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6 Best Aftertouch MIDI Controllers

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Are you searching for an aftertouch MIDI controller?

Perfect!

We’ll give you the top six options to choose from.

Overview: The Best Aftertouch MIDI Controllers

  1. Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII
  2. Novation 61 SL MkIII
  3. AKAI Professional MPK249
  4. M-Audio Oxygen Pro
  5. Alesis V161
  6. Novation Launchpad Pro Grid with Polyphonic Aftertouch

Musicians, producers, and DJs have been using aftertouch MIDI controllers to add expression and dynamics to their music for years.

But what is aftertouch?

Aftertouch is a type of pressure-sensitive control that allows you to add effects – or movement – to a note by applying additional pressure to its key after striking it.

This can open up a whole new world of sonic possibilities, allowing you to add effects from your DAW to your performance in real-time.

If you’re looking MIDI controller with aftertouch for studio or stage performances here are the six best options.

[Click here to learn more about keyboard aftertouch]

6 Best Aftertouch MIDI Controllers  

1. Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII

Credit: Arturia

Highlights

  • 88-note Fatar TP/100LR keybed with aftertouch
  • 9 assignable faders, knobs, and buttons each with auto-mapping in most major DAWs
  • DAW controls
  • 16-backlit performance pads
  • Includes Analog Lab with 6,000+ synth and keyboard sounds, Ableton Live Lite, Piano V, Wurli V, and Vox Continental V

Key Features

The Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII is an excellent all-around MIDI keyboard.

It offers an authentic grand piano feel, with 88 hammer-action, velocity and pressure sensitive keys making it excellent choice for experienced keyboardist who want to produce more complex compositions.

You’ll also get 9 assignable knobs, faders and buttons each, an advanced set of DAW controls making it easy to navigate your favorite software, and seamless software integration with the highly-sought after Analog Lab plug-in providing access to over 6000 quality synth and keyboard sounds.

Potential Downsides

A potential downside to consider is that its price tag is quite high. This model retails at around $1000 making it one of the more expensive options.

Additionally, its large size and weight makes it less portable than some of the other models on this list.

What We Like

One of our favorite aspects about this unit is its customizability. You can save custom presets for instant recall by using the User button.

Also, we like how easy it is to browse, layer, and manipulate sounds in Analog Lab directly from the KeyLab 88.

Dimensions

  • Size in Inches: 50.91 x 12.68 x 4.41
  • Weight: 38 lbs.

Connectivity

  • Powered through USB for easy computer connection.
  • Includes 2 MIDI ports; MIDI IN and MIDI OUT
  • DC port for power without a computer
  • 3 Aux pedal inputs
  • Sustain and expression inputs
  • 4 CV / Gate outputs for control of modular equipment

Our Recommendation

Overall, the Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII is one of the best aftertouch MIDI controllers on the market and is perfect for those who want a realistic piano feel.

However, it may be overkill if you don’t need a full-sized keyboard.

Consider a MIDI keyboard with 61 semi weighted keys if you’re looking for a unit thats more portable and less expensive.

2. Novation 61SL MkIII with 8 Track Sequencer

MIDI Controller

Credit: Novation

Highlights

  • Scan rate of 10 kHz – gives keys a dynamic feel for expressive performances
  • 8 faders and 8 rotary encoders
  • 8-track pattern sequencer
  • Pitch and modulation wheels
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • Zones and Scale Mode
  • 16 velocity-sensitive pads with polyphonic aftertouch
  • Built for Ableton Live

Keybed

The Novation designed the 61SL MkIII for the modern musician.

It features a sleek and stylish design that will look great in any studio setup.

Also, its keybed is made up of 61 semi-weighted keys that are velocity-sensitive with aftertouch capabilities.

Its pads are also velocity and pressure sensitive and can be used to trigger sounds and control parameters.

8-Track Sequencer

With its internal 8-track sequencer, you can produce and edit your own MIDI sequences, as well as record and playback audio directly from the SL MKIII.

Here are three ways you can use the step sequencer with the SL MKIII…

  1. Add variation to your patterns by recording parameter automation directly into the sequencer
  2. Design your patterns in real-time – adjust note and pattern length
  3. Develop unique rhythms by adjusting arp settings

Arpeggiator

The Novation 61SL MkIII built-in arpeggiator is a tool that allows you to create arpeggiated patterns. It’s great for creating thick, textured sounds, or for adding movement and interest to your patterns.

