The amount of keys on a MIDI keyboard controller may not be of importance to some, but those of us who are serious about our music equipment and production can give you numerous reasons why having exactly 25 keys is critical. More for on-the-go or compact type of studio setups, a 25 key MIDI keyboard controller is great in terms of portability, sleekness, as well as only providing the essentials you need for both performing live or recording in the lab. We dug through the best MIDI keyboards with 25 keys and give you our top pick as well as a list to shop through.
Here are some features you should take into consideration when shopping for your 25 key MIDI keyboard. We will explain these more in-depth when we provide our pick and list.
- Do you want one that includes pads as well (typically for drum playing)?
- Are knobs and sliders important to you (for controller effects, VST’s, and other plug-ins on your computer)?
- Is keyboard action type important to you (weighted, semi-weighted, or synth action)?
- Do you want aftertouch?
- The input and outputs included on the back of the keyboard (for sustain, etc)
Our pick for the best 25-key MIDI keyboard controller:
The Akai MPK Mini
We chose the MPK Mini for a number of reasons. But before we explain this, you need to consider the questions we’ve listed above and understand that we chose this model based on the overall stability, features, capabilities and overall reviews in terms of it’s price. If you can afford a higher one, we definitely recommend continuing to read the list we’ve provided because you’ll only be getting more and more features as the price increases.
The Akai MPK Mini is an extremely solid build of 25-key keyboard. Their MPK225 costs more because it offers more knobs, faders, and buttons, as well as software package included — but we don’t think that’s completely necessary unless you really need them and can spare the extra change. With 8 awesome Akai pads (that we’ve seen on most of their equipment, including the MPC’s), the Mini gives you the essentials in a 25-key MIDI keyboard, such as eight Q-link knobs for software control, plug-and-play USB, no driver installations, a sustain button, octave up and down, tap tempo conrols, and more — the necessities.
This piece of machine works well with most software, including Ableton Live, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Cubase, etc. Customer reviews have given it high ratings on the built-in arpeggiator, program mode (gives you the ability to switch between programs on your computer), and the two banks for the pads (ultimately 16 notes possible for your pads, which we think is just enough).
One reason to go for a more expensive 25-key MIDI keyboard would be if you are seeking a keyboard with better quality pads. Although the pads of the MPK Mini are Akai-make and pretty solid, some have complained about the sensitivity of them. It also lacks a mod wheel if that’s what you need, continue reading on (helps with expression in some instruments) if that’s what you are looking for. The sustain input is something it also does not have, as well as only having about 4 presets. There also other keyboards out there with better quality keys, but that’s going to cost extra money.
Also remember that this keyboard has mini keys and could be considered a compact MIDI keyboard controller. If you want full-sized keys, continue reading at our list below.
Don’t forget that if you’re looking for a MIDI controller with only pads, check out our best MIDI pad controller post here.
Other 25 key MIDI keyboard controllers to look at
We recommend this one if you don’t need pads on your MIDI keyboard. When Akai created the MPK Mini, they literally combined this keyboard with the MPD8 (pads only). So if you want a cheaper alternative (you’ll be saving some money), grab this — it’s one of the cheapest 25 key MIDI keyboards out there.
You do get what you pay for. Although with few ‘extra’ features, this does get the job done in merely filling the role of keys for your MIDI sounds. Main features of the Akai LPK25 include velocity-sensitive keys, plug-and-play USB connection (Mac and PC), great for most programs such as Pro Tools, Logic, and Ableton, a sustain button, octave up and down, tap tempo, and lastly includes editing software if you need it. Just the simple features for a low price.
This is a 25-key MIDI keyboard some around the net say competes with our pick, the Akai MPK Mini. Whoever is right is up to you and we’ll explain some of the features so you can see what we are talking about, but it basically does not have pads like the Mini. It is USB powered with 8 assignable knobs to control DAW and VST parameters. It has a ‘DirectLink more’ for controller mapping that’s pretty convenient. It also has an assignable slider and a sustain port on the back for an optional pedal.
Users around the net have said that the M-Audio Oxygen 25 is easy to map with the popular programs, such as Pro Tools and Ableton. With this MIDI keyboard there are no MIDI in and out ports, it is all done through the USB cable. The keys are also full size and provide a great feel. Some have compained about the difficulty of mapping the knobs, but if you take the time to read the manual and really learn how, it can be a great tool for your set up. Take a look at this if you want a quality MIDI keyboard and don’t necessarily care for pads, unless you want to save money, go with the cheaper LPK25.
