The 5 Best 49 key MIDI Controller Keyboards [2021 Buyer’s Guide]

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Finding the best 49 key MIDI controller keyboard can easily be a fundamental part in any home studio. Of all of the popular keyboard sizes, 49 keys is the perfect middle-ground for a MIDI controller in particular. It’s a slightly more compact option that won’t sacrifice a lot of key range.

Alternatively, 61 keys or even 88 keys might be just a little too big for you and your designated space. Those bigger options will have more octave range though. I have covered all of these sizes so you can decide on what’s right for you. 

Honestly though, a 49 key MIDI controller is the most ideal size for a personal home studio. This is especially true for those of you looking to save room for all of the other gear that you can’t be without. They still offer a plethora of features, and are very powerful devices.

If this sounds like the right size keyboard for you, then you’re in luck. I’ve gathered all of my favorite options to give you some perspective on this topic.

First, there are some important things to keep in mind before investing in a 49 key MIDI controller keyboard.

How to choose the best 49 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 49 key MIDI Controller Keyboards List


AKAI Professional MPK249

TOP PICK
9.7/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Velocity Sensitive: Pressure and Velocity-sensitive pads — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 — Other Controllers: 8 x Assignable Buttons, Mod, Pitch Wheels — Encoders/Pots: 8 — Faders: 8 — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes — Pedal Inputs: 1 x Sustain, 1 x Expression — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB/iOS — USB: 1 x Type B — Software: VIP3.0 (free download) — Hardware Requirements - Mac: 1.25 GHz G4/G5 or Faster (Intel Recommended), 2GB RAM — Hardware Requirements - PC: 1.5 GHz Pentium 4 or Celeron CPU, 2GB RAM, Windows-compatible Sound Card — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.7 or Later — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later — Power Supply: Bus Powered 

Reasons To Buy:

+ Excellent semi-weighted keys

+ Packed with control options

+ Very user-friendly

Reasons To Avoid:

- Aftertouch can be hit-and-miss

- USB cable is a little short

9.7out of 10

Key Feel9.6
Features9.8
Build Quality9.7

The Akai Professional MPK line of MIDI controller keyboards has been a go-to for many keyboardists and musicians alike for quite some time now. It’s easy to see why when you look at the loaded interface on the MPK249.

The control options available on this keyboard are plentiful. You get 8 knobs, 8 faders, 8 backlit switches, 16 MPC-style pads with 4 banks, mod and pitch wheels, and all of the standard transport controls. Frankly, this is all you could need and then some. 

The keybed on the MPK249 feels very satisfying to play on. It’s semi-weighted which is always good, and there is Aftertouch included as well.

Speaking of Aftertouch, it’s fair to point out that it can be a bit fussy on this keyboard. You sometimes have to really press hard on the keys for it to work right. Not a super frequent issue, but it does occur.

The included USB cable is a little short, which is definitely inconvenient. It shouldn’t be hard to find a longer cable that’s compatible if you find it to be necessary. That’s about it in terms of negatives for the MPK249 though. It easily integrates with most of the major DAWs out there.

The layout of the MIDI control options is designed in a very user-friendly manner. It’s just a solid keyboard that’s sure to make an impact on your quality of life in the studio. 


Arturia KeyLab 49 MKII

RUNNER-UP
9.5/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Type Of Keys: Semi-Weighted — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x Back-lit RGB Performance Pads — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 9 — Faders: 9 — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 3 x 1/4" (aux) — MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB — USB: 1 x Type B — Other I/O: 1 x 1/8" (CV in), 4 x 1/8" (CV out, Gate out, Mod 1, Mod 2) — Computer Connectivity: USB — Software: Analog Lab 3, Ableton Live Lite, Piano V2, Arturia MIDI Control Center — Format: VST, AU, AAX (Analog Lab) — Hardware Requirements - Mac: Intel Multi-core processor, 4GB RAM minimum — Hardware Requirements - PC: AMD / Intel Multi-core processor, 4GB RAM minimum — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.10 or later — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later — Power Supply: 9V DC power supply (sold separately) 

Reasons To Buy:

+ Solid build quality

+ Seamless DAW Integration

+ Keybed feels great

Reasons To Avoid:

- Heavy

- Software licensing is a pain

9.5out of 10

Key Feel9.5
Features9.6
Build Quality9.4

The KeyLab 49 MKII by Arturia is a staple in the industry. It’s an exceptionally well-built keyboard with no shortage of features. The chassis is almost entirely made of aluminium, and all of the control options feel snug and sturdy.

