49-Key MIDI controllers are some of the most popular controllers for live and studio musicians. They are truly the perfect in-between when it comes to MIDI keyboard size.
So if you just need a MIDI keyboard to explore VSTs or make beats, why not get the size with the best value and mix of features?
Whether you are looking to delve into the world of producing or expand your synth/VST setup, a 49-key controller is easily one of the best investments that you can make.
Because there are so many on the market, finding the best one for the right price can be difficult. We’re going to break it down for you in this article so that you can stop sifting through random forums and review sites and begin your musical journey.
The Akai MPK keyboards have been the top-tier MIDI keyboards for many years now, and with the updates that the MPK249 provides, they’re continuing their legacy.
The MPK249 is an all-around versatile and durable keyboard. It comes stocked with 49 full size semi-weighted keys that are each velocity-sensitive. You also get a 4x4 grid of velocity-sensitive MPC-style drum pads that sets this keyboard apart from many others on the market. Each of the pads is RGB-colored and has 4 banks built in, giving you a whopping 64 banks to create with.
Though this 49 key controller works for just about every DAW, it is excellent if you’re using Ableton Live (you’ll also be happy to know that it comes equipped with Ableton Live Lite) as it syncs up with Ableton’s drum rack very nicely.
There is a 5-pin MIDI input and output, as well as a USB output that sends MIDI data directly to your computer.
Bottom Line: From the pads to the keys to the faders and beyond, the Akai Professional MPK249 is one of the most classic and stand out MIDI keyboards on the market. Whatever kind of musician or producer you are, we highly recommend getting your hands on one of these if you can.
Nektar has been making a name for themselves in the MIDI market for the past few years, and the P4 is one of their top-of-the-line keyboards.
From the 12 pressure and velocity sensitive pads, to the 16 encoders, to the 9 faders, and the 10 assignable LED buttons, you get a keyboard with both range and versatility.
You also have aftertouch, which is pretty rare on these small keyboards. Even though they are semi-weighted keys, even piano players will love how good the keybed feels.
This keyboard is extremely popular among Logic users, though it works great for just about any DAW. The most unique part of the keyboard is the LED screen in the center that gives you a visual representation of your adjustable parameters, Not only does this make the keyboard look high-tech, it also offers a practical and useful experience when using it alongside a DAW.
Bottom Line: If you’re a Logic user, the Nektar Panorama P4 is a must-have MIDI keyboard. It’s just about as versatile as Akai’s MPK-series as well, giving you tons of range to work with.
Best Budget Option
We wouldn’t be surprised if you had never heard of Samson. You should know, however, that this company makes one of the best budget keyboards around.
You get all of the most basic features for an incredibly low price. The keys are full-sized and synth-action, though entirely velocity-sensitive. You get both a 5-pin MIDI output and USB for transmitting data, as well as a pedal input for sustain.
It comes bundled with Native Instruments software too, which is pretty cool, essentially giving you an introduction into the world of VSTs if you don’t already have any.
In terms of overall feel, it doesn’t come anywhere near higher end keyboards, though for the price, it’s difficult to complain. We do love the integrated iPad slot though, as it allows you to make music on the go with software from your iPad.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for the budget-est of the budget MIDI keyboards, the Samson Carbon 49 is just about as inexpensive as you can go before you’re playing on a cardboard box. While it isn’t packed with features, it comes with enough for the musician who needs a controller to get started.
The Novation Impulse 49 comes equipped with tons of really cool features onboard for the price. You get an array of knobs, faders, and buttons for mapping to your DAW, as well as transport section for controlling parameters such as “play” and “stop”.
The faders aren’t the nicest feeling in the world, though at the price, we can’t complain. You still get full-sized semi-weighted keys that are equipped with aftertouch for added playability.
The 8 backlit drum pads are multi-functional, allowing you to trigger clips and samples, warp arpeggios, roll beats, etc. The Automap 4 feature works within multiple DAWs, enabling you to control different parameters without needing to go in and map manually, essentially expediting your workflow. Beyond that, you get expression and sustain pedal inputs, a 5-pin MIDI output, and USB output for your computer.
Bottom Line: Novation’s Impulse 49 is probably one of their most expressive MIDI keyboards in their line and is an absolute pleasure to play. It is simple to use, extremely versatile and gives you a lot for the price.
One of the coolest things about the Alesis VX49 is the software VIP, one of the most unique types of software in the MIDI realm that allows you to control your entire library of VSTs straight from your controller. From switching patches to adjusting parameters, Alesis makes it incredibly simple.
The built-in V49 arpeggiator is another cool little function, perfect for electronic artists. You can both edit and manipulate arpeggiator patterns and send them directly to your VST patches.
