In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: July 12, 2023
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MIDI controllers are like measuring instruments from the way they tend to operate. Even when you rewind back to the 1990s, you still had those large metallic-build models that you could work your JV1080s into and make a killing.
Fast-forward 10 years or so after MIDI controllers go digital. We now talk about computers and software. Welcome to the age of the hybrid, where we work straight from the box just like we do with DAW-less, hardware-based rigs. We have somewhat substituted the five-pin MIDI socket for more USB-based PC control.
Consequently, MIDI controllers’ operational approach has become more dynamic and open-ended. Manufacturers have taken all of these into consideration when designing state-of-the-art MIDI controllers.
There are many of them available in the market today but we will focus on the top 7. Hence, this will be a review of the top 7 49-key MIDI controllers you can find.
"The Akai Professional MPK 249 is a high-performance keyboard controller and pad that combines the unique abilities of super-enhanced workflow, software integrations, and advanced workstation technologies."
"The all-new M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 is designed with flexibility and a superb user experience in mind. It comes with full velocity, 8 work-ready knobs, 9 faders, after touch-sensitive keys, and plug-in features."
The Akai Professional MPK 249 is a high-performance keyboard controller and pad that combines the unique abilities of super-enhanced workflow, software integrations, and advanced workstation technologies. This entry into the Akai Professional family also has an elaborate interface for messing around with DAWs, virtual instruments, plug-ins, and so much more.
Then there’s the keyboard that comes with third-party optimization letting you directly integrate with a Mac or Windows PC using plug-and-play or USB functionalities. The controller comes with 49 medium-weight sensitive keys, 16 stylish pads (four bank spaces for each) with RGB feedback, 8 work-ready knobs, and onboard transportation functions.
With up and down control units for the octave, players can have unlimited access to the whole melodic range. Its backlit LCD screen offers a superb layout for easy control and manipulation. I mean, the Akai Professional MPK249 is a complete package!
This product is ideal for any small or medium-sized events like churches services, parties, and small concerts.
What makes it stand out?
Our test team really enjoyed the wide array of shiny colors on the drum pads. Not only that. We think they did well with the well-lit, super-intuitive LCD screen. The Akai Professional MPK249 is also very slick by design and easy to move around; especially advantageous for bands and performers.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
One flaw we spotted was that it shared some features with some of the old MPK series. It also may not be exactly hands-on for newbies who just need something less complex with entry options.
Talk about similarities, you can say there’s a striking resemblance between the MkII and Essential. On the whole, however, the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII is much more complex and serious in design, even more than most MIDI keyboards you will find in the market today.
Hardly will you come across a keyboard that supports a 4×4 pad grid with relatively longer faders. The Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII is also much heavier and sturdier coming in a strong metallic case.
Another thing to love about the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII is its solid buttons that feel clicky to the touch; not overly soft or soggy. The keyboard shares the same after-touch as those experienced with the MiniBrute 2 and MatrixBrute.
The screen area and data knob feature 3 enhanced dedicated buttons for alternating between DAW, Analog Lab, and User modes. Connectivity on the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII is also a strong selling point. You have the option of drawing power using the USB port or the optional DC adaptor.
What makes it special?
Usability on the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII is top-notch with well-integrated DAW support. The product is great for music producers, singers, and small bands. It is also intuitively designed for more personal use.
Subsequently, we found the Arturia KeyLab 49 MkII very fast and easy to use. Flexibility is also this product’s forte. There are lots of options for connectivity with nice integration functionalities.
What cons did we find?
The only two things we didn’t like were that it features only one small display unit and there are no scale options.
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 is a 4-octave keyboard controller designed for integration with a DAW-powered PC. It comes with 2 high-res display units, 8 rotary onboard knobs, 4-way multi-purpose rotary knobs plus transport controls.
A Komplete Kontrol software is also shipped along with the controller to let you manipulate and surf through all the interesting plugins and soft synths samples. These samples come in a Komplete 12 Select designed and trademarked by Native Instrument themselves.
