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Best Studio USB MIDI Keyboard [2023]

It is that time of the year, music producers are updating their gear, beginners are also researching the best gear in the market including a USB MIDI Keyboard, while music tech blogs are also updating articles on the best gear, and that prompts me to write this article.

In this best guide, I'll cover the best studio USB keyboard and what you need to know before getting a studio keyboard and its compatibility with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

There are already lots of guides on the internet about the best studio MIDI keyboard, however, they are either too bulky or some are just not getting straight to the point, let me fix that...

Things To Consider Before Buying a USB MIDI Keyboard

Below lists are the things you might consider before getting a USB MIDI keyboard:

DAW Compatibility 

My goodness, I can't count the number of times I have gone for a studio setup, and then discovered the MIDI Keyboard isn't compatible with the DAW, this is very common when using foreign USB Keybaord with FL Studio, though, I still get to fix it by manually mapping the keys but doing that isn't flexible. 

DAW compatibility should be the first thing on your list when buying a USB MIDI Keyboard. I am gonna list DAW compatibility alongside each USB MIDI keyboard I'll be recommending.

Number of Keys

Depending on your use cases, you might also wanna consider the number of keys of your USB MIDI keyboard. If you want something light and portable, then I can recommend you go for a 25 or 45-key keyboard, but if you are the type that will be playing a classical piece, then a 61 or 88-key MIDI keyboard is a good option.

All in all, the number of keys you are going for would depend on how portable you want them to be.

MIDI Keyboard Knob Controls

This isn't really a hard must-have, but there might be times you'll need to assign keys in your keyboard to your virtual instrument or synth virtual knobs, this way you can control your virtual instrument directly from your MIDI keyboard. An example is creating the legato/portamento effect which is easily done if the keyboard has a 360-degree knob.

After Touch / Sensitivity

The sensitivity of a USB MIDI keyboard is really important if you want to create a highly expressive and a harmony that doesn't sound mechanized. If you don't know what sensitivity in a MIDI keyboard is, then sensitivity is a mechanism of tracking the pressure when you push keys in a keyboard, while aftertouch detects how hard you are pushing down the keys until you let go.

You want these two features if you really care about making expressive music, though, this can be tweaked in your DAW application, but it is a huge time save for faster expressive music creation.

Below is an example of using the sensitivity of a keyboard. The first example is not using sensitivity while the second example is using sensitivity:

Before (No Sensitivity):

After (With Sensitivity):

You'll notice the second sound is more expressive, while the first is cool, it is more mechanized and unnatural.

MIDI Learn

While some USB MIDI Keyboard provides support out of the box for all major Digital Audio Workstations, some MIDI Keyboard might not support your chosen DAW. In that case, you might wanna use something called MIDI Learn, in other words, you teach your DAW to learn the MIDI keyboard layout. 

For the most part, MIDI Learn has nothing to do with a USB Keyboard itself, it is a protocol that exists in all major DAW. The way it works is you select the Parameter to which you want to bind or assign to a MIDI controller, and you then click on the MIDI Learn button in your DAW application.

Having done that, you can then use or push a key/knob/fader on your MIDI keyboard that you want to assign to the selected Parameter and finally the control should be automatically assigned.

Note that, this will differ depending on how your DAW works, nevertheless, it should be similar to the above steps, so, I'll urge you to construct your DAW manual or if you want me to write a how-to-guide on how MIDI Learn works in different DAW, leave a comment with the DAW you want me to write about.

Now that you know the things to consider before buying a Studio USB MIDI keyboard, I have picked the best of the best USB studio MIDI Keyboards and I'll be recommending the ones I am familiar with, so, let's get started with...

USB MIDI Keyboard Recommendation

M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 – 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 – 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With Beat Pads, MIDI assignable Knobs, Buttons & Faders and Software Suite Included
  • MIDI Keyboard Essentials - 49 velocity-sensitive, semi weighted keys with aftertouch and assignable zones for playing virtual sampler instruments and virtual synthesizer plugins
  • Beat Maker Mainstays - 16 RGB backlit MIDI assignable velocity sensitive drum pads with Note Repeat for beat production, clip launching, soundboard triggering and more
  • Total Command of Your Music Production - 8 assignable knobs & buttons and 9 assignable faders for tactile MIDI control of virtual instruments, effect plugins, DAW controls and more
  • Every Tool You Need – Effortless auto-mapping for DAW controls & plugin parameters; Smart Chord & Smart Scale modes; Arpeggiator; pitch & modulation wheels; sustain pedal input; 5-pin MIDI Output
  • Complete software production package Included - MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, virtual instruments from AIR Music Tech and Akai Professional MPC Expansion packs
  • Follow the included download card to visit the M-Audio website and obtain all supplied software and firmware updates

Daw Compatibility:

  • Works with Major DAWS (FL, Ableton, Logic, Cubase, etc)
  • This has a deep integration with FL Studio, so, select M-Audio Oxygen Pro 25 from the custom MIDI Controller type

