One of our favorite brands since we began making music, M-Audio gear, has come out with an exciting new model of MIDI keyboard controllers. Our antennas always perk up if a subdivision of inMusic releases something new, especially anything with the letters MIDI in it. In terms of anything spectacular or game-changing, this year in the music equipment realm has been a bit more of sticking to what works and the “what isn’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially with what we have here today — just a solid MIDI keyboard for us to take into consideration if we want to make some tunes. Let’s check out the M-Audio Code 49 MIDI keyboard.
Main features\specs of the Code 49 MIDI keyboard
- 49 full-sized, velocity-sensitive keys
- 16 assignable velocity-sensitive trigger pads
- Assignable XY pad
- 8 encoders\9 faders\9 buttons all assignable
- Transport control for links to DAWs
- 6-digit LED display
- Expression\sustain pedal inputs
- USB powered
- Software bundle included
Main features and design
When first looking at a MIDI keyboard, and besides price of course, we want to check out what it brings us besides just keys and pads. The Code in particular gives us quite a few other assignable options, such as 8 encoders (360 degree turning) which are great for FX adjustment, 9 faders for some in\out action as well as 9 buttons for whatever you’d like to be turned on\off on the dime. This is becoming more of the standard among MIDI controllers around this price-point, so if they didn’t have these features we would have turned our heads.
Even more attractive in terms of additive features is their assignable XY pad. We’ve heard mixed reviews from producers about XY pads and how often they use them. If you haven’t heard of what an XY pad is, it’s a different way of controlling your parameters in VST’s (as seen in the photo, the black four-piece grid on the top right). It isn’t necessarily a must or something groundbreaking per se, but when you use it, we’ve found that it gives our adjustments a bit more of a ‘natural’ feel as opposed to just pressing a button or fading in and out. It gives it that ‘swing’ since we’re using our finger and motor control as opposed to a machine-guided fader.
Besides that, the M-Audio Code 49 has your standard sustain\expression inputs, transport control, is USB powered (also as MIDI in\out ports) so it isn’t missing any of the essentials at all. The LCD screen doesn’t hurt, either. The keybed itself can be split into four zones if you want to split\layer some sounds. We’ve used this feature before with other controllers and think it’s useful at times, especially if you want to have different sounds on each zone to spruce up your jamming a bit. A fun and useful feature for sure.
Overall build and stability
We have always been happy with inMusic gear‘s stability and build. As far as the keys go, these are quite nice considering they are velocity-sensitive and full-sized. You’re not getting full-weighted that completely emulate a real piano such as a digital piano or other more expensive MIDI controllers, but they get the job done and compete with the rest of the heavy hitters out there (Akai and Native Instruments).
Let’s talk trigger pads. Nothing beats an MPC drum machine when it comes to pad quality, but these are pretty much the same as any Akai controller out there. They get the job done and are RGB back-lit as well.
In terms of the entire unit’s build, the thing has a pretty satisfactory size. It isn’t too bulky or long and we can see it being OK in terms of traveling with it. Albeit there are no cases in the market for controllers like these, so you’ll want to make sure you take care of it (we use towels and some cardboard boxes…better than nothing!). You also won’t have to mess with many cables since it’s USB powered and can transfer MIDI that route as well.
Software bundle included
Ah, one of our favorite past times is picking a part a new piece of gear’s included software package. With the Code 49, you’re getting: Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3.0 and Loom (both by AIR Music Technology, another inMusic brand). To be honest, we aren’t too happy with the software bundle here. It seems most controllers nowadays are being dominated by free trials of Ableton Live. Not that we’re complaining considering it made our list in the top 10 best music making software; however, by now most of us have our DAW. If you don’t, this is a huge plus and may steer you towards purchasing the controller — it’s one of the best DAWs out there for sure.
The two VST’s that come with the controller are relatively decent. Hybrid 3.0 brings us over 1,200+ synth sounds so we won’t complain there. The synth sounds are satisfactory, especially if you’re looking for something to mess around with right out of the box. On the other hand, AIR Loom is another synth package . If you do want some other sounds for your MIDI controller, be sure to check out our top 10 best VST software article to pair up with your Code.
The verdict on the M-Audio Code 49
When it comes down to it, this is a solid MIDI keyboard. If you’re looking for a controller that gives you a tad bit more than the essentials with an OK software package and have a few extra bucks to spend, we’d say go for it. You can always check out our top 10 best MIDI keyboards article for some other comparisons.
Since this is an extremely fresh-in-the-market MIDI keyboard, we want to stick by comparing to others like it. Right now we want to say it goes neck and neck with the new Akai Advance 49 MIDI keyboard. The one you should choose depends on how much money you want to spend. If you’re on a budget, we’d go with whatever is cheaper at the moment. Otherwise, the Advance 49 wins if money didn’t exist.
All in all however, the M-Audio Code 49 MIDI keyboard is a solid controller for a decent price. No complaints at all.