Hey what’s good fam!
I know many have been wondering about this controller, including myself, ever since their initial announcement.
I’ve been using it for a couple of months so I wanted to share my thoughts, let’s just dig right in!
So what is the Advance 61?
It’s currently the largest keyboard model in AKAI’s new “Advanced” series.
The basic idea behind this controller is to provide you hands on access to your entire virtual instrument library, no matter who makes the plugin.
That means being able to browse your entire library of presets directly from the hardware, using the onboard color screen.
In addition to that, you can layer up to 8 plugins at once, with full control over each, as well as being able to adjust the key range for doing key-splits.
They aim to make this the center of your setup no matter if you’re in the studio or on the stage, thanks to the VIP software which can run standalone as well as in a DAW.
Oh, and of course it works with your external MIDI gear as well, including being able to use the arp and note repeat functions.
- content/plugins: VIP, Velvet, Hybrid 3, Xpand!2, Tansfuser, Vacuum Pro, Eighty Eight Ensemble, 3 Toolroom Hybrid 3 expansions
- features: 4.3″ color screen, 61 keys, 8 endless knobs, 8 MPC pads, 8 option buttons, transport, note repeat, arp, cursor pad, push encoder, MIDI in/out, USB, sustain/expression inputs
- price: $599
- product page: http://www.akaipro.com/product/advance-61/
- purchase: http://www.zzounds.com/a–1786589/item–AKAADVANCE61
So what’s the bottom line?
I was both excited and skeptical when I first saw this product. I was excited because it seemed to tick all the boxes for what I would expect from a hybrid plugin controller. It works with multiple instruments from multiple manufacturers, you can layer, split, create set lists, and directly control each individual plugin.
I also liked the fact that it works like a traditional MIDI controller so I could use it with any software or hardware without much fuss. I just wasn’t sure what the software would be like. To compare, I felt the M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro software was a little clunky, and it’s pretty obvious that was an early version of VIP, at least in my opinion. (Akai and M-Audio are both part of InMusic Brands).
So I had my reservations to say the least. I must say though, I was pretty surprised and impressed with how sleek and easy the software was to operate. Outside of a few minor quirks that probably have more to do with me running Windows 10 (it’s not officially compatible with this OS) the software has been very stable for me. More importantly, working with my entire plugin library wasn’t difficult at all. Sure, there’s a few plugins here and there that aren’t officially mapped yet, but they seem to be adding more and more. I’m hoping they add an automated way to download new maps, maybe via an auto update or something.
I give the Advanced 61 a rating of 4 out of 5 subs, it’s definitely above being an average controller, in my opinion it’s on the verge of doing pretty much everything most users will want from a keyboard controller.
There’s certainly room for improvement but I’d have no problem using this as my main MIDI controller, in fact I’m still deciding if I want to send this back once I’m done with this review or not!
Overall it’s a solid product, and a fun way to access a large collection of plugins. Even if you don’t have a huge collection, or don’t use a bunch of plugins, just having direct access to the ones you do use really makes a difference. Even if you use it as a dedicated controller for your favorite plugin, it still gives you a great way to navigate through the library and control the sounds.
It’ll be interesting to see how they continue to develop it, as well as if it will become more deeply integrated with the MPC platform.
Let me know what you think about it, have you used it? Are you interested?