The MusicRadar Best in music tech polls received thousands of votes, and we're now rolling out this year's winners.
In 2019, there are more MIDI controllers and sequencers on the market than ever before. You’ll find keyboards, pads and other devices that look more like they belong in a sci-fi show than a studio.
Here, we present the best new MIDI controllers and sequencers of 2019, as voted for by you, our esteemed users. First up, we have our winner...
1. Arturia KeyLab mk2
Arturia have a worthy winner here. Keylab MkII is a premium quality keyboard and controller that manages rather successfully to deliver for both DAW and live hardware users alike.
The MkII builds on the connectivity and controls of its predecessor. The clearly zoned top panel has 16 RGB touch and pressure- sensitive pads that can also select or trigger chords (Chord Memory and Chord Transpose modes). There are six transport controls and ten DAW command buttons with nifty magnetic labelling overlays for Logic, Pro Tools, Studio One, Reaper, Ableton Live and Cubase.
Ultimately, It's an operationally intuitive beast with three distinct modes - DAW, Analog Lab and User (there are ten user configurable presets) - selected via dedicated mode buttons in the centre. In use, the Analog Lab mode requires no setting up, while User mode is more open-ended, with full customisation of knobs, faders and buttons including button colours.
Overall, the KeyLab MkII is an awesome controller keyboard that not only delivers fine playability, but also tackles DAW control and synth editing. Throw in CV capabilities and standalone operation and the price seems entirely justified.
Read more: Arturia KeyLab mk2 review
2. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
As impressed as we were by Native Instruments’ A-Series keyboards for Komplete Kontrol, our one criticism of the range was that the smallest - the 25-key A25 - was too bulky to be considered truly portable, due to its full-size keys and wheels.
Well, we couldn’t really have asked for a more effective follow-up than the 2019 addition to the Komplete Kontrol pantheon: the M32. Delivering almost the exact same functionality as the A-Series, this eminently mobile USB 2.0 bus-powered keyboard manages to squeeze 32 mini keys and the full complement of Komplete Kontrol... controls into its 457x167x50mm, 1.45kg frame.
The M32 is astonishingly successful in its realisation of an on-the-go Komplete Kontrol.
3. Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid
Aimed at producers, Pioneer DJ’s Toraiz line was started in 2016 with the Dave Smith-filter equipped SP-16 sampler/sequencer, followed by the AS-1 monophonic analog synthesizer in 2017. 2019 saw the birth of a third unit, the new Squid sequencer, which, unlike the SP-16, functions purely as a sequencer for other gear with no audio processing of its own.
The fact that the Squid is purely focused on sequencing means that it’s been engineered and designed clearly for that purpose, opening the door to a world of bespoke sequencing options, with new features like Groove Bend and speed modulation putting a new spin on your step sequencing moves.
Read more: Pioneer DJ Toraiz Squid review
4. Akai Force
Force is an impressive standalone system that can effortlessly handle almost every aspect of electronic music creation, sequencing and performance. Not only can you compose, perform and remix tracks on the fly internally, but you can also trigger, play back and sample all of your external MIDI/CV hardware, making it a true studio hub.
If you’re willing to commit, Force just might be your new MPC for the modern age.
Read more: Akai Professional Force review
5. Sensel Morph Buchla Thunder
2019 saw Sensel team up with Buchla to reimagine the original Buchal Thunder instrument interface in a new overlay for its Morph MIDI controller.
The overlay features the same interface layout as the original, but with the added bonus of being MIDI MPE compatible, allowing for control over all manner of hardware and software synths, drum machines and samplers, including DAWs and effects.
Building on the original Thunder’s expressivity, the Morph edition allows you to connect via USB, or Bluetooth and instantly explore sounds through the 27 ‘keys’, without any training or particular playing technique.