Best MIDI Pad Controller for Music Production in 2023

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MIDI pad controllers are a popular tool for music producers and performers alike.

These devices allow for intuitive and expressive control over virtual instruments, drum machines, and other software-based music tools.

The best MIDI pad controllers offer a range of features and functionality that can help elevate your music production game.

When shopping for a MIDI pad controller, there are a few key things to consider. The first is the size and number of pads.

More pads can offer more control, but can also make the device larger and more cumbersome. The sensitivity of the pads is also an important factor, as it can affect the expressiveness of your playing.

Other features to consider include the presence of knobs and faders for additional control, as well as compatibility with your preferred music software.

After researching and testing several MIDI pad controllers, we have identified the top products on the market.

These controllers offer a range of features and functionality that can suit the needs of both beginners and professionals.

Whether you’re looking for a compact and portable device or a larger controller with plenty of control options, we’ve got you covered.

Best MIDI Pad Controllers

We have researched and tested various MIDI pad controllers to bring you the best options available on the market.

Whether you’re a beginner or a professional musician, a MIDI pad controller can enhance your music production experience.

These controllers are designed to trigger sounds, samples, and loops with the touch of a pad, making it easier to create beats and add texture to your tracks.

After thorough testing, we have compiled a list of the best MIDI pad controllers that offer the best value for your money.

AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2

AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2

If you’re looking for a compact and versatile MIDI controller for music creation, the AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2 is an excellent choice.

Pros

  • The 64 RGB-backlit pads provide a brilliant and precise representation of your Ableton Live session clips, making it easy to launch and activate loops, instruments, vocals, and more with confidence.
  • The 9 assignable faders are automatically mapped to the eight Macro Controls of Ableton Live’s selected device, allowing you to control multiple parameters with one Master fader to generate totally innovative sounds.
  • The Drum and Note modes feature seamless integration with Ableton Drum Rack, and the Smart Scale View Mode ensures you know what scale you’re in without having to reference your laptop screen.

Cons

  • The APC Mini MK2 is pre-mapped for 1-to-1 integration with Ableton 11.2.7 onwards, so if you’re not using Ableton Live, this may not be the best option for you.
  • Some users have found that the colors of the RGB-backlit pads are not as bright as they expected.
  • The device may not program easily, making it somewhat difficult to set up initially.

This MIDI controller is perfect for creative looping, mixing, home studio, and live performing.

Its compact size and USB-powered design make it easy to take with you anywhere, and the included Ableton Live Lite software is an industry-leading DAW for PC and Mac that lets you capture ideas, live performances, record, mix, and unleash your creativity.

Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just starting out, the AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2 is a versatile and reliable MIDI controller that can help you take your music to the next level.

Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 Drum Controller

Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 Drum Controller

If you’re a music producer who’s looking for a compact and versatile MIDI pad controller, then the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 Drum Controller is definitely worth considering.

Pros

  • The Maschine Mikro Mk3 is a compact and lightweight controller that’s highly portable, so you can easily take it with you wherever you go.
  • The 16 pads are highly responsive and offer four different input modes, so you can easily create drum beats, play melodies, create chord progressions, or program in a classic step-sequencer style.
  • The Maschine Mikro Mk3 comes with powerful software that can be used on its own or as a VST, Audio Unit, or AAX plug-in in all major DAWs.

Cons

  • The Maschine Mikro Mk3 requires an internet connection and a graphics card that supports OpenGL 2.1 or higher to download and activate the software.
  • While the Maschine Mikro Mk3 is a versatile controller, it may not be suitable for more complex music production tasks.
  • The Maschine Mikro Mk3 is not the most affordable MIDI pad controller on the market.

Overall, if you’re looking for a versatile and portable MIDI pad controller that can help you create beats and melodies on the go, then the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 Drum Controller is definitely worth considering.

HXW EMP16 MIDI Pad Controller

HXW EMP16 MIDI Pad Controller

If you’re looking for a versatile and expressive MIDI pad controller, the HXW EMP16 is definitely worth considering.

Pros

  • The 16 RGB illuminated beat pads offer 16 customizable lighting colors and 3 velocity curves to select, providing you with a dynamic and immersive playing experience.
  • With 12 assignable controls accessible via 3 banks, including 4 assignable faders, 5 assignable buttons, and 4 assignable endless rotary knobs, you can easily customize your sound and settings on the fly.
  • The HXW EMP16 has both USB MIDI and standard MIDI inputs and outputs, allowing you to control everything from your laptop to outboard MIDI gear with seamless integration from the studio to the stage.

Cons

  • Some users have reported issues with double triggering, which may be a concern if you’re looking for precise and accurate drumming.
  • The pads may not be ideal for finger drumming, but they work well for sample-based producers.
  • The included Cubase LE software is great for beginners, but more experienced users may prefer to use their own preferred music production software.

Overall, we found the HXW EMP16 MIDI Pad Controller to be a solid choice for anyone looking for a versatile and expressive MIDI pad controller.

With its customizable lighting colors, assignable controls, and convenient connectivity options, it’s a great tool for both studio recording and live performance.

If you’re looking for a reliable and feature-packed MIDI pad controller, the HXW EMP16 is definitely worth checking out.

