Issue 94



23 July 2013


Controller keyboards are a dime a dozen these days, but with the iPad becoming a valid synth platform, we’re starting to see some more serious accessories come out of the woodwork.
Akai is a big believer in portable power, the MPC line is built on exactly that — power and control you can take anywhere. So when the iPad came along, it was a no-brainer platform for some of Akai’s accessory and programming nous. The Synthstation 49 Keyboard Controller packs a lot of both. It’s a 49-key keyboard controller you can slot your iPad into, with nine MPC-style pads, transport control and a handful of dedicated selection buttons.
The other side of the iPad sandwich is Akai’s Synthstation app. It’s a simple sequencer with a drum machine set out over a nine-pad interface that corresponds directly with the hardware pads, one polyphonic synth, and two monophonic synths, each with their own arpeggiators.
The hardware and software combo is designed to exist together. As well as the transport and drum pads, there are dedicated buttons to select which synth you’re controlling with the keys, Previous and Next buttons for Program, Song and Sequence, and shifting Up or Down octaves.
On the iPad, the instruments are displayed side-by-side in a single Performance view, complete with a mixer, and choice of either an XY pad or ‘joystick’ for quick synth manipulations. Out back, there’s a simple sequencer that makes it easy to create electronic tracks within the app.
You’re not restricted to the Synthstation app though. Workstation apps like Retronyms’ Tabletop have a simple MIDI learn function, so you can easily assign keys to specific functions, and synth apps like Korg’s Polysix pick up on the keyboard, pitch and mod wheels, and octave shifting straight away.
Best of all, the USB connection allows the Synthstation 49 to act as a MIDI hub for iPad synth apps. So you can send MIDI data to the synth via USB. And you can always just use the Synthstation 49 as a MIDI controller itself.
You can export both WAV and MIDI files from the app at once. Once you enable the Record button in the Utility screen (different to the Song Record button you use to record parts into your sequence) you can then go and play your sequence, adjusting modulation on the fly. All audio on the iPad is recorded into a stereo WAV. At the same time it logs a MIDI file of the song. While the WAV file begins at the point you hit record, the MIDI file kicks off as soon as the first event is triggered, making it easy to sync up. The only caveat is that it records all the MIDI notes into one long roll, so recording the drum and synth parts separately may be the best bet — easily done by switching each module off as you go. Street price is $369, but ask for a deal. Synthstation app is $1.99.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More for you

Filter by
Post Page
News MIDI Controllers Control Surfaces DJ controllers Keyboard Controllers Plug-ins Virtual Instruments Software + Plug-ins DAW MOTU Feature Issue 70 Synthesizers + Keyboards Workstation Korg
Sort by
Issue 94