While Novation was refreshing their Automap software for NAMM, M-Audio was unveiling their own dynamic controller technology, called HyperControl. M-Audio has one (big) edge on Novation: their controller technology can access ASCII keystrokes – something I’d love to have in all keyboard control editors. And HyperControl sounds like it has some promise, at least on paper – especially with the absurd number of controls M-Audio has packed onto the layout.

There are just two catches. One, there’s the (ahem) styling on the Axiom Pro keyboard. To put it diplomatically, it’s not terribly … subtle. Two, you get support for some DAW/workstations (Pro Tools, Cubase, Logic, Reason) but not others (SONAR, Live, Tracktion, etc.) Now, that could change in future releases, but Automap has a significant running start.

Also, can we please get a moratorium on adding “Pro” to product names? (I mean, we don’t call the other model the Axiom Hobbyist or the Axiom Day Job.)

The keyboards: 25, 49, 61 keys, though sadly you don’t get controls on M-Audio’s 88-key models. The 49-key model lists for US$599.95, which means it’s in the price range of the Novation – though that also means the Novation is competitive. The keybeds are M-Audio’s semi-weighted “TruTouch,” which is one of the better semi-weighted actions out there.

But, seriously, this styling says “pro”? To me, it says this, minus the sportiness:

Separated at birth? Photo (CC) aranmanoth.

The features: One big graphic LCD (compared to the longer but narrower character Novation displays) – though that means the display is also not immediately aligned with the controls, so there’s a trade off. ASCII keystroke support so you can access keyboard shortcuts directly from a template. A ridiculous number of controllers, including function keys and keypad buttons the Novation lacks. Then again, if you go that far, you almost want a little trackpad while you’re at it.

Supported DAWs: Pro Tools 7.4 and up, Cubase, Reason, Logic. Now Reason is a no-brainer – it has terrific support for this kind of thing. But SONAR and Ableton Live also have lovely internal support for dynamic controller mappings. I hope that’s planned for a future update, but in the meantime, I’d have to recommend the extensive template support and track record on the Novation.

And then there’s the fact that you can get a more muted-gray Axiom 61 with most of these features – minus the whiz-bang HyperTransport you may not need anyway – for US$329.95 list instead of $599.95 (49-key).

But I am interested to hear more of the specifics of how HyperTransport itself works, because it sounds a bit different than Automap – same idea, different execution. M-Audio says, when working with DAWs and instruments alike:

The constant two-way link with your host DAW means the keyboard’s controls are always in sync with your software’s active parameters. The intuitive graphic LCD constantly updates the current values, which ensures seamless editing and prevents parameter jumps—even when plug-ins are closed. Toggle instantly between Mixer and Instrument control modes. Map buttons to send QWERTY key commands right from the Axiom Pro 61. Save settings to 50 memory locations—each with four profiles of quick recall via the intuitive graphic LCD.

The ability to control plug-ins when they’re closed sounds especially interesting. Stay tuned.

Axiom Pro Product Page

By the way, one other rival out there – albeit with traditional, non-dynamic controller maps – is Akai’s MPK49 and (new to NAMM this month) MPK25, in case you don’t like the fact that their new Ableton-centric APC lacks piano-style keys.

Akai Pro MPK25

Another advantage: the Akai still looks a little silly with so many pads and knobs, but somehow less so in black than white.

  • Kyran

    I interpreted the "even when plugins are closed" that the values wouldn't jump if you closed one plugin window and opened another to edit that one's controls.

  • unkl3jun

    The white case might actually make it easier to see the pads in the dark – a good mate of mine recently used the black Korg NanoPad in a club DJ set and found it difficult to see the pads due to the lack of contrast.

  • I've had the same old M-Audio Oxygen 8 for about 7 years since they first came out (it actually says "Midiman" instead of "M-Audio on it!). These days I'm really itching to upgrade. I've been hesitant to get another M-Audio product because the Oxygen has this very cheap plastic feel and the key action is pretty bad IMHO with very poor velocity value range. I'm sure the newer keyboards with the TruTouch are better, but I wonder how much better really… I've also had bad experience with M-audio's drivers in the past, so I think I'm done with them.

