Talk about portability. Akai Professional has had some great success in the Ableton game, arguably innovating the entire music equipment world with tailor-made gear paired up with software. Made especially for the producer or musician who’s on-the-go, this thing can fit pretty much anywhere. Akai has taken their APC40 MkII functionality and shrunk it into this. What’s even better? It’s only $100 retail, and when it comes to min gear in general, they’ve never really let us down, especially with their new MkII keyboard controller they’ve also released recently. Let’s look into the APC mini and see what it has to offer us.
Main features of the Akai APC Mini
- Retail price: $100
- Ultra portable (7.9 x 9.4 x 1.1 inches and only 1.5 lbs)
- All-in-one to seamlessly integrate with Ableton live
- 8×8 clip-launch matrix
- Tri-color lighting displays
- 8 assignable faders
- 1 master fader for hands-on control
- Included software bundle: Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech and the Toolroom artist launch pack (samples and sounds)
The APC mini has an 8×8 pad grid giving you 64 possible assignable pads. They are multicolor and look really slick, especially when you’re performing on stage. It’s USB powered and has no adapter needed. Incredible in terms of portability: all you need is your laptop, the APC mini, and a USB chord and you’re set. Although I like to also accommodate my setup with a MIDI keyboard too, but it really depends on your preferences. If you are looking for a keyboard too, don’t forget that Akai has the APC Key 25 out which pretty much combines their mini here along with some keys for a few extra bucks — just know that you have options.
The included software bundle is also quite impressive considering the mini versions of gear usually don’t come with anything at all. In fact, you get basically the same package as you get in the bigger brother. You’ve got Ableton Live Lite (a few more bucks to upgrade to full), Hybrid 3 by AIR (the synth sounds are actually pretty good…I still use a few of them in my mixes despite owning a lot of the more expensive Native Instruments VST’s), and the Toolroom artist launch pack which is relatively so so, nothing too mind-boggling. Regardless, for only $100 I’ll take even one extra synth sound paired up with the APC mini.
The overall build of the APC Mini is suitable especially at the price. The faders aren’t cheap and the pads are just as good as the other Ableton controllers Akai has out. Although the faders to us feel a bit cheaper than the more expensive MIDI controllers out there, I’m not being harsh here due to the price. The only thing I’d complain about with this is the lack of some wheels for mod or pitch control as well as some knobs (I use knobs a lot for my FX in my mixes and performances). Their APC 25 does have knobs, but then lacks faders. So pick your poison.
Our rating of the APC Mini Ableton controller
Other versions available:
If you’re not planning on getting any other Ableton controller and are looking specifically for portability, we recommend this bad boy. I personally have one just because: sometimes I go over to my friends studio to hang out in his garage and collaborate on a beat and it’s super easy to throw in the passengers seat (although it lacks a case, I use a towel). My buddy makes some loops with his guitar and keys and I sometimes jam along with him. It’s got essential, powerful functions shrunk into an easy-portable machine. No cons here. It is what it is.
A huge, huge plus is if you’re looking to try out Ableton in general. You get the Lite version (which comes with a serial) so you don’t have to drop some big bucks. If you’re still debating, Ableton made it as one of the best DAWs out there in our best music production software article, so don’t turn back if you’re already leaning towards using it. We like it in terms of a DAW for the expertise range level of beginner to semi-pro.
The APC Mini controller is definitely worth it if you want a convenient, portable controller that can map seamlessly with Ableton at only $100 retail. It gives you the essential functions for external Ableton control and is still easy on your wallet. There’s nothing out there quite like it.