Harmony Central Forums
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse

Announcement

Harmony Central has “soft launched” our new mobile experience this past week. While we have done extensive testing, we know that with a community as large as HC that there will be items that surface that will still need to be addressed. We are asking that you utilize the thread belowto report any challenges you may encounter. Here are the things we request you provide: A brief description of the issue, the device and operating system version you were using, the browser and version, screen resolution, and a screen shot of the display.
Thanks for your patience as we work towards the best experience we can provide to our community.

http://www.harmonycentral.com/forum/...ablet-feedback
See more
See less

28817376

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse









X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • M-Audio Axiom 49 MIDI Keyboard/Control Surface - Now with Conclusions

    So just as the Yamaha CP50 stage piano Pro Review winds down and I need to send it back, M-Audio sends along an Axiom 49 for the Pro Review treatment. Total time without a new keyboard to check out: About 17 minutes – the time it took to pack up the CP50, and set up the Axiom 49! Of course they're very different units, starting with the Axiom 49 not having any onboard sounds, and a major difference in price and philosophy. But it's pretty cool to be able to bounce around among various keyboards, and check them out in depth.



    We’ll start with the usual photo tour, but first, a little background. M-Audio’s Axiom Pro line has been out for a while, and the Axiom line is somewhat scaled-down and less expensive. For example, the Axiom 49 lists for $439.95, while the Axiom Pro lists for $599.95. However, the Axiom line – by virtue of including a fairly advanced control surface – places it above the lower-end Oxygen line, where a 49-note keyboard lists for $189.95. All three lines offer 25, 49, and 61-note keyboards, although there’s also an 88-note Oxygen keyboard. If you want to get a sense of all keyboards in these lines, there’s a useful comparison chart on the M-Audio web site.



    Speaking of which, if you want to do some more homework on the Axiom line as background for this Pro Review, surf over to the Axiom 49 landing page. Here you can get a list of the full features, specifications, system requirements, and the like.



    It’s also instructive to check out the Axiom 49 landing page at Musician’s Friend. This showed me that the Axiom 49 street price is under $250, but my main interest was checking out the user reviews to see what I was getting myself into. Overall, they were very favorable, except for one guy who had reliability problems and didn’t like M-Audio’s support; they also gave me clues as to what elements to investigate, as not everyone agreed on their favorite or least favorite features. For example, some people thought the pad response was about as good as it gets, others felt you needed to hit them too hard. So is there some sensitivity adjustment the latter people didn’t know about? Well, we’ll find out...after all, this is a Pro Review, and I can dig as deep as I want.



    Of course, you can also find user reviews right here on Harmony Central. To summarize, some people are concerned about reliability, while others cite the functionality and feature set as very strong, and found the Axiom very reliable. I suspect there may have been a few changes in production, as some user reviews dissed the “clicked” detents on the encoders, but on the model I received (which is brand new), the controllers are continuous and feel smooth. Maybe someone from M-Audio would like to chime in, but it seems some improvements have been made since the Axioms were first introduced.



    Nonetheless, given the price point and the plastic construction, I plan to beat the living daylights out of it to see if I can expose any weaknesses Remember the Pro Review dictum: It isn’t a real Pro Review until I’ve voided the warranty! However, for those expecting my usual "take-it-apart-and-shoot-the-insides" shots, you’re going to have to wait a bit. There are a lot of screws on the bottom, and I want to actually use the keyboard before I do something that might accidentally blow it up.



    Now, let’s check out the photos...
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

  • #2
    The first attached image shows the overall controller. You can’t see the weight in a photo, but this is more substantial than I expected for a high-impact plastic keyboard. I assume that’s due to all the controls, and the semi-weighted keyboard action. When I unpacked the unit, I was surprised not to find an AC adapter, but the unit is bus-powered (you can use an AC adapter if desired, but you’ll need to buy your own). The only other elements that came with the package are a USB cable, drivers/documentation/Ableton Lite CD-ROM, and a minimal – but helpful – Quickstart guide in seven languages.



    Let’s move along the keyboard, starting from the left. The second attached image shows the pitch bend and mod wheels, with the octave up/down switches above the wheels. The wheels have a nice feel; note that the mod wheel is not spring-loaded, so it stays where you leave it. Personally, I vastly prefer this as I’ve designed many patches where the mod wheel creates changes I want to leave active, rather than just doing something momentary like adding vibrato. For those who demand spring-loaded mod wheels, this is probably not the droid you're looking for.



