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The 5 best small 25-key MIDI keyboard controllers for 2023

As a musician, your situation and environment often dictate how and when you make music, so I’m looking for the best 25-key mini MIDI controllers.

As always, I have reviewed many small keyboard controllers to compile a list of my top picks. Whether you are limited by space or need a way to make music on the go, I’ve got you covered.

About the author

I’m a producer, sound designer, and multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience in the music industry. As a sound designer and lover of virtual instruments, MIDI controllers play a huge role in my life as a musician. If it has keys, pads, or faders, you’ll probably find at least one in my studio.

best small 25-key MIDI controllers
Image: Higher Hz

How I chose the MIDI controllers for this list?

The two primary reasons for buying a 25-key MIDI keyboard controller are limited space and the need to make music on the go. With that in mind, I’ve picked a few controllers that prioritize functions, assignable controls, and connectivity, which are ideal for home use.

I then chose a couple that sacrifice some of the above qualities to be even more portable and ideal for throwing in a backpack.

To find out more about how we test and rate MIDI controllers here at Higher Hz, check out this page.

These are the best small 25-key MIDI controllers to buy:

  1. Akai MPK Mini Mk3
  2. Arturia MiniLab 3
  3. Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3
  4. Arturia MicroLab
  5. Akai LPK25 Mk2

Akai MPK Mini Mk3 4.8

The best 25-key MIDI controller

Despite the competition closing the gap significantly, the MPK Mini Mk3 is still the best small MIDI keyboard available. It’s lightweight, portable, and offers more features than some full-size keyboard controllers. It’s a little superstar.

Akai MPK Mini Mk3 25-key MIDI controller
Image: Akai

The Akai Professional MPK Mini Mk3 is a tiny powerhouse, thanks to an impressive feature set and a range of assignable controls.

One of the biggest selling points is its eight MPC-style pads with two banks. The pads are slightly smaller than MPC pads, but the feel and responsiveness are unmatched in any other small controller.

Along with the MPC-style pads come some familiar MPC-style features, like Full Level, and Note Repeat, which makes creating complex rhythmic parts a simple task.

Assignable controls come in the shape of eight endless rotary knobs, which is a lot for such a compact unit. It’s worth keeping in mind that not all similar controllers offer endless knobs, meaning others are often less flexible.

The MPK Mini Mk3 also has some dedicated function buttons that help create a speedy workflow. One of the standout features is a powerful built-in arpeggiator capable of fairly complex patterns.

A joystick, rather than a wheel, provides pitch and modulation control, and you can view real-time feedback on a small OLED display. Add an attractive software bundle, and the MPK will have you making music in no time.

Read the full Akai MPK Mini Mk3 review to find out more.

What I like

  • MPC-style pads.
  • Endless rotary knobs.
  • Good build quality.

What I don’t like

  • Some users would prefer pitch/mod wheels.
Buy Akai MPK Mini Mk3 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Arturia MiniLab 3 4.8

The best assignable controls and connectivity

The MiniLab 3 is one of the best 25-key MIDI controllers available and the closest to challenging the MPK for the top spot on my list. Although I see it as second best, it comes with a software bundle that will tempt many to place it above all others.

Arturia MiniLab 3 MIDI keyboard controller
Image: Arturia

Arturia MIDI controllers always look fantastic: sleek, modern, and ultra-cool, which also applies to the 25-key MiniLab.

The MiniLab 3 has the most impressive collection of assignable controls of any controller on my list. It comes with eight assignable rotary knobs and four faders. I believe that the faders add an entirely new layer of dynamic and expressive performance, and I wish more manufacturers would follow suit.

It has eight performance pads (16 with two banks) that are probably second only to the MPC-style pads.

On top of the many assignable controls, the MiniLab 3 isn’t short of features. It has some excellent production tools like a built-in arpeggiator and an advanced Chord mode. It also has 5-pin MIDI in/out, making it an obvious choice for anyone looking to connect external gear.

Arturia provides a software bundle with some of the best virtual instruments I’ve ever seen free.

