The best MIDI controller for Pro Tools

Pro Tools is a revolutionary tool that has changed the course of music in the past few decades. Like any other popular DAW out there, Pro Tools works best when connected to a suitable MIDI controller.

As one of the most popular digital audio workstations (DAWs) in the world, Pro Tools does not get as much love on the internet as it deserves. Rarely will you find beginners recording themselves on YouTube making beats on the platform. Over the years, Pro Tools has come to identify itself with serious industry-grade performance due it its sheer user-friendliness. Without further ado, let us delve into this article and find out which are the best MIDI controllers for Pro Tools.

Here is a list of the best MIDI controllers for Pro Tools. We have keenly picked those that are versatile and easy to use.

The best MIDI keyboard for Hardware synths

Model name
Number and type of keys
Connectivity
Check on Amazon
Akai Pro Advance 49
49 velocity-sensitive semi-weighted keys
USB port
Arturia Minilab MKII 25 Slim-key controller
25 velocity-sensitive slim keys
USB
Akai MPK249
49 semi-weighted and touch-sensitive keys with aftertouch
USB MIDI
Alesis v49
49 full-sized and velocity-sensitive keys
USB
Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2
49 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
USB

Akai Pro Advance 49 – A professional Midi controller for the studio

As one of the best MIDI controllers in the world, the Akai Pro Advance 49 MIDI keyboard possesses a decent set of features, proven and reliable performance, as well as a wallet-friendly price tag.

Specs

  • 49 semi-weighted, and velocity-sensitive keys
  • 4.3″ TFT color screen for real-time data
  • Eight endless knobs and RGB pads
  • Akai VIP software included

Powered by a USB, the Akai Pro Advance 49 MIDI keyboard has 49 keys, an in-built high-resolution screen that provides 1:1 real-time information and relatively supports AAX plug-ins. Akai’s VIP software catalogs all your VST synths and instruments, and it also allows you to select them right from the screen. The integration of the MIDI controller with Pro Tools is relatively smooth as Pro Tools recognizes the keyboard. However, you will still have to fiddle around with key mappings to get maximum performance.

The MIDI controller’s keybed consists of velocity-sensitive and semi-weighted keys, meaning its keys are quite responsive and feel like those of a real piano. Some of its other controls include 8 endless control knobs and 8 RGB pads.

Pros

  • Responsive keybed
  • Useful and beautifully designed color screens
  • Great feel of knobs and pads

Cons

  • Pricey

Verdict

If you are looking for a serious MIDI controller with a particularly small footprint, and you have limited space in your studio, the Akai Pro Advance 49 is an ideal option. It offers you an attractive color screen that allows you to play monitor-free music as well as an adequate keyboard for entering chords and melodies.
 

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Arturia Minilab MKII 25 Slim-key controller – A premium quality MIDI keyboard

The Arturia Minilab MKII MIDI keyboard is a stylish and compact controller that is built to last and has a unique design. It is a small and portable studio that fulfills every producer’s dream.

Specs

  • 25 velocity-sensitive slim keyboard
  • Mass weight of 3.3lbs with dimensions of 14”*8.7”*2”
  • 16 rotary encoders
  • 8 top-quality pressure and velocity-sensitive pads with two banks and RGB backlighting
  • 8 user presets
  • Sustain pedal jack input
  • Octave up and down
  • USB-powered and USB MIDI class-compliant
  • Modulation and pitch bend wheel has two capacitative touch sensors
  • It comes with a Kensington security slot

Arturia Minilab MK2 MIDI controller has a wealth of compelling features at an affordable price. It comes with 25 velocity-sensitive keys that work exceptionally well in conjunction with its included UVI Model D Grand Piano. The controller also has a footswitch jack input for adding a sustain pedal.

The Minilab MK2 also features 16 rotary knobs, with two of them clickable, ideal for messing around with synth parameters. Its eight drum pads serve as preset selectors and integrate seamlessly with the Analog Lab software as well as Ableton Live Lite. The pitch bend and modulation wheel are touch-sensitive slide pads, ensuring you do not damage the keyboard as you remove it from your backpack.

