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10 Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard Controllers of 2020

If you want to get creative with your music making, a midi keyboard is a brilliant tool. Such keyboards can, however, be very expensive. So what do you do if you don’t want to spend a fortune?

The good news is that there are lots of options out there that won’t break the bank. And we’ve reviewed seven of the best cheap midi keyboards to take the hard work out of searching.

So step this way, and let’s find the perfect option for you and your music!

Quick Glance: The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard Controller

 

The Best Cheap MIDI Keyboard Controller 2020

1. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Akai

Akai’s Professional MPK Mini MKII is near the top of the price range amongst our inexpensive picks. But while it isn’t the cheapest of the cheap, it’s still very reasonably priced. And we think it offers excellent value for money.

It’s a very striking looking instrument, available in a choice of black, white or red. The black version also has all-black keys, so it really stands out from the crowd.

There are 25 touch-sensitive and velocity-sensitive keys, making it very compact. But don’t worry that you’ll be restricted when it comes to range. There are handy octave-up and octave-down buttons to allow you to access just as many notes as larger keyboards.

Pitch and modulation are controlled by a joystick, giving you easy and intuitive control. There are also eight knobs which you can assign as you choose to tweak plug-ins and mix tracks.

And there eight drum pads with full level and note repeat. Like the keys, they’re velocity-sensitive. Use them to trigger samples, program drums or control virtual instruments. They’re all backlit with LEDs, so you can see what you’re doing in a darkened studio.

There’s a sophisticated integrated arpeggiator, with the option of adjusting the range, modes and resolution.

And you’ll get an impressive 1,400 voices, plus a stack of downloadable production software. This includes Hybrid 3, a high-definition synth able to create a host of retro and modern sounds. You’ll also get SONiVOX Wobble, a two-channel grime synth, and MPC Beats, an immersive DAW.

This won’t, however, be the best option for Apple users. Akai offer limited support for iOS apps. And the keyboard feel may be a little too springy for some.

But if those aren’t big problems for you, this keyboard offers tons of functionality at a very reasonable price.

Pros:

  • Joystick controlled pitch and modulation
  • Eight velocity-sensitive drum pads
  • Sophisticated built-in arpeggiator

Cons:

  • The keys may feel too springy for some
  • Limited support for iOS apps.

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2. Midiplus AKM320 32-Key Midi Controller (Our Top Budget Pick)

Cheap MIDI Keyboard AKM320

The AKM320 from Midplus is an exceptionally cost-effective MIDI keyboard. In fact, it’s the joint cheapest on our list. So what can you expect at this price point?

Let’s start with the keyboard itself. There are 32 mini-keys, and they’re all velocity-sensitive. In other words, the harder you hit them, the louder they’ll sound.

It’s a great feature for such an inexpensive keyboard, but note that it isn’t always completely reliable. And the dynamic range is fairly limited.

There are also four buttons to move up and down the octaves, and to transpose notes. With this one, the pitch and modulation are controlled by wheels, rather than a joystick. A slider switch for the volume is the final control on offer here.

If you want to use a sustain pedal, there’s a port to allow you to do so. You won’t get assignable knobs and there are no drum pads, nor an arpeggiator. But the simple design does mean it’s very easy to get to grips with. You won’t have to spend hours poring over the user manual before you can get started.

The MIDI connection here is via USB. A cable is included in the package, but we have heard of some issues with faulty connections. If you find your keyboard isn’t working properly, the cable is the first thing to check. The good news is that, even if you have to buy a new one, your total spend will be low.

This is a lightweight and portable option, weighing it at less than two pounds. If you’re looking for a compact keyboard that’s easy to take from place to place, it’s well worth considering.

Pros:

  • 32 velocity-sensitive keys
  • Quick to set up and get playing
  • Pitch and modulation wheels

Cons:

  • The dynamic range is limited
  • Watch out for faulty USB cables.

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3. Ammoon Worlde Panda Mini Portable 25-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Ammoon

Midway in price between the Akai and AKM320, the Panda Mini offers a good balance of economy and functionality.

Here, the keyboard has 25 velocity-sensitive keys. Note that you may need to turn up the sensitivity on your DAW to get the right feel. On standard settings, the keys can require more force than most.

You’ll get buttons for octave up and down, pitch up and down, CC modulation, modulation, program and bank.

