The 7 Best Weighted MIDI Keyboard Controllers In 2022 [Plus Buyer’s Guide]

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For some producers, a synth-action or semi-weighted MIDI keyboard isn’t comfortable enough to play on. This is especially true for players that are more used to the feeling of a traditional piano. The best weighted MIDI keyboard controllers are made to mimic that feeling in order to give you a more satisfying playing experience.

A weighted MIDI keyboard is the closest thing you’ll get to playing a real piano in your home studio setup. That said, it’s also true that no digital MIDI device will ever truly feel like an acoustic piano. It’s simply not possible.

A MIDI keyboard sets out to accomplish a multitude of tasks that pianos or electric pianos can’t do. Fully weighted MIDI keyboards are complex devices that are powerful enough to handle many aspects of music production.

For example, every MIDI controller is equipped with a plethora of onboard controls for manipulating parameters of your DAW in real-time. On top of that, they are made to transmit MIDI data digitally to your computer, and then to your DAW after that.

At the end of the day, we’re talking about one of the most important pieces of studio equipment in any producer’s arsenal, and in this case, we’re also talking about one that offers weighted keys for veteran keyboardists/pianists.

In this article, we’ll go over all of the factors you need to consider before buying the best weighted MIDI keyboard controller. After that, I’ll give you my favorite options available on the market today.

Quick Picks

ImageProductScorePrice
TOP PICK
Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII
Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII

Number of Keys: 88 — Type of Keys: Weighted, Fatar TP/100LR Keybed — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x Backlit, Velocity-sensitive — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 9 x Rotary Encoders — Faders: 9 x Faders — Zones: 2

9.8
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RUNNER-UP
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2

Type of Keys: Fully-weighted, Fatar Keybed — 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

9.7
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BUDGET PICK
Nektar Impact LX88+
Nektar Impact LX88+

Number of Keys: 88 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Pads: 8 LED Backlit — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 8 — Faders: 8 plus volume

9.5
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49-KEY PICK
AKAI Professional MPK249
AKAI Professional MPK249

Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 — Other Controllers: 8 x Assignable Buttons, Mod, Pitch Wheels — Encoders/Pots: 8 — Faders: 8

9.4
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FOR ABLETON USERS
Novation 61SL MkIII
Novation 61SL MkIII

Number of Keys: 61 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x RGB Backlit Pads — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 8 x Continuous Rotary Knobs — Faders: 8

9.3
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EASY TO USE
M-Audio Hammer 88
M-Audio Hammer 88

Number of Keys: 88 — Type of Keys: Weighted Hammer Action — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Zones: 4 — Pedal Inputs: 3 x 1/4" (sustain, soft, expression) — MIDI I/O: Out — USB: 1 x Type B

9.1
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25-KEY PICK
Alesis VI25
Alesis VI25

Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Full-size, Semi-weighted — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x Backlit, Velocity Sensitive — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 8 x Knobs

9
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Do You Really Need Weighted Keys?

No, you don’t necessarily need weighted keys on a MIDI keyboard, but it’s also heavily dependent on your skill-level and playstyle. If you’re just starting out, then you can just as easily learn to play on a synth-action keybed. 

That said, if you practice extensively on weighted keys, then you’re teaching yourself how to use proper finger strength. This is an effective way to improve your dexterity right from the start.

Alternatively, if you’re an intermediate or veteran player, then you’ll likely feel more “at-home” on a weighted MIDI device. Chances are, if you’ve been playing piano/keyboard for a while, then you’re more comfortable with keys that are more resistant, thus making a weighted MIDI controller the logical choice.

To better understand the difference between weighted keys and other types of keys, we need to break down each one individually. Here are a few of the most common key-weights and action types found on MIDI controllers:

  • Synth-action keys: these types of keys are very light and super responsive. Their spring-loaded design has no added weight, so there is very little resistance when you press and release each key. Synth-action keys are definitely the most common type of key found on MIDI keyboards, but some players find them to be uncomfortable. That said, beginners find them to be the easiest to learn on.
  • Semi-weighted keys: these keys are the middle-ground between synth-action and fully-weighted keys. They are still spring-loaded, but they have some weight behind them as well. You won’t have to look too terribly far to find a MIDI keyboard that offers semi-weighted keys, but they’re not as common as synth-action. Semi-weighted keys will be featured in some of the options on my list below, and they’re my top recommendation for beginners and veterans alike.
  • Fully-weighted keys: it’s pretty rare to find a MIDI keyboard that offers fully-weighted, hammer-action keys. These are the keys that aim to mimic the feeling of a traditional piano, and although it’s not the same feeling exactly, it’s pretty darn close. Experienced players will love these keys, and like I said before, beginners would benefit from learning on fully-weighted keys as well.

