NAMM 2015 VIDEO: Akai Advance keyboard controller demoed

Plug-in herding solution explained

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NAMM 2015: Akai's recently announced Advance MIDI keyboards promise "unprecedented" plugin control, so we caught up with the company for an official rundown of the range's key features.

The theory is that all of your plugins are controlled by a single application - the Virtual Instrument Player - which itself acts as a DAW plugin or operates standalone.

Akai's Advance range of MIDI controller keyboards have drawn a fair amount of attention at this year's NAMM Show, and we've pushed our way through the crowds to check them out.

The keyboards (all 25, 49 and 61-key models) communicate with Akai's Virtual Instrument Player (VIP) plugin, visible directly from the keyboards' interface via a small colour screen. Once the VIP plugin is loaded in a DAW, it's possible to host any other third-party plugin within the interface - a process reminiscent of Novation's Automap, but without the convoluted 'mapping' and 'wrapping' process.

On first use, it seems a notably stable and efficient way to load, layer and control instruments; we were able to stack up to eight third-party plugins and control each's parameters using the controller's eight rotaries without even looking up at the monitor - and there's not a CPU glitch in sight. An Akai representative claims they've kept the range of functions conservative, placing stability and reliability above an overload of features. There's a little menu diving, but we're impressed overall.