Finding a MIDI controller that feels as authentic as a high-end stage piano can be challenging. But we’ve reviewed a wide range of units to bring you the best 88-key weighted MIDI controllers on the market.
The more authentic the keyboard action is, the more dynamic your performance will be, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice that just because you’re in a studio with virtual instruments. Our top picks deliver outstanding realism and, more importantly, won’t stifle your expression.
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These are the best 88-key weighted MIDI controllers right now:
- M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro
- Arturia KeyLab 88 Mk2
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2
- Studiologic SL88 Studio
- Korg D1
M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro
The best overall
A while after its release, the Hammer 88 Pro remains one of our favorite weighted MIDI keyboard controllers. It delivers a fantastic hammer-action keyboard and is packed with functions and features that make it the ideal control hub for your recording setup.
M-Audio’s Hammer 88 Pro is the more capable big brother of the original Hammer 88. It’s a rugged 88-key controller that takes the sophisticated hammer-action feel of the original model and adds an abundance of features and assignable controls.
The assignable controls start with eight rotary knobs and eight buttons. These controls take the Hammer 88 Pro from being just a great piano controller to delivering a hands-on workflow for synths, orchestral patches, etc.
The keys are a touch heavy for synth-style playing, but combined with so much real-time tweaking, it’s the best of both worlds.
Beyond the knobs and buttons, you’ll also get nine assignable faders, which makes a huge difference. Faders offer a different feel when tweaking parameters and are perfect for orchestral expression or used as organ drawbars.
Taking inspiration from some of the non-weighted M-Audio controllers, this model comes with 16 velocity-sensitive pads. The Hammer 88 Pro is also one of the few weighted controllers with fantastic aftertouch. It also features a built-in arpeggiator and new modes like Smart Scale/Chord.
Adding to the hands-on workflow is a small but handy OLED screen that means less time looking at a computer. It’s a legitimate all-rounder.
Check out our full M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro review
Arturia KeyLab 88 Mk2
The best all-rounder
Despite its sleek good looks, the KeyLab 88 Mk2 is a genuine workhorse. It doesn’t have the best keyboard feel on our list, but it’s very good, and the fact that it offers such tactile control makes it a joy to use.
Arturia’s flagship KeyLab 88 Mk2 is an 88-key MIDI controller with a premium Fatar keybed. We should stress to anyone who tried the original KeyLab 88 that the keyboard feel is significantly improved.
As good as the Fatar keyboard is, the real strength of this controller comes from its assignable controls. It includes a massive nine faders and nine rotary knobs, which is more than most competitors.
It’s also worth mentioning the fantastic layout, which ensures all controls are easy to reach during a performance.
The KeyLab 88 Mk2 comes with 16 velocity-sensitive pads that are responsive with a premium feel.
Another huge selling point for this controller is the more than ample connectivity. It offers CV in/out, which is rare for most MIDI controllers. If you want to create a hybrid setup with MIDI and analog gear, the KeyLab 88 Mk2 is perfect.
You’ll also get one of the best software bundles around (with pre-mapped controls).
Check out our full Arturia KeyLab 88 Mk2 review
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2
The best for Native Instruments software users
There’s no denying that the S88 Mk2 is a fantastic keyboard controller, and it looks stunning. Our recommendation depends largely on whether you use Native Instruments sounds and plugins a lot. If you do, it’s the best; if you don’t, there are a few slightly better.
The Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 is the flagship model from Native Instruments’ premium smart controller range.
The S88 is built around a premium Fatar keyboard with aftertouch. Fatar keyboards have an outstanding reputation, especially at this high end, with weighted hammer-action keys.
One of the first things most people notice about this controller is that it features two high-res color screens. The dual screens don’t just look good; they make browsing instruments and presets far less tedious. You can quickly browse and select sounds using the four-directional push encoder.
Above and below the high-res screens are eight assignable buttons and endless rotary knobs. The assignable controls are great, but we’d have loved to see some faders, especially when the unit isn’t short of free space.
The S88 features multiple smart modes that allow you to play arpeggios, complex chords, and progressions from a single key. You can also highlight specific scales and modes using the built-in light guide.
As well as coming pre-mapped to an excellent software bundle, it includes advanced transport controls for all major DAWs.
Check out our full Komplete Kontrol S series review
Studiologic SL88 Studio
The best pure piano MIDI controller
The Studiologic SL88 Studio is one of the best weighted keyboard controllers available for piano purists. It doesn’t offer much more than a fantastic piano feel, but it comes at a very attractive price and feels like a premium instrument.
Studiologic is a brand that regularly flies under the radar of many potential buyers, and the SL88 Studio is a prime example of that. It’s one of the best weighted keyboard MIDI controllers but doesn’t seem to get the credit it deserves.
It comes with a premium fully weighted hammer-action Fatar keyboard with aftertouch.
Assignable controls are pretty limited, although you do get three programmable X/Y sticks that are very useful. Beyond the sticks, there are a few function buttons, a rotary encoder with navigation controls, and a well-sized color LCD screen.
The SL88 Studio looks more like a stage piano than a typical MIDI controller, and that’s no coincidence. It has a sleek yet incredibly robust body, making it an ideal keyboard controller for gigging.
The best hybrid MIDI keyboard/stage piano
The Korg D1 is a bit of a wildcard in our picks, but it’s a serious option for anyone looking for a single keyboard to go between the studio and the stage. It lacks assignable controls but makes up for it in onboard sounds and effects.
Korg’s D1 is a relatively budget-friendly stage piano and MIDI controller. It’s not one that we’d typically place amongst the best controllers, but we know that people who need weighted keys often need a good stage piano and controller; the D1 provides both in one unit.
The Korg D1 has 88 fully-weighted hammer-action keys, and it comes in a slim but robust chassis.
It features Korg’s RH3 (Real Hammer Action) keyboard, which is always one of the best in its class. The fact that the D1 is a stage piano first and controller second probably gives it an edge over most competition regarding the authentic piano feel.
The lack of assignable controls is why we don’t place it higher on our list. But, if you’re someone who wants a stage piano too, it comes with 30 onboard sounds, including some stunning Korg grand piano voices.
Check out our full Korg D1 review
As always, with our best-of lists, we choose products we love, so there are no bad options here. But some controllers are better than others in certain situations/environments, and we think our choices make for a well-rounded list with something for every need.