In this article, we’re going to explore the idea of finding the best 25-key MIDI controllers. What are they great at doing? What are their advantages and disadvantages? What features are most important when it comes to shopping for a MIDI controller? And, most importantly, what are some top 25-key controllers that are worthy of your time and money?
And, to better help you come up with answers to these questions, we’ve created an interactive table below that will allow you to compare some of the top MIDI keyboards against one another.
|Arturia MiniLab 3|
|Akai MPK Mini Play3|
|Akai MPK 225|
Best 25 Key MIDI Controller Keyboards (TLDR)
Some of the best 25 key MIDI keyboards on the market today are the following:
- Alesis VI25
- M-Audio Axiom Air 25
- Notation Impulse 25
- Akai LPK25
- CME Key
- Arturia MiniLab 3
- Akai MPK Mini Play3
- Akai MPK 225
- Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
- Korg microKEY Air 25
While I love many of these keyboards for their excellent form factor or ability to work with various DAW’s like Ableton Live, some of these keyboards (like the Korg microKEY Air 25) get extra points for their ability to connect to computers via bluetooth or operate for hours on just a couple AA batteries.
Known to combine budget with quality, this make and model offers everything a recording musician needs. The keys have an after touch and are semi-weighted, creating more compatibility than most keypads.
You will find 8 control knobs as well as 24 extra controls for sound additions. The drum pads on the Alesis carry a high sound quality and offer diversity for your next recording.
|Novation Launchkey Mini MK3|
|Novation Impulse 25|
|Korg microKEY Air 25|
|CME XKey Air|
- If you’re looking for a MIDI controller with a few more keys, you can check out our review of the Alesis VI49 right here.
Novation Impulse 25
On the top of almost every chart, this make and model has mastered the MIDI keyboard upgrades. The design offers velocity sensitive and semi-weighted keys with an aftertouch, allowing the new edition to play more like a piano than any other model. However, it is the additional controls that provide more opportunities with this controller.
A DAW control with 4 software automaps is available for faster, high-powered recording. There is also a plug – in control, combined with 8 knobs and a series of 8 drum pads. The keyboard adds in loop samples as well, speeding up the process to create your next masterpiece.
- If you’re looking for more keys, you can read our review of the Novation Impulse 49 here.
This recommendation is for the budget user that wants to highlight their next song with MIDI sounds and effects. The Akai offers the basic features required for a keyboard controller.
You will find easy access to all the sounds you need with plug and play editions to your software. The Akai doesn’t include the extra knobs or drum pads but offers a simple solution to MIDI recording with your software.
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If you want a keyboard controller for MAC, then this may offer the foundation for your next recording. This keyboard offers a polyphonic sound with an aftertouch for clear MIDI sounds. It also offers compatible apps and other connections that can sync with the keyboard. While it doesn’t have as many extra knobs and pads, it provides a strong touch with the additional keyboard functions.
Take your music from an idea to a full recording. With the MIDI 25 keyboard controller, you can easily expand your arrangements to a complete song. The diversity and versatility of these compact recording additions can easily guide you to the next hit. With the diverse makes and models available, your next hit song will begin to take form.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling MIDI controllers available online:
|1) M-Audio Hammer 88|
|2) Arturia KeyStep Pro|
|3) Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII|
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Arturia MiniLab 3
I really love how simple the design is on the MiniLab 3. It’s relatively easy to use, as it’s plug and play compatible and even comes with custom-written DAW scripts. This is going to ensure that your Arturia MiniLab 3 works with whatever your preferred software is.
And as for features, despite its small size, it really does pack a punch. You get a whopping 500 sounds in this little guy, and you can alter them to your hearts content with the requirement of an external DAW. Pretty impressive.
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Akai MPK Mini Play3
Now what’s great about the Akai MPK Mini Play3 is that unlike a lot of other MIDI controllers, which may be USB bus powered (with a cable included in the box), the Mini Play3 can also be powered via four AA batteries.
This is of course huge, because now your keyboard has truly become portable.
