The 5 Best 88 key MIDI Controller Keyboards [2021 Buyer’s Guide]

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It’s safe to assume that if you’re looking for an 88 key MIDI Controller, you’re somewhat of an adept keyboard/piano player. I would also assume you’re looking for the same features that a 49 or 61 key MIDI Controller offers, but you just want the full-sized instrument.

Well, if that sounds like you then you’re in the right place. Given the fact that we all have different tastes and preferences, not every option on the market is made the same. There are a few things to consider when looking around for the right option with the right features for your needs.


How to choose the right 88 key MIDI

I have an Ultimate Guide to MIDI Controller Keyboards and The 8 Factors to Consider article to help you on your hunt. Refer to that article first if you’re somewhat unsure what to look for.


Best 88 key MIDI Controller Keyboards List


Top Pick

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2

“The Native Instruments S88 MK2 MIDI Keyboard is a top-notch controller option. With it’s fully-weighted, hammer action keys it has a satisfying and realistic feel when you play it.”


Pros
  • Auto-Mapping capabilities
  • Very realistic feel
  • Fully-weighted keys
Cons
  • No drum/sample pads

Tech Specs:

  • Type of Keys: Fully-weighted, Fatar Keybed  
  • Velocity Sensitive: Yes  
  • Aftertouch: Yes  
  • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, Touch Strip Controller  
  • Dedicated Transport Control: Yes (DAW dependent)  
  • Pedal Inputs: 2 x 1/4″ (sustain/expression, assignable)  
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB  
  • USB: 1 x Type B  
  • Computer Connectivity: USB  
  • Software: Komplete Select, Komplete Kontrol (downloads)  
  • Format: NKS, VSTi, VST  
  • Hardware Requirements – Mac: Intel Core i5 or higher, 6GB RAM or more recommended  
  • Hardware Requirements – PC: Intel Core i5 / AMD Quad Core or higher, 6GB RAM or more recommended  
  • OS Requirements – Mac: MacOS 10.12 or later  
  • OS Requirements – PC: Windows 10 Anniversary Update or later  
  • Power Supply: AC adapter power supply (included) 

The Native Instruments S88 MK2 MIDI Keyboard is a top-notch controller option. With it’s fully-weighted, hammer action keys it has a satisfying and realistic feel when you play it. It also features aftertouch, which is always a huge plus.

On top of that, it has multiple built-in sound controls. This allows you to fine-tune all of those necessary parameters like EQ adjustments, attack, release, and other specific tonal settings. Native Instruments is somewhat of the new kid on the block when it comes to hardware. But this MIDI keyboard doesn’t leave much to be desired.

This device includes a feature seldom seen at this price point: auto-mapping. This keyboard smoothly auto-maps to multiple DAWS including Cubase, KOMPLETE, Ableton Live, and more!

There is also precise pitch-control, mod functions, and lighting zones. All of your essential information is displayed on dual color screens for seamless navigation.

The one main drawback to this keyboard is the missing drum/sample pads. This is certainly peculiar considering NI has their Maschine line. If you already have a Maschine system, or don’t absolutely need the pads, then this shortcoming doesn’t ruin just how great this keyboard is.


Runner-Up

M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3

“The MK3 is a reliable, albeit, modest device. Great for beginners or students, this M-Audio keyboard won’t disappoint in the few features it has to offer.”


Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Small footprint
  • USB and external power supply
Cons
  • Average build quality
  • Not feature-rich

Tech Specs:

  • Type of Keys: Semi-weighted, Full-sized  
  • Velocity Sensitive: Yes  
  • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel  
  • Faders: 1 x Volume  
  • Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4″ TS (sustain), 1 x 1/4″ TRS (expression)  
  • MIDI I/O: Out/USB  
  • USB: 1 x Type B  
  • Computer Connectivity: USB  
  • Software: Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, MPC Beats  
  • OS Requirements – Mac: macOS 10.13 or later  
  • OS Requirements – PC: Windows 10 or later  
  • Power Supply: 9V DC 500mA power supply (sold separately) / USB bus powered 

The M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3 is a great option for budgeters or someone looking for a starter MIDI keyboard. It has a great compact size as well as USB and external power supplies allowing for some portability if needed.

This keyboard also has a great array of included software like Ableton Live Lite, MPC Beats, Pro Tools First M-Audio edition, and 6 virtual instruments with 1000+ sounds.

All in all, the 88 MK3 sits comfortably at the top of the list of affordable keyboards for a reason. Try not to be too hyped about the Pro Tools thing though, it’s a highly watered down version. Nonetheless, it can be great for beginners!

It is worth noting that the MK3 suffers from an average build quality across the board, which is to be expected at this price. The keys are semi-weighted and most of the device is made of plastic. The features are nothing to write home about either.

Pretty much the bare essentials, and not much more. You’ll have your standard pitch and mod wheels, octave range buttons, transport controls, volume and fader controls. That being said, it does it’s simple job very well.

