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: September 11, 2022
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The world of music has been evolving for centuries, but with the introduction and rise in popularity of weighted keyboards, it seems like we’re finally getting back what was once standard fare: expressiveness. Weighted keyboards provide an incredible playing experience that can help you take your song up a notch.
We all know how important it is to get a quality product when we’re looking for instruments, but sometimes picking out something can be tough. In this article, we will review our picks for the best fully weighted MIDI keyboards and what’s worth checking into – including why certain specs stand above others as well info on where you should start your search. For instance, how many keys are optimal for different needs, what extra controls a keyboard might have, what outputs you’ll need, and how much you have to spend to get a decent instrument.
"This 32-key semi-weighted keyboard has all the features you need, including plenty of control options, velocity-sensitive RGB pads, and it’s fully customizable and comes with a range of great onboard controls."
Controls: octave, chord & transpose buttons, pitch & mod wheels, pad mode buttons, performance pads, midi channel selection keys, DAW/user section, transport controls, preset browser & display, 3 control buttons, encoders, faders, filter / select buttons
Weight: 32 lbs.
Dimensions: 50.9 x 12.7 x 4.4 inches
More features: wide pedal connectivity, music software bundle, laptop stand
The Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII is a top-of-the-line keyboard controller that offers a wealth of features and controls for both experienced and beginner producers alike. For starters, the unit sports 88 weighted keys, meaning that it can accommodate a wide range of playing styles. Additionally, there are octave, chord, and transpose buttons situated on the left-hand side of the board, making it easy to shift keys up or down without having to take your hands off the main keyboard. There are also pitch and mod wheels right above the keys, giving you even more control over your sound. Moving down the board, you’ll find a set of performance pads that can be used to trigger sounds or samples. These pads are also RGB backlit, meaning that you can customize their color to better suit your workflow. Finally, there are several assignable controls located on the right-hand side of the unit, including a slider, knob, and buttons. These can be programmed to control a variety of parameters within your DAW or virtual instruments- giving you even more control over your sound.
When it comes to musical instruments, Arturia is one of the top brands to reckon with. The brand is reputed for its software that emulates analog synths, which has made it a popular choice for musicians and music lovers. The Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII is one of its latest and finest products. And though it belongs to the KeyLab MKII series, it’s a class above its predecessor; the Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII.
What are our favorite features?
A lot of assignable controls
Laptop and sheet stands
Weighted hammer-action keys
16 RGB-backlit pads
Solid aluminum chassis construction with wood side panels
Controls: pitch and mod wheels, touch strip controller
Weight: 29 lbs.
Dimensions: 54.7 x 13.6 x 4.5 inches
More features: 2 high-resolution color screens
If you are looking for a top-quality MIDI controller that is built to last, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 is a great option. This controller, featuring 88 weighted keys and two high-resolution color screens, is perfect for anyone who wants complete control over their music production software. Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, GarageBand, Cubase, and Nuendo are all compatible with the Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2, making it a versatile solution for any musician or producer who is serious about their music. Plus, with its sturdy construction and intuitive controls, you’ll be able to create professional-sounding music in no time. And because it’s USB powered, you won’t need to worry about batteries or an external power source, which makes it the perfect portable solution for your studio or live setup.
The Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 is another MIDI Keyboard with 88 keys like the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII and even though it lacks the plenty of features that the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII comes with, it compensates with its friendly price which makes it more affordable and suitable for individuals who do not need too much from a MIDI Keyboard.
What are our favorite features?
Well-made MIDI controller with a great feeling keyboard
Intuitive control over Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, GarageBand, Cubase and Nuendo
Mod/pitch wheels feel great, good resistance and grippy feel
No drivers needed
What could be better?
No power switch, you have to unplug USB cable to turn it off
Controls: piano song mode, transpose, function, touch, reverb, chorus, bank/LEDs, sound, metronome buttons
Weight: 35 lbs.
Dimensions: 52 x 10 x 5 inches
More features: polyphony –120 voices, 30 sounds, layer mode
The Korg D1 weighted digital piano gives you the feeling of a grand piano in a lightweight and portable design. This piano is great for both beginners and experienced players alike. It has 88 keys that are weighted to give you a realistic feel, and the Korg D1 also features 30 different sounds and a layer mode so you can create your own unique music. TheBank/LEDs function lets you keep track of your settings, and the touch control allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the keys to your playing style. With its 120-voice polyphony, the Korg D1 is perfect for any musician who wants a high-quality digital piano with all the features they need to create beautiful music.
The Korg D1 joins the league of the likes of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 and the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII which have 88 keys. While it’s a bit less expensive than the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII, it’s quite heavier, which may not be appealing to those who appreciate a lightweight keyboard. However, it will function excellently for stage performances because of its great sound and cutting-edge technology.
What stands out?
