What we are looking for here is not the best 25-key MIDI keyboard controller, but the best mini MIDI keyboard controller for portability and travel use.
This review will tackle size, weight, build quality, keys, and added features for each individual portable MIDI keyboard. That way, you can easily slide this piece of gear in and out of your travel bag without breaking your back getting to gigs or making beats on the move.
So now, let’s get into the hunt for your next ultra-portable mini MIDI keyboard controller!
5 Best Mini MIDI Keyboards
1. Novation Launchkey Mini
Weighing in at 2.1 pounds and a footprint of 325mm width and 175mm depth, the Novation Launchkey Mini is one of the larger ultra-portable MIDI keyboards that have been included in our list.
And with all the features and workflow options, it would have been an injustice not adding this mini MIDI weapon to the review.
The Launchkey Mini is the smallest MIDI keyboard of the Novation Launchkey range. It’s even smaller than its big brother, the Launchkey 25 Mk2.
Good things come in small packages and if you’re an Ableton Live use looking for a portable solution, then it is hard to go past the Launchkey Mini.
This MIDI keyboard is packed with other excellent features on top of the 25 touch-sensitive, mini-keyboard keys.
16 backlit RGB drum pads have been included to launch clips and create drum patterns from Ableton’s famous session view and drum racks. it also has 8 rotary encoders, plus multiple buttons to access sound banks and tweak the filters and parameters of your instruments on the fly.
- Lightweight, portable
- Provides 32 RGB velocity drum pads
- Great software bundle, including, Ableton Live Lite, Addictive Keys and 4 gigs of royalty-free loops and samples.
- Custom built and midi mapped for Ableton Live users in mind
- Slightly heavier than some of its competitors
2. CME Xkey Air
The CME Xkey is unique in the fact that it supports full-sized synth-style keys. It also comes with velocity sensitivity and aftertouch.
It allows you to get that high-end MIDI keyboard and synth feel and performance out of a portable 25-key MIDI controller.
Due to the aluminum body and full-sized keys, the Xkey weighs 1.3 pounds and has a footprint of 388mm width, 135mm depth, and 16mm height.
- Lightweight and ultra-portable
- High-quality aluminum housing
- 25 keys with synth-like sensitivity and feel
- Plug and play MIDI connectivity
- Only compatible with Mac OSX and IOS
- Basic MIDI features
3. Akai Mpk Mini Mk2
Weighing in at 1.65 pounds and taking up a footprint of 317mm width and 180mm depth, the Akai Mpk Mini Mk2 is quite possibly one of the most popular portable MIDI controllers on the market today.
Akai has forged its name in the music producing scene, bringing out some of the most iconic pieces of production hardware, such as the Akai MPC MIDI keyboard controllers and they have included some of the elements inside of this mini MIDI keyboard controller.
The Mpk Mini keyboard controllers come with 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys, 8 assignable backlit MPC inspired drum pads for finger drumming, and creating patterns, that can be accessed by the two banks buttons on the controller.
This has 8 assignable knobs for manually playing with effects and instruments. It also has Akai’s new added feature, the thumbstick. It’s a replacement for the traditional mob and pitch wheel.
- Great value
- Plug and play connectivity to all major DAW’s
- 8 MPC style drum pads, plus 2 X banks
- 8 X 260-degree rotary knobs
- Adjust pitch and modulation effects
- Users have complained that the pads are not extremely sensitive
- Some time the MPC styled drum pads can trigger ghost notes
4. Akai LPK 25
The LPK25 is Akia’s bare bones ultra-portable mini MIDI keyboard controller.
Weighing in at 0.09 pounds, with a footprint of 337mm width and 96mm depth we are no moving into lightweight midi controllers that lack the bells and whistles of the Akai Mpk and Novation Launchkey Mini’s.
The LPK25 has 25 mini keyboard keys, that have a good feel and response considering the size. The keys are great for jamming up ideas and getting ideas and projects started on the go.
The LPK keyboard controllers come with buttons that allow you to octave up and down the scale of the controller, quickly go into arpeggiator and sustain mode.
- Super lightweight
- USB power / USB midi
- Plug and play with all major DAW’s
- Great Value
- Basic model
- No assignable pads or knobs
- limited pitch and modulation effects
5. Korg nanoKEY2
Korg is better known for the synths and famous effects unit the Kaoss Pad but they are now also players in the midi controller industry with their Nano series of pad and MIDI keyboard controllers.
The Korg nanoKey2 has a unique keypad system, these low profile velocity-sensitive keys, look more like buttons than traditional keyboard keys.
Don’t be fooled by the unusual keys on the naonKEY2 MIDI keyboard controllers, these keys are still playable and with 4 adjustable velocity curves, producers can customize the sensitivity to their style.
This is the lightest mini MIDI keyboard controller that we have reviewed, with a total weight of only 0.54 pounds, this is the same weight you would expect when you buy a wireless keyboard for your laptop.
The footprint of this controller is fairly standard for an ultra-portable MIDI keyboard at 325mm width and 83mm depth, but due to the low profile keys, the height is only 16mm, making the nano key super convenient for backpack and travel bag use.
- Super lightweight
- Low profile
- Low USB power usage
- 25 velocity-sensitive keys
- Non-traditional keys
- Slight clicking sound when playing the keys
So what’s the best compact, portable, lightweight midi controller for you?
Well, that depends on what you want to get done.
If you’re looking for a great value 25-key mini MIDI keyboard controller that is portable but still has all the knobs and pads to create hot tunes, then the clear winner is the Novation Launchkey Mini.
This controller is packed full of knobs, keys, banks, and buttons. Plus it’s shipped with a great software bundle to get you making beats on the run.
However, if you are in the market for the best ultra portable mini midi controller, then the clear winner is the CME XKey Air.
Compact Midi Controller: Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Finding the right ultra-portable mini MIDI keyboard controller is a personal preference and can be broken down through what your main intentions are with this piece of gear.
When it comes to anything portable, size counts. So we have found the best options for you with the smallest footprints around.
This means that your controller will take up less room in your backpack or duffel bag, take up less real estate on your home music production studio desk, and easily fit into your setup for triggering keys during your live performances.
You don’t want to be messing around with external power units while making electronic music on the road. That’s why all of the best midi controllers reviewed in this post are USB-powered and MIDI over USB.
You can simply plug and play. No drivers, no installs, and no updates, just make music and create audio art!
Due to the small size and footprint of the controller, you will not be playing full size, semi-weighted synth keys like the modern-day Beethoven.
The keys still need to be responsive and playable so that you can create ideas and jam on the move, you can always go into Ableton, or your DAW of choice when you get home.
With these, you can edit and add automation and effects to your instruments to add more movement and texture.
No doubt, your controller is going to see some action. Whether it’s about getting dragged around the country or globe getting banged around the overhead compartment and boot of the car, it’ll be perfect.
So, build quality is a concern that you have to have when you buy a portable and best mini MIDI keyboard. You should also look for additional carry cases that will fit your controller and protect it from any major damage like wear and tear that could happen to your MIDI keyboards.