Nektar Panorama P4 - 49 Key USB MIDI Controller Keyboard

Nektar Panorama P4 - USB MIDI Controller Keyboard with Nektar DAW Integration, White
  • Nektar's most advanced MIDI Controller. 49 semi-weighted full-size velocity sensitive keys + aftertouch. Amazing number of controls available includes 100mm ALPS motorized touch-sensitive high resolution fader.
  • Deep DAW integration for Cubase, Logic, Studio One, Bitwig Studio, Nuendo, Mainstage, Reason and Reaper.
  • Comprehensive MIDI functionailty. Compatible with all MIDI music software applications
  • Mac and PC compatible
  • Includes PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW

Daw Compatibility:

  • Cubase 5 or Higher
  • Logic Pro X or higher
  • Studio One
  • Bitwig Studio 1.0 or higher
  • Nueno
  • MainStage 3 or higher
  • Reaper 4.78 or higher
  • FL Studio ( select Nektar Panorama P4 from the custom MIDI Controller type)

Note that if your DAW is not on the list, it might still work, but it isn't guaranteed, so, if you take the risk, you are OYO (on your own).

AKAI Professional MPK249 - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Semi-Weighted Keys

AKAI Professional MPK249 - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Semi Weighted Keys, Assignable MPC Controls, 16 Pads and Q-Links, Plug and Play
  • Pro Keyboard Performance - 49 semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive full-size keys and a premium piano-style keybed for unprecedented response and natural feel
  • Beat Making Essentials - 16 RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads each with 4 banks for 64 pads - the perfect solution for triggering samples, loops, one-shots, melodics and more
  • Assignable Control - 24 assignable Q-Link controllers comprising 8 control knobs, faders and switches engineered for hassle-free DAW / virtual instrument mapping
  • Your Studio Centerpiece - Take command of your peripheral MIDI equipment courtesy of an onboard USB-MIDI interface with 5-pin MIDI input & output
  • Core MPC Tools - MPC mainstay controls included - MPC Note Repeat, arpeggiator, MPC Full Level, Tap Tempo and Time Division
  • Comprehensive Production Software Package for Mac and PC included - Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech & Xpand!2(downloads)
  • The MPC Production Experience - Includes MPC Beats Software complete with the finest features and essential production tools from the Akai Professional MPC Series

Daw Compatibility:

  • Works out of the box with any DAWS (FL, Ableton, Logic, Cubase, etc)
  • Note FL does not have a custom driver for Akai MPK249, so, you might have to use it with the generic MIDI controller, and yes you shouldn't worry if everything is working fine using the generic controller, the only exception is you might not have access to some special functions in the MIDI AKAI MPK249  midi keyboard

Novation Launchkey 49 MK3 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller 

Novation Launchkey 49 MK3 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller Bundle with Knox Studio Headphones and Keyboard Stand (3 Items)
  • BUNDLE INCLUDES: Novation Launchkey MK3 49-Key USB MIDI Ableton Keyboard Controller, TX-100 Closed-Back Studio Monitor Headphones, and Adjustable Double X Keyboard Stand
  • VARIOUS MODES: Eight Scale modes guide you into new musical territory, by transposing keys played to notes in the scale selected. Simply choose your root note and your preferred scale, then play. Three Chord modes transform the keys and pads into an interactive surface of musical exploration, where every note played is tonally and harmonically linked
  • CUSTOMIZABLE FOR CONVENIENCE: Custom Modes simplify the relationship between controller and software, with more power than ever in your hands. Programmable using the Novation Components browser-based tool, Custom Modes let you design the behavior of your Launchkey, with control over control assignments, MIDI routing, pad color and much more
  • 5-PIN MIDI DIN OUTPUT: Launchkey MK3 49 is equipped with a full-size 5-pin MIDI DIN output, enabling simple connection to the universe of MIDI devices — new and old. Coupled with its immense standalone potential, Launchkey is now the centerpiece to your live or studio system — computer or not
  • INTEGRATION WITH ABLETON LIVE: The integration with Ableton Live is truly seamless, with a dedicated button for activating the Capture MIDI function, plus track arm, quantize, click and loop controls, for flying around your Session faster than ever. Not an Ableton Live user? No problem, Launchkey also has full integration with Logic and Reason, plus out of the box functionality with other DAWs including Studio One, Cubase and Pro Tools, via HUI

Daw Compatibility:

  • Works With All Major DAWs
  • Not guaranteed to integrate well with an older version of FL Studio, but if you have FL version 20.9.2 and above, it should work well as there is a built-in integration for Launchkey MK3. Learn More on Integration With FL

Nektar Impact GX49 | USB MIDI Controller Keyboard

Nektar Impact GX49 | USB MIDI Controller Keyboard with Nektar DAW Integration
  • MIDI controller keyboard compatible with all MIDI software. 49 full-size synth-action keys, pitch bend and modulation wheels + octave & transpose buttons + sustain pedal socket. Excellent quality and value for money.
  • Nektar DAW integration for most popular DAWs
  • Comprehensive MIDI functionailty. Compatible with all MIDI music software applications
  • Mac, PC and iOS Compatible
  • Includes Bigwig Studio 8-track DAW + sound content package

Daw Compatibility:

  • Works With All Major DAWs
  • In FL, choose the Nektar Impact  Series as your MIDI Controller type

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