Feel of a grand piano
Great piano sounds
Japanese-built RH3 weighted hammer-action keybed
5 types of touch control
Piano style pedal included
What cons did we manage to find?
No recording and playback options; no pitch and mod wheel
Controls: 8 x assignable buttons, mod, pitch wheels, octave control, 16 MPC illuminated pads, 4 banks of pads, Q-Link controls: 8 control knobs, 8 faders and 8 backlit switches, control template with LCD display, transport and parameter controls
Weight: 15 lbs.
Dimensions: 35 x 12 x 3.3 inches
More features: software bundle, 5-pin MIDI in and out, 1 sustain pedal input
The Akai Professional MPK261 is a semi-weighted 61-note keyboard with an aftertouch that comes with a powerful software bundle. It also features 8 assignable buttons, mod, pitch wheels, octave control, and 16 MPC illuminated pads. This keyboard is perfect for producers and musicians who want maximum control and flexibility. The 4 banks of pads allow for a wide range of sound options, while the Q-Link controls provide easy access to transport, parameter, and other controls. The Akai Professional MPK261 also comes with a 5-pin MIDI in and out, making it easy to connect to other devices. And the 1 sustain pedal input allows you to add sustain to your performance.
The Akai Professional MPK261 is more affordable than the Korg D1, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2, and Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII. Another thing that makes it worthwhile is that it weighs only 15 lbs, making it an enviable choice for musicians seeking a standard but lightweight keyboard. However, it doesn’t have 88 keys like the Korg D1, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2, and Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII.
Why is it special?
The pads are lit for use in the dark
The pads have four banks each, thus, allowing for a lot of potential combinations
The keyboard is compatible with quite a several DAWs and comes with about $400 worth of free software
Controls: 16 backlit pads, two wheels, 16 assignable knobs, and 48 assignable buttons
Weight: 13 lbs.
Dimensions: 44 x 12.4 x 4.5 inches
More features: USB MIDI and MIDI out internal clock (sync, tempo, rolls, comes with Ableton Live Lite 9
The Alesis VI61 is a semi-weighted USB MIDI keyboard controller with 61 keys, 16 drum pads, two wheels, and 16 assignable knobs. It also has 48 assignable buttons that can be used to control MIDI messages. The Alesis VI61 is powered via USB and has a MIDI out port. It also comes with the Ableton Live Lite 9 music production software. The Alesis VI61 has a great feel to the keys and the drum pads are backlit and responsive. The software editor makes setup straightforward. With so many control options, the Alesis VI61 is perfect for any musician or producer who wants a comprehensive and flexible MIDI controller.
Just like the Akai Professional MPK261, the Alesis VI61 also has 61 keys but it doesn’t come with Akai’s aftertouch feature. More so, it’s lightweight and weighs 2lbs less than its friend; Akai Professional MPK261. Additionally, it has wider dimensions than the Akai Professional MPK261 and more interestingly, its price is almost two times lower than that of the Akai’s keyboard.
What are our favorite features?
Masses of control options via rotaries, buttons and pads.
Backlit drum pads can trigger notes or yet more MIDI control messages
Software Editor makes set-up straightforward
The keys have a great feel to them
What could be better?
The mod wheel and pitch wheel are in a slightly awkward position
More features: display with 2x 16 characters, chord mode, scale mode, arpeggiator
The Novation Launchkey 88 MK3 is an excellent tool for musicians who want to take their songwriting to the next level. This premium keyboard comes with 88 semi-weighted keys, making it perfect for both studio and live performances. The Launchkey also features eight knobs, nine faders, 16 pads, and transport controls, so you can easily tweak your sound to perfection. Plus, the included software suite provides everything you need to get started making music right away. It’s also affordable, making it a great choice for budget-conscious producers. And with its small footprint and sleek design, the Launchkey MK3 will look great in any studio setup.
The Novation Launchkey 88 MK3 is an addition to other keyboards like the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII, Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2, and Korg D1 that come with 88 keys. However, one unique feature that separates it from these other three is that it only weighs 18 lbs. It is also a less expensive alternative to Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII and Korg D1.
The M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini is the perfect solution for any musician or producer looking for a versatile, feature-rich controller. This keyboard is packed with 32 semi-weighted keys, 4 faders, 8 velocity-sensitive pads, and all the other controls you need to create professional-sounding music. The built-in OLED display makes it easy to see what you’re doing, while the transport and navigation buttons make it easy to move around your DAW. The pitch and modulation wheels are also a great addition, allowing you to add extra expression to your playing. And if that wasn’t enough, the Oxygen Pro Mini also features note repeat, Smart Chord mode, and Smart Scale mode. The Oxygen Pro Mini is perfect for the musician on the go who wants a powerful yet portable MIDI keyboard.
