Have a look at 10 Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard Controllers Under $100

Whether you’re just getting into the music scene or have been in a band for a while, you would know that a MIDI controller keyboard is a handy piece of equipment that’s essential to any computer-based music production. These piano-like devices can be plugged to your computer, laptop or Mac with a USB cable to interface with DAW’s software instruments and VST synthesizer plugins. If you’re on a tight budget, buying a controller can be very tricky as there are several options to choose from. Therefore here are the best cheap midi keyboard under $100 that are most commonly picked by musicians for their excellent features at affordable prices.

TOP RATED CHEAP MIDI KEYBOARD CONTROLLERS UNDER 100

1. Midiplus AKM320 - 32 Key MIDI Controller

​Midiplus AKM320 - 32 Key MIDI Controller

Highly affordable, the Midiplus AKM320 is perfect for beginners in both size and functionality all within a cost that wouldn’t pinch you too much. It features a 32-key board in a compact, lightweight package that comes close to 1.6 pounds, easy for carrying with the rest of your gear. The keys are velocity-sensitive, so you have greater control over your note along with the pitch modulation slider. It is very fast to set up and plugs in with a USB cable to your computer.

ADVANTAGES


  • Features 32 keys that are velocity-sensitive
  • Compact and lightweight at only 1.6 pounds
  • Perfect for beginners looking for a cheap midi controller
  • USB input with the volume slide

SHORTCOMINGS


  • Will take some time to get used to the keys as they are compactly spaced
  • Lacks drum pad functionality

VERDICT -

Very affordable and a good entry-level model for new producers and artists looking for an inexpensive MIDI controller.

2. Akai Professional LPK25 Portable MIDI Keyboard Controller- 25 Key

Akai Professional LPK25

If you are willing to shell a little bit more on your first MIDI controller with way more features than the cheaper models, the LPK25 is just what you may be looking for! This slick 13-inch keyboard is meant for seamless integration with laptops and computers and runs entirely on the power of the USB without needing an extra adapter. The 25 velocity-sensitive keys are perfect for playing various melodies, chords, bass lines and more. The keyboard also features dedicated octave controls and a sustain button for highly expressive performances.


ADVANTAGES


  • Excellent for beginner producers as the controller works with almost all audio software
  • 25 Velocity-sensitive keys with other control inputs
  • Lightweight and compact
  • USB powered

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The input connectors are a bit on the loose side and disconnect easily.

VERDICT -

​Great functionality to try out for a while in an affordable controller before you upgrade to a higher-end model.

3. M Audio Keystation 49-Key USB MIDI Controller

M Audio Keystation 49 MK3

Built for serious musicians who want to start on the best budget midi controller, this model by M Audio is built to function both as a controller and a piano making it ideal for keyboard players. You get all the features you will need in a mid-range controller while also acting as an instrument. The keyboard allows you to sequence music and plays several other virtual instruments on your computer as well making it an indispensable component of your performance.


ADVANTAGES


  • Budget MIDI controller with great features
  • 49 keys that are velocity-sensitive and weighted with sustain input
  • Control keys involve modulation wheels, octave range buttons, pitch bend and more
  • USB connection

SHORTCOMINGS


  • Lacks drum pads

VERDICT -

​It’s a great MIDI keyboard for both musicians who are performing live and composers working in studios at a budget range.

4. Acorn MIDI Controller 49 Keys

Acorn MIDI Controller Keyboard

The Acron MIDI controller features a good build and is class-compliant for a 49 key controller that is targeted for the first time buyers. It is very light and easy to carry around while performing at live events or going for studio recordings. The keys have a light action too, which the newer generation of composers might like. It also features pitch and modulation wheels that have a nice tension to them and a smooth volume slider. The octave controls and sustains jack are also robustly built.

ADVANTAGES


  • Decently built MIDI controller aimed at first-time buyers
  • Light and sturdy with a compact design
  • Good range of control features with sliders, knobs and buttons
  • Three digits LED display

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The light-touch keys may not be suitable for experienced musicians or those coming from a piano-background.

