Here’s a list of the most-configurable MIDI controllers, with the total amounts of assignable controls for each:
Keylab MK2 ($450 for the 49-key, $500 for the 61)
right side: 9 endless encoders / 9 faders / 9 buttons (3 banks, so 81 total controls!)
16 drum pads (can be CC events, or MIDI notes)
Track/Global Controls: 10 buttons total (two rows of 5)
10 User Presets (aka “Maps”)
Keylab Essential ($200 for the 49-key, $250 for the 61)
right side: 9 endless encoders / 9 faders (only one bank)
3 buttons (Next/Previous/Bank)
8 drum pads (can be CC events, or MIDI notes)
6 User Presets (aka “Maps”)
Minilab MK2 ($100)
8 drum pads (2 banks– can be CC events, or MIDI notes)
16 endless encoders (2 are clickable, and shift-able, for 4 extra controls)
7 User Presets (aka “Maps”)
16 endless encoders (with “soft click”)… love the feel of these
16 drum pads (can be CC events, or MIDI notes)
2 transport buttons (stop and play, can be assigned to anything)
big knob (with “soft click” – (can be used as another endless encoder)
16 User Presets (aka “Maps”)
Basically, a Minilab MK2 without the keys, and an additional row of pads. Built like a tank!
16 endless encoders (more prominent “click” than the regular Beatstep– still lovely)
16 step buttons (can be midi notes, or any CC message)
16 drum pads (can be midi notes, or any CC message)
16 User Presets in Control Mode (aka “Maps”)
Also built like a tank!
basically EVERYTHING can be assigned with the Controller Editor software… all 64 grid buttons can be midi notes OR CC messages)… the 8 touch strips can do anything, as well as have 8 pages of touch strips if desired!)… cursor/directional pad can be assigned to whatever… clicky encoder can be anything… you can have “Pages” of the grid buttons if you wish, or just one single page (and assign the top 8 buttons to anything)… it’s insane. Probably the best general MIDI controller for the money. Hands-down. I bought one not only for Maschine, but for use with Ableton, Reaper, and countless other applications (and hey.. built like a tank!)
Maschine MK2 / MK3 and Studio
Same as Jam… basically EVERYTHING can be assigned with the Controller Editor software. I would HIGHLY recommend picking up a used MK2 or Studio (even without the Maschine software) just for the hands-on, tactile control of whatever you want (including Ableton Live). The price cannot be beat for these used controllers, in 2019. And usually, they include a software license transfer… for dirt cheap. Highly recommended.
Komplete Kontrol S-series (Mark I)
These can be found for CHEAP these days. Much like the Maschine controllers, Controller Editor software can make these things do whatever you want, including mapping your keyboard range to anything, any MIDI channel, and any octave. See below. I got my S25 MK1 for only $130 shipped. I got an S49 in mint condition for only $230 shipped.
Novation Launch Control XL
16 buttons (two rows of 8)
< > and up/down buttons (can be assigned to anything)
Device/Mute/Solo/Record Arm (can be assigned to anything)
(total assignable buttons: 24)
8 User Presets (easily switchable)
8 Factory Presets (just as easily switchable)
Just watch the video…. this is one of the best controllers, ever. If the knobs were endless encoders instead, it would be PERFECT. Great blank overlays available from www.taktility.com.
Launch Control (original)
These are tough to find these days… used, often $40-50. Hardly anyone wants to get rid of them. I own two and love them both.
8 buttons (can be midi notes or CC’s)
8 User Presets and 8 Factory Presets
M S R buttons (24 total)
misc buttons: Back, Forward, Stop, Play, Record (basic transport), Cycle, Set Marker, Previous Marker, Next Marker, Previous Track, Next Track (35 total buttons)
Nanokontrol Studio ($150)
M / S / R / Select buttons (32 total, 4 rows of 8 buttons each)
Transport / Various buttons: Back, Forward, Stop, Play, Record, Rewind To Beginning, Cycle, Set Marker, Previous & Next Marker, Previous & Next Track (44 buttons total)
Various Scenes (5 total, cycle through them with the Scene button). Very handy, though I wish it had dedicated Scene Forward / Scene Back buttons. Sometimes it’s a pain to hit a button multiple times just to go back.
BLUETOOTH or USB!
Behringer X-Touch Mini ($60)
8 clickable endless encoders
1 master fader
16 buttons with plenty of space between each (for easy labeling)
Only 1 User Preset – two banks (A and B, which double your controls)
I don’t much like the feel of the encoders but I like the customizable LED ring lights around them, and I think the buttons are great for track or instrument selection. Everything is completely customizable on this, plus, a handful of the buttons are labeled for transport and can work in Mackie Control mode.
I usually hate Akai products. I think they’re made like crap (especially their pads, which have inconsistent sensitivity across the board– double-triggering, etc. Absolute crap, and usually overpriced. Had an MPD18 several times… sold it. Had three MPD218s… sold all three (because of pad sensitivity inconsistency and “choked” pads for no reason). However… their older stuff is pretty dope.
Used MPD32 ($150 or less)
See if you can find one with MPC Stuff’s “Thick Fat Pads” Upgrade (there are a lot of them out there). Much better sensitivity.
8 endless encoders (3 banks of them- A B and C)
16 pads (4 banks of them- A B C and D)
Easy to program right from the unit itself.
18 Factory Presets (which can be overwritten) and 12 User Presets, for a total of 30 User Presets
Hella good value. The display shows the velocity of the pads as you hit them, and whatever control you touched last. Quality unit.
Push 1 ($200 or less)
I’m not entirely sure if the original Push can be used as a generic midi controller (I think it can)… if so.. you’ve got 8 encoders, 64 velocity-sensitive pads and more. And check out this amazing tool formerly “Transformator” for it, so you can use either Push 1 or 2 with Reaper (Transformator software is now called DrivenByMoss4Reaper). If you’re a Reaper user, google it… it’s insanely useful.