Russell is a sound producer and songwriter. He deals with digital pianos and MIDI controllers on a regular basis so no wonder he knows everything about them.
Last updated: August 09, 2022
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Are you looking for the best budget MIDI keyboards? You have come to the right place. In this guide, we look at the best MIDI keyboards under $200, exploring some of the great features you can enjoy without spending a fortune. Keyboards have come a long way in recent years, but there are still some products that don’t quite do a great job, so you need to know how to avoid these.
Over $100 is a decent budget for a MIDI keyboard, and if you make the right buying decisions then you may be surprised at just how great your options are. We’ve looked at the top features for these keyboards including the number of keys, pads and other controllers, dimensions, weight, and any included software to help you make the right choice. Paired with the right software and speakers, you might be able to create a live sound or home-studio powerhouse without breaking the bank.
Controls: pitch, modulation, arpeggiator, octave up and down, swing, latch
Connectivity: 1/4″ (6.35mm) TS input for sustain pedal; USB port
Dimensions: 12.5 x 7.13 x 1.75 in
Weight: 1.65 lbs
Other features: OLED display; 8 assignable backlit pads and 8 assignable 360° knobs; 1,500+ sounds
In spite of being very small, this MIDI keyboard is certainly a powerful option. It only has 25 keys so don’t expect to be playing any huge concertos on it, but it is great for playing a short melody and producing music at home or even on the go.
As well as the 25 keys there are 8 assignable pad controllers, you can use these with drum sounds or sound effects. There’s an input for you to add a sustain pedal and this is totally USB powered so you can use it without having to take up another valuable power outlet.
The pads are backlit, making it one of the best midi keyboards under $200 for live performance. You can always see what you are doing.
This MIDI keyboard has 1,500 sounds included and lets you control them with pitch, modulation and even arpeggiator controls, for a world of new sounds.
What makes it special?
As well as the huge number of sounds included with the software, we love the fact that you can make changes to the sound using the mod wheel or other knobs and controllers, making it a great partner for a VST synth on your computer.
What cons did we find?
Some people would prefer a slightly larger option with more keys in order to play a wider range of songs, but this depends on what type of keyboard player you are.
Controls: pitch, modulation, octave up and down, volume fader; transport and directional buttons
Connectivity: 5-pin MIDI out; USB-MIDI; USB port; 1/4″ (6.35mm) sustain pedal in
Dimensions: 39.2 x 7.44 x 2.68 in
Weight: 9 lbs
Other features: iOS compatibility; premium software set included
M Audio is known for providing value for money. The M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 is the best semi weighted midi keyboard under $200 and is a good option for those who are classically-trained musicians, or just anyone who is capable of playing the piano with both hands! The 61-key model gives a world of possibilities for playing songs with loads of expression. This is further helped by the fact that the keyboard has semi-weighted keys which mimic the feeling of an acoustic piano as you press down on the keys.
Another great thing about this keyboard is the iOS compatibility. This means if you are using an Apple device like an iPhone, you can hook it up to Garageband and use this to generate endless songs. It works with other software and apps, too.
Midi and USB outputs make it a flexible and versatile keyboard. It also comes with a software suite including a DAW and virtual instruments so you can play endless sounds without it costing you any more than the original cost of the instrument.
What makes it special?
The realistic feel of this keyboard means that it can mimic the piano or acoustic instruments, with a semi-weighted design for touch sensitivity and expressive playing.
What cons did we find?
Ideally, an LCD display or some touch pads for additional sounds could make this an even better MIDI keyboard.
Controls: assignable knobs and buttons, pitch, modulation. octave up and down
Connectivity: USB port; USB-MIDI
Dimensions: 9.6 x 37.6 x 4.53 in
Weight: 6.3 lbs
Other features: software set included; 122 preset sounds and over 2,000 studio-grade sounds; 8 velocity- and pressure-sensitive backlit pads
On to the best 49-key MIDI keyboard under $200. If you are looking to save some money, and strike a balance between portability and playability, 49 keys could be the perfect size. The keys on this model are velocity-sensitive. While not weighted, they let you control the velocity and volume of the notes.