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 keyboard gives exclusive access and physical control over the sounds and commands in the Komplete Kontrol software. This is practically a small synth studio in your hands. And this is entirely possible regardless of the type of DAW you are working with.
One other interesting feature of the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 is its onboard arpeggiator. This arpeggiator allows you to play a set of notes on repeat even where you are pressing only one key. It lets you do some other complex stuff like adjusting the settings to change its sequence and rhythm.
The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S49 is highly recommendable for music producers, and rehearsal teams.
Why did it make our list?
We absolutely loved this product just from the first use. It is a complete sound resource and instrument. The team here also had unlimited fun and inspiration experimenting around the scale and chord modes. And yes! we couldn’t stop playing with the arpeggiator.
What is not ideal about it?
On the flip side, you may not like that it doesn’t allow for patch sorting and saving. Also, we noticed that being a “closed-system,” the Komplete Kontrol software does not support separately-purchased third-party instruments like NI plug-ins.
The all-new M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 was designed with flexibility and a superb user experience in mind. It comes with full velocity, 8 work-ready knobs, 9 faders, after touch-sensitive keys, and plug-in features. This product also features a small but crisp-clear OLED screen for modulation and control. The build quality is top-notch and is of medium-weight feel. It also does not flex in any way when in use.
The key action is another nice feature with the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49. They work quietly. Its multicolored backlit pad are very smooth to use and trigger across their whole surface up to the edges. It has a fairly good aftertouch response.
The M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 also features very compact pitch and modulation wheels that are balanced and properly sprung. When it comes to octave transportation, the keys span a wide range between -3 and +4 octaves.
M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 is ideal for sturdy and consistent play like in music concerts. Great for singers, stage performers, and instrumentalists.
What makes it stand out?
What stands out in our opinion for this Oxygen pro 49 scale and chord modes that offer alternative foolproof playing styles. The Note Repeat Mode also makes for the perfect sequencing in live performances. Its extensive DAW integration is also an added bonus for the Oxygen Pro 49.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
You may not like that it takes some time to get used to using the product, especially for beginners. A lot of its important features are not exactly hands-on. Other than that, we think the Oxygen Pro 49 is a fantastic product.
The main idea behind the Nektar Impact LX49 is to provide optimal control and boost creativity. This product bears a similar resemblance in features to many other MIDI controllers in the market but also in many ways, quite different. With the Nektar Impact LX49, you can switch between instruments settings, presets, and mixers to play or record a wide range of sounds.
Nektar Impact LX49 also belongs to a class of very few controllers that can connect automatically to almost every DAW. You wouldn’t need to install any kind of driver or toggle around complicated settings. It also has a very efficient control center that offers players all they need to take charge of their tunes.
On the Nektar Impact LX49, you have 8 encoders, 9 MIDI buttons, 9- 30 mm faders just at the middle and slightly above its 49 keys. The control center maps the DAW functionalities seamlessly, giving you automatic and flexible control. In addition, you can save the map settings in default mode so you won’t have to repeat them each time you want to work.
The Nektar Impact LX49 is great for music producers, music tutors, and sound engineers.
What do we love it for?
What we loved about this product what its 49 velocity-sensitive keys which have excellent feedback. We also liked that its 4-velocity curves support different styles of play. Everything with the Nektar Impact LX49 is pieced together so beautifully that you won’t have any problem getting around it.
Lastly, the size of the keys are quite large enough for finger-drumming and also very sensitive to even the slightest touch.
What were we disappointed with?
The only drawback here is that the Impact LX49 is not very portable. Some persons also complain that it is not well-suited for beginners, although this may be subject to debate.
The Yamaha MX49 is a solid release that stakes its claim on the ability for players to alternate the octaves on the keyboard, split, and layer. Players would find the keyboard very lightweight that it can be toppled over very easily with the lightest force.
Yamaha MX49 comes with more than a thousand sounds that differ from the Motif XS series. These sounds may go from simple strings and drums to complicated eight-element synth voice-overs. But the absolute peck for this Yamaha feature is that the board comes compact with all the basic functionalities you need within reach.
The board also has rich user-interface functions that let you access your sound and voice selections with just one click. You can even enter your own songs on the board very easily.
