If you happen to be a musician, you must be aware of the ongoing digitalization trend with the keyboards. These keyboards, with 88 keys, are much more compact and easy to carry. One can create a wide variety of sounds and effects using these instruments. You may be confused with the variety of products on the market, so here we present you with the ten best 88 key MIDI keyboard controllers 2018 on the market.
- 1 Top-Rated 88 Key MIDI Keyboard Controllers
- 2 Yamaha P115 88-Key Digital Piano
- 3 Alesis Coda Pro
- 4 Williams Legato 88-Key
- 5 M-Audio Keystation 88 II USB MIDI Keyboard
- 6 Roland A-88
- 7 Studiologic VMK-188 Hammer Action Keyboard
- 8 Komplete Kontrol S88
- 9 Studiologic Acuna 88
- 10 Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller
- 11 Nektar IMPACT LX88 MIDI Controller
- 12 Things to Consider When Buying an 88 Key MIDI Controller
- 13 Benefits & Advantages of the 88 Key MIDI Keyboards
Top-Rated 88 Key MIDI Keyboard Controllers
Yamaha P115 88-Key Digital Piano
Dimensions: 16.1” x 58.2” x 11.8”.
Power: PA150 power supply.
Compatibility: Works with Android, Windows and iOS. A special app for iOS.
Connectivity: Sustain pedal; Jack output for speakers.
This is a top-rated 88 MIDI keyboard controller, black in color. It offers all the modern features and comes with a sustainable pedal. If you need a fully weighted piano, this is the right product for you. It is lighter and heavier in the high and low ends, respectively. The product has a warranty of three years and produces good quality sound. The mechanism is the same, as used in an acoustic piano. For the iOS devices, there is a controller App, which facilitates a seamless operation by the user through an enriched user interface.
- Styles: While it doesn’t have zones, it can turn ordinary chords into audio simulating piano accompaniment. You’ll sound like a pro, even if it’s your first DAW studio you put together.
- Controller app: This is designed for iOS devices. Its interface allows you much control from your Apple device.
- Warranty: You get a three-year warranty which is more than similar equipment usually has.
- Features: This keyboard controller’s extras such as the built-in drum beats make it easy for piano players to keep the correct beat or add impressive sounds to a live performance.
- Closely resembles real piano: Thanks to the weighted keys and options of pianos to pick from, even experienced piano players enjoy playing on this.
- No transpose feature: This is something you would expect on most keyboards as professionals use it often. Unfortunately, no sight of it this time.
- Layout: One of the jack outputs (for speakers) is situated at the front of the keyboard. This could be bothersome and it’s counter-intuitive as it’s usually at the back of keyboards.
Alesis Coda Pro
Dimensions: 9”x 18” x 58.9”.
Zones: Split keyboard: One lower, one upper voice; Can layer voices simultaneously.
Power: DC power supply; 12V.
Compatibility: iOS, Linux, Windows.
Connectivity: Sustain pedal; USB to the computer; MIDI output; ¼” TRS input; Aux and headphone outputs.
This is a hammer action MIDI keyboard that comes from one of the top-rated brands in the industry. The black and white digital keyboard has an elegant look and sophisticated sound quality. There are different updated features, like split keyboard and voice layering. The interface is refined using the latest technology so that the user can make himself absolutely compatible with the instrument. The customer reviews indicate that it is wise to buy the product and it is available at a reasonable cost.
- Practical: The product includes a music stand which is essential for live performances and studio when used by professional piano players.
- The range of sounds and audio functions available: The piano provides 60 preset songs, 50 accompaniment options and 20 built-in voices.
- Transpose and metronome feature: These are essential for teaching, studio work and performances.
- Gets better over time: Problems—such as the key return mentioned below—tend to get better when the keyboard is played a lot.
- Audio quality: Not all the sounds are authentic. Because they don’t closely resemble what the instruments sound like in real life, they’re not ideal for creating tracks.
- Key return: The keys take just too long to return to their original positions. This makes playing hard, especially if you’re used to a real piano.
- Not for professionals: It may impress novices, but pro players and producers will notice the many flaws such as the key action that doesn’t resemble a real piano’s.
