Although many music producers often opt for smaller midi keyboards, 88-key full-size controllers are preferable as they give you the melodic range that a full-sized keyboard would (88 is the standard number of keys for most pianos).
Being full-size, they let you reach the seven full octaves you’d find on a standard piano, and many also feature ‘octave’ features that let you go even lower or higher than a piano.
Access to so many notes allows you to play parts that are impossible on a smaller keyboard. Some also have additional midi pads so you can also use them to make beats too.
In this article, we’re going to look at the best available.
- Best 88 Key Midi Controller: Product Guide
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
Best 88 Key Midi Controller: Product Guide
- Amazon exclusive model includes power adapter and sustain pedal
- 88 fully weighted piano style keys simulate the feel of an acoustic piano and provide a quality playing experience
- Contains 10 different voices, including digitally sampled tones from real Yamaha acoustic grand pianos
Yamaha is a household name, and the P71 offers everything you’d expect from a market leader.
Its standout feature is the graded hammer keys which mimic the feel of the real acoustic piano. Touch sensitivity can also be adjusted from a soft to a hard feel.
It sounds great, thanks to Yamaha’s AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) sampling that uses digital technology to record the sound of an acoustic piano. In essence, it creates a deep, rich, and more spacious sound by using pairs of waveforms (left and right) captured with two microphones.
It’s particularly small (depth of less than 12 inches) and light (25 lbs) too, so it saves on space.
- True stereo sound recorded from a full concert grand piano
- Includes Yamaha’s GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) for a realistic feel – giving you a heavier touch in the low end and a lighter touch in the high end, just like on a real piano
- 4 levels of touch sensitivity: fixed, soft, medium (default), and hard
- Small, maintaining a modest footprint in your home
- Kawai VPC1 88-Weighted Key Virtual Piano Controller – F-30 Triple Pedal Controller – USB Cable – AC Power Adapter – Power Cord – Music Rack/Rest
- Keyboard: 88 wooden keysIvory Touch key surfaces
- Action: RM3 Grand IIGraded hammer weighting + counterweightsTriple-sensor key detectionLet-off simulation
Alesis has successfully carved out a niche as a good budget option for keyboards. None more represents this value for money than the Alesis Recital, one of the cheapest 88-key beginner keyboards on the market.
With it, you get semi-weighted keys with adjustable touch response, not commonly found at the budget end.
The five built-in voices (acoustic, electric, organ, synth, and bass) all sound rather nice, plus built-in reverb and chorus effects. It also comes packed with dual 20-watt speakers which is plenty loud.
Overall, it’s fantastic value for money if you’re just starting out.
- Semi-weighted keys, not often found on budget models
- 5 built-in voices: Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth, and Bass
- 20-watt speakers
- Comes with a reverb and chorus effect
- An Electric Piano That’s Tailored to You – Feature-packed Electric keyboard with 88 premium full-sized semi weighted keys with adjustable touch response to suit your preferred playing style
- Premium Sounds – 5 voices (Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth, and Bass), built-in FX: Chorus, Reverb, and two built in 20W speakers that deliver crystal-clear, room-filling sound
- All The Right Connections – ¼” sustain pedal input (pedal not included), ¼” stereo headphone output for private practice and stereo RCA outputs for connection to speakers / amplifiers
The Kawai VPC1 is a real beauty that offers a piano-like playing experience.
The full-size, hammer action keys feel like ivory, and the included three pedals mean that you can pretend you’re on a grand piano.
It comes with the VPC editing software, which allows you to edit the touch curve and velocity of individual keys, giving you a superior level of control. You can also choose whether you power the Kawai VPC1 by USB or AC. There’s an included music rest, and this piano has the aesthetic of a grand piano.
Without a doubt, this is the most suited to those who love the look, feel, and sound of a real piano. It will be less suited to digital producers, who want extra knobs, wheels, and faders that this traditional-looking instrument doesn’t have. Its weight also makes it prohibitive for travel.
- Hammer action weighted, and full-size keys that feel like ivory, plus three pedals make this very akin to a piano playing experience
- It comes with a 5-pin and USB output, plus a 5-pin input so that you can connect additional controllers
- It ships with the VPC editor so that you can edit the touch curve and velocity of individual keys
M-Audio Keystation 88 II
- Superb Playability – Lightweight, ultra-portable performance keyboard controller with 88 full-size velocity-sensitive keys that deliver natural piano feel
- Plug & Play – Class compliant and USB powered specification provides seamless USB-MIDI connection for playing virtual instruments, controlling recording software and more
- Expressive – Octave up and down buttons increase the keyboard to the full melodic range and on-board pitch bend and modulation wheels provide a platform for immersive, expressive performances
This is a budget-friendly, lightweight product. It has pitch and mod wheels to enable powerful performances, as well as an octave key to give you more control over your range. It comes with velocity-sensitive keys, though not weighted, and there are connectors for both sustain and expression pedals.
