A keyboard controller transfers sound data to a computer for processing. The lightweight options are excellent for traveling musicians as they reduce their overall luggage weight and simplify their music production experience.  

With different portable controllers’ varying features, sizes, and settings, how do you identify the right one for your travel and musical needs? This guide outlines the five best portable keyboard controllers, their features, pros, and cons to help you find the ideal one. 

1. Seaboard RISE 2 – The Most Expressive Portable Controller 

The Seaboard RISE 2 by ROLI is a unique keyboard controller with an innovative and versatile music interface. Its soft silicone surface provides immediate, accurate, and expressive responses when pressing the different keys. 

Furthermore, unlike traditional keyboards, Seaboard RISE 2 features 5D Touch Technology for controlling sound by sliding and lifting rather than pressing. It also integrates with MIDI Polyphonic Expression for a more comprehensive range of notes per sound. 

Plus, Seaboard integrates with numerous DAWs, especially ROLI’s Equator. It connects to the software, giving you better control of your music production devices. Seaboard is also lightweight and USB-rechargeable. 


  • Versatile Equator2 synth 
  • Expressive playing surface 
  • Elegant finish 


  • Lacks two-octave model 

2. Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 – The Most Lightweight Controller 

Akai Professional MPK Mini Play is a third-generation keyboard for musicians traveling light. Its core features include an ergonomic design, velocity-sensitive pads, built-in speakers, and a four-way joystick modulator. 

It also has velocity-sensitive pads to increase key sensitivity and response when pressed. On top of that, its built-in speakers allow you to listen to over 1500 downloadable sounds without headphones or external speakers. 

The MPK Mini Play joystick helps control the pitch and modulation of sounds. This keyboard also comes with as little as 25 mini keys and an ergonomic design for easier carrying on your travel. 

Other notable features of this portable keyboard include drum pads for integrating beats into various melodies. It also has a USB port for charging and an arpeggiator for playing diverse notes on a chord. 


  • Compact design 
  • Versatile integration capabilities 
  • Excellent rotary controls 


  • Thumb feel can be uncomfortable 

3. Arturia KeyStep 37 – The Best Low-Cost Portable Controller 

Arturia KeyStep 37 is among the few keyboard controllers with a velocity-sensitive keyboard and RGB LED-lit keyboard indicators. They help with tracking the keyboard’s notes and generating more accurate responses.  

The KeyStep 37 also has 37 mini keys for simplifying the traveling load and different pre-installed modes. On one hand, it has a chord mode with 12 voicings and pre-selected effects for enhanced sound production. It also contains a scale mode for choosing a scale for mapping out three-octave keyboard notes.  

Additionally, this controller features a 64-step polyphonic sequencer with eight polyphonic per step for mixing various notes in a sound. It has multiple connection options, including USB, MIDI, Sync, and CV/Gate connections. Some versions of Arturia KeyStep 34 also have pre-installed Ableton DAW software for customizing different sounds. 


  • Variety of chord and sequencing styles 
  • Comes with Pre-installed DAW 
  • Multiple connectivity options 


  • Squeaky keys 

4. Nektar SE25 – The Best Performance Keyboard Controller 

The Nektar SE25 keyboard controller has a compact design and simple music production interface fitting for traveling artists. Its 25 keys make it easy to move around with the synthesizer, plus each key is velocity-sensitive for generating accurate and faster responses. 

Travel musicians will also love its easy-to-use interface. Nektar SE25 contains six accessible buttons for adjusting keyboard notes and keys while traveling. You can also integrate this controller with various music equipment and devices, including DAWs, such as Ableton, Pro Tools, and Logic Pro. 

Finally, the Nektar SE23 connects to various devices, such as your phone or tablet, via a USB cable. Other noteworthy features of this synthesizer include transport controls and pedal inputs for playing, recording, rewinding, and stopping music in DAW or music software. 


  • Extremely lightweight 
  • Heightened velocity sensitivity 


  • No drum pads 
  • 5. Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 – The Best-Designed Portable Controller 

Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has an ergonomic design and numerous control functions to simplify music-making. Its design includes 25 mini keys that lighten the load while traveling.  

Other than that, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 has 16 RGB LED backlit velocity-sensitive pads for triggering more accurate responses and eight rotary knobs for better tone adjustment. It also integrates with digital audio workstations (DAWs) for better sound effects, mixer settings, and musical instrument management. 

The Launchkey Mini MK3 also has a TRS Type A 1⁄8-inch port to connect hardware synths. It also contains navigation and control buttons, such as the pitch modulator, for adjusting the tones of various sounds. 


  • Integrates with Ableton 
  • Sustains input 
  • 16 RGB-lit drums 


  • It lacks an elaborate aftertouch 

To Summarize 

Portable keyboard controllers possess various features that simplify music production when traveling. They also minimize the burden of carrying heavy loads on your trip. However, different portable controllers have contrasting controls, features, and capabilities.  

Prioritizing your musical and travel needs is essential for choosing the right one. Remember, lightweight controllers have mini keys, while significant keyboards have full-size keys. Ultimately, you want a portable keyboard controller with maximum functionality. 

Written by

Scarlet Garbinson

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