The Akai APC40, the result of a collaboration between Akai and Ableton, has made its way into the wild. Here’s the first hands-on video – I have to say, I love the green lights. Who would have thought that Matrixsynth green would be the shade this year? You can thank for getting the loaner out in the world.

Not a whole lot to see in this very first video, but it does give you a feel for what the hardware itself is like.  Update: AKAI requested that the first video in this story be removed by its author on Vimeo, so we no longer have a video to embed.

The integration between software and hardware we should see revealed more over the coming weeks. I’m hoping to get my hands on one myself in the near future; I haven’t yet.

Of course, the APC isn’t alone. I’m still eagerly awaiting the Ohm64 from Livid, a beautiful controller with a wooden body, made with care in the US. Unlike the APC, the Ohm has a customizable MIDI response — the way the hardware itself responds is programmable. And, of course, there’s still the classic monome (site | cdm tag), open source hardware with an elegant minimalist design. Custom Max control patches have made the monome a favorite, especially for those with the chops to not only use the community-made patches, but build their own – by coincidence, the monome folks just posted a link to a library of Max monome objects. For both the Ohm and monome, it’ll be easier and more powerful to integrate Max objects with Live when Max for Live ships later this year. Even the APC will get its own custom patches. And, as Hédi points out, there’s also the elegant, compact, solidly-built Faderfox, which could also get a new lease on life with Max patching.

The upshot of all of this: even if people are using the same controller, they won’t necessarily use it the same way, which is how it should be. Stay tuned.

Update: this just in — a second video of the APC, this one sent to us by our friend Stephan Vankov ( We’ve seen Stephan before, tearing up a wild audiovisual remix of The Karate Kid with the crew at the CDM NAMM party last year. It’s nice to see the APC out of the trade show floors, naturally.

  • Man, I have to agree that the green looks fantastic. For some reason, though, the video is unavailable to me.

  • Nice new controller for Live from Akai, but you should also added the FaderFox modular controller line. The Faderfox are smaller, can work on a small 9V battery, and the layout is very, very clever IMO.

    Hédi K.

  • @hpsounds: Good point; I totally agree. The Faderfox also has some nice scripts for Live, too. I didn't mention it only because it's in a category all its own – much more compact than the other options here. But added, because it is appropriate. It's going to be a Summer of Ableton Controllers, I think.


    is it just a co-incidence that both of these guys are playing glitchy breaks???

  • Dj Groovy

    Man, i have to have one of these…
    And i'm going to! 😉

  • Hi, Pete from Livid here…for the record, the firmware for the Ohm64 is not open source. This is a problem with licensing/funding, rather than a desire to be proprietary.
    However, all the MIDI assignments can be remapped, and 75 LEDs can be controlled by MIDI notes or ccs. I'll have lots of examples of how to use the Sysex to program it (including Jitter matrices-> LEDs)- I'm finishing up a fully featured editor right now! Oh, it's usb powered, too 🙂 Finally, green isn't just pretty, it's more profitable. Green smd LED's generally cost less per unit.

  • grimley

    Oooo … is that a custom APC40 or is there a green LED version??? I preordered last month … maybe I should have waited.

  • Luke D


    Don't get me wrong, I love my faderfox – but this looks like a whole different animal. Anyone know where I can sell a kidney?

  • Peter-
    They are green cuz "Play" is green. Red for record. Amber, the 3rd color, is an artifact of the first 2.

    No, there is no special color version, although if you can solder it would be very easy to swap out. My guess is camera color correction creates the effect seen in the vid. The green does not look like that and there are no white LEDs.

  • Cody

    Can the faders send 14 bit midi? This would be helpful because Ableton has no midi smoothing like Traktor/Kontakt etc.

  • Daniel

    @akai_pro on Twitter let me know that the lights just look different in different lighting conditions. Will be great if the difference is drastic enough for those of us who have a touch of colorblindness.

  • I tested the APC40 for half an hour at the Musikmesse: great look and feel! Great ergonomic too (but that is quite easy if you just focus on only one app-software).

    I also guess, that the green light is a fake.
    Actually the ligth-feedback could be a problem because they are not so bright and under the headlight at the Musikmesse it was nearly impossible to differentiate between the states! But this might be due to the headlamps. In a dark club it will work 😉

  • Zoopy

    I'd like to see some videos of producing w/ the apc, rather than playing live.

  • endekks

    Uhm. First performance = so so. That second performance was sick. With a capital "f" – followed by a few more letters. ^___^

  • CV!

    Both demos have extremely irritating music, guess I'll have to wait for more demos.

  • Justin Reed

    man, this device looks terrific, i love how the pads reflect the clip states … in the first video he scrolls to trigger additional clips AWESOME!

    this seems like the holy grail for ableton "djs" and producers alike…really getting out of the "stare ate a laptop screen" mode

    want pleeze.

  • Eric

    Just want to remind us of Maschine from Native instruments, I got it and it can do all of that shown in the videos and more.
    I was to buy the apc and its probably very nice, but can't say that I liked those clips that much.
    Want to see it more in a techno-producing enviroment…not just handed over to some punkster in the street as in the #1 video.

  • Maschine I'd put in its own category. It has one very, very important advantage, too – velocity-sensitive pads. 😉 That to me actually makes it much more appealing. There's already some built-in Live integration which I'll show off in a video soon, and it may be possible to get more working on it.

  • (note, that's even *before* you start using Maschine with its own software…)

  • Kyran

    It kind of sucks that the apc is almost as expensive as a machine, while with machine you get an entire app, tons of samples thrown in on top of the midi controller.

  • @Kyran : it's my understanding that you get a specialized version of Ableton with the APC40. Supposedly this version is more functional than the "lite" version of Ableton. I'd say that's pretty strong value.

  • @KeyOfGrey: Yes, except I haven't heard anyone being happy with even the LE version of Live. I think you want the whole thing.

    Maschine and the APC are just different. I'm not necessarily for everything being cheap. I can say that Maschine sounds fantastic, so to me whether the APC is worth it has to do with how flexible it is and how well the hardware is built.

    I remain concerned that the APC has fixed MIDI assignments, though I suppose on the other hand, most of the assignments you now do on the software side, anyway.

  • Constantine

    seems like NI are really desperate to sell the maschine, i've seen posts almost identical to Eric's on some forums…

  • Constantine

    by the way, would it be possible to sync live LE that comes with apc40 to hardware via midi? does anyone know? midi clock out or in would be enough…

  • Rex Rhino

    Yeah, there seems to be an endless stream of NI Maschine spam… it is really annoying.

  • I'm looking at the domains and IPs on those Maschine comments, and they appear to be real. Also, I'd hope that if NI were paying spammers, they'd get them to spell the name right. 😉

    I have Maschine here; I've held off on a review partly because some of things I want it to do may appear in an update, so rather than complain now only to have those addressed…

    It is actually really hard to tell if someone is a spammer because music comments tend to be so passionate. But suffice to say, some people really do have strong feelings – sometimes more so than the marketers.

  • Eric

    @ Constantine, I guess I may have recieved a bit of an addiction when I gave up waiting for the indeed very promising and well designed APC. According to the article, it seemed that other controllers were on topic without any spam-suspicion.

    @ Rex Rhino, Yeah, it is really annoying for once to take the decision not to wait for six months for a midicontroller, I think "they" spammed my brain.

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  • Well, I don't know what you guys are on about. All I know is I really love the delicious taste of Pepsi. It's the joy of cola.

    (Okay, that was meant to be a joke, and now I've made myself thirsty…)

  • Oh yeah, and believe me: opinions about competition, always on contact. If anyone tries to spam us, we'll catch you. 😉

    I do love my PSP, though.

    Okay, I'll stop.

  • Eric

    @ Peter, Yes my flown enthusiasm for THAT controller was not really meant as some corporate-favourista, I think it had more of an eureka discovery about how perfect design it is, and how nice it looks and works.
    btw, cool that you check up on us so we're not corporate.