To do all of this, you only have to keep your eyes on the 4.3 inch high-resolution, full-color screen. It comes equipped with 5-pin MIDI in/out ports, as well as a USB port for computer control, and pedal outputs for both sustain and expression. All of this and it comes in at just 5lbs, making it great for the on-the-go player.
Bottom Line: For software instrument control, this 49-key midi keyboard one of the most powerful on the market. It is portable, versatile, modern, and sleek, giving you tons of room to grow as a musician while using it.
The Lauchkey is more in the budget realm of Novation keyboards, and while the first iteration of them wasn’t so strong, the MK2 has been a significant upgrade.
The overall build has been redone, making the faders and knobs much stronger and the layout more practical. It is also a lot sleeker and more portable feeling. Right out of the box, the Launchkey is excellent for Ableton, as it maps to many of the parameters automatically and allows you to use many of the built-in instruments with ease. That being said, it does work well with many other DAWs.
It comes with 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads that are uniquely small, not taking up too much real estate on the face. The colors match the colors of your clips in Ableton too, which we think is pretty cool.
While you don’t get a 5-pin MIDI output, you do get outputs for a sustain pedal and a USB.
Bottom Line: If you’re just getting into music and have fallen in love with the Novation style, we would highly recommend this keyboard. It is undoubtedly one of the best beginner keyboards in their line.
The best thing that we can say about the Roland A-49 is that it has a great feeling keybed. This is no surprise, as praise for Roland keybeds seems to be a common topic throughout many threads and forums.
Not only do the full-sized keys make it easy to play, but the synth-action is also nicer than what you typically find on cheaper keyboards, giving you a more realistic action at a low price.
You get the D-Beam controller built in as well, unique to Roland keyboards, essentially allowing you to make crazy noises and manipulate sounds just by hovering your hand over the sensor.
Regarding extra features, it’s not too rich, though that makes it perfect for someone who wants a keyboard that is both sleek and simple. You basically get two knobs for adjusting parameters and a transport section for controlling basic functions of your DAW. If you’re travelling a lot, you’ll be happy to know that this thing only weighs 6lbs!
Bottom Line: Simple, reliable, and compact, are the best three words to describe the Roland A-49. It’s an excellent keyboard for a budget price and the D-beam allows for endless hours of fun.
If portability is your priority, we highly recommend checking out the Korg microKEY AIR 49. It is designed to be used with Apple products including laptops and iOS mobile devices.
Korg has done away with all of the bells and whistles to create something both sleek and easy to travel with. It is a keyboard for those who only need the essentials. That being said, you do still get a pitch wheel, mod wheel, and octave buttons.
To up the portability quality even further, you can run this bad boy with either USB or two AA batteries for up to 30 hours of playtime! This also means that you can run it wirelessly thanks to the Bluetooth feature.
The keys are miniature and synth action, so while not the best for traditional piano players, you can play faster lines much easier, and it cuts down on the width. They do however still give you a velocity sensitive touch.
Bottom Line: This keyboard is all about portability and simplicity. If you’re someone who needs a sleek and straightforward MIDI keyboard to take with you on the go, the Korg microKEY AIR 49 is the one to look at.
The M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 is another MIDI keyboard that provides you with only the essentials for the most basic use. There are no pads, knobs, or faders, though you do get your standard pitch and mod wheel, as well as a few buttons for octave switching and transport control.
It comes equipped with 49 full-sized keys that are synth action, though velocity-sensitive and natural regarding feel.
M-Audio is known for making strong budget products that work well with all DAWs, and the Keystation 49 is no different. It is also incredibly sleek and lightweight, perfect for the travelling keyboardist.
Lastly, if you don’t already have a DAW, you’ll be glad to know that this comes bundled with Ableton Live Lite to get you started on your musical journey.
Bottom Line: The M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 is excellent for those who don’t need a lot from their MIDI keyboard. It is both simple and sleek, perfect for those who are using it on their travels or storing it in small studios.
The Road to Key-dom!
When all is said and done, we have to recommend the Akai MPK249. It is one of the most reliable and versatile keyboards on the market right now.
Having that extra functionality will help you grow into a better producer and musician over time, and will give you the ability to optimize your creativity and workflow.
49-key MIDI keyboards are fantastic, as they allow you to play more like a piano, though are still portable enough to take with you on the go.
As technology changes exponentially, so do MIDI controllers. This means that keeping up with them is important if you are serious about staying modern as a musician or producer.
We hope that our article was helpful in your quest to find the perfect MIDI keyboard controller!
Go make us proud with some sweet tunes!