Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for FL Studio (2024 Edition) (2024)

In the world of electronic dance music (EDM) and reggaeton, FL Studio is still one of the most popular digital audio workstations (DAWs). Some people even compare its popularity to that of Ableton Live among DJ superstars and modern beat producers.

Personally, I think FL Studio has some similarities to Reason. It has a modern and simple interface with many options for sound design, both for synthesizers and manipulating audio.

FL Studio excels particularly in the synthesizer department and comes with some excellent stock sounds. Companies have even started producing MIDI controllers that work well with FL Studio's growing popularity and impressive automation capabilities.

Here are a few of the top controllers.

The Best MIDI Controllers for FL Studio

1. Novation FL Key-37

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This European company knows a thing or two about electronic music; they've built some of the best analog and analog-modeled synths used in many dance productions. It makes perfect sense that they created a controller specifically for FL Studio.

One of the biggest user-based criticisms of FL Studio compared to Ableton is the amount of screen diving you have to do for each function. The Novation FL Key-37 is perfect for this reason.

It has many designated functions to speed up the workflow while navigating windows. They even added quality pads that respond well to velocity, allowing you to create quality beats when used with FL Studio's super-tight MIDI response.

Another feature that I found super useful was the fact that you can access and choose plugins directly from the controller. It reminds me of the NI Kontrol that I often use. So, you can spend less time staring at the screen and more time being creative.

The one aspect of the FL Key that could be better is the actual feel of the keys. I'm a pianist, so I might be more sensitive to that sort of thing, but they felt a bit stiff compared to other controllers.

2. Arturia KeyLab MkII 61

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This is hands down my favorite controller for FL Studio. It's packed with everything you could want for creative control. Plus, the French are total design pros, and the layout is top-notch.

The KeyLab MkII's keys are seriously high-quality. It's always important to have great keys on any keyboard, especially if it's not a mini. A great controller can be your one and only synth if you're using a standalone version, so it should be super fun to play no matter your skill level.

Even though this controller isn't specifically for FL Studio, it has one feature that makes it perfect for it, the Smart Control section. It has overlays for some of the most popular DAWs. And even if FL Studio isn't included, you can still customize this section and even make your own overlay.

Now, I'm all about sliders, especially since I'm also a film composer. And let me tell you, the Arturia sliders are the best I've ever used. Not only are they perfect for CC control, but they work wonders in FL Studio's mixer section.

Okay, so here's my one small gripe: the aluminum build feels a bit cheap. Maybe it was made lighter for travel purposes, but it's kind of a bummer compared to the old Arturia controllers that felt way more solid.

3. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKIII

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Alrighty, let's start with the obvious: Akai is hands down the best when it comes to drum pads. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The spongy, fat, backlit MPC pads from their flagship MPC X are directly ported to this little guy, making it essentially an MPC hybrid controller.

The MPK Mini's arpeggiator is really good, no doubt about it. Akai is known for having good MIDI timing, and the creator of the MPC, Roger Linn, once said that he tried to make the early MPCs feel like a funk drummer. The arpeggiator might be very precise, but it still has a good feel to it.

Another excellent feature that's worth mentioning is the endless or infinite knobs. These knobs not only feel great but also do the job of not changing the setting stored in a preset. If you've used Roland vintage synths before, you know how frustrating it can be when the slider or knob doesn't match the preset. This little guy has solved that problem.

Now, my only gripe with this controller is the joystick. I don't like how the pitch bend and modulation are controlled by the same joystick. They're two different types of controls, and it can be a bit confusing. It's not like the filter cutoff and resonance, which work together. I don't understand why they made this design choice.

4. Nektar Impact LX49+

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Nektar is a relatively new player in the keyboard market. I first used their Panorama when I was heavily using Reason. I appreciated the design and integration, which aligns with their goal of seamlessly integrating software and hardware.

The Impact LX49+ is a midsize controller with 49 keys and 9 faders that have designated control pots. The keys utilize synth-action technology and have a nice feel. They have a bit more tension than I prefer, but that's beneficial for drum programming.

The transport, situated right of center with really nice-sized buttons, is probably my favorite feature. It's great to have a proper transport on a controller, which is missing from many others.

Another excellent feature is that the Nektar comes pre-mapped for many of the most popular DAWs, including Logic, Reason, Cubase, and FL Studio. This is fantastic since I found customizing FL Studio to be a bit complicated compared to Ableton.

The control pots have very clear markings, so you know exactly where they are in rotation. While infinite knobs are still my favorite, it's nice that they assigned Filter Cutoff and Resonance dedicated pots for synth enthusiasts.

The pad section is the only weak spot for me. There are only 8, and the feel is not as responsive as some other controllers.

5. Akai Professional Fire Grid Controller for FL Studio

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This thing is a game-changer. The Fire Grid Controller is the first controller dedicated to FL Studio, and it's seriously professional.

