So you thought Novation were the only ones making controllers that strictly catered to Ableton-users? Think again my friend as Akai Professional has a few tricks up their sleeves that might just be what you’re looking for. Back in 2009, this MIDI Powerhouse collaborated with the makers of Ableton Live to bring us the original APC40 (Ableton Performance Controller) that found itself on the wishlist of producers around the world.
It basically took the software’s unique ‘Session View’ off the screen and put it straight into the palm of your hands, giving you real faders and clip launchers to go full hands-on. Years have passed since the APC40 was unleashed and Akai has come back with a set of controllers that give the original a much-deserved encore. Today, however, we’re talking about the APC Key 25 in particular because its the only one that comes with black and white keys.
As you can tell by now, this may not be the controller for anybody rocking a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) like Cubase, Reason, FL Studio, Logic, Pro Tools and even Magix Music Maker. It’s designed to integrate 1-1 with Ableton but it can do the job on other major Softwares after going through the headache of mapping each button first. It’s compact, portable and adds so much to your music-making-experience that it’s a great choice for beginners on the prowl and veteran Ableton-users alike that need an easy solution for on-the-go recording. Here’s my Akai APC Key 25 review.
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars (Based on 43 ratings)
What Can It Do?
Before I say anything, the first thing to stand out on this controller is its overall size. It’s as wide as a Macbook and expands on any workspace with ease. For those not familiar with Ableton Live, the ‘Session View’ makes use of clips that are preloaded, edited or created on to tracks. Multiple clips and tracks form a grid and that’s exactly what Akai aimed to replicate with the 40 responsive triggers at your disposal.
That means 5 rows of clips across 8 tracks that light up to accurately reflect what’s happening in the software, so you can effortlessly stop, launch and record without going near the mouse and computer keyboard. The buttons that sit to the right of the grid are the ‘scene launch’ buttons (that play or stop every clip in their corresponding row simultaneously) and each of them has a unique second function (mute, solo, delete etc.) that can be accessed by pressing the shift button.
Class is in session…
Further to the right are 8 knobs that can be used to make precision changes to your volume, pan, sends and various devices. Each function has its own dedicated button so you can switch seamlessly between modes but if that isn’t good enough, you can assign your own MIDI commands to the knobs and use them how you see fit. Last but not least, we have the 25 miniature keys available for you to create classic melodies or even play live to your favourite beats.
Add in the Octave Up and Down button and you have everything you need to access this controller’s full melodic range.
What Can’t It Do?
As awesome as these keys might look, it’s definitely going to be a bit of struggle if you’re stepping down from the full-sized thing. Even as a beginner, you may find it a bit tricky at first but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. It definitely can’t cater to every producer out there too. There are so many different DAWs in the world and, even though mapping out your own commands is a possibility, who’s got time for that? So make sure Ableton Live is the one for you.
Plus, what about a pitch and modulation control? It’s a must on any controller made with performing in mind. Without that feature, it’s really more of a composer’s tool than a performer’s instrument. And if you’re thinking of using those triggers as drum pads, think again.
There’s definitely a hefty bag of goodies in store with this little device. Since this controller was designed to fit perfectly with Ableton Live, they’ve made sure you don’t go empty handed. So whether or not you’re in need of a DAW they’ve included the Lite version for free. Almost like a demo version that will get you up and running straight away.
To help out your new software, you get 2 world class virtual instruments in the form of Hybrid 3 (from AIR Music Tech) and Twist (from SONiVOX). Both of them together would retail for more than $100 sold separately but for you, it’s a free download as well. As an added bonus, there’s also a premium collection of sample packs from ToolRoom Records to get you started on the right note.
Should I Get It?
If you’re using any other software besides Ableton Live then I would definitely recommend you get something else. Akai also makes the MPK Mini MKII which is diverse enough to cater to any Major software at a cheaper price as well. However, if you’re a die-hard Ableton lover then this may just be the one for you. Much like Novation controllers, they extend your user experience and help you get the most from this DAW. Why not also try the Novation Launchpad Pro or even the Ableton Push 2 which are show stopping controllers in their own right.
Got any more questions you’d like to ask? Wanna tell us about your controller? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- Ableton Live controller with built-in performance keyboard
- Seamlessly integrates 1 to 1 with Ableton Live
- Clip-launch matrix with tri-color lighting displays current clip status
- 25 synth-action mini keys
- 8 assignable knobs map to Ableton Live and control volume, sends, and more
- Shift button and directional arrows manipulate the scope of the grid
- Dedicated Octave Up, Octave Down, and Sustain buttons
- USB-powered and plug-and-play setup for Mac and PC
- Production package included: Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, SONiVOX Twist, and Toolroom artist launch packs (downloads)
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