The best fully-weighted MIDI keyboard controller brings us not only one of the most popular uses of music technology in MIDI, but also some amazing keys to really emulate that feel of ivory in our hands that we all love. It’s unfortunate that one of the biggest drawbacks of ‘normal’ MIDI keyboards is their key-make — it’s just too expensive for consumer-friendly brands to create an actual ‘affordable’ MIDI keyboard with a higher-end keybed. There are however a few gems out there that we were able to roundup for our readers, so here’s what we’ve found in the best MIDI keyboards with fully-weighted keys below.
What are fully-weighted keys?
For those who are unaware, we’ll dive a little into what MIDI keyboards put into consideration when it comes to the actual creation of their keys. An important term to understand is called ‘action types’, and there are three popular ones at out there. We have the ever-so popular ‘synth action’, which is what a majority of MIDI keyboards out there have when you search for them online. It feels more like an electric organ with light spring-loaded keys and come back to their position they rest in more quickly than others. It makes MIDI controllers a whole lot more affordable if you go this route.
Next, semi-weighted action’ puts in a little more resistance on the keys to bring us somewhere in the middle, which is a good option for those who need balance of key quality and affordability. However after that we get into our concern here today — ‘weighted hammer action’, albeit we wanted initially just ‘fully-weighted’. So we focused on the latter but still wanted to keep ‘hammer’ into consideration here today because they’re a close solution and there really were only a few models out there not considered a ‘digital piano’ that had fully-weighted keys. Both will be viable in regards to being at the top of the MIDI keyboard key chain but also will also depend on your preference.
There actually is a difference between ‘weighted’ and ‘hammer action’ and we’ll highlight it before we move on. Hammer action gets a little more into detail when it comes to replicating an acoustic piano, by having heavier bass keys and some lighter touch in the treble. Weighted keys on the other hand are completely balanced and have the same amount of heaviness through out the bed.
The reason they are so rare is because MIDI keyboards don’t have strings or actual hammers built-in to their body to truly replicate a piano — it just would cost way too much before it just becomes a literal piano. So instead some brands do their best at mimicking this in their own way, such as putting in little weights into the MIDI keyboard or other maneuvers to give us the feel we need.
Finding the best fully-weighted MIDI keyboards
Finding the right MIDI keyboard can get tricky, but at least right now we have one of the most important parts figured out — the type of keybed (and you’re getting the best choice with fully-weighted). Aside from that, your budget is number one here, and we’ll come straight out of the gate and be real — most of these are near the thousand-dollar mark. To justify this, you’re getting a controller that’s going to last you years, perhaps even a decade. Of course we won’t promise that longevity but at the same time, if you take care of this it’s going to be the hallmark of your setup, regardless of what type of music you’re making (it’ll deteriorate faster if you travel with it or perform, but you can do your best).
In regards to key counts, we’re only getting the option of 88 here, which in our opinion is perfect considering it’s the full piano bed. There are not any smaller solutions with fully-weighted or hammer action keys at this time in the MIDI keyboard game. Our best 88-key MIDI keyboard guide has some other models that aren’t fully-weighted if you want to save some money.
A brief highlight before we move on is talking about buttons, knobs, and pads. Many MIDI keyboards come with assignable options above your keys or in control centers located on the MIDI keyboard controller itself. Is this important to you? The reason we ask is because this may help you save some money. We personally enjoy the extra additions especially for getting ready to go on stage, but we also know other friends who are musicians who don’t care about these and just want what’s most important — keys!
We of course always recommend going to a local shop and trying out some keyboards yourself. Especially when it come to keys and spending upwards of nearly a grand on a controller, it’s a good idea to just get a feel for them in person instead of trusting online articles to explain them in subjective terms. However, we understand you can’t always do that, so we’ll do our best to help you out today.
The best MIDI keyboards with weighted keys
Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII
- 88 key hammer-action keybed
- Aftertouch, velocity-sensitive
- 16 backlight RBG performance pads
- Control bank includes assignable nine (9) rotary knobs and nine (9) faders
- Integration with Arturia VST\effects software
- DAW presets with magnetic control overlays
- Four (4) CV/Gate outputs
- Expression, sustain and three (3) assignable aux pedal inputs
- Software bundle: Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab software, Piano V, Wurli V, Vox Conentental V
- Weight: 32.4 lbs.
