Akai SynthStation49 review
The buttons on the SynthStation49 are for adjusting the octave, selecting instruments and navigating through your compositions in the SynthStation app.
The buttons are logically and cleanly organised in a grid pattern with plenty of space between them. Not only can you select the part you want to play, such as Poly Synth or Mono Synth 1, you can also cycle through sound presets without having to touch the iPad, making the SynthStation49 feel like a proper workstation.
You can also cycle through song patterns to find the one you want to play or edit. To record, you simply press the Play and Record buttons together and start playing. You must use the iPad’s screen to fine-tune SynthStation’s effects units, mixer and synthesisers.
Lots of virtual knobs and buttons on the synth screen
Annoyingly, you don’t get the Akai SynthStation app with the SynthStation49, you must buy it separately. It only costs a couple of pounds, but that makes its omission seem all the more miserly.
We also tested the SynthStation49 with the Core MIDI-compatible FL Studio Mobile app, and although its keyboard and drum pads worked, we couldn’t use the buttons on the right-hand side.
We also connected the SynthStation49 to our test laptop to use it as a regular MIDI keyboard with our Ableton Live 8 software. We had to adjust the latency settings, but after that it worked brilliantly. You can even MIDI-map the SynthStation’s buttons to control your DAW software how you want.
Although the SynthStation49 has sound outputs, you can only use these to output sound from an iPad. You can’t use them to output sound from your laptop or DAW software. The SynthStation works as a MIDI controller only when connected to your laptop, not as an audio interface.
The SynthStation49’s sound quality is dependent on the app you use, with the Akai SynthStation app sounding much better than FL Studio Mobile.
Sadly, the SynthStation49 does have one very annoying problem, and that’s the propensity for the iPad to disconnect from it when you’re hitting the keys or drum pads. We also found that the SynthStation app sometimes failed to start, which meant we had to turn the iPad off and on again. This ruined what is otherwise a great value and flexible MIDI controller and ultimately coloured our view of it negatively.
We like the Akai SynthStation49, but the frequent iPad disconnections and failed app starts mean that we can’t rely on it. This makes the SynthStation49 more of a fun scratchpad for your ideas rather than a serious piece of performance equipment, but it’s decent enough if you want a MIDI controller that you can also use with your iPad.