61 key midi controllers are very similar to keyboards and digital pianos. The difference is quite significant: synthesizers and digital pianos work and sound independent, whereas MIDI-keyboards are an addition to musical instruments.
In general, a 61 key weighted MIDI controller is a device that allows for playing complex music with two hands. It is an ideal option for those who want to get a sound very close to the sound of the piano.
In search of the best 61 key MIDI controller, discover other types of keyboards:
- 25 key MIDI controller — a good option for those players who often travel with different musical instruments. It is great for those who only need to play with one hand to record music. Being popular among hip-hop beat makers, it allows recording music only with one hand.
- 49 key MIDI controller – a minimal version of the controller for those who are going to use two hands while playing. Great for those who want to learn how to play keyboard instruments. It is also popular among hip-hop beat makers and digital music producers.
- 88 key MIDI controller has the same number of buttons as an acoustic piano. Thus, this device is great for beginners and experienced pianists. The only disadvantage is the difficulty in transportation.
And the following reviews are devoted to the best 61 key keyboards, their specs, pros, and cons.
61 Key Midi Controller Reviews
Yamaha YPT260 – Best 61 Key MIDI Controller
The 61 keys midi controller is designed with over 384 sounds, 16 drum effects, 130 Auto accompaniment styles to play various music genres, 400 instrument voices, and 112 songs. The unit might be plugged into a laptop’s headphone jack via a female connector and into a converter via a male terminal to record and playback. However, it’s necessary to buy a converter separately.
The device boasts Yamaha Education Suite with the 9-step lesson feature, Listening, Timing, and Waiting modes to develop more piano skills and techniques. A duo mode allows learning together with a partner or teacher. The controller produces good sound, very close to a real grand piano. It has two inline speakers to ensure a loud and expanded soundstage.
The unit is designed with an Aux input to connect a smartphone, a headphone jack for silent practice, and a sustain port to connect a pedal. It works with both a power supply and batteries. You can shift key frequencies up and down, using octave intervals. Three screw holes on the bottom allow attaching a controller to a stand. Interestingly, the company made this model round-cornered while many other manufacturers produce budget controllers with sharp corners.
- The instrument has a phrase recorder where to store recorded songs.
- It’s possible to monitor the activities on the LCD screen.
- Some buttons are covered with rubber to make them dust-resistant.
- Both white and black keys are shorter and narrower than piano keys.
- It lacks touch sensitivity because the keys are not weighted.
The Alesis V61 can become a perfect 61 ky piano for those looking for the units with pads. This model is remarkable for 8 drum pads with backlit that can be changed from a note to a continuous controller (CC). The CC and on/off velocities for the pads and buttons are adjustable. Apart from drums, other samples in the DAW are available.
By the way, I’ve noticed no double hits or lags while using pads. I’ve heard it happens sometimes, but it is more about a computer rather than the controller issues. Generally, the pads are responsive and bouncy. The device has smooth and stiff semi-weighted keys. However, their velocity sensitivity is weird since not all notes sound louder or quieter when I change pressure.
The 61-key digital piano is powered to a computer via USB connection and capable of working with a sustain pedal. The relevant ports are on the back. The controller is fitted with “up” and “down” buttons to shift the full range of octaves, a mod wheel, a wheel to create smooth pitch bends, 4 assignable dials, and 4 assignable buttons. Both wheels show good resistance to ensure accurate adjustments. It’s not a plug-and-play device since it needs downloadable brand software to sound perfectly. Besides, the user should adjust the velocity curve.
- The device is incorporated with any mobile device and laptop with Bluetooth LE audio or a USB port.
- The controller comes with Ableton Live 10 Lite digital music-making software and Xpand! plug-in to create multiple sound effects.
- The unit lacks MIDI output, making it impossible to hook it up to external hardware.
- The device has no aftertouch for extra modulation.
This model is one of the best 61-key MIDI keyboards that we picked out. It features full-size keys (though they are a bit smaller than grand piano’s keys) and velocity sensitivity to produce the same sounds louder or quieter. The semi-weighted keys never stick and require a minimum pressure to get the sound out of it.
It’s possible to use this unit as an acoustic piano, hooking it up to a laptop or PC, and using headphones. Fortunately, the controller is compatible with any software to create sounds, and the users can choose it to their liking. Note that it’s just a controller that doesn’t work as a standalone instrument and can’t generate sound independently.
This model has a straightforward layout without the abundance of sliders and knobs. It has a +/- button to shift octaves, directional buttons to send MIDI data for interpretation, two mod wheels to modulate various elements, and a slider (volume fader) to add or reduce volume. The cursor keys allow dispensing with a mouse. Besides, it has a port to connect a sustain pedal to make notes sound longer and a switch to restart the controller on the back.
- The device comes with a comprehensive software package, including VSTi’s (virtual instruments) and trial subscriptions for Melodics and Skoove in-depth courses.
- It offers seven acoustic piano sounds that make it possible to use the controller for playing more music styles.
- Apart from USB, the device has an old-school 5-pin MIDI out port to sync it to a drum machine, synthesizer, and other acoustic equipment.
- This model is compatible with iOS devices, but an expensive Apple’s USB 3 Camera Adapter is necessary.
- All the keys are clicky, producing much mechanical noise, and black keys could be a bit longer and wider.
