What’s the Best 88 Key MIDI Controller?

The bridge between an upright piano and electronic music is made with the right keyboard.  If you want an invitation to both performance and recording, then an 88 key MIDI controller offers you expansive opportunities.  These keyboards are designed for you to perform and work as a pianist or to build a studio as a recording artist with diverse expressions.

In this article, we’re going to help you find the right MIDI controller for your needs.  And to do this, we’ve compiled an interactive guide below that allows you to compare noteworthy MIDI keyboards against one another.

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

Reasons to Choose an 88 Key MIDI Controller

Many musicians look at smaller versions of MIDI controllers, specifically for recording purposes.  The larger keyboards are often not as transportable and can lead to complications if you are working in a small space. 

However, the full-sized keyboard is the only version that allows you to play like you are on a real piano.  If you are comfortable playing, performing and composing with both hands on a full size keyboard, then this option makes it easier to transfer to electronic style playing.

Even though the main focus for an 88 key controller is with the ability to play more like the piano, the size of the keyboard also leaves more room for controllers.  You can expect to have controls, pads, knobs and extra switches that add compatibility for recording.  Many will look at the 88 key controllers specifically for the diversity in sounds and controls needed through a hardware. 

The approach is to have an all – in – one controller for your recording station.  When looking at these models, you can expect:

  • Faders, Knobs, Buttons
  • Extra drum pads
  • Added software bundles
  • Weighted and hammer sensitive keys
  • Zones to separate sounds from left and right hand

If you are looking at a fully compatible option for a keyboard, the 88 key controller offers the combined piano performance and sound studio.  You will find that there are additional options from other versions of MIDI controllers because of the size and expectations of the keyboard.

And below, please take a look at some of the best selling MIDI keyboards available for sale online:

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

Top 5 Features of 88 Keys

While all controllers have different makes and models, you can enjoy the expected features of the 88 key controller.  If you are looking for this size of MIDI, these are essential to keep in mind for better functions as well as value for your money. 

Hammer action keys.  If you are considering a full – size keyboard, add in the keys to match.  Hammer action, fully-weighted keys are the focus to controlling the sounds of the keyboard.  While not all 88 key controllers have hammer action, looking at full weighted keys as well as velocity sensitive additions will help with playing like you are on a grand piano.

Split keyboards. Zones available with 88 keys are often not programmed in smaller types of keyboards.  If you want to have two sounds playing at the same time, you can use zones to separate the left and right side of the piano.  Recording artists who want to sync up their music quickly can take advantage of the splits that are common among the larger keyboards and speed the process of recording complicated and layered music. 

Custom Controls. Filters, reverb, gain, sound quality and other effects build a complete sound bank for your recording.  You can also enjoy the custom controls that are often available with this style of keyboard.  This allows you to change the controls, add in your own features and make sure your recording is using the exact style of sound you desire with the next track you decide to lay.

Software Versatility.  In other versions of MIDI controllers, there is not a universal software you can plug into, specifically because of limitations with the hardware.  With the 88 key versions, you will find that there are more options for software and compatibility with different formats is easier to work with.  Programming and working with your preferred station is easier to develop with this feature. 

Automapping.  While some of the 88 key controllers may not have this feature, most add this in for easier use.  Since you are working with more controls and custom features, you will want automapping as an available function with the keyboard.  This provides you with simple to program compatibility with all controls.

Main Functions with 88 Keys

Like other MIDI controllers, you will find that there are several functions available through sound banks.  When you begin to set up your MIDI keyboard, you will want to look at the connectivity and how this works. 

You will find a major input and output to your software and hardware.  This is often seen with a USB port while others have cords or 5 pins available for custom connectivity.  Many will offer options to assist with the power supply and connectivity of the particular keyboard. 

The 88 key controller is defined by controllers, drum pads and recording essentials.  You will be able to record based on the sound bank within the keyboard as well as external hardware you can connect through a 5 pin MIDI for better functionality.  The controls for fading, reverb and other essential recording additions are available through extra knobs, allowing you to have the diverse sounds available at your fingertips. 