    I've heard really good things about the Novation ReMOTE SLs. And since their automap is much more mature with more comprehensive software support, seems like the obvious choice. I think that's what I'll be getting when I can save up for it.

  • kj

    Arrrgh! Another batch of 2 octave frustration. The nice thing about these little keyboards is that they can fit into a standard rack. It would be SO nice if the manufacturers would realize that a rack's width of keys (say 30-something like the Line 6 KB37 or the little Arturia keyboard) would be immensely useful. Moving the mod&pitch wheels up (or even coming up with a better alternative) can be done elegantly. It would be great to see not just another crop of "me too" products but a true improvement of the genre.

  • @adamj: I also hated that old Oxygen keybed, so I feel your pain. If this action is more like the semi-weighted on the Keystation es — and I'm fairly certain it is — that keybed is great, both in feel and velocity response.

    @kj: Ah… you mean you want not only 25/49/61 but 37? You know the ReMOTE SL (though *not* the ReMOTE SL Compact) comes in a 37-key version, yes?

  • lilith

    I hope they get it right. I remember there being a lot of commotion on the Ableton Forums about the Axiom keyboards not working right w/Live when they first came out. I've had trouble w/M-Audio products too, anything more complicated than a Midisport has issues for me both on Mac and PC. I do have one of the little audio mixers they made when they were called Midiman.

    what I'd really want is a MPK61. make it, Akai

  • As always with midi controllers, I'm mostly curious about the quality and feel of the hardware. I can't stand plastic crap anymore. Well, I wouldn't be able to stand crashing "automap" software either 😉

  • Gerry

    I really like my standard M-Audio Axiom 61. It has had no trouble with any program apart from a bit of a finicky setup with Enigma software but nothing that I could not find a template for on the web.

    It is plasticky but that is what I would expect for the price. I have no trouble using it on stage or setups.

  • I'm planning to buy a MIDI keyboard and would like to know more about differences between the Remote SL Compact and the Axiom Pro I'm very interested in the Automap vs Hypercontrol fight and the way parameter jumps are prevented.

    It would be nice if some site (ahem, CDM) writes an in depth review that compares the Axiom with the Remote SL Compact 🙂

  • apoclypse

    I have an Axiom 61, and its definitely a big hunk of plastic, but its a pretty good hunk of plastic. The Keys don't feel all that bad are were a nice surprise for me when I first played on it. The Pads a bit stiff an have issue registering correctly if play with one finger, definitely not better than an MPD, but its decent. I tend to abuse my keys and pads and have gone through one keyboard already, the Axiom seems to be holding up well. The Enigma software is a pain, imo. I also hate the notched knobs, I hate not having smooth turning knobs like my Edirol Keyboard, I usually avoid them.

    I'll look into this one but they should have stuck with the black which looks more "pro", imo.

  • Well, there's nothing wrong with plastic – it's light and durable. I think the Axiom feels pretty solid. So, too, does the Novation – though it also has pads of limited utility (perhaps worse than the Axiom's) and notched knobs.


  • matt

    I watched a demonstration of the new Axiom with Pro Tools at NAMM last week. I must admit I was quite impressed despite the fact that that I really don't like Pro Tools.

    During the demo (30 minutes), the presenter never had to touch the computer keyboard once. All the editing was done from the controller, including transport, plug-in parameters, advanced sample editing, etc. It seemed as though a simple button push could put the controller into whatever mode you wanted to control, and then everything was assigned, even the keys for ASCII comands.

    Really nice integration with Pro Tools (obviously) but had be drooling about Ableton possibilities. The keybed felt nice too, but my honest initial reaction was that it was still too expensive.

  • Odd that there's no support for Live with the AxiomPro. I have the Axiom Hobbyist and it has great control of Live right out of the box. Hell it even comes with Live Lite 6 (says 5 on the box, odd.)

  • @Dave: M-Audio had previously been Live's distributor – no longer true. But my suspicion is that the existing non-Pro support will still work with the Pro. I think you just don't get HyperTransport.

