7 Best Portable MIDI Keyboards (For Traveling Musicians)

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  • Making music on the go or just need something portable?
  • What about a backup for your main controller?
  • We look at the 7 best portable MIDI keyboards and controllers on the market.

A good MIDI keyboard controller is practically essential for any production task. The right ones will integrate into your DAW and make your workflow much more intuitive, fluid, and musical.

Many modern producers also desire portability, and so a more compact MIDI keyboard for spontaneous jamming can prove to be invaluable. Aside from that, you might just be after something cheap that works as a backup in case your main controller fails.

Today, we’re going to go over the best portable MIDI Keyboards for on-the-go musicians. You’ll find they are all affordable, durable, and easy to use.

What Are The 7 Best Portable MIDI Keyboards For On-The-Go Musicians?

The AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 is our pick for the best portable MIDI keyboard. It’s a third-generation version of the revered MPK and features just about everything you need to produce and integrate with your software of choice. It’s portable, affordable, and easy to use.

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is a great choice for those just starting out who want an all-in-one portable keyboard controller, making it our top choice for beginners.

For those who are short on cash, the Nektar SE25 offers you great features and portability at a low cost, making it our best value choice for this list.

So, here are our candidates for the 7 best portable MIDI keyboards:

  1. AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 (Our Pick)
  2. Arturia KeyStep 37
  3. Nektar SE25 (Best Value)
  4. Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
  5. Korg microKEY Air-25
  6. Alesis Vmini 25-Key
  7. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 (Best for Beginners)

1. AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

OUR PICK
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
$119.00

Small enough to fit in your backpack, this diminutive, USB bus-powered MIDI controller gives you 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys, Octave Up/Down buttons, and an ergonomic 4-way thumbstick for pitch-bend and mod duties.

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10/23/2021 04:15 am GMT

The Akai MPK Mini MK3 is the third iteration of the world’s legendary best-selling mini keyboard controller.

Its small size makes it a perfect travel companion, and its great variety of pads and assignable controls let you take control of every aspect of your production. Simply said, the MPK is one of the best MIDI controllers in the market today.

Features

  • USB/MIDI keyboard and pad performance controller
  • 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys
  • Bright OLED display for immediate parameter feedback
  • 8 backlit, bankable velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads with Note Repeat
  • Built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes

Review

The third-generation MPK Mini uses Akai’s Gen 2 dynamic mini keyboard, and has been redesigned to enhance playability. The MPK has keys that feel great for laying down virtual pianos, EPs, and synths all the way to orchestral instruments. This mini keyboard really packs a punch!

The Akai MPK Mini MK III features eight bankable, velocity-sensitive pads that provide great touch for accurate finger drumming and melodic sample playback.

Additionally, there are knobs for fantastic hands-on control over any assignable parameter in your music software. With the MPK Mini MK III, you can tweak EQ, sweep a filter open on the fly, push up a reverb tail coming out of a guitar solo, all of that with a great degree of precision.

The Akai MPK Mini comes with 1500 downloadable sounds and a powerful software package that includes MPC Beats and six virtual Instruments (Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, and Velvet) plus 2GB of sound content to get you started in your music production journey.

A fully-featured MIDI keyboard that fits perfectly in a backpack. Check out our full review of the AKAI MPK Mini Mk3.

Additional features for the MPK Mini III include a 4-way joystick for dynamic pitch/modulation control, built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes, dedicated Octave Up and Octave Down buttons, onboard arpeggiator, and a Tap Tempo button.

To top it off, the MK III also comes with class-compliant USB-MIDI connectivity for Mac/PC, is USB-powered, and does not require a power adapter. This is a fantastic choice for all its features, portability, and durability.

2. Arturia KeyStep 37

Arturia KeyStep 37 Controller & Sequencer
$199.00

Arturia has packed this compact controller with advanced features that will supercharge your music creation process. Beyond its 37-note keyboard, knobs, buttons, and LED screen, there’s a lot of high-tech under the hood that doesn’t readily meet the eye.

