Setup was such a breeze that it was almost counter-intuitive. I’m so used to having to download remote scripts for Ableton, that I spent ten minutes trying to figure out where to download one, before I read the manual and found out it was already installed. Go figure... Once I’d chosen the APC40 MK II from the list of hardware, I was up and running. And, I have to say I was impressed from the start.
Construction-wise, and like all of the current Akai controllers I’ve seen come around in the last few years, the APC40 MKII is nicely put together. The pad/buttons feel and look really nice. There is also high level of LED goodness, here, too. As soon as you’re in Live, cued scenes and the clips, therein pulse green, slowly within the APC40 MK II’s own grid of buttons. And, to be honest, out of many of the controllers that I’ve looked at, I’d have to say that the way the LED default color assignments are set up would have to be one of my favorites. The default color assignments of the LEDs, for me, were very helpful in guiding me in to trying new things, with the APC 40 MKII. It just felt very intuitive.
The knobs, by the way, feel incredible. There’s a nice, buttery movement to them that will definitely remind you of some of those cool, old DJ consoles. Or, a classic, analog synth. It all depends on what camp you come from.
Mix and Devices...
While the main area allows you to control Session View functionality in terms of Mixer settings, scene and clip launch control, and gives you knobs and faders for mixing, the Device Section allows you to navigate to specific instruments and effects, or any other tool that might be assigned to either an audio, or instrument track. I was quite impressed with the way that the percentage LEDs light up around the Device Control knobs, upon the selection of each different effect, and so on, and give you accurate readings of the knob settings within your session. I found myself taking my eyes off of my monitor quite a bit, with confidence, which is a first for me.
The only physical portion of the hardware that didn’t inspire confidence would be the sliders meant to be mixer controls for Ableton’s faders. These move wonderfully. But, they have a bit of a wobble. I’m sure they hold up under physical usage just fine. But, I’d be careful when putting the APC40 MK II in a backpack.
The APC40 MKII is a very polished piece of kit. And, if you’re a DJ, or an Ableton enthusiast, in general, you’ll really like this piece of gear. In addition to a nice piece of hardware, you’ll be happy to know that a huge amount of software comes included. Hybrid 3 (a personal favorite of mine), Twist, Prime Loops and Ableton Live Lite all come with the APC40 MKII. This ultimately means that there’s a lot to explore with one small hardware purchase.
Pros: Well built, well thought out controller with wonderful lighting.
Cons: Sliders feel slightly wobbly. It would benefit more with recessed sliders.