The MK3 is a reliable, albeit, modest device. Great for beginners or students, this M-Audio keyboard won’t disappoint in the few features it has to offer.


Well-Rounded

Arturia KeyLab 88 Essential

“The KeyLab 88 has a refreshing vintage synthesizer sound to it, while also giving you the ability to opt for a more classical approach. It’s very versatile when it comes to its general sound.”


Pros
  • Vintage synth emulation
  • Great DAW integration
  • Good value for the price
Cons
  • Drum/Sample pads are small
  • Professionals might need more features

Tech Specs:

  • Type of Keys: Semi-weighted  
  • Velocity Sensitive: Yes  
  • Pads: 8 x Back-lit Performance Pads  
  • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel  
  • Encoders/Pots: 9 x Rotary Knobs, 1 x Clickable Jog Wheel  
  • Faders: 9 x Faders  
  • Dedicated Transport Control: Mackie/HUI Compatible  
  • Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4″ (sustain)  
  • MIDI I/O: Out/USB  
  • USB: 1 x Type B  
  • Computer Connectivity: USB  
  • Features: Chord Play Mode  
  • Software: Analog Lab, Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D  
  • Format: Standalone, AAX, AU, VST (iLok account required)  
  • Hardware Requirements – Mac: 2GHz Processor or higher, 4GB RAM minimum  
  • Hardware Requirements – PC: 2GHz Processor or higher, 4GB RAM minimum  
  • OS Requirements – Mac: OS X 10.10 or later  
  • OS Requirements – PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later  
  • Power Supply: USB Bus powered / 9V DC positive center power supply (sold separately) 

The Aruturia KeyLab Essential 88 is a simple, yet effective keyboard. Though the keys are semi-weighted, the keybed doesn’t feel horrible. If you are looking for semi-weighted keys specifically then this is a comfortable feeling keyboard.

It has 9 rotary knobs, 9 faders, pitch and mod wheels, and full transport controls as well. It does feature aftertouch, which is a pleasant surprise given the fact that this is a mid-range keyboard. It only has 8 drum pads though. We will get into that later. The overall look is clean but won’t be turning any heads.

The KeyLab 88 has a refreshing vintage synthesizer sound to it, while also giving you the ability to opt for a more classical approach. It’s very versatile when it comes to its general sound. This is all possible via the Analog Lab software with over 6000 presets included. Those 6000+ sounds do auto-map to assignable controls which is a plus.

Overall, this keyboard integrates quite easily to whatever DAW you use with all of it’s essential control options.

So, I mentioned that the KeyLab 88 has 8 drum/sample pads instead of the usual 16. On top of that, the pads are small. Unless you’re looking at this thing being your go-to for all drum pattern purposes, then 8 pads will be sufficient.

This keyboard sports all of the essential features you’d look for in a MIDI controller, though some folks might need a little more. It has an intended purpose, and it does it well. The KeyLab 88 really is a solid option for those looking for great bang for your buck value.


Upgrade Pick

Roland RD-2000 88-key Digital Stage Piano

“This is a beast of a device. Roland is obviously one of the most reputable instrument brands on the market, and this keyboard lives up to their name.”


Pros
  • 8 fully assignable zones
  • Loads of connectivity options
  • Great modulation FX
Cons
  • High price point
  • Screen can be hard to read

Tech Specs:

  • Type of Keys: PHA-50 keybed (weighted Progressive Hammer Action)  
  • Other Controllers: 2 x Mod Wheels, Pitchbend/Modulation lever  
  • Polyphony: 128 Notes  
  • Presets: 1,100 tones, 200 rhythm patterns  
  • Effects: Reverb, Delay, Resonance, Tremolo/Amp simulator, Modulation FX, 3-band compressor, 5-band EQ  
  • Audio Recording: 2 channel record/playback (WAV format)  
  • Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/8″ (aux in)  
  • Audio Outputs: 2 x XLR (main out), 2 x 1/4″ (main unbalanced), 2 x 1/4″ (sub out), 1 x 1/4″ (headphones)  
  • USB: 2 x Type A, 1 x Type B  
  • MIDI I/O: In, Out, Out/Thru  
  • Pedal Inputs: 2 x 1/4″ (foot controller), 2 x 1/4″ (damper, external)  
  • Expansion: 2 x internal wave expansion slots via USB port 

The Roland RD-2000 88 key Digital Stage Piano is certainly not only for stage use. This is a beast of a device. Roland is obviously one of the most reputable instrument brands on the market, and this keyboard lives up to their name.

There are a plethora of connectivity options such as USB Type A and B, 1 MIDI in and 2 outs, Stereo ¼” phone type outs, 4 pedal inputs, and a few more.

The PHA-50 keybed features weighted Progressive Hammer Action and is made of hybrid wood. This keybed simply feels great. There are also 2 mod wheels,  a pitch lever, 8 knobs, and 8 assignable zones with faders. The build quality is excellent and looks are what you’d expect from Roland.

