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27th April, 2022
Top 10 MIDI Controllers for DJing

Top 10 MIDI Controllers for DJing

From speakers to microphones and turntables to MIDI controllers, DJs use a lot of equipment to help them mix and create the perfect music. Whether you’re a new DJ looking to purchase your first MIDI controller or simply wanting to upgrade to a new piece of gear without having to break the bank, it can be overwhelming trying to find the right model and make.

To guide you, we’ll introduce you to what to look out for in your MIDI controller and run through 10 of the top controllers available

What is a MIDI controller?

In essence, a MIDI controller is a piece of either hardware or software that is used to create various electronic musical sounds. The acronym MIDI stands for “musical instrument digital interface”.

MIDI controllers are used to ‘play’ a variety of virtual instruments through your computer, be it a PC or MacBook. The computer software interprets the data from the controller and produces the sound you’re after.

You might see the terms MIDI controller and MIDI keyboard controller used somewhat interchangeably. Ultimately, they are the same thing: a controller is just a keyboard-like device that is used to transmit the musical data to your computer and not produce the sound itself.

Why do you need a MIDI Controller?

There are a few reasons why any ambitious or creative DJs should add a controller to their arsenal of gear.

Creativity

MIDI controllers allow for enhanced creativity as it enables you to create musical and instrumental sounds without the necessity of having tons of studio equipment.

Easy to Use

These smart pieces of technology are designed to be easy to learn and easy to use. Especially for beginner DJs, a controller can be a quick way to begin creating your own signature tracks.

Affordable

MIDI controllers range in price, but there are plenty of value-for-money options out there if you’re looking for affordability. They are certainly more cost-effective than a synth.

Efficiency

MIDI controllers are designed to complement efficient music-making. If you’re wanting to improve your workflow, a controller can help further enhance your artistic flow as well.

Customisable

There are tons of different types and models available on the market. While the range can be overwhelming, it also offers opportunities to find the custom perfect option for your preferences.

Mobility

MIDI controllers come in a selection of different sizes including compact, lightweight models that are ideal for taking with you on the road and anywhere you go.

Mixer Compatible

A great benefit of the MIDI controller is that it can work–and work well–in conjunction with your mixer.

What to look for in a MIDI Controller?

Here are some of the factors to consider before choosing your MIDI controller.

  • How many keys do you need?
  • What size MIDI controller are you after?
  • Do you need an up/down octave function?
  • What key weighting suits your needs?
  • What sort of pads, knobs, faders, and encoders are you after?
  • What other software, DAW or equipment does your MIDI controller need to be compatible with?
  • What is your budget?

Top 10 MIDI Controllers

1. AKAI Professional MPK Mini

The AKAI Professional MPK Mini is a MIDI controller that’s well known and beloved in the industry. Thanks to its small design and reasonable price, it’s popular among both amateur DJs and established professionals. Not to mention it’s killer red and black colour design.

There are numerous features that set the AKAI apart from the rest including a built-in speaker which not all controllers, especially mini ones, offer. Plus, it boasts an arpeggiator that’s intuitive to use and a joystick designed to be engaged in four ways.

2. Arturia MiniLab MkII

Continuing with the mini models, the Arturia MiniLab MkII is practical and portable yet still powerful. Again, despite its size, it doesn’t lack any of the features you need to begin making music right away.

Complementary with a wide range of music software and capable of creating an equally wide spectrum of instrumental sounds, the Arturia is a reasonably affordable piece of gear to help enhance your creative flair.

3. Novation Launchpad

The significant point of difference with the Novation Launchpad is the number of pads that it has. With 64-pads it offers enormous potential to the budding DJ and will help you remix, create, and make the music you were destined to bring to life.

Launchpads come in a variety of models, including professional and mini versions, so you can find the exact type that suits you best.

4. Seaboard RISE

The Seaboard RISE is another popular controller. This piece of equipment is among the more expensive on this list but there’s a good reason for that. The RISE takes the MIDI controller to a whole new level thanks to its pressure-sensitive keys. When you create a musical sound, the pressure sensitivity allows you to exercise a depth of control unmatched by many other controllers

5. Nektar Impact GX Mini

The Nektar Impact GX Mini is another affordably priced and very portable device. Featuring 25 sensitive keys, it’s highly customisable as you’re able to change octaves at the push of a button. Complete with a modulation joystick, USB connectivity, track navigation controls and DAW (digital audio workstation) controls, this mini device offers major advantages.

6. Nektar Impact GX49/61

The Nektar Impact GX49/61 may not offer the same portability as its mini relative, but it’s perfect for anyone wanting to stretch their full musical creativity without stretching their budget. Complete with full-scale DAW integration, 14 controllable parameters, 49 proper sized sensitive keys and transport controls, this is one speccy device.

The price of the Nektar Impact is still quite reasonable and considering that it offers seamless compatibility with a range of software, from Logic Pro X to GarageBand, it’s more than suitable for just about any artist.

7. CME XKey 25

The CME XKey 25 is another compact device that you can take wherever you go. With a seamless aluminium design, this lightweight and sleek MIDI controller offers a lot of value without all the knobs and pads of other larger models.

Designed and built to enable fast-playing, the keys are all velocity-sensitive and the pads are all pressure sensitive. Not to mention the ability to control the octave down or up, the Sustain button and its easy connectivity with a variety of music software and even through a USB cable. If you’re willing to spend, you can even opt for the wireless version.

8. ROLI Lumi Keys Studio Edition

The ROLI Lumi Keys Studio Edition is traditional in many ways–such as its keyboard layout–but it really packs a punch in terms of musical enhancement. The 24 keys offer near-limitless versatility in sound creation allowing you to wobble synth leads, create striking chord sounds, or depress the keys to sweep the long pad filler.

Designed to operate at studio levels of sound quality, the ROLI is designed for intuitive playing and can even be linked up to a second unit for a more enhanced music-making experience. One thing to note here is that this MIDI controller is significantly more expensive than others on the list, but it is easy, when you check out the specs, to see why.

9. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

The Komplete Kontrol M32 is made by one of the leaders in music equipment and technology, Native Instruments. The MIDI keyboard is a true powerhouse of both hardware and software. A little more expensive than some of the mini-MIDI controllers we’ve reviewed, this device allows you to make 2,000 pre-included sounds as well as a variety of instrumental sounds and effects.

32 keys, lightweight design and touch-sensitive control knobs all make this DAW-interactable controller intuitive and easy to use. One thing to note before committing to the M32 is that your computer will need to have sufficient processing power to keep up with all the plug-ins of the Komplete Kontrol.

10. Keith McMillen QuNexus

The Keith McMillen QuNexus may not be the right MIDI controller for everyone, but its uniqueness earned it a spot on our list. Fitted out with 25 pressure-sensitive pads rather than keyboard keys, they also offer tilt sensitivity for greater sound variety and polyphonic aftertouch. Compatible and connectable with everything, the lack of knobs also makes its design convenient for transporting in a backpack or case. There are plenty of unique music-making features as well including but not limited to an octave up and down buttons, pitch bending and secondary key functions.

One awesome design feature of the QuNexus is the backlit pads which allow for easy use no matter how much light (or lack thereof) you have.

Take Control of Your DJing with DJ City

It doesn’t matter whether you know exactly what type of MIDI controller is right for you or if you’re still confused and want to chat it over with the experts, the team here at DJ City is here to help. With countless years of cumulative DJing experience, our friendly staff are always happy to lend an ear and provide advice to ensure that whichever MIDI controller you end up choosing, you’re set to begin creating stellar tracks as soon as possible.

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