Read the full Arturia MiniLab 3 review to find out more.

What I like

  • Great production tools.
  • Assignable controls.
  • Extensive software bundle.

What I don’t like

  • Touch strips instead of wheels/joysticks.
Buy Arturia MiniLab 3 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 4.6

The best for Ableton

While I can’t say that the Launchkey Mini Mk3 is the best mini MIDI keyboard overall, I can say it’s the best for Ableton users. Everything about it is very good, there are no real complaints, and if you use Ableton already, it’s an easy choice.

Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 MIDI keyboard controller
Image: Novation

Where most small MIDI controllers offer eight velocity-sensitive pads, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 provides 16. It’s fair to say that the pads aren’t the best on my list, but there’s something to be said for having hands-on access to all 16 without switching banks. They are especially handy when performing longer pieces with many scenes.

Although the difference in keyboard feel from one mini keyboard controller to another is rarely worth mentioning, the Launchkey Mini Mk3 is one of the best – especially for fast synth parts.

It comes with some production tools that make it easy to make music quickly. The first standout addition is the built-in arpeggiator, followed by a clever Chord mode that allows you to trigger advanced chords from a single key. Chord mode allows you to adjust chord shapes and voicings.

Mutate mode is like a somewhat aggressive randomizer, and it’s great when you need some inspiration.

What I like

  • 16 velocity-sensitive pads.
  • Great for Ableton users.
  • Surprisingly good keyboard feel.

What I don’t like

  • No MIDI adapter included.
Buy Novation Launchkey Mini Mk3 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Arturia MicroLab 4.4

The best portable MIDI keyboard for travel

On a list of compact MIDI controllers, the MicroLab is tiny, making it the perfect travel companion for musicians. It’s a simple small keyboard controller, but it’s fun, it’s quirky, and I love it.

Arturia MicroLab MIDI keyboard controller
Image: Arturia

This budget-friendly controller is the smallest MIDI keyboard on this list. Despite its tiny size, the MicroLab still packs 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys.

It doesn’t have any assignable controls, but it does feature a pair of touch strips for pitch and modulation and a smart Chord mode. Like other controllers I’ve listed, the MicroLab’s Chord mode lets you trigger advanced chords from a single key, which is fantastic for making music on the go.

It comes with Bitwig Studio 8-Track and Analog Lab Lite and is available in a range of fun colors. This straightforward little keyboard is the ultimate portable MIDI controller for travel.

What I like

  • Very compact, ideal for travel.
  • Beginner-friendly.
  • Affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Basic controls.
Buy Arturia MicroLab at: SweetwaterAmazon

Akai LPK25 Mk2 4.5

The best portable controller for beatmakers

The LPK25 Mk2 is a fantastic small MIDI keyboard and an excellent alternative to the MicroLab. It comes with a software bundle tailor-made for hip-hop beatmakers looking for a portable solution.

Akai LPK25 Mk2 MIDI keyboard controller
Image: Akai

The LPK25 Mk2 is one of the smallest MIDI keyboard controllers you can buy. The entire unit isn’t much bigger than the 25 mini keys that comprise the keyboard. Although it has only 25 keys, it offers an additional eight octaves through transposition for a total of 127 MIDI notes.

It features a surprisingly good seven-mode arpeggiator, which is a fantastic tool for creating rhythmic sequences. Other features include tap tempo and sustain buttons. The sustain button takes a little bit of getting used to, but with no sustain pedal input, it’s the next best thing.

As such a simple controller, the real value comes from the software bundle, which includes MPC Beats, various virtual instruments, and a collection of MPC sound packs. If you’re a beatmaker with limited space or who likes to produce on the go, it’s awesome.

What I like

  • Perfect for beatmakers.
  • Sustain button.
  • Great software bundle.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing for the price.
Buy Akai LPK25 Mk2 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Conclusion

These controllers might be small, but make no mistake, there’s some serious creative power on this list. Each can help you make professional-sounding tracks anywhere and on a budget.

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