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Looking for a MIDI keyboard with aftertouch? Great, we’ve compiled a list of the best out there right now!
The aftertouch feature on all these keyboards will really add more expression, but the additional features around it (and the price point) will be the real factors for you deciding which keyboard you want.
So here are the best MIDI keyboards with aftertouch.
Akai Professional Mpk249 – Best Overall
- USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- 16 pads with Q-Links
- Plug and play
- Assignable MPC controls
- 49 semi-weighted keys
There are three models to choose from in Akai's MPK range of MIDI keyboards: the MPK225, MPK249, and MPK261. The MPK249 is the medium size of that range.
Its housing is largely made of plastic, the base made of metal. The dimensions are compact: 74 x 31 x 9 centimeters, and the weight is just under 6 kilograms.
Connection to the computer is established via a USB-B interface. It is also used for power supply. In addition to Windows and OSX computers, iOS devices can also be connected using a camera connection kit. If no computer is used, the keyboard can alternatively be operated via an external power supply unit.
The 49-key keyboard is half-weighted; it has velocity and aftertouch. The tuning can be increased or decreased by three octaves, and it can also be transposed in semitone steps.
Akai has used proven technologies from the MPC series for the 16 pads of the MPK249. The playing surfaces also have velocity and aftertouch; the latter can be switched between a channel and polyphonic operation.
What We Didn't Like
The free Ableton Live lite for this keyboard is no longer available. Also, the support from the manufacturer to users isn't there.
The Akai MPK249 is recommended for the modern live performer and producer. It has all the tools needed for professional production.
- Durable construction
- Integrated arpeggiator
- Excellent pads
- MPC functions
- High-quality faders and encoders
- Extensive software portfolio
- Poor manufacturer support
Arturia Keystep Pro 37-Key Controller And Sequencer – Premium Option
- 37-key keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
- LED above each key for visual feedback
- Four-track step sequencer
- Up to 16 notes per step
- Rate control and tap tempo
- Melodic sequencer
Only the developers in beautiful Montbonnot-Saint-Martin know why Arturia took five years to adapt their drum trigger-oriented “Beatstep Pro” concept as a keyboard version. But you have to give them credit because they have significantly expanded the original concept of the Keystep Pro.
What used to be two CV / Gate outputs have now become four, for example, and the MIDI sockets are now in standard format (and no more than Mini-jack adapter). And even a small metronome speaker has been integrated. In addition, there are several functional extensions and improvements.
Broken down to the bare minimum, the Keystep Pro is first and foremost a 3-octave keyboard with mini-keys that send both velocity and aftertouch. You also have two touch strips for pitch bend and modulation.
As with the Beatstep, the base plate of the Keystep Pro is made of metal. Not only does that give it a serious weight of 2.7 kg, but it also feels kind of reassuring. Otherwise, most of the components (potentiometer heads, buttons) seem to be largely identical to those of the Beatstep.
As a result, it all feels good and right: Not classy and expensive, but also not fragile and cheap – simply appropriate for the price. Although the Keystep lights up and flashes quite a bit (which is, of course, good for user interaction), it doesn't look uncomfortably toy-like.
What We Didn't Like
Well, some of the things we don't like about it are that the roller effect button is very sensitive. And then, there's no Ableton Link integration.
You can use it as a simple input keyboard and controller. There are also the extensive possibilities of using it as a poly and monophonic 4-track real-time/step sequencer to the synchronization interface between the USB / Din-MIDI, control voltage.
- Very versatile
- Solid workmanship
- Independent operating concept
- Logical visual feedback of most control signals
- Roller effect button very sensitive
- No Ableton Link integration
Alesis Vi61 – Budget Choice
- Full-size semi-weighted keys.
- 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads.
- 16 assignable buttons.
- Transport controls.
- Pitch bend and modulation wheels
- USB port
- Includes Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition
The Alesis VI61 made a consistently good impression on us. With their slim design, a practice-oriented concept, and solid workmanship, the V and VI series from Alesis are good all-rounders with a good price-performance ratio.
If you want a little more control elements from a controller, you will find what you are looking for in the VI61. It is equipped with numerous flexibly configurable controllers. Unfortunately, there are no faders in neither of the V and VI series – if you need them, you have to look for alternatives.
