I was able to get additional clarification from Ableton on the Akai APC40. Specifically, it’s worth talking about what makes this unique as a controller. It’s not for everyone – that’s what’s wonderful about computers, that you can control them with lots of different devices. And using Max for Live (more on that today and next week), you will have new options for custom controller applications. But here’s some exclusive info on what’s cool about the APC:
- Clip status: Green means playing, red means recording, orange means a clip is loaded. And yes, this means the images Akai generated are actually … impossible. (They show multiple clips playing on the same track.) This is a new feature that’s indeed exclusive to the APC (well, at least until people hack the MIDI messages or build their own solutions).
- Watch the active clip: New onscreen feedback will outline which clip you’re selecting – very cool.
- Select tracks, devices: Okay, so you’ve got three device racks in channel 4, and you want to control the fourth knob on the third device. The old way: mouse over there, click three or four times, and take control. The new way: press the Track Selection button (see image above), select the Device Rack with the left and right arrow buttons, and grab the encoder you want.
- Dedicated buttons: No more remembering the shortcuts for MIDI overdub, watching playing clips (a much-requested DJ feature), record quantization, device enable.
I really am impressed at how neatly Akai and Ableton boiled down the features – this is already way beyond what vendors had previously done with attempts at Ableton controllers. (You can see the … Abletronic hand in this one.)
The only real issue I have with it is that you won’t be able to see which Device Rack you’re controlling, or which parameters. For starters, that means you’ll want to put every effect / instrument / plug-in into a Device Rack, because otherwise you’ll just get the top eight parameters rather than those you chose to assign to a macro. For instance, if you’re using your own reverb plug-in, you won’t be certain which eight parameters you’ll get. You’ll also have to memorize the ones you’re using, because you’ll have to look on the screen to tell that what the third encoder on the bottom row actually represents.
It’s not a deal-killer, though – I’m guessing you’ll come up with a preferred performance setup and stick with that. For arbitrary hands-on control, you’ll either look at your computer screen, or use something like the Novation ReMOTE line for Devices you don’t use all the time, locking your favorite effects rack to the APC permanently.
If that didn’t make sense, watch for upcoming hands-on videos, more info on Ableton’s site, and the first-ever CDM podcast to discuss what’s new.