I bought an Akai MAX49 MIDI controller recently. It’s an impressive device boasting a nice, stiff keybed, a reasonably-supple set of pads and, of course, its big killer feature: Four banks of eight responsive LED touch faders designed primarily to make your neighbours jealous. A musician, upon unboxing such an instrument, might set about playing music with it; I, however, am no musician.
The first thing I did with my MAX49 was dive into its configuration settings in an effort to set it up just so for use with Propellerhead’s excellent Reason software. Akai offers some presets that work with Reason’s ‘Remote API’, an interesting and mysterious Lua-based scripting system for binding the various physical knobs and dials on any MIDI device to the virtual ones inside Reason. These are pretty good for the most part, but I encountered one major annoyance almost immediately: The controller’s ‘responsive’ faders (which one would expect to work just like the motorized ones on a mixing board) were capable of sending data out to Reason but not of receiving it from Reason. Thus I could use my finger and the MAX49 to move a fader on one of Reason’s virtual line mixers, but if I then used my mouse pointer to tweak that fader in the application the change would not be represented on my physical controller. This was not acceptable.