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With more than 10 hours of battery life at your disposal, the CME XKey 25-key Bluetooth Midi Controller is a standout choice for wireless piano playing. Powered by Bluetooth 4.0 technology, the 25-key MIDI controller offers full-sized keys alongside an aluminum body that’s similar in design and style to current MacBook models. Compatible with hundreds of free and professional apps, the CME is designed with tablets and mobile devices in mind and weighs just 1.32 pounds; it's also .62 inches thin. Adjusting important settings such as sensitivity, velocity and timing are a snap courtesy of the XKey Plus App for iOS devices. The key layout closely mirrors the octave range of a traditional piano, while each individual key is designed to provide a unique sense of touch with a customized pressure sensor that assists in maximizing performance without jeopardizing battery life.
The Korg MicroKey offers a 25 velocity-sensitive keyboard experience that’s both portable and budget-friendly. Weighing just 1.5 pounds and measuring 3 x 19 x 7 inches, the Korg is easily described as lightweight and backpack friendly. The keys themselves have been size-adjusted to optimize playability, easy chording and rapid phrase work. There’s no question Korg hasn’t skipped out on making sure this budget keyboard is maximized to offer a great playing feel.
Connecting to the iPad via the camera connection kit, the Korg is compatible with just about every app in the app store that’s piano-keyboard friendly, including GarageBand. Beyond size and connectivity, there’s a new arpeggiator on-board, as well as a modulation joystick that’s both comfortable to use and responsive. The Korg itself may be a slightly older model having been released in 2012, but, for the price, there are few options that perform as well or offer the same price-to-feature ratio as the Korg Microkey.
Measuring 16.46 x 4.13. x 0.78 inches and weighing less than one pound, the M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 is a terrific option for both portability and performance. Featuring an easy-to-use and portable setup, the Keystation Mini 32 connects to your iOS devices utilizing Apple’s iPad camera connection kit and USB input. The included USB support also adds support for direct plug-and-play connectivity to a Mac or PC computer. Bundled with AIR Music Technology’s Ignite software and Ableton Live Lite, the Keystation is ready out of the box with 275 instrument sounds, as well as one of the best production programs available today. Beyond included software, the M-Audio adds 32 velocity-sensitive mini keys, octave and data buttons as well as buttons for modulation, pitch bend, sustain and edit.
Sometimes the best design isn’t always about the sharpest looks or the cleanest lines, as is the case with the Nektar Impact GX61 controller keyboard. With a staple of 61 excessive synth-action keys, what the Nektar lacks in sharp lines and bright colors, it more than makes up for with its ease of use. With 14 MIDI-assignable buttons, everything you need is front and center to get the job done. Compatible with Mac, iOS and PC hardware, the GX61 was designed as a no-fuss interface allowing the user to focus on composition and performance. The two multicolored octave buttons are brightened by LED colors to show the exact status even as the rest of the buttons are available for repurposing for nearly any considered purpose. Hooking the GX61 up to an iPad is easier than ever through an optional USB camera connection with power coming directly from the iPad.
For some piano keyboard owners, sometimes performance and capability must outweigh portability, and that’s exactly the purpose of the M-Audio Keystation 88 II. Featuring 88 full-size semi-weight velocity sensitive keys, there’s a whole lot to like here for the experienced pianist who wants to try something new. The inclusion of a full keyboard allows an owner to expand the range of playable notes and expressive capabilities, and it enhances the workflow of a recording session. Fortunately, the full-size build doesn’t mean it’s unnecessarily large (the M-Audio weigh 17 pounds and measures 9.8 x 3.6 x 53.9 inches).
Released in 2014, the M-Audio connects to an iPad via the separately-purchased camera connection kit. Beyond connectivity, the pro features of the M-Audio include octave range buttons, pitch bend and modulation wheels, as well as controls to play, perform or record through music software available in Apple’s app store. Additionally, the M-Audio includes a ¼-inch sustain pedal input that allows the use of an external control pedal for enhanced control over sound and performance.
If you want to go big, the 58-inch Yamaha P115 offers an 88-key MIDI keyboard that allows both a low end and a high end for functionality that mirrors an acoustic piano. Yamaha’s included Pure CF sound engine is the result of years of piano-making experience and combines brand new technology with old-school thinking. The included tweeter positioning has been placed to line up directly with the ears of anyone playing the P115, allowing the entire tonal experience to come alive with every keystroke. Downloading Yamaha’s Digital Piano Controller app from the App Store allows direct control of the P115 from a compatible iPhone or iPad, giving users the ability to save their favorite settings or quickly adjust rhythm on the fly.
At first glance, you might think the Arturia KeyStep 32-key compact keyboard is a little underwhelming, but there are a host of features that make this an ideal piano keyboard. The three-pound and 6 x 19 x 1.5-inch hardware feels lightweight and durable, all while offering slightly slimmer velocity and aftertouch-sensitive keys. There’s a surprising number of features thrown into this keyboard, including a built-in polyphonic sequencer, arpeggiator and chord mode. On the connectivity side, the Arturia KeyStep connects to an iPad via the camera connection kit that also provides a battery boost.
Additionally, you can also connect to a wall outlet or laptop via USB for a separate opportunity to add battery life to the keyboard for use with the iPad on-the-go. The keys themselves are responsive without feeling too small. The underside of the keyboard has a metal base and sides, so it's durable on any tabletop. Feature and connectivity-rich, the KeyStep offers a host of options for both the beginner and professional all in a slim package that’s still wallet-friendly.
Measuring 13.4 x 3.8 x 1.1 inches and weighing one pound, the Akai Professional LPK25 Wireless Mini-Key Bluetooth MIDI keyboard is a terrific option for portability and performance. Powered by Bluetooth 4.0 technology and three AA batteries, the Akai lasts up to 12 hours per use or runs endlessly courtesy of its USB connection. Compatible with Mac and iOS devices, as well as Windows computers, the Akai hardware includes Octave up and down buttons, pedal input and arpeggiator mode for well-rounded performance. At the center of everything is the 25-note mini-keyboard, which looks and feels like a real keyboard. Beyond the hardware, the Akai can connect directly to an iPad and utilize a countless number of available applications for a portable performance that can go anywhere, anytime.
Number of keys - Most of your options will have either 25 or 32 keys. More keys provide you with more flexibility without having to press an octave button, but you should beware of portable keyboards that include a lot of extra keys that are too small to use comfortably.
Battery life - You don’t need to worry about this too much if you plan on using the keyboard at your desk. However, one of the main reasons to buy an iOS-compatible MIDI keyboard is portability, which makes decent battery life very important. Some keyboards use AA batteries, and others have built-in rechargeables.
Connectivity - If you don’t mind wires, you can find portable MIDI keyboards that will connect to your iPad via lightning cable or the camera connection kit. If you prefer to go totally wireless, look for a keyboard that supports Bluetooth.