There’s nothing like a good, healthy rivalry. And Akai are back in a big way with Force 3.0.5, which transforms how their standalone hardware works as a hub for gear, arrangement tool, and hands-on creation device.

3.0.5 is a point-release firmware update, but the changes here aren’t just small tweaks or improvements. Think more like new ways of working with their standalone production tool, and some major fodder for the “DAWless crowd.” (Of course, what we’re really talking about is laptop-less – because this really is turning into something that can replace your DAW as well as act as a studio hub and creation tool.)

Highlights reel:

The overview of what’s there:

Full linear arrangement. So yeah, now you can make a full linear arrangement in Force, rather than just piece together some blocks. That may or may not replace your DAW of choice, but it does mean you can finish a song’s arrangement on the device and complete your ideas.

On some level, this also parallels what NI are doing with Maschine in finally adding Clips you can position anywhere. Clearly, people do add vocals and such to their music and want to finish songs without having to switch tools.

Linear arrangement mode on Force hardware.
Linear arrangement mode – at last!

Ableton Live import. Maybe just as appealing, you can bring sessions from Ableton Live ALS into the Force. Already I’ve heard from some people playing with this who love it. Obviously, you’re going to lose some details, but Akai say they handle basic conversion of Drum Racks, Simpler, Sampler, and Impulse instruments – so it isn’t just a matter of saving some MIDI clips and bouncing down all the audio.

That’s I suspect a huge, huge part of this market, people wanting to play with Live sessions without their laptop. (I was going to say what they said – “on the road” – but since there really is no on the road for most of us now, it is still appealing to have something that lets us get away from “That Infernal Machine On Which We’re Doing Zoom Calls Or Doomscrolling Terrible News.”)

MIDI, USB, or CV, Force is ready – and now more MIDI powers, with the new MIDI Mults.

MIDI multi. MPC did this first, but it’s clearly essential for Force, too. You can dynamically route all your MIDI ins and outs in once place, including USB devices – so it’s easy to determine where tracks are routed, how stuff is synced, and what you want to play. Elektron Octatrack users made their boxes hubs, so the ability to do this intuitively on Force (and MPC) sure is compelling.

More hands-on with Macros.

Big Macro. Again, maybe live performance is the wrong phrase to use, but even in the studio or compositional process, it’s great to get hands on. The expanded Macro facility now lets you map any knob, crossfader, pad, or X/Y touch controls to any number of parameters at the same time, with details like range, inversion, curves, and toggle/momentary behaviors and so on.

That in itself is not a new thing, but integrated hardware means you’re set up out of the box to juts hit ‘learn’ and go, via touch or controls.

Other features:

Quick access pull-down features

Retrospective record (so you don’t miss ideas)

Track FX racks for setting up chains of effects for reuse

16 levels of dynamic sample triggering

Deep dive video:

And more info:

PS, if you missed 3.0.4, that was at the end of last year. It delivered on Ableton Live 10 controller integration, which someone asks about here on comments. Details:

Akai Pro Force: How to Connect to Ableton with Live Control [for Live 10.1.2 or later]

Here is in action: