install any drivers with your controller. A lot of MIDI controllers come with special drivers to install with your computer. This way your controller can better sync with another device. However, this can be a bit cumbersome, especially if you aren’t tech savy. Having a MIDI controller that is easier to use, and just requires you to plug in so you can play is a real bonus. The AKAI Professional LPK25 is the best option for this feature. No drivers are included, and you can be up and running in just a minute or two.

FAQ

A lot of 25 key MIDI controllers boast the ability to simply plug in and play. All you need is a USB cord, and you can start producing sounds in a matter of minutes. However, with software and complicated devices, the setup time can take a bit longer. It’s best to budget at least 30 minutes so you can get setup and understand what all the controls do.

While MIDI controllers don’t make any sound on their own, they don’t necessarily need to be hooked up to a laptop to work. Instead, you could use a smartphone for some models. If your controller isn’t able to work with a smartphone, you could also use a tone generator.

There are some MIDI controllers that can be hooked up with devices other than a computer. The CME Xkey Air is the best option for this feature.

Our Verdict

Get ready to be creative as you craft your next composition. Our Editor’s Choice for the best 25 key midi keyboard is the Alesis V25. In addition to cool buttons that are backlit, and incredible sound, it also comes with a comprehensive software package. While this option has full-size keys, you might be looking for more compact, mini ones. In that case, the Arturia MiniLab MKII is a great option. While its keys are smaller, they are still sensitive and able to play exactly what sounds you were hoping for. Finally, our Best Value pick for the best 25 key MIDI controller is the Nektar SE25. It has everything you need but at an affordable price. It’s perfect if you are just starting out or if you need a cool present for a teenager. No matter which MIDI controller you pick, you’ll soon be in touch with your creative side.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *