Midi Controller vs Digital Piano: Which is the Best Choice For You!

In the modern era, there are different types of audio interfaces that are available for use. These include midi controllers and digital pianos. They are both different in terms of the way they were produced, the quality of sound they produce, and their intended use. Through this article, I will discuss the differences between these two types of audio interfaces in a way that will help you to decide which one to purchase.

Midi Controller vs Digital Piano

Midi Controller vs Digital Piano

What is a midi controller?

A midi controller is an instrument that allows you to control the sound of other instruments or effects using MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) messages. These messages are transmitted between keyboards, synthesizers, sequencers, and computers using standard five-pin DIN connectors. This means that a laptop can be used as a midi controller for any type of instrument in combination with external hardware such as synthesizers or dedicated keyboard controllers. However, computers can’t produce sound independently, so it’s necessary to link them up with other hardware to do this.

A midi controller usually has the following features:

  1. Able to play a variety of sounds with little or very limited software installed on the computer.
  2. Able to control effects and instruments through simple buttons, knobs, and sliders. This is done by sending MIDI messages corresponding to these controls.
  3. Able to record sound produced by other instruments (midi instrument) through the use of an audio interface and software recording system like Audacity or Recorder.
  4. Inexpensive, especially when compared with digital pianos as most midi controllers are the same or less expensive than keyboards, sequencers, and audio interfaces.

Top 3 Midi Controller

1. Nectar, 25-Key Midi Controller (SE25) Affordable but Good

Nectar, 25-Key Midi Controller (SE25)

The Nektar, 25-Key Midi Controller (SE25) is ideal for those who are on a budget but still want an affordable, good-quality controller. The SE25 has 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys which can be assigned to play different notes by clicking the corresponding keymap button. It also has 6 buttons that can be assigned to many functions such as octave up/down, PB1/PB2 sustain, and part 2 which can be assigned to play different patches. It has a built-in arpeggiator, polyphonic aftertouch, and performance pads which can be activated by pressing the corresponding button on the keyboard. Apart from that, it also has a built-in tuner that can be activated by pressing the pitch bend button while a note is being played and the touch sensor for saving/loading patches can be assigned to any of the 6 buttons on the keyboard.

2. Novation Launchkey Mini mk3

Novation Launchkey Mini mk3

With 25 mini keys, Launchkey Mini mk3 is one of the smallest and most compact keyboard and controller. It’s fitted with a range of tried-and-tested hardware controls that will inspire you to play and perform expressive music on the go.
It is an ultra-mini keyboard and controller for Ableton Live and over any other DAW. You can turn your laptop into the ultimate music-making machine with 25 mini keys, eight rotary controls, pitch, Mod touch strips, and a sustain pedal input. Add to that the arpeggiator easy to use but deeply controllable you’ll be making music for years to come.

3. Nektar Impact LX49+ Keyboard Controller

A virtual instrument at your fingertips, the Nektar Impact LX49+ keyboard puts you at the center of music creation. With 49 synth-action note keys and 8 hyper-sensitive backlit pads, this controller features pro software mapping for instant access to Nektar’s acclaimed software instruments and an intuitive bitwig-style DAW environment that’s ultra-simple to learn.
If you want to go for a more expensive midi controller then the Nektar Impact LX49+ is the right choice.

What is a digital piano?

A digital piano is an electronic musical instrument that produces sound using a digitally recorded multi-track recording system. They consist of two main parts: the keyboard and the music processor (sometimes called a soundboard) which are both equipped with pre-recorded sound samples. These samples are usually in stereo, meaning that there are two different recordings for each note, one for the left channel and the other for the right.

The keyboard is an essential part of a digital piano as it allows you to play the instrument through playing actual piano keys rather than using a computer mouse and clicking on buttons. The music processor contains all the sound samples that have been pre-recorded and arranged so that they play in combination with each other. This means that a digital piano will only produce sound in the way it was arranged by the manufacturer, with little or no room for creativity and variation. However, this makes digital pianos more stable and consistent when compared with midi controllers.