There are four assignable sliders and four assignable knobs too. If you’re used to a pitch bend wheel, you can use your DAW to turn a slider into a pitch bend control.

There are also eight pads for programming drums or triggering samples. All of them are backlit to help you see what you’re doing.

They are, however, rather stiff. And if you want them to work properly, you’ll need to make sure the keyboard is precisely level. If you’re using it for gigs, that will mean spending a bit of extra time on set-up.

The power comes from the USB cable, the same 2.0 version that transmits the MIDI signal. You won’t need to faff about with installing any drivers before you get started.

It can be used whether you have a PC, Mac, iPad or iPhone. There’s support for apps including Piano Apprentice, Music Studio and Apple GarageBand. But note that it won’t work with G3 or G4 accelerator cards.

This is another keyboard that’s nicely portable. It weighs under two pounds and it’s less than 13 inches long.

Pros:

  • A total of eight assignable knobs and sliders
  • Eight drum pads
  • Lightweight and easily portable

Cons:

  • Be ready to turn up the sensitivity – the keys may require too much force on standard settings
  • The drum pads will need to be perfectly level to work properly.

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4. Midiplus AKM322 32-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard AKM322

The AKM322 is the second keyboard from Midiplus to make our list, and it’s slightly more expensive than the AKM320.

It’s immediately obvious that there’s a lot more functionality here. As well as the wheels for pitch and modulation, there’s an endless encoder, three assignable knobs and eleven backlit buttons.

The keyboard has 32 keys, and they’re full-sized and velocity-sensitive.

They’re fairly firm, although they’re not weighted. The force required shouldn’t be an issue for anyone used to playing an acoustic piano (although the feel is different). If you’re accustomed to synths, however, it will take some getting used to.

There are buttons to move up and down the octaves. And there’s a built-in arpeggiator with flexible settings, as well as an on-board metronome.

There’s a chord mode to build chords. There’s also a scale mode, which ensures the right tones are played when a scale is selected. There are four different scales to choose from.

There’s the option to record and playback your music, plus controls for set marker, marker left and right, tap, overdub and cycle. You’ll be able to control a second layer using a shift key.

All the power comes from the connection to your PC or laptop via a USB cable. It’s a compact 18 inches long and weighs less than two pounds.

If you’re planning to use your keyboard with FLStudio, this one won’t be the best choice. The modulation wheel and three of the knobs don’t work with it, although the other controls do.

It works perfectly with GarageBand, however, and set-up is very fast. From getting it out of the box to starting to play, you’ll need only a few minutes.

Pros:

  • Three assignable knobs and eleven backlit function buttons
  • Built-in arpeggiator and metronome
  • On-board recording and playback

Cons:

  • The keys are rather stiff
  • The modulator wheel and three of the knobs won’t work with FLStudio.

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5. Alesis VMini Portable 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Alesis

Alesis’ VMini is a step up in price from the AKM322.

The keys here are mini-sized, and there are 25 of them. They have a classic synth action.

The design is neat, clean and compact. Four velocity-sensitive drum pads and four assignable knobs sit above the keys. Both knobs and keys are backlit by LEDs to help you see what you’re doing when the lights go down. The drum pads are, however, a little stiff.

To the left of the pads there are six buttons. The top two will allow you to move up and down the octaves. Below them there are two buttons for pitch bend, a modulation button and a sustain button.

A single USB connection to your PC or laptop both powers the keyboard and transmits the MIDI signal. That makes for a simple and efficient set-up, with no drivers required.

An impressive collection of software is included as standard. There’s the Pro Tools First Alesis Edition, Mini Grand, Eleven Lite and DB-33. And you’ll also get the renowned Xpand!2, offering a range of virtual instruments and production features.

Be prepared, however, to spend some time getting the software up and running. Instructions are non-existent, and the process isn’t that straightforward. Persevere, and you’ll get there in the end.

The compact design means that all functions are easily reached, and it’s lightweight enough to be carried anywhere.

Pros:

  • Very neat and compact design keeps all features in easy reach
  • Backlit drum pads and assignable knobs
  • Buttons for pitch bend, sustain and modulation

Cons:

  • The drum pads are a little stiff
  • The software is great – but getting it working with the keyboard can take some time.

