Welcome to our 2023 edition of the best MIDI keyboards for iPad and Mac. With the reveal of Logic Pro for iPad earlier this month (it’s about time Apple) and its upcoming official launch on May 23, 2023, it seems a fitting time to go over some new releases and the best hardware keyboard controllers to really put the new mobile version of Apple’s flagship music software to work. The touch interface on Logic Pro for iPad looks fantastic thus far, but there’s nothing quite like getting hands-on with a MIDI keyboard when it comes to playing chord progressions, writing riffs and melodies, banging out beats on some bonus drum pads, and supplementing the touchscreen controls with assignable control pots. So let’s take stock of the newest releases as well as some mainstays still worth your time (and money) as part of our 2023 edition of the best MIDI keyboards for iPad and Mac.
Best MIDI keyboards for iPad and Mac – AKAI
Personal favorites, bonus backlit drum pads, expanded I/O potential
AKAI’s MPK lineup has long been some of my favorite models out there, from the MPK 225/249/261 to more compact options, but it has released a few new models in the last year to offer some of the best MIDI keyboards for Mac and iPad users on-the-go and in the home studio. After the launch of its speaker and OLED screen-equipped MPK Mini Play MK3, it unveiled its first MPC Key 61 all-in-one production rig with a multi-touch display before an updated version of “the world’s most popular controller keyboard”’” with new MPK Mini Plus.
- 37-Key MPK Mini keybed
- RGB MPC Pads
- Built-in 64-step sequencer
- Three 1/8″ (3.5mm) CV Outputs
- Two 1/8″ (3.5mm) CV Clock In/Out
- Two MIDI DIN In/Out Ports
- Sustain Pedal input
- Chords and Scales modes
- Power via USB Type-B (Bus-powered or connected to wall adapter)
Eschewing the onboard speaker and built-in sounds on the latest Play model, the MPK Mini Plus strikes a nice balance between a fully-featured keyboard and a particularly compact solution at a relatively affordable price. You are certainly looking at miniature keys here and we do have some below that will deliver a portable setup with larger keys, but AKAI has loaded the Mac, iPhone, and iPad MIDI keyboard controller with backlit drum pads, its notable joystick style modulation controller, pitch and modulation wheels, CV I/O for modular users, and even a built-in sequencer, among other things. Get more details in our launch coverage.
iRig Keys 2
Good bang for your buck, various size options, and loads of cable connectors included in the box (USB-C, USB-A, Lightning)
If you’re looking to score a new MIDI keyboard controller for iPad (they also work with Mac and iPhone), the the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2 lineup is worth a look. Not only are they on the more affordable side when it comes to relatively recent releases, but they also include all of the connection cables just about any Apple gear user could need. Whereas some of the bigger music production brands will require an adapter or hub to go straight into the USB-C jack on your iPad, IK ships everything in the box:
- Lightning to micro-USB connection cable
- USB-A to micro-USB connection cable
- USB-C to micro-USB connection cable
- 2.5mm TRS male to MIDI female adapter
The iRig Keys 2 lineup on display here delivers “improved compatibility for the latest mobile devices, full MIDI input and output, and multiple power options” as well as a suite of added assignable control knobs and your usual octave switchers, pitch bend wheel, and modulation wheel. They don’t have the drum pads you’ll find from AKAI above (that’s what its iRig Pads MIDI groove controller is for), but they do provide the most important elements of a MIDI keyboard controller otherwise and are also available in three different models. The mini, obviously the more portable of the bunch, delivers a particularly small set of 25 springy keys with very little throw (in my experience), the mid-tier option takes it up to 37 keys, and the pro variant trades out the miniature keys for 25 “full-size” synth action pushers.
