MIDI Controllers for iPad (2024) (Best Controllers, How to Connect Them)
iPads are a very viable option to use for both music production and live performances. 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 helps to use a MIDI controller.
In this article, I’ll talk about how to connect a MIDI controller to your iPad as well as some recommended MIDI controllers. Also, it’s worth checking out some MIDI Controller Apps for your iPad/iPhone.
My top recommended MIDI Controller for iPad is the Korg NANOKEY2BK. This is a sleek-looking and very capable MIDI controller.
My second recommended MIDI Controller for iPad is the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2. This is a versatile keyboard with an affordable price tag.
Recommended MIDI Controllers for iPad (2024)
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).
Let’s compare these in more detail.
Korg is a household name in the keyboard world so it’s no surprise to find them on this list. The Nanokey2 is part of the larger Nano series, with several different types of controllers. Let’s take a look at the keyboard one. There are 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 a 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 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.
The 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. The 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, and there are also Lightning, USB-C, and USB-A cables included, so it will connect to your iPad and other devices you might have. It also includes a pedal input. The keys are responsive and you will get the sound you’re looking for easily.
The Akai MPK mini MKII is a great little production powerhouse. It comes with 25 velocity-sensitive keys, 8 backlit pads, and 8 knobs. The pads and knobs are programable and the pitch and mod control have a very interesting design – instead of the standard wheel controller you get a thumbstick controller.
Note: You may need Apple’s lighting to USB camera adapter or a powered USB hub to use this with your iPad. I’ve seen people online have varying results connecting these to iPads, so it may depend on the version of the iPad, I’m not 100% sure about that.
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.
Another IK Multimedia device on this list, the 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 a USB, 30-pin, and a ¼” input, so you can connect a sustain or expression pedal if 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.
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 on to 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 and 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.
iPads are frequently used for music production and live performances nowadays. They are slowly becoming the norm in the modern music world. Using an iPad for such a purpose, it would be wise to get an accompanying MIDI Controller.
My top recommended MIDI Controller for iPad is the Korg NANOKEY2BK, a sleek-looking, small, and very capable MIDI controller.
My second recommended MIDI Controller for iPad is the IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2, a versatile, full keyboard controller with an affordable price tag.
Note: Be sure to check out how to connect your iPad with a MIDI Controller and before buying one, check with the manufacturer to see if the controller will work with your iPad.