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The Arturia KeyStep 37 offers hardware control over sequencing, arpeggiation, chords, and melodies. This mini keyboard is packed with advanced features that will have a big impact on your production.

Beyond its 37-note keyboard, knobs, buttons, and LED screen, the KeyStep 37 comes with Ableton Live Lite, making it a complete solution for your portable DAW.

Keyboard

  • 37-note keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
  • CV pitch, gate, and mod connections for integration with modular synth setups
  • RGB LED keyboard indicators for note tracking
  • 64-step sequencer with 8 patterns and 8-note polyphony per step
  • Step recording and live recording sequencer modes

Review

The Arturia KeyStep 37 features a velocity-sensitive keyboard with aftertouch and RGB LED feedback, characteristics typically only found in more expensive keyboards.

Additionally, this keyboard comes with control-voltage (CV) pitch, gate, and modulation connections for integration with modular synth setups.

Arturia also included a 64-step polyphonic sequencer with eight patterns, an 8-mode arpeggiator with new random modes, and a novel Chord mode with 12 voicings.

This Chord mode lets you choose from 12 chord types and a variety of strum effects, then spread the voices out into complex, velocity-sensitive parts that sound and respond great.

On the other hand, Scale mode lets you map out KeyStep’s 3-octave keyboard range with a scale of your choosing. Don’t know music theory? No worries! Any key you play will automatically quantize to the closest note in your selected scale.

The Arturia KeyStep 37 also features 16 MIDI CC parameters across four switchable banks so you can adjust your settings in real-time using four new rotary controllers.

And to top it off, the Arturia KeyStep 37 comes pre-loaded with Ableton Live Lite and the MIDI Control Center app to make MIDI mapping easy. Overall, this is a fantastic portable keyboard that is particularly suited for the gear heads, however there are enough features included to keep everyone happy.

(If you’re looking to get into modular synthesis but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered with Modular Synthesis Basics (How It Works and How to Dive In))

3. Nektar SE25

BEST VALUE
Nektar, 25-Key Midi Controller (SE25)
$49.99

Featuring 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys, three velocity curves, and six assignable buttons that control the essentials you look for in a controller, the SE25 packs in everything you need for hands-on control and DAW integration — and you can fit it in a book bag!

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10/23/2021 05:25 am GMT

The Nektar SE25 is a great mini keyboard with superior velocity-sensitive mini keys on a very durable and portable instrument.

You can download Nektar’s DAW integration software and use the SE25 to control transport functions as well as track selection, making this mini keyboard a great solution for those looking to take your DAW on the road.

Features

  • Compact 25-key MIDI keyboard controller with velocity-sensitive mini keys
  • 3 different velocity curves to adjust the keyboard response
  • Button control for octave and semitone transpose, MIDI channel, layer, and latch
  • Comes with Bitwig 8-Track DAW
  • Micro-USB port for USB connectivity

Review

One of the strongest features of the Nektar SE25 is its velocity-sensitive mini keys. These small keys respond superbly with a nice firm feel and great rebound.

Nektar included three different velocity curves that let you adjust the keyboard response to fit your unique playing style.

The SE25’s user interface is easy to navigate, featuring six buttons to the left of the keyboard, preassigned to select octave shift, transpose, and sustain.

In case you don’t need access to transpose functions, the SE25 gives you the flexibility to assign the transpose buttons to control pitch bend, MIDI volume, pan, track, or patch change instead. Additionally, the “S” sustain button can be reassigned as a modulation control.

The Nektar SE25 comes with a unique Part Two feature that enables you to play in unorthodox ways. By pressing the “2” button to temporarily shift octaves, you can add an octave or harmony layer while playing, or switch to a different MIDI channel.

When you release the Part Two button, the SE25 reverts back to its original settings, so you can toggle back and forth between two different keyboard configurations in real-time.

