With a good range of octaves available, the M-Audio AXIOM 49 MIDI keyboard has 49 semi-weighted keys. There are also eight pads that can be assigned certain values, depending on the software being used. There are also nine faders that can be assigned as well. Ableton Live Lite 4 is bundled with the MIDI keyboard, so users can start playing and recording immediately. The Enigma editor/librarian software allows users to control their libraries of patches.
While the knobs and faders give good functionality overall, users have mentioned that it can take a bit of time to learn how to program these functions. The pitch-shifting knob is also said to be a bit overly sensitive, but overall the keyboard is a great value at the price point.
This keyboard is also non-toxic — the M-Audio products are RoHS compliant (the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances criteria).
The M-Audio AXIOM 49 Advanced USB MIDI Keyboard Controller is available at Amazon for $200.
The Total Control: Akai MPK49 Keyboard USB MIDI Keyboard
Best MIDI Keyboards Under $500: Akai MPK49 MIDI Keyboard
The Akai MPK49 Keyboard USB MIDI Keyboard has twelve drum pads that comes with four different banks for the pads, allowing users to have up to 48 drum pads total. It also has eight pots, eight sliders, and eight switches that are all assignable to the software being utilized. With a modulation wheel and pitch bender, users can manipulate sound with ease. The Akai MIDI keyboard also has a tap tempo feature that allows users to manually select a speed.
While this device is very thorough in its design, it does take some time to figure out how to program every function to a user’s preferences. Some users have also complained that the drum pads aren’t as responsive as expected, but they most likely take some time getting used to in order to get rhythms correct. On the plus side, the keys themselves have been lauded for their responsiveness overall.
The Akai MPK49 Advanced USB MIDI Keyboard is available at Amazon for $340.
The Weighted: Studiologic SL-990XP 88-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller
Best MIDI Keyboards Under $500: Studiologic SL-990XP MIDI Keyboard
Studiologic’s SL-990XP MIDI keyboard provides users with the complete gamut of octaves with 88 keys. With pitch and modulation wheels, as well as 100 memory locations, the SL-990XP is made for playing. With weighted, hammer action keys, pianists and producers alike will love the natural feel of this MIDI keyboard. Users also have the option to transpose their material with the SL-990XP.
While this MIDI keyboard doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles of other MIDI controllers, it’s a great value for the range. It has inputs for volume and sustain pedals, though neither are included with the keyboard. Many users have stated after using this keyboard they find it hard to go back to un-weighted controllers.
The Studiologic SL-990XP 88-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller is available at Amazon for $380.
The Affordable: Novation XioSynth 49 MIDI Keyboard
Best MIDI Keyboards Under $500: Novation XioSynth 49 MIDI keyboard
The Novation XioSynth 49 MIDI keyboard has 49 keys, filter distortion, three oscillators, and two LFOs. There’s also a X-Gator patch programmer that’s designed to gate any patch for creating 16-32 step rhythm patterns, which synchs to a MIDI clock. There’s over 200 patches pre-installed, and well-known producers and musicians designed many of them. Users can even plug in a guitar directly to the controller for DI recording at the same time they use a microphone.
While at times the panel of the XioSynth seems a bit crowded, and at times confusing for beginners, overall the product is a great value. Some users have mentioned that the key action isn’t overly responsive, but it’s still a great value for the money.
The Novation XioSynth 49 MIDI Keyboard is available at Amazon for $400.