on September 23, 2009
I've been drooling over this since it was announced, and I am so happy that I finally broke down and bought one. It's a shame that there are no reviews up yet, so let me be the first to say that this controller is amazing. Make sure that you erase any previous midi mapping that you've done and then restart Ableton, and you'll find that it has perfectly automapped itself. At first I thought that it was a little strange that there's no manual included... but after five minutes, I realized that it DOESN'T NEED A MANUAL. That's just how intuitive it is, from top to bottom.
The hardware itself is up to usual Akai standards: the knobs and faders feel weighty and responsive. This thing is both larger and thinner than I thought it would be, but after playing around with it the size feels perfect. The two-way communication is killer- just drop an audio clip into Live and it will instantly appear on the grid, color-coded to match its status. Recording and triggering loops couldn't be easier, and the entire interface perfectly emulates what you're used to seeing on the screen.
In the upper right-hand corner you have control over the pan and sends A through C for tracks 1-8, which is really nice. My only complaint is that I would have preferred to have it become all the sends for whatever track is highlighted, but I'll get used to the new workflow. Part of what makes Ableton Live great is that it accommodates so many different styles of music, so making a universal controller for the program was a bit of a challenge. Akai really stepped up and once you get your hands on it, you'll see what all the hype is about: this really is the be-all and end-all of hardware for the program.
One downside I've found is that navigating the plugins can be sort of clunky. First you highlight a track and then the knobs in the lower right are assigned to the first plugin you've placed there. Then you use the left and right buttons to scroll through each unit, and when you do the knobs reassign themselves to control the appropriate effects. I find that having to click through them all is sort of difficult, but there's nothing stopping me from using the mouse like I used to. I guess the only thing that is stopping me from handing out a 5-star rating is that the APC40 sort of forces you to use the workflow they've designed. Remapping the controls isn't difficult, but everything is laid-out and labeled in such a way that it sort of corrals you into getting used to doing things their way.
This review is starting to look a little long, so I'll just sum it up: I absolutely love this thing. I wish I had picked it up sooner and if you are AT ALL considering this purchase, just do it already. Well-constructed, well-programmed, and absolutely worth the money. Like me, you're probably used to using an assortment of controllers and you're wondering if you need to spend the cash. Well, this thing will replace all of those and more, and you'll quickly get used to the layout. Just do it!
on September 19, 2011
Price and Delivery :
I purchased this wonderful item from Amazon, best price around and he arrived quickly and safely, as usual, well done Amazon.
Impressions before purchase :
This hardware is getting a bit long in the tooth (2009) and must be due a revamp soon, but for the current Amazon price it is excellent value for money when compared to its nearest hardware competitor the "Novation Launchpad". There is new software available for the iPad called "Touchable" - for only $25 which, in many ways, does a better job (you see the names of the samples under the buttons and they have a play bar so you can see how far through the sample is, this means you rarely have to look at the screen - go to YouTube and search for touchable). However, 1) I don't have an iPad and b) An iPad 2 costs over $500 and iii) it lacks the physical feedback you get from the APC40.
This unit is basically a rearranged Midi keyboard with colored lights under the keys (which are not touch sensitive) it has been put together to serve purely as a controller for Ableton's LIVE software, it produces no sounds on its own. As an input device with visual feedback it performs fantastically. If you want to know how this unit works I would suggest spending some time watching people play with it on YouTube. A great example of what you can do with the Software included (a lite version of Ableton Live) is demonstrated by a French DJ called Madeon. His track "Pop Culture" is a great tune created on the full version of the software that comes with this hardware but a) Madeon uses a Novation Launchpad (8x8 grid, APC40 8x5 grid) and 2) Madeon is a 17 year old who has been doing nothing but this all his free teenage hours for the last four years so do not expect to match him any time soon.
Strangely enough, the hardware is useless without the software so the software is key in any review of this piece of equipment. This hardware is custom designed for Ableton Live which is probably the premier piece of software for mixing, remixing and live performance of modern synthesized sound. It is used by many people at the top of the industry right now, The Dust Brothers (the samplers behind the Beastie Boys and Beck), DeadMau5, Skrillex, NOT GIRLTALK (he uses audiomulch) but you can totally Girltalk it up on Ableton Live.
The "APC40 Live Lite" software that comes with it is immediately upgraded to Live 8 Lite, even this upgraded version has a lot of shortcomings if you are used to the full package but as a starter piece of software it is perfect and great fun. I have not upgraded yet but I will do as soon as I can raise the cash.