Again, the biggest factor here is your specific preference. Like I said, you don’t need a weighted MIDI keyboard, but they are never a bad option to go with either.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Weighted MIDI Keyboard

So, now that we’ve determined that a MIDI keyboard is the best choice for your needs, we can start to talk about the important stuff. There are loads of factors to consider before buying a weighted MIDI controller, and each one of them is just as important as the last. Let’s get into it.

Number Of Keys

You’d be hard pressed to find a weighted MIDI keyboard that’s not 88 keys. An 88-key MIDI device is as big as they come, and they’re really the only size that will have fully-weighted keys.

You can find some 61-key or 49-key options that have semi-weighted keys. You’ll have a hard time finding smaller keyboards like those with fully-weighted keys. 

So, to make things clear. 88-keys is going to be your main choice when looking for a weighted MIDI keyboard. Almost every option on my list below will have a key-count of 88 keys, any smaller than that, and you’re getting a semi-weighted keybed. Keep that in mind as we move on.

Now, I will give you some smaller MIDI keyboards options in my list as well. These options are meant for those of you who don’t have the space for a big 88-key MIDI device

That leads me to my next point, which is to take the size of your studio desk into consideration. Moreover, take into account the amount of space you have in your home studio as a whole. From there, you can determine what key-count to go for.

Onboard Controllers (Pads, Wheels, Knobs, Etc.)

The next important factor is the amount of control options you want on your new weighted MIDI keyboard. Not only that, but what type of controls are you going to need the most. To clarify this topic, we need to talk about the most common types of onboard controls found on a MIDI controller and what their purposes are.

  • Drum pads: these are the flagship control option on any keyboard. These are tactile pads that can be mapped to any sound or sample you can think of. When pressed, the pad reproduces the sound. In general, 8 pads should be enough for most producers, but honestly, there’s no such thing as too many pads. If you need even more pads, consider investing in a dedicated MIDI drum pad.
  • Transport controls: these handle all of the most basic functions in your DAW. We’re talking about play, stop, pause, rewind, and record. They are absolutely essential on any MIDI device.
  • Faders: these are mechanical controls that slide up and down on a fixed track. You can use these to control a number of different parameters like volume levels, filter cutoffs, and more. 2 faders should be plenty in most cases.
  • Knobs: these are rotary controls and can be mapped to virtually anything. Similar to faders, they’re commonly used to control filter cutoffs and volume levels, but they can also be used to control effects and EQ parameters. 4 knobs is usually plenty, but having more won’t hurt.
  • Mod & pitch wheels: these are motorized controls that are made to modulate and manipulate sounds directly. One of each is sufficient.

Onboard control options are one of the most important aspects of a MIDI keyboard. I mean, without them, you might as well just get a standard digital piano. 

With that, it’s important to think about what you want out of a MIDI device for your productions. From there, you can choose an option that has the adequate amount of controls.

Of course, none of these would matter if you have a device that’s incompatible with your DAW. This leads us to the next factor.

DAW Compatibility & Integration

You wouldn’t get very far with your new fully weighted MIDI keyboard if it’s not compatible with your software or your computer. The first step here is to check your computer specs and make sure it can support the device. From there, you’ll need to consider the type of DAW you want to work with.

A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is where all of the magic happens in your productions. Every song you make begins and ends with this vital piece of software. 

Two of the most popular DAWs on the market are Ableton and FL Studio. If you’re a Mac user, then chances are you’ll use Logic Pro or GarageBand. Outside of that, you have Pro Tools, Cubase, Studio One, Reaper, and many more. 

The truth is that most modern fully weighted MIDI keyboards are fully-compatible with most of the DAWs on that list. On the off chance that your new MIDI device doesn’t integrate with your software, then you’ll have to map everything by hand. Let me tell you, this is not a fun process.

That’s why it’s important to double-check that everything will integrate and work smoothly together.

Some fully weighted MIDI keyboards are made specifically for certain DAWs too. For example, Akai makes a MIDI controller for FL Studio that looks exactly like the FL Step Sequencer. 

Novation makes a line of MIDI controllers for Ableton that uses “Automapping” to seamlessly integrate with the software.