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6. IK Multimedia iRig 37-Key USB Compact Keyboard MIDI Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard IK

If you’re looking for a bigger keyboard, check out the iRig from IK Multimedia. This one has 37 full-sized, velocity-sensitive keys.

The controls here are pretty simple. There are wheels for pitch and modulation to the left of the keys. The volume and data wheel is assignable and sits above the keys, next to the buttons for octave and program up and down. All the buttons are backlit with orange LEDs.

There’s also a port for a sustain pedal at the back of the chassis. But there are no drum pads here.

It will work with either a Mac or PC and comes with SampleTank 4 SE. The package is downloadable from the IK Multimedia website and offers 30 GB of samples from every type of instrument. It’s compatible with the software you’ll find in most DAWs, including GarageBand, Pro Tools, Logic and Live.

It’s powered by a single USB cable running to your PC or laptop. It’s the same connection that will transmit the MIDI signal.

One thing to bear in mind with this one is that the 37 keys provide some portability challenges. At 3.5 pounds it’s still pretty lightweight. But because it’s longer than many MIDI keyboards, it won’t fit into standard kit bags.

It’s worth noting that while the keyboard only requires Mac OS 10.6, most of the software included requires OS 10.7. That will be frustrating if you have an older Mac.

Pros:

  • 37 velocity-sensitive keys for greater playability
  • Wheels for pitch and modulation
  • Downloadable SampleTank 4 SE included, with 30 GB of samples

Cons:

  • The longer keyboard won’t fit in standard kit bags
  • If you have a Mac, you’ll need a higher spec system for the included software than for the keyboard.

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7. M-Audio Axiom AIR Ultra-Portable 32-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Axiom

M-Audio’s Axiom AIR 32 Mini offers plenty of bells and whistles for a surprisingly conservative price tag.

It offers complete MIDI control with eight encoders, five navigation buttons and three dedicated transport controls. The result is a comprehensive suite of functions for managing DAWs, virtual instrument plug-ins and effects.

Eight drum pads sit above the keys on the far right of the controller. They’re sensitive to both pressure and velocity, and boast a clever “learn” feature to help you assign patches easily.

To the left of the drum pads are eight assignable control knobs. At the far left, you’ll find backlit buttons for sustain and edit, octave up and down, pitch bend and modulation. The octave and transpose functions will allow you to access the full range of notes from the 37 mini-key keyboard.

There are also ten locations in the memory for you to save your customized settings.

It’s compatible with Windows 7 or higher, and with Mac systems of at least OS X 10.3.3. It’s class-compliant and doesn’t require any drivers. Set-up is made easier with the clever HyperControl system. This automatically maps the controller to the most popular music software.

There are a couple of minor issues to watch out for with this one. The first is that this is another controller which suffers from stiff drum pads. They take a bit of getting used to. And the knobs aren’t as durable as you’ll find on some other keyboards.

Nevertheless, this is a model that offers a huge amount of functionality for its very modest price tag.

Pros:

  • Eight assignable knobs and eight drum pads
  • Ten locations to save custom settings
  • HyperControl system takes the hassle out of set-up

Cons:

  • The drum pads are rather stiff
  • The knobs aren’t the most durable.

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8. Nektar Impact GX61 61-Key MIDI Controller Keyboard

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Nektar

The GX61 from Nektar’s Impact range is a great choice for anyone whose priority is a longer keyboard.

This one has 61 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, with synth action. It also has four different velocity curves, in addition to three fixed velocity settings.

That will give you plenty of flexibility to adjust the keyboard in line with your playing style. But note that the velocity curves are rather eccentric. You may find it takes some time to get used to the feel to achieve the right volume. And some people have found the keys become rather light with extended use.

It offers excellent connectivity, compatible with Windows for PCs and OSX for Macs. It’s also compatible with iOS – great news for iPhone and iPad users – and even with Linux.

Set-up is straightforward, using Nektar’s own-brand software, included as part of the package. This will map the controller to eleven of the most popular DAWs with minimal effort on your part.

You’ll get the freedom to navigate your projects and control transport functions direct from the hardware. Control forward, rewind, cycle, play, stop and record from the six dedicated buttons. There’s also a “click” button to access the metronome instantly.

