Top 6 Best 25 Key Mini MIDI Keyboard Controllers In 2020

Having a mini MIDI keyboard controller to produce with can be a huge boost to your workflow.

Even if you aren’t a great player, simply noodling around on the keys can help you create more natural melodies that you wouldn’t usually come up with on the piano roll.

Having a full sized MIDI keyboard controller with all the bells and whistles is great. But if you’re like me and travel around a lot then sometimes you like to produce in less than ideal places – hotel rooms, airplanes, trains, park benches to name a few.

This is where having a mini MIDI keyboard controller comes in handy. 

Most commonly these keyboards only consist of 25 keys (two octaves). This makes them small enough to fit in a backpack or on your lap.

Some keyboards also come with added features like drum pads and macro knobs. Personally I’m pretty terrible at finger drumming so I shy away from the drum pads. But they don’t usually add too much size to the MIDI keyboard so if you like to play your drums in then drum pads are a good option!

If you want to know more about MIDI keyboards you can check out the FAQs at the bottom of this post.


Here are the top 6 best mini MIDI keyboard controllers in 2020:

  1. ROLI Seaboard Block Studio Edition
  2. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
  3. Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3]
  4. Alesis V25
  5. Korg NanoKEY2
  6. Akai Professional LPK25

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ROLI Seaboard Block Studio Edition

Welcome to the future. The ROLI Seaboard Block is so much more than a regular MIDI keyboard. It’s more of an expressive instrument. You can play it just like a regular keyboard except it can be manipulated with all sorts of awesome slides, glides, strikes, presses and lifts. Movements that will control pitch bending, filter movements, modulations, and more. Just watch the video to see for yourself.

The ROLI Seaboard Block can also be connected to other Blocks by magnet, making them modular and allowing you to add things like light block, and loop block to your Seaboard.

Tech Specs

  • Unique Feature: Expressive play –  Strike, Glide, Slide, Press, Lift
  • Battery: 10 hour battery life.
  • Connectivity: USB-C port (MIDI out and power). Full MIDI compatibility over USB and Bluetooth LE.
  • Power: USB / DNA Input Voltage: 5.0V ± 0.2V DC. 4 DNA connectors.
  • Bluetooth: 15 meter Bluetooth range. Mac OSX and iOS only.
  • Included Software:  ROLI Studio, 8 NOISE, Soundpacks, Equator Player, Cypher2 Player, Strobe2 Player, Tracktion Waveform 8, ROLI Dashboard, Melodics Subscription (Three Months), Max MSP License (Three Months).

Definitely the most impressive, fun and highest quality mini MIDI Keyboard on the market today. All this comes at a price, if your budget sits in the $350-500 range then this is the one for you!


Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII

An impressive little keyboard by Akai, the MPK Mini MKII boasts 8 programmable, velocity sensitive drum pads, 25 synth weighted keys that are slightly larger than other mini keyboards I’ve tested and 8 assignable knobs. It also has a little joystick that can be used as a pitch/mod wheel.

Tech Specs

  • Unique feature: Pitchbend/Mod Joystick
  • Keys: 25 Velocity sensitive 
  • Pads: 8 pressure/velocity sensitive light-up MPC style pads
  • Knobs: 8
  • Octaves: 10 with octave up/down selector
  • Inputs: 1/4″ TRS for sustain pedal
  • Power: USB Powered
  • Additional Controls: Note repeat, Full Level, Tap Tempo

Overall I like the aesthetic of the MKII, the build quality is a bit better than others. It has all the basic functions most people want, and if you can get it in red and black it looks pretty damn awesome. However, I feel like it is lacking in features that make it stand out from the crowd, and if you’re an Ableton user like me, I feel like you can get a lot more features with the Novation Launchkey. If you aren’t an Ableton user this is still a good option in the $100 range.


Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3]

The Novation Launch Key is quite similar to the MPK in that they both have the same amount of keys, pads and assignable knobs. The Launchkey MK3 makes use of touch strips for pitch bend and modulation which is a bit more natural than using the MPK’s joystick in my opinion. 

While the Launchkey MINI can be used in any DAW it is very clearly made to be integrated with Ableton. With controls for scene launching, navigating through through tracks, capturing MIDI and more.

It also has useful features like an arpeggiator and Fixed Chord mode which lets you assign a fixed chord shape to the keys and play it with one finger, transposing it as you move around the keys.

The design is sleek and stylish with a brushed matte finish and slim build that just feels like it’s premium quality in comparison to other controllers that tend to feel cheap and plastic. 

Tech Specs

  • Unique features: Pitchbend/Mod touch strips, fixed chord mode, capture MIDI, scene up/down, tracks function, MIDI channel selection.
  • Keys: 25 Minikeys
  • Pads: 16 RGB Backlit, velocity sensitive pads.
  • Knobs: 8
  • Octaves: Octave Up/Down Buttons 
  • Inputs: 1/4″ TRS for sustain pedal.
  • Outputs: 3.5mm MIDI out.
  • Power: USB Powered
  • Additional Controls: Play, record, stop, solo, mute.