  • Heheh… absolutely! No, I think it's funny, I mean, sometimes we actually *are* enthusiastic about these things. (Well, I'd hope so…)

  • Eric

    The fact that the apc40 has a powersupply does not appeal to me, the knobs also seem way to light, otherwise it is very cool.

  • First off, all yall haters can eat a dik.

    its cool this got on here so quick!
    I had the APC for only a few hours that day. Remapped it to what i thought i would like to see, ran some samples, and taped.

    Its built Really well and feels nice, I HATE THE SHORT FADERS and would like to see companies put some long ones in like the BCF2000, these are more like on/off switches. The key is the clip triggers (we should have had those 10 years ago for live) These work really well.
    Lights and buttons are nice, and remapping from the lame template they set up is easy.
    It does need to be plugged in, that's a pain, but there is allot of power being pulled to those lights, so your better off saving some power for your sound card or whatever in a live setting.

    After playing with one abit I will probably order it, price is OK, and quality is tight.
    Maschine is diffrent machine.


  • ridiculous

    can you use APC40 to control other midi gear? i'd like to be able to use to also control FLstudio…these are just MIDI knobs and pads as well correct? anyone find docs on that for sure? i'm about to buy

  • Damon

    Live is the premier live performance sequencer. Were Live an operating system, the APC40 would be a PC. I think the APC40 is AN ideal PC for Live. The fact that it is tit for tat dedicated to the ergonomics of Live probably speaks to the reliability of the Live standard. This is not to say other sequencers will not establish a default performance standard, but only that Live is presently what that is. The Live standard may be to performance sequencers what VST is to plug ins. Not the only thing, but clearly a most trusted and accepted thing. With that in mind, the APC40 makes perfect sense. I hope someday sequencers like Numerology enjoy the same go to default performance hardware support. Time will tell.

  • @Damon – you've lost me.

    @ridiculous: The APC40 is just a MIDI controller. As I understand it, the integration is all scripted via MIDI. That relies on existing capabilities within Live. So, this means two things:

    1. Other hardware can do what the APC40 can with Ableton – perhaps not immediately appearing as a device profile, but it's possible. (Some hardware already does this. The Faderfox scripts, for instance, have been in there for a couple of years now, I believe.)

    2. You can use the APC40 with other software.

    If #1 + #2 were not possible, there would really be no point to MIDI, and we'd all start to walk down a dark path of failed interoperability and proprietary standards.

    The APC40 is unique in that it is designed to be so closely tailored to Ableton Live. But because Live does use some pretty clear metaphors, it might be just as useful, say, as a VJ controller.

    And likewise, if the APC doesn't match your way of using Live, there's other hardware.

  • @ Punkster – actually I quite like the short faders. Much better for doing quick cuts, DJ-style. After all, this is a performance controller. The faders are a little close together, but one can certainly get used to it!… plus it keeps the form factor small.

    It will be exciting to see what everyone does with the APC; especially with Max for Live coming soon the possibilities are endless!

    @ Peter – thanks for the post! 🙂

  • endekks

    I didn't realise you could do so much with Maschine. I got one a couple of months ago, but have been too busy to do anything with it, except bang out some beats when I had (literally( 5 minutes here and there.

    To me, though, I think I would be more happy with the APC because it seems to follow the Live paradigm more so out of the box – and that means one less new thing for me to learn. Given my "too busy" remark, I think you know how I might feel about learning new stuff…

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this all pans out for the APC.

  • Eric

    @Peter, well spoken!

    @endekks, I totally agree with you.

    @punkster, Thanks for your review, I was trying to be witty, I'm not a hater.

  • that is a thing of beauty!

    I so want one of these. torn between the APC+MPD or a Maschine, I seem to be a bit skeptical of the latter, wanna see yr review!

  • Hey just wanted to link to my video

    Shows some Max + APC stuff. Stephan and I (author of second video) have a collaborative project at

    Soon as we get another gig in LA come out and see this shit in action!

  • Eric

    @Shane, wow! this is what I mean, the apc used in an intresting way.

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  • Imag8nineteen

    APC40 – Just got mine yesterday! WHOOT….Works great with MODUL8