One of our team ask me about a recommendation for a MIDI keyboard controller for helping his side project doing music for Dreadout. It should be compact so it can fit his backpack, and about $100-ish in budget.

I asked him if he’s going to need knobs, pads, and any other encoders, but he doesn’t get a clue how to use them anyway since he’s mainly a drummer and occasional guitarist, and this going to be his first experience using midi controller :D. So I decided to write this article out so he can decide by himself and I hope this can help you guys too.

M-Audio Oxygen 25 MKIV

From the pioneer of the MIDI Keyboard Controller market, Oxygen now reaching the 4th revision with MKIV series offering nice, solid feel on the keys. Best choice for you who don’t want to risk taking newer player on the MIDI keyboard controller market.

Info: M-Audio Oxygen 25 MKIV

Dimensions: 16.2 x 9.4 x 3.7 inches ; 3.8 lbs.

Price: $119

Nektar Impact LX25

From the new kid on the block, Nektar starts of with it’s MIDI keyboard controller tightly integrated for Propellerhead Reason, but evolve to support more DAWs. Other than the solid and nice feel on the overall controls, Impact is one of the best looking MIDI keyboard controller with it’s minimalist, low-profile design.

Info: Nektar Impact LX 25

Dimensions: 18.75 x 10.5 x 2.75 inches ; 2.75 lbs.

Price:  $99

Behringer UMA250

MIDI keyboard controller market is seriously oversaturated with black colored products, UMA250 is the one if you want to stand-out among the crowd, cheap, with nice layout.

Info: Behringer UMA250

Dimensions: 18.1 x 8.7 x 1.8 inches ; 4.85 lbs.

Price: $99

Akai MPK Mini

Comes from the legendary inventor of rubbery pads for triggering samples, Akai MPK mini have the nicest pad familiar with pad banging MPC musicians. Handy controls  like knobs, pads, and XY joystick arranged in a clear layout while preserving the compact dimension.

Info: Akai MPK Mini

Dimensions: 12.5 x 7.13 x 1.75 inches ; 1.65 lbs.

Price: $99

Samson Graphite M25

Comes from another budget contender. Samson Graphite M25 isn’t solidly built like the other with cheap plastic feel, and awkward ribbon controls. But it gives you no-nonsense workflow with it’s mapping software, and comes as the cheapest among compact MIDI keyboard controller.

Info: Samson Graphite M25

Dimensions: 17.5 x 7.5 x 2 inches ; 2 lbs.

Price: $79

Novation LaunchKey Mini

25-key mini version of Novation’s line of multi-colored pads, Ableton Live – ready MIDI keyboard controllers taken directly from Novation’s hugely successful Launchpad grid controllers. With solely USB connection taking bus power from desktop, laptop, and iPad’s port.  This is the one to get if you rely heavily to Ableton Live and need some control in both casual desktop, and mobile gigs.

Info: Novation Launchkey Mini

Dimensions: 12.79 x 6.89 x 1.69 inches

Price: $99

Alesis V25

Boasting full-sized synth action keys and logical placement for other secondary controls, this is really make sense since most users usually play melodies with their right hand, while the left hand are used mainly for tweaking parameters or finger drumming. Although bulky compared with other “compact” MIDI keyboard controllers category, but it’s cheap and considerably more compact compared with other full-sized MIDI keyboard controllers.

Info: Alesis V25

Dimensions: 24.6 x 6.89 x 1.69 inches

Price: $89

Arturia MiniLab

Cosmetically, this is one of the best looking, well designed MIDI keyboard controller out there; with wooden panel on the sides, and smartly placed connectivity ports on the left side. The 16 rotary encoders seemed overkill, but it comes with Arturia Analog Lab which is factory pre-mapped to each of the encoders, giving you immediate controls over 6000 synth presets to the joy of knob tweaking.

Info: Arturia MiniLab

Dimensions: 14.685 x 7.52 x 1.97 inches ; 2.27 lbs

Price: $99

CME XKey 25

Boasting a deceptively large features despite its simplistic design. This features a polyphonic aftertouch (which is rare on compact MIDI keyboard controllers), pressure sensitive pitchbend and modulation buttons, sustain pedal button, and octave +/-.  Definitely for mac aficionados.


Info: CME XKey 25

Dimensions:15.27x 5.31 x 0.14 inches ; 1.32 lbs.

Price: $129

Korg Microkey 25

Minimalistic approach from design to number of controls compared with competing MIDI keyboard controllers. From the Japanese giant Korg, Microkey offering an arpeggiator button, and great compatibility with Korg virtual instruments on both their popular iOS Apps and desktop’s Legacy Collection(included). The keyboard have a great feel thanks to the derived Korg natural touch keyboard found on their micro product range.

Info: Korg Microkey 25

Dimensions: 15 x 5 x 2 inches ; 1.43 lbs.

Price: $75