Pros

  • Slim, compact, and premium quality build
  • Two touch-sensitive strips for pitch bland and mod wheel
  • 2 banks and eight drum pads
  • Comes loaded with bundled software
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No external power input as well as no MIDI in and out ports

Verdict

If you are looking for a versatile and highly portable MIDI keyboard, the Arturia Minilab MK2 is an ideal choice. It truly stands out from the pack with its 16 rotary knobs, eight velocity-sensitive drum pads with RGB lighting, as well as its solid construction.
 

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Akai MPK249 – A multipurpose MIDI keyboard

For the last several decades, Akai is known for making production tools, drum machines, and keyboards. Similarly, the Akai MPK249 is an independent music production house with in-built DAW controllers.

Specs

  • 49 full-sized semi-weighted, and touch sensitive keys
  • 16 pads with 4 sound banks
  • 8 sliders and 8 knobs
  • It has a variety of DAW controls
  • USB MIDI ports
  • iOS compatibility via Apple Camera Kit
  • dimensions of 29”*12.25” (L*W) and total mass weight of about 13lbs

The Akai MPK249 offers you everything you wish for from a MIDI controller. Whether it is its full-sized and semi-weighted keys or its aesthetically pleasing design or tons of control options, this MIDI keyboard has it all. It hosts 49 full-sized and touch-sensitive keys with aftertouch, 16 RGB MPC pads, a backlit LCD screen, MPC-style note repeat and 24 Q link controllers, including knobs, faders, and switches.

The MPK249 integrates reasonably well with major DAWs available in the market, like Logic Pro, and Ableton. However, this MIDI keyboard requires you to preset its settings on the device and the music software’s database.

Pros

  • Keys are wide and comfortable to play for long periods
  • MPC-quality pads that enhance the music production experience
  • Plug-and-play functionality due to its DAW controls and high-quality LCD screen
  • Affordable
  • Impressive build quality

Cons

  • Its aftertouch is not very sensitive and its semi-weighted keys are somewhat tough to press
  • The small size of pads

Verdict

The Akai MPK249 has an excellent keyboard and is well-built. Its fantastic features ensure you have all you need to create the ideal home music studio.
 

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Alesis V49 – Best value and top-quality MIDI keyboard

Despite its slightly expensive price tag, the Alesis V49 Midi controller is packed with plenty of features, versatile performance, and incredible functionality.

Specs

  • 49 full-sized velocity-sensitive keys
  • 8 LED-backlit pads
  • 4 assignable knobs and buttons
  • Pitch and mod wheels
  • USB bus-powered
  • Total weight of 9.5lbs and dimensions of 37.6”*9.6”*4.5”

With 49 full-sized keys, eight pads, and four rotary knobs and banks, the Alesis V49 MIDI keyboard features impeccable functionality and adjustability. The keyboard allows the more adventurous musician to expand their full melodic range by offering options to play chords, melodies, and bass lines. Its buttons and pads are backlit with blue neon LED light, giving it a beautiful appearance while allowing you to launch finger drum or clips with incredible response.

Alesis V49 effortlessly and seamlessly integrates with your music software. With a single USB connection, the keyboard receives both MIDI and power functionality, enabling you to easily connect to your computer or Mac device and start making music. The controller allows you to easily plug-and-play with Garageband, without necessarily having to install drivers or the latest updates. It also comes with premium software, such as a Professional Software Suite with Pro Tools, Ableton Live Lite 9, and XpandI2, which is a major plus.

Pros

  • A functional keyboard that feels great and is fun to play
  • USB bus-powered, making it easy to carry around
  • It comes loaded with bundled software
  • USB midi that allows a plug-and-play function

Cons

  • Its drum pad has sensitivity issues

Verdict

The Alesis v49 MIDI keyboard packs a lot of value in its plastic and compact casing. The controller is quite versatile as it comes with 4-octave ranges, four assignable knobs, and pads, as well as pitch and modulation wheels.
 

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Komplete Control s49 MK2 –A pro-grade MIDI keyboard

Despite its huge price tag, the Komplete Control S49 MK2 MIDI keyboard offers incredible performance due to its superior build quality and exceptional features.

