In this Dubspot Top Picks guide, we look at a selection of our favorite MIDI Keyboards for music production based on impressive features, powerful capabilities, and intuitive design.
Akai Professional | MPK Mini Mk II
The new MPK mini is a great compact keyboard controller designed for traveling musicians and the desktop producers. The MPK mini gives you complete control to record, compose, and perform with virtual instruments, effect plugins, and more. It features 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys, a 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation manipulation, eight backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads, and eight assignable Q-Link knobs. Plus, two banks expand the number of MPC-style pads to 16 for extended creative capabilities. In addition, the MPK mini has Octave Up and Down buttons, a sustain pedal input, an onboard arpeggiator, powered USB connection, and much more. The MPK mini also comes bundled with professional production software, virtual instruments, and MIDI Editor software that lets users customize their hardware and software setup on Mac or PC. Read more at Akai Professional
Novation | SL MkII
The SL MkII is Novation’s Flagship MIDI Controller. It combines a semi-weighted Fatar keybed that plays like an instrument with a ludicrous number of controls. It gives you direct, hands-on control over every aspect of your music, software, plug-in instruments, and effects, as well as immediate feedback at the touch of a button. Available are 61, 49, and 25-key versions as well as the keyless SL MkII ZeRO, which gives you the same control over your software in a more lightweight and portable form. The SL MkII features a 144-character LCD screen, Automap software that instantly maps your controls to your software, LED visual feedback, a massive array of touch-sensitive controls, endless encoders, an Xpression X-Y Pad and Joystick, powered USB bus, and much more. Read more at Novation
CME Pro | Xkey
The Xkey from CME is an ultra portable, 25-key controller constructed from rugged, brushed aluminum. The keys are velocity responsive with 128 levels of sensitivity, and the keyboard features polyphonic aftertouch. Made for travelers and mobile musicians, the controller can connect to your favorite devices for ultimate control of any music app. The six pressure-sensitive buttons on the side of the keyboard provide octave change, pitch bend, modulation, and sustain functions. The Xkey is simple to use, 100% MIDI compliant, and is powered by an included USB cable. Read more at CME Pro
ROLI | Seaboard RISE
Seaboard RISE brings a new level of expression for musicians with this unique controller. Called “the piano of the future” the Seaboard RISE features patented SEA Interface technology, which remodels the keyboard as a pressure-sensitive, continuous surface that responds to even the subtlest gestures. Its 25 touch-sensitive “keywaves” allow you to shape notes with expressiveness and modulate sounds in real time with simple movements of the finger. It comes bundled with Equator, ROLI’s custom built software synthesiser designed exclusively for Expressive MIDI instruments. In Equator, the Seaboard RISE’s five primary dimensions of touch and gestural control – strike, press, glide, slide, and lift are easily and independently mapped to a wide variety of sound parameters. Sliders on the left hand control panel regulate the extent to which these parameters of gestural modulation are utilised. Read more at ROLI
M-Audio | CTRL 49
M-Audio’s premier controller, the CTRL 49 provides advanced control of virtual instruments and DAWs. It features a 49-key semi-weighted keybed, high-resolution 4.3-inch screen, nine faders, eight buttons, 360-degree encoders, four banks of eight velocity and pressure-sensitive drum pads with RGB illumination, roll mode, time division, transport, arpeggiator, and tap tempo buttons, and more. The CTRL 49 is powered by the included Virtual Instrument Player (VIP) software that enables users to access any VSTi virtual instrument or effect in their computer directly from the keyboard. VIP also auto-maps the controls to the selected plugin and displays the plugin parameters directly on the full-color display. For optimum live performance use, VIP software also creates “setlists” that deliver fast on-demand access to virtual instruments and effects. With the press of a single button, users can switch to the next plugin they want without ever reaching for a computer. Read more at M-Audio
Native Instruments’ Maschine redefines the intersection of hardware and software, performance and production. With Dubspot’s Maschine program for performers and producers, you will go from shaking hands with this cutting-edge music platform to making full tracks and performing your music live over the course of three levels. The future of performance and production is here, and there is no time for the future like today.
- Maschine Level 1: Programming and Beat Making Basics
- Maschine Level 2: Sampling, Slicing and Composing
- Maschine Level 3: Advanced Production and Performance Techniques