As a long time Ableton user and fan boy, I may be biased towards something that is so well integrated it, but in my opinion this is the best option in the $100 range. The only reason it doesn’t get five stars is because the Seaboard simply cant be beaten in features, design, and quality. If you can’t afford a Seaboard or prefer a more classic style controller, the Launchkey MK3 will not let you down.


Alesis V25

The Alesis V25 is a neat, stylish looking mini keyboard with drum pads, navigation, knobs and all the basic controls we see on other MIDI keyboards. However, there are no unique features that make it stand out, and getting the key velocity to work nicely requires a firmware update and some configuration. There is also no sustain pedal input. It also lacks basic DAW control and navigation such as play/pause/stop etc.

It does come with a neat little software package including Pro Tools | First Alesis Edition, Ableton Live Lite 9 and Eleven Lite,  Mini Grand, DB-33 and Xpand!2. Which add a bit of value to the keyboard. 

Tech Specs

  • Unique features: The only keyboard on this list that has normal pitch/mod wheels.
  • Keys: 25 Full-sized, square front keys
  • Pads: 8 RGB Backlit, velocity and pressure sensitive pads.
  • Knobs: 4 
  • Buttons: 4
  • Octaves: Octave Up/Down Buttons 
  • Power: USB Powered
  • Additional Controls: None

Entering the below $100 range the Alesis V25 doesn’t offer much more than good looks and average features. I’d much rather pay a bit more and go for the MPK or Launchkey.


Korg NanoKEY2

The NanoKEY2 is a basic, low cost MIDI keyboard. It’s compact and doesn’t have any super impressive, cutting edge features. However, the design is very well thought out and it feels like every feature was strategically selected to get the best use out of every inch.

It has buttons for pitch/mod, sustain and octave.  Functions you wouldn’t expect to get out of such a tiny controller.

Next to those buttons are 25 pad style keys which at first look seem weird and unplayable. However, they actually feel quite nice, the velocity curves respond nicely and the positioning of the pads forces you to play the sharps correctly which can untrain some bad habits. Another positive to these pad style keys is they can be used as drum pads a lot more effectively than regular piano style keys.

Tech Specs

  • Unique features: Button/pad style keys
  • Keys: 25 velocity sensitive button/pad like keys
  • Pads: None
  • Knobs: None
  • Assignable Buttons: None
  • Octaves: Octave Up/Down Buttons 
  • Power: USB Powered
  • Additional Controls: Pitch/Mod, Sustain.

A carefully thought out design, the Korg nanoKEY2 is low cost and effective. A brilliant little bit of equipment in the $50-80 range.


Akai Professional LPK25

Similar to the nanoKEY2, the Akai LPK25 is another basic mini MIDI keyboard. It’s slightly cheaper than the nanoKEY2. In terms of features, it has tap tempo, an arpeggiator, octave up/down and a program mode. However, the actual usefullness of these features when compared to the nanoKEY2 is a bit lacking –  I would much rather have access to pitchbend and modulation than arp and tap tempo. This might just be personal preference. 

The keys also feel cheap and plastic and have quite a bit of bounce to them, almost too much for my liking. 

Tech Specs

  • Unique features: Nothing that stands out
  • Keys: 25 velocity sensitive mini keys
  • Pads: None
  • Knobs: None
  • Assignable Buttons: None
  • Octaves: Octave Up/Down Buttons 
  • Power: USB Powered
  • Additional Controls: Sustain, arp, tap tempo

The cheapest keyboard on the list, the design is average, keys don’t feel great and features aren’t overly useful. I would definitely fork out a tiny bit more and go for the nanoKEY2. However, a lot of this is personal preference and the LPK25 is still a really good option when compared to other keyboards in the $40-60 range.


Frequently Asked Questions

How much do mini MIDI keyboards cost?

This depends on features and quality but you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 for a low end keyboard to $400+ for the best of the best.

 Are MIDI keyboards worth it? 

Yes definitely, playing your musical ideas into your DAW is a huge workflow boost, if you cannot play keys at all then picking up a MIDI keyboard can be a great way to learn.  

Do I need a MIDI keyboard to make beats? 

No, you don’t need a MIDI keyboard to make beats. However, they can help a lot with workflow and developing more natural sounding ideas. 

Can you learn piano on a MIDI keyboard? 

Yes, absolutely. The best keyboards for learning piano are ones that resemble the feel of a real piano. Check out our post on the best keyboards for learning piano if you are interested in learning to play using a MIDI keyboard.


Conclusion

Choosing the right Mini MIDI keyboard can be tough. For me personally I love the Seaboard, it’s just miles ahead of anything else in terms of crazy awesome features and design. 

The problem is it costs a fair bit, so my second option would definitely be the Novation Launchkey MK3 with all it’s awesome Ableton integrations and slim, stylish design it’s a no brainer for me.

If you’re strapped for cash and don’t want to fork out more than $70 I would definitely opt for the nanoKEY2.

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