On top of that, the “2” button is assignable to Octave, MIDI Channel, Transpose, Layer, and Latch features or a combination thereof.

4. Novation Launchkey Mini MK3

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3
$109.99

Make melodies and rhythms with Launchkey Mini’s powerful arpeggiator. Fixed Chord mode adds a customisable fixed chord shape that follows you up the keyboard. Launchkey Mini gets any track moving.

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The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is a great mini keyboard for several reasons. First, it only has 25 keys and is truly portable.

Second, it is packed with features for such a small controller. Third, it is easy to integrate it with peripheral gear as well as most major DAWs, especially Ableton Live. This is one of the best mini MIDI controllers on the market today.

Features

  • 25 synth-action keys allow for 2-octave range at one time
  • 16 backlit velocity-sensitive pads
  • Fully controls Ableton Live
  • 8 rotary knobs allow you to customize your tone
  • Pitch and modulation sliders provide extra tone-shaping tools

Review

This is the third generation Launchkey, where you can lay down and combine multiple scales and modes without worrying about music theory. The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 features eight onboard Scale Modes. 

It is quite easy: you just select your root note and the scale you want, and then play.

Additionally, the Chord Modes change the Launchkey MK3’s keys and pads into an interactive control surface where every note you play is tonally and harmonically associated. The arpeggiator lets you explore new ideas while the Mutate function reshuffles your patterns creatively.

Another great feature of the Launchkey MK3 is Custom Modes. Here, you can simplify communications between controller and software.

Custom Modes let you customize the behavior of your Launchkey, giving you choice over control assignments, MIDI routing, pad color, and more.

The Launchkey MK3 also allows you to connect your external gear with a TRS Type A 1/8-inch MIDI port. You can connect your hardware synths and devices to your rig and control everything from your Launchkey, whether you use it standalone or with a computer.

Novation designed the Launchkey’s controls to integrate seamlessly with Ableton Live, and it also works with other DAWs.

For instance, Launchkey has full integration with Logic and Reason, plus native functionality with other major DAWs, including Studio One, Cubase, and Pro Tools, via HUI.

5. Korg microKEY Air-25

Korg microKEY air 25
$266.48

It just doesn't get more portable than the 25-key Korg microKEY Air MIDI controller keyboard. Grab your laptop or mobile device, pick up your microKEY Air, and you're all set - you don't even need to remember to pack a USB cable!

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The Korg microKey Air 25 is an elegant and streamlined solution for those after a truly portable keyboard to integrate into their on-the-go music production efforts.

This Bluetooth-equipped controller can connect wirelessly to your computer or mobile device, for about 30 hours of low-latency virtual instrument control with just a pair of AA batteries. You can even power it from your iPhone or iPad!

Features

  • 25 Natural Touch mini keys to play across 2 octaves at a time
  • Velocity sensitive
  • Hands-on controls include a pitch/mod joystick, octave selection buttons, and a sustain button
  • Runs for about 30 hours on 2 AA batteries or USB power for wired use
  • Connect to your computer or mobile device via low-latency Bluetooth LE

Review

The microKEY Air-25 bases most of its appeal on the fact that it supports Bluetooth Smart “Apple Bluetooth Low Energy MIDI”.

It is truly portable, with the added benefit of not needing any cables to function. The microKey can connect to your iPad/iPhone music apps such as KORG Gadget, KORG Module, and GarageBand, as well as any MIDI-capable music production software on your Mac or Windows computer.

The microKEY Air runs on just two AA batteries and can also be connected via a traditional USB cable. Since the microKEY is USB bus-powered, you only need a single USB cable to connect it to your computer.

There’s no need to install a driver; just use your preferred music software (or install any of the applications provided with microKEY Air), connect it to your computer and you’re all set up.

