Akai SynthStation49 review
The Akai SynthStation49 a 49-key USB MIDI controller into which you can squeeze a first- to third-generation iPad. You can use it with an iPad 4 with a Lightning-to-30-pin adaptor. With an iPad attached, you can control any Core MIDI-enabled app, although it’s designed around Akai’s own SynthStation app, hence the name.
You slide the iPad horizontally into a dock that can be raised and reclined to suit your needs and comfort. A fold-out flap on the back of the dock can be used to chock the dock in place, aiding stability and ensuring the dock doesn’t fall over. As long as the SynthStation49’s plugged into the mains, it’ll charge and power the iPad, so you don’t have to worry about the battery running flat.
The SynthStation49 doesn’t have built-in speakers, so you’ll need to attach it to an amp or set of studio monitors via its stereo 6.3mm outputs, or listen through headphones using its 3.5mm jack output.
It has nine drum pads, two wheels (one for modulation and one for pitch bend), a set of transport controls for playing, recording and moving through your compositions and a set of buttons for controlling the SynthStation app.
The drum pads are velocity sensitive, which means the volume of a drum sound is dependent on the velocity at which you strike a pad. This should make your beats sound more natural when you’re playing and less like the product of a programmed machine that pumps out every sound or sample at the same volume.
Here's the Drum Edit screen for setting up your drums
We really like the drum pads, as they let us perform drum parts just as you would on a pad-based drum machine, but they only seem to have around three levels of velocity. You must gently press a pad in order to trigger a quiet sound, which isn’t going to happen if you’re playing normally. Otherwise, the pads either produced sounds at a ‘normal’ volume or ‘loud’ volume, nothing in between.
The keys are also velocity sensitive, but they seem to have limited levels of velocity too. Otherwise, they feel pretty good for an entry-level MIDI controller, although the keys are slightly too springy. We certainly enjoyed playing and composing on the SynthStation49’s keyboard.