This has assignable knobs and buttons to go along with the keys, so there are many different controls you can use either in a live or studio environment. These are pressure-sensitive, so great for “finger drumming” or triggering sound effects.
It has USB-MIDI connection and comes with a software set including thousands of high-quality sounds, plus it works intuitively with a lot of other music software. It comes with a version of Ableton Live, which is very popular music production software, especially for a lot of electronic genres.
What stands out?
The fantastic tech functions and the way it links so seamlessly with Ableton Live is a huge plus point. You can control so many sounds and parameters using the knobs and buttons included, which are assignable.
What cons did we manage to find?
The keys aren’t weighted, and feel a little bit flimsy to the touch. If you’re a pianist by trade, you’ll notice the difference.
Other features: software set included; 16 rotary encoders (2 clickable); 8 velocity and pressure sensitive pads with RGB backlighting; 500 of the V-Collection 8 presets
Arturia makes some great software synths, and the hardware to control them, including this tiny Arturia MiniLab MkII.
This is designed to be slimline. It doesn’t have full-size keys and there are only 25 of them, but this makes sense when you consider it is designed for the live or laptop musician. It’s easy to put this in your bag and head off to a gig or compose something on the train.
There is Arturia software included as well as a Lite DAW. This is great for people who are looking to start their production journey. They also include 500 presets for the V-Collection synth.
There are 16 encoders that you can assign as well as 8 pads, and all of this is packed into such a tiny and lightweight package. In spite of this, it isn’t flimsy or easy to break either. It’s backlit, so if you want to use this model on stage, you can see exactly what you’re doing at all times.
What makes it stand out?
The lightweight design is a real plus point. It’s just 3.2 pounds and packs so many features and controls into this. The fact that you can even assign different knob and pad controls on such a small product is brilliant.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
The keys aren’t full-size, and if you have big hands you might find it a challenge to get to grips with this keyboard.
Other features: OLED display; 8 touch-sensitive knobs; Ableton Live 10 Lite included; four-directional push encoder; Smart Play
This is another mini USB midi keyboard under $200, which has been designed to work intuitively with NI. Native Instruments is a big name in the world of synthesizers and their virtual instruments are taking the world by storm, so it makes sense that they would release hardware, too.
This includes Ableton Live Lite, has an OLED display and knobs as well as keys. It even has the option to add a foot pedal, surprising for such a small model of keyboard.
You can use this with software that isn’t Native Instruments. That means that you can assign the knobs and controllers to other things, but to get full, intuitive use out of it you really need to be using NI suites. That can mean an extra investment if you don’t already own it.
What are its best features?
If you are already an NI user then this can allow you to control so many different aspects of their instruments with a “Smart Play” function. It’s even got an OLED display, which not many mini MIDI keyboards have. We also love how tiny, lightweight, and portable it is. Perfect for the laptop producer.
What could be improved?
Integration with software that isn’t NI. Ultimately, this is designed to be an add-on. It’s possible to use other VSTs, but a bit of extra work setting it up.
Connectivity: five-pin MIDI out; USB B port; 1/4″ (6.35mm) sustain pedal in
Dimensions: 3.03 x 18.23 x 10.16 in
Weight: 4 lbs
Other features: 16 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pads; 3 chord modes; software set included
The Novation Launchkey 25 MK3 would be higher up on our list if it was a bit more lightweight, as it isn’t quite as good for putting in a laptop bag. Honestly, there’s not much weight in it, and the features are fantastic, too.
The three different chord modes make it easy to trigger chords, so you can quickly come up with song ideas or play live in front of people.
The keys and pads are backlit so you can see what you’re doing at all points.
The compatibility with other equipment is great, too, and a MIDI output can be run to other hardware synths for control.
Like many of the other best midi keyboards under $200, it comes with software to get you started.
There’s also an inventive “scale mode” which helps you to only play notes within a certain scale, so you’re always in key and sounding great.
What do we love it for?