Williams Legato 88-Key
Dimensions: 50” x 3.5” x 11”.
Power: Battery operated (6 x 1.5V batteries) or AC powered.
Compatibility: Works exceptionally well with Apple devices.
Connectivity: Power adapter, USB MIDI out, line out jacks (stereo/mono).
In case you need a digital piano with ultra-portable features, it is the right product for you. This is a highly recommended product for travelers, considering the lightweight. The digital piano produces high-quality sound and you can buy it if you want to carry it to the concerts frequently. The product comes with in-built speakers as well as a metronome. It is a semi-weighted product and is priced below $200. Hence, it is available even when the budget is low. You can select, split or layer as many as five built-in voices at the same time. It is one of the most popular products on the market.
- Power adapter not provided: Even though it’s handy to power a keyboard with batteries, many producers prefer the AC power supply. Unfortunately, this is an accessory sold separately.
- Features: This piano has handy features such as a metronome.
- Built-in speakers: These speakers are especially handy when practicing. You don’t need speakers so wherever your piano is, you’ll have audio to listen to.
- Weight: It’s one of the lightest models mentioned in these reviews, making it ideal for travel, taking to live performances or taking your own equipment to someone’s studio when you don’t want to work on unfamiliar keyboards.
- Sounds: This studio keyboard gives you five sounds, including organ synth.
- iPad enabled: You do need an iPad Camera Connection Kit, but it will work beautifully with your iPad, meaning your DAW studio can now be set up anywhere.
- Key quality: This is not the highest quality keyboard mentioned in this review. The keys don’t always respond the same. Playing too lightly simply means no sound will come out.
- Sounds’ authenticity: Professional users feel some audio sounds are fake.
M-Audio Keystation 88 II USB MIDI Keyboard
Dimensions: 53.9” x 9.8” x 3.6”.
Power: USB to computer or 9V DC powered.
Octave: Range buttons.
Compatibility: Mac and Windows enabled.
Connectivity: Input for sustain pedal; 5 Pin MIDI output; USB; Expression pedal input.
This is a highly-rated piano MIDI controller that comes to you under $150. The product from M-Audio supports a wide range of virtual music and allows you to compose music in the digital process. The cheap 88 key midi keyboard has superb mastering abilities and has 88 keys. If you want an updated gadget with modulation wheels and pitch-bend, you can buy this one. You need not use the mouse when you have this controller for Ableton. You can connect the USB piano keyboard to your computer and the velocity-sensitive keys are easy to use.
- Control track without the mouse: Because many controls can be managed on the keyboard, it limits the time and effort you spend on mouse actions.
- Software provided: This package includes Pro Tools, Ableton and SONIVOX software.
- Mixing features: You get the benefit of two modulation wheels and pitch bend options.
- Plug and play: Instead of lengthy setup procedures many features will work instantly on both Mac and Windows computers.
- Portable: If you’re looking for a keyboard to travel with, this could be it, as it’s surely one of the lightest around.
- No speaker output: You can’t use this keyboard on its own, as it will always need a computer to run the audio to speakers.
- Key response: If you’re very picky about your keys’ response, these may not satisfy you. This limits the emotion you can put into play. And the black keys are even more uncomfortable to play than the white ones.
Dimensions: 56.8” x 10.8” x 4.6”.
Zones: Yes, functions include dual and split options.
Power: USB or AC powered.
Compatibility: iOS or Windows.
Connectivity: USB, foot pedal.
Roland brings to you an ultra-modern 88 key electronic keyboard, but it is priced much higher in comparison to other products. However, considering the updated features, it is one of the finest products on the market. It is easy to use the product and it comes with weighted keys. The digital piano has two knobs and two switches. Apart from that, you can use a USB cable to connect it to a computer of a laptop. It also supports the SONAR LE software, so you will be free from all the technical hassles whatsoever when you use the instrument.
- Software included: You get Cakewalk Sonar LE software for free.
- Keys’ authentic feel: You’ll feel as if you’re playing on ivory keys.
- Works with most equipment: You can even plug this into a Fantom synth workstation to create the tracks you want.
- Automap: You can customize your studio to work faster and more efficient when you use the automapping features of the Roland A-88.