We were just talking to a professional composer we met the other night at a dinner birthday party. We were picking apart his brain when it came to software, such as his DAW, effects and VST’s. However we also wanted to at least keep in mind what controller he used and voila, he showed us this bad boy on his phone. We just so happened to be in the middle of writing this article and although it’s not first just because of him, it was the nail in the coffin because it all just comes down this being the best quality for the money. We’ve heard of KeyLabs before him but also wanted to highlight why we think this is beautiful for you all.
As you can see from the features list, it really shows how much this fully-weighted MIDI keyboard offers, and for those who want to get deep into researching, the actual key-bed here is called a ‘Fatar TP100LR‘. There are also some super nifty side features that make this great, such as chord memory, chord transpose, modular control (if you have any analog gear you want to rack with this thing — especially great for performers), and overlays for a lot of the popular DAWs out there (Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Ableton to name a few). The control with CV/gate also allows you to adjust pitch, gate, and modulation. Not to mention the insane software bundle you’re getting. Just a bunch of essential features and even some bells and whistles for those who want them, but regardless just the build of the Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII hammer-action MIDI keyboard controller alone is worth it. That software package is super hefty, too.
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88
- 88 key hammer-action Fatar keybed
- Intuitive integration with N.I. VST and FX
- Two (2) color screens (high-res)
- Dedicated function buttons
- Four-directional push encoder
- Light guide for visual feedback
- Software bundle: Komplete 12 Select
- Pitch, mod wheels, and touch-sensitive strip
- ‘Smart Play’ feature (stay in key, chord mode, etc.)
- N.I. VST and FX pre-mapped into the hardware
- Intuitive tagging system (to retrieve sounds)
- Weight: 29.1 lbs.
Up next we have another huge behemoth in the music equipment world in general, and this fully-weighted MIDI keyboard is definitely expensive but well worth the money if it pertains to a particular few of you readers out there. First and foremost we only recommend Kontrol S88 to those who are going to be using their Native Instruments sounds and DAW — the integration and seamless workflow with this is everything. Don’t get us wrong, it’s going to work well with other sounds and DAW but at the end of the day is going to be a waste of money since a lot of this cost is hiked up because of how many knobs buttons and faders there are that work particularly just for their own Native Instruments software. The seamless integration is what is really priceless here, and that all depends on your recording and performing style if it’s what you even need.
The software here is killer, as Komplete 12 Select has more sounds and FX than we can count. So buying this will also save you a ton of money, or add further to your huge collection of sounds (is enough ever enough?) Again many bells and whistles here, such as the two screens up front (if you don’t need them, pass on it. If you do, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 is great for really controlling your DAW at your fingertips). Keep in mind they have some other key counts but definitely no hammer or fully-weighted.
- 88 fully-weighted hammer action keys
- Control up to 72 parameters (with the knobs, faders and pads)
- MPC Note Repeat and MPC Swing
- Built-in arpeggiator
- Sixteen (16) assigable MPC drum pads
- Key Split and transport controls
- MPC Full Level, Tap Tempo, Time Division
- Weight: 67 lbs.
We’ve been using Akai MPK controllers for a decade, and we’re no strangers to the tank their entire MPK series of MIDI keyboards are. This brings us back down to Earth in regards a little more of a simpler solution to a fully-weighted MIDI keyboard controller. It’s first and foremost a couple hundred bucks cheaper than the our previous two picks, so if you’re into something more budget-friendly but still able to handle our main need in some nice keys and essential controller features, this is a good pick for you.
We have Q-Link control section (eight knobs with three banks, eight faders for a total 72 assignable controls), 16 assignable pads (these aren’t just any pads either, they’re the legendary MPC pads), and a few other nifty additives like key split and note repeat. Not too crazy of ‘extra’ features albeit we still get some nice assignable pads, knobs and buttons, and not too bad of a software bundle with Ableton Live Lite Akai Pro Edition and VIP 3.0 software if you don’t have a DAW already (yes everybody is making their own now and throwing it in their gear’s package). Or perhaps you just want to explore the sounds in there, but again we aren’t buying the Akai MPK88 MIDI keyboard for anything aside from balancing affordability and a great build.