    It took Novation a while to phase in their support, so I'm hopeful that we'll see better M-Audio HyperTransport support, too. It'd be great to have a couple of competitors in this field with some different takes on the thing.

  • I have a novation and I used to have an Axiom 25. I preferred the key action on the Axiom but the construction was a bit annoying; the keys on the far left and right are close to a plastic ridge that my fingers kept bumping against; that was the main reason I sold it. The Novation's key action isn't as nice at all but it is decent, the automap feature works well with Ableton, and the touchpad, while a bit flaky, is kind of nice for controlling filters. Plus you get faders; I like me some faders. You lose the drum pads but I have a trigger finger for that. The Pro looks better than the old axiom, but it doesn't solve that plastic ridge problem which to me is just poor design (though maybe it doesn't bother other users as much). And I agree about the look of this thing; the racing car design is pretty lame. (To be fair, so is Novation's "go green" design). If I didn't have a keyboard controller I might consider this but for the price I'd probably still go with the Novation. But if I were a piano player I might consider this one for the key action — just keep in mind that ridge when you try it out.

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  • Philo Beddoe

    I will be entering the softsynth world for the time & since I am interested in Reason 4,having a plug & play midi controller sounds terribly tempting…so does FullCompass.com's price on on the Axiom Pro 49…which is $444.15
    ..$156 below list price!!:~}
    The color scheme of the Axiom Pro is radically different,which I had to adapt to,but it is indeed,easy tosee in low light conditions & the display screen is top notch,in terms of visual clarity.
    Supposedly,the "TruTouch" feel of the keybed is a step up form the old Axiom and I hope this is the case,because I am trying to justify spending the extra green.

  • Novation Autompa 3.0 Pro now features QWERTY shortcuts.

    "Keystroke assignments" allows the user to assign almost any computer keyboard shortcuts to hardware controls – including macros! For example arrow key functions can now be assigned to hardware controls, allowing you to flick between tracks using buttons on your SL/Nocturn. You could also zoom in and out, open windows or create and jump to markers in your DAW.

  • E

    So it takes 2-3 years to paint a keyboard white and get a retail product out of beta testing? I bought the original Axiom years ago, hated the lack of DAW support, but the key-action was incredible. Can someone do a Axiom Vs. Axiom Pro review and explain (technically) how the "pro" version capabilities of this keyboard couldn't be implemented on my Axiom? Why not a firmware update and new XP/OSX drivers to supplement the hardware diffs? I own the Axiom 25, was going to buy a 61-key but I thought I'd wait til' they update the drivers for a more streamlined experience with Pro-Tools 7 and Reason 4 at the very least (this basic functionality has been branded HyperControls). They still haven't updated any drivers for a year and now I need to buy another keyboard? Where do they get the balls?

  • the raker

    I too am frantically searching the web to try and find more information about this controller. I've just moved to Indonesia and am in desparate need of a new control surface as shipping my old beast of a Keystation 88 just isn't a good option. Besides, never got much in the way of control out of that thing anyway. Would love an Axiom vs Axiom Pro (vs Novation Remote) review too, but might have to wait a bit as there don't seem to be too many units on the market just yet. I'm using Logic Pro and Live and most of the info now seems to be re: ProTools.

    Regarding firmware updates for the old Axiom, don't hold your breath for one:

    "Furthermore unlike the standard Axioms the firmware is completely updatable, which means what we see here is Axiom Pro HyperControl v1.00. There is always scope for new features to be added in future firmware revisions." (from http://airvirtualinstruments.blogspot.com/2009/03


  • smarty

    blockquote cite="“Furthermore unlike the standard Axioms the firmware is completely updatable, which means what we see here is Axiom Pro HyperControl v1.00. There is always scope for new features to be added in future firmware revisions.” (from http://airvirtualinstruments.blogspot.com/2009/03

    Actually, simply because the Axiom uses firmware is proof that it can be updated. How else would the firmware reside on the keyboards to begin with? Understand, anything that communicates to PC via "USB" can be flashed. That's like saying a a computer running XP can't run Vista.

    blockquote cite="Why not a firmware update and new XP/OSX drivers to supplement the hardware diffs?"

