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NAMM 2019 HANDS-ON: Akai Pro's Force risks being less than the sum of its parts

NAMM 2019: It’s generating a lot of buzz, but we predict that Akai’s standalone production hardware, Force, is going to face an uphill struggle. It clearly aims to capture the intuitive clip-focussed workflow of Ableton Live and put it into a self-contained machine. However, the size and weight of the hardware itself mean it’s