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Akai AX-60
Overall Rating
Submitted: September 23rd, 2005
by The Reviewer
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Sound Quality
Nice. Wholly under-rated IMHO. You have your classic CEM sound on the cheap here with real time control using a very comprehensive UI. Yeah, yeah, yeah - "it's like a 106" - well, no, not really. On the surface, perhaps, but it's not at all like a 106. A 106 has quicker envelopes, sub bass, and a bass boost which are very important characteristics the AX60 does not have. This means the 106 gets much more phhatt than the AX60. However, the 106's unison mode sounds horrible. The AX60's unison sounds awesome. Phhaattt bass aside, the AX60, IMHO is a more versatile synth than the 106. You can not escape the 106 sound no matter what you program into it. It always has that "106-ish" sound. The AX60 does not suffer that problem - although if you can spot a CEM VCO sound then you'll always hear it with the AX60 (which isn't a bad thing at all). One more comparison - the 106 has one EG - the AX60 has TWO. This is another very important distinction. Okay, so, it sounds great - for what it is. This is not a synth for bass and not a synth for bread and butter sounds. This is REAL VCOs with sliders, knobs, and buttons galore for not a lot of money. Pads, gongs, screaming analog oscillators, SOME nice bass sounds, good leads, it's all there. You MUST play with this synth for a while and really explore it. It can be deceptive - you have to learn it and understand it before passing judgment. It does not respond to programming the way your Polysix or 106 will. It has its sweet spots (thanks to the sliders). If the sliders were better, again some need to be audio taper, all need better sensitivity - it'd be easier to find the sweet spots, but they're there. The VCF mod is awesome. The PWM mod is awesome. You really will get sounds out of this you won't find too easily elsewhere. The envelopes aren't all to musical so you have to work with them (the ADSR sliders are those that need to be audio taper IMHO). The LFO is nice and flexible. Others have said the volume levels can be extreme from patch to patch and this is true. I think I need to investigate some simple mods - improve the bass response, increase the amp gain, some new sliders - then I think in terms of the sound you'd forget your Polysix and Junos. I almost forgot to mention the chorus. The chorus is not noisy - it just has a lot of gain. I like the chorus on this better than the Polysix's effects, and maybe equally if not slightly better than the Juno. It's got a phas-y quality that sounds better to me; I think it enhances a patch in more agreeable way than a Juno's does - whereas the Juno is almost obnoxious and intrusive, the AX60's chorus is "in addition". Overall, it CAN sound big, but maybe not all too juicy (until you turn on the chorus). It CAN sound sweet, and it can indeed get pretty evil.
Very well built. I haven't dug into mine yet, but on the outside it seems just as well built as a Juno, although as I keep mentioning the sliders are definitly lesser quality. Otherwise it's on par with a Juno.
General Comments
A VERY GOOD, albeit simple synth. Something different. After you get used to the way it responds to your "commands" then you'll start finding the sweet spots - of which there are many (in my experience). Again, sliders, buttons, knobs, REAL VCOs, VCF, VCA in a stury package with MIDI. It's a no-brainer.
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