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M-Audio Axiom 49 2nd Generation review

M-Audio Axiom 49 2nd Generation
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £275
inc VAT

A well-built and feature-packed keyboard that comes with all the software you'll need to use it out of the box.

This new version of M-Audio’s Axiom 49 MIDI controller keyboard is aimed at home audio production enthusiasts. It’s far more than a basic controller, with a wealth of programmable sliders, knobs and drum pads, plus the usual LCD screen to show you exactly what samples you’ve selected. It’s quite solidly built, but not designed for serious abuse, although we’ve known a few bands who’ve taken the 1st generation version out on the road.

Like most MIDI controllers, it doesn’t have an integrated synth and can’t make sounds on its own, so you’ll want at least a cheap ASIO sound card to use it. You can get free ASIO drivers to use with most on-board audio devices if you don’t want to spend too much at once. As well as the standard USB connector, the Axiom has 5-pin MIDI in and out connectors, which are compatible with older MIDI synthesisers. You’ll need to buy a separate power supply if you plan to use these though. There are also two jack connectors for use with sustain and expression pedals.

The keys are semi-weighted, which means that the action’s slower and heavier than an unweighted keyboard, but also means that the volume of the note will respond to how hard you press the keys. Whether you like this particular keyboard’s balance of weight and responsiveness is very much down to personal taste; but we got on well with the keys’ action and didn’t experience the stickiness reported by some users of the previous model.

M-Audio Axiom 49 2nd Generation

The main addition to the second generation of Axiom keyboards is DirectLink, a control system that automatically maps the keyboard’s knobs, sliders and buttons to your software controls. The supplied version of Ableton Lite does this automatically, while users of ProTools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Reason and other Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software can download an interface package from M-Audio’s site.

This saves you a lot of tedious manual mapping of basic functions, although we still found ourselves spending a fair bit of time with the DAW’s configuration menus, even for our relatively simple requirements – which primarily involve being able to switch from one instrument patch to another while playing live. This is par for the course when it comes to serious MIDI instruments, and you’ll have read through most of the 67-page user guide to get the most out of your keyboard.

The bundled registration key for Ableton Live Lite 8 makes it a good choice for anyone who wants to make the leap into MIDI audio composition. Beginners should expect a bit of a learning curve as they familiarise themselves with both the software and the keyboard itself, but the step-by-step setup guides that come with both the keyboard and Abelton meant that we able to get playing within a few minutes.

If you’re looking for something beyond a simple practice keyboard, the Axiom 49 provides a smooth, comfortable playing experience, plus plenty of features, for a reasonable price.



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