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If you are a producer who wants to work on the go, you need to check out the best 25-key MIDI controllers available in 2022. These backpack-sized controllers have got you covered whenever/wherever the creative mood strikes.
Our top 7 doesn’t just include the most portable MIDI keyboards but also some genuine studio powerhouses. From drum pads to deep DAW integration, these compact MIDI controllers have it all.
Here are the best 25-key mini MIDI controllers in 2022:
- Akai MPK Mini Play
- Arturia MiniLab MkII
- Novation Launchkey Mini
- NI Komplete Kontrol A25
- Alesis VI25
- Nektar SE25
- Korg microKEY2 Air
1. Akai MPK Mini Play
The one that does it all
Akai Professional might be most known for their MPC pads, but they are no novices when it comes to MIDI keyboards either. The Akai MPK Mini Play takes what the MPK Mini MkII offered and goes a few steps further. The main reason we place it above the other 25-key MIDI controllers is that it has authentic MPC pads.
It has eight drum pads that are by far the most responsive in its class. They are perfect for quickly laying down a beat when you are producing new ideas. The pads have two banks (A and B), which means you have 16 pad slots to assign samples in total.
The most significant upgrade is that the MPK Play has a built-in sound module and speaker. It comes packed with 128 voices and 10 drum kits, covering a wide range of styles. You no longer need a laptop and software to generate sound; you can literally play anywhere (with batteries, of course).
The MPK Mini Play comes with the Akai Professional VIP 3.0 software. VIP 3.0 is a sophisticated virtual instrument player and workflow management system. What it does is lets you load your plugins and combine up to eight virtual instruments and effects with key zones and custom mapping. It’s basically an easy way to combine the plugins that you use most, and an excellent way to find combinations you might not have considered before.
Along with VIP 3.0, you get a whole bunch of software, including Pro Tools First, Hybrid, Wobble, MPC Essentials, and some MPC expansion packs.
|Image credit: Akai Check Price on Amazon||
The MPK Mini MkII was a long time favorite of our and a trusted travel companion, the MPK Mini Play is a worthy successor to the throne. Akai MPC pads are the best around, and having them on such a portable MIDI controller is perfect for any producer on the road.
The built-in sound module might not produce voices that you will use in your final track (although some are great), but it lets you work on ideas no matter where you are. It has everything that you want from a little MIDI controller and more. For our money, it’s the best 25-key MIDI controller around right now.
2. Arturia MiniLab MkII
All style and substance
Arturia is on a roll at the moment; the latest line up of MIDI controllers is fantastic. The MiniLab MkII is the little brother to the KeyLab series, and it shares the same sleek yet functional design.
It features slim synth-action keys that offer a well-balanced feel for various sounds. The Minilab MkII has the same velocity-sensitive pads that you find on the larger KeyLab models. There are eight pads with two banks, giving you up to 16 assignable pads.
In typical Arturia fashion, there are lots of assignable encoders, 16 to be exact. Two of the encoders are clickable to provide deeper integration with Arturia’s Analog Lab software.
The MiniLab MkII comes with Analog Lab Lite, a slimmed-down version of Arturia’s flagship virtual instruments package. Even though it’s not the full version, it’s still packed with 500 top-notch sounds. Along with Analog Lab, you also get a copy of Ableton Live Lite and UVI Grand Piano. So, from acoustic instruments to electric pianos, to synths, you get the lot.
|Image credit: Arturia Check Price on Amazon||
The MiniLab Mk2 is the best looking portable MIDI keyboard on our list; it’s gorgeous. The reason that matters is that it would be easy to assume it’s all style over substance, but that not the case at all.
The keys feel good; the pads are responsive, and the massive amount of encoders make it perfect for bedroom producers. It would be nice if it still came with more sounds, but Analog Lab Lite is so good, it’s hard to complain.
3. Novation Launchkey Mini
The best portable MIDI controller for Ableton
The Novation Launchkey Mini is one of the most functional 25-key MIDI controllers on the market. It comes with a full set of 16 velocity-sensitive pads, which is rare on a controller so small. Despite being small and the larger number of pads, the layout of the Launchkey Mini isn’t too clustered at all.
Novation has upgraded the keybed for the Launchkey Mini MkIII, and it feels better than most mini-key controllers you will ever play. Rather than a pitch/mod wheel, Novation has gone for touch strips that work very well.
Two built-in features really stand out; they are the onboard arpeggiator and chord mode. Chord mode has a few different settings, rhythmic patterns, and ranges over four octaves. It lets you set different chord shaped then trigger them with a single note. There’s also a mutate mode that will automatically generate different variations.
The Launchkey Mini is purpose-built for Ableton, but it works well with other DAWs, too. It comes with a pretty useful software bundle, including Ableton Live Lite, AAS Session Bundle, and assorted plugins.
|Image credit: Novation Check Price on Amazon||
Novation never seems to go far wrong when it comes to MIDI controllers. They have been doing it for a while now and doing it as well as most. The Launchkey Mini MkIII is possibly one of the best feeling keyboards on our list; it’s lovely to play. The fact that it’s intended for Ableton might put some users off, but it’s a minor issue at most. Overall, it’s one of the best mini MIDI controllers you can buy.
4. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25
The best for Native Instruments plugins
The Komplete Kontrol series has been a big success amongst lovers of Native Instruments plugins. This A25 model comes with a semi-weighted custom Native Instruments keybed. The feel of the keys provides enough resistance when you want it, but they snap back fast enough for playing synths or percussion.
Eight touch-sensitive rotary knobs are pre-mapped to Komplete Instruments or can be assigned to parameters in your DAW. A quad-directional push encoder allows you to browse sounds and effects with one hand while previewing them with the other.