The RD-2000 includes over 1100 sounds with SuperNATURAL sound engine that features a 128-voice polyphony limit. There are also 2 wave expansion slots available so you can access additional sounds from Roland’s Axial website.

The amount of effects on this puppy is impressive as well. That list of effects includes reverb, delay, resonance, tremolo/amp simulator, 3-band compressor and a 5-band EQ. Simply put, this thing is packed with features.

It goes without saying that this monster doesn’t include all of these features without coming with a hefty price tag. This is a high-end keyboard that caters to the truly enthusiastic professional. It’s fair to mention the fact that the LED screen can be hard to see at certain angles.

Honestly, the main reason this guy isn’t higher on my list is because of that daunting number next to it. I’m hard-pressed to find a lot of negatives about the RD-2000 though. It’s an excellent keyboard from a very respected brand.


The Classic

Roland FA-08 Music Workstation

“At the end of the day, the FA-08 is still an excellent workstation. It fully integrates with your DAW, and is loaded with some cool features”


Pros
  • 16 Drum/Sample Pads
  • Feature-rich
  • Great factory sound library
Cons
  • Pads are small
  • No aftertouch
  • No faders

Tech Specs:

  • Type of Keys: Ivory Feel G, fully weighted with Escapement  
  • Other Controllers: 1 x Pitchbend/Mod Wheel, 1 x D-Beam, 1 x S1, 1 x S2, 6 x Control Knob, Sample Pads  
  • Polyphony: 128 Notes  
  • Number of Presets: 2,000+  
  • Number of Effects: 16 x MFX, 6 x COMP+EQ, Chorus, Reverb, Master EQ+COMP  
  • Effects Types: 16 x MFX Engines, 6 x COMP+EQ Processors for Drums, TFX, EQ, Chorus, Reverb  
  • Arpeggiator: Yes  
  • Sequencer: 16-track  
  • Sampling: Yes  
  • Audio Playback: Yes  
  • Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/8″ (Line), 1 x 1/4″ (Guitar)  
  • Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4″ (main), 1 x 1/4″ (sub)  
  • Headphones: 1 x 1/4″  
  • USB: 1 x Type A, 1 x Type B  
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out  
  • Pedal Inputs: 1 x Hold, 1 x CTL 1, 1 x CTL 2  
  • Expansion: 2 x Virtual SRX Slots  
  • Power Source: 9V DC power supply (included)

Yes, another Roland product. The FA-08 88 key music workstation is quite similar to it’s more comprehensive RD-2000 cousin, but offers some different features. This keyboard is considered to be more of a synthesizer that parallels the Fantom G8.

There are 16 modulation effect engines included with 6x COMP+EQ processors for drums, total effects, multiband EQ, chorus, reverb, and more! There are also 2 wheels, 1 mod and 1 pitch, 6 control knobs and 16 drum/sample pads. There is an arpeggiator as well as a 16-track pattern phrase sequencer.

DAW integration is easy with its full transport controls. Connectivity is adequate with a MIDI in/out, USB Type A and B, ¼” headphone jack, and all of the standard audio ins and outs. The expansion slots are “virtual” though you can still access more sounds from Roland’s Axial website with this method

The features of this device don’t stop there. There is trigger sampling, integrated vocoder voice capturing, dual sequencer mods (linear and step). I could keep going for a while here. It’s a versatile keyboard that you can use in any way you see fit.

It is a shame that the FA-08 is lacking aftertouch though. This might be due to the fact that it is a synth with a ton of effects. Aftertouch would have been a very welcome addition nonetheless.

That being said, the Ivory Feel-G keybed is quite firm and naturally weighted, not fully-weighted. It still feels good to play. There are no faders on this keyboard as well with no assignable zones. This is less of a downside than the lack of aftertouch honestly.

At the end of the day, the FA-08 is still an excellent workstation. It fully integrates with your DAW, and is loaded with some cool features. It is missing a few essentials that would have set this thing above the pack. But, it somewhat makes up for this with its easy-to-use interface and versatility. Of course, any option from Roland is always worth considering.


Conclusion

The 88 key MIDI keyboard field is tight with good options being few and far between. The clear winner in my eyes is the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 Keyboard. It is a great feeling keyboard with awesome control options. It easily integrates with your DAW and gives you a ton of freedom in the studio. It’s just a quality option that will likely have an impact on your workflow.

Being able to have a full-sized instrument at your fingertips with all of the features of a MIDI controller is a great feeling. True inspiration comes from top-notch equipment and these devices have all it takes to help you feed your creativity. I hope this guide has helped you on your quest for the best 88 key MIDI keyboard.

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Jeremy Bongiorno
I have been a musician and producer for over 15 years. My goal is to provide reliable, honest information and hopefully help to improve the quality of life in your studio.