Our 6 Favorite MIDI Controllers for Under $200

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It’s kind of hard to have any kind of home recording studio or audio production rig without some kind of MIDI controller. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg to get one!

In fact, there are a lot of great options for under $200. Here are just some of our favorites.

*And, a quick housekeeping note, if you’re a subscriber of Soundfly, we usually give a handful of these away for free every year around the holidays! So make sure you’re signed up to be eligible.

AKAI MPK Mini MK3 – $99

The AKAI MPK Mini MK3 is compact and versatile, and it has a range of features great for producing on-the-go or in live performance. It’s got 25 synth-action mini keys, eight backlit MPC-style pads, and eight assignable knobs for ultimate control over your music production or live performance. Particularly cool is the ability to mix with the knobs by assigning them to volume faders. Also cool is the four-way joystick for pitch/mod, which is convenient for certain recordists (me) for controlling the very similar (but broken) pitch/mod joystick on the Korg Minilogue XD…or other synths with same.

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 – $109

The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is pretty much Novation’s answer to the MPK Mini — a compact controller designed for mobile musicians, beat makers, and producers. It also has 25 mini keys, more (but smaller) pads (16), eight rotary knobs, and separate pitch and mod wheels. It’s also USB powered, and it has a 1/8th inch MIDI out which is a convenience a lot of controllers don’t have. And of course, it comes with a cool software package, including Ableton Live 10 Lite and XLN Addictive Key, among other things. It’s also built to fully control Ableton out of the box so that’s pretty much the cherry on top of the sundae.

M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini – $119

The M-Audio Oxygen Pro Mini is slightly bigger — 32 velocity-sensitive mini keys, eight pads, only four rotary knobs, and four faders. It’s also got the 1/8th inch MIDI out, play and record buttons (handy for sequencers and ostensibly DAWs) and a pretty comprehensive software extras package, including AIR Music Tech Xpand!2 and Pro Tools First.

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The Oxygen Pro Mini is perfect for musicians who want a compact device with full-size functionality. It offers deep integration with popular DAWs and the ability to map controls to virtual instruments, effects, and plugins. It also offers a Smart Chord mode that makes it easy to play chords even if you don’t really play keys. And of course, USB powered and under 3 pounds — so another good one for the road.

Arturia MiniLab 3 – $109

The Arturia MiniLab 3 25 Slim-key Controller is an ultra-compact and portable controller offers 25 slim-key velocity sensitive keys, eight knobs, eight pads, and four faders for a full range of control. It doesn’t, however, have dedicated pitch or mod wheels, so that’s worth noting. It’s got a full-size five-pin MIDI out and instead of a sustain pedal input, a control input which is assignable to sustain.

It comes with a bunch of software, including Ableton Live Lite and Analog Lab Intro. It’s USB powered and it’s connection is USB-C (like a smart phone) which is kind of rare but probably an indicator of new standards to come — and arguably more convenient (because what kind of monster has ten USB A to B cables laying around anymore?).

Nektar Impact GX49 – $109

We’ve only been mentioning the little guys so far, but if you want more keys, the Nektar Impact GX49 has you covered with 49 full-size keys. This controller is a fully customizable and flexible MIDI controller designed for modern DAW-based music production. It’s also got a bank of transport control buttons, assignable controls, and full-sized pitch and mod wheels. It’s highly customizable; settings can be saved to four different memory locations, allowing you to easily switch between different mappings.

It doesn’t have knobs and pads like some of the more Ableton-focused controllers, so it’s clearly geared more toward keyboard-playing producers who want to control the DAW right from the keys (that’s pretty handy) — and that’s a pretty low price for a solid, 49-key controller.

Korg NanoKONTROL2 – $69

Finally, we thought we’d include DAW control surface style unit. We love the Korg NanoKONTROL2 for a super small, super-duper cheap, no-nonsense DAW controller. Eight faders, eight knobs (usually mapped to pan) transport controls, record enable, mute, and solo buttons. Boom.

But despite its simplicity you can really do a lot with this dude. You can use it as a VST or soft synth controller, for controlling a DJ setup, and so on. Partially because, you guessed it, the controllers are assignable. Also, holy moly it’s so small. Like .65 pounds and a foot long.

There you have it. A cadre of the coolest, and most economical little MIDI controllers, all of which are nifty keen, intuitive, light, functional, and cheap!

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with artist-led courses by KimbraCom TruiseJlinKiefer, and the new Ryan Lott: Designing Sample-Based Instruments.

Ryan Lott: Designing Sample-Based Instruments

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