It also has its own volume control and record, play, and stop buttons and can be powered by either USB or via an adaptor, so you can choose which suits you best.
As there are no drum pads on this controller, it will be less suited to those who want to make beats.
- It’s budget-friendly and lightweight
- Pitch shift, modulation, and octave controls which enable expressive performance
- Four zones, so you have the creative options of 4 channels in one instrument
The StudioLogic SL88 also has a simplistic look to it. It has assignable joysticks and a small screen that is navigated through via a wheel dial. There are also three assignable function buttons. You get hammer action keys with aftertouch so you can have full control over the expression of your playing.
- 88-key hammer action TP/100LR keyboard with After touch
- Compact, lightweight, extremely portable professional controller
- 3 default velocity curves and fixed curve with a programmable value; 6 editable user velocity curves
There are also 4 programmable zones so you can edit the sounds differently throughout the keyboard’s range. It also comes with 4 programmable pedal connectors and a rail system that can be used in combination with sheet music or a laptop holder (not included).
The StudioLogic SL88 will fit well in a recording studio, as it is robust, reliable, and multi-functional.
- Four zones, so you have the creative options of 4 channels in one instrument.
- Four programmable pedal inputs.
- Weighted midi keyboard – weighted keys with hammer action, giving it the feel of a piano (and there’s also aftertouch for additional control).
M-Audio Hammer 88
- Perfect Feel, Ultimate Response – 88 fully-weighted, hammer-action velocity-sensitive keys deliver natural piano feel, faithfully replicating every subtle nuance of your performance
- Plug & Play – Driverless class compliant and USB powered specification provides seamless USB-MIDI connection for playing virtual instruments, controlling recording software and more
- Express Yourself – Conveniently located pitch bend, modulation, volume and octave controls for immersive, expressive performances
The M-Audio Hammer 88 has hammer action keys that give it the feel of a real piano. There’s also a music sheet stand included, so it’s excellent right away for those who perform classical or session piano performances. There are pitch shift and modulation wheels to enable extra expression and creativity, though there is no aftertouch function on this keyboard. It’s compatible with iOS via the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit and comes with Ableton Live Lite so you can get playing right away.
There are no pads or zones on this keyboard, so it might not suit those who like to get super techy. However, this is perfectly suited to pianists who perform in a variety of venues or styles, and it includes some virtual instrument settings that sound like real pianos.
It has the option of being powered via USB or an external power supply.
- Hammer action, weighted keys give it the feel of a real piano.
- There’s a music sheet stand included, which makes it great for piano-style performances or for playing by lead sheets.
- Pitch shift and modulation wheels enable expressive performances.
Nektar Impact LX88
- High quality MIDI controller keyboard designed for performers and producers wanting tactile instrument control. 88 semi-weighted full-size synth-action velocity-sensitive keys, 8 back-lit hyper-sensitive drum pads, 9 faders, 8 knobs, 6 transport buttons, pitch bend, modulation + octave & transpose buttons + sustain pedal socket.
- Nektar DAW integration for most popular DAWs with Mixer and Instrument modes
- Comprehensive MIDI functionailty. Compatible with all MIDI music software applications
The Nektar Impact LX88 is an advanced midi keyboard with an abundance of functions. As well as the 88 velocity-sensitive keys, you get 8 drum pads, 9 assignable buttons, and 9 faders. There are pitch bend and modulation wheels and 2 zones.
It’s compatible with most DAWs including Cubase, Logic, Reason, and more. It has a sustain pedal as well as a USB and midi output and has an option DC connection. Unfortunately, with semi-weighted keys, there is no aftertouch.
- Automaps to most popular DAWs including Cubase and Ableton, with assignable knobs, faders, pads, footswitch jacks, and transport controls.
- It’s very light at only 18lbs.
Icon ICOK iKeyboard8X
- 88-key midi keyboard controller with a single channel DAW controller in a rugged metal enclosure
- Full sized piano keys are semi-weighted to provide realistic piano action
- Controller provides pitch bend and modulation wheels, and Octave and Transpose up/down buttons
The Icon ICOK iKeyboard8X is a slim, lightweight controller with robust metal casing. It features pitch and modulation wheels, and the keys are velocity-sensitive (not hammer action, and there’s no aftertouch).
