January 21, 2012

Akai Max 49 Midi Keyboard Controller – NAMM 2012

It is looking like control voltage/ step sequencing is bound to experience a very healthy rebirth. Boutique synths and desktop analogs have been showing up in the market more in the past few years, but small companies with high costs have made building these systems expensive enough that it hasn’t really become a trend for the penny pinchers. However, with products like the Moog Minitaur and the Arturia MiniBrute appearing on the market, we could be on the precipice of an “analog step sequencing for the masses” kind of an era. Yes, it’s funny to be excited about bringing the old sequencing methods to the future; but even back in their day, these systems were not mass produced at a level to be considered affordable for just anyone. Modular analog CV based sequencing systems are the white whale in a lot of studios. As one of the masses I am very happy to see some affordable and versatile devices coming from manufacturers who can get the costs to consumer level because it will only help to grow that market for everyone. Now, if only I had a proper step sequencer and a CV controller versatile enough to assist all these affordable desktop synths with integrating into my system…

The Max 49 from Akai is a pretty well timed product. The red enclosure is very striking, much like a Nord. The eye is immediately drawn to 12 beautiful backlit LED MPC style pads on the left and then the 8 LED touch strip faders to the right. These are arranged with fast access to 4 banks. The well laid out sequencer and the appearance of all the expected MPC features like note repeat and the MPC swing make it clear that AKAI are looking to attract a consumer looking for a tighter integration between their modern devices and software packages and boutique or vintage synths. If this trend continues, this might even be the kind of device that becomes the MPC level of “must have” for the musician who wants their  laptop (and all the controls it affords them) to sit at the center of their ever expanding synth-porn studio.

I love everything about this thing. The list of gear going in to my studio this year is really piling up. Here are the specs on the Max 49:

  • 49 semi-weighted keys with Aftertouch for complete musical expression
  • Built-in step sequencer for detailed track construction
  • Expanded arpeggiator with latch and time division controls
  • Included AkaiConnect software automatically maps to VST plugins
  • 12 backlit, real MPC pads with MPC Note Repeat and MPC swing
  • Eight backlit LED touch faders for gradual or instant parameter value changes
  • Four pad banks & four fader banks provide a total of 80 assignable pads & faders
  • CV & Gate outputs for use with vintage analog synths (1V/Oct)
  • Large, centrally-positioned transport controls & rubberized pitch and modulation wheels
  • Mackie Control & HUI modes provide instant compatibility with many DAWs

In addition to the Vyzex and Akai Connect control software for the device, the MAX 49 will also come bundled with a copy of Live Lite Akai Edition. This is a pretty exciting product. We’re keeping an eye out for firmer details on the April* (we’ll get this confirmed) release.


Taylor: Hey what’s going on, this is Taylor from, we are here at the Akai booth, hanging out with Mike Hoska, Mike, how are you doing today, good to see you man.  Today we are checking out a new keyboard controller from Akai, so, Mike, why don’t you tell us what this is all about.
Mike: Sure, it’s the MAX 49, its a 49 key MIDI controller, it’s got touch sensitive pads, MPC pads that are backlit up over here, and we also got touch strips instead of faders now.  It’s also a 32 step sequencer and you can go in and you can change the pitch of every step, you can change the velocity of every step, you can put a different parameter and control something different from each step if you want to, so I will just go ahead and fire off a sequence, and you can go ahead and here it start playing with different parameters for whichever VST you are using.  Over here, our keys have got on a different MIDI channel, so I am playing some different keys than what is on the sequencer.  Transports in the middle, just like we had on the MK 49.  And over here, the pads, let me go ahead and just pull up the pads, so they are super sensitive.  They feel really good, they are good MPC pads, and they are backlit as well.  You got no repeat, as you would expect in an MPC.  The sequencer is something that is really interesting.  We also have control voltage for your old synthesizer, so if you have a synth that is pre-MIDI, you can connect it to this and you can play it.  You can also put sequencer with that synthesizer too, so if you have an old ARP or an old Modular Synth, you can step sequence it, and slave this maybe to Ableton or something, and you can drive that old synth that is pre-MIDI with this through your software, so you can still sequence it in time with all your VSTs or plugins you are using or say you are using Reason, you have re-drum going, you can still lock in a sequence from an old CV control voltage synthesizer.
Taylor: So when can we expect a release date for this?
Mike: The release date for this is, I believe April, I am not one hundred percent sure, but I’m gonna find that out in a few minutes if you want to check back in a few, but I am thinking it is April.
Taylor: Alright, we will look for it soon.  We are going to have it in the studio, I am sure, once it comes out, do a full review on it, so you guys check it out when we have that video ready.  Make sure to be you, be unique, at


  1. Very neat blog post.Really thank you! Great.

  2. Really appreciate you sharing this blog article.Really looking forward to read more.

  3. [...] the forward thinking mentality so obviously on display by Akai at NAMM this year. I dive into the Akai Max 49 a little more in my blog [...]