Just starting out with music production? Your journey will see you explore a whole range of gear on your way to a fully functional studio space. You’ve got your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), studio monitors, but there might not be anything as indispensable as a MIDI controller. While MIDI may sound like a term straight out of your favourite sci-fi movie, it’s something you’ve got to know if you’re serious about making music.
What is MIDI?
Jargon aside, MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Think of it as a language your controller uses to speak with your computer and DAW. This connection allows you to play notes, make beats, tweak sounds and do everything you’d possibly need to create your music. With such power and responsibility, it’s no wonder why some producers put such a heavy emphasis on the controllers they use.
Join us as we break down some of the MIDI-controllers under S$300 that we’ve got in store.
If value is chief amongst your priorities, the Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 should be at the forefront of your list. In addition to its 25 highly functional mini keys, the Minilab MkII has 16 encoders, 8 pads (with RGB lighting) and 2 touch strips (for modulation and pitch) for all your compositional needs. The MiniLab also comes bundled with multiple tools on the software front: Analog Lab Lite suite (with 500 high-quality sound presets), UVI Model D Piano and a DAW, Ableton Live Lite.
This mini marvel also allows you to save up to 8 user presets for quick access – perfect for live performance sessions. Arturia has somehow managed to sneak in a sustain pedal jack for added versatility. Perhaps best of all, the MiniLab is a breeze to run, requiring no drivers whilst being compatible with both Mac & PC computers.
If you are just starting out and you only have room for a small keyboard, or need something portable, the Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 is definitely worth a look.
If you’ve already set your sights on using Ableton as your primary DAW, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is a worthy companion to take with you on your music production journey. The Mini MK3 also meets you halfway there as it already comes with Ableton Live Lite.
Curious as to why Novation is regarded as the go-to interface for Ableton? How bout the deep and intuitive controls for Ableton Live – including device macro control, track selection, recording, MIDI capture, clip and scene launch, stop/mute/solo, volume, and many other mapped actions.
You’d also be chuffed to know that Novation hardware owners also get exclusive access to Sound Collective – a free content subscription from Novations’s plug-in partners. Hardware-wise, the Launchkey has 25 synth-action mini keys and 16 velocity-sensitive pads that help you sonically manoeuvre in your quest to create neat beats.
If you’re always on the go and would like a MIDI controller that can follow suit, the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2 is a pretty good fit for that job description. Incredibly compact and wired to be compatible with multiple operating systems (iOS, Android, Mac and PC), the iRig Keys 2 Pro can connect to any USB-C device or utilise a “Stand-alone Mode” to control other gear, such as analog synthesisers.
You’ll find iRig Keys 2 to be chock-full of features in the hardware department as well. 37 velocity-sensitive & full-sized piano keys, pitch and modulation wheels, and an integrated headphone jack are tools you’ll really appreciate when crafting your music. On the software front, the iRig Keys 2 include IK’s SampleTank 4 SE – a collection of 2,000 world class samples and sounds. Don’t fret mobile users, your purchase of the iRig Keys 2 also unlocks free apps like SampleTank and iGrand Piano.
No matter where you draw your inspiration from, you’ll rest easy knowing the Rig Keys 2 Pro will be there for you to get those ideas down.
Nothing will make you feel more empowered than the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25 – especially if you’re looking to jive with Native’s Instruments’ NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) and MASCHINE. Don’t sweat it if you’re looking to start on another DAW though, the Komplete Kontrol A25 has full integration capabilities with all major DAW brands in the market.
The Komplete Kontrol A25 comes fitted with a sleek informative OLED display for intuitive, at-a-glance navigation. Our resident keyboardists were really blown away with its best-in-class, custom semi-weighted keybed. Rounding out the tactile side of things are eight touch-sensitive control knobs, and ergonomic pitch & mod wheels – giving you comprehensive control over all aspects of your performances.
We were also really impressed with the sheer amount of software the Komplete Kontrol A25 came bundled with. With more than 6,700 sounds and 13 GB of content included, Native Instrument really gives you everything you need between starting your track to dropping it to the masses.
Part pad controller, part control surface and a whole serving of finger-drumming fun, Akai Professional’s MPD226 is a retro throwback to the good ol’ days of the MPC.
Whereas other MIDI controllers have keyboard layout, the MPD 226 Pad Controller employs RGB pads in order to inject some of that classic beat-making idiosyncrasies into digital music production. The Akai MPD 226 doesn’t skimp out on controls though, you still have four knobs, four faders, four buttons arranged in three banks for a grand total of 36 parameters you can tweak on the fly.
The 16 velocity-sensitive MPC have RGB backlighting – which makes it easy to color code your layout, an especially handy feature when you’re switching between preset banks for your shows.
Akai has also got you covered on the software front. With programs like the Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Big Bang Drums, Big Bang Cinema, and Ableton Live Lite, you’d hardly need anything more to get those creative juices flowing.
As you can plainly see, MIDI controllers can be as personal and diverse as the clothes you can find on a Paris Fashion Week runway. While the sheer amount of choices can be daunting, we’d urge you to go with your gut and pick one that fits well with your personality and workflow.
For our full MIDI controller range, you can head on over to our website here. Additionally, if you’d like to have someone guide you through the process, head on over to our stores. Our friendly staff will be able to share their nuggets of experience to help you get the best gear for your needs.
As always, stay tuned to our blog to keep up to date with our latest gear releases and features.