The A25 has some handy transport controls and integrates with major DAW’s for hands-on control. There is a small OLED display that helps you browse presets, but browsing is far easier via the Komplete Kontrol software. The software enables tag-based browsing, making it must easier to find the right sound quickly.
Another nice feature for a speedy workflow is Smart Play; it lets you map over 100 scales/modes to white keys only. It also lets you trigger chords or arpeggios from a single note.
Native Instruments put together a comprehensive software bundle for the A25, including Komplete Instruments & Effects, Komplete Kontrol, and Maschine Essentials. As we mentioned already, the A25 is pre-mapped to all of the Native Instruments Software.
|Image credit: Native Instruments Check Price on Amazon||
The Komplete Kontrol A25 is a pretty ambitious effort from Native Instruments, and for the most part, it’s on the money. It’s a little bulkier than it needs to be, but with the significant functionality on offer, we can forgive the extra size. Native Instruments make some absolutely amazing instruments, and the included bundle is top-notch.
It’s a simple conclusion; if you mainly use NI plugins, this is the only 25-key MIDI controller for you. If not, there are a couple of better options, but it’s still one of our top-rated 25-key MIDI controllers.
5. Alesis VI25
The little studio workhorse
Alesis has a reputation for delivering maximum functionality on a budget. The VI25 packs in about as much as a 25-key MIDI controller can handle.
There are two things that you will notice straight away, full-size keys and 16 velocity-sensitive drum pads. The keys are semi-weighted with aftertouch, and the pads are second only to the Akai MPK Play.
Like any other controller with pads, the pads can be used to trigger samples or loops. Where the VI25 pads come into their own is full-on finger drumming because they are very responsive.
It features eight illuminated, assignable rotary knobs and 24 assignable buttons. That level of assignable control is unheard of on most MIDI controllers of this size. Along with the assignable controls, there are dedicated transport controls for speedy recording/editing in your DAW.
The VI25 is not only ideal for controlling your virtual instruments but thanks to a 5-pin MIDI out, it’s great for controlling external gear. It works fantastically well with any DAW, but it comes with a copy of Ableton Live Lite Alesis Edition.
|Image credit: Alesis Check Price on Amazon||
The Alesis VI25 is very good in almost every area. Having 16 high-quality drum pads and full-size keys with aftertouch are amazing for a 25-key controller. However, adding those features means the controller won’t be as small as most others. Ultimately, it’s not the most portable MIDI controller on our list. But, if it’s mainly for studio use, you should definitely check out the Alesis VI25.
6. Nektar SE25
The one you didn’t expect
The Nektar SE25 is the most unassuming controller on our list. At a glance, it doesn’t look like it has too much to offer, but looks can be deceiving.
Being so small doesn’t leave much room to play with when it comes to a realistic keybed. However, the mini-keys on the SE25 have three velocity curves and are as responsive as most.
The entire body of the SE25 isn’t much bigger than the size of the keys. So, as far as being portable goes, it’s as good as it gets. Despite being so small, there are six assignable buttons (octaves, transpose, MIDI channel, layer, and latch).
One unique feature of the SE25 is the Part Two function. By holding the ‘2’ button, you can temporarily switch to a different octave, MIDI channel, or add a harmony layer. Releasing the button returns you to the original voice setting, opening up new performance possibilities.
The SE25 comes with Bitwig 8-Track with over 50 virtual instruments and effects. What’s even more impressive is that Nektar’s DAW integration software instantly maps your controller to popular DAWs. A feature that is rarely found on a controller this cheap, if ever.
|Image credit: Nektar Check Price on Amazon||
The Nektar SE25 had to make it onto our list for its price and size more than anything else. That’s not to say it doesn’t have any impressive features; the Part Two function is very clever indeed. The fact it has such easy DAW integration for under $50 is another massive plus.
If you want something cheap, small, and reliable, look no further. For those with minimal luggage space, the SE25 is quite possibly the ultimate MIDI keyboard for travel.
7. Korg microKEY2 Air
The no-nonsense Korg
Korg isn’t usually the first name that comes to mind when we think about portable MIDI controllers. However, the Korg microKEY2 Air is one of the best we have seen so far.
It comes with Korg’s natural-touch keys, which are ever so slightly heavier than most similar controllers. The keybed encourages more expressive playing and works well with the sustain button.
The microKEY2 Air has an onboard arpeggiator to add motion to your ideas. In addition to the arpeggiator and sustain buttons, there is octave up/down buttons and a pitch/mod joystick. The joystick gives you all the control you need to shape and bend your sound as you wish. One of the best features of the Korg microKEY2 Air is how streamlined it is; it has what it needs and no more.
It connects to your computer or smart device via Bluetooth or USB. The Bluetooth connection is low-latency, but like any wireless connection, results will vary. If you are going completely wireless, you will get around 30 hours of play from two AA batteries.
Korg throws in a very respectable software bundle, including their Legacy Collection M1 Le, AAS Modules, Propellerhead Reason Limited, and more.
|Image credit: Korg Check Price on Amazon||
The Korg microKEY2 Air is one of the most portable 25-key MIDI controllers available. It doesn’t come with a lot of features; there are no pads, no knobs or faders, but that’s part of its appeal. If you want a MIDI controller that can do a bit of everything, it won’t be this one.
If you want an expressive keyboard that offers no more than necessary without taking up valuable space in your bag, it’s this one. The microKEY2 Air one of the smallest MIDI controllers on the market and the included software bundle is a lovely bonus.
The great thing about these little mini MIDI keyboards is that they are the middle-man between the studio and the outside world. How many times have you been away from home and had a fantastic idea that you forgot before you got back to the studio?
If you travel, you need one of these, and what’s even better is that they are a contributing part of any home studio, too (not just on the go). So, choose wisely, and never miss an opportunity to lay down a killer track again.