The 6 Best MIDI Wind Controllers in 2024

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As a sax player who also loves synthesizers, few things get me more excited than wind controllers! They’re a blast to play, and can be incredibly useful for performers and composers. 

Most of them work as standalone instruments with built-in sounds and functions. You can also hook them up to your DAW for expanded capabilities. 

Our Top Picks: The Best MIDI Wind Controllers

Best All-Around
Also Great
Pro Choice
Budget Pick
$899.99
$899.00
$1,549.99
$329.99
Sounds:
250+ sounds & effects
Sounds:
100+ sounds
Sounds:
Over 300 sounds and effects
Sounds:
6 built-in sounds, plus 50 more via mobile app
Best All-Around
$899.99
Sounds:
250+ sounds & effects
Pro Choice
$1,549.99
Sounds:
Over 300 sounds and effects
Budget Pick
$329.99
Sounds:
6 built-in sounds, plus 50 more via mobile app

1. Roland AE-20 Aerophone — Best All-Around Wind Controller

The successor to the original Aerophone. The Roland AE-20 is the best all-around option for most players.

Roland Aerophones feature expanded keywork that closely resembles a saxophone’s, making them easy to play. They even took the time to program alternate and altissimo sax fingerings, which is a nice bonus!

That said, there are options to change the fingering mode to resemble a recorder or EVI (electronic valve instrument).

But you’re probably most interested in the sounds.

The AE-20 comes loaded with an impressive 250+ high-quality patches, which can be further modified with a range of FX settings.

Of course, there are all the lovely synthesizer sounds built into this thing. Then it also has acoustic instrument samples like saxes, flutes, strings, and brass, plus some bonkers stuff like bagpipes and jazz choirs. 

The AE-20 can also sync up with an app for iOS/Android, which lets you customize and build new sounds.

With built-in speakers, plus wired output options, the AE-20 is a compelling option for anybody looking for a high-quality wind synth.

Best All-Around Wind Synth
Roland AE-20 Aerophone
$899.99

One of the best all-around wind controllers. It's fun to play, easy to use, and comes loaded with over 250 sounds.

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2. Akai Professional EWI5000 — Also Great

For decades, Akai reigned supreme as the undisputed leader of wind controllers with their line of Electronic Wind Instruments (or EWI). While other competitors have come and gone, many die-hards still consider the EWI to be the gold standard.

The current flagship model, the EWI5000, sets the bar really high. For one, it comes loaded with a massive 3 GB sound library. Plus, you can connect it to your Mac or PC for nearly unlimited sound options.

While it doesn’t have a built-in speaker, the 5000 does come with a low-latency wireless receiver, giving you complete freedom to move around a stage or studio. And if that’s not your thing, it does have traditional wired output options.

And regardless of your instrument background, the EWI5000 has a setting for you. While the EWI has its own fingering system, it also has borrowed modes based on saxophone, flute, and oboe fingerings. And for brass players, there’s a mode based on the original EVI (electronic valve instrument).

Also Great
AKAI Professional EWI 5000
$899.00

One of the long-time champions of digital wind instruments. The EWI5000 comes with over 3GB of sounds and a wireless receiver.

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3. Roland AE-30 Aerophone Pro — Professional Choice

The Roland AE-30 Aerophone Pro. One of the best MIDI wind controllers available.

The Aerophone Pro is probably the most high-end wind synth there is. It takes everything good about the original Aerophone, then turns it up to 11.

For starters, this thing has over 300 sounds built into it, which more than doubles the original’s. The sounds are highly customizable with effects and filters, which is made easier with the accompanying mobile app.

Another draw is Bluetooth connectivity. While you can’t output your sound to a Bluetooth speaker, you can transmit audio to the Aerophone and play along with your favorite songs.

There are additional connectivity options too. There’s a USB-C port that lets you plug into your DAW and use it as a controller. And for advanced users, there are 5-pin MIDI in/out ports on the backside that let you hook up to other synths and hardware for expanded functionality.

It’s all bundled in a really sleek package that’s less chunky than the original Aerophone and has a nicer onboard speaker.

Pro Choice
Roland AE-30 Aerophone Pro
$1,449.99

A high-end wind synth for active performers. This incredible instrument comes with over 300 sounds, plus multiple I/O options that expand its capabilities.

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4. Roland AE-01 Aerophone Mini — Good for Beginners

If you’re new to this world and just want a no-fuss instrument that’s easy to play, then the Aerophone Mini is for you.

The AE-01 Mini is the perfect introductory instrument for newer players. It’s a good option if you’ve never played a wind instrument before and want to dip your toes in.

As far as playability is concerned, it’s very beginner-friendly. The Mini has only 9 keys and uses simplified recorder fingerings.

There are only six loaded sounds to start off with. But, you can expand the selection up to 50 sounds when you connect it to the free app for iOS and Android. The app also comes with lessons to help you learn right away.

Best for Beginners
Roland AE-01 Aerophone Mini
$329.99

The Aerophone MINI is a great budget-friendly instrument for beginners or casual players. It's small, portable, and easy to play.

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5. Yamaha YDS-150 Digital Saxophone — Best Casual Wind Instrument

The Yamaha Digital Saxophone is one of the few wind controllers I’ve tried that comes close to feeling like a real sax. It’s a fun instrument for casual play, and could also be a good tool for practicing without bothering family and neighbors.

