Akai's APC40Ableton Professional Controller

When Ableton Live was well under way the people at Ableton fully realized that using standard computer hardware to control a program as complex as Live wasn’t an ideal situation. Its doable, but like the CEO himself said during the official presentation: “This (a mouse) is not a great device for musical expression…“.

And so they turned to Akai Professional and together designed the APC40, a controller which is fully based on controlling Live.


What is it?

The APC40 is a USB midi controller which is specifically tailored to control Ableton Live. It provides a grid of 5 scenes and 8 tracks which also gave it its name of ‘APC40’. It allows you to control all the clips in the session view as well as tweak any device which you have selected on the device chain of a track.

You can move between all tracks, scenes and devices; of course you’re not limited to merely a grid of 40 clips.

Level of control

As mentioned above the APC40 provides clip control. All clips can be started and stopped, whether this means starting playback or recording doesn’t matter. If you launch a clip for playback then the associated button on the APC40 will turn green. If you start a recording then it’ll turn red.

Next you also get control over the tracks on which your clips reside. Tracks can be solo’d, muted and turned on or off. And of course you can also arm or disarm tracks. All these actions will trigger indicators so that you’ll know at all times how you setup a specific track.

The knob sections which you see on the right are used to either control your sends (the ones at the top) or the device parameters (the knobs at the bottom). But of course you’re not limited to what comes out of the box. Using Live’s midi mapper you can easily change the assignment of any control as you like!

What I especially like about the knobs is that they use a led ring to give you an indication of the value of whatever you’re controlling. The advantage should be obvious: the moment you select another device then all the controls will simply display the new values. You don’t need to adjust the dials or anything. Just pick up what you selected.

It is important to note though that because of all these indicators the APC40 is not a bus powered device. So you will always need an adapter to power it.

So… If you’re seriously involved with Ableton Live then this is really something to consider getting.

APC40 backside.