This is a pretty awesome machine here. Found for around middle price-point range on the net (as time goes on, it continues to drop, so check the price), this definitely gives our choice of the Akai MPK Mini a run for it’s money. With 16 velocity-sensitive pads (they call them ‘launch pads’), it also comes with Ableton Live Lite and a loop masters sample pack. It also has iPad compatibility, something pretty rare within the MIDI keyboard realm.
Another plus, although for merely just flash, are the pads being three-color illuminated. Users who have reviewed the Novation Launchkey 25 claim that set-up was easy and the keys and pads feel good live up to the responsive name. It has also been said that the software package that comes along with it is great, but that’s only applicable to you if you’re looking for some more programs to add to your arsenal. The only real cons we’ve heard of are the iPad features being a little sketchy, but who really uses that anyways? This is a big competitor to the Akai MPK Mini, but we’ve chosen the Mini because of it’s overall better stability — not to mention it’s a few bucks extra.
This is Alesis’ newest MIDI keyboard creation, an upgrade of the Q25 and QX25. It’s a pretty good rig and some say even out-performs the Akai MIDI keyboards because of it’s lower price. The keys are full-sized and flat front, semi-weighted with aftertouch (better quality than the Akai MPK’s). 8 assignable knobs and 24 assignable buttons for DAW and VST control. The pads are pretty good too, around the same quality of the MPK’s. They are also backlit for a cool look. There’s an input for a sustain pedal as well as a single USB cable for MIDI controller and power. It comes with Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition and a MIDI software editor. Lastly, it’s got the mod wheels and pitch bend.
This is another very sleek 25-key MIDI keyboard controller. The keys are expressive synth-action with aftertouch, one of the best keyboards in terms of ‘feel’ we’ve experienced. It also comes with those trigger pads that are absolute beasts. If you’re looking for a step up from the Mini, this is the one we’d really go after. Eight knobs as well as a fader (only one, which some complain about), as well as a possible 3 banks for both the pads and knobs. There’s a roll button included as a plus, not to mention the pitch bend and mod wheels. This MIDI keyboard has it all if you’re looking to drop a few bills.
Users around the net have stated that the feel is a standout feature of the M-Audio Axiom AIR. Runs great on Windows and Mac, and comes with a cool Ignite software to add to your rig. It’s also got ‘hypercontrol’, which is M-Audio’s version of automapping, a feature many people claim to help with an easier setup in terms of mapping your VST’s. This thing is great.
This is an upgrade to the Akai MPK25 25-key MIDI keyboard controller. It’s a higher up 25-key than the Mini, giving you a lot more features if that’s what you’re looking for (albeit more money). It has the legendary MPC pads that are backlit (red green blue), semi-weighted keys giving a great feel, more assignable control knobs with 3 banks (8 knobs total), a pitch bend, octave control and mod for dynamic playing. The USB-MIDI with 5-pin in and out attached to the back is ideal for connectivity, and you also get the inputs for sustain and expression pedal jacks. Another reason why this costs so much is this the software package it comes with. If you’re looking for new software, it’s definitely worth the money; however, if not, you may need to rethink it. It comes with Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist 2.0, and their MPC Essentials software.
It’s first model, the MPK25, has received a lot of positive reviews around the net. They have talked about the pad sensitivity not being ideal. Again, we haven’t really had a problem with this, but if you’re really concerned with having crazy pads, you may want to look at the Novation models. Akai has not made any changes to the pads in their MPK225 MIDI keyboard. But alas, this thing is better for studio purposes as opposed to the Mini. If you’re looking for something for the road, we recommend sticking with the Mini.
This is Novation’s upgrade to the Launchkey we spoke about earlier. If you can afford this, it is definitely a beast with a lot of additional features than most 25-key MIDI keyboards out there. The keys are not only velocity sensitive but also semi-weighted with aftertouch, giving you a really genuine feel like a piano. You have 8 knobs, 1 fader and button for DAW/plug-in control, 4 control software automap for further DAW control, and it is USB powered. It also includes 8 drum pads (backlit) like most other keyboards and comes with Ableton Live Lite, Novation’s Bass Station synth and a loop masters sample pack. Novation’s Impulse 49 won our best MIDI keyboard controller for Logic Pro.
In terms of reviews, the Novation Impulse 25 has been stated that the full-size keys are great in terms of feel. The automap software is also perfect for handling that confusing configuration of VST sounds with the MIDI controllers of the keyboard. If you’re spending some extra money on this one, you’re buying a better overall quality of keys and mapping software. If it’s worth the extra money that’s up to you. You won’t be disappointed.
Check out our top 10 best MIDI keyboards article if you want some more options.