- Heavy keyboard: This is a huge unit and too heavy to easily carry around. This makes it unpractical for traveling musicians, but still functional if you’re setting up a permanent studio.
- No paper stand: The stand isn’t included, which can be frustrating for musicians used to playing from sheet music in a conventional way. Since there isn’t even a slot to place one in—the brand doesn’t provide one as an accessory even—it’s up to the owner to make a DIY plan or use a separate stand, which requires more space on stage or in a studio.
- Aftertouch doesn’t come standard: You need to program the keyboard to pick up on aftertouch. Nice that it’s an option but would have been better if it’s a standard feature.
Studiologic VMK-188 Hammer Action Keyboard
Dimensions: 13.8” x 52.3” x 4.8”.
Connectivity: 2 x MIDI outpus; USB power to computer; 3x pedal inputs.
You can try out this product if you need a sophisticated digital keyboard with aftertouch from a top brand. It also has the velocity sensation feature and enjoys utmost compatibility with all types of software. There are as many as three assignable units of pedals. The product is manufactured by one of the best brands and has fully upgraded features. Different features like live editing mode are available for program changing, bank selection and so on. It has twelve templates for various software.
- Handy features: The keyboard comes standard with both velocity and aftertouch enabled. You also get 30 preset locations.
- Controls: The physical features include a mode joystick and a data entry dial. It comes standard with faders, knobs and sequencer buttons.
- Aesthetics: It comes in a striking casing that will impress your audience or those visiting your studio.
- Too complicated for some: Some users find it tricky to set up. It also requires you to adjust settings every time you switch it on. When you’re in a hurry this can be cumbersome.
- Not for beginners: Both in terms of software and functionality, this may be too complicated a device for beginners. Professionals may have the know how to use it optimally with less frustration.
- Not portable: Yes, it’s covered in a lightweight casing, but the keyboard is still heavier than many others. This may not be the unit you take on tour all the time.
Komplete Kontrol S88
Dimensions: 8” x 61” x 17”.
Power: AC adapter.
Compatibility: Can work on most Mac and Windows computers.
Connectivity: USB 2.0; multiple inputs and outputs.
This is a good synth MIDI controller, available at the best price. The interface is user-friendly, and you will be able to see all the details at a single glance. The touch-trip is highly expressive and is flexible enough to provide the user with utmost compatibility. The review and rating are good enough and the product offers a clear view of the keyboard through an illuminated display. The full size keys bring a superior feel to the users and you can take full control of the key parameters of the sound quality.
- User-friendly: The brand makes it easy to operate the unit and feel in control. This is thanks to the illuminated keys that will help in live performances, the Clear View display and the manual embedded in the software, so it’s always on hand.
- Quality keys: The fatar keybed will have you thinking you’re playing on a real piano. Enjoy weighted, hammer action keys.
- Automapping: You’ll save production time when using the automapping features, so the keyboard controllers are used instead of switching to your computer all the time.
- Extensive sound features: Your playing and tracks are enhanced by the scaled mapping, the arpeggiator and active chord mode that transforms a single key’s playing into professional harmonies.
- Automatic re-mapping: Let the keyboard fix sounds when you play notes that don’t fit a certain scale.
- Size: Note that this keyboard is longer than many others listed in these reviews. If you’re planning your studio’s layout, determine if you have enough space to house this large piece of equipment.
- Weight: It’s not the heaviest unit mentioned here, but at over 35lb it may not be the best keyboard for touring.
- No speakers: You’ll have to link it to a computer and speakers, to hear audio. This makes it a studio keyboard, more than a unit a professional musician can use for some practicing.
- Not user-friendly: Many users find it tricky to install, especially to get the software to work effectively.
Studiologic Acuna 88
Dimensions: 50.4” x 13.8” x 4.5”.
Zones: 4 programmable zones.
Power: 9V DC powered.
Compatibility: iOS (iPad specifically).
Connectivity: 2x MIDI ports; 2 x Jack inputs for pedals; USB port for connection to host (iOS 4.2).