IMPORTANT NOTE : The packaged software is NOT Live 8 INTRO, it is Live 8 LITE. You do get an upgrade path to the full versions of Live 8 if you wish to do that...
Suite Download $579 (Normally $699)
Suite Boxed $649 (Normally $849)
Live 8 Download $329 (Normally $449)
Live 8 Boxed $419 (Normally $549)
There is a nice comparison of the differences between Live 8 Intro $100 and Live 8 $450-$550 on Tom Cosm's site (search google for TomCosm live vs live intro), Tom is a licensed Ableton Trainer in New Zealand.
Ableton Suite includes Live 8, lots of sample loops and a number of VSTs (Virtual Synths), the boxed version includes a printed manual and even more loops (8Gb as opposed to 1Gb).
Check Ableton's website to find out more about the different versions on offer.
To be honest, Ableton's number of poorly named, different versions is completely confusing to any new potential customers approaching this area of software and almost pushed me onto the Native Instruments Komplete package.
I am glad I went the way of Ableton as the "time to get going" from receiving the hardware to producing a cool track has been very short indeed. I have spent all waking (and many of my sleeping) hours watching demos and instructional videos on youtube both before purchasing and since receiving the APC40. I am now confident I have gone from someone who could hear cool mixes in his head whenever he heard a good beat/rhythm/sample/bassline to someone who can actually produce it to a high quality in a few weeks! My second ever production and first public production is on youtube /watch?v=8HyBN4kF6io if you want to get an idea of what you can achieve if you do as I did.
Would I buy it again : Hell yes!
Why 4 stars : iPad Touchable!
Worst part of the purchase : Discovering that iPad Touchable was available, I might have to get that AS WELL!!!
Best tip : If you get "Waiting for Pickup" on the pots or the sliders go into Options, Preferences, Midi Sync, Take Over Mode, Value Scaling.
on July 2, 2012
When I bought the Akai APC40 7 months ago, I was looking for a controller which would work well for DJing with Ableton Live. I had previously been using an M-audio controller which was cheaper and made of plastic. I was always worried that the m-audio controller would break and I wouldn't be able to perform my set. The APC 40 looked like it was built well, and because it was designed to work specifically with Ableton, I thought that it was the perfect controller for my needs.
In some ways I was wrong.
After using the controller for 7 months, two of the faders are now broken. I have been carrying it in a large metal, foam padded hard case, but it was clearly damaged after receiving some pressure after a set a few weeks ago. One of the faders was slightly bent. Now the channel 1 fader sends signals for both channels 1 and 2, and the channel 2 fader can only send a very faint signal. If I move it from 1-100, it sends the signal that I moved it from 1-5.
The case is made of metal and the device is very heavy (it does not really need to be so heavy; 75% of the weight is just the metal case). The knobs seem strong but I knew the faders would be a problem from the start.
As for the design, I am very unhappy that most of the mapping is pre-assigned to the controller and you can't modify it without using MAX/MSP. This is over-complicated and unnecessary. For instance, the bottom two rows of knobs (half of all the knobs!) are premapped to control effects that I never use. This makes it so that half of the knobs are useless for me. Also, I have no need for the record arm buttons or the scene launch buttons; these are another 16 buttons that I can't use. I realize that everyone uses Ableton in a different way; that is why we should be able to reconfigure the controller however we wish!
Overall, I might still have bought the controller, as long as you can get it for a good price (I paid US$199 on sale). Be very careful with it, and don't have unrealistic expectations. Also, the power cord is way too short; you'll need to purchase an extension cord ASAP!
on February 15, 2013
The faders on this item are somewhat susceptible to bending, if the device is not stored in a case (not included). However, even the faders have proven difficult to break, and the metal chassis is a big step up over the typical plastic shell that is usually associated with this price range.
Used with Ableton Live (it comes with a "dumbed down" version made specifically for Akai products), this is a perfect way to gain hands on control of your set, as well as tweak parameters in realtime.
on October 5, 2009
The APC40 feels like a quality product. The knobs and sliders have good feel, the buttons are precise. The integration with the software (Ableton Live 8) is surprisingly intuitive and I managed to figure out how to use the APC40 within a few minutes of playing around with it.
