It is no secret that the makers of the two leading DJing platforms, namely Serato and Native Instruments, are in fierce competition with each other. As with all wars each side will push forward and gain the advantage over the other for a while. For a time, it looked like Native Instruments were going to win hands down thanks to the impressive array of controllers available for Traktor, but in recent times Serato have turned the tables and if anything look to be leading the charge when it comes to choice of controllers. This change of fortunes is largely down to the fact that Serato have opened up their platform to work with other manufacturers, while Native have largely pursued a closed shop approach, instead preferring to make Traktor controllers in-house. Traktor users have had at their disposal, among others, the rather excellent Traktor Kontrol X1 and Traktor Kontrol F1 which broke new ground in terms of portability and compact size when they were released, leaving Serato users to look on in dismay and envy — until now that is. Akai's new AMX and AFX controllers are clearly taking aim at Native Instruments' X1 and F1 and have upped the ante more than a little thanks to some very slick features.
The AMX and AFX are Akai Professional's first foray into the world of DJ controllers and actually borrow more than a few features from Numark's box of tricks, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as both companies are owned by the same people. Happy days are here for Akai and Serato DJs, thanks to the release of the rather excellent compact AMX mixer and the AFX effects controller. Both of these controllers are super compact, priced very reasonably and share the same features, such as touch-sensitive knobs found on Numark's NS7 MK2 and NV controllers. The build quality is superb on both the AMX and the AFX, and when it comes to features, both of these controllers have an awful lot to shout about.
While both of these controllers are going to be very popular amongst Serato users the AMX is likely to be the winner in terms of number of sales, mainly because it combines an audio interface with a two-channel mixer-style control surface. The AMX has a 24-bit 96 kHz audio interface, which works flawlessly with Serato and a full version of Serato DJ complete with Serato Flip is included in the purchase price, although a paid upgrade is required if users wish to have DVS support. The AMX has a generous amount of inputs and outputs, with two stereo inputs available, a stereo main out and a headphone out. Output levels do suffer somewhat due to the fact that the AMX is USB bus powered with no possibility of connecting a power supply to boost the levels. The control surface manages to pack in a lot of controls without feeling cramped, and has two channels which each feature touch-sensitive knobs that control the three-band EQ and filter, as well as a gain and channel fader. Each channel also has its own UV meter, track load buttons, sync button and start button. In use, the AMX is a joy — whilst it is compact in size, it does give a pro feel performance.
The AFX as the name suggests is all about effects and once again manages to pack an awful lot of features into a rather small space. A bank of eight RGB backlit pads identical to the ones found on Numark's NV controller dominate the bottom of the controller and can be assigned to a variety of functions including cues, slicers, sampler and transport controls. The large encoder knob at the centre of the unit takes care of a multitude of functions including volume, bank selection and loop lengths and is complemented nicely by a two-digit display found above the knob. Effects controls are laid out in a two-channel arrangement, with three FX engage buttons and a tap button that are complemented by touch-sensitive knobs located to the side of each of the buttons. Another feature borrowed from the NS7 is the touch strip at the top which comes complete with a row of indicator LEDs, a combination that is perfect for parameter control and pitch-bending, but a little clumsy when the needle drop cuing mode is engaged.
Both the AMX and the AFX are top controllers with fantastic build quality and very clever control panel layouts that make good use of a very small amount of space. These controllers work fantastically well together and form one of the most cost-effective and portable controller systems when combined. Akai can rest assured at the success of these controllers because Serato DJs are sure to make them fly off the shelves, especially at these prices.
AMX £179, AFX £139
BUILD QUALITY 8
EASE OF USE 8
VALUE FOR MONEY 9
SOUND QUALITY 8
Simple to use and set up, touch-sensitive control knobs and USB bus power.
The lack of USB hubs is likely to annoy Apple laptop owners and the output level from the AMX is definitely on the quiet side.
Two super compact controllers that work fantastically well individually or can be used together to create an ultra-portable Serato controller system. Both of these controllers are packed with features and are very reasonably priced.