Midi controllers (especially midi pianos) are one of the most essential pieces of equipment in any music studio. Arguably, it is as essential or even more essential than an audio interface.
As long as one of your goals is to create beats, you will sooner or later get to need a midi controller.
Although some folks have learned to create beats by using just their mouse and keyboard, using a midi controller gives an entirely different feeling.
It helps make the whole beat-making process a lot more organic than drawing notes on your DAW’s piano roll or playing it with your computer keyboard.
Aside from the overall feel, performance-wise, there are certain musical effects you can only achieve or achieve a lot easily only by using a midi controller.
This makes a lot of sense if you are a piano player delving into beat-making or music production.
On the other hand, even if you are not a piano player, you will still find out that using a midi controller (midi piano) to create beats gives a whole different experience—a better experience than not using it.
On that note, when it comes to midi pianos, there are always concerns when shopping for them. One of those concerns is how the keys feel in comparison to an actual acoustic piano. This is known as the “action.”
This is a much bigger concern for people who have had some playing experience with an acoustic piano. This is where the phrase “weighted keys” (also known as weighted action) comes into play.
Weighted keys are piano keys to which additional weights have been added. Manufacturers add this weight just to simulate the complex mechanics of a key being depressed in an acoustic piano.
If you have ever transited from playing an acoustic piano to playing a keyboard without weighted keys, you will notice a significant difference in how it feels.
The absence of weight you are used to on an acoustic piano can make the playing experience bland and frustrating.
This difference can directly affect your playing experience. It can result in poor playing in aspects like speed, dynamics, articulation, etc.
Having weighted keys on a midi controller or keyboard makes them feel a lot more like a traditional piano.
This way, although you will still feel some differences and adjustments, it won’t be so bad that it will affect your play.
It is a fact that it is almost impossible to replicate the feel of the keys of an acoustic piano. However, weighted keys take you a lot closer to an acoustic piano.
In this article, we will discuss 10 amazing midi controllers with weighted keys. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional piano player or a total beginner, this article is for you. So, just read on!
10 Best Midi Controller With Weighted Keys
- M – Audio Hammer 88
- Native Instrument Komplete Kontrol S88
- Studiologic SL88
- Nektar Impact GXP88
- Roland A – 88 MKII
- Arturia Keylab 88 MKII
- M – Audio Oxygen Pro Mini
- Alesis Recital Pro 88
- Novation Launchkey 37
- Novation 61 SL MKIII
Review of 10 Best Midi Controller With Weighted Keys
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
- All The Right Connections – Expanded control options for Inputs for Sustain, Expression and Soft pedals included
The M – Audio Hammer 88 is designed excellently and with a quality contour. The keys of the 88 hammer are solid with a comfortable key feel.
The Hammer 88 controller is an amazing combination of functionality and simplicity. Giving producers that are also pianists a great playing experience.
It also offers pedal input for a sustain pedal and soft sustain expression which is very rare to find in other midi controllers with weighted keys.
The pitch bend and modulation wheel are positioned on the left-hand side of the controller. This will make it easy to solo synth with the right hand while using the left hand for the bend and wheel.
The M – Audio Hammer 88 controller also features volume control and octave controls. This sleek-looking controller is one of the satisfactory controllers with weighted keys that are close to the feel of the acoustic piano keys.
These features add up to the reason the controller is heavy and not portable. However, the weight is not compared to its playability.
Watch more about the M – Audio Hammer 88 here
|Intuitive||No aftertouch function for keys|
|Easy to use||Very heavy|
|Midi customization function|
|Pedal input feature|
Native Instrument 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
- Includes required PSU
Native instrument Komplete Kontrol S88 midi controller is completely crammed with professional features and a remarkable keybed.
The Kontrol S88 controller offers you an excellent Keybed with 88 fully weighted hammer action keys, velocity, and after-touch function.
The control features of the Kontrol S88 could handle most of the clicks of your mouse after being assigned.
And the built-in LED screen is designed to take your eyes off your DAW. It displays all the necessary info needed to navigate easily.
It is obvious that Native Instruments aimed at making this controller the focus rather than the Digital Audio workstation. And having been around in the synth and midi space for a while, that has been achieved.
Watch more about the Native Instrument Komplete Kontrol S88 here
|Easy to use||A bit expensive|
|Smart play feature||No drum pads|
|2 high-resolution colour screen||No slider controllers|
|Fully weighted hammer action keys|
- 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
- Razor-sharp color graphic LCD-TFT display with 320 x 240 resolution; 3 XY stick controllers for real-time control; powerful new software editor
Studiologic SL88 is one of the best plain and straightforward midi controllers with fully 88-weighted keys. This controller is well-designed with unique tricks and after-touch for greater control and playing experience.
