Akai APC40 Shipping May 30th

Akai has announced that it will be shipping its highly-anticipated APC40 Ableton Performance Controller on May 30, 2009. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that the APC40, a collaboration between Akai and Ableton, is the first “sanctioned” MIDI controller for use with Ableton Live.

Any MIDI controller will work successfully with Live, due to excellent MIDI mapping, but the APC has been developed from the ground up to work seamlessly with the performance software and is meant to be more of an “instrument” than merely a controller.

The APC40 communicates bi-directionally with Ableton Live, enabling the controller to display information from the software on its clip matrix of 40 triggers and on LED rings surrounding each knob. The clip matrix provides performers an instant view of the Session Overview: what cells contain loaded clips, which are currently playing, which are activated, what is record-armed and solo/cue status.

The APC40 has two sets of eight knobs, each of which can access four banks of controls. The Track Control knobs affect global parameters such as pans and sends, while the Device Controls affect the clip, instrument and effect parameters. The Device Control knobs are dynamically reassigned each time the user changes tracks or devices. This unique capability enables performers to control at least eight track parameters per track – a total of 72 – using the same eight knobs and the nine Track Selection buttons. Channel faders and a DJ crossfader enable smooth control of key values. The controller is fully compatible with standalone editions of Ableton Live 7 and 8 with the latest updates.

We’ve been testing the APC40 for the past couple of days in our sound lab and the majority of us feel that this will make a significant impact on the Ableton Live workflow, both in the studio and on the stage. After experiencing the controller at recent trade shows, we came away impressed with the thought and ideas behind the design. However, now that we’ve been able to paw it in the sanctuary of our studio, we have unearthed several key attributes that will make this product a game-changer for many musicians. The product is not without its small quirks, but for anyone who seriously uses Live, the $400 APC is an easy decision.

Using it also provoked serious and deep conversations about the future of the APC product line. Yes, there will be more APC products in the future. A dedicated Ableton controller instrument has been a long time coming, and considering the early demand and the very attractive price point, has probably got the Akai R&D department ramped up for the next incarnation. Let’s hope they can wait for the reviews and user feedback, so they can fine tune the workflow, user experience and other attributes that will emerge from widespread use.

The other item that’s in the back of our minds is if Akai will join the current Ableton/Serato lovemaking sessions that are reportedly bearing fruit. There’s been a lot of speculation on what that “creative collaboration” will yield as far as a future product, but throw Akai into the equation, and that Ménage à trois could literally turn the entire Digital DJ industry on its head.

The Akai APC40 will be available on May 30, 2009 for $599 (retail). Akai anticipates a street price of $399 — but after the initial lot sells out, look for lots of eBay action this Summer. More information on the Akai APC40.

Author: FutureMusic

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