What’s the Best 61-Key MIDI Controller?

In this article, we’re going to examine 61-key MIDI controllers.  We’ll discuss the notable features you want in your ideal keyboard, how you should best go about narrowing down your must-buy list of potential controllers, and eventually recommend five keyboards that we feel offer you the best bang for your buck.

Below, please take a moment to compare some of the best 61-key MIDI controllers against one another in our interactive table.

Akai MPK249Akai MPK249
arturia-keylab-49Arturia KeyLab 49 MKII
roland-a88Roland A-88
Novation Launchkey 61 MK3
Roland A49

Why Choose a 61 Key MIDI Controller

MIDI controllers are designed with niche functions required by unique needs of recording musicians.  You can find anything from 25 key models to 88 keys available to play.  The 61 key version stands apart from the rest because of the extended functions and the technical additions that many models offer.  The compatibility to the type of music you are playing and the recordings you are developing allows this controller to offer the perfect fit to your recording studio. 

Genre versatility.  If you are recording techno music, then you may only be interested in a 25 keypad.  However, if you want to expand your genres to jazz, rock or songwriter, then you need more keys to play with.  Octaves and different sounds that are natural to the piano are required for various genres.  With 7.5 octaves, you will easily be able to work with an expanded range. 

Sound diversity.  Each MIDI model takes pride in the number of sounds, pads, effects and controls it offers.  The 61 key version is similar to other models.  However, with more room on the keyboard is the ability to work with the sounds and effects needed.  If you want expanded options, then this MIDI controller offers custom and expanded solutions. 

For the piano player.  The 25 or 49 key MIDI controller sometimes doesn’t include weighted keys or velocity sensitive options.  If you want more control from the fingertips, you can find it more through the 61 key versions.  The keys are designed with compatibility for performance and recording while allowing you to take control of the sounds. 

And below, please take a minute to view some of the best-selling MIDI keyboard controllers currently on sale online.

1) M-Audio Hammer 88
2) Arturia KeyStep Pro
3) Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII

Features to Look For With 61 Key Controllers

Different makes and models focus on highlights recording musicians need.  You will want to look at specific features that allow you to use the controller effectively.  The components of the controllers guide you to what works best for your style of music, while allowing you to expand to the type of controller that fits best with your studio.  You want to consider some of the following features:

  • Types of controls and pads
  • Weighted or semi – weighted keys
  • Types of connections
  • Auto mapping
  • Motorized controls

Most of the 61 key controllers are all-inclusive with the controls, pads and additional effects that musicians require from their gear.  You will want to compare the number of features available on each as well as what the priority is of different models.  You will find that the 61 key models feature specific uses for different types of musicians. 

Noteworthy Functions

There are specific functions to look at with the controllers you are considering.  Brands create these by the type of music you are recording, as well as performance capabilities that are a part of the keyboard. 

An advantage of the MIDI controllers is the ability to offer extra functions for both performance and recording.  Here are a few examples:

Transport controls.  Smaller controller versions often minimize this feature; however, you can find this on every 61 keyboard controller.  This allows you to play, rewind, fast forward and stop on your keyboard.  If you don’t want to move to your computer and create a separate interface, then this can lead to easier recording.

USB Connections.  Like most other controllers, MIDI comes with USB ports for a standard connection.  The 61 key features allow you to add in extra operating systems through diverse USB drivers.  You can add in extra controllers, connect to iOS devices and add in a 5 pin MIDI connection for other hardware you need. 

Pads and Effects.  The 61 keyboard controller breaks the limits with the extra effects and pads.  Many have numerous options for the sounds you are masterminding with your next recording.  You will find knobs, faders and drum pads on every version of this size controller, many which add in the diverse sounds of genre based recording that you may need.

Automapping.  If you are an electrician, then it is easy to construct your controller and to personalize connectivity.  If you want to get straight to the music, then automapping is a great function to look for.  You can automatically program the music to software for faster installation, allowing you to get to the heart of the music with your functions ready for the recording. 