This is a good 88 key MIDI controller that can be used with iPads. With 4 assignable encoders and as many programmable layers, it is one of the most technically upgrade devices that you can avail. It is a sturdy gadget, protected by a strong metal casing. There are as many as three-factory velocity curves in the gadget. This hammer action MIDI keyboard enjoys perfect integration with iPads and has a good customer rating. It is affordable and a good product to choose when you have a moderate budget.
- Strong: It’s not every day you see a keyboard in a solid metal casing. This adds strength and beautiful aesthetics.
- Quality keys: Thanks to a Fatar keybed you get an exceptional playing experience.
- Size: It’s shorter than many other units mentioned here. This can make your studio seem less cluttered, and make it easier to transport.
- Paper stand available: The brand understands musicians’ needs and you can fit a paper stand into the keyboard. It’s of simple design so it doesn’t ruin the aesthetics of the keyboard.
- Enjoyable playing: You’ll enjoy the great weighted keys.
- Not for all computers: This keyboard is designed for iPads, so if you’re used to Windows—and love it—don’t buy this.
- Not entirely user-friendly: Fully setting up your MIDI keyboard may take some time.
Kawai VPC1 Virtual Piano Controller
Dimensions: 54.3” x 17.8” x 7.3”.
Power: USB or 12V power adapter.
Compatibility: Mac or Windows.
Connectivity: USB to the computer; Pedal controller (Triple pedal unit included); MIDI In and Out.
This MIDI synthesizer is extremely heavily priced and sophisticated. It enjoys full compatibility with any given external device, like Mac, PC, iPad and so on. It also has MIDI and USB connectivity with computers. The keys are wooden and free from any type of clutter. You can master songs, create digital music and use the built-in tunes for different purposes. It has got good consumer reports, in spite of being high priced. The digital display is superb and this gadget is meant for the professional musicians.
- Smart design: The top of this keyboard has enough space so you can place a laptop or other DAW equipment on top. This saves vital space in a studio or on stage.
- Software included: Despite its simple design, it provides state of the art VPC Editor software.
- Authentic grand piano feel: Both in aesthetics and because of weighted keys that resemble ivory in feel, your playing experience will closely match that of playing on a real wood grand piano with hammer action keys.
- Sheet music stand included: As with most real pianos there’s a stand included.
- Heavy keyboard: While it’s not one of the biggest units, it’s one of the heaviest 88 note keyboards on this list. This makes it impractical for regular traveling so make sure you get value for the money you spend by aligning its features with your application.
- Low-quality casing: The exterior is painted and this tends to peel off after a while. This ruins the aesthetics.
- Software only works for Windows: Although the device can be used for most computers, note that the software provided is fully made for Windows only.
- No controls on a unit: While the brand’s purpose for this model is to provide an authentic piano experience with this high-end MIDI keyboard, you may miss the controllers, faders and digital buttons. This is especially a problem if you’re used to mixing your tracks on your keyboard, rather than the PC.
Nektar IMPACT LX88 MIDI Controller
Dimensions: 11” x 50.2” x 3.5”.
Power: 9V power adapter or USB.
Compatibility: Mac, iOS and Windows.
Connectivity: USB, MIDI out.
This piano synth is available at a cheap price and offers most of the updated features to the users. It is priced around $320 and is compatible with iOS devices, Mac and PC. The software instruments are mapped on their own to the controls. There are as many as eight backlit pads, hyper-sensitive in nature. There are 88 medium-weighted keys and supports onboard pitch bends and modulation wheels. It comes from one of the top-rated brands and produces a superb sound quality. It is a recommended product, available at a low budget.
- Versatile: You’ll probably find all the controllers and features your studio needs on this one unit. With faders, a Bigwig 8 Track DAW and other controls at hand and software instruments that are mapped to controls, you’ll barely even need mixing options on your computer.
- Clear indicators: Lights signal which options—such as layering or splitting—you pick to prevent mistakes and help you stay in control during playing.
- Portability: For a keyboard-laden with so many functions, this unit is remarkably light. Now a high end, a professional studio can be set up anywhere.
- Software support: You’ll find most of your favorite software packages can be used such as Cubase and Garage Band.
- User-friendly: Despite its many good features you’ll be able to set this up in no time and get mixing.