Specs

  • 49 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
  • Large mod/pitch wheels
  • Unique touch strip for expression control
  • Two high-resolution screens
  • Seamless integration with the most popular DAWs, including Pro Tools and Cubase
  • Smart backlit function keys

The S49 MIDI keyboard has two attractive high-resolution screens that make it easy to browse through monitor key parameters, sounds, or make changes at a glance. Its keybed consists of 49 semi-weighted keys with, particularly responsive aftertouch. Its keys are also backlit, allowing you to easily create different ‘zones’ on the keybed depending on your play style.

With this MIDI controller, you will feel the premium build quality on different components, like the pitch/modulation wheels, are ergonomic and of rubber, making them smoother and sturdier when using them. More so, the keyboard integrates easily with popular DAWs, including Pro Tools, Ableton, Cubase, Nuendo, Garageband, Logic, and MASCHINE.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Two bright and useful screens that aid with immense utility
  • Smooth and sturdy keys

Cons

  • Expensive

Verdict

If you are looking for a powerful and long-lasting MIDI controller for your studio, the Komplete Kontrol S49 MK2 MIDI keyboard is an ideal choice. However, due to its huge dimensions, it is best to get it up in your studio permanently.
 

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You can find a great variety of MIDI controllers for your hardware synth. Simply conduct thorough research and decide what features and functionality are most important to you.

Reviewing the best MIDI keyboard for Pro Tools

What do you look out for before putting your money down?

Number and type of keys

Different MIDI keyboards come with a different number of keys, depending on the brand and its target market. The number of keys in a Midi keyboard range from small-sized MIDI controllers (25-key) to full-sized ones (49-key, 61-key, and 88-keys). A 49-key MIDI keyboard is more suitable for beginners as it has enough keys for them to play with both hands.

If you are always on the go, it is advisable to purchase the smaller-sized MIDI keyboards as they can fit comfortably inside a standard backpack. The size of the keys also matters when it comes to playing the instrument. Short and narrow keys are likely to leave your hand feeling cramped up when playing the instrument for long durations.

There are three main types of keys in a MIDI keyboard, including:

  • Synth-action keys – those that offer little resistance and will spring back to their original position almost immediately
  • Weighted hammer keys – keys that feel like those in a traditional piano
  • Semi-weighted keys – a combination of weighted and synth-action keys, meaning that they are less resistant than weighted keys but still possess tactile feedback

Inputs and outputs

Most MIDI keyboard controllers use USB ports to transfer their MIDI data, while a few of them utilize 5-pin MIDI DIN outputs that allow external hardware, including synthesizers, to connect to your computer directly. With this type of output, you will require an additional special cable to use it.

In terms of input, some MIDI keyboards have expression or sustain pedals that provide an additional layer to your music. The pedal input allows you to connect external devices to your controller. For instance, sustain pedals achieve a unique and versatile piano-style playing experience, while expression pedals modify and control music settings of your choice.

Budget

One of the primary considerations when making any purchase is the budget. Beginner MIDI keyboards are surprisingly pocket-friendly, with prices ranging from $100 – $200. The more keys and features a controller has, the more its price tag increases. As a general rule of the thumb, stick to the higher end of your budget when buying MIDI controllers and do not spend on any additional extras that are not necessary.

Conclusion

Purchasing the best MIDI controller for Pro Tools is not an easy task. Not many MIDI controllers available in the market today integrate easily with this DAW. More so, when you find one that actually does work well with Pro Tools, you need to choose one that is most compatible with your playing style and music production needs. The MIDI controllers mentioned above are a blend of excellent functionality, proper performance, and a reasonable price tag. Pick any of them, and you will not be disappointed.

 

Peter Smith

Welcome to MusicGearAdvisor! 4 years ago I rediscovered my passion for making music and began building my own home studio. As I have gone through my journey I realized that I am just as passionate about the equipment as I am about the music. I started MusicGearAdvisor as a way for me to share my learnings with others so you can get started making music that you dream of.

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