Benefits of 61 Keys

The comparisons made with MIDI controller models is based on the number of keys in each version.  These have significant differences based on what you need as a musician. 

If you are looking at a smaller version, you are cutting away on space as well as functionality.  The 61 key version, however, makes up for the lost space while providing you with different recording possibilities that are unavailable in other versions. 

Having 61 keys also means your playing capabilities expand.  Models with the expansive keys spend more on creating velocity sensitive and semi – weighted keys.  A musician who is recording with this model may also need to play more by using the keyboard. 

Instead of focusing specifically on the controls, there is an additional option with the ability to play with both hands and to have an octave range with the keyboard. 

The 61 key models also leave plenty of room for controls and effects. You will find expanded capabilities that move beyond the basic effects for recording.  If you are a specialist in mastering different sounds, then you can expect to have access to a variety of sounds and controls at your fingertips. 

If not, the 61 key controllers offer external software through the 5 pin MIDI attachments, allowing you to record in any genre and with an expanded range of sounds and controlled responses. 

Top 5 MIDI Controllers

Price Sensitive:  Most 61 key controllers come in a higher price range because of the extra controls.  The Behringer U-Control UMX610 changes this calculation.  It is known as a best pick for the budget friendly musician while adding in the needs for a 61 key MIDI.  You will find velocity – sensitive keys, 8 controls and 10 extra switches.  You will also enjoy sounds of over 100 instruments and 50 effects as well as plugins.  Effects range from compressors to reverb, chorus and equalizers.  Keep in mind that the budget version of this takes out drum pads, focusing instead on the ability to play with the extra keys and additional sounds. 

Versatility:  The Novation Launchkey is popular among musicians because of it’s versatility.  The features are founded on the ability to connect to almost any type of software, ranging from Ableton Live to FL Studio, Pro Tools and Cubase.  The controller also comes with it’s own software suite, such as loop masters and apps.  The universal software additions add extra features for the full recording experience.  You can enjoy 16 drum pads as well as velocity sensitive keys.  There are over 50 hardware controls, including faders, knobs and rotary to add up the sounds.  The addition to match almost any software also includes automapping, specifically to cut back on time and build more into your recording tracks.   

All Inclusive:  The Nektar Panorama P6 is known for including as many controls as possible for recording.  You will enjoy 98 real – time controls within the controller.  There are over 12 pads as well as faders, 16 knobs and automapping works with almost any type of software.  The Nektar Panorama P6 was created for the versatile musician who performs, records, DJs or samples.  The weighted keys are known for their realistic feel, making it easier for musicians to transfer their sounds to the stage or for extra recording control.

For Modern Expressions:  The Akai Professional MPK261 design is focused on more expressive pads than other controllers.  This model is for the modern musician, specifically to add in genre flexibility with the recordings offered.  The Akai version includes 16 pads with four banks each and 64 sounds within the pads.  It also includes 24 controllers with 8 knobs, 8 faders and 8 switches for complete, recording control.  The keys are semi – weighted with after touch and velocity sensitive, adding in some extra features for the sensitive pianist.

The Combo Pack: Roland A – 800 PRO consistently highlights it’s brand by combining the best for recording and performance.  The 61 key controller is no exception with the added features to the MIDI pack.  The controller includes 45 controls with sliders, knobs, buttons and additions that recording musicians are always looking for.  It is also known for having easier software integration and being easy to use with diverse sounds.  An additional 8 pads expand your recording capacity.  The keys offer synth – action and velocity sensitive touch, focusing on the recording artist who wants a larger sound bank.

If you want the light weight features of a recording controller while having the capacity to play as a performing artist, the 61 key MIDI controller series has the answer.  These designs are inclusive of extra controls, pads and features while adding in the sensitivity to keys that musicians want.  With this particular format for recording, you will easily be able to add a complete mix to your recording studio.

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