VERDICT -

Overall it is a good MIDI controller in its range. Since it comes with a PreSonus’ Studio one Artist it’s a good deal for the first time buy.

5. Nektar-SE49, 49-Key Midi Controller

Nektar, 49-Key Midi Controller (SE49)

When it comes to quality hardware at an affordable price, the SE49 by Nektar deserves to be on the top spot with its outstanding construction and feature-rich controller. It has 49 velocity-sensitive keys, a full assortment of assignable buttons, fader and four velocity curves to offer you the best customizable control. The keys respond well without being jumpy and offer a great feel making it a good instrument for all beginners.
Pros:


ADVANTAGES


  • 49 velocity-sensitive full-sized keys
  • Velocity adjustment curves to customize the response to your style
  • DAW integration software with multiple functions
  • USB connectivity

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The key’s latency can cause problems while playing fast, intricate pieces.

VERDICT -

The SE49 is an absolute bargain for the quality and features it packs into the device at the price it is available at. Highly recommended for first-time buyers.

6. Worlde 25 Key USB Portable MIDI Keyboard

If you are looking for a nearly complete MIDI keyboard experience at the range of a beginner, then the Worlde Mini MIDI keyboard is one that would go perfectly with your instruments. It is highly compact and feature-rich. The 25 mini keys are velocity-sensitive while the force-sensitive drum pads expand your options to a full range of instruments. You also have at your fingertips octave control, pitch modulation and smooth knobs and sliders for accurate control.


ADVANTAGES


  • Highly compact and lightweight design that fits in your bag
  • Stylish build with wooden finish and complementing colours along with LED-backlit controls
  • Eight knobs and eight sliders with eight drum pads and 25 velocity-sensitive keys

SHORTCOMINGS


  • Can be a bit tricky for first-timers to get the hang of it

VERDICT -

This little controller packs a wallop in its small package. It’s a good buy which balances style with functionality.

7. Korg 25 Key MIDI Controller

Korg, 25-Key Midi Controller (NANOKEY2BK)

While it doesn’t look much like a typical keyboard, the Korg nanoKEY2BK is an amazingly low profile controller that takes the nanoKEY series up a notch. Being ultra-compact, it is perfect for composers and musicians who are always on the move.


ADVANTAGES


  • New and improved design over an existing range
  • Highly responsive keys with velocity sensitivity
  • USB powered
  • Customizable through Korg Kontrol editor software

SHORTCOMINGS


  • The controller has a few software bugs

VERDICT -

​To sum it up, it is one of the best compact MIDI keyboards you can get your hands on especially if you travel a lot.

8. ​IK Multimedia iRig Keys Compact MIDI controller

IK Multimedia iRig Keys compact MIDI controller for iPhone

To strike a good balance between portability, basic features and budget with good quality, this model by IK Multimedia is a worthy one to consider. The keyboard features 37 velocity-sensitive keys along with good-tensioned volume and data knobs. There’s also controls for the octaves and wheels for pitch and modulation. The overall build is of good quality, and the keyboard is as light as it is compact, making it great for musicians who travel to gigs. Although the keys are a bit on the small side, they have good tension and stiffness to them, bringing them closer to actual pianos.

ADVANTAGES


  • Excellent style and build for a beginner’s keyboard
  • Plug and play; compatible with PC, iOS and Android
  • Optional input for pedal or sustainer

SHORTCOMINGS


  • It lacks drum pads

VERDICT -

​This MIDI keyboard controller is value for money while being highly versatile and durable.

9. Akai Professional USB MIDI Controller for FL Studio

Akai Professional USB MIDI Controller for FL Studio with 64 RGB Clip

As the name suggests, this controller is made specifically for the FL Studio Software and is professional equipment tuned to complete control of the software and production. Dedicated entirely for FL Studio, this fire grid controller allows you to work on your production with rarely having to touch the mouse.

