Akai Professional‘s incorporation of a specifically made-for-Ableton MIDI controller in 2009 has been a huge success for the company. Their original Ableton performance controller, the Akai APC40, has received many positive reviews from musicians and performers and single-handedly innovated the Ableton Live controller music equipment game. We recently included this in our best MIDI controllers for Ableton post and feel their latest upgrade to the controller has made it that much better. For 2014, Akai has introduced three all-new Ableton performance controllers: the APC40 MkII which you’re reading about now, as well as the APC 25-key and APC mini (click the links for our reviews on them). But for the APC40 MkII specifically, we love it’s seamless integration 1 to 1 with the Ableton live software. They’ve incorporated five years of feedback from users to make it even better than it was before in terms of functionality, workflow, and capabilities in general. We’re happy with what they’ve done with it.
Main additions and features of the Akai APC40 MKII
To start off, it’s got a nice little package suite of software, loops and sample packs: Ableton Live Lite (of course), Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Technology, and SONiVOX Twist. These programs are pretty good for samples and loops from VST’s and only make your collection that much bigger, even if you don’t use them often. I’ve had a chance to listen to some of the sounds provided and I’d say I would use around half of them (I’m a pretty big sample snob and have a collection of over 100 GB+ of sounds, but there are some gems in there). This package makes it very worth it if you’re planning on using their software, otherwise if you have your DAW situation handled already it may not necessarily be worth upgrading, or if you’re looking at an Ableton controller you can try their previous models for cheaper solutions.
Main features of the APC40 MKII:
- Retail price: $399.99
- USB-powered (no adapter)
- Supports plug-and-play
- 5 by 8 RGB LED clip matrix
- 1 master fader
- 8 channel faders
- 8 device controls
- Ability to map all faders, controls and pads to Ableton Live directly
- They’ve revised their knob layout for a smarter workflow
- A/B crossfader – quick assignment
- Send button for track selects
Our rating of the APC40 MKII
Other versions available:
Please take note right now: this rating is for the overall quality of the APC40 MKII. We want to make it clear that it is not the rating in terms of the upgrade as a whole. We’re actually quite disappointed with the upgrade: they haven’t added anything too substantial to make it worth buying an entire new APC. It’s more or so the same thing with a few additions here and there. If you’re looking for a brand new APC however, we do recommend this in terms of an Ableton controller. If you’re looking for an even cheaper solution, check out their new mini or 25-key (if you want keyboard integration), or check out our post here highlighting numerous options for Ableton controllers.
Makes of the pads
In terms of pad quality, these are nice and juicy. Banging on them is a little harder than it is if you were to use a midi pad controller due to less surface area, but you get used to it after a while. Although they’re smaller in size than their MPC pads we’ve all become accustomed to, these are around the same size as the Ableton Push which is slowly becoming the norm for those who Ableton-tailored controllers.
Knobs, sliders and overall integration
Well, if this thing didn’t map well with Ableton we’d throw it in the trash — how pointless would that be? It’s awesome with Ableton and mapping as soon as we plugged it in. Linking with the faders, knobs and pads was very seamless. One complaint would perhaps be the lack of maybe a pitch bend but you can’t be a beggar.
An overall upgrade? May not be worth it if you’re not planning on using their software bundle. It looks like a lot of products from the 2014 line of all inMusic brands are starting to include a package of software to justify an ‘upgrade’ and new versions of their popular models. We recommend first checking on the price of the original Akai APC 40 as the prices will be dropping once the MkII products become more widespread. You can also check out our reviews on their other new Ableton controllers, the Akai APC Mini MkII, as well as the Akai APC 25 controller for more information and possible cheaper solutions based on your needs and preferences.
We’ve also got a master post on the best MIDI keyboard controller if you’re interested.
In the end, and if you’re like me, needing the newer version of anything is usually a must (unfortunately for my wallet), so if you want the latest model, grab the Akai APC 40 Mk2 Ableton controller and compare the prices below.