Additionally, this micro keyboard features 25 Natural Touch mini keys to play across 2 octaves at a time, a velocity-sensing keybed to add expression to your playing, a pitch/mod joystick, octave selection buttons, and a sustain button.

The Korg microKEY also comes loaded with Legacy Collection M1 Le, UVI Digital Synsations, AAS modules, and Propellerhead Reason Limited. In other words, this is a great solution for making music on the go and without any cables if you so desire.

6. Alesis Vmini 25-Key

Alesis V-Mini
$69.00

A powerful, intuitive, and ultra-portable MIDI keyboard controller, the Alesis V-Mini has made making music wherever you go a whole lot simpler.

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10/23/2021 12:37 am GMT

The Alesis V Mini is a simple, intuitive, and portable MIDI controller that lets you take full control of your music software.

With this mini keyboard, you will be able to manipulate your virtual instruments with tactile precision via the keyboard controller’s four assignable knobs. Here you will find both convenience and power, all in one small package.

Features

  • MIDI controller with 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys
  • 4 backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads for launching clips and tapping out beats
  • 4 backlit knobs for manipulating virtual instruments
  • Octave, Pitch, Modulation, and Sustain buttons
  • Includes AIR Music’s Xpand! 2 virtual instrument software

Review

The Alesis V Mini features 25 mini-size velocity-sensitive keys and Octave Up/Down buttons, four assignable knobs for manipulating effect plugins, and virtual instruments.

With the four velocity-sensitive backlit pads you can launch clips or finger drum with ease. Additionally, pitch, modulation, and sustain buttons expand the expressive capabilities of your performance and make the V Mini a great companion for on-the-road production.

The V Mini functions with a single USB connection to your Mac or PC, and provides both power and MIDI functionality, allowing you to plug right into your computer.

All the knobs and pads on the V Mini illuminate blue to provide real-time visual feedback. All these controls are laid out for an intuitive workflow.

On the software department, the V Mini is bundled with Xpand! 2 by AIR Music Tech which features a collection of over 2000 sounds, ranging from acoustic instruments to futuristic synthesizers.

7. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

Best For Beginners
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 Controller Keyboard
$139.00

Komplete Kontrol M32 ships with all the software you need to bring your music to life — soft synths, EPs, Maschine Essentials, Ableton Live 10 Lite, and the Komplete Start production suite.

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10/23/2021 02:10 am GMT

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is a great choice for getting started with an affordable mini MIDI keyboard controller.

Besides being portable and loaded with features, the M32 lets you tap into a wide range of instruments and effects from NI and an ever-growing group of NKS partners.

The Komplete Kontrol 32 ships with bundled software, including Ableton Live 10 Lite, so you can start producing at your home studio or on the go.

Features

  • Micro-size keyboard controller with 32 keys
  • Synth-action, custom NI micro-keybed
  • 8 touch-sensitive control knobs
  • 4-directional push encoders for one-handed sound browsing and project navigation
  • Deep integration with Maschine software

Review

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 is a compact, portable micro keyboard MIDI controller that is packed with features.

This portable mini keyboard is a fantastic entry point into the NI world at an affordable price. The Komplete Kontrol M32 features 8 touch-sensitive control knobs, 2 touch strips for intuitive expression, 4-directional push encoder for one-handed sound browsing and project navigation.

Additionally, this Native Instruments mini controller features tag-based preset browsing via the Komplete Kontrol software that lets you find sounds quickly and hear instant previews.

The M32 also comes with the Smart Play feature, which lets you stay in key with over 100 scales and modes, play chord progressions and arpeggios with single keys, or map any scale to white keys only

The included Komplete Kontrol software features pre-mapped control of Komplete instruments and effects, plus hundreds of Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) plug-ins from leading manufacturers.

To top it off, the M32 offers full VST support, deep integration with Maschine software, intuitive control over Logic Pro X, GarageBand, and Ableton Live and is USB 2.0 bus powered. This is one of the best options for beginners as it really features everything you need to get started.