DAW Integration

Keep in mind, you’ll get the most out of this MIDI controller with Ableton Live, Logic, and Reason but it’s also compatible with most major DAWs.

Dimensions

  • Size in Inches: 11.8 x 3.94 x 38.62 inches
  • Weight: 18 lbs.

Connectivity

  • Powered through USB for easy computer connection.
  • Includes 3 MIDI ports; MIDI IN, MIDI OUT, MIDI OUT 2/THRU
  • DC port for power without a computer
  • 3 Aux pedal inputs
  • Sustain and expression inputs
  • 2 CV / Gate outputs for control of modular equipment

Our Recommendation

The SL MKIII is one of the most feature-rich MIDI controllers on the market, and it’s perfect for anyone who wants complete control over their music making process.

With its large color LCD display, 8 rotary encoders, 8 faders, and 16 pads, the SL MKIII provides everything you need to take your music production to the next level.

Plus, its built-in arpeggiator and step sequence make it easy to play complex melodies and rhythms.

If you’re looking for a MIDI controller that can do it all, especially if you use Ableton, Logic, or Reason, the Novation SL MKIII is the perfect choice.

3. AKAI Professional MPK249

Credit: Akai

Highlights

  • Ergonomically designed pitch bend and modulation wheels
  • Built-in arpeggiator, Note Repeat, MPC Swing
  • 8 assignable Q-Link faders, rotary encoders, and buttons each to adjust volume and control parameters in your DAW
  • 16 MPC style pads each with 4 banks for 64
  •  Software Included: Ableton Live Lite, MPC Beats, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech & SONiVOX Twist

Keybed

The AKAI Professional MPK249 incorporates the feel of an MPC and an intuitively designed MIDI controller all in one.

Its a top-of-the-line MIDI controller that offers a number of features and benefits for music producers.

For starters, the MPK249 has 49 semi-weighted keys with aftertouch, which is provides a nice balance between a realistic playing experience and portability.

While some prefer to have more than 49 keys , the MPK249’s size makes it ideal for traveling producers who need a feature rich keyboard.

You can route aftertouch to anything from reverb, modulation, filter cutoff, etc. to add more dynamics to your performance.

Other Controls

In addition, the MPK249 has a built-in arpeggiator with various settings, transport controls, Note repeat, MPC swing, etc.

Potential Downsides

One of the potential downsides is its pads aren’t as responsive as some other models on this list. They’ll require you to press down harder than normal.

However, what’s unique about them is each one has four banks giving you 64 possible pad combinations at once.

Dimensions

  • Size in Inches: 12.28 x 29.06 x 3.39 inches
  • Weight: 13 lbs.

Connectivity

  • Powered through USB for easy computer connection
  • MIDI IN, MIDI OUT
  • DC port for power without a computer
  • Sustain and expression inputs

4. M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 Key

Aftertouch MIDI controller

Credit: M-Audio

Highlights

  • Note Repeat, clip launching, and soundboard triggering
  • Built-in arpeggiator
  • Smart Scale and Smart Chord mode
  • DAW Modes
  • Includes OLED screen for quick and easy control edits
  • Included software package: MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, VSTs from AIR Music Tech and Akai Professional MPC Expansion pack

The Oxygen Pro 49 is a great tool for music producers.

It has 8 assignable knobs, 9 faders, and 16 velocity sensitive drum pads that auto-map to most major DAWs.

You’ll also get an OLED screen to browse through settings and a production software package that includes MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, virtual instruments from AIR Music Tech and Akai Professional MPC Expansion pack.

PrecisionTouch Keys

One of the best aspects of this relatively affordable MIDI controller is its PrecisionTouch keybed with aftertouch.

With its PrecisionTouch keybed, the Oxygen Pro 49 is able to deliver a natural and responsive feel thats ideal for experienced keyboardists.

Aftertouch-Enabled Keys

To use aftertouch on the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49, simply press down on the keys with more pressure than usual. This will activate the aftertouch feature, which allows you to add dynamics to notes without taking your fingers off your keys.

You can assign different parameter to aftertouch and experiment with different amounts of pressure to find the tone you’re looking for.

Other Controls

Other notable Oxygen Pro 49 features are a built-in arpeggiator, pitch/modulation wheel, Chord and Scale Mode, and transport controls.

