Akai music gear continues to impress us with their high-quality equipment year in and year out, and in this case, a DJ controller specifically for Serato DJ software. The Akai AFX controller is a serious piece of machinery, giving us a lot of capabilities and functions to make our studio setup that much better. We saw in our previous article with the Akai AMX mixing surface review providing some handy controller features for Serato which including a new “innoFADER”, but this one that we have today gives us some FX-specific controls and more, including some drum pads, touch-activated knobs and more. Let’s see what it’s all about.
Main features of the Akai AFX DJ controller
- Control four (4) decks in Serato DJ control
- Compatible with Serato Flip (edits, music extension) which is downloadable and comes with the AFX
- Change effects, loops, sample triggering, cue points, etc
- Nine (9) touch-activated knobs to customize effects and EQ
- Eight (8) velocity-sensitive MIDI pads (RGB backlit)
- Ten (10) pad modes (cues, loops, slicing, samples)
- DVS mode switching (absolute, relative, internal)
- Endless controller: LED timeline (instant access) and can double as a pitch bend/macro effect control
- Backlit display
- Portable and slim for portability
When looking for a controller to work with Serato, you always want to make sure it has compatibility in terms of mapping and integration overall. Well since this thing was made specifically for the program, the mapping is quite seamless — no problems with mixing and matching your edits.
The Akai AFX handles four (4) decks at once, acting as a control surface for Serato DJ (requires version 1.7 and up). Although you can control up to 4 decks at once, you can also grab a maximum of four of these you’re in the combining beast-mode, although I don’t think I would ever need controls over 16 decks — to each his own. It also supplies us with a control over various functions within the software; effects, cues, loops, samples, flip mode, slicer, and deck transport, all working accordinly. It flows well with a DVS setup, as well as NS6, NS7, and V7. It’s a generic USB MIDI control surface and isn’t necessarily limited to Serato, so working with most DJ and digital audio workstation‘s that support mapping with MIDI is always an option as well. So don’t let the “for Serato” turn you off in any way.
Another pretty big plus of the AFX is that it comes with a license code for a new plug-in, the Flip by Serato, as well as the Back Pack FX expansion pack. “Flip” allows us to make some custom edits of our tunes and record cue points and censor actions that can saved and looped. You can save up to 6 flips per track and it’s ready to go wherever you are (studio, club, etc). It also gives you some auto-skipping verses, choruses in songs, tone-play and performance, and transition sections, all that I can use pretty steadily while I both produce and perform. The Back Pack DJ FX expansion pack isn’t bad either, giving us the following (it’s a $20 value): tape echo, twist echo, Combo TapeEcho, looper, pitch looper, shuffler, time stretch and freeze, spiral echo up and down, res LPF and HPF auto, and lastly combo autofilter. This is actually a very powerful plug-in and a huge plus to the package the AFX brings us if you’re looking for some additonal FX to work with. The only thing that it’s lacking is actually including Serato DJ software as seen in their AMX controller we’ve recently reviewed, but you most likely already have a copy.
Overall build and stability of the Akai AFX
First off, the entire thing is well-built, as we have always seen with Akai Pro gear. There’s a reason their equipment always a bit more expensive than other competing brands — it’s just flat out made better. They’re like the luxury car of music gear, so you get what you pay for.
These pads are pretty high quality, comparable to those of the new MIDI drum pad, the Akai MPX16 pad controller. They’re velocity-sensitive and all we can really say is that they’re Akai-make — they know what they’re doing it when it comes to pads. They aren’t necessarily as nice and smooth as the MPC pads, but they get the job done. No complains here with the pads, not to mention they’re RGB lit so they look fresh in your studio or on stage (you can also choose the color of the pads, perhaps to help you map. For example, all drums are red, stabs are blue, riffs green, etc).
The verdict of the DJ controller
This is a pretty darn powerful controller to add to your setup, especially if you’re using Serato DJ. If you aren’t, it can still be incorporated into most DAWs, particuarlly with the MIDI pads as well as knobs for some VST and FX tweaking. Another huge plus that may steer you towards buying it is the portability — I don’t know about you, but I travel pretty often, especially when performing and I’ve had to get pretty creative with fitting some of my gear in my relatively small Mazda 3. As seen in the pictures, this thing is sleek and smooth. For something within the same ballpark in terms of price and acting as a control surface, check out the rivaling Allen & Heath Xone:K1 controller. It doesn’t have any pads like this, but gives you more assignable functions and X:Link compatibility.
As stated previously, a downfall could be that it doesn’t include Serato DJ software. However, you may already have a copy, but if you don’t, you would obviously want to invest in it. Another con that we saw with the AMX is that it didn’t give us the DVS feature of Serato (which it basically says it works well with), so you’d have to buy that separate, too. All in all however, if you’re looking for a DJ controller to pair up with Serato (or even other DAWs as mentioned before), while getting some MIDI pads as the cherry on top, this thing is a beast! The overall build, stability, FX additives and overall features of the Akai AFX DJ controller is worth the money if it suits what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for some more options, be sure to check out our top 10 best DJ controllers article for some help!