Review: AKAI Advance 61 Keyboard Controller


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?

Advance61It’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.

Quick Specs

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.

4subsI 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?

Review: AKAI Advance 61 Keyboard Controller
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    • I think it’s a better all around controller if you’re working with a bunch of different plugins. If you’re mainly Maschine/Komplete then maybe the NI board is better, but I don’t like that you can’t actually browse on the Komplete controller itself, along with the features like layering and such, I think that’s what sets the advance apart. The NI joint feels good, but I just don’t think the features are where they should be.

  1. Saintjoe, I didn’t get to watch as in full depth as I would like to yet, but I didn’t see this part addressed. I have a few plug ins that have many paramaters available, but I find that I only use 3 or four parameters regularly, and I use them all the time. Is their customization of the mappings? Could I take say just the filter and resonance of a filter plug in?

  2. I have Akai Advance 49 for 2 months and I don’t regret my purchase at all! With or without VIP, it’s a very good keyboard. Some reviews complains about the keybed, but I like it very much. I have a lot of plugins, and the VIP software is mapping many of them, so it’s a very useful and interesting keyboard.

  3. hi, as you did areview of the arturia keylab and gave it a 4,5 rating,
    how would you compare these both?
    I had a mpk49 wich had some fault hardware after some use
    and akai never got round to release a decent editor software for it.
    I hope that has changed now.

    • Thanks for watching!

      I try to rate everything on it’s own qualities unless I’m directly comparing something. I like the feel of the keys on this better than the keylab also I think the akai is a bit more flexible with the color screen, layering, working with multiple plugins, and the pads are much nicer on the akai.

      However the arturia was really the first to be mapped to it’s own software, at the time I did the keylab 49 review no one else was really doing that. As for the keylab 88, I think the keyboard quality alone on that one puts it above most other controllers.

      So how I rate really depends on a lot of factors and has a lot to do with how I feel about the product itself and not so much how it relates to other reviews I have done.


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