The Studiologic SL88 does not have a pitch bend and mod wheel but offers three joysticks. These joysticks are configured differently. This joystick works in two dimensions and it lets you make adjustments to your pitch, modulation, and cut-off function.
It also has a small screen for displaying information. This will help when you are splitting the SL88 into zones.
You can split this controller into four zones. And these zones can be adjusted and accessed by the encoder knob. By clicking the encoder knobs, you can make each split zone unique by changing each of its settings.
The Keybed of the Studiologic SL88 controller is also great and lifelike. Perfect for a producer who is also a piano player.
Although the Keybed may be a bit heavier than the traditional acoustic piano Keybed, it is still comfortable and great because of the after-touch effect you get to enjoy.
However, it is less heavy even with the sturdy 88-weighted keys. You can carry it in a gig bar or go on tour with this controller.
Watch more about the Studiologic SL88 here
|Easy to use||No internal sound|
|Flexible midi routing||Keys are a bit heavy|
|Great touch response|
|Quality build material|
Nektar Impact GXP88
- Expressive performance MIDI controller keyboard with 88 premium quality semi-weighted full-size velocity sensitive keys + aftertouch, pitch bend and modulation wheels + octave & transpose buttons + sustain & expression pedal sockets + MIDI 5-pin Out.
- Nektar DAW integration for most popular DAWs + Nektarine PlugIn Control for Instruments and Effects
- Comprehensive MIDI functionailty. Compatible with all MIDI music software applications
- Mac and PC compatible
The Nektar Impact GXP 88 is another midi controller with weighted keys that scores big with its control and features. And all of these controls are located on the left side of the midi controller.
The GXP88 offers a transport control such as play, record, stop, etc, that allows users to control their DAWs using the controller.
Tracks and patches are easily assignable making your workflow simplified. This means you can run an entire project using the Nektar impact GXP88 to control your DAW.
Nektar Impact GXP88 also features about five velocity curve types. However, the keys are semi-weighted and not fully weighted. Regardless, the 88 keys are full-size.
You are compensated with different velocity curves for a better playing experience. Just mess around with the curve and figure out which one is best for you.
The GXP88 midi controller has a very special function called Repeat that you won’t find in other midi controllers with weighted keys.
Any key that is pressed will be repeated until the key is released. You Can also set the repeat rhythm, rate, velocity, and style.
Watch more about the Nektar Impact GXP88 here
|Less heavy||Poor overview and feedback|
|Deep integration with major DAW||A bit complicated to master|
|Easy pedal connectivity|
|Intuitive and purposeful|
Roland A – 88 MKII
- Unmatched playability with Roland’s own PHA-4 keyboard
- Built-to-last with wood and premium materials for years of dependable performance
- Eight RGB-lit assignable knobs, eight RGB-lit pads, and three pedal inputs
- Three customizable zones, onboard arpeggiator, and chord memory
The keys of the Roland A – 88 MKII are PHA – 4 hammer action keys with an ivory feel almost like a grand piano. Roland A 88 MKII features eight pads, eight rotary knobs, and a pitch bend as onboard control.
Assigning these controls is very easy and simple. This controller will integrate with any DAW. You can even colour code to speed up workflow.
You can edit, establish, and recall three keyboard zones. These zones can be used to drive multiple external sources.
The Roland A – 88 MKII features two simple switch buttons that send a variety of midi messages and complement the Roland blender.
This distinctive Roland blender, also known as the notorious blender combines the x-axis pitch bend and y-sprung modulation wheel into one single stick.
Watch more about the Roland A – 88 MKII here
|Lightweight||No Modulation wheel|
|Easy to use||No aftertouch|
Arturia Keylab 88 MKII
- 88 note Fatar TP/100LR keybed
- High quality, aftertouch, velocity sensitive, hammer-action, piano feel keyboard
- 16 RGB-backlit performance pads
- Control bank with 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs
The Arturia Keylab 88 MKII is fully weighted with graded Hammer action. It is built with tons of features for studio recording and live performance.
This controller features ten assignable buttons and nine faders that can be used to control any of your favourite DAWs. The Arturia Keylab 88 MKII also has 16 pads, 9 rotary encoders, a pitch bend, a modulation wheel, and transport controls.
These onboard controllers feel like a tank and are very durable. You can go all hard on the controls without fear of breaking them.
