In the previous article we examined the types of MIDI controllers and their general features. Now we will go through a sort of checklist that will help you narrow your choice, also we'll compare several MIDI keyboards that you should consider first.
1. Define your budget. MIDI keyboards may cost from just $70 to as much as $2000 and even higher. If, from the beginning, you define your maximum price tag that you can afford when choosing a controller, you will significantly narrow down the number of options to consider.
2. What are your goals? Depending on the goals you pursue, your choice may be different. Are you a piano player, bitmaker, music producer, sound engineer or you're all at once? Do you need keys only or having pads, faders and knobs is also a must?
If you like to control most of the elements using a computer, then having just the keys will be sufficient for you. But if one day you'd want to expand your musical production capabilities, you'll have to buy extra devices.
If you need a universal tool that will enable you not only to play melodies, but also to program beats, control effects' modulation in real time and be much less tied to the computer screen, then you won't get along without additional controlling hardware.
3. How many octaves do you need? Most piano players will prefer a full size 88-keys keyboard. But not everyone needs to simultaneously access all seven and a half octaves. The commonly accepted options for both studio and live performance are 49- and 61-keys keyboards. If you're sure you won't play within more than 2-3 octaves, then 25 or 37 keys may fit your needs.
4. Do you need a mobile or stationary version? There are situations in which you better choose a compact MIDI keyboard, for instance, when you work while traveling or have frequent and long gigs, if your home studio is a small place. Some touring musicians own 2 separate instrument sets, i.e. a home set fully configured for convenient work, and a portable and light travel set.
5. What kind of feel you expect to experience while playing? If you want to get close to the feel of a real piano, then the harder the keys are, the better. In this case the ideal option is choosing hammer-action mechanics. But take note, such keyboards are always much more expensive. Please also note that even the keyboards not imitating real piano keys are sensed differently. However, if the feel is less critical for you, you may decide to buy a flat keyboard, there are excellent options to choose.
6. Compatibility with a DAW. These days, practically all the controllers on the market are working very well with the most popular workstations. But there are devices specially tailored for the use with certain DAWs. Therefore, if you are a dedicated user of a certain software, you definitely need to pay attention to this point on your checklist.
7. Which brand do you prefer? We intentionally put this item as the last one on the list, because if you're planning to buy your first controller, you can hardly have an objective opinion about any brand. But nevertheless, pay attention that each manufacturer follows its own distinctive trend. For example, some manufacturers tend to produce multifunctional devices, while others pay more attention just to key mechanics.
Here is the list of several controllers, which, in our opinion, are the best in their category: