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Making Tunes While You Travel — The Five Best Portable MIDI Keyboards

best midi keyboards

Searching for the best portable MIDI keyboards? In an ideal world, every musician would have ample space to recreate the songs buzzing in their brains. However, unless you’ve already got a few Grammys, you probably don’t have access to an ultra-modern recording studio. 

Thankfully, technology can help today’s music producers create exceptional tracks without requiring a ton of desk space. If you have a high-quality portable MIDI keyboard, you can record and play music wherever life takes you. 

The Best Portable MIDI Keyboards For On-The-Go Composition

While these devices are small, they come packed with enough features to help you “stay in tune” while traveling. A high-quality portable MIDI keyboard can transform any hotel room into a symphonic hall. You just have to figure out which MIDI keyboard best fits your preferences. 

Akai MPK Mini

We’ll start our list with the most popular mini MIDI keyboard: Akai’s MPK Mini. While this portable MIDI device has been around for years, it continues to be a favorite choice due to its low price tag, sturdy build, and wealth of additional features. 

Each Akai MPK Mini has 25 velocity-sensitive keys, an arpeggiator, and eight assignable knobs. The Akai MPK Mini also has an OLED screen to identify each knob, but some users complain this feature isn’t super intuitive. 

What most MPK Mini users agree on, however, is the drum pads. These eight MPC pads are addicting to play and incredibly responsive to touch. If you love adding percussion to your tracks, you’ll have a lot of fun using these pads. 

Beyond its impressive hardware, the Akai MPK Mini comes with a generous software package, including SONiVOX Wobble, MPC Beats, and Hybrid 3. These software add-ons make the Akai MPK Mini a phenomenal option for beginners who are itching to “plug in and play.” 

Just keep in mind that the Akai MPK Mini is considered a “budget buy.” While it does offer many users many features, the design isn’t as sleek as higher-tier MIDI keyboards. For instance, it’s not hard to tell that the sides are plastic. A few critics don’t enjoy the feel of Akai MPK Mini’s joystick and the “clicky” sound of its buttons. 

If you’re interested in an affordable unit that offers dozens of features and a generous software package, Akai MPK Mini is a good choice. 

Features

Size: 12.5 x 7.13 x 1.75 inches

Weight: 1.65 lbs.

Keys: 25

Integration: USB

Pros

  • High-quality MPC pads. 
  • Budget price. 
  • Built-in arpeggiator. 
  • Generous software bundle. 

Cons

  • “Cheaper” aesthetic versus other MIDI keyboards. 
  • OLED screen doesn’t work as intended. 
  • Better suited for production rather than performance. 

Arturia MicroLab

While Arturia’s KeyStep garners the most acclaim from MIDI musicians, it’s not the company’s most portable unit. People who want Arturia’s famous weighted key design in a more portable package should consider the company’s MicroLab.

This 25-note MIDI keyboard comes equipped with many travel-handy features, including a wrap-around USB cable. Arturia also included an aesthetically pleasing rubber padding to protect the MicroLab from bumps on your journey. 

As for integrations, each Arturia MicroLab comes with Analog Lab Lite, which has over 600 sounds to experiment with. Users also gain access to Bitwig Studio 8-Track and a UVI Grand Piano.

On the downside, the MicroLab doesn’t have a lot of connectivity options or special features. Unlike the KeyStep, you won’t get access to an arpeggiator or sustain pedal. Plus, you could only connect via USB.

Still, considering the MicroLab’s low price and thoughtful design, this is an excellent option for musicians who don’t care about frilly features. 

Features

Size: 16.3 x 5.12 x 1.46 inches

Weight: 1.71 lbs

Keys: 25 notes

Integration: USB

Pros

  • High-quality piano key feel. 
  • Rubberized siding protects from travel turbulence. 
  • Access to Analog Lab Lite
  • Wrap-around USB cable gets rid of clutter. 

Cons

  • No integrations beyond USB/MIDI. 
  • Not “feature rich.” 
  • Poor choice for sustain pedal fans. 

Sensel Morph

If you’re into the latest music tech, then you’ve got to check out the Sensel Morph. Unlike standard MIDI keyboards, this is a tablet-like device with super-thin silicone overlays. In addition to the standard 24 keyboard option, Sensel makes overlays for tasks like video editing, drums, and studio recording. Each overlay has magnetic padding to keep it secure while you’re playing and recording. 

The company claims each of their overlays can sense 5 g – 5 kg of pressure for different effects. There are also at least 20,000 pressure controls included on the Morph. However, please remember that these keys are super thin, so you won’t get a standard keyboard experience. If you like the feel of actually striking a piano key, the Sensel Morph isn’t for you.

