Which Midi keyboard controller is right for me ?

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Answered by: Nicholas, An Expert in the PC Hardware and Reviews - General Category
Music production may have become easier for 'would be' musicians and producers over the past few years, thanks to all the fantastic new musical innovations and systems being created in this renaissance of the technological age, but is it really?

Deciding on the right type of equipment can be a cumbersome and confusing task for many, especially when it boils down to choosing midi keyboard controllers.

Technological advancements have made what was only possible for a music producer with a budget that would afford a place next to the Queen, now possible for the ‘average Joe’ with enough motivation and capacity to learn the ropes of production.

Buying a good midi controller can be a tough decision, especially since various brands sport what appear to be amazing features and capabilities.

Prices for midi keyboard controllers range from $100 to $2 000 and finding the dividing line between them is not always easy if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

If you are a newbie producer and you’re looking to buy something that will provide you with good control over your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), you’re going to need to look into buying something with a few midi assignable rotary knobs or faders. These are imperative in terms of controlling various sequences and parameters in your DAW or VSTis.

There are many great brands producing models with similar features and options, but it is important to check what software programs and VSTis are compatible with your keyboard. Popular brands such as M-audio, Alesis and Novation all produce keyboards which are compatible with most DAWs(Cubase,Logic,Reason, FLStudio) and well known VSTIs such as Albino, Discovery and Sylenth1 amongst others.

The M-audio Oxygen series comes at a great price of about $150 for the 49 key version and $200 for the 61 key. It’s a great price and it features 8 rotary encoded knobs and 9 assignable sliders, including dedicated transport and tracking controls and the elementary pitch bend and modulation wheels.

This may be all you need to tweak those manic leads or oscillate your swinging groove, but you could always go one step further and purchase the M-audio Axiom series which retails at around $300 for the 49 key version and $400 for the 61.

This neat little keyboard has all the same features as the oxygen but includes 8 assignable trigger pads for inserting samples or drums into your track, easily manipulated by tapping your fingers on the pads. The axiom also provides DirectLink, which automatically maps your DAW and VSTi parameters so there’s no fussing about when controlling your synths and effects.

Mapping of parameters can be rather complicated at times, but Novation has set the industry standard for ease of control with the Novation Impulse midi keyboard. It goes for around $350 for the 49 key version and $400 for the 61. The keyboard has a fantastic semi-weighted key pad that enables great precision and expression when playing. The Automap 4 feature allows you to simply map and assign your parameters with a click of your mouse. All you need do, is press the 'Learn' function on the Novation Impulse, choose the parameter you wish to assign in your DAW and tweak a knob. It's that easy!

All of these controllers are great, but the Novation is by far the easiest to handle, the best quality and most aesthetically pleasing. If you're looking to control your VSTi and DAW parameters with ease, these controllers will take you where you need to go. Remember that paying the highest price doesn't always mean you're receiving the best. These keyboards are great value for money and will suit all your needs for a decent production.

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