Just as its name goes, it’s a pro version from the M-Audio brand and it’s specially crafted to help you produce professional and creative sounds. Its absence of 88 keys like the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII or 61 keys like Akai Professional MPK261 makes it a convenient instrument to travel around with and it’s the most lightweight keyboard on this list with just 2.65 lbs.
Why did it make our list?
Small and powerful
Has all the features you expect from a MIDI keyboard
Customizable Preset mapping
RGB backlit performance pads.
Good range of onboard controls for DAW control and editing
Onboard or remote editing of controller assignments
Controls: pitch and mod wheels, plus transpose and octave buttons, faders, encoders
Weight: 2 lbs.
Dimensions: 31 x 10 x 3 inches
The Samson Graphite 49 is a great keyboard for people who want a lot of control over their sound. With 49 keys, semi-weighted action, and pitch and mod wheels, this keyboard gives you a lot of options for making music. The transpose and octave buttons are also great for playing in different keys, and the faders and encoders give you even more control over your sound. The keyboard is also iPad, MAC, and PC compatible, so you can use it with any of your favorite music software. The Samson Graphite 49 also comes with the NI Komplete Elements DVD, which is a great way to get started with making music.
The Samson Graphite 49 will appeal to music lovers and creators who crave to possess a lightweight keyboard like the M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini but want one that comes with more keys. With the 49 keys, the Samson Graphite 49 only costs a few bucks more than the M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini with 32 keys and it features wider dimensions.
Why are we impressed?
iPad, MAC and PC compatibility
Two banks of sliders/knobs doubles the control possibilities
Bundled with NI Komplete Elements DVD
A lot of controllers
What negatives must you be aware of?
Clunky preset selection not ideal in a live
User presets not nameable
Things to Consider
We all know how important it is to find the right tool for our needs, but what about selecting a weighted MIDI keyboard? We’ve compiled this list of tips and tricks so you can make an informed decision when buying!
Keyboard or Controller
In simple terms, a MIDI keyboard is an input device for a computer music system. A controller is any device that generates MIDI data, which can be used to control other devices that receive MIDI data.
So what is the difference between the two? Well, for starters, a keyboard usually has weighted keys, which gives you a more realistic piano-like feel when you play. Controllers, on the other hand, typically do not have weighted keys.
If you are looking for a more expressive playing experience, then a weighted MIDI keyboard is the way to go. In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the best weighted MIDI keyboards on the market. Weighted keys are not only more realistic, but they also offer a more expressive playing experience. After all, when you are playing the piano, each key has its own weight, which contributes to the overall feel of the instrument. With a weighted keyboard, you get that same level of expression.
If you are a beginner, then a weighted keyboard is a great way to get started. Not only will you be able to understand better how each key feels, but you will also be able to produce a wider range of sounds.
As you become more experienced, you can start to experiment with different weights and playing styles.
Number of Keys
The number of keys on a weighted MIDI keyboard will determine how much space it will take up, and how many notes you can play at once.
If you’re only playing solo piano pieces, then you won’t need as many keys as if you’re looking to play two-handed pieces or use the keyboard for other instruments.
Some weighted MIDI keyboards come with 88 keys, just like a traditional piano, while others have fewer. Weighted MIDI keyboards can also be used to play other types of instruments, such as drums or strings. If you’re looking for a keyboard that can do double duty, then make sure to get one with enough keys to cover all the notes you need. If you are looking for a smaller model, check our reviews of the best 25-key MIDI controllers.
Weight of Keys
Weighted keys give a realistic feel to your playing, and they also add an extra level of resistance. This is great for players who are looking to improve their technique and build up their finger strength.
There are three main types of MIDI keyboards: unweighted, semi-weighted, and fully weighted. The difference between them is the feel of the keys.
Unweighted keys are similar to those on a laptop or desktop computer keyboard; they’re not velocity-sensitive, meaning they don’t respond to how hard you press them.
Semi-weighted keys are a bit more responsive, but they’re still not as expressive as fully weighted keys.
Fully weighted keys are the most responsive and allow for the most expressive playing.
If you’re just starting out, an unweighted keyboard is probably all you need. They’re less expensive than their weighted counterparts and will get the job done.
If you’re looking for a more expressive playing experience, however, you’ll want to consider a weighted keyboard. They’re a bit more expensive, but they’re worth it if you’re serious about making music.
If you are on a budget, read our evaluation of the Best MIDI Keyboards under $200, however, they might not have the weighted keys that you are looking for.
The MIDI keyboard will have a variety of different controls that can be used to produce a more expressive playing experience. These controls can include pitch bend, modulation, aftertouch, velocity, and octave shift. Each of these controls can be assigned to a specific function in your music software program, allowing you to create a more customized and expressive sound.