    The third attached image shows the faders and fader buttons. The faders are 30mm, which are fairly short throw, but are placed intelligently – close enough you can move multiple faders at one time, but far enough apart they’re not cramped. We’ll see how they stack up for precision tasks during the course of the review, but the general ergonomics work well for me. The buttons, like all buttons on the Axiom 49, have a slightly “rubbery” feel - a good thing if you tend to get sweaty hands on stage, or even when groovin’ away in the studio.



    The fourth attached image shows the LCD and various function buttons, and the LCD is our first “extra points” feature: It’s big (bigger than you might think from the picture, as the buttons are sizable as well), the letters are big, it’s bright, and you can see it in a dark room or if you lost your glasses. Thumbs up on this one, but also, this seems to be a sort of M-Audio trademark; even the display on the older Black Box (the guitar interface designed with Roger Linn) was big and bright.
    _____________________________________________
    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

    Comment


    • #3
      Moving right along, the first attached image shows the eight rotary encoders and transport buttons. As mentioned above the encoders have a smooth feel, not detented as apparently earlier versions had. I think they feel really good, and these get extra points as well: The knobs have a big enough diameter that they’re easy to rotate, and the knobs are far enough away from each other that adjusting one doesn’t change the knob next to it. You think all companies would make sure their controllers fit these requirements, but too many controllers seem like they were designed for third grade girls with dainty fingers.



      The second attached image shows the pads, which I’m eager to check out for two reasons: 1) opinions vary in online reviews, so we need to get to the bottom of this, and 2) I like pads, not just for triggering percussion but also for triggering loops and such.



      You'll see the rear panel in the third attached image. Nothing too fancy here: Jacks for an expression pedal and sustain footswitch (neither are included with the unit), physical MIDI in and out connectors, USB port, AC adapter jack, and on-off switch. Props to M-Audio for including physical MIDI jacks – some of us still have old-school gear, y’know? I like USB over MIDI as much as the next guy, and of course the Axiom 49 has that too, but I don’t think anything that calls itself a “MIDI controller” truly justifies that title unless you can drive a hardware tone module. After all, I still love my Yamaha TX802 and Peavey V3, thank you.



      Our fourth attached image shows the Axlom – ooops, I mean Axiom – logo , and also the Kensington lock. Due to the price and feature set, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a unit like this showing up in classrooms...so the Kensington lock is probably a good idea.



      First impressions: The Axiom 49 is much more substantial than I expected; when I saw it, I figured heavy playing would make it slide off the table. Nope. This is even more important if you’re into fader slamming and encoder twirling. And while the case is plastic, it’s definitely high-impact and I suspect there’s some kind of internal reinforcement, as there’s no bending or flexing if you try to twist the thing. Another nice touch: rubberized end plates so you can store the keyboard on its ends without scratching or damaging the surface. And I really like the big display...



      Before signing off for today, note that there's actually quite a bit to cover – like whether it's easy to map the control surface, which programs are compatible out-of-the-box and which require mapping, whether mapping is a tedious process, is there a way to save or exchange mappings, ease of tweaking under fire, and the like. So, we’ll have plenty to keep us occupied in the weeks ahead.
      _____________________________________________
      There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi. What modules will you be testing it with?

        I'm interested in how it works with a Korg M3m.

        I need a controller for my M3m.

        I have an Axiom 25. I don't think it's user-friendly at all.

        But -- on the + side, it's durable. It filled up with water once
        (under a leaky AC). On day I bumped it & heard water sloshing
        around inside.

        I turned it over, dumped out the water (through the keys),
        let it dry out for a week, and now t's good as new. Lights up fine.

        I'm looking at a 49 or 61 key model for my M3m.
        Youtube , ​Murika , France

        Comment


        • #5






          Quote Originally Posted by Etienne Rambert
          View Post

          Hi. What modules will you be testing it with?



          I'm interested in how it works with a Korg M3m.




          Well in that case...I'll test it with an M3m (I think the M3 is a great synthesizer anyway).








          I have an Axiom 25. I don't think it's user-friendly at all.



          In what way? So far the 49 seems pretty obvious...do you mean mapping parameters and such?








          But -- on the + side, it's durable. It filled up with water once

          (under a leaky AC). On day I bumped it & heard water sloshing

          around inside.



          I turned it over, dumped out the water (through the keys),

          let it dry out for a week, and now t's good as new. Lights up fine.



          If I was M-Audio, I'd be emailing you for permission to quote that in an ad!!



          But I should also add...you did the smart thing, giving it a good period of time to dry out before trying to turn it on. A lot of gear will survive water if you make sure it's 100% dry before trying to power it up.



          However, not to disappoint, but I don't plan to immerse the Axiom 49 in water to test out that aspect of its operation
          _____________________________________________
          There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

          Comment


          • #6
            The axiom 25 lacks dedicated menu buttons.



