Having already been afforded the opportunity to test out its larger brother, I was keen to have a look at the Akai Advance 25 software controller system. There’s been a great movement in deep integration between controllers and DAWs in the last few years, to make your keyboard more interactive and create a better workflow for the user. This has seen a number of manufacturers start to develop keyboards that work fully with one DAW or sometimes two, but Akai have gone all out with this software control system and have created a controller that works with a range of DAWs right out of the box.
READY, SET, GLOW
Having come across the Advance series already, this smaller model wasn’t going to offer me any great surprises, but it did give me a different approach. This is a really well designed and constructed keyboard that does so much more than simply sending MIDI note data to your recording software. Everything about the build is beyond what you should expect of similar units - the Advance range is well put together. From the sturdy frame with metal end caps, to the large rotary encoders that are firmly seated on the top panel, and the pitch and modulation wheel that feels really solid when put to use. This isn’t a quick throw-together unit that Akai have put out to fill a gap in the market, this is a serious piece of kit. Plus, when it is engaged and fully functioning, it glows like a set of Christmas lights with all the colours of the rainbow.
GETTING STUCK IN
Setup is fairly easy, and you have the option to select from a number of predefined DAWs which are already mapped in the system, or you can build your own user-defined setup if you want. What the Advance 25 offers when working with your favourite DAW, including Logic, Cubase, Ableton and Bitwig, to name a few, is a two-way information path that not only sends information to your DAW, but takes it back as well to show you on the keyboard’s screen what functions are being initiated and what values result. This is why Akai claim it to be a “software/controller system” rather than just calling it a MIDI controller. That’s because it’s so much more than a controller; it is a fully integrated workflow system. Think about not needing to look at your computer half the time, nor needing to touch your mouse, yet still achieving a creative workflow. That is what it’s all about, and until you get into it, you won’t know what you’re missing.
As an added bonus, during November, purchasers of the Advance will be able to choose one of two free virtual instruments from AIR. They can select between the Riser or Mini Grand.
Hits and Misses
Quick and easy installation
Great integration with your DAW
Clear, colour screen displaying plenty of information
Large rotary encoders
Nice response to both keys and pads
It's just not as big as the Advance 49
• Number of Keys - 25
• Type of Keys - Semi-weighted
• Pads - 8 x Velocity and Pressure-sensitive MPC Pads with RGB Illumination
• Encoders/Pots - 8 x Large, Endless, and Continuously Variable Control Knobs
• Other Controllers - Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
• Pedal Inputs - 1 x Expression, 1 x Sustain
• MIDI I/O - In/Out/USB • Height - 8.54cm
• Width - 48.8cm
• Depth - 29.3cm
• Weight - 3.1kgs