The only thing I am missing is some more visual cues that makes it easier to see which "track control" knobs belong to which track. A backlit LCD might be a good idea for the next revision.
on January 23, 2013
I was on the fence about buying this, especially since it had just purchased the TouchAble iPad app. The app is great, latency-free, and offers almost everything the APC40 does. If you're balling on a budget, definately check it out. But, after demo-ing the APC40 at my local music store, I decided to just buy the thing. I'm glad I did. In about an hour of playing with it, I was completely mouse-free. Well thought out design. Good job Akai and Ableton.
on December 17, 2011
this thing is wonderful. i originally bought a novation launchpad which functions and works beautifully with a small footprint, but after starting to record my scenes instead of just using it as a sketchpad i realized how vital it is to have the extra knobs and faders. when you are recording your triggered scenes with the control of everything in front of you, you can basically create your entire song right there and then mix it later.
i absolutely recommend the apc 40 to anyone getting into ableton and even to those who have lots of experience but are on the fence.
launchpad -> for travel and live use as well as "cool" factor
apc 40 -> more professional and much better in the studio
on August 28, 2014
Basically a hardware version of the Ableton desktop interface. I find it much better to use than trying to click tiny software controls with a mouse. It is solid. Works well. Has good LED feedback. There is a MAX device that allows one to use it as a drum sequencer, that works really well, and really completes it. Nice to not have to grab a mouse while playing. Had a Launchpad first, and I like this better because one does not have to page to different functions-its all right there. The Launchpad certainly has a much cleaner aesthetic, though, and it was fun to slide ones finger across a bank of pads. These pads are smaller, and there is not much reason to slide across them, as the sliders are right there.
on April 28, 2013
I've been using Ableton since version 6, using a few different controllers over the years. Every time I'd try a new controller, mapping out each knob/slider to a custom layout was definitely a pain. Even devices like the Axiom Pro series (midi keyboard + controller functions) which supposedly had automapping weren't optimized for on the fly mixing. Add to that the fact that latency on many of these devices was too high to be used for quick clip triggering or drum kit performances, and Ableton just felt hampered by the lack of truly integrated devices.
I had a friend who got the APC and loved it, so I decided to finally try it, and I can't impress upon you how much this has opened Ableton up. Latency is now 1/10th of what it used to be. I can trigger clips at up to 1/32nd of a bar reliably without any worry of latency delay, making on-the-fly beatmatching and drum performances much easier. The instant integration is nice, and if you want to do a custom setup in terms of midi-mapping, you can do that too. I personally find that I don't use 8 tracks for mixing, so I set up some of the sliders for sends, and the top set of knobs for track EQs.
The build quality is impressive. The pads are easy to depress, and the sliders feel sturdy enough to use for years. The knobs themselves are also of high quality, and response is great, but the black plastic caps on top of the knobs are not glued on (or very cheap/very little glue was used) and so a couple of these have already come off. I've glued them back on with a dab of plastic glue -- no biggie.
Overall, if you are interested in maximizing your productivity/creativity in Ableton, this is hands down the best all-in-one device. I was considering the Launchpad (Novation) as an addition to the Axiom, or the Maschine (Native Instruments). The Launchpad is just barebone pad triggers and so would have been cheaper. The Maschine has a nice feature set built right in to the controller, but Ableton can do just about everything the Maschine can do with the built-in effects or free third party plug-ins. This is definitely THE all-in-one controller for Ableton.
on November 25, 2011
ok first off, i highly recommend buying ableton live, the full version, not the demo that comes with the controller. that being said, i also think buyers should be aware of what they are buying. the apc40 does not make noise by itself, you must have some software that uses midi controllers in order to use it. pretty much common sense but just in case there is a curious person out there... with a few video tutorials on youtube i was up and running in no time. i have never used anything like this and it's my first controller, but when my friend told me about it, i knew i needed to learn ableton. now after about a month i have created several of my own sounds, beats, and even full songs. the learning curve is pretty large but once you get it, you really get it. if anyone is wondering if they should buy this over another controller, i will say go play with them at a store, the apc 40's buttons are secure and snug, some people seem to prefer the sensitivity of other controllers' buttons.
Update 6/7/14: I have used this controller for a couple years now, mostly for VJ work with live bands, projecting video clips during live band performances and distorting them with the controls of the APC40 live with the music. I have found my i5 laptop to perform well with Grand VJ and the APC40. I like that there are options to use the APC20 with Grand VJ as well. The one thing I wish the APC had: MPD32 type pad for drum beats. I have heard that there are maps available to turn the APC40 into the MPD but haven't really looked in to it.
I took the little tabs out of the knobs on the APC so they wouldn't fall out during a show, not sure if they make replacement parts, so I play it safe. My friend has the blue APC and it looks very cool, but otherwise exactly the same. After plenty of use I feel like all the moving parts are still solid and tight. I like the layout, but it could be a tad smaller and I wouldn't complain. All buttons still light up, and with VJ work, anything that glows looks good! Wish there were more color options for the buttons, but no biggie.