The APC40 Ableton Performance Controller from Akai Professional was designed from its inception to be the perfect hardware companion to the popular production and performance software Ableton Live. If you've never used Live before, you can simply plug the APC40 into a computer and get acquainted with the included Ableton Live APC Edition software without hassle, because it's designed to plug and play on both Mac and Windows. If you already use Live for music production, performance, songwriting, DJ'ing, post-production video, television production, live theater, art installations, or in any capacity - you will immediately appreciate the APC40's exclusive ability to "talk" to the software.
The unusual front panel of the APC40 is packed with glowing buttons. It looks this way because it's designed to let you to take complete control of Live's unique Session View. Session View features a grid that allows you to load audio and MIDI clips into its cells. You can play and stop each of these clips in any sequence, and you can launch groups of clips together as a "scene." You can choose to have the software time-stretch and quantize all of these sounds so they flow together musically. It's an extremely simple yet wildly creative approach to manipulating sound, but until now there has been no true hardware solution that could free the user from staring deeply into their computer monitor with a mouse in their hand.
The APC40 has finally answered the need for a dedicated Session View controller for Live. When you press a button on the APC40, the command is sent to Live and the software carries out the task. The new and exciting capability here is the result of your command being fed back to the APC40 and displayed on its respective control. For example, if you don't have an audio or MIDI clip loaded into a cell in the software, the respective button on the APC40 will not be illuminated. If you put a clip into a cell in the software, the respective button will illuminate orange. If you press on an orange glowing button to fire a clip, the button will turn green while the clip is playing. If you decide to record into a cell, the respective button will glow red.
You are not limited to the 8 tracks and 5 scenes in the matrix. You can create as large of a Live Set as you please, and use the navigation buttons on the APC40 scroll around to access any of your clips. The portion of the program you currently have control of with the APC40 will be highlighted in red in Live's GUI.
The APC40 also has 8 track faders and a master fader, with the ability to change banks. Each of the 8 tracks has a dedicated mute, solo, and record button. The solo buttons can also be used as cue buttons for DJ'ing.
The APC40 also features 16 endless encoder knobs, each with its own LED ring. The upper right portion of the APC40 is the Track Control section with 8 of these knobs. This area acts as a global control for which ever bank of 8 tracks you currently have selected. You can quickly access track panning and control sends A, B, and C. Pressing one of the Track Selection buttons located below the clip launching matrix will assign the other set of 8 knobs on the lower right portion of the APC40. The knobs will map to the device (such as an effect or an instrument) the chosen track holds. There are dedicated buttons for turning devices on and off, scrolling from device to device, and for switching between Clip View and Track View.
If you don't care to use the APC40's pre-mapped controls, all of its 109 buttons, 16 knobs, 9 45mm faders, and replaceable 60mm dual rail-guided crossfader are freely assignable so you can customize its workflow in any way you please. The freedom to reinvent the APC40 doesn't stop there. Users can purchase an additional piece of software called Max For Live, which runs seamlessly within Live 8. Max For Live (which was created in collaboration with Cycling '74) allows users to edit and invent their own custom devices within Live 8, and utilize all of the control capability of the APC40 as a blank canvas. For example, a user can build a custom step sequencer with Max For Live and program the trigger matrix of the APC40 to act as an input device for building sequences, rather than launching clips.
However, you don't have to commit all of your time and energy to building custom instruments and effects with Max For Live. The multitude of different devices that hardcore users build will be shared amongst the Ableton community, so you can download and use the fruits of other users' labor. With an APC40, Live 8, and Max For Live, the only limitation for what can be accomplished is the collective imagination of its global base of creative enthusiasts.