Welcome to the 2021 edition of the best MIDI keyboards for Mac (and iPhone/iPad). This is a great time of year to take stock of what’s out there ahead of the holidays, including both brand new options released in 2021 and some mainstays that have rightfully earned another mention on our list. Apple’s Logic Pro made leaps and bounds with the latest major updates and these are the best MIDI keyboards out there to take advantage of what it and other DAWs have to offer, just be sure to check out the Launchpads we detailed earlier in the year for direct Live Loops control as well. Head below for a closer look at 2021’s best MIDI keyboards.
Best MIDI keyboards for Mac 2021 Edition
It has been a slow year for new releases in the MIDI keyboard controller space, but fortunately for anyone looking to invest in 2021, this matters very little. While a new ultra-affordable model from Alesis, mid-tier options from Nektar, and the auto-mapping, OLED display-laden M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro have hit the marketplace this year, MIDI keyboard controllers are still the kind of technology that remain relevant as years push-on, new M1 Macs or otherwise — models released from 2019 on (or even previous to that) are still just as feature-rich, compatible in just about every way, and desirable for musicians, beat makers, and content creators as they were on day one.
We will be highlighting some of the latest models in this year’s edition of the best MIDI keyboards out there. But you will also find some models that have stood the test of time, including some of our favorite options that still get put to task just about every day, from mid-tier home studio models to graceful weighted piano-style controllers, EDC-sized backpack keyboards, and more.
Alesis Q Mini
Alongside updated versions of its Q-series 49- and 88-key models, Alesis unleashed one of the most affordable MIDI keyboard controllers out there earlier this year with the new Q Mini. A tight set of 32 velocity-sensitive keys is joined by a streamlined collection of the most important musical embellishment controls — octave range transposition, assignable modulation, volume, pitch bend, and a sustain button — for a truly portable solution that can just as easily integrate into your mobile EDS (everyday studio) as it can at home. This is a thin, bus-powered, no-frills solution worth the $49 it will run you right now for anyone in the market to score a quick MIDI keyboard for sketching out ideas, accenting organic recordings on-the-go, or hand-tailoring the top line in your next drill beat.
- 32 compact velocity-sensitive synth-action keys
- USB-powered with plug-and-play connectivity for Mac or PC
- Octave/Transpose buttons
- Pitch bend and modulation buttons
- Re-assignable volume knob
- Sustain button
- iOS compatibility via Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter
Alesis Q Mini $49 (Reg. $59)
Best MIDI Keyboards under $120
Here’s our running list of the best MIDI Keyboards for Mac in the sub $120 range including some mainstays from AKAI, as well as those particularly inexpensive Arturia models, and more.
Nektar Impact GXP 49 and 61-key MIDI keyboard controllers
Next up, we are taking a look at what is essentially the best new MIDI keyboard controllers for 2021, that actually released this year. Nektar is one of those brands that seemingly soars under the radar among all but the most professional-focused individuals and avid music-making nerds, and for no good reason if you ask me.
The new GXP models feature deep DAW control for Logic Pro and others alongside a host of performance controls that warrant the higher price tag than the models above — the real-time Key Repeat engine with tempo, repeat rate, accent, interval, swing and aftertouch/modulation routing to velocity is a good example here. You’re also looking at “real piano” feel with full-size, semi-weighted keys, unlike the stunted, more portable-friendly designs of those found on the budget-friendly models listed above.
- 49, 61 or 88-note full-sized keybed with velocity and aftertouch
- 14 RGB LED buttons for MIDI, note repeat and Nektarine features
- Pitch Bend and Modulation Wheels
- 1 push encoder for note repeat tempo control and Nektarine features
- Octave up/down buttons with LED indicators
- Transpose up/down buttons with LED indicators. Assignable to other functions.
- 7 transport buttons for DAW integration or MIDI assignable
- Note Repeat button with LED tempo indicator
Nektar GXP49 Controller $190
Nektar GXP61 Controller $230
Nektar GXP88 Controller $300
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is among the most affordable in NI’s lineup and makes for an easy point of entry into the brand’s deep and extensive hardware/software combos. Easily the most desirable aspect of all things Native Instruments is its massive collection of wonderful sample packs, software instruments, and sound module toys, and this is an affordable way to score a bunch of it included in the package. The pretty OLED display is a nice touch here, but the hardware control over the 6100 sounds and 10GB of content is not something you’re going to get with most options on this list and, for the most part, what has earned the M32 a spot on our list of the Best MIDI keyboards once again.
- 32 compact keys
- Portable form-factor
- Included synths, basses, drums, effects, and more
- OLED display
- Touch-sensitive knobs to tweak your sounds
Komplete Kontrol M32 $139
More Native Instruments…
The MKII Komplete Kontrol models include thousands of sounds bundled in and are still easily among the best on the market. I use an S49 as my main controller and really appreciate the, what I would call, barely-weighted keys as a nice middle ground.
- Komplete Kontrol A25 $169
- NI keybed with 25 semi-weighted keys
- Komplete Kontrol A49 $219
- NI keybed with 49 semi-weighted keys
- Komplete Kontrol A61 $279
- NI keybed with 61 semi-weighted keys
- Komplete Kontrol S49 MKII $669
- 49 semi-weighted Fatar with aftertouch
- Pitch and mod wheels, plus touch strip
- Komplete Kontrol S61 MKII $799
- 61 semi-weighted Fatar with aftertouch
- Pitch and mod wheels, plus touch strip
- Komplete Kontrol S88 MKII $1,149
- 88 hammer-action Fatar
- Two high-res color screens
Best MIDI Keyboards for Mac 2021 Edition – Honorable Mentions
- M Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3 $59
- Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 $110
- AKAI Professional MPK225 $269
- AKAI Professional MPK249 $429
- AKAI Professional MPK261 $499
- Arturia KeyStep Pro 37-Key Controller $440
MIDI keyboards and controllers on sale for the holidays:
- Alesis Qmini Portable 32 Key USB $49 (Reg. $59)
- Alesis V-Mini 25 Key USB $58 (Reg. $79)
- Alesis V25 25 Key USB $89 (Reg. $109)
- AKAI Professional MPK Mini Play $119 (Reg. $139+)
- Alesis Q88 MKII 88 Key USB $189 (Reg. $229)
- Novation Launchpad X Grid Controller $170 (Reg. $200)
- Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 $315 (Reg. $350)
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