- It would be great to see drum pads among controls.
Novation Launchkey MK2
The Novation Launchkey is smaller than you think and it is very lightweight, so portability is not a problem but one of many reasons why we added it to our MIDI controller reviews. This feature-rich MIDI keyboard with 61 keys has a new design. On its panel, 3 InControl buttons, 9 sliders to control the mixer, large Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels, 8 rotary controls over the pads section, and 8 Mute / Solo buttons are located. Automapping is very nice too. No external software or drivers required, and, moreover, no additional “wall wart” power supply as it runs off of USB power. The keys feel like the majority of keyboard controllers in this price range.
- The controller is run with just one cable, so transportation is easy.
- The keys are sensitive to velocity. There isn’t a soft touch/soft sound, but if you strike the keys more aggressively, you can get a louder tone.
- Stiff drum pads.
- There is only one accessory port.
Nektar Impact GX61
This 61 key MIDI controller with weighted keys has the acclaimed Nektar DAW Integration feature and functions with iOS devices as MIDI controllers.
Due to its compact design, the Nektar Impact GX61 MIDI keyboard fits comfortably in front of the computer. It has high functionality that other full-fledged controllers are not capable of. The Impact GX61 has a 61 note keyboard (5 octaves), a pitch bend wheel, a modulation wheel, and a footswitch jack. However, some buttons should be adjusted, but it should be pretty easy to get going. Speaking of getting going, a free copy of Bitwig 8-track comes included with this keyboard.
The Impact GX works with all USB devices that have a MID compliant driver Class Compliant. All versions of Windows from XP and later are suitable, Apple OS X 10.5 and later, plus Linux. That is why it can be considered as an absolutely mobile recording and playback system.
- Black keys are convenient to play. This controller allows playing B or D flat major scales with ease. Black keys do require more pressure if they are not pressed at the very bottom end.
- Good velocity curves for playing pianissimo or playing with expression.
- To start using this keyboard, you have to sign up for a lot of accounts.
Akai Professional MPK261
The Akai MPK 261 supports QWERTY commands that allow you to work more efficiently with the software. The controller is compatible with iOS devices (via the Camera Connection Kit), and a special energy-saving mode is also provided.
The controller is equipped with a USB port, 5-pin MIDI input, and output, as well as two inputs for connecting the expression and sustain pedals.
The keyboard is developed to replace the previous generation and add convenience to the hardware control of your software. The 61 keys MIDI keyboard MPK 261 is housed in a low-profile case that has 16 trigger pads with colored LED backlighting (borrowed from MPC series controllers), a bright LCD display, 8 rotary knobs, and 8 faders, and all the most necessary keys for transportation and navigation.
- A solid controller with lots of lights. Also, great software and internal MIDI functionality.
- iOS compatibility feature using a separately sold Apple iPad Camera Connector adapter kit.
- Mapping Takes Time.
- No X-y Touchpads.
61 Key Interface’s Benefits
The real advantages of a MIDI keyboard are its versatility and portability. These advantages allow you to manage almost any modern equipment and software, and the size of some lets them be transported even in a laptop bag.
The dynamics of the keyboard (velocity) is another key advantage. The dynamics of the keyboard usually controls the volume of the sound but can control any other parameter you wish.
Aftertouch is an additional ability to modulate sound using the keyboard. After the compression mechanism, as a rule, professional semi-weighted type keyboards are equipped. After you press a key and make a sound, you can additionally “press” a key by modulating some sound parameter. This feature is used most often with synthesizers. Virtual acoustic instruments do not need this kind of modulation, however, sometimes they can also be interestingly controlled after pressing (for example, using the after pressing is very convenient to control the effect of the “vibrato” of a virtual violin).
Things to Consider When Choosing 61 Key Controllers
Most modern MIDI keyboards are equipped with a USB port that allows you to connect such a keyboard to a PC using a single USB cable. The USB keyboard receives the necessary power and transfers all the necessary data.
If you plan to use your MIDI keyboard with a tablet (for example, an iPad), keep in mind that tablets do not have enough power at the output ports. In this case, your MIDI keyboard may need a separate power supply – most of the serious MIDI keyboards have a connector for connecting such a unit. The connection is made via USB, (for example, through a special adapter Camera Connection Kit, in the case of using Apple tablets).
If you plan to use a MIDI keyboard with any external hardware (for example, with synthesizers, drum machines, or groove boxes), be sure to pay attention to the presence of classical 5-pin MIDI ports. If there is no such port for a MIDI keyboard, then connecting it to a synthesizer without using a PC will not work. Keep in mind that a classic 5-pin MIDI port is not able to transmit power, so when using this communication protocol, you will need an additional power supply.
So, before choosing a musical instrument, try to answer the following questions:
- The number of keys: do you need 25, 49, 61, or 88 keys?
- Keyboard mechanics: synthesizer type, semi-weighted, or weighted hammer?
- Aftertouch: do you need it?
- Faders, buttons, rotary controls: how much, their location? Is there automapping?
- Inputs / Outputs: do you need a MIDI via USB, iOS support, 5-pin MIDI connectors, CV / Gate outputs?
- Pads: how much, touch sensitivity, do you need an aftertouch?
Hi everyone! I’m Thomas Moody, also known as Guitarzan.