ADVANTAGES


  • Dedicated control pad that works with both PC and Mac
  • Velocity-sensitive RGB pads
  • Includes FL Studio 20 Fruity Edition software

SHORTCOMINGS


  • It would take a bit of effort for beginners to master it.

VERDICT -

​​This is a must-have for all professionals working with FL Studio!

10. Miditech i2-mini MIDI Keyboard Controller with 32 Keys

Miditech i2-mini 32 MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Miditech i2- mini-features just what you would expect from a low budget MIDI Keyboard Controller that is good for beginners. It has 32 velocity-sensitive mini keys along with pitch and modulation wheel. The other basic controls involve octave and transpose buttons and a volume slider. It is lightweight and compact, allowing it to be carried in a small bag. The device is plug and plays without any complications and easy-to-use for first time producers.

ADVANTAGES


  • Simple design with Plug and Play feature
  • USB interface along with sustain pedal input port
  • Compact and lightweight

SHORTCOMINGS


  • Could feature more inputs

VERDICT -

​​It’s a simple MIDI keyboard controller that is good for musicians who travel a lot to gigs and shows.

Things to consider while buying a MIDI Keyboard Controllers 

Considering the wide range of options available, finding an affordable midi keyboard that suits all your requirements at your current level involves a lot of informed decision making and some tradeoffs. If I were a beginner looking out to buy my first MIDI keyboard, there are the things I would consider:

How many keys Should It Have?

Typically keyboard controllers come with 25, 49, 61 or 88 keys and as the keys increase so does the size and the cost of controllers along with the number of things you can do with it. For a first model, I would prefer a 25 or a 32 key controller as these will fit well within my budget and are also small enough to fit in the studio or be easy to carry around when I go to performances. Only when it’s time to upgrade that it’s better to go for a 61 or 88 key model based on how much you are willing to shell out.

Keyboard Action Feel

One thing you would come to understand as you compose music is not to underestimate the feel of the keys; they can change the mood and influence what you compose. There are three main types of action in the keys so you can pick one that feels more natural and comfortable to you.

  • Weighted Hammer Action: A keyboard with a weighted hammer action is ideal if you have been playing the piano for a long time or your compositions are closely related to piano music. These keys feel similar to pressing the keys of a piano.
  • Semi-Weighted Action: These keyboards come close to replicating a piano buy have softer keys making them popular with a lot of composers.
  • Synth Action: A synth-action keyboard is something I see being picked by a lot of newcomers into the music scene as they feel more like an electronic organ. The spring-loaded keys are light and shoot back to default position instantly making it a favorite especially among guitarists.


Extra controls- Buttons, Knobs and Faders

Extra controls such as knobs and sliders are a great bonus once you get proficient in using your MIDI keyboard. The extras would significantly enhance your range of hands-on control and how easily you can do it instead of struggling with a mouse and computer keyboard. Say it is connected to your computer with the DAW running a virtual synth, the knobs, sliders or buttons will give you a real-time hands-on tweaking and an authentic analogue feel. You would realize its worthwhile performing live or recording in a studio.

MIDI Pads

Some of the higher-end models in the budget MIDI keyboard controller category also have drum pads that stretch out the possibility of what you can do with your controller. They are also forced or impact sensitive and reproduce the beats accordingly. So if you plan on going a bit off-road from your usual composition and try some beats, it is worth spending a little extra on this feature.

Compatibility

Compatibility these days is more or less an issue of the past as most MIDI keyboards are compatible with widely used operating systems and do not need special drivers. You do, however, have to look for compatibility with mobile devices and tablets as you will have to buy an additional adapter to get them to work with your mobile. Also, look into the Input/Output optional available. While USB is the standard for all modern controllers, having a 5-pin MINI DIN jack can also help to connect with some older hardware or synths.

