Alesis music instruments has been getting a bit of buzz with their release of the new VI series of MIDI keyboard controllers. Stated by some around the music equipment world to rival the Akai MPKII series, these are a bit cheaper in terms of price and pack most of the same features. We saw in our VI25 MIDI keyboard review that it was pretty worth it, especially with 16 pads as opposed to Akai’s 8. So what’s the deal here? Let’s take a look at the VI49.
This is an upgrade to the original Alesis V49 MIDI keyboard, one that we saw with some decent key make but didn’t have any pads.
Main features of the Alesis VI49
- Full-sized, semi-weighted keys
- Square front keys with aftertouch
- 16 pads (pressure and velocity sensitive)
- Multicolor, backlit pads
- 12 assignable knobs, 36 buttons (illuminated)
- Dedicated transport controls
- Modulation and pitch bend wheels
- One sustain input
- Internal clock (sync, tempo, rolls, etc)
- Powered via USB
- Comes with Ableton Live Lite (Alesis Edition)
Make of the keys
These keys are pretty comfortable and well-made at that. When we had a chance to play around with the VI49 at the NAMM show we made sure to remain skeptical at how Alesis was able to allow this machine to be priced so cheap. The keys were not an area they sacrificed. You’ll be happy with the make of them, especially if you’re a fan of semi-weighted keys (if you aren’t familiar with key make, it’s the standard among most MIDI keyboards, you’re good to go).
Functionality of the VI49
We had no problems mapping this MIDI keyboard with some of the popular programs, such as Logic Pro and Ableton. I mean, it comes with Ableton Live Lite (Alesis Edition), so I’d hope mapping is relatively seamless (since it’s 2014 after all). A lof of functionality with the VI49 — basically full control of your DAW and virtual instruments, whether you want to map with the keys, knobs or buttons available to you. Recording is also pretty convenient with the transport controls. I really have no complaints as it seems Alesis knew what to include in this thing.
A big plus, although ultimately only for aesthetics is the color codes available for the pads (looking cool’s always a plus).
Overall look, build and stability of the keyboard
We think it looks great…pretty standard if you ask us. The backlit colors included seems to be a trend as we noticed in the Akai MPK249 review as well. Alesis has always come through with great builds of their products, and if you’re investing in a MIDI keyboard that’s going to last you 3-4 years, this is one to grab. The keys and pads aren’t as top-quality as the Akai or Novation models, but that’s what you’re getting when you save a few dollars. However, we wouldn’t let that steer you away completely, especially if you’re on a budget. We can’t complain with full-sized, semi-weighted keys here, especially with aftertouch.
The Alesis VI49 vs. competitors
It seems to be the price sacrifice here is the inclusion of only Ableton Live Lite, whereas we saw the MPK249 coming with a decent bundle (Hybrid 3.0 and SONiVOX Twist 2.0). If you’re looking for some more software, definitely check out the MPK249, otherwise, the Alesis VI49 MIDI keyboard is probably for you considering it being almost half the price.
Although not as new, some popular 49-key MIDI keyboard controllers with pads that can compete with the VI49 include the Novation Impulse 49 or the original Akai MPK49 (prices should be dropping soon with the release of their newest MPKII models). Be sure to read our best 49 key MIDI keyboard article for more options in terms of other controllers that may fit your needs.
When it comes to comparing to competitors, the price is really your determining factor. This is one of the chepeast MIDI keyboard controllers out there that includes pads. However, the overall build of the Impulse is said to be nicer (keys and pads). As far as functionality, mapping abilities and key features, all can be feasible for the average studio and DAWs. Also, as stated previously, the MPK249 is huge if you’re looking for additional software to include in your arsenal. Otherwise, the simple bundle of Ableton Live Lite with the VI49 is great as well.
Overall verdict of the MIDI keyboard controller
As stated before, you’re getting a cheaper 49-key MIDI keyboard by sacrificing the software bundle and overall. As in, the keys aren’t necessarily as smooth as Novation’s keyboards or it doesn’t come with a few VST’s like Akai. However, if you’re on a budget, we definitely recommend the Alesis VI49 MIDI keyboard. It is what it is — a very sturdy 49-key MIDI keyboard controller for only ~$230!