Arturia Keylab 88 MKII was designed with quality materials and it is laid out nicely. It doesn’t only look great, it also feels and plays great.
Watch more about the Arturia Keylab 88 MKII here
|Easy to use||Expensive|
|Excellent key action|
|Velocity sensitive Pads|
M – Audio Oxygen Pro Mini
- MIDI Keyboard Essentials – 32 velocity-sensitive, semi weighted keys for playing virtual sampler instruments and virtual synthesizer plugins
- Beat Maker Mainstays – 8 RGB backlit MIDI assignable velocity sensitive drum pads with Note Repeat for beat production, clip launching, soundboard triggering and more
- Total Command of Your Music Production – 4 assignable knobs, buttons and faders for tactile MIDI control of virtual instruments, effect plugins, DAW controls and more
- Every Tool You Need – Effortless auto-mapping for DAW controls & plugin parameters; Smart Chord & Smart Scale modes; Arpeggiator; pitch & modulation wheels; sustain pedal input; 1/8-inch (3.5mm) MIDI Output
M Audio Oxygen Pro Mini has 32 semi-weighted velocity-sensitive keys. It also features eight Pads, four knobs, and faders with a high-quality feel.
This Oxygen Pro midi controller is designed to allow users to have full control over DAWs without giving more attention to the screen and mouse.
It is suitable for both studio usage and live performances. The M audio oxygen can easily integrate into any setup.
The eight faders can be assigned to a track so that users can regulate the volume intuitively.
These pads and the knobs can be linked directly also to a track to tweak effects and trigger clips. The pads also are great for drumming and beat-making.
M – audio oxygen pro mini is backlit in RGB colours for easy to read overview and control.
Watch more about the M – Audio Oxygen Pro Mini here
|Easy to use||No aftertouch|
|Integration with DAW|
|Solid key feels|
Alesis Recital Pro 88
- A Digital Piano That’s Tailored to You – Feature-packed Electric keyboard with 88 premium full-sized weighted hammer action keys with adjustable touch response to suit your preferred playing style
- Premium Sounds – 12 voices (Incl. Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Organ, Synth, and Bass), built-in FX: Chorus, Modulation, Reverb, and two built in 20W speakers for clear, room-filling sound
- All The Right Connections – ¼” sustain pedal input (pedal not included), ¼” stereo headphone output for private practice and stereo outputs for connection to speakers / amplifiers
- Play the Keyboard Wherever You Go – Power via the included power adapter or 6 D cell batteries (not included) for professional piano performance anywhere
The keys of Alesis Recital Pro 88 are fully-sized weighted keys with touch sensitivity for a wonderful playing experience.
The Keybed of the Alesis Recital Pro 88 is a hammer action key. It is suitable for piano players of all skill levels that want to record pieces with DAWs. This controller is very portable and great for gigging musicians.
Since it is a digital piano, it has over 128 polyphony and effects. And also 12 presents such as acoustic piano, electronic piano, organ, guitar, strings, brass, and drums.
It features a type B USB and midi I/O for easy connection to the computer. Allowing you to control your DAW.
Watch more about Alesis Recital Pro 88 here
|Easy to use||No pitch bend and Mod wheel|
|Very affordable||No pads and faders|
|Built-in sound and effect|
|Hammer action keys|
Novation Launchkey 37
- “Designed for Live — Get hands on with Ableton Live – An unrivalled integration to Ableton Live with your Launchkey gives you a seamless music making experience. Have all the tools at your disposal with deep and intuitive Ableton Live control — including device macro control, track select, record, capture MIDI, clip and scene launch, stop/mute/solo, volume, pans and sends. Never lose an idea with Capture MIDI – One touch access to Ableton Live’s Capture MIDI ensures you will never lose an idea without taking you from the creative expe-rience.
- Create and play with feeling – Velocity-sensitive keyboard and 16 velocity-sensitive pads enable expressive and dynamic performance at your fingertips. Capture your playing in Ableton Live precisely as you intended.
- Play chords with one finger – Lay down chords for your track quick with three chord modes — fixed, scale, and user. Play a chord with one finger by assigning a fixed shape to the keys and it’ll transpose as you move up and down the keyboard.
- Get melodies moving with arpeggiator – Easy to use but deeply controllable, Launchkey Mini’s creative arpeggiator allows you to change rhythm, beat, pattern, octave, gate and more to add a whole range of diversity to your ideas and melo-dies.
The Novation Launchkey 37 is a semi-weighted midi controller that is very intuitive with various music creation features. It has a 16×2 character screen that displays information and lets you see what you are selecting.