What’s also nice is that while this essentially functions as a synth workstation it also is a MIDI controller that comes with over 100 drum and instrument sounds. If you’re seeking versatility, you’re probably love the Mini Play3.
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Akai MPK 225
Let’s keep it in the Akai family and talk a bit about the MPK 225. I think what’s nice about the MPK 225 is that it achieves a very satisfying middle ground that works for a variety of users.
First, this keyboard features semi-weighted key action, so whether you’re playing piano parts or moving into synth leads, the MPK 225 has you covered completely.
On top of that, from an aesthetic standpoint, I really love the RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads you get on this keyboard. The MPK 225 will also work with Windows or Mac computers, and in many instances, will come with free software included in the package (like Ableton Live Lite, for example).
|Arturia MiniLab 3|
|Akai MPK Mini Play3|
|Akai MPK 225|
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Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
Are you looking for one of the best MIDI controllers for Ableton Live? Then you might want to strongly consider the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3. But the best part is that, if you ever want to use a different DAW entirely, the Mini MK3 will work well with it too!
This keyboard also features 16 backlit pads that are velocity sensitive and completely customizable. For roughly $100, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
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Korg microKEY Air 25
What I like about the microKEY Air 25 from Korg is its versatility. While the bigger versions of this keyboard allow you to connect an external damper pedal, the more compact 25-key version comes with a sustain button (which functions as your damper).
You also get a joystick in the top left of the keyboard which allows you to control pitch bend and modulation.
But one of the most helpful function is the bluetooth MIDI function. So now, you don’t need a wire to connect to your computer thanks to low latency bluetooth LE.
And similar to the Akai MPK Mini Play3, I like that the microKEY Air can run on batteries (just two AA’s, compared tot he four AA’s of the Akai MPK Mini Play3). The microKEY Air will last you roughly 30 hours on average when running on battery power, which is certainly long enough to get you through multiple gigs, if needed.
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M-Audio Axiom Air 25
The axiom air is one that has moved to the next level of 25 keyboard controllers, specifically by offering more synth – action. It has also added in a new feature with trigger pads, allowing you to control more and expand your approach to recording music.
There are 8 knobs, a fader and 3 banks for the pads and knobs. The versatility in sound with this model uses auto mapping and high tech features for effective recording techniques.
- You can also read our review of the M-Audio Axiom 49 here.
Best Uses for 25-Key MIDI Controller
A 25 key controller is offered for those interested in extra effects and diverse sounds required while recording. MIDI is known for high quality sounds recorded and mirrored from real instruments. This allows you to reach a professional and unique sound quality.
The controllers offer additional pitches, modulation, transposition and unique effects. This allows you to record the details through one keyboard. You can easily find the complete sound set with the 25 key MIDI Controller.
These alternatives for recording artists offer complete control and sound compatibility. You will also find that the MIDI Controller:
- Is compact and portable
- Easy to add into your current studio for extra effects
- Provides budget solutions that maintain high quality results
- Creates a powerful edition to your current sounds
- Compliments tracks and live recordings
If you are looking for high quality sounds but don’t need the full complement of keys, the 25 key MIDI Controller offers a complimentary key.
Top 5 Features of a MIDI Controller
The 25 key MIDI Controller has unique features that draw recording artists to the compact style. Different makes and models offer unique options that enhance your studio while offering solutions to get the exact sound and effects you are looking for. Following are the top 5 features that recording artists enjoy.
- Sound Quality:
MIDI is known for the high level of sound quality created with the instrument patches. You can find 25 key controllers that have hundreds of sounds attached. Maintain your high recording standards with any MIDI controller to add the richness of certain voices and tracks to your next track. Even though it is 25 keys, the sounds are not compromised and help you to keep the perfect sound.
Control boards are available in 25, 48 and 61 keys. The difference with these models is designed from how much you need to play when you are recording. If you want to showcase certain sounds and don’t need a piano feel, then compact is easier to work with.
You can easily move your MIDI controller to any part of the recording studio or can begin to record remote. Recording artists rave at the convenience from the light and compact features designed with the 25 key MIDI.