Power Supply & Connectivity

First, let’s talk about the two types of MIDI. You have MIDI In which allows you to control sounds directly from the keyboard, and MIDI Output, which is how to connect and send data to your computer. On a quick side-note, most MIDI data nowadays is transmitted via USB.

If you want to connect external devices to your MIDI device, then you’re going to need a 5-pin MIDI In to do so. CV and Gate ports are useful for this as well.

Now, your new weighted MIDI controller will most likely use USB bus power to operate. If for any reason you think you’ll need to power your keyboard through a wall outlet, then it’d be wise to make sure it’s capable of that.

Aftertouch

Aftertouch is a smart feature that adds some expressiveness to your writing process. It works by detecting the amount of pressure that’s applied to the keys and is then transmitted as MIDI data to your DAW.

There are two forms in which this data is processed: monophonic and polyphonic.

Monophonic looks at the keys being held and only transmits the highest aftertouch of the bunch.

Polyphonic is far less common, but it transmits the pressure data of each individual key separately.

Weighted MIDI keyboards will often have aftertouch inherently. These devices are on the more “premium” side of the spectrum, and with that comes premium features like aftertouch. It’s not the end of the world if the MIDI controller you’re interested in doesn’t have it, but it’s certainly a cool feature to have nonetheless.

Zone-Splitting

Again, we’re talking about premium fully weighted MIDI keyboards here, so chances are it will have zone splitting as an onboard feature.

With this feature, you can split up the keybed into multiple zones, and each zone can be mapped to a different sound or preset. 

For instance, in your left hand you can have a bass synth, and in your right an ambient pad. The creative possibilities are endless.

Just like with aftertouch, zone-splitting isn’t a deal-breaker, but it can certainly open up some awesome avenues for your productions.

Weighted MIDI Keyboard Or Synthesizer Keyboard?

It’s a fair question. I mean, at this point, would it be better to opt for a hardware synthesizer keyboard? It will have similar keys, and all of your sounds can be generated on the synth itself.

The truth is, both of these devices are made for different purposes, and both can be used together. 

As a digital device, a MIDI controller can be used to communicate with your DAW. As an analog device, a synth keyboard can be plugged into your MIDI keyboard via MIDI In or other connectivity options, or it can be connected to an audio interface.

From there, you can use your weighted MIDI controller to play sounds from a VST plugin in your DAW while also having some analog sounds in your synthesizer. 

My point is that you can have both, but you don’t need both.

Also, if you just want to play sounds from your DAW, then all you likely need is a MIDI controller. A hardware synthesizer is a cool thing to have down the road, but they’re expensive and pretty advanced.

This is another factor that heavily depends on you! If you prefer an analog touch, then go for a synth keyboard. If you’re used to doing everything in your DAW, then a MIDI keyboard will be your best friend.

Writing With A MIDI Keyboard

The fact that you’re considering a fully weighted MIDI controller means that you’re serious about music production. That being the case, one of the most important factors of digital music production is MIDI itself. 

Learning the ins and outs of MIDI will go a long way in improving the workflow and writing process in your productions.

It’s no secret that piano is a hard instrument to learn. What’s also true is that using and learning MIDI isn’t an overnight process either. It’s important to know what MIDI is and how it works, that way you’re not entering a world that’s totally foreign to you.

I have written a detailed article about MIDI, so head over there to learn more!

So, what does this mean for your writing process exactly?

Well, my main point is that writing with a MIDI keyboard runs the risk of making your songs sound unrealistic and artificial. I know what you’re thinking, but just because you’re making music in a DAW doesn’t mean it has to be obvious that you are.

A great way to improve your digital music production is to pick the right samples and learn the right chords. Also, using the right plugins in the right places goes a long way. Don’t just slap on a compressor to your heavy bass synth sample and expect things to sound more analog.

Learning how to use MIDI the right way is the best first step you can take in making genuinely awesome music. 


Best Weighted MIDI Keyboard List

Alright, we’ve already covered a lot in this article. I think it’s about time for us to get into my list of the best weighted MIDI keyboards controllers on the market today.

As long as you keep everything we’ve talked about in mind, you’ll be on your way to making an educated decision on the right MIDI device for your needs.

Keep in mind that this list will have both fully-weighted and semi-weighted keyboard options to choose from. This is due to varying sizes and price-tags. I did this so you guys have plenty of options at your disposal to fit your budget and studio space.


Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII

TOP PICK
9.8/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Number of Keys: 88 — Type of Keys: Weighted, Fatar TP/100LR Keybed — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x Backlit, Velocity-sensitive — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 9 x Rotary Encoders — Faders: 9 x Faders — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes — Zones: 2 — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (sustain), 1 x 1/4" (expression), 3 x 1/4" (aux pedals) — 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: Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab Software — Format: Standalone, VST2.4, VST3, AAX, AU, NKS — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.11 or later, 64-bit — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later, 64-bit — Power Supply: USB bus power, 9-12V DC power supply (sold separately) — Height: 4.40" — Width: 50.90" — Depth: 12.70" — Weight: 32.4 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Extremely versatile

+ The keys feel amazing to play on

+ Loads of onboard controls

Reasons To Avoid:

- Large footprint

- Expensive

9.8out of 10

Key Feel9.8
Features9.9
Build Quality9.6

If you’re looking for the best of the best among fully weighted MIDI keyboards, then the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII is just that. It should come as no surprise though when you consider the reputation that Arturia has made for themselves in the industry.

This is a weighted MIDI keyboard that’s been around for a few years now, and has continued to make waves since it’s release. As with the other KeyLab keyboards, the 88 MKII comes with an interface that’s packed with control options, giving you total control over your DAW.

This is also one of the few MIDI keyboards on this list that’s fully-weighted. In fact, the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII comes equipped with a Fatar TP/100LR Keybed that’s fully-weighted with hammer action.

The only downsides to this weighted MIDI controller are the price and it’s size. It’s certainly just as, if not more expensive than other keyboards down the list, and the sheer size of this thing means you’ll have to sacrifice a lot of space in your studio.

Other than that, this is a high-end MIDI device for producers that are serious about making music. It gives you everything you could ever want in a MIDI controller keyboard and then some. 

If you can get past the hefty price-tag, then the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII is sure to be your next favorite companion.


Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2

RUNNER-UP
9.7/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

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) 

Reasons To Buy:

+ Very powerful

+ Keys feel great

+ Onboard digital screens are super helpful

Reasons To Avoid:

- There’s a bit of a learning curve

- No drum pads

9.7out of 10

Key Feel9.6
Features9.7
Build Quality9.8

Next up, we have another top-notch option from the likes of Native Instruments, which has become one of the leading MIDI controller manufacturers in recent history. NI specializes in making feature-rich devices that do everything but cut corners.

The Komplete Kontrol S88 could probably be considered the best MIDI controller keyboard they have in their repertoire. The keybed is one of the best feeling keybeds out there, and the control options are modest yet effective.

I know that the first thing you’ll see is the lack of any drum pads, but with everything else this MIDI device has to offer, it’s possible to see past it. 

You still get a lot of cool features in this thing. Between the amazing digital screens, the multitude of inputs and outputs, and the included software, it’s still more than worth it. You also still get mod and pitch bend wheels, 8 rotary knobs, and transport controls to boot.

Now, this MIDI keyboard does have a bit of a learning curve to it. Learning how the Maschine software works in conjunction with your DAW can be confusing at first. Also, the Komplete Kontrol S88 is yet another option that’s not cheap by any means.

At the end of the day, this is a great weighted MIDI keyboard in more ways than not. It’s hard to discount the absolute power this thing gives you, and the keys are simply a joy to play on.


Nektar Impact LX88+

BUDGET PICK
9.5/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Number of Keys: 88 — Type of Keys: Semi-weighted — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Pads: 8 LED Backlit — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 8 — Faders: 8 plus volume — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes, full integration for major DAWs — Zones: Zones, Layers and Splits — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (assignable) — MIDI I/O: Out/USB — USB: 1 x Type B — Computer Connectivity: USB — 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 — Height: 3.50" — Width: 50.25" — Depth: 11.00" — Weight: 18.0 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Semi-weighted keybed feels surprisingly good

+ Affordable

+ Plenty of controls

Reasons To Avoid:

- Build quality is questionable

9.5out of 10

Key Feel9.5
Features9.7
Build Quality9.3

Here we have more of a budget option from Nektar. The LX88+ is the first semi-weighted MIDI device we’ve come across, although the keys are still very satisfying to play on. No, the keys on the LX88+ won’t compare to the first two options, but they’re still quite comfortable.

Although it has a modest price-tag, this weighted MIDI controller keyboard doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of features. 