Inbuilt Software and Memory

An inbuilt software such as Ableton Live can go a long way in easing your workflow. With a range of instruments and effects, you will have plenty to work with in tandem with other programs. A user profile and memory is also essential so you can save your work and preferences once you turn it off. Even the simplest MIDI keyboard should come with at least 2 GB of memory so you will have your profile up and ready to go anytime.

FAQs

1. What is MIDI and How does it work? 

Midi Stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is an industry-standard protocol that has been around for a little over two decades. In simpler terms, it is something that is used to link all the musical instruments, and computers to facilitate communication between them. Although MIDI controllers look like musical instruments, they are not, as they do not produce any sound by themselves. They act as an interface to make the rest of the hardware to communicate by sending signals to the instruments that produce sounds to the computer. 

It’s also essential to understand that the MIDI controllers don’t produce audio signals or transmit them. But they do create data like computers which can be stored and read by software. If you’ve seen the visual of a recording, the sound appears as waves while MIDI data is represented as simple rectangles. The stored MIDI information can be played as any sound desired, and it is easy to modify, so you don’t have to re-record to make your music sound different. 

2. Why do I need a MIDI controller?

Technically, a MIDI controller is an accessory that is optional for music-making; you can still make music without using one and a simpler way using your QWERTY keyboard and mouse on the computer. However, when you are juggling a whole series of instruments or creating high-quality music that is precisely defined, a MIDI controller can infinitely enhance your creative expression. They have simple-to-use keys that allow you to manipulate instruments and software precisely like how you wish them to be and if you are into music full-time, then these controllers will help you create music quickly without a hassle.

MIDI controllers are more useful when you are on music tours where you would have to record and replay especially when performing live. The controllers will ease your workflow with dedicated buttons and knobs for playing, recording, repeating and more.

3. Where does the MIDI keyboard fit?

MIDI keyboards cannot operate as a stand-alone device, although they look like a piano. While some models (the higher end with 88 keys) do allow you to play them like a piano, most models are meant to work along with the rest of your hardware. When you are producing music, you will need digital data from the setup, such as sound and other information to be fed to the DAW (digital audio workstation). The DAW is often software on the computer or an electronic device that needs to be connected to the music set up, and that’s where a MIDI interface fits in. 

MIDI keyboards have always come with a 5-pin DIN cable, but the modern-day models come with USB cables that can be accepted by most hardware and computers. The keyboards have MINI IN transmission ports that receive data from instruments or sequencers and the MIDI OUT ports to relay data from the keyboard to the DAW.

4. How does a MIDI Keyboard differ from a hardware synthesizer and a virtual instrument?

A MIDI keyboard as I said earlier doesn’t produce any sound of its own although they look like pianos. They are primarily used to interface with musical instruments and software to send and receive MIDI data. 

A hardware synthesizer, on the other hand, actually generates sound and uses MIDI data to produce musical notes. Hardware synthesizers that are used in live performances also come with a keyboard for functionality; however, some synthesizers are just sound modules which accept data from the MIDI controller or DAW.

A virtual Instrument as the name suggests doesn’t exist physically; it is a digital domain plug-in which is capable of generating all kinds of sound possible. Since the digitization of music in the last two decades, virtual instruments have been on the scene which can be easily dragged into a DAW to create a fantastic variety of sounds. 

5. What is the advantage of a MIDI keyboard?

While MIDI keyboards are most commonly seen in music setups, they are not the only one type of MIDI controllers out there. There are controllers for various devices including guitars, wind controllers, pedalboard footswitches, vibraphones, drums and other types of instruments. Whether you can play the piano or not, a MIDI keyboard is what I would highly recommend for a first time buy since it offers the most versatility and function-rich features compared to all other types. While you can also use your computer keyboard and mouse to click and press on the notes, a MIDI keyboard with its velocity-sensitive keys can bring out the differences in notes to give you greater and simpler control. I would recommend basic MIDI keyboards on a low budget, so you have a better appreciation for the higher models with their sliders, knobs and drum pads when you upgrade.

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