Akai is a name that is nothing short of legendary in the dance music scene, with a pedigree that stretches back to well before the birth of house music. But what made Akai famous was their range of samplers which were for many years the must-have accessory for every serious studio.
At the height of Akai's success they employed over 100,000, but have endured some hard times since the halcyon days of the 1990s. However, thanks to the release of some rather lovely equipment, in particular the APC and MPC controllers, in recent years the Akai name is every bit as relevant to today's electronic music advocate as it was in the '80s or '90s.
The latest news from Akai is of the release of three new APC controllers which will further cement Akai's role as a force to be reckoned with in these modern times — and will surely turn the heads of Ableton Live users the world over.
Just as Akai's samplers were must-haves for any serious producers back in the day, the APC40 and APC20 controllers were among the first controllers released for Ableton Live and quickly became essential for DJs and producers that were using Live at gigs as well as in the studio, thanks to their innovative design and generous amount of pad-style buttons.
Akai have replaced both of these classic controllers with completely re-imagined versions: the APC Mini, which replaces the APC20, and the APC40 MKII — which has seen the most dramatic change in terms of layout and looks — that replaces the original APC40.
The APC KEY25 is a brand-new addition to the family, and in a first for an APC controller, features a 25-note keyboard, rounding out this range of controllers very nicely indeed. All of these new controllers will be equally happy on the road at a DJ or live gig, as well as back in the studio, and aim to offer more performance features for Ableton Live users.
The APC40 MKII is Akai's flagship Ableton Live controller, incorporating five years of user feedback, and as a result of this the new layout is simply fantastic, vastly improving the work flow as well as looking great.
At the centre of the APC40 MKII's control panel is a five-by-eight RGB backlit pad-style button matrix above which sit eight rotary encoders, complete with LED rings for position feedback. Below the clip launch matrix are eight channel faders plus a master fader, cue level knob and six channel control buttons above each channel fader. On the right of the control surface are a transport section, master section, eight rotary encoders, navigation controls and a cross-fader.
While the APCmini doesn't share the same name as its older sibling, the family resemblance is there and rather than being a cut-down APC40 MKII, this is an entirely different beast, with a simpler layout and a huge eight-by-eight RGB button matrix at the centre.
Nine small channel faders sit at the bottom of the controller and a collection of transport, navigation and other controls are taken care of via rows of buttons that surround the main button matrix. The layout of the APCmini is no nonsense. It works well and manages to keep things simple and provide a great range of functions in a small footprint. This controller is clearly destined to give Novation’s Launchpad some serious competition.
The most dramatic departure from the previous generation of APCs comes in the form of the APC KEY25 which as the name suggests features a 25-note keyboard, making it perfect for composition as well as performance.
Of course no APC would be complete without a pad matrix, this time in a five-by-ten button format with transport, navigation and other control buttons located at the bottom and the right hand side of the matrix.
Eight rotary encoders and a further six backlit control buttons complete the control surface of the APC KEY25, making this a super-compact-yet-surprisingly-powerful controller keyboard.
Combining all three controllers into an Ableton Live rig makes for a very extensive and powerful set-up. Akai have indeed listened to the comments of their users and put their advice to good use.
These new APC controllers have given the range a whole new lease of life and offer a good range of options to choose from, with a controller to suit every situation. The build quality is great, the controllers are lightweight and little touches like USB bus power make them perfect for use both in the studio and out on the road.
APC40 MKII £299.99
APC KEY25 £99.99
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