You get 8 drum pads, plenty of knobs and faders, and 17 programmable buttons. On top of that, Nektar markets their keyboards to be fully compatible with a long list of the most popular DAWs. So far, I have yet to hear of any issues with integration on a Nektar MIDI device.

The only thing that’s worrisome about this MIDI controller keyboard is it’s build quality. It is an affordable full-size MIDI controller, so you can expect that it’s made almost entirely of plastic. On one hand it’s lightweight, which is a plus, but that also makes it feel toy-like and fragile.

None of this should deter you from considering this weighted MIDI keyboard though. The Nektar LX88+ is easily the best value on this list, and it makes for an excellent entry-option into the world of MIDI.


AKAI Professional MPK249

49-KEY 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:

+ Loaded with premium features

+ Crammed with onboard controls

+ Easily integrates with most DAWs

Reasons To Avoid:

- A little pricey for what you get

9.4out of 10

Key Feel9.4
Features9.5
Build Quality9.4

As one of the most popular weighted MIDI keyboards on the market, the Akai Professional MPK249 is a clear example of what these devices are capable of. This is the first and only 49-key option on this list, and there is no other MIDI controller keyboard of this size more deserving of the spot.

The MPK249 comes equipped with a semi-weighted keybed that’s deceivingly fun to play on. I mean, the keys on this keyboard really feel like the real thing. 

In addition, you get a very healthy amount of control options, most notably being the 16 MPC-style pads that can be expanded up to 64 pads through 4 banks.

The MPK249 really shines in terms of onboard control options. That alone is what’s made countless people flock to this weighted MIDI controller. That and it’s seamless integration with most major DAWs.

All of this does come at a price though. Being a 49-key MIDI controller keyboard, it’s pretty expensive. It’s definitely not the most expensive keyboard of this size out there, but still.

If you can handle the price, then you’ll be setting yourself up for the future with this weighted MIDI keyboard. The MPK249 checks off all of the boxes of what to look for in a MIDI device.


Novation 61SL MkIII

61-KEY PICK
9.3/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Number of Keys: 61 — 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) — Height: 3.93" — Width: 38.62" — Depth: 11.81"

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Great for Ableton users

+ Plenty of useful features

+ Not horribly expensive

Reasons To Avoid:

- Not as easy to use with other DAWs

9.3out of 10

Key Feel9.2
Features9.5
Build Quality9.3

Here we have a perfect option for Ableton users. I mentioned this in the buyer’s guide section, but Novation makes a whole line of MIDI keyboards specifically tailored to Ableton Live. The 61SL MKIII is the newest iteration of one of their best devices in their inventory, and it’s the only 61-key option on the list.

The keys are semi-weighted albeit on the lighter side of the spectrum. That’s not to say that they’re uncomfortable to play on though, they’re just not up to the same standard as others on this list. 

What’s more noteworthy about this MIDI controller keyboard is the list of features it offers. Onboard controls consist of 16 RGB pads, 8 encoders, 8 faders, and a slew of buttons. 

This weighted MIDI keyboard also comes with Smart Arppegiator, an 8 track sequencer and MIDI I/Os for connecting external devices. The list goes on and on from there, but you get the idea. This thing is loaded with features.

Unfortunately, as to be expected, this weighted MIDI controller doesn’t integrate as well with other DAWs outside of Ableton Live. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it’s just more of a painstaking process to get everything working properly in certain DAWs.

If you are an Ableton user though, then you’ll absolutely fall in love with the Novation 61SL MKIII. It really is the perfect centerpiece to any Ableton-exclusive studio.


M-Audio Hammer 88

EASY TO USE
9.1/10Studio Frequencies Score

Specifications:

Number of Keys: 88 — Type of Keys: Weighted Hammer Action — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Zones: 4 — Pedal Inputs: 3 x 1/4" (sustain, soft, expression) — MIDI I/O: Out — USB: 1 x Type B — Software: Ableton Live Lite (download code), Hammer 88 software editor — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.8 or later, iOS (iPad camera connection kit required) — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later — Power Supply: USB bus powered, 9V DC 800mA power adapter (sold separately) — Height: 5.0" — Width: 55.9" — Depth: 11.9" — Weight: 38.5 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Simple and easy to use

+ Keys are pretty close to the real thing

+ Multiple zones

Reasons To Avoid:

- Almost nothing in terms of onboard controls

9.1out of 10

Key Feel9.6
Features8.8
Build Quality9

Next up we have a simple weighted MIDI keyboard from M-Audio, and I do mean simple. The M-Audio Hammer 88 sits on a thin line between a digital piano and a MIDI controller, but it still manages to exist in the latter somehow.

