The Best 61 Key Midi Controllers 2021 Edition
While it's not entirely necessary to get the job done, a midi keyboard controller sure does make it easier to put down those ideas and vibes. Through out my years of beat making and producing I've owned quite a few midi controllers and workstations. Each with there own benefits and drawbacks. The good thing is that when it comes to controllers the draw backs are minimal. It's really the benefits I like to focus on.
What makes a controller good? The answer is in the features. How much control the board gives you over your projects with out having to grab your mouse. How easy is it to set up? I'm going to go through a few of the many options we have available to us so far in 2021 and give you my view on these. Which will hopefully help you pull the trigger on your first or replacement midi controller.
There are a ton of options so I limited this entry to the ones I feel are the best. I'll start with what I'm currently using and why I picked it.
**1. Arturia Keylab 61 MKII $499 - I went with a 61 key controller because it was the perfect size for my desk which would also allow me to keep my outboard gear at hands reach next to it. Now this particular controller isn't as compatable with Reason as I would like but I can assign parameters to the knobs and still go through my soundbanks and control the transport in DAW mode which is exactly what I need for my set up. The MCU/HUI control compatibility allows me control over my Studio One sessions which is perfect when I want to do post in there. But the Arturia Analog Lab 3 software that comes with it was a phenominal addition to my collection. The build quality is high level and the design is great. This controller is solid, sturdy and easy to use. I use it, I like it, I recommend it.
I picked one up at Guitar Center for $499.
"I chose this one because it's a great balance of the controls I need and affordability."
2. Native Komplete Kontrol S61 $779 - Very stylish and the build quality is excellent. The fatar keys have a great feel the controls are solid and the color LCD is a really nice touch. This Keyboard is awesome and was on my short list of keyboards when I was in the market for one BUT! some of the functionality I was after didn't work in Reason at the time which is my main production DAW :( . However, if you're using Komplete in Ableton, Logic pro, Garageband, Cubase, Nuendo or Studio One this thing is boss.
3. Nektar Panorama P6 $599 - The P6 (drools) is built for perfect Reason, Bitwig Studio, FL Studio and even Studio One integration. The only reason it's not on my desk right now is that I blew my budget on outboard gear lol. But it'll be my next upgrade. Why? Parameter control and Daw Integration. The P6 is able to manipulate specific RE's in reason giving you on the fly control over your sound. It also features motorized faders and a nice solid transport section which come in handy when it's time to mix down your beat for Beatstars, youtube or Traktrain. I highly recommend this Controller.
4. Novation SL MKIII 61 $699 - If you're an Ableton user this keyboard is perfect. Honestly, even if you're not an ableton user this guy has some great DAW integration. HUI compatibility means you can have control in your favorite DAW. Even Reason users can experience deep DAW integration which is great for the work flow. What I found cool is the work around for FL Studio users which can be found here. Build quality is great, the keys feel nice and sturdy and this just looks really cool on any desk. I've had limited experience with this one but from what I've been able to see for myself It's definitely a midi controller I would recommend.
Conclusion - Midi controllers for the use of just the keys are generally universal. You don't need one of these guys if that's all you're after. But if it's actual control over your work flow that you're looking for, one of the above controllers will definitely do what you need. I must warn. Before you buy one try to get to a store and play with a couple find the one you're most comfortable with and that integrates well with your DAW. Do the research before you pull the trigger. I covered 61 key full controllers in this article but I will be covering the varying types in upcoming articles so stay posted.