iPads are a very viable option to use for both music production and live performances. In this article, we talk about how to connect a MIDI controller to your iPad. We also have listed some recommended MIDI controllers.
Some musicians now use iPads as full-on music workstations, without the need for a laptop at all. But, if you want to use an iPad in such a manner, it really helps to use a MIDI controller.
How to Connect A MIDI Controller to an iPad
There are several ways to connect your MIDI controller to your iPad device. Most MIDI controllers have a USB connection and the iPad notoriously doesn’t have regular USB ports. Here is how you can get around that:
Camera Adapter (USB to Apple Lightning, USB to Apple 30-pin)
The second way is to use an Apple camera adapter, such as the USB to Apple Lightning Adapter. These are small adapters that you plug into the iPad with a simple USB port in the back. This is a cheap way to connect your controller to your device, but not without its faults.
Because a lot of these controllers are USB powered, you could end up with a device that can’t take enough power out of your iPad to work. In this case, move onto the next option.
Note: Make sure you buy the correct Adapter. Newer iPad models use a lightning connection. Older iPad models use a bigger 30-pin connection. Also, most MIDI controllers use USB-2 or USB-3. If your controller uses the newer USB-C connection, then you will need a separate adapter.
Powered USB Hubs
You could also look to invest in a powered USB hub for iPad. These hubs need to be plugged in separately don’t need to draw power from the iPad. This also allows for more battery life and more playing time.
iPad Docking Station
There are also docking stations made specifically for iPads, some of which act as an audio interface and MIDI interface. The Alesis io-dock was one such example, but it has since been discontinued.
Recommended MIDI Controllers for iPad
All of the MIDI controllers below work with iPads. When purchasing a MIDI controller, check with the manufacturer to ensure that it will work with iPads. In general, if the controller has a class-compliant USB connection then it should work (this means that the device does not need any special drivers in order to work).
1. Korg NANOKEY2BK
Korg is a household name in the keyboard world so it’s no surprise to find them on this list. Nanokey2 is part of the larger Nano series, with several different types of controllers – we’re going to review the keyboard one, but there are also pads and DAW controllers as well.
This controller looks different from others because of its beautiful, sleek design. The keys are split into two rows, with black keys on the top, which makes music playing a bit easier. The keys themselves are rubber and feel very nice when played. This controller is connected and powered through the USB cable and is compatible with most of the DAWs on the market.
On the left of the keyboard, you will find pitch and octave buttons allowing you to change the sound of your device quickly. Also, you will find a mod and sustain buttons, which is a nice addition. This is a nice, semi-professional, affordable solution for anyone looking to have a small, compact controller that is easy to use.
2. IK Multimedia iRig Keys
iRig Keys is IK Multimedia’s first addition to this list. It’s a full keyboard controller that you can get in different versions – 25 mini keys, 37 mini keys or 37 full keys, depending on what you need. 25 keys version is compact and has fewer options, but with the 37 keys version, you will get everything you might need on the keyboard.
It has a 30-pin connection, USB-c connection, and a pedal input, so it will connect to your iPad and other devices you might have. The keys are responsive and you will get the sound you’re looking for easily.
3. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
The Akai MPK Mini MKII is a great little production powerhouse. It comes with 25 velocity-sensitive keys, 8 backlit pads, and 8 knobs. Pads and knobs are programable and the pitch and mod control has a very interesting solution – instead of the standard wheel controller you get a thumbstick controller.
The MPK Mini also comes with a USB connection, which allows it to connect to any device you might want to connect it to and a separate ¼” pedal input jack.
4. IK Multimedia iRig Pads
Another IK Multimedia device on this list, iRig Pads is the pads only controller, the only one on this list. It has 16 large, backlit, velocity-sensitive pads. Apart from that, you will get two MIDI knobs, a large slider, and a data button.
It packs USB, 30-pin and a ¼” inputs, so you can connect it to anything you like. This device is great for anyone looking to get a versatile, traveling pad MIDI controller and the price is not as big as you would expect.
We hope that this article has shed some light on how to connect MIDI controllers to iPads. We also included some good options that you could consider.