That’s probably due to the fact that it has a mod wheel, a pitch bend wheel, and a single master volume fader. That’s all there is though. Not even any transport controls. 

I still wanted to include this option simply because of the amazing keybed. Although you’ll be very limited in terms of functionality, you’ll have a blast playing on these fully-weighted, hammer action keys. 

It does also offer two zones to split up the keybed, which is a welcome feature on this otherwise modest device.

That’s really it though. It’s a straightforward MIDI controller keyboard with a very good keybed and a few simple features. It’s a great option for composers who don’t need a whole lot of extra features.


Alesis VI25

25-KEY PICK
9/10Studio Frequencies Score

Features & Specs:

Number of Keys: 25 — Type of Keys: Full-size, Semi-weighted — Velocity Sensitive: Yes — Aftertouch: Yes — Pads: 16 x Backlit, Velocity Sensitive — Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel — Encoders/Pots: 8 x Knobs — Dedicated Transport Control: Yes — Pedal Inputs: 1 x 1/4" TS (sustain) — MIDI I/O: Out/USB — USB: 1 x Type B — Computer Connectivity: USB — Software: V Editor, Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition, Xpand!2 — Hardware Requirements - PC: Multicore Processor, 2GB RAM minimum — OS Requirements - Mac: OS X 10.8 or later — OS Requirements - PC: Windows 7 SP1 or later — Power Supply: USB bus powered, 9V DC power supply (sold separately) — Height: 2.8" — Width: 20.9" — Depth: 10" — Weight: 7.0 lbs.

Reasons To Buy: 

+ Great compact option

+ Keys feel great for such a small keyboard

+ Perfect for beat-making

Reasons To Avoid:

- Some users will need more keys

9out of 10

Key Feel9
Features9.2
Build Quality8.9

Last but not least, we have the only 25-key option on this list. To finish things off, I thought I’d give those beat-makers out there a choice of their own. That’s not all this weighted MIDI keyboard is good for though.

25-key MIDI controllers are a handy little device that are best used in conjunction with other gear. They are compact enough to place next to a larger keyboard. 

From there, it can be used to quickly jot down simple chords and melodies. They also make for a great dedicated MIDI drum pad, while still having 25-keys to play around with.

The Alesis VI25 is one of the best 25-key MIDI controller keyboards in that it has full-size, semi-weighted keys, and a load of control options.

It comes with Aftertouch, 16 pads, mod and pitch bend wheels, 8 assignable knobs and 24 assignable buttons. That’s a lot of control for such a small keyboard. On top of that, it’s a pretty affordable little weighted MIDI controller. There’s a lot of bang-for-your-buck value here.

I know that most of you will need more keys, but as far as weighted 25-key MIDI keyboards go, this one sits among the top of the list.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Fully-Weighted Keyboard?

Fully-weighted keyboards are made to mimic the feeling of a traditional piano. They are one step above semi-weighted keys in terms of the added weight and overall resistance of the keys. Both types of keys have a spring-loaded design, but the added weight increases the resistance. These types of keys are known to improve dexterity and help beginners learn how to apply the appropriate finger pressure when practicing.

Does Hammer Action Mean Fully-Weighted?

Yes, both terms mean the same thing. Hammer action keys and fully-weighted keys are both made to mimic the way grand pianos return to rest, and both names are interchangeable.

What Are Semi-Weighted Keys?

Semi-weighted keys have a spring-loaded design just with some added weight underneath. As opposed to synth-action keys, semi-weighted keys are made to replicate the feeling of an upright piano. That said, semi-weighted keys aren’t as resistant as fully-weighted hammer action keys, but they’re still better than non-weighted keys in many ways.

Conclusion – Best Weighted MIDI Keyboards

Alright, we’ve covered a lot here guys. Choosing the best weighted MIDI keyboard is not an easy task, but hopefully this article has given you some inspiration on the matter.

The clear winner here is the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII. It’s a MIDI controller that’s simply at the top of it’s class. With it’s plethora of onboard controls and it’s feature-rich design, it’s hard not to notice it as one of the best overall MIDI keyboards on the market.

Every option on this list is good in it’s own right though. There’s an option here for everyone.

My only hope is that this article has helped you along in your research. If you have any questions, then please feel free to reach out at any time!

Author
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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