A digital piano usually has the following features:

  1. Able to play a variety of sounds through the commonly used MIDI messages and notes and control effects and instruments in similar ways to midi controllers.
  2. Able to record sound produced by other instruments (midi instrument) through the use of an audio interface and software recording system like Audacity or Recorder.
  3. Provides a realistic piano sound which is usually superior in quality to what can be produced through midi controllers. However, they cost considerably more than midi controllers. Some of their extra features like speakers, recording capabilities, and built-in piano benches are not always necessary for users who mainly want to produce music using midi controllers with a computer.
  4. Large-sized and heavy, requiring a large amount of space for storage. So they are often expensive to move from one place to another if you want to move house or study in different places.
  5. Not able to be easily used by someone without some kind of musical background who does not have the ability to play the instrument without looking at a music sheet and know how to read notes on a music sheet.

Top 3 Digital Piano

1. CASIO CT-S300 (Affordable but Good!)

Shine one up, you’ve got a show to give. The CT-S300 has everything you need to be the star attraction with its 61 piano-style lighted keys w/ Touch response and 400 tones, 77 rhythms, and 60 songs built-in. It provides you with a great introduction to digital piano performance and gives you all the tools of a professional performer. When you’re not performing, just fold away the keyboard, or carry it as a traditional upright piano.


Looking to learn piano but don’t want to blow your budget? Consider the Roland FP-10, our best pick for this price range. It has weighted keys and sounds that are remarkably similar to a real acoustic piano.

With 15 built-in sound styles, including piano, strings, organs, and electric pianos you’ll have plenty to choose from to create a solo concert or even just an intimate dinner party.

Even though it doesn’t come with split keys or an onboard recorder, this keyboard is the most affordable in our list of the best digital pianos for beginners.

3. Alesis Virtue – 88-Key

Alesis Virtue – 88-Key is a world-class piano you can take with you. Compact and easy to assemble, it features a full-sized digital keyboard with velocity sensitivity and adjustable touch response. The 3 pedals (sustain, soft, and sostenuto) are always at your feet and the adjustable piano bench can easily be attached.

The 88 keys are the same as those on a traditional acoustic piano, providing you with familiar feel and ease of playability. You can create rich and expressive musical performances with 360 premium voices onboard and 128-note maximum polyphony. This digital piano is truly an instrument that can grow with you as your musical skill expands. The USB/MIDI port and piano-style sustain pedal input (damper pedal) are convenient features that give you the ability to expand your playing possibilities.

The limited-edition Alesis SampleTank SE is included for free, so you can enjoy a variety of high-quality, impeccably produced sounds that are perfect for virtually any musical genre.

Who Would Benefit Most from Each Instrument?

A midi controller is great for those who want to create music easily without having to learn how to play the piano, which is not only time-consuming but also expensive as well. Students or people who want a different instrument other than a keyboard for creating music are the ones who would benefit most from owning a midi controller. Since they are inexpensive, it will cost you little or nothing if you don’t like using it, unlike digital pianos which can be difficult to sell when you no longer have any use for them.

A digital piano is suitable for someone who wants to have a realistic piano sound every time they create music. They are also great for those who enjoy learning how to play the instrument. If you want to learn how to play the piano, then it will be easier and faster with a digital piano that can record and play back the notes played on it through midi controllers.

The Price and Quality of Midi Controllers vs Digital Pianos

Digital pianos cost from under $300 to well over $3000, while midi controllers cost between $100 and around $1000. Midi controllers provide a cheaper alternative to digital pianos in lieu of their higher sound quality and versatility. Most models of digital pianos are generally designed with the same features and capabilities, making it difficult for users to decide which one they should purchase, hence why it is important for them to do their research before making a decision.

Conclusion: Midi Controller vs Digital Piano

The conclusion for this article is that the differences between a midi controller and a digital piano are pretty clear. A digital piano is better suited for someone who wants to learn how to play the instrument, while someone who wants to create music may prefer a midi controller. It is important for users to research and discover which of these two instruments is more suitable for them.

Jacob Miller

Hi, I'm Jacob Miller, and welcome to AudioOver, a platform designed to help aspiring music producers create music from home. With a musical background inspired by my award-winning father, I've been passionate about music since I was young.

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