But the portability of this keyboard in some ways makes up for that. It comes with 18 assignable LED buttons that are easy to use and see, and the iKeyboard8X comes with iMap software to make it easy to map the device to various DAWs. It has a midi output and USB port and is also bus-powered.
- It’s extremely portable and lightweight.
- Velocity-sensitive keys, so you can deliver an expressive performance.
- Pitch and modulation wheels, which give you controllability and creative options.
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88
- Smart keyboard controller for all your virtual instruments and effects
- Pro-grade Fatar keybeds with aftertouch, fully weighted, hammer-action keys
- Pre-mapped control of KOMPLETE instruments and effects, plus hundreds of Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) plug-ins from leading manufacturers
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 is an advanced controller with fully weighted, hammer action keys and several built-in sound controls. It also has aftertouch, so you can keep on controlling your signal after you’ve pushed the button. The built-in sound controls are buttons that adjust EQ, attack and release time and tone settings.
This makes it one of the most hands-on devices, as you don’t need to click in your DAW to make adjustments. It’s can also automap to several DAWs, including KOMPLETE, Ableton Live, and Cubase, which is great for those who want to plug in, get going and get creative.
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 is suited to producers who use a variety of sequencing software. Despite having fully weighted keys, it will be less suited to those looking for an authentic piano-like playing experience, due to its additional features and digital focus.
- Automaps to several DAWs including KOMPLETE, Ableton Live, and Cubase.
- It comes with compatible software bundles and instrument packages.
The Roland A-88 is another high-end option. It is extremely special as the only one on the list that has progressive hammer action keys. They also feel like ivory, and there are connections for a sustain pedal and two assignable foot pedals. You can really make this play like a grand piano. It has split keyboard options, so you can get creative with your sounds and it is lightweight and easy to transport or store away.
There are assignable knobs and switches, as well as octave and transpose buttons to shift the range of your instrument. It comes with an included sustain pedal and an AC adapter, although the keyboard can be bus-powered if you prefer.
It’s straightforward to plug in and play, making it perfect for those who want to play the piano at home but perhaps don’t have the space for a real one that would achieve their desired sound. It might be less suited to those who want to gig, as it doesn’t come in a particularly sturdy casing.
- It has progressive hammer action-weighted keys with an ivory feel, so it’s very piano-like.
- Connections for a sustain pedal and two assignable foot pedals.
- It’s lightweight and easy to transport.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
In terms of key action, a weighted midi keyboard has hammer action keys that are weighted via a small hammer which is attached by a lever system to the key, somewhat replicating a piano’s system.
- Lower-end products often aren’t weighted at all.
- On low to mid-range products, you’ll find semi-weighted keys that are controlled by springs and have a slight piano feel, giving you a little expression.
- Graded hammer action keys are the best kind, and play like a piano. It’s a must for those who want to emulate a piano on stage or in a recording.
Some of these products have what are called ‘zones’. These are sections of notes which are assigned to a particular sound. If you want different settings assigned to different note ranges, it can be really useful.
Maybe you want your high notes to have an added reverb, but not your lower-end notes? Zones will allow you to achieve this.
If you plan to use a DAW, you might want to consider a keyboard with transport controls. Transport controls let you control your DAW without having to a mouse or trackball – so you can play, record, stop, pause, etc, greatly increasing your workflow.
Pitch and Modulation Wheels
The pitch wheel is used to bend the pitch of your notes and leads to some cool sounds. The modulation wheel is most commonly used to add vibrato to the note that’s being played. Like the pitch wheel, it’s incredibly flexible and can lead to some cool, fun sounds.
Usually, they’re powered via USB into our laptops or PCs. However, as well as a USB connector, some of these midi keyboards also have midi ins and outs which let you attach additional midi instruments or devices.
Connectors for foot pedals are also something to look out for if you are likely to use sustain or softener pedals – some midi keyboards also have assignable foot pedal inputs.
If you want to power your controller via your laptop, make sure that it’s bus-powered. Some of these products require an additional mains socket, as an AC or DC adapter power them.
Of course, it’s not a problem for some people, but a bus-powered instrument can come in handy when you’re not sure about the mains supply situation.
Aftertouch allows midi data to be sent after a key is pressed. It can control vibrato, volume or whatever else you set it to, and can give you an extra level of control in your keyboard playing. This is a feature that’s most commonly found on the higher end units.