There’s a lot of hardware out there. This worksheet aims to hit on some of the most popular gear available but is by no means exhaustive.
MAUDIO KEYSTATION 49: under $100
Inexpensive and lightweight midi controller with a very light synth action. This controller features pitch bend, mod wheel, sustain input, a volume slider, transpose buttons, and a few additional buttons that can be assigned to parameters within MainStage.
NOVATION LAUNCHKEY 61: under $250
16 pads, 8 knobs and faders, and a decent keybed make this a good starter option for those who need more than 49 keys but aren’t too concerned about having weighted keys and would like an all in one solution.
AKAI MPK 261:
This keyboard features great build quality, semi-weighted keys with great sensitvity, 16 pads, 8 knobs, 8 faders, and 8 buttons with 3 banks for a total of 24 buttons. The Akai MPK series is quite popular. Some folks however, don’t enjoy having the knobs, faders, and buttons on the right side of the keyboard so evaluate if that matters to you or not.
MAUDIO KEYSTATION 88: $150
This keybaord offers a minimalist layout with 88 semi-weighted keys, pitch bend, mod wheel, and sustain input. This is the controller I use personally at home. If you want 88 keys, play a blend of piano and synth parts, and plan to use a midi control surface like the Korg nanoKontrol then I recommend this board as an awesome value.
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AKAI PROFESSIONAL MPK88: $800
This keyboard features fully weighted, hammer action keys that allow greater expressiveness and realism when playing piano parts. It also features 16 pads, 8 knobs, faders, and buttons and plenty of room to set your macbook on. This is an investment keyboard suitable for long term use where reliability, ease of use, and key feel are a priority.
MIDI CONTROL SURFACES:
KORG NANOKONTROL 2: $60
This little unit packs a huge amount of flexibility into a portable and affordable package. It’s widespread adoption in the MainStage world is for good reason. I hesitate to list too many other options for standalone controllers because of how much I love this unit. However, I will list a few for the sake of seeing what’s out there.
AKAI LPD8: $65
This unit offers 8 velocity sensitive drum pads, 8 knobs, and 4 banks. If you like the large size of the pads and don’t need faders this could be a good fit. Very similar in size to the nanoKontrol.
KORG NANOKONTROL STUDIO: $150
This unit could be considered the nanoKontrol2’s big brother. Offering additional buttons, the option to use wirelessly over bluetooth, a jog wheel, the ability to recall different banks/scenes, and more additional features as well as a more substantial construction, this is a great option for folks who like the idea of the nanoKontrol2 but just want a little but more.
TOUCH OSC APP: $5
This little app runs on your iPhone, Android, or other smart device and allows you to use it as a midi control surface over USB or wifi. It’s what I used to create the smart device template for my Sunday Keys MainStage template. The app allows you to use a pre-made template or create your own. A word of warning, there is a bit of a learning curve to designing your own templates so I’d recommend starting with something like Sunday Keys unless you’re very comfortable with how midi works.
MIDI TO USB OPTIONS:
SANOXY MIDI TO USB CABLE: Under $10
This little cable is straight-forward, plug and play. USB into your computer, midi in/out into your controller/keyboard. This is what I use for boards that don’t have a direct USB option. They are not the highest quality construction so I usually travel with two, but the price is so much lower than any other option that it’s still way less of an investment than most other options.
ICONNECTIVITY MIO USB TO MIDI: $35
This is a more roadworthy option compared to the Sanoxy so if reliability is a big concern or if you plan to travel with the unit frequently, then this might be a better way to go
BEHRINGHER U-PHORIA UMC202HD: $70
This is a budget friendly interface, however Behringer is relatively new in the audio interface market and these units are still largely untested. I haven’t heard much negative or positive feedback so check the reviews and decide for yourself. 2 inputs, 2 outputs, connection over USB.
ICONNECTIVITY AUDIO 2/4: $150
This two input, two ¼ in output offers high build and audio quality in a sleek package. I have nothing but positive things to say about iConnectivity products.
ICONNECTIVITY AUDIO 2+: $200
This is one of the BEST and MOST VERSATILE interfaces on the market today, in my opinion. It offers 4 ¼ in. outputs and a stereo output that gives you a total of 6 fully configurable outputs. This interface can also handle all your midi devices and even pass midi between devices like your Mac and your iPad. This picture is of the back, just so you can see all of the functionality it offers.
APOLLO TWIN DUO: $900
This unit features super low latency, pristine audio quality and durability, and the opportunity to sculpt and sweeten your output sound in realtime with iconic UAD plugins. Pricey but so good!
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