This Launchkey 37 midi controller also features scale and chord modes. You can play chords with one finger and stay on a particular scale of your choice in any key of your choice.
There are over 16 velocity-sensitive drum pads that you can play with and expressive music.
You can also reconstruct the form and pattern of your music with the ‘mutate’ function. Also, you can use the powerful arpeggiator for new melodies and harmonic rhythm.
The Novation Launchkey 37 is portable and great for mobile producers and also gigging musicians.
Watch more about the Novation Launchkey37 here
|Well design||No aftertouch|
|Easy to use|
Novation 61 SL MKIII
- Bring MIDI hardware and CV/Gate synths together
- Easily integrate hardware with your DAW
- The perfect controller for Ableton Live music-making software
- Internal 8 track pattern based sequencer
The Novation 61 SL MK3 midi controller comes with pads, knobs, faders, a Novation automap system, and weighted keys.
The eight-channel onboard sequencer can be used to adjust and control any DAW when it is plugged into the computer.
It is a full-sized key midi controller with semi-weighted keys and also has an aftertouch effect. The semi-weighted keys are suitable for a fast classic synth style and a smooth organ play.
Novation SL MK3 is well-built with a solid pitch bend and mod wheel by the left side, and ports for sustain pedals and midi in and out.
This controller can be divided into about eight zones, allowing users to play multiple instruments at once. This is very great for live performances.
The built-in Led light on the Novation MK3 provides information about adjustment and also aids users to control DAW.
Watch more about the Novation 61 SL MKIII here
|Easy to use||Lack per channel swing|
|Versatile digital control|
Types of Weighted Actions/Keys
There are three types of weighted keys which are semi-weighted, hammer action, and graded hammer action.
Semi-weighted keys use a spring mechanism to mimic the weighted feel of the acoustic piano keys.
These spring action keys are combined with weights that are attached to each key. Semi-weighted keys weigh less and don’t add so much extra weight to the keyboard.
The Hammer action is regarded as the Fully weighted hammer action but not graded.
This means that the keys of the keyboard are fully weighted and have the same weight from the lower octave, the middle octave, and the higher octave.
Graded Hammer Action
The graded Hammer action is fully weighted with a specific counterweight on each key. The weight of the lower octave (which is left) is heavier, the middle is less heavy, and the graded right is lighter.
This means the weight of the piano reduces from the low to the high. Piano players need a variety of touches to produce some dynamic.
Things to Consider Before Buying A Midi Keyboard
It is essential you consider a lot of things before buying a midi keyboard for your recording studio or practice space. These may include size, Key weight, number of keys, control, and aftertouch.
For some people, their midi controller is more than a musical instrument. It must be large and must be noticed in the studio. However, some large midi keyboards are heavy and space-demanding.
You may need to consider if your midi keyboard will be seated on the desk or a piano stand. And lastly, if you will need it for an outdoor gigging event. You will have to consider portable and a less heavy midi keyboard.
Keys are often classified into fully weighted, semi-weighted, and graded weighted. Fully weighted and semi-weighted midi keyboards are made to mimic the feel of the traditional acoustic piano.
Synths and organs are not fully weighted. And even some entry-level keyboards are non-weighted. If you are going to do a lot of synth and organ work, these do not count as you don’t need any resistance.
The weighted keys will give piano players a better playing experience with their responses and feedback. Especially on midi keyboards with aftertouch.
Aftertouch features two levels of pressure that can be applied while playing the keys. It is activated when the keys are pressed harder.
The aftertouch when activated alters certain values of notes and sounds depending on the effect of the sound.
The intensity of a note is controlled by how hard or soft the keys of the keyboard are being pressed, thereby causing dynamics to occur. It is used by piano players to add more colours and expressions to their playing.
Controls include pads, pitch bend, modulation wheel, faders, knobs, octave function, transpose, etc. You may just be looking at basic controls that will allow you to adjust your DAWs.
However, additional controls will open up new creative windows if you can flow with them. You may want to consider if the Pads on the midi keyboard are your priority. A Lot of producers love to make beats with the Pads.
Also, the faders and knobs on the hands are great for real-time tweaking of sounds in your DAW without using the mouse. Regardless, piano players are okay with only the pitch bend and modulation wheels. And sometimes the transpose and octave features.
Among these weighted midi controllers are the best gear that will fit into both the studio space and gigging environment. Consider some factors and buy just the perfect gear suitable for your usage.
However, the good news about playing weighted keys is that after a while you get used to the feel. You don’t have to worry about the heavy keys.
Whether you are an entry-level piano player and wish to purchase a weighted key, it is even advisable you start with it.