For starters, the YDS-150 comes with over 70 on-board sounds. Sadly, the vast majority of them are saxophone samples, and there are very few electronic instrument sounds.

The YDS-150 also has some distinguishing features that make this incredibly saxophone-like:

  • Traditional sax mouthpiece – The reed doesn’t vibrate. It’s mostly there for feel and comfort.
  • Mechanical-style keys – The keys have an action that feels like a traditional sax. They’re also pretty quiet compared to other digital wind instruments.
  • Brass bell – An actual brass bell for added weight and feel. You can also use it to help display your instrument.

I’d recommend the YDS-150 for casual sax players who don’t want to fuss with endless sound libraries. It’s great if you just want a decent saxophone-like instrument without getting an actual saxophone.

For more thoughts, check out our full Yamaha YDS-150 review.

Best Casual Instrument
Yamaha YDS-150 Digital Saxophone
$899.99

Yamaha's digital sax feels more like real saxophone than most other wind controllers. While it won't replace your acoustic sax, it's a really fun casual instrument. It's also a decent practice tool that lets you play quietly without bugging family or neighbors.

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6. Hornberg Research hb1 MIDI Breath Station — Best for Composers & Piano Players

Unlike everything else on this list, the Hornberg Breath Station isn’t a digital saxophone. Instead, it’s more of a supplementary MIDI tool for composers.

The Breath Station is best used in conjunction with a keyboard. Players and composers can use it to set parameters on their patches and create highly expressive performances. It’s particularly useful for orchestral sample libraries. 

Best for Composers & Piano Players
Hornberg Research hb1 MIDI Breath Station
$849

The Hornberg hb1 is perfect for keyboardists who want a more expressive performance. Its breath expression can put new life into sample libraries and other MIDI-based instruments.

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Honorable Mentions: Berglund NuEVI and NuRAD

The NuEVI and NuRAD from Berglund are heavily based on the original designs by Nyle Steiner, the inventor of the wind controller. In fact, Nyle and his nephew consulted a lot with Berglund on this project.

First is the NuEVI, which is a recreation of the original Steiner MIDI EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument). It uses right-hand fingerings like a trumpet, and has a left-hand control wheel on the underside.

Then there’s the NuRAD, which uses saxophone/EWI fingerings. It’s based on the original RAD EWI that Steiner custom-made for the saxophonist Michael Brecker.

Berglund NuEVI Electronic Valve Instrument

An electronic valve instrument heavily based on the original Steiner EVI. Ideal for trumpet players.

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Berglund NuRAD Electronic Wind Instrument

A boutique instrument modeled after the original RAD EWI played by Michael Brecker. Ideal for sax players.

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It’s a lot harder to get your hands on these, which is why they’re only honorable mentions. Berglund is an independent manufacturer, and only makes these instruments in small batches. As of this writing, there’s a two-year waiting list to get one.

What is a MIDI wind controller?

A wind controller (sometimes called a wind synth or electronic wind instrument) is an electronic instrument that plays like a wind instrument such as saxophone or trumpet. But instead of acoustic sounds, it can play synthesized sounds or transmit MIDI data to another device. 

Most of the commercially available ones play similarly to woodwind instruments like sax, clarinet, or flute. Or in some cases, they can be set to play like a trumpet.

The first EVI was invented by Nyle Steiner in the 1970s. The technology was eventually picked up by Akai for their line of EWIs. And right now we’re living in a sort of golden age of electronic wind instruments with new models frequently coming out from companies like Akai, Roland, and Yamaha.

Who is the wind controller for?

Wind synths tend to appeal most to saxophone players. Not only are they a fun novelty, but they open up a whole new world of sound that they normally can’t play.

Here are the other types of people who might enjoy a midi wind controller:

  • Professional sax players – Wind controllers can be used for performing or recording new and interesting solos. A lot of pro sax players are expected to double on secondary instruments like clarinet and flute, so a digital wind instrument can be used to supplement their arsenal.
  • Beginning musicians – People who have never played an instrument before might be interested in a wind controller. They’re easy to set up and require relatively little maintenance. It’s not the same experience as playing a real saxophone or trumpet. But they’re easy to play. Plus, the large selection of synth sounds make them a fun choice.
  • Players who need a quiet instrument – You can pop your headphones into each of these wind controllers so that you don’t disturb any housemates or neighbors. For sax players, they can be an alternative way to practice their music.
  • Composers – A wind controller can help add some much-needed expression to sample libraries. And if your piano chops aren’t up to speed, a wind controller can be a way to quickly enter notes into your DAW.

Final Thoughts: What is the Overall Best MIDI Wind Controller?

MIDI wind controllers are all sorts of awesome. Despite how niche they are, there’s a shocking amount to choose from.

If you’re absolutely stuck and can’t make a decision, we’d recommend going with the Roland Aerophone AE-20. It’s reasonably priced, comes with 250+ sounds, and has a wealth of features that’ll satisfy most players. You’ll be absolutely happy with it.

Top Pick
Roland AE-20 Aerophone
$899.99

One of the best all-around wind controllers. It's fun to play, easy to use, and comes loaded with over 250 sounds.

Check Sweetwater Check Thomann
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.