The controller components of the 88 key MIDI controller is defined by the functions to play the keyboard.  Weighted or semi – weighted keys are available for controlled touch for your recording, making it easier to control dynamics. 

Hammer action to feel like a traditional piano is also common for these keyboards.  You will find that most of the larger keyboards use this as an essential foundation, specifically for the serious pianist and recording artist. 

Expected Benefits with 88 Keys

When you are using an 88 keyboard controller, you will find additional items assist with complete recording.  The benefits for recording artists add in new sounds and colors to every track. 

Additional Controls.  Every controller has a set number of controls for recording.  Foundational controls are available on all keyboards as a basis.  With the extra connectivity of 88 keys are also diverse controls and more recording capacity at your fingertips.

Play like a pro.  If you are familiar with the piano, then playing with 88 keys is essential.  With the full size keyboard, you will easily be able to expand the range of music you play, add in performances and use the full width of the piano for your next debut.  The full size keyboard also allows you to split or separate zones for ease of recording. 

Adding in extras.  The approach taken by most manufacturers with an 88 key piano is to include all extras.  You will find options such as arpeggiators, note repeats and swing.  There are also additions such as a sustain pedal to add in the high quality sounds you want.  The makes and models will have the little additions that every musician looks for with the recording tool they are comfortable with. 

Top 5 MIDI Controllers

Akai Pro MPK88

This keyboard is known to have everything needed with gear.  The key bed is fully weighted and has hammer action as well as after touch.  You will be able to keep complete control when you are playing.  You can also enjoy MPC pads, specifically for velocity sensitive options with the pressure you add on to the keys.  There are 52 programmed sounds, a set of drum pads, note repeats and an arpeggiator, making this 88 controller one of the most complete packages available. 

M- Audio Oxygen 88

This controller is known for remaining budget friendly while crossing into the extra needs for the recording artist.  It has a hammer action keyboard and is known for a great performance keyboard.  You can also enjoy knobs, faders, buttons and custom controls with filters, reverb and gain.  There are additional track select buttons to control your recording from the keyboard as well as real – time recordings that you can use for your next gig.  Most look at this keyboard when they need to combine budget with extra features for their controller.

Kawai VPC1

This brand has created a design to focus on realistic piano playing through MIDI.  It has added in the complete piano feel with hammer action and fully weighted keys.  The keys are wooden with an ivory surface and include counterweights with triple sensor key detection. 

It also adds in all three pedals for extra sound controls.  While it focuses on the unique feel of a real piano, additional zones, pads and controls are not available.  However, a VPC editor allows you to edit the sounds and touch of the keyboard.

Roland A – 88

Similar to other larger keyboards, Roland has focused this version of the MIDI controller on playing like a grand.  It includes ivory feel, weighted keys and includes escapement.  At the same time, this keyboard is known for being light weight and being highly compatible with other connections. 

It includes zones, controls for octaves, transposition, splits and 2 knobs and switches.  It has all three foot pedal controls and a D – Beam Controller for motion sensitive responses.  The piano also includes automap features for faster recording functionality.

Komplete Kontrol S88

This keyboard includes fully weighted and hammer action keys as well as an after touch.  It is the only keyboard in this brand that focuses on touch sensitive responses for the keyboard.  The 88 key version includes zones and splits for controls over different sounds.  It also includes 8 knobs as well as TS jacks for additional expressions and sustain pedals. 

You can enjoy recording with touch strips for modulation and pitch bends while using the transport controls for your next track.  The keyboard allows you to automap on Komplete software, such as Cubase and Ableton Live.  This particular version is known for it’s recording compatibility as well as the ability to easily respond to the performance needs of musicians.

The 88 key MIDI controllers focus specifically on complete compatibility for performance of serious pianists while expanding to options for master recordings.  You will easily be able to enjoy the expansive controllers to add into the sounds you are laying on your next tracks or for an opening concert.

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