The keybed has 49 semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive keys that are a joy to play. There is Aftertouch, and it has one of the most sensitive responses that I’ve found. 

As far as control options you get 9 rotary knobs, 9 faders, 16 backlit RGB pads, 5 expressions control inputs, mod and pitch wheels, and all of the standard transport controls. All of these are laid out in a very intuitive and attractive way.

The KeyLab 49 MKII integrates very smoothly with most of the popular DAWs. It also has great included software with some great sounding presets that you can tweak to your liking. That being said, with any Arturia product, the software licensing process can be frustrating.

Be prepared for spending a chunk of time getting it done. Also, this isn’t the most portable keyboard ever made. It weighs about 14 pounds, but it’s sturdy build quality makes it roadworthy as long as you don’t mind lugging it around. 

There’s so much to love about this keyboard at the end of the day. I highly recommend the KeyLab 49 MKII for anyone looking for an extremely reliable companion in the studio.


Nektar Impact LX49+

BUDGET PICK
9.4/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Type of Keys: Synth — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Pads: 8 — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel, Octave/Shift transpose buttons — Encoders/Pots: 8 — Faders: 8 plus volume — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes, full integration for major DAWs — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (assignable) — MIDI I/O: USB — USB: 1 x Type B — Software: Bitwig 8-Track (VST plug-in compatible) — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.7 or later, iOS (Apple Camera Connection kit required for iPad) — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 or later 

Reasons To Buy:

+ Good amount of control options

+ Affordable

+ Lightweight

Reasons To Avoid:

- Questionable durability

- Keys might not be suitable for some

9.4out of 10

Key Feel9.4
Features9.6
Build Quality9.1

The Nektar Impact LX49+ breaks the mold of a MIDI controller keyboard, especially at this price point. The level of ease you have when controlling your DAW with this keyboard is very convenient.

This is all in conjunction with giving you full capabilities in terms of musical control over the internal settings as well. Simply put, this thing performs well beyond its pay-grade. It’s just an insane value overall.

The impressive features don’t stop there though. The amount of control options is quite impressive as well! There are 8 knobs, 9 faders, 8 velocity-sensitive pads, 4 octave and transpose buttons, and all of the expected transport controls.

Again, this is a surprising amount of controls for a keyboard like this. Additionally, the LX49+ is pretty lightweight and portable if you wish to take it around with you.

I know I’ve been praising this puppy up and down, but there are certainly some downfalls as well. As to be expected with a keyboard at this price range, the materials and overall build quality is a little lackluster. Being made almost exclusively out of plastic, the durability and longevity of this device is in question. If you have the mindset of taking very good care of your gear then you’re probably fine.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that these keys are synth-action. Therefore, some folks might not like the lighter feeling to the keybed.

All in all, the LX49+ is a wonderful option for those on a budget. You’re still getting a powerful, lightweight and feature-rich device that’s likely to surprise you with how long it lasts.


Novation 49SL MkIII

FOR ABLETON USERS
9.2/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x RGB Backlit Pads — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 8 x Continuous Rotary Knobs — Faders: 8 — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes — Sequencer: 64 Sessions, 8 Tracks per Session, 8 Patterns per Track, Unquantized Recording, Micro-step Editing — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (expression), 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (footswitch) — MIDI I/O: In, Out, Out2/Thru, USB — USB: 1 x Type B — Other I/O: 1 x Clock out, 2 x CV out, 2 x Mod out, 2 x Gate out — Computer Connectivity: USB — Software: Ableton Live Lite, 4GB Loopmaster Sounds and Samples — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.11.6 or later — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later — Power Supply: 12V DC power supply (included) 

Reasons To Buy:

+ Very intuitive

+ Perfect for Ableton Live users

+ Tons of awesome features

Reasons To Avoid:

- DAW integration outside of Ableton isn’t great

- Not quite “roadworthy”

9.2out of 10

Key Feel9
Features9.5
Build Quality9.1

Novation has a deservedly well respected name in the music world. Generally speaking, they make hardware catered to Ableton Live, but there’s a lot of worthy highlights to the products they put out. The 49SL MKIII is an ultra-powerful keyboard that’s loaded with control options and functionality.