Also, since the Sensel Morph is such a novel technology, it’s one of the priciest options on this list. Not only is the unit itself expensive, it costs extra for each overlay you want to add to your toolkit.

On the plus side, people who use the Sensel Morph enjoy a ton of desk space and incredible functionality. You could easily integrate the Sensel Morph into Ableton Live or Bitwig Studio with Bluetooth or Micro-USB. So, if you’re game for trying something new, consider splurging on the Sensel Morph. 

Features 

  • Size: 9.4 x 6.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.61 lbs.
  • Keys: 24
  • Integration: Bluetooth and Micro-USB

Pros

  • Incredibly thin, sleek, and compact. 
  • Multiple silicone overlays to switch from applications. 
  • Integration with Ableton Live and Bitwig Studio.
  • 20,000 pressure controls.

Cons

  • You won’t get the feel of a traditional keyboard. 
  • Steeper learning curve. 
  • High price tag. 

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3

If you love working with Ableton Live, then you can’t ignore the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3. While Ableton Live isn’t the only DAW you could use with the MK3, it’s obvious Novation designed this MIDI to plug and play with Ableton’s interface.

Beyond the MK3’s seamless Ableton integration, it has many impressive features on its own. Most notably, this 25-key MIDI has a built-in arpeggiator and an intuitive Fixed Cord mode. You could also toggle the “Mutate” function to create unique sound combinations. 

Unfortunately, you will have to purchase a MIDI adapter separately. Still, considering this product is in the ~ $100 range, it’s relatively affordable for folks who want a mix of advanced features and portability. 

Features

Size: 12.99 x 6.77 x 1.61 inches

Weight: 1.52 lb

Keys: 25

Integration: USB

Pros

  • Exceptional integration with Ableton Live. 
  • Advanced features like an arpeggiator and Fixed Cord. 
  • Moderate price considering the MK3’s features. 

Cons

  • MIDI adapter not included.
  • Not ideal for non-Ableton Live users. 

ROLI Seaboard Block Studio

Artists who can’t be bothered dealing with knobs and buttons will love ROLI Seaboard’s eye-catching design. Unlike most portable MIDI keyboards, the ROLI Seaboard has indentations to demarcate each note (aka “keywaves”). You could also easily slide up and down each key on the smooth upper and lower silicone surface.

ROLI’s goal is to provide artists with a way to manipulate sound intuitively. ROLI uses 5D touch technology to automatically sense pressure and finger position so you can adjust features like timbre and volume. 

In a sense, the ROLI operates like a stringed instrument rather than a standard keyboard. Adjusting to this new design will take time, but it may help certain artists cut down on post-production editing. 

The ROLI Seaboard’s lightweight construction and Bluetooth connectivity make it a breeze to take anywhere. Users also get access to hundreds of sounds and tools via ROLI Studio and ROLI Dashboard. Fans of ROLI’s Blocks collection can integrate these devices with the ROLI Seaboard.

Due to the Seaboard’s unique design, it’s not going to suit every artist. ROLI’s Seaboard isn’t a good idea if you’re most comfortable on a traditional MIDI keyboard. However, people who feel limited by the constraints of a standard keyboard may dig the ROLI Seaboard’s intuitive tactile design. It all depends on your preferences as an artist—and your budget, of course!

Features

Size: 11 x 1 x 5.5 inches

Weight: 1.43 lbs.

Keys: 24

Integration: USB-C, Bluetooth LE

Pros

  • Distinctive 5D Touch technology for expressive playing. 
  • Lightweight and Bluetooth compatible. 
  • Access to ROLI Studio with 100s of sounds.
  • Integrates with ROLI’s Blocks for easy expansion. 

Cons

  • Not ideal for traditional keyboard feel. 
  • Expensive.
  • Learning curve involved. 
  • Keyboard’s silicone cover easily shows dust. 

What MIDI Keyboard Fits Your Musical Style? 

Every portable MIDI keyboard should help musicians create, record, and perform on the go. However, each MIDI keyboard brand achieves this goal with unique design elements. When you’re evaluating the portable MIDI keyboards listed above, please think about each model’s features versus your work preferences. 

Try your best to envision playing each MIDI keyboard in cramped settings. This should give you a good sense of which MIDI keyboard will contribute most to your creative goals. 

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to check out our post on the “Best Portable Batteries for Traveling.” After all, there’s no point having a Bluetooth MIDI if you don’t have any power! 

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