The chord and scale modes are brilliant for those who don’t have too much technical knowledge, they get you started in music composition.
What were we disappointed with?
It’s not as small as some of the other 25-key models. It’s not as great for putting in a backpack.
There is an awful lot of choice when it comes to MIDI keyboards. These products have started to include more and more features as technology, specifically music technology, has grown a lot in recent years. If you are looking for a midi controller under $200, it is vital that you understand some of the features and functions, and what they mean for your decision. It could even be that your software or production style help inform the decision you make.
What to expect from a MIDI keyboard under $200?
$200 is a decent budget for a MIDI controller, especially if you don’t want something that is full-sized, that will play like an 88-key piano would.
Every MIDI keyboard on this range should easily link to your music software and allow you to play melodies and chords, but some also let you control different parameters of virtual instruments and software.
Features to consider before you purchase a MIDI keyboard
We dive into the main features you need to consider when looking to buy a MIDI keyboard below.
Controls sets and options
All MIDI keyboards will have keys. That’s something of a given! However, the majority now also come with other options and control sets that you can use to control software. Pads are useful for drum sounds and sound effects, knobs can control volumes and filters, and faders can turn up and down different instruments or effects. All of this should be assignable within the software. You might just want a simple set of keys.
There are some standard sizes for MIDI keyboards:
25-key models are small and portable.
49-key models make it easier to play melodies and chord progressions with more range.
61-key models allow you to play with two hands more easily.
88-keys gives the full range of a piano.
The key “action” relates to how it feels when you play the keys. The synth action is the most common, this uses a spring for the keys to bounce back up. It also allows the keys to be velocity sensitive so the harder you hit, the more volume.
Semi-weighted combine weights with the springs for a more true-to-real-life feel, mimicking a piano.
Fully weighted or hammer action feels a lot like a piano, with tiny hammers triggering the notes, but it isn’t the sort of feature you’ll find in many budget keyboards. If you are used to this, for instance, if you play acoustic piano normally, the keys will feel different.
How can you connect the keyboard to your computer or other devices? The vast majority of keyboards have USB connection. USB-MIDI shouldn’t need you to install any drivers in the modern age, so it is simple to set up.
Models like the M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 also have MIDI outputs, meaning a specific MIDI cable can be run to other MIDI compatible hardware like synthesizers. Whether you need this will depend on the equipment you already have.
Dimensions and weight
This is a fairly self-explanatory feature. If you need a small keyboard then the dimensions and weight are definitely something you should check out in some detail. The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 weighs just 2.2 pounds. It’s perfect for putting in a backpack.
The warranty is always important when buying electronics. Many manufacturers will give you 12 months of protection should anything go wrong. This should enable you to get a refund or replacement, as long as you didn’t mistreat the keyboard!
If a keyboard has aftertouch, it means that it has sensors which detect if you’re still putting pressure on the keys after you have struck the key in the first instance. This means you can control more aspects of the sound and create different types of sustained sounds when you are playing virtual instruments. The sound of aftertouch is something you definitely get used to, and most synths include some form of aftertouch.
Most DAWs will work with most modern MIDI keyboards. You need virtual instruments to control with your keyboard. Popular DAWs include Ableton Live, Logic (Mac Only) and ProTools, FL Studio is also growing in popularity.
A MIDI controller doesn’t usually generate any sound at all on its own. A hardware synthesizer has everything you need to generate sound as well as control it, whereas a MIDI controller or keyboard just controls software synthesizers.
The AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 gets a strong rating of 9.9 out of 10 due to the fact it has an incredible amount of sounds included, and the fact that it has brilliant pads for use triggering drum sounds. It even has an arpeggiator.
The M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 has semi-weighted keys and gives the same sort of feel as a digital or acoustic piano. We’ve rated it 9.7 out of 10, it’s also one of the best MIDI keyboards under $200 if you want to use a mobile device, it works with iOS seamlessly.
The Alesis V49 has a rating of 9.6 out of 10. The 49-key size is a great middle ground, allowing you to play two-handed but still retaining an element of portability.
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