I was very keen to get my hands on the new Akai MAX49 controller keyboard ever since I first caught wind of it back in January. I read the specs, watched the videos and was very intrigued, but I knew I couldn’t pass judgement until I tried it for myself. You’ll be glad to know that I wasn’t left disappointed!
One feature that can’t truly be transcribed in a specs list is Akai’s infamous build quality. It feels really robust and gig-proof where you’d want it, yet the keyboard is semi-weighted an elegant, with a very impressive action that surpasses many expensive keyboards that I’ve played.
Probably the coolest and most practical feature of the MAX49 is the LED fader strip bank on the right of the unit. The touch faders act as sliders but with the benefit of back-lit LEDs so you receive visual feedback. Like wing mirrors in a car, they provide helpful control without being overly distracting. The touch strip itself comes with the obvious advantage of no moving parts to get broken. It allows for instant, controlled jumps by simply touching the relevant point of the strip without having to slide, which is very useful.
Now we come to the main attraction of the MAX49, the Control Voltage outputs that allow straightforward connections to analog synths and drum machines. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try this first hand, but if it’s anything like the rest of the features, it’s sure to be awesome.
The MPC pads are pretty self-explanatory – you know exactly what you’re getting – or do you? You actually have four banks of 12 giving you up to 48 interchangeable pads. If you’ve used MPCs before there’ll be no surprises here, the pads come with classic MPC swing and everything else you’d expect.
The Akai MAX49 is a brilliant controller at a surprisingly cheap price, so its no wonder it’s receiving the attention that it is. The thing I like about it most is its versatility, it actually functions as several units in one, and even on its own is a fully respectable keyboard. If you get the opportunity to have a play on the MAX49, I would highly recommend it.