Dimensions

  • Size in Inches: 10.36 x 3.35 x 31.54 inches
  • Weight: 10 lbs.

Connectivity

  • Powered through USB for easy computer connection.
  • Includes MIDI OUT port
  • Sustain input

We recommend the Oxygen Pro 49 if you’re looking for an affordable yet versatile unit with plenty features and excellent playability.

It offers a natural feel that’ll be comfortable for experienced keyboardists and beginners and rivals features you’ll find in more expensive units.

5. Alesis VI61 – 61 Key

61 Key MIDI Controller with Aftertouch

Credit: Alesis

Highlights

  • 16 knobs and 48 buttons
  • Production software included – Ableton Live Lite

Aftertouch-Enabled Keybed

If you’re a music producer looking for the best aftertouch MIDI keyboard, then the Alesis VI61 is worth considering.

It has 61 semi-weighted velocity and pressure sensitive keys allowing you to play expressive melodies and chord progression.

Notable Controls

There are also 48 assignable buttons and 16 knobs you can use to control nearly every aspect of your DAW and virtual instruments. The amount of controls you get with the VI61 make it perfect for live performances.

While the VI61 has more controls than the other keyboards on this list, it doesn’t come with key features we’ve previously discussed such as like Chord and Scale Mode, a built-in arpeggiator, DAW modes, etc.

DAW Integration

If you’re looking for auto-mapping right out the box, one of the previous units mentioned may be a better option.

But if you don’t mind doing a little work to set it up, you’ll get a fully customizable controller that’ll streamline your workflow.

Dimensions

  • Size in Inches: 10 x 40.35 x 2.95 inches
  • Weight: 13 lbs.

Connectivity

  • Powered through USB for easy computer connection.
  • MIDI OUT port
  • Sustain input

6. Novation Launchpad Pro Grid with Polyphonic Aftertouch

Aftertouch MIDI controller

Credit: Novation

Hiighlights

  • Integrates seamlessly with Ableton Live and other hardware via MIDI
  • 32-step sequencer
  • Chord mode helps you build complex chords
  • Scale mode locks pad into musical key
  • Software included: Ableton Live Lite, AAS Session Bundle, XLN Addictive Keys, Softube Bundle, Novation Sound Collective

Polyphonic Aftertouch vs Channel Aftertouch

The launchpad Pro MIDI controller features 64 velocity sensitive pads with polyphonic aftertouch.

The two types of aftertouch in a MIDI controller are polyphonic and channel or mono aftertouch.

Polyphonic Aftertouch
  • With polyphonic aftertouch, each key sends an independent aftertouch response.
  • Your MIDI controller can send multiple aftertouch signals from different keys at once.
  • Polyphonic aftertouch requires more skill to play fluently
Channel Aftertouch or Mono Aftertouch
  • You can only apply aftertouch to one key at a time.
  • If you trigger multiple keys, your MIDI keyboard will send an aftertouch response for only one key.
  • The pressure you apply to one key affects all the notes you play at the same time.
  • Channel aftertouch is most common form of aftertouch in MIDI keyboards.

Sequencer

The launchpad pro’s 4-track, 32-step sequencer is a powerful tool for producing and editing full tracks internally.

With this feature, you can produce complex sequences and rhythms, experiment with different sounds, and produce full tracks directly from the Launchpad Pro.

The Launchpad Pro’s grid layout makes it easy to access controls and edit your sequences, and the built-in metronome ensures that your tracks stay on beat.

You can even quantize, duplicate, and mix (adjust volume, panning, etc) patterns internally.

With its many features and capabilities, the launchpad pro’s 32-step sequencer is a valuable addition to any producer’s arsenal.

Dimensions

  • Size in Inches: 10.55 x 10.55 x 0.71 inches
  • Weight: 4 lbs.

Takeaway

Aftertouch in a keyboard lets you add variation to note based on the amount of pressure you apply to its key.

By applying pressure to a key after striking it, you can add modulation and other effects to a note as your playing it.

In a MIDI keyboard, aftertouch represents the MIDI data your keyboard sends to a specific parameter in DAW when you apply pressure to notes.

This MIDI data activates allows you to control a specific parameter in your DAW and apply effects in real-time.

Keep in mind, you can assign a number of to aftertouch

Overall, its purpose is to give you more control over sound as you play.

You can add more variation to notes while playing keys rather than adjusting your mod wheel or adding effects through automation in your DAW.

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