Incidentally, the controllers do not have to be connected to the computer to create a preset. With the editor, the presets can also be created and saved “offline” and can also be loaded into the devices at a later date.
In short: the keyboard feels, considering the price range – quite solid. Of course, you shouldn't expect miracles here. It's far from a weighted keyboard with hammer action, but we would like to say they are well-made for typical MIDI keyboards.
The pads feel good, and their touch dynamics inspire creative work with drum samples and are also suitable for several other purposes, e.g., clip control for Ableton Live. They can also send program changes, which can be very useful in live operations.
A large number of parameters can be controlled with the rotary knobs and buttons, and the possible uses are very versatile thanks to the flexible configuration options.
What We Didn't Like
From our perspective, it wouldn't have hurt to use a little better material for the buttons and knobs, but what is offered is fine for the price range. In a few places, such as the roll feature or the operating instructions, one could certainly expect a little more.
With this MIDI controller, you can be the live DJ or producer you've always wanted to be and easily put on effects while you're playing.
- For low budget users
- Slim design
- For producing and live deejaying
- Many freely configurable control elements
- No faders
- Internal clock cannot be synchronized with the host
Novation Impulse – Top Alternative
- USB powered
- Drum pads with multiple functions
- Full DAW control surface
- Semi-weighted keyboard
- Includes Ableton Live Lite
The controller specialist Novation in 2011 launched this series of very flexible MIDI controller keyboards called Impulse. Variants with 25, 49, and 61 keys are available.
They are equipped with eight encoders, eight drum pads, and nine faders (for the models with 49/61 keys), or a fader (model with 25 keys) with associated buttons.
In addition to the astonishingly light keyboard (the 49 key is just under 5 kilograms), the box comes with a 1.5 meter long USB cable, brief instructions, and the installation DVD with manuals. You'll also have drivers, Novation Automap 4 and Ableton Live Lite 8.
The keyboard is extremely expressive to play and feels very good for a keyboard in this price range. It is, of course, not a hammer mechanism, but you can tell that Novation has put special effort into this. They call it “Precision Keyboard”.
The velocity can be adjusted with four different curves and can also be switched off. There is also aftertouch if desired.
The keyboard can be set three octaves down or four octaves up. They can be divided into four freely definable zones, which can also overlap.
Each zone can be assigned its MIDI channel so that four different instruments can be played independently on the same keyboard. Not bad!
What We Didn't Like
It's a shame that the overview of the keyboard is quickly lost due to the small display – the red frame around the active area in Ableton Live could, however, help.
Although it's not very fluid with reason, it is recommended for use with Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic, and Ableton Live.
- Well-thought-out arpeggiator and drum roll
- Very flexible to use
- Plug-in control with Automap
- DAW integration
- Clip launch in Ableton Live
- Overview is quickly lost when used as a mixer
- Power only from the USB port
M-Audio Hammer – Most Features
- Keyboard controller with piano style
- Hammer-action weighted 88-key MIDI keyboard
- Includes aftertouch and assignable zones
- Pitch and modulation wheels
With the Hammer 88 Pro, M-Audio offers a USB MIDI controller with the most features in this review. It is equipped with a large keyboard range of 88 keys.
M-Audio designed the Hammer 88 in classic black. Few control elements adorn the control surface of the MIDI keyboard. Everything appears very subtle and reserved. The case is mainly made of plastic, but it still weighs 17.5 kg.
Fortunately, the Hammer 88 is quite easy to connect in terms of connections. In addition to the obligatory USB port, which is used for sending MIDI data and supplying power, the keyboard also has a five-pin MIDI DIN socket so that MIDI hardware can also be controlled.
This also makes the Hammer 88 interesting for a live setup. If you operate the Hammer 88 without a computer, the power supply can also be provided via an external power supply unit. The 88 keys of the Hammer 88 are made of plastic and are velocity-sensitive.
The Hammer 88 will be very helpful for (budding) pianists. A later switch to a wooden keyboard or a real acoustic piano will not be as difficult as one would experience when switching from a typical, often very lightly weighted keyboard.
What We Didn't Like
The USB port looks flimsy, and a few users complain of the keys wearing out very fast.
Overall, the Hammer 88 is a very good MIDI keyboard that can be used at home to play acoustic and electric pianos, in the studio as a recording keyboard, on stage for playing software instruments, or as a master keyboard.