Not only does it have a killer 64 RGB velocity pad matrix, but you can connect up to 4 units for 256 dedicated pads. That's insane. Even Akai can't match that for the MPC.

The obvious comparison is that this is to FL Studio what Push is to Ableton. Everything is mapped specifically to one DAW. Again, since FL Studio is less intuitive for customization, this makes it much more fun.

It's also great for live performers. Having that many options to play and manipulate sequences live is fantastic. Add to that the capabilities of navigating the Tool Bar and Channel Rack seamlessly, and you're set for next-level performance.

I also love the size of it. Making it rectangular instead of square like Push and Launchkey makes more sense for FL Studio since the layout is more familiar with what's on the screen.

The transport on the bottom is also a nice touch. It's clear and simple to stop and play with easy reach from a keyboard controller.

My one wish would be to have a better screen though. This one is tiny compared to their Ableton competitors.

6. Arturia MiniLab MkII 25-Slim Key Controller

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Arturia never fails to impress with its design skills, and the Minilab MkII is no exception. It's amazing how they managed to fit a transport, arpeggiator, 8 pads, and knobs without crowding the surface.

They even have a full 5-pin MIDI out in the back for use with vintage synths and drum machines.

I own the Keystep Pro and have always loved the fact that Arturia includes presets. This one has 500 of them! They also include a bundle of high-quality instruments from UVI, NI, and of course, their own Analog Lab.

The chord mode is what makes this controller perfect for FL Studio. It's always been popular with electronic artists, and the FL Studio layout works well for chunk-based MIDI.

The arpeggiator is also great for creating some sick electronic patterns, especially since you can output the notes to other hardware via the MIDI output in the back simultaneously. It's time to start feeling like Giorgio Moroder!

I can't help but wonder why they put piano-style keys on a mini 25-key controller, though. It kind of leaves me scratching my head. It makes it harder to program drums and basslines without really making a difference to a skilled pianist.

Choosing a MIDI Controller for FL Studio

Alright, so when it comes to picking the perfect controller for FL Studio, you have to keep in mind that this DAW is pretty unique. From what I've seen, it's more geared towards programmers, producers, and sound designers, rather than performing musicians.

That's why the drawing and automation lanes are so great. They really help you get creative. So, in my opinion, there are a few factors you should consider when choosing a controller.

Musical Skills

Let's be real, nowadays you don't even need to know how to play a chord or what notes are in a scale to make a great track. With programs like FL Studio, most controllers have shortcuts for non-musicians.

For example, the Novation controllers have scale and chord modes that are extremely useful. You can create great ideas just by ear without any musical knowledge. In scale mode, it's easy to write bass lines that are pretty much foolproof since it eliminates any notes that aren't in the scale.

Customization

FL Studio is pretty unique, so when you're picking out a controller, customization is going to be super important. Visually, it's simple yet deep and complex at the same time. There's a lot of window navigating and menu diving, so custom templates seriously help out.

I'd recommend going with a controller that's specifically designed for FL Studio. When you've got specific commands that have designated keys, faders, and knobs, it really takes the experience to the next level.

Also, grid-based controllers that are dedicated to FL Studio, like the Fire Grid, give you a complete visual guide to your arrangement. That's super inspiring for experimenting with instant rearranging and loop creation.

Performance Features

FL Studio is a powerful studio tool, but it's also great for DJs and electronic artists who like to perform live. If you're one of those artists, you might want a controller with some great live performance features. And no, you don't have to be a keyboard expert to use it.

For example, the MPK mini pads are perfect for dropping some sick beats, and the stacked Firegrid controllers let you get serious with your triggering.

But if you prefer keyboards, the Arturia Keylab might be just what you need for your live shows. Plus, it comes with some amazing samples to sweeten the deal.

Final Thoughts

I love staying up to date with all the new keyboards and controllers coming out. I'm a huge fan of the NAMM show and spend almost every day jamming on every type of keyboard I can find.

What I've realized over the years is that the "in the box" way of making music always gets stale. Every year, more and more plugins, sample libraries, and virtual emulations flood the market, yet everyone is always hyped about the hardware.

You can see people shelling out $30,000 for a used Jupiter 8 on Reverb when the emulations are really darn close. What's up with that?

Then you've got the new Elektron magic box that pops up almost every year. And those Behringer remakes? They're so hot they can't even stay in stock for a day.

I think at the end of the day, tactile feel is what drives us. That's why dedicated controllers are so appealing. It feels like you are using a "real" version of a "virtual" program.

That's why Softube made the Console 1, SSL made the UF8, and Akai initially made the MPC Studio.

The same can be said for all these controllers. FL Studio has so much under the hood that is so cool when paired with dedicated hardware. Especially controllers like the Akai Fire Grid, which look like a mix of a Novation launchpad and a Roland 808.

It just makes you want to create with it.

Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers for FL Studio (2024 Edition) (2024)

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