Using the shift key gives you access to even more functions. Options include up and down controls for track and patch, goto left and right, and undo. Pressing shift will also let you access DAW windows, great to view the mixer, browser or plug-ins.

It’s compatible with all MIDI applications, so whatever your preferred software you shouldn’t encounter any problems.

There are four buttons to shift octaves and transpose. A particularly nice touch is that LEDs light them up and change color to show the selected octave or interval. There are wheels for pitch bend and modulation (the latter assignable), eight assignable buttons and a large potentiometer.

It’s not surprising with all these features that this is the most expensive of our options. But look out for deals and you’ll be able to pick it up for little more than the Akai.

Pros:

  • 61 keys velocity-sensitive synth action keys
  • Six dedicated transport buttons
  • Compatible with Windows, OSX, iOS and Linux

Cons:

  • The keyboard velocity curves are rather eccentric
  • We’ve heard of cases where the keys have become lighter after extended use.

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9. Nektar Impact LX25+ 25-Key Midi Controller (Upgrade Pick)

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Impact

The second Nektar keyboard to make our list, the Impact LX25+ is a smaller offering. This one has 25 synth action keys, which are velocity-sensitive. The keys are full-sized, though, so if you’re looking to minimize space requirements there’ll be better options.

It’s compatible with Macs, PCs, iOS and Linux. It works with all MIDI apps, and even includes its own eight-track DAW, Bitwig 8.

As with the larger GX61, this features eight drum pads, and eight assignable control knobs. There’s the same learn feature for the drum pads too. Just activate the feature, press a pad, then press a key to assign the MIDI note. Easy!

Five user pre-sets allow you to easily manage and switch between up to five different virtual instruments. Select the “null” option and your parameters will be saved when you switch to a new pre-set.

There are four buttons to change octaves and transpose notes, all of which are assignable. And there are pitch bend and modulation wheels. Everything is in easy reach as you play.

There’s not much here to dislike, but a couple of niggles are worth mentioning. One is that the included Bitwig 8 DAW is desperate for you to spend money on an upgrade. If nagging prompts every few minutes aren’t your favorite thing, you won’t enjoy the experience.

And while the controller is pre-mapped to the most commonly used DAWs, the mapping to Ableton isn’t as effective as it could be.

Pros:

  • Compatible with all MIDI apps
  • Eight drum pads with clever “pad learn” feature
  • Five user pre-sets

Cons:

  • The constant prompts to upgrade the included Bitwig 8 software are rather irritating
  • The mapping to Ableton is rather weak.

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10. Miditech i2-Mini 32-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller

Cheap MIDI Keyboard Miditech

The i2-Mini from Miditech is a great option for anyone looking for a simple controller with basic functionality. And it’s as cheap as they come.

There are 32 velocity-sensitive mini keys, wheels for pitch and modulation, and buttons for octave and transpose up and down. There’s a volume slider and an input for a sustain pedal. And surprisingly, it’s possible to set four different levels of velocity.

Both the power and the MIDI signal are carried through a USB cable, included in the package.

It’s a very similar offering to the AKM320 from Midiplus, with pretty much the same layout. And it’s exactly the same price.

The keyboard feel won’t be to everyone’s taste – the keys are a little stiff. And you won’t get any bells or whistles here. There are no drum pads or assignable knobs, and it doesn’t come with any software.

But it does what it promises effectively, and it’s very portable. The mini keys mean it’s only 18 inches long, and it weighs just 1.6 pounds. If you’re looking for a starter MIDI controller and don’t want to spend a fortune, it’s a great option.

Pros:

  • Wheels for pitch and modulation
  • Port for sustain pedal
  • Light and easily portable

Cons:

  • The keys are fairly stiff
  • Limited range of features.

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Let’s go shopping!

That brings us to the end of our round-up of seven of the best cheap MIDI keyboards on the market. Even at the lowest price point, there’s plenty of variety on offer.

Our top pick is the AKM320 from Midiplus. It’s a simple yet effective controller that performs all the basics well. And the price is unbeatable. An honorable mention goes to the Miditech i2-Mini, which has a very similar design.

If you’re looking for a few more bells and whistles, the Nektar Impact LX25+ and GX61 are great options. They pack a lot of punch for their impressively low price tags.

But whichever MIDI keyboard you choose, we hope it opens up new avenues for you and your music. Happy creating!

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