Synido MIDI Pad Beat Maker Machine

Synido MIDI Pad Beat Maker Machine

If you’re looking for a portable MIDI pad controller that’s easy to use and has a lot of practical features, the Synido MIDI Pad Beat Maker Machine might be just what you need.

With 16 drum pads, 4 assignable knobs, and practical transport controls, it’s perfect for beginners and experienced music producers alike.

Pros

  • The intuitive layout and easy-to-use features make it simple for players to create music on the go.
  • The backlit beat machine with 16 drum pads and 3 memory banks streamline your learning process.
  • The ultra-precise flexibility with its editor makes it suitable for music producers of all skill levels.

Cons

  • The pads could be more responsive.
  • The product description is misleading, as it’s not a full beat maker.
  • The top pad might malfunction, as some users have reported.

We’ve tested the Synido MIDI Pad Beat Maker Machine, and we were impressed by its portability and ease of use.

It’s perfect for camping, traveling, and performing, as it’s ultra-light, thin, and portable.

The 4 velocity-sensitive curves better cater to your needs, responsive to your strikes in real-time, and the durable silicone pad provides a more expressive and dynamic playing experience.

The Synido MIDI Pad Beat Maker Machine is compatible with most DAWs, and it offers full programmability and ultra-precise flexibility with its editor.

Full-color range editable beat pads are useful personalized visual cues for smooth creation, with stunning rhythm light show.

It’s highly versatile and can be used with any MIDI-enabled device, including PCs, Macs, and mobile devices.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a portable and easy-to-use MIDI pad controller that’s perfect for music creation on the go, the Synido MIDI Pad Beat Maker Machine is definitely worth considering.

It’s affordable, versatile, and has a lot of practical features that make it suitable for music producers of all skill levels.

AKAI Professional Fire (Controller Only)

AKAI Professional Fire

If you’re an FL Studio producer, the AKAI Professional Fire is a must-have tool for enhancing your music-creating experience.

It’s a high-performance hardware controller designed to streamline your workflow and provide you with a custom-engineered control source for both studio and live performance scenarios.

Pros

  • The 4 x 16 pad matrix with radiant RGB backlighting allows you to create patterns in the step sequencer and record notes and synth parts on a pad-based MIDI keyboard controller in performance mode.
  • The graphical OLED display makes browsing and controlling the various files, menus, and parameters within your FL Studio session a breeze.
  • The 4 banks of assignable Touch-Capacitive MIDI knobs/encoders provide ultimate control over channel, mixer, and custom user-assignable mappings.

Cons

  • The AKAI Professional Fire is only compatible with FL Studio, so if you use a different DAW, you’ll need to look for a different MIDI pad controller.
  • The Fire’s compact size may be a bit too small for some users, especially those with larger hands.
  • The price point may be a bit steep for some, especially those just starting out in music production.

Overall, if you’re an FL Studio producer looking for a high-performance MIDI pad controller, the AKAI Professional Fire is an excellent choice.

Its seamless plug-and-play integration, intuitive workflow, and tactile control make it an essential tool for beat production and mixing.

Buying Guide

When looking for the best MIDI pad controller, there are several features you should consider to make sure you choose the right product for your needs. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

Number of Pads

The number of pads on a MIDI pad controller can range from a few to over 100. Consider how many pads you need for your specific use case.

If you’re a drummer or percussionist, you may need a larger number of pads to accurately recreate drum kits.

However, if you’re a producer or DJ, you may only need a few pads for triggering samples and loops.

Pad Size and Sensitivity

Pad size and sensitivity can greatly affect your playing experience. Larger pads can be easier to play, but may take up more space on your desk or in your bag.

Additionally, some pads may have adjustable sensitivity, allowing you to customize the response to your playing style.

Connectivity

Consider how you will be connecting your MIDI pad controller to your computer or other devices.

Most controllers connect via USB, but some may also have MIDI or Bluetooth connectivity. Make sure to choose a controller with the appropriate connectivity for your setup.

Additional Features

Some MIDI pad controllers may come with additional features such as faders, knobs, and transport controls.

These can be useful for controlling other aspects of your music production or performance.

By considering these factors, you can choose the best MIDI pad controller for your needs and take your music production or performance to the next level.

Conclusion

When selecting a MIDI pad controller, factors like pad sensitivity, connectivity, portability, and additional features ensure you choose the right fit for your music production needs.

The AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2, Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3, HXW EMP16, Synido Beat Maker Machine, and AKAI Professional Fire we covered provide versatile percussion programming and sample triggering options across different budgets.

For producers and performers prioritizing Ableton Live integration, the APC Mini MK2 offers intuitive clip launching and mixing capabilities.

The ultra-portable Maschine Mikro Mk3 brings standalone beat creation anywhere. And the Fire provides customized control of FL Studio’s sequencing and mixing features.

No matter your workflow, experience level, or software setup, choosing a MIDI pad controller from these recommendations will give you expressive, tactile manipulation of drums, samples, and more.

This allows you to focus on crafting dynamic tracks, finger drumming, and playing virtual instruments. Prioritize connectivity, pads, and knobs in your to enhance your creative potential.

Dominic

Dominic is the chief editor of the Burton Acoustix blog which writes about acoustics and soundproofing to help readers with their queries and questions they might have with regard to improving any sound or noise issues that they faced in their life.