Jesse Terry of Ableton has some detailed answers to questions about the upcoming APC40. It’s a good chance to clear up some confusion (even some confusion of my own). I actually have some other pretty specific questions – how Max for Live will work with the APC and how it integrates with other hardware and Live itself, and what message lights up those buttons for bi-directional communication. These sorts of things seem to be of interest to you folks, too, so I’ll keep you in the loop; more in the next couple of weeks. And I think the release of the APC means this year will be a great time to revisit all sorts of controller options for Live and other apps, like the monome, Faderfox, Korg boxes, and others – including some DIY-style options.

Price: US$499 / EUR499 / street US$399
Availability: April/May (also about the same time you’ll see Live 8 – Max for Live coming later this year)

APC 40 FAQs, features and questions [Ableton Forum]

Since they were frequently asked around these parts, I want to single out these answers:

In one of the NAMM videos, somebody at AKAI proudly mentions a secret handshake between Live and the APC. But other reports seem to indicate that this unit just sends out MIDI. Does the device or Live send anything other than MIDI signals?

The APC Sends simple midi messages, and most of the banking and Session View control is handled internally in Live. Connecting another controller and selecting the APC40 preset will not work, even if that controller sends the same MIDI messages.

Will this secret handshake prevent us from turning a Monome + BCR into an APC?


Will it be possible to use the APC with Live 7 out of the box with default mapping intact, or will I have to purchase live 8 to use the APC.

We’ll have a point release update for Live 7 with support for the APC40 in Live’s preferences, Live 8 will work with the APC40 when it is released.

So, you won’t be able to turn a monome into an APC – well, unless someone figures out a way to emulate the secret handshake. I’m guessing you curl your pinkies, then do a fist bump …

Of course, there are plenty of other interesting ways of integrating a monome with Live, some of which aren’t possible out of the box with the APC, and more should be possible with Max for Live (and other tools).

  • Evan Kendell

    It's still unclear whether we'll be able to make our own programs for this hardware, fair enough if they prevent other hardware emulating the Ableton Live functions that it's intended for, but what about buying this box and using it in other ways? I shiver whenever I hear manufacturers proudly boast of their "proprietary protocol". If I drop 400 dollars on something, I want to use it any way I damn well please.

  • salamanderanagram

    i read that the APC only uses MIDI data. therefore, (and i mentioned this to jesse but got no response) it seems unlikely that cloning the secret handshake will be difficult.

  • Holy crap it's only $500!?
    For once I'm impressed.
    If it sends midi I can map to my own software and not some proprietary b.s. (struggling with a QChord's midi out at the moment in my bedroom) then this is a truly impressive piece of kit.

  • Hmm. CM Labs went for this "secret handshake" thing as well – even protecting it with an NDA – not smart. In this case it'll be cracked within a week (assuming it's an intentional obfuscation measure in the first place – I don't think Ableton are that stupid).

    As for the APC: since the faders aren't motorised, that pretty much kills it for me, especially for any set with more than, what, eight tracks? And am I the only one wondering where the return channels are?

    Also, I think it's far too big…!

  • prevolt

    MIDI's not a very efficient standard. I wonder if that will hurt it's performance a little. I remember seeing someone comment on the latency of the NAMM model.

    Nice to see Faderfox mentioned. I hope they don't get lost in all the APC hype. Mathias has always been really good to the Live community.

  • Damn, that price goes up every time somebody mentions this thing's name.

    And clearly this isn't a blog ran by a European.
    Otherwise the headline would read something like: APC 111€/142$ more expensive in Europe! Why Akai? Why?

    – Cheap Belgian signing out…

  • I like that price very much. I can't wait to take this thing for a test drive.

  • hydrogen

    as long as nathan still keeps the live api alive there will be a method to get the monome to emulate the functionality.

    personally after working on some live api software i can't see that there is much in the way of making this possible.

    we will see though.

  • @hydrogen: Well, I don't want to overstate the importance of emulation here.

    The simple matter of it is you wouldn't want a monome to emulate an APC, because the monome with the Pages app does quite a lot that the APC doesn't do! (the APC-specific stuff wouldn't be of interest if you don't have an APC … and as for just controlling device racks and such, you can do that with Novation)

    So whether or not Ableton is locking down the APC integration, some of the APC functionality really does only make sense with the APC.

    Once you get in Max for Live territory, we've confirmed there's really nothing special about Max for Live – APC integration other than the patches being include with M4L. You should be able to write patches in M4L that make more sense from the monome — some will port the existing patches out there, and I'm sure others will take advantage of some of the new Live control features that have been promised.

  • Dri

    Australian RRP and street price quotes from a few colleagues in wholesale and retailing aren't as nice as those for USA and Europe. Im hoping they don't obscure the otherwise healthy demand for these units once eager producers have to do the hard math.

  • Jimmy

    This is great – not only is the Euro nice and high Vs. the dollar, but the hardware in question is being developed and licenced from a EUROPEAN company and still we manage to get shafted to the tune of 30% on this side of the Atlantic – tack on the UK/Irish VAT rate to that and street will be close to 700 euro / pushing towards $900.

    For shame Akai – you've lost yourself at least one sale due to pure greed.

  • Okay, hang on, hang on folks … I don't get it. In case you haven't noticed lately, world currencies are in complete flux. I can think of many potential criticisms of this thing, but not being "cheap" wouldn't be one of them. It doesn't matter if it's a European company partnering with Akai, the thing is made and ships from Asia — the Asian currency conversion to your local currency are what matter. And it's not as though American buyers weren't recently on the flipside of the same problem.

    The reality of the situation is that we all enjoy artificial amounts of cheapness in terms of mass-manufactured Asian goods. There are serious implications for that in terms of labor and the environment, too. If you really don't like this pricing and currency conversions, *buy local*. (and you have some quite nice, genuinely local vendors on that side of the pond, whom I've bought from myself on occasion!)

  • Mattbot

    Don't get too hard on Akai, we're in a world wide depression remember!

    The purchasing power of a currency and it's exchange rate are not the same thing. Economy distress will skew them out of equilibrium. Even when the Euro was trading much higher than the USD, the USD's domestic purchasing power reminded fairly strong.

    Here is a nice introduction to purchasing power parity vs. exchange rates:

    What does it mean? The world economy is currently very much out of equilibrium (as we should all know by now) and the US has a very strong stable domestic market compared to the rest of the world.

    I would expect the price difference to balance out as the economy recovers. In the meantime, here's a chance for some of you entrepreneurial Europeans to become importers and help stabilize the world economy at the same time. 😉

  • If you read the answer to the first question about cost on the Ableton forum, there's a much more detailed explanation of pricing.

    On another note, the trigger pads are apparently comparable to an Akai XR20… can anyone describe this?