Pitch bend and modulation are two of the most common controls found on MIDI keyboards. Pitch bend allows you to change the pitch of a note while it is being played, while modulation allows you to add vibrato or other effects to the sound. Aftertouch is another common control that can be used to add expression to your playing. This control allows you to add pressure to the keys after they have been pressed, which can create a variety of different sounds.
Velocity is another important control found on MIDI keyboards. Velocity determines how hard or soft a note is played. This can be used to create a more dynamic sound, as well as to add emphasis to certain notes. The octave shift control allows you to change the pitch of all the notes on the keyboard by a certain amount. This can be used to create different sounds or to play in a higher or lower range.
Basically, the more controls the MIDI keyboard has, the wider the range of possibilities you have for creating and performing music.
MIDI keyboards also have a variety of different buttons and switches that can be used to control various functions. These buttons and switches can be used to turn on and off different sounds and effects, or to change the octave of the keyboard. Some MIDI keyboards also have a sustain pedal input, which can be used to add sustain to your playing.
If you are looking for a more expressive playing experience, then choosing a MIDI keyboard with a variety of different controls is a good option. By taking the time to learn about all the different controls available, you can find the perfect MIDI keyboard for your needs.
MIDI keyboards usually have two main outputs: MIDI and USB. MIDI outputs send MIDI data to your computer or other devices, while USB outputs carry both power and data. Some newer models also include a headphone output. any MIDI keyboards also have an input for a sustain pedal. The power source is also important, as some models will need to be plugged into an AC outlet. If you want to use a MIDI keyboard with an iPad, you’ll need one that uses Bluetooth.
The DAW, or digital audio workstation, is the heart of any modern music production setup. It’s where you compose, record, edit, and mix your songs. A good DAW will have all the features you need to create professional-sounding music.
One of the most important aspects of a DAW is its MIDI capabilities. MIDI is a digital protocol that allows musical instruments and computers to communicate with each other. It’s what lets you control your software synth with a physical keyboard, for example. To find a perfectly compatible with your favorite program, read our article about the best MIDI keyboards for GarageBand.
The MIDI keyboards will have a variety of software options that allow you to customize your playing experience. You should be able to find a keyboard that can connect to a wide range of devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones.
The additional pedal inputs on some models allow you to control other aspects of your performance, such as volume or effects.
Most MIDI keyboards will have a few basic pedals that you can use to add expression to your playing. The most common pedal is the sustain pedal, which allows you to hold notes for longer periods of time. Other popular pedals include the mod wheel, which can be used to add vibrato or other effects to your playing, and the pitch bend wheel, which allows you to bend the pitch of notes up or down.
In addition to these basic pedals, some MIDI keyboards also have more specialized pedals that can be used for specific purposes. For example, some MIDI keyboards include a pressure-sensitive pad to play sounds or other samples. Other MIDI keyboards have a ribbon controller to add vibrato or other expressive effects to your playing.
No matter what type of MIDI keyboard you choose, make sure that it has the pedals that you need to create the type of music that you want to play.
Some people might find that they do not need any pedals at all and just use the keys to play their music. This is perfectly fine, and there are plenty of great MIDI keyboards out there that do not have any pedals at all. However, if you want to add expression to your playing, then pedals are a great way to do it.
Weighted keys on a MIDI controller offer a few advantages over non-weighted keys. First, weighted keys provide a more realistic piano playing experience. This is because the weight of the keys simulates the resistance of real piano keys. As a result, weighted MIDI keyboards can help you to develop proper technique and muscle memory. Second, weighted keys can also help to increase the expressiveness of your playing. This is because they allow you to play with more dynamics and nuance. Finally, weighted keys tend to be more durable than non-weighted keys, so they can withstand heavy use. If you’re looking for a more realistic and expressive piano playing experience, then a weighted MIDI keyboard is a great option.
This is a question that we often get asked, and the answer is yes! MIDI keyboards are becoming increasingly popular among musicians, as they offer a more expressive playing experience. MIDI keyboards are often thought of as a cheaper, more portable alternative to digital pianos. While they lack the weighted keys and full-size piano feel of their larger counterparts, MIDI controllers can offer a more expression playing experience thanks to their assignable pads, knobs, and faders.
The Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII is a top-of-the-line keyboard controller that offers more than enough features for both experienced and beginner producers alike. For starters, it has 88 weighted keys which means you can easily play any style of music with this unit.
If you’re looking for a top-quality MIDI controller that will last, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 is an excellent choice. These 88 weighted keys and two high-resolution color screens are perfect for any music producer who wants complete control over their software like Logic Pro X or Ableton Live.
Finally, one of the best MIDI keyboards weighted keys on the market, the Korg D1. Its 88 weighted keys give users an authentic feel while playing any song, from beginner pianists up through experienced players who want more than just basic sounds.