Whenever one of our favorite brands, and in this case Akai Professional come out with a new piece of gear, we have to see what it’s all about. When we first saw the pictures of the new concoction, we were a bit taken back it wasn’t just another MIDI keyboard or drum pad controller. Here we’ve got a smaller, simpler solution for mixing and controlling certain mix-like features in our DAW. Although they state for it to work particularly well with Ableton, it’s highly compatible with most digital audio workstations out there in the world. Let’s get down into the finer details of the Akai MIDIMix Portable Mixer.
Main features and specs of the Akai MIDIMix
- Compatible with all major DAW
- 8 line faders
- 1 master fader
- 24 assignable knobs (3 per channel)
- 16 buttons (2 banks)
- Mute, solo, and record arm per channel
- Single button send mixer settings to DAW
- Comes with Ableton Live Lite
- USB powered (and MIDI through this single USB port as well)
- Built-in Kensington lock
Features and Design
At first glance of the photos, you can tell how slim and compact this thing is. To us, that’s always a plus, especially now that we’re seeing a trend in having multiple pieces of gear to accompany our setup, needing to fit them all within a constrained space. Especially if you’re planning on traveling with this mixer and performing live, small size always helps obviously. It’s even more convenient that it only requires a USB cord (as it should in 2015, however) for both power as well as MIDI connectivity. Just hook that thing up straight to your laptop or PC and you’re good to go. No complains here in terms of the size and connectivity.
A huge standout we feel is the “Send All” button (located at the top right). With this, you can save all of your settings in the mixer, and once plugged into your computer, upload the preferences straight into your DAW with the push of one button. It can also save your work from a previous session in case you need to get back to where you left off the day before. Keep in mind however, if you’re using a DAW that has a ‘pickup or ‘takeover’ mode, the Send All button won’t work.
Alongside the ‘Send All’ button, below that is a Bank Left or Bank Right button to shift the 8 channels controlled by the MIDIMix. You’ve also got the ‘Solo’ button below those, which you can press and hold to activate or deactivate the solo feature for all eight of the mute buttons that span across below the knobs. To work it, just hold the ‘Solo’ button and press the ‘Mute’ buttons to solo or unsolo their tracks in your software. Last but not least, the ‘Record-Arm’ buttons are then below the ‘Mute’ buttons. A super simple layout with easy-to-use features out of the box.
Overall Build and Stability
Akai is always bringing us solid gear when it comes to the make. In our opinion, they make some of the best feeling\most reliable equipment out there (as per the legendary MPC drum machines). If we’re thinking of competitors they’re closely rivaled by Novation. If you take proper care of this, it’s going to last you quite a few years (our MPK keyboard is going on 4 years and works lovely).
The faders are smooth, knobs turn very well and buttons don’t get stuck or anything like some other brands (we won’t put them on blast here…). If you’re concerned feel and make, you’re good to go with the MIDIMix for sure. It’s also super light, which although a positive, needs to be taken into consideration if you’re storing it away somewhere.
The final word on the Akai MIDIMix Portable Mixer
The fact that it also comes with Ableton Live Lite 9 (as many Akai products are starting to include) is always a plus, especially if you don’t have a DAW yet. If you do have a preferred program, we’d recommend giving Ableton a try (since you’re getting it for free with the package, why not?) — it’s quite popular for a reason. Who knows, maybe you’ll make the switch if you like it enough.
When it comes to competitors, this thing looks almost identical to the Novation Launch Control XL. The Launchpad has a few extra pots, but as many faders, and a few more buttons. It also comes with Ableton Live Lite and is stated to be more recommended for that DAW only. So if you’re looking for an Ableton mixer, you’re going to have a difficult time choosing between the two, although the price may help you out since the Novation model is a bit more expensive (retail at least, try to check sites to see if they fluctuate, then that will be your deciding factor). You can read our Novation Launch Control XL review for some more info on that. If you are however using a different DAW besides Ableton, go with the MIDIMix here since it’s a bit more broad in terms of compatibility with programs and also lower in cost. The Akai rep also stated they’ll have custom mapping for Logic Pro X and Cubase, so if you’re using either of that this is a must have as well.
All in all, we wouldn’t complain about anything with this piece of gear. Any “I wish it had this!” comments aren’t valid in our opinion because the MIDIMix is supposed to give you the bare minimum (and essentials) of mixing to accompany most other pieces of gear out there that don’t have these specific, smaller features. If we were to nitpick, adding some drum pads would’ve been nice, but beggars can’t be choosers — we have a side drum pad controller in our MIDI keyboard to do that, anyways. The Akai MIDIMix Portable Mixer works as intended, gives you the essential features to control the mixing aspects of your DAW, and is super slim\compact for a snug fit in your studio or live rig. Highly recommended if it suits your needs.