- No speakers: Remember you need to connect via a computer to speakers to listen to the keyboard’s sounds.
Things to Consider When Buying an 88 Key MIDI Controller
Using a technologically driven device shouldn’t take away the exceptional feeling of playing a real piano. And it doesn’t have to as long as you pick a unit that has weighted keys of the right sizes.
With expertly designed hammer action keys you’ll think you’re playing on that wooden grand piano you always dreamt of. Note that there are semi and fully weighted keys. Make sure you pick the ones you’ll feel most comfortable with.
What if you want to play different instruments or synths on the same track? With the right 88 key MIDI controller, you can play both at once. The number of keys allows you to have two decent sized keyboards if you split them into two halves. Simply allocate a certain sound to a set of keys. You can even try three different parts.
These parts are called zones and are usually a must have if you’re considering buying an 88 key unit whether it’s used for performing or studio work. That’s why it’s not ideal to pick the cheapest unit you can find. It may cause more frustration than helping you produce music.
How much can the keyboard do? Some are designed simply to provide simulated piano playing experiences. Others are more versatile by providing you with buttons, faders and controls to handle some music producing elements on the unit instead of managing it on your computer.
Think of the setup you’re used to, or the setup you want to work towards and purchase one that promotes that.
Don’t cause unnecessary frustration by purchasing a keyboard you can’t use with your computer. Remember, many keyboards are reliant on a computer:
- Some don’t have their own speakers so you must send the audio via the computer to speakers if you want to listen to your created tracks.
- Not all keyboards allow for mixing on the console itself so you must use the computer for this.
- You may need the computer as a power source via USB.
But what if you’re used to working on Windows and your new keyboard is only compatible with iOS devices? Research this so you don’t have to change your computer simply because you have a new keyboard.
Apart from connecting to the computer via USB, enhanced connectivity can:
- Improve the audio you create on your keyboard.
- Make your keyboard more user-friendly.
Note that in these cases the keyboard must have the necessary connections embedded, such as:
- An output for headphones so you can listen to your track in real time.
- Inputs for pedals such as a sustain pedal, usually done via a ¼” jack input.
- To control the hardware from your computer a 5 pin MIDI output is essential.
Pads & Effects
If you’re purchasing a keyboard to create and master tracks instead of simply playing on an electric version of a piano, you’re going to need effects. High-end keyboards have effects and sound loaded so you can use them when creating original audio.
When you’re producing you want to easily control certain aspects of the track. These days you can do it physically with the MIDI’s knobs or use the software on your DAW:
The name comes from you setting the recording’s transport in motion and controlling it. It relates to:
- Fast forward
Which technique do you prefer? Using software or your MIDI’s hardware? Make sure your MIDI controller can accommodate your preferences.
How do you prefer your keyboard to be powered? Often manufacturers focus on one option of two:
- USB powered
- DC powered at a power outlet
Pick what you know will allow for dynamic layout in your production studio or for the perfect setup on a mainstage performance.
You know what setup you prefer in your studio. Perhaps you’re used to a certain MIDI controller or synthesizer and now you’ve acquired new equipment. So why not customize your new MIDI controller keyboard to work similar to what you’re used to?
Auto-mapping allows you to allocate certain software features to the hardware, knobs and controls on your great MIDI controller. Now you can do more in a shorter timespan since your DAW and MIDI are setup the way you like it.
But remember, both your software and MIDI controller must be designed to accommodate the Auto Mapping feature.
Benefits & Advantages of the 88 Key MIDI Keyboards
There’s nothing like playing on a properly sized keyboard. This is especially true if you’re a trained musician, used to a full piano who now has to create tracks on a MIDI controller. You get the feeling you’re used to so the familiarity will make you perform well.
Even if it’s an expensive unit, this may be a worthwhile investment in your studio.
But there are other benefits too:
- You don’t have to compromise on the sounds you use or use Octave Up/Down buttons as you do on smaller keyboards.
- Classical music that uses the entire length of the keyboard can easily be recorded.
- Layouts of buttons and knobs can be made user-friendly for the player since there’s a lot of space available, unlike on a 25 key unit.
See? This is the best for your studio so I hope you’ve found your ideal one in the review above.