- Control Board:
Many of the 25 key controllers come with a second alternative for recording. A set of effects, modulation and controls are designed to balance your next recording. Every producer needs to control the effects in recordings, allowing this gear to make it easier to record. The components and functions allow you to record a variety of tracks from the control board and the keyboard.
- Complimenting Your Studio:
An advantage of the 25 key MIDI controller is its ability to interact with other instruments in your studio. If you have a keyboard, you can connect it to the MIDI for additional effects and recordings.
It is also possible to add the controller into your software, making it easier to change and edit tracks you are working on. If you have a full studio but need more items for editing, then this controller serves as a great addition to your studio.
- Versatility with Software:
The focus of the 25 key MIDI controller is to add in extra effects and sounds while recording. Many of the high quality options are complimented with versatility in software use, such as compatibility with Logic Pro X, Fruity Loops (also now known as FL Studio) and other professional software systems.
The top controller systems allow you to integrate with the software systems, specifically so you can add in additions to the recordings you are making.
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Functions of 25 Key Controllers
The features that recording artists are hip to with the 25 MIDI keyboards offer complete functionality for every type of track. These are often not on larger keyboards, which focus on weighted keys and velocity.
Instead, these controllers merge the basics of keyboard functions with the needs of a recording track. The functions highlight recording capacities required by every producer.
Drum Pads. Many decide to add in a 25 MIDI keyboard to their mix because of the drum pads, often which are not in larger keyboards. If you want to have control over your drum mixes, then the 25 MIDI style will add up the arrangements you are placing together.
Q – Link Knobs. MIDI keyboards add in q-link knobs, used to interlink the keyboard with software controls. These add in reverb, sustain, fades and other essentials to master your next mix. If you don’t want to click through the software system, then this shortcuts the process, adds in diverse sounds and immediately begins to integrate to a mixing function.
Controller Mapping. A feature of some of the newer MIDI 25 keys, controller mapping allows you to interface your software with the keyboard. You will be able to map out your next song and add in the sounds or effects required by integrating the tracks with the keyboard. Looking at the controller mapping in certain keyboards allows you to have versatility and flexibility with your keyboard.
Of course, these functions are some of the foundational items of most 25 key controllers. You will also find additions based on the make and model. You should keep in mind that the controllers may take out some of the features that many are interested in. You may not find additions based on the range of the keyboard you are looking at, specifically limited by the range of 25 keys. If you are not interested in the piano integrations, then this gear’s functionality offers more recording control.
Benefits of Fewer Keys
There is a distinction you will want to make between a keyboard for recording and a controller. If you are recording and need to play certain riffs with a keyboard, then an extended set of keys at a 61 or 88 is more effective.
However, recording purposes don’t require the virtuosic playing that many relate to with a piano. With fewer keys, you will easily be able to record and have more versatility with the playing needed.
Understanding why you would need a 25 key MIDI interface can help with the decision to add into your studio. Here are a few things you definitely want in your MIDI controller:
Transportable. Without extra keys, you can easily move, transport or work with the compact version of MIDI. Many will use this by their recording software or other instruments, offering effects that can record while working with a track. Without extra keys in the way, you can control more effects and move the keyboard as needed.
Focused Recordings. Usually, recording artists are focused on loops, effects and additions to their current tracks. With fewer keys, you can focus on the effects and the loops you are creating. If you need to transpose or change the pitch, you simply add an effect. Instead of focusing on the number of keys, you can look at quick and easy ways to record sounds.
Added in Controls. The 25 keypad integrates more controls and pads instead of the keys. You will find that the 25 MIDI controller has drum pads for a different approach to recording. It also includes alternative control features that some of the larger additions don’t carry. The focus of the 25 key edition is to offer recording compatibility and sounds instead of more keys that use the electronic connectivity.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully this breakdown of the best 25 key MIDI controllers has been helpful to you. There are a ton of great options on the market, so I have no doubt that you’ll find something you absolutely love.
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