There are 8 encoders, 8 faders, an 8 track sequencer, mod and pitch wheels, a routable MIDI clock, 16 RGB pads, and all essential transport controls. The list of features on this keyboard is by no means short. There’s enough here for any serious producer to enjoy endlessly.

All of those features sync flawlessly with any Ableton Live software, and everything is laid out wonderfully across the keyboards chassis. Despite me making this device sound perfect, it’s definitely not that. The overall build quality on the 49SL MKIII is adequate, but some of the controls feel flimsy.

The keybed is an awesome semi-weighted/synth-action hybrid with Aftertouch. However, some people might find the keys to be a little light feeling. Also, even though this keyboard integrates very well with Ableton, it’s not recommended for use with most of the other popular DAWs.

In conclusion, if you’re an Ableton user, you’ll be more than pleased with the 49SL MKIII. It’s a very intuitive and satisfying keyboard that is sure to enable a magnitude of inspiration for its user.     


Arturia Keylab 49 Essential

WELL-ROUNDED
9.1/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Type of Keys: Synth action — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Pads: 8 x back-lit performance pads — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 9 x encoders — Faders: 9 x 30mm faders — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (sustain) — MIDI I/O: Out/USB — USB: 1 x Type B — Software: Analog Lab, Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D — Format: AAX, AU, VST3, VST, Standalone — Hardware Requirements - Mac: Multi-core 2GHz processor or higher, 4GB RAM minimum — Hardware Requirements - PC: Multi-core 2GHz processor or higher, 4GB RAM minimum — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.8 or later, iOS — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later, Android — Power Supply: 9V DC power supply (sold separately) / USB bus powered 

Reasons To Buy:

+ Beautiful software synth sounds

+ Attractive looks

+ Controls are high-quality

Reasons To Avoid:

- No included power supply

- Subpar integration with some DAWS

9.1out of 10

Key Feel9.3
Features9
Build Quality8.9

Yes, another Arturia keyboard. The KeyLab Essential 49 could be considered as the younger cousin to the KeyLab 49 MKII that comes at a more modest price point. Don’t be fooled, it’s still a powerful and feature-rich keyboard.

You get all of the essentials in terms of control options with 9 faders, 9 knobs, mod and pitch wheels, 8 pads, and all standard transport controls. Those controls are very responsive and have a good level of sturdiness to them as well.

The keys are synth-action so yet again, they might feel a little too light to some users. All of this comes wrapped in a very aesthetically pleasing chassis, with a layout design that’s user-friendly and well-thought-out. 

The KeyLab Essential comes bundled with Analog Lab 3 which is a collection of over 6,500 presets that sound simply fantastic. There’s an assortment of analog synths, electric pianos, organs, string machines, digital pianos and much more! The included software you get with this keyboard is unprecedented given its price tag. That being said, be prepared to spend a decent chunk of time downloading the software. 

There are some shortcomings to point out with the KeyLab Essential 49 though. Firstly there’s no separate power supply included. This is a bit of a shame considering the fact that this keyboard is light enough to be portable. I’m sure you could find a compatible power supply online if you wanted to.

Secondly, this keyboard doesn’t fully integrate with certain DAWs like Logic and Pro Tools. This means you’ll have to manually map specific controls which can take some time.

If you’re looking for a great middle of the road keyboard that doesn’t lack in versatility, then the KeyLab Essential 49 is worth a hard look. It’s more of a bare-bones alternative to its MKII counterpart while still providing the same style and power. It’s definitely a worthy addition to any studio.


Conclusion

The clear-cut winner in this category is the notorious Akai Professional MPK249. It’s a true workhorse in every sense of the word. You get an overwhelming amount of control options laid out in a straightforward pick-up-and-play fashion. This keyboard has a level of functionality seldom found in other devices like this.

With that, there’s a crazy amount of features that any of these devices on this list can offer.

Each of these options have their own flair to them, and it’s ultimately up to you which 49 key MIDI controller suits you best. I hope this guide has helped you and given you some inspiration on your search.

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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.

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