Since many of its sounds trace their origins to the Motif, you can say that the Yamaha MX49 is highly effective in studio productions. It is also great for church, live stage, and solo performances.
Why is it special?
For all the great features that make up the Yamaha MX49, we think its large collection of sounds is the most admirable. We also love that it has a variety of effects with deep and finely-detailed piano tones. We found the handling to be quite tactile with easy-to-use controls. The DAW integration is also superb.
What are the flaws?
When testing the sound selections, we found some of them to be a little outdated. It also did not have a MIDI sequencer and aftertouch effect which could be a big turn-off to some people. We also find the Yamaha MX49 to be a bit bulky in reality.
The Roland A-49 is an industry game-changer that comes in a lightweight, premium-grade container and is available in black and pearl white finishes. It is a simple-to-use MIDI keyboard with a state-of-the-art feel. This is especially obvious with its roundly-shaped keys that give the player the desired outcome when touched.
Its enhanced functionalities have eliminated mechanical noise and vertical shakes making it a desirable product for music pros. The Roland A-49 was also designed for mobile usability. It weighs just slightly less than 6 pounds, which makes it super easy to lift and move around.
In spite of its sleek design, the Roland A-49 still features a full option, a high-performance keyboard that comes with 49 velocity-sensitive keys. You don’t even need an adapter or power cable to power the A-49 as it can source straight from your PC’s USB bus.
The Roland A-49 is ideal for making music. Amateur artists and producers can make demos using this product.
What are its best features?
Even though it features just two switches and two knobs, the Roland A-49 still gives us a favorable outcome. We also found it very straightforward and easy to use without those complex functionalities. The keys in our opinion are simply top-notch and commendable for any kind of setting.
What could be improved?
From our assessment, we think beginners may find it difficult to set up the system. Other than this tiny glitch, the Roland A-49 is worth every penny!
Things to Consider
Before you go out and buy your 49-key MIDI controller there are a few things you should consider. In this guide we’ll tell you what to look out for.
Why Do You Need a 49-Key MIDI Controller?
You need a 49-keys MIDI controller for a number of reasons. One, they do not come off unwieldy as the other 88-key types. Secondly, 49-keys controllers are not as difficult or complex to use as 25-keys. The 49-keys also give a full-four range octave which is more than needed to compose complex tones without having to alternate between octaves.
Features to Consider Before Buying a 49-Key MIDI Controller
Types of Keys
The type of keys on MIDI controllers will have a huge impact on its overall performance. Not only is it important to make sure that you pick the right type of keys, but you must also ensure that it is of fantastic quality. Poorly performing keys will also affect a learner’s ability to pick up the pace. They also will not last a long period due to their inferior quality.
As an experienced player, you will also be watching out for the keys ability to meet your music needs. Keys do not all function the same way. What may be good for a singer may not be good for a music producer and subsequently a live performer.
Having this at the back of your mind will help you make better-informed decisions about the type of MIDI controller you need to purchase.
A velocity-sensitive key is designed to respond according to how lightly or firmly you press on it. Because of this advanced feature, you can have complete control over how you play notes at different levels.
Most digital MIDI controllers come with velocity-sensitive keys giving the player flexibility and overall creative control. It is important as a player to go for MIDI controllers with velocity-sensitive keys. This way you get a better optimized output and ultimately get great value for your money. It is the custom that non-dynamic keys mostly result in a poor-playing technique.
A pad is one of the most popularly used sounds on a keyboard. This is because the outcome is mellow and can be sustained over a period. It is also very comfortable working on its texture foundation while putting some more intensity to the sound.
Pads are very useful when used together with a natural piano’s sound as the outcome will not wear off in the same manner a piano does. This explains why choosing a controller with a good pad sound is very important.
If you are a performer in a concert or church setting, you may want to take distinct caution in this area. It helps a lot especially if a singer or preacher is likely to speak over your play.
Knobs, buttons, and faders are all core functionalities on a digital MIDI controller. They allow for effective modulation, play management, and overall control. Whenever you are out in search of a MIDI controller, it is always advisable to conduct your research along with the quality of these functions.