    Hmm. That's possible–> http://forums.m-audio.com/showthread.php?s=50a958

  • Luciano

    Let me get this straight since I am intending to buy an axiom keyboard. A new axiom pro has been released with hyopercontrol and all other new features, but the "plain" axiom has been mantained the same since its release?? I've noticed that axiom prices are really low while axiom pro prices are similar to those in the m-audio page.

  • the raker

    That's exactly right, the plain old Axiom still exists and is readily available (and much cheaper), but I, along with many others, want to find out if the new features, and particularly Hypercontrol, are worth the extra expenditure. But there still seems to be very little information out there. Not sure if m-audio is still delayed in shipping them or what.

  • Shipping delays is exactly what I've heard.

    CDM should be one of the first to receive units, so expect some answers soon!

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  • matt

    plugged mine into Protools 8 and it didn't work. I installed the personality file but I just cant load it up and make stuff work… grrrrr

  • matthew

    like most, I'm waiting to hear more reviews about this baby before I take the plunge. I've only found one or two reviews on the web about the axiom pro, and they were both short. I woulda thought they'd be everywhere by now…????

  • matthew

    hey Peter – any chance we'll see that review from you soon on the Axiom Pro?

    thanks in advance!

  • Noam

    Well, after considering the options I went and buy the novation sl mm ii.
    A really bad call apparently.. Nothing would work as far as mapping.
    Tryed reinstall over and over, still, no results. I run mac, use logic as
    Daw ,reason and massive mostely. Not only that it didn't work,
    it would actualy interfere with reasons slave mode so I had to create
    a whole new track. Have to throw a good word for sweetwater, they
    did triy to help and will refund! Also they didn't sound too surprised
    about the issue.. "it happened before" they say. Hope my experience
    could save you some time..

  • Shane

    After doing a LOT of research, I owned an Axiom Pro 49 for about three hours today 🙁 The thing looks great out of the box and all of the controls feel first-rate. Love the piano style keys. I really wanted to love this thing. However…

    No Windows 7 support – drivers fail to install. Manual says you can run it without the drivers, but if you choose this route, the device names are generic and very hard to map when you're setting up you midi ins and outs. Finally got past that hurdle and had integration with Ableton Live 8.1 working. Then I noticed the drum pads didn't work. Live showed midi data was being sent, but no sounds? Turns out the drum pads aren't mapped correctly for Live. Only way to fix is to switch to Transport only mode, defeating the purpose of having Hypertransport. Oh well, moved on from that issue. Plugged in my Line 6 X3Live and suddenly the Axiom stopped working completely. No midi data sent or received. Unplugged the X3L, still nothing. Rebooted the Axiom, still nothing. Rebooted the computer, still nothing. Tried uninstalling the Axiom from my W7 device manager, hung forever, had to reboot.

    Repackaged everything and took it back to Guitar Center. I have to give them a shout-out for having a very liberal return policy, one of the reasons I shop there often. Just purchased a Novation SL 49 MkII off of eBay and looking forward to a slightly better experience. YMMV.


  • Skeptic

    <blockquote cite="http://createdigitalmusic.com/2009/01/20/m-audio-axiom-pro-offers-novation-automap-rival-if-youve-got-the-right-daw/#comment-820921"&gt;
    You didn't mean that it's definitely possible to update the firmware VIA USB, right? Your comment was a little vague regarding how to update the firmware, so just to clarify for anyone thinking about doing this to their Axiom…
    It may true that you can update the firmware on the original Axiom, I haven't actually looked, but I have my doubts about people who refer to themselves as "smarty". Just because a device can talk to a computer using USB does not mean that you can update the firmware yourself, unless you have a special device called a programmer (just a tool used specifically for flashing certain types of ROM).
    Also, there are quite a few computers that can run XP that aren't compatible with Vista… An interesting statement, because you're making a logically valid analogy, but using both a false source and target. Well done, sir.
    BTW, I have the regular Axiom and it rocks!

  • Skeptic

    HAHA! But then again, I can't use blockqoute correctly either, so what do I know?

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