            Anyway, these units are designed to be set up using the bundled software really, more than by hand. Setting 8 sliders manually takes a while compared to with copy/paste and a numpad!
            <div class="signaturecontainer">Good times rolled with:<br />
            <br />
            WAWBanks, RadioSilence, theboywho, ponch, fruvai, joeyowen, jah_vengeance, sparkfriction, HeartfeltDawn, robw, tvrf21...<br />
            <br />
            I gave stuff to Melx for free and nothing bad happened<br />
            <br />
            <i>(Formerly known as Hides-His-Eyes)</i></div>

            Comment


            • #7






              Quote Originally Posted by Hides-His-Eyes
              View Post

              The axiom 25 lacks dedicated menu buttons.



              Anyway, these units are designed to be set up using the bundled software really, more than by hand. Setting 8 sliders manually takes a while compared to with copy/paste and a numpad!




              Thanks for the insight...guess the next step is to set up the software!
              _____________________________________________
              There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

              Comment


              • #8
                Time to see what the software is all about. The installer disc splash screen has links to DirectLink drivers (more on DirectLink later, but it's basically an out-of-the-box way to map controls to certain DAWs), the M-Audio Knowledge Base, and where to download the latest drivers. Why drivers? Isn't the Axiom 49 a class-compliant? Yes, it is. But according to M-Audio, you need a driver to handle Sys Ex as well as control more than one application at a time, and simultaneously use additional class-compliant USB audio devices. Fair enough.



                Interestingly, though, upon going to the M-Audio driver page I saw entries for the Axiom and for the 2nd gen Axiom. Aha! So it HAS been improved since its introduction...if nothing else, that explains why the rotary encoders don't click anymore, despite what early user reviews said. But, this also indicated to me that I couldn't really take any of the early user reviews too seriously, because obviously, there have been changes.



                The driver is only 14MB - a quick download - and installation under XP3 was uneventful. But, that may be because I actually read manuals, which specified that the drivers needed to be installed with the Axiom 49 disconnected (this is the usual procedure procedure for USB devices).



                After the driver installation, I looked for some kind of software editor for programming the various sliders and buttons, but didn't see anything on the CD-ROM or the web site. Nor was there any mention in the Quick Start. But based on the mention here, I googled "Enigma M-Audio Download" and it took me to a page with software that lists support for the Axiom 49. But does that include the Axiom 49 "2nd gen"? Let's find out.
                _____________________________________________
                There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Enigma is the software I used on my FIRST gen model (before I sold it to buy a piano); good luck to you!
                  <div class="signaturecontainer">Good times rolled with:<br />
                  <br />
                  WAWBanks, RadioSilence, theboywho, ponch, fruvai, joeyowen, jah_vengeance, sparkfriction, HeartfeltDawn, robw, tvrf21...<br />
                  <br />
                  I gave stuff to Melx for free and nothing bad happened<br />
                  <br />
                  <i>(Formerly known as Hides-His-Eyes)</i></div>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It doesn't look like Enigma supports the 2nd gen model, so it's time to see how easy/difficult it is to program manually...which I would have needed to do anyway. I've sent a message to M-Audio asking if they plan to do an editor for the Axiom 49 2nd Gen, or if one already exists.



                    I must say I'm finding some pretty cool features just by poking around. For example, I really like how the display shows the aftertouch amount in real time when you're using aftertouch...little things like that really make a difference when creating sounds.
                    _____________________________________________
                    There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The aftertouch was one of my favourite things, actually. You find yourself a free synth vst called "MiniMogueVA" and see what I mean
                      <div class="signaturecontainer">Good times rolled with:<br />
                      <br />
                      WAWBanks, RadioSilence, theboywho, ponch, fruvai, joeyowen, jah_vengeance, sparkfriction, HeartfeltDawn, robw, tvrf21...<br />
                      <br />
                      I gave stuff to Melx for free and nothing bad happened<br />
                      <br />
                      <i>(Formerly known as Hides-His-Eyes)</i></div>

                      Comment


                      • #12






                        Quote Originally Posted by Etienne Rambert
                        View Post

                        BTW, I think it is a drawback that I need to install & learn software in order to make the Axiom fully operational.



                        I'm tech-challenged. I just want to hook it up and use it.




                        Well actually, you can do that. It's a class-compliant device and needs a driver only for the reasons mentioned above (e.g., controlling more than one device at a time with it). And once the driver is installed, you can forget about it...it's transparent.



                        As to the Enigma editor, I don't believe that it works with the 2nd Gen model. I'll wait for someone from M-Audio to confirm whether that's true or not, though.