Best MIDI Keyboards under $110
Or go wireless – Best Bluetooth MIDI keyboards for Mac and iPad
As we touched on above, folks using a USB-C iPad like the latest Airs and Pro models (the new Logic Pro for iPad requires an A12 Bionic chip or higher) will be ready to go out of the box or with a basic USB-A to USB-C adapter you can pick up cheap on Amazon or elsewhere. Lightning-equipped DAW hosts (the latest iPhones and some iPad models) can leverage the old trusty Apple connection kit. Or, you can forget all of the cables and go with a completely wireless Bluetooth option that can be really convenient with iPad and iPhone-based Logic Pro and GarageBand setups:
- CME Xkey Air 25-key $229
- CME Xkey Air 37-key $329
- Full-sized, velocity-sensitive keys
- Polyphonic aftertouch
- Rechargeable battery
- Aluminum Build
- Korg nanoKEY 2 $60
- Very small keys
- KORG Wireless microKEY Air from $125
- Runs on AA batteries
- Multi -size options
- optional USB connectivity
- Includes KORG Gadget 2 and Module studio and instrument apps
The wild wonderful world of Osmose – a whole new approach to expressive multi-touch musical performance
As far as I’m concerned, no good roundup of the best MIDI keyboards for iPad and Mac in 2023 is complete without a section for Expressive E’s wild and wonderful Osmose. While this one is in many ways a standalone instrument, loaded with its own sounds plus a combination of simple-to-use macro sound shaping tools and an incredibly deep editor, it is also one of the most interesting and unique controller keyboards on the market. It can run as a typical instrument or synthesizer you might connect to your system with USB and/or audio cables, but it also features a series of MIDI controller modes for use as a typical piano-style controller (like those mentioned above) as well as options that allow users to leverage is incredible MPE action.
Presenting a more or less familiar piano keyboard setup, this expressive instrument is a whole lot more than that. You can wiggle the keys from side to side to create vibrato (and a whole range of other interesting sounds), you can create strumming effects on a single key by carefully cascading through velocity triggers, make use of particularly versatile aftertouch modulations and glides, you can even sort of pump the keys to trigger various tonal changes in the sound. it’s hard to put into words, but it’s easily one of the coolest steps forward in the MIDI game in years while still maintaining a familiar form-factor and worth a look even if you don’t plan on forking out the $1,799 it’ll cost to secure one of these magical multi-touch keyboard controllers.
You can hold one now via the official site or wait for stock at B&H and other official dealers.
Best MIDI Keyboards for Mac 2023 Edition – Honorable Mentions
It’s honestly hard to go wrong with any of the options in our 2023 edition of the best MIDI keyboard controllers for iPad, iOS, and Mac. So don’t think of the following options as worse than any of the models above, just some additional options that might have some specific features you’re after, match your room better, or just look nicer to you aesthetically. While some have been around for a bit, they are just as useful as they always have been.
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 MKII $449
- Nektar GXP49 Controller $150
- Nektar GXP61 Controller $225
- M Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3 $59
- Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 $110
- Arturia KeyStep Pro 37-Key Controller $440
Everyone is going to have their own preferences here, but we tried to offer up a range of options across various price points above. AKAI is a great brand for just about all platforms, IK Multimedia delivers all of the connectivity cables in the box to help avoid needing to use a hub of some kind, and there are some notable wireless models out there from KORG, CME, and others. Here are some great places to start for both iPad and Mac setups:
AKAI MPK Mini Plus
AKAI MPK Mini Play MK3
iRig Keys 2 Mini
Arturia MiniLab 3
CME Xkey Air 25-key
According to Apple, Logic Pro for iPad will allow users to “plug in [their] favorite gear using compatible third‑party audio interfaces, MIDI interfaces, and controllers from leading manufacturers like Apogee, Focusrite, Novation, Universal Audio, and more.” It also adds that “MIDI controllers with Logic Pro for iPad requires devices compatible with iOS and iPadOS.”
Simply tap the Settings button in the control bar, go to Advanced and hit Bluetooth MIDI Devices. Then find the name of your device and set the Connect switch on.
The aforementioned AKAI MPK series models are easily some of the best new releases that have launched in the last year, especially when it comes to affordability. But it’s hard to overlook the new Seaboard Rise 2 and the Expressive E Osmose for folks looking to take it up a notch and get into the wonderful world of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression).
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