In summary, the appearance and arrangement of the controller dashboard is the first telltale sign you are getting a top-quality or inferior system.
A preset is a pre-loaded patch set by the MIDI controller manufacture in the memory of a synthesizer. This allows performers to create fantastic tunes without choosing any other patches or making any advanced editing or modification.
This default configuration is ideal for beginners who have no prior knowledge of how to work functionalities. It is important for a newbie to go for a MIDI controller with presets as it also allows integration with other DAWs.
Notes make up an integral part of the quality of your MIDI controller. While investing in one, it is very important that you pay close attention to the quality of the notes. This is where the foot pedals come in to play.
The truth is many players often forget this tiny detail. But the fact remains that modern pedal configurations have always been used since the late 19th century. They are usually three in number namely sostenuto, sustain (damper pedal), and una corda (soft pedal).
The sostenuto pedal lets pianists maintain the levels on select notes while leaving other notes unchanged.
On the other hand, the una corda
Trusted SourceUna corda DefinitionThe meaning of UNA CORDA is with soft pedal depressed —used as a direction in piano music.
(soft pedal) was the very first invented mechanism to modify the sound of a piano. This functionality is operated by pressing down on the left pedal of modern pianos. The una corda not only modifies the volume but color and timbre of the tone.
The third pedal—the sustain—is popularly known as the right pedal on most modern-day piano sets. This pedal lifts up all the dampers off the strings in order that they maintain vibration after the player has released a key. It allows different notes to mix and resonate well with each other.
Modern digital MIDI controllers come with the extra abilities to learn and make music using PCs. Now, you can connect your controllers via USBs, and MIDI in/outs to a Windows or Mac PC and work on/with different composition and recording software.
Players and composers enjoy this ability a lot for the singular reason that it lets you evaluate your performances and also share your experiences with friends and family via social media. The fact that what you are recording is not actual sound but processed data is added plus and you can make any kind of modifications you want on it.
Most modern MIDI controllers will work with all the popular DAWs and there’s no need to download any extra software. With that said, some MIDI controllers are more geared to specific DAWs and have presets set up already for a certain DAW.
The importance of a great power supply can never go overstated. While most digital MIDI controllers can be get powered via a USB connection to a PC, it is always great to have a good-quality adapter to supply and manage power. There are top-range adapters you can look out for in the market such as:
An average MIDI controller needs at least 25-keys to operate. So in that sense, you can say 49-keys are more than enough for a MIDI controller. But on the whole, it still depends on the type of music you are playing. Generally, a four octave 49-key MIDI controller is ideal for almost every situation.
Either of the two is fine for making music. It all boils down to personal preference and what you hope to achieve in the long run.
If you are merely looking to create simple chord progressions and basslines, then a 25-key model should do just fine. But where you need something to play and record a more complicated progression, then you may instead want to consider a 49-key MIDI controller.
49-keys are more than enough for music production. In fact, the 49-keys are more appropriate in that regard. This is because you will be considering things like preferences and playing style when looking out for the ideal equipment. You will naturally want to go for something that gives you more flexibility and more control.
A 25-key MIDI keyboard will demand that you use two hands simultaneously which can have you feeling tired and frustrated. A 49-key model on the other hand frees of that burden.
There you have it guys. We have shared with you the Top 7 49-key MIDI controllers available today. This is a non-exhaustive list nonetheless, as there are still many great products out there. Our team picked this seven since they meet many standards in both features and performance.
Of the seven, we think three of them really standard for several reasons as we will outline below.
First is the Nektar Impact LX49. We enjoyed the fact that its 4-velocity curves support various play styles. The whole design is also put together so beautifully that you can’t help but want to play it.
The second on the list is the Oxygen Pro 49. The scale and chord modes on the Pro 49 offer alternative foolproof playing patterns which are great for live concert performances.
Lastly is the Akai Professional MPK 249. We think this product really killed it with the brightly-lit, super-intuitive LCD screen.
Una corda Definition
The meaning of UNA CORDA is with soft pedal depressed —used as a direction in piano music.