                        As to deep programming...well, we'll see how complex it is. OF course, these days with a lot of synths you don't need to do assignments for MIDI controller messages and such at the control surface - you can just click on "learn" at the synth, move a fader or dial, and get on with your life.
                        _____________________________________________
                        There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Okay...I think I've wrapped my head around how to review this.



                          There are several elements to the Axiom 49, and one of the most important is DirectLink, as it allows mapping to specific programs "out of the box." That's the good news; however, not that many applications are supported yet: There's Ableton Live, Cubase, Reason, Record, and of course, Pro Tools. So I'm planning on saving DirectLink for later, after we've scoped out the details, so that those using programs other than the ones listed above, or versions of those programs that aren't supported (e.g., Cubase prior to v5.1.0.5 or Ableton Live prior to 8.1.4), can find out what Axiom can do for them.



                          We'll begin by looking at how to tailor the keyboard response itself, then move to other elements like pads, faders, buttons, etc. Then we'll look at using it as a master controller, as well as a DAW interface. Finally, we'll close out with an in-depth testing of DirectLink.



                          That is, unless I've missed something I need to add along the way
                          _____________________________________________
                          There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Editing parameters seems user-hostile at first, but is actually not difficult once you understand the protocol. The left-most keys serve double-duty, as they let you select particular parameters for editing; small legends are printed above the keys (see the attached image) so you don't have to always refer to the manual to find out what's going on.



                            To edit a parameter, you hit the Edit button, then hit the appropriate key. While that's pretty obvious, there are a few aspects that are not obvious unless you do read the manual. For example, to change the keyboard's velocity curve, you hit the Edit button, then hit the key labeled "curve." You then type in a value or us up/down buttons, then according to the manual, you need to hit Enter to "make it so." However, at least with the velocity curves, I found it unnecessary to hit Enter; when you leave Edit mode, the Axiom 49 remembers what you set.



                            Easy enough. However, the curve key also steps through two more options with successive hits: one for adjusting the Pad velocity sensitivity, and another for tailoring the acceleration curve for the encoder knobs. Once you figure this out it's easy to remember, but if you just walked up to the Axiom 49 in a music store with no one to assist you, you probably wouldn't find adjusting the encoder curve "intuitively obvious."



                            As you might expect, the big display is a big help for parameter editing, as it's easy to see what you're editing, and the value. Although most parameters are abbreviated (e.g., EnCrv for encoder curve), they all made sense to me.
                            _____________________________________________
                            There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Let's take a look at what kind of curves are available. Personally, I like a lot of options - "Soft," "Hard," and "Constant Velocity" are better than nothing, but this is supposed to a master controller...



                              Keyboard sensitivity offers 7 options:
                              • Lower velocity values for a given amount of force - good for those with a really heavy touch

                              • Normal - curved for players with an average touch

                              • Higher velocity values for a given amount of force - for those with a light touch

                              • Linear setting so that velocity correlates linearly to force

                              • Fixed velocity of 64 - use this for organ sounds where you don't want dynamics

                              • Fixed velocity of 100 - similar to the previous curve, but with a different default velocity

                              • Fixed velocity of 127 - similar to the previous curve, but with a different default velocity



                              Unfortunately, there's no "hint" as to what each option is on the display, other than that the four curves start with "C" (C1, C2, etc.) and the fixed curves with F. I'd rather see the display say something like "Hvy," "Nrm," "Sft," and "Lin" for the curve settings, with "64," "100," and "127" for the fixed values.



                              Pad sensitivity options are the same, but with three additional settings that quantize velocity to three values:

                              • Generates a fixed velocity of either 64 or 127 depending on how hard you hit the pad

                              • Generates a fixed velocity of 64, 100, or 127 depending on how hard you hit the pad (this is very useful for programming quick drum parts where you don't want to have to picky about hitting the pads)

                              • Generates a fixed velocity of 32, 64, 100, or 127 depending on how hard you hit the pad



                              And finally, there's the encoder acceleration options. This is pretty cool, and you have four choices:

                              • Normal

                              • Slow for making fine adjustments

                              • Fast for when you want to whiz through the values

                              • Off, where the knob sends a value change of one step regardless of how fast or slow you turn the knob



                              Again, I have the same comment as the velocity about wanting a less cryptic display...like "Nrm," "Slo," "Fst," and "Off." I assume this wouldn't be too hard a change to make in a software update...
                              _____________________________________________
                              There are now 14 music videos posted on my YouTube channel, including four songs by Mark Longworth. Watch the music video playlist, subscribe, and spread the links! Check back often, because there's more to come...

                              Comment



                              Working...
                              X