Roland A-88 MK2
- 88 key PHA-4 Standard Keyboard
- USB-C connectivity
- RGB-lit controls
- MIDI 2.0 compatible
- Three user-definable zones
- Pitch/mod lever
- Sustain pedal in put (plus two other assignable pedal inputs)
- Built-in advanced arpeggiator
- Chord memory
- Eight (8) multipurpose assignable pads
- Custom control in Roland app
- Weight: 35 lbs.
We just published our Roland A-88 MKII review and felt it worthy to be in this article, and in fact it inspired us to write this guide in the first place because we were curious about the fully-weighted and hammer-action MIDI controller competitors out there. You don’t have a super hefty software bundle or integration with your DAW, but what’s most important in our opinion is the fact that Roland designs and builds are no joke. This one has actual wood in the make and the keys are super naturalistic.
It’s up there in regards to price if you’re willing to spend a grand or so, but what you’re really getting this for is the upgraded features that are keeping up with the times, such as USB-C connectivity and MIDI 2.0 compatible (still isn’t out yet but when it is, it’ll be a game changer). You of course get your essential assignable pads and some knobs and levers to boot. Again, the A-88 MK2 is highly recommended for those who prioritize build and design and don’t care about extra side features to mess around with.
M-Audio Hammer 88
- 88-key fully-weighted, hammer-action keybed
- USB-MIDI connection
- 5-Pit MIDI out to pair
- Mod, pitch bend and volume controls
- Multiple keyboard zones
- 4-note chord with single presses
- Sustain, expression and soft pedal inputs
- iOS compatible
- Software bundle: Ableton Live Lite, DB-33, Velvet, Eight-Eight Ensemble, Skoove, Hammer 88 Preset Editor
- Weight: 38.5 lbs.
Here is the cheapest fully-weighted MIDI keyboard controller of the bunch, and we’re loving this solution if you wanted a very affordable MIDI keyboard with a higher-end key make and overall build. M-Audio is under the same branch as Akai with InMusic, and they’ve also paired it up with some of their software to give us at least a little bit of love. The software here however we’re big fans of, considering they cover all of the bases with a little bit of a DAW, some sounds and even a little preset editor to boot.
This is an efficient MIDI keyboard to buy for those who don’t want to spend a ton of money, and is just about half the price of a lot of other models in this guide. It also has a nice rest if you need to put some sheet music in front of you to play and practice remotely. No, not many bells and whistles at all — in fact, no assignable faders, knobs or even pads, but who needs those anyway? If you just need some nice keys to play on and don’t want to waste time with pizzazz, the Hammer 88 is your bet.
Studiologic SL88 Grand
- 88 TP/40WOOD graded hammer-action keys
- Triple switch detection system
- Four (4) programmable touch modes
- Four (4) programmable zones
- Six (6) editable velocity curves
- 250 programs with 12 program groups
- Three (3) programmable sticks
- Rotating encoder for controlling navigation
- Three (3) function buttons
- Two (2) switch pedals, one (1) continuous and one (1) universal
- Weight: 45.8 lbs.
Last but not least as the best fully-weighted MIDI keyboard controller, here’s a great solution for something super authentic in regards to the actual ‘feel’ of the keys, not just the ‘action’. These in particular have actual ivory touch and wooden keys for a super natural feel, not just weighted plastic. Although advanced in build, it isn’t too heavy and can act as portable if needed. We always recommend keeping pricey MIDI keyboards like this in the studio but of course if you’re performing and really are into the feel while you give others a show, be our guest. It’s made of a rugged metal casing and the key-bed is ‘TP40 wood‘.
Not necessarily a ‘popular brand’ here, but the SL88 Grand showed up in a lot of our research while we were writing this and it’s reputation was very encouraging. But you’re also getting some extra features on the side, with a few highlights including a small color display for navigation of the keyboard’s functions as well as switching through the four available zones. There are also three X/Y controllers for sound parameter manipulation and what’s called a ‘magnetic rail system’ for a note stand or extension plate. Paired up with the build, the Studiologic SL88 Grand is top notch when it comes to the material of keys and is highly recommended for those who really care about the feel of what’s under their fingertips.