- Up to four keyboard zones
- MIDI DIN output
- Software editor
- Includes features every pro needs
- Seamless DAW control
- Keys not durably constructed
What To Look For When Buying A MIDI Keyboard With Aftertouch
After having had an overall idea of the best models that you may like, all you have to do is choose the master keyboard or the MIDI keyboard that will suit you. But you have to be guided during the purchase process. It's not all about what you want; it's also about understanding what MIDI keyboards are, how they work, and what the features in the different keyboards are.
What Is A MIDI Keyboard?
MIDI is the abbreviation of Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a one-way communication and control protocol used by professional musicians to pass data exchanges between different electronic devices, including musical instruments, different control interfaces, computers, controllers, etc.
Let's talk about computers! MIDI cables are equipped with 5-pin DIN connectors. However, MIDI controllers and instruments are now also equipped with a USB connection to communicate more easily with computers.
MIDI keyboards, or even called master keyboards or controllers, are simply MIDI instruments or control surfaces. However, they do not produce sounds. Unlike synthesizers and other pianos, they are designed mainly to generate melodies and sounds directly from the instrument.
How To Choose A MIDI Keyboard With Aftertouch
Before making a decision, we advise you to consider a few criteria to make your choice a valuable investment that is sustainable and, above all, adequate to your needs.
The Keys Of The MIDI Keyboard
You should know that MIDI keyboards exist in different sizes and dimensions. The market offers many models of 25, 32, 49, 61, 76, and 88 keys, the same number of keys found in a piano.
The most flexible models are those which have a minimum of 76 keys because they allow you to have as many octaves necessary for as many styles of compositions as desired. This doesn't imply, however, that models with less than 76 keys are less interesting.
In addition, the keys of a master keyboard can also vary in terms of feel; therefore, the types of keys differ widely.
For Aftertouch keyboards, we have semi-weighted keys that are the most common at advanced master keyboards in terms of functionalities and options. These keys are distinguished by their somewhat heavy appearance but not heavier than that of hammer keys.
The semi-weighted keys offer more flexibility, as they will suit all beginners and even professionals.
The hammer keys or even the Hammer-action are also a type to mention. These keys do tend to reproduce the same technology as those of classical pianos.
The master keyboard models having this type of keys are thus well appreciated given their lower and attractive price. These types will be best suited for people who play classical piano sounds very often on the keyboard.
If your keyboard supports aftertouch, you can assign this controller to a function in your DAW. You can thus modify the volume, brightness, pitch of a sound, or a change in tone by pressing harder on a key of the keyboard after having attacked the note in question.
The great thing about aftertouch is that you don't have to use your left hand to control the pitch or modulation wheel. Therefore, you can play with two hands while adding a little expression to your playing.
There are two types of aftertouch. Monophonic aftertouch is the most common and concerns all the notes of a MIDI channel. Polyphonic aftertouch, in turn, affects notes individually and independently.
When we speak of a control surface, we generally refer to computer music or DAW software and sequencers compatible with MIDI devices. On the market, we indeed find much software which proves to be compatible with MIDI devices. Some of this, in particular, are Ableton Live, FL Studio 12, Cubase, or Logic X Pro on Mac.
Other Integrated Functions
Apart from the keyboard itself, many models are very generous by offering additional features. Some of these are:
- The pads: Pads allow you to play from a basic rhythmic keyboard or even from another audio file. The pads can be associated with different audio samples and allow them to be triggered with the touch of a finger at any time.
- Integrated mixing functions: Some keyboards have it. These functions allow you to work with many effects (EQ, Pitch, Volumes, etc.) and to modulate the sound directly from the MIDI keyboard.
Note: These additional features may seem more or less essential. However, these may be of interest to those looking for a two-in-one master keyboard.
Top MIDI Keyboards With Aftertouch, Conclusion
MIDI keyboard helps improve your performance in no time. And the keyboards with aftertouch technology, which is related to the standard MIDI, send an additional signal indicating the strength with which the keys are pressed after the initial pressure. In particular, this allows a much more expressive play on certain virtual synthesizers.
The best MIDI keyboards with aftertouch are available in various designs: semi-weighted, heavy-weighted, and hammer-action 25, 49, 61, and 88 keys. Go through the product list again and find one that can help you practice at home or showcase your skills on any professional production and performance setting.