If you intend on creating new and diverse music using a computer, then you will need to find the best MIDI controller to keep track of all the different elements required. The term ‘MIDI’ is a musical acronym for ‘Musical Instrument Digital Interface’.
Basically, every aspect of your music production, including loops, vocals, instruments and effects, can be controlled effectively using a MIDI controller.
These controllers differ from MIDI Keyboards and synthesizers in that they are essentially an instrument to control loops and triggers, while a keyboard makes it easy to arrange notes on a track.
Owning one of the best devices makes an enormous difference to music-making, allowing multiple instruments, microphones and computers to be connected simultaneously. Some of these are handheld devices, and others are a little bulkier.
The Best Models
Specs (H x W x D)
Rating & Price
|Novation Launchpad S 64-Button Music Controller||Backlit 64-button Grid, 8 Scene-launching Buttons, Bi-directional Ableton Live Communication, Live 8 S edition bundled||0.79″ x 9.45″ x 9.45″
|Novation Launch Control||Perfect pairing to the Launch Pad, iPad compatible, 16 knobs, 8 tri-colored buttons||0.79″ x 9.45″ x 3″
|Numark Orbit||Touch-sensitive Aluminum Control Wheel, Dual-axis Accelerometer, and 16 Backlit Pads, assignable shoulder pads||.9” x 7.1” x 4.3”
|Ableton Push Controller for Live 9||64 x Multicolor Backlit Velocity/Pressure-sensitive Pads, 11 touch sensitive encoders, includes Ableton Live 9||1.02″ x 14.57″ x 11.54″
|Keith McMillen Instruments QuNeo||Inventive MIDI Control Surface with 16 x Pads, 9 x Sliders, and 2 x Rotary Sensors, Each with Multiple Zone/Pressure Detection||0.39″ x 7.28″ x 9.45″
|Livid Instruments Ohm RGB||Aftertouch, 74 performance pads, 16 pots, 9 faders, USB bus powered||2.25″ x 16.5″ x 9.5″
More about them…
One of the principal tasks of a MIDI device is to trigger a wide range of effects and sounds, and then give the user the ability to manipulate those very sounds into different forms.
Some have pre-existing banks with all the sounds pre-programmed into the best MIDI controller, and also have the ability via USB or other cables to import various downloaded sounds.
MIDI can be seen as a kind of programming language, making sounds available across all the octaves and wave-ranges, giving it in every one of it’s potential forms.
You can then choose one of these forms to incorporate into your music production. The whole synthesizing process can be compacted into a single controller which is capable of delivering instant feedback to the user concerning the status of their production.
Once you get acquainted with your new controller and many of the instruments that can be played virtually, LFO’s can be created for some phenomenal tunes via the use of filters and effects.
It is then possible to save the music data as information to either a computer or other memory storage unit for later recall.
This information is stored as number code for each save- volume, effects, filters and instrument adjustments via knobs and switches are all recorded precisely for the next time you need to work on it.
Who are MIDI controllers designed for?
These types of controllers come in all shapes, modes, layouts and software capabilities. Finding the best device for you all depends on what you are going to use it for.
If you already make use of a home set-up or a studio rig, then something which can slot into your existing needs is going to be favorable.
The range of professional controllers on the market is huge at the moment, and it can be a tough choice when it comes to the extensive and varied features offered.
If you are already playing and composing music at a serious level, then you will be comfortable with all the associated terminology, and you’ll be able to decide more quickly what you want.
For those of you who are just starting out on your own synthesizing adventures, with maybe some computer software or an iPad application, deciding on the right model can be somewhat overwhelming.
Reading the reviews and opinions in the best device forums will give newbies a better idea of what they need to be purchasing.
What’s included on a MIDI controller?
It can be composed of knobs, buttons, switches, sliders or pressure pads. These give you ultimate control over your music production, some being more finely tuned than others for a more specific sound.
It’s up to you which method (or combination of methods) you prefer to use. The most popular being the traditional knobs, followed shortly after by the backlit button types and then sliders and switches.
The effects that you can create using a controller of this kind are amazing: reverbs, loops, EQ, echoing, distortion and many more.
The banks of these presets come with the controller, and you simply have to choose which one you want to trigger and modify.
Additional sounds can be added from memory sticks if it’s USB ready, or played through a computer into the device through the various input/output cables.
What MIDI’s are available right now?
It can be hard to find the best model to suit your needs exactly, so we have compiled a list of some of the finest pieces of non-keyboard MIDI controllers available to purchase on the market today.
Novation Launchpad S 64-Button Music Controller – $249
The Novation Launchpad S 64-Button Music Controller made the best model list because this device is perfect for using in connection with Macs and PCs, with additional iOS features on it too.
The weight has been significantly reduced from previous models, making it a top choice for someone looking for high portability.
This can be to or from the studio or as a piece taken to live performances that can be quickly utilized to your advantage.
Powered by USB, it can be plugged in and used just about anywhere there is a power source- some have even charged their laptops and then plugged the Launchpad in through it.
You can use it cross channels, up to 8 at the same time, and it comes equipped with the Novation Bass Station.
Novation Launch Control – $99
The Novation Launch Control is fully compatible with all major DAW software, including the popular Ableton Live software.
It boasts 8 touchpads which let users sample their beats and create/trigger cool loops. The pads on this model are backlit so you can see the status of all your effects and sounds at a quick glance.
You are able to maintain total control over the many parameters with sixteen different mixing and editing knobs.
There is adequate storage for the templates you design in the large memory bank it possesses, which can be easily recalled when needed.
Hook up this device to you PC, laptop or Mac computer through the USB port with included cable. At just 240mm x 118mm x 23mm, this is extremely portable and great for slipping in a rucksack.
The Novation Launch Control might just be the best device for you!
Numark Orbit – $99
The Numark Orbit an ultra-modern and cool little device, it features sixteen colour pads that are touch-sensitive for that extra level of control.
There is an adjustable wheel in the centre to monitor effects and faders in a sleek and elegant aluminium style.
It can be used over wireless in the home, studio or at a live performance with 2.4GHz- user tested to be of low-latency.
For the professional or budding DJ, this can be slung round your neck whilst you spin the decks or clipped onto your waist.
It can be used equally as well flat on a surface with the tapping pads giving extended performance. In this position. It is compatible with most PCs and other music you wish to introduce to this model.
It comes pre-equipped with the great Orbit DJ (a music editing software) and the MIDI editor can also be downloaded free of charge.
A USB-rechargeable Lithium-ion battery is included on this model, so it’s always ready to go straight from charge up to 5 hours.
Ableton Push Controller for Live 9 – $599
The contemporary and minimalistic design of the Ableton Push Controller is proving a huge selling point for this model.
Unlike others before it, it is capable of of performing to much higher standards than others in the same price range.
This immense control has come at a weight price- over 6.5lbs- which also makes it heavier than the competitors.
Simple colours prevent confusion, and the Push has an eight by eight grid of RGB lights on pressure pads for you to use as visual feedback.
The eleven touch-sensitive encoders also light up when necessary, giving you great parameter power in a few taps.
This particular model has a touch strip that is mounted vertically on the device for easy editing. It is relatively small and ‘hand-friendly’, measuring at just 14.5” x 11.5” x 1”
Keith McMillen Instruments QuNeo – $249
The Keith McMillen Instruments QuNeo is highly compatible with many other MIDI-enabled devices, with USB cables provided.
16 drum-style pads allow musicians to have complete control with simplicity at every turn, launching samples and loops instantly.
Changing the operations and functions of the device has been improved in this new model, with 9 sensitive sliders to choose from.
It can be connected to other inputs like a mic, and Apple products too such as an iPad. It’s incredibly lightweight at under 1lb, with pint-sized dimensions.
This makes the QuNeo one of the more portable and storable of the best models available to purchase.
Livid Instruments Ohm RGB – $549
The Livid Instruments Ohm RGB is packed with over eighty buttons that are backlit with colour LEDs for a simple visual feedback.
The smooth and beautiful design of aluminium and mahogany works well together, giving a high-class and professional exterior.
Tools are available to customize your talk-back programming for the LEDs, and infinite possibilities with the Ohm Editor.
Additional packs and jacks can be used to extend the functions of the Ohm controller, and connects to anything with a USB.
Quite heavy at around 6lbs, it’s not that portable but is a hefty tool that brings your studio productions to life. Dimensions are still quite small for the power it packs: W 17” x D 9.5” x H 2.25”.
Remember! When searching for the best MIDI controller, you’ll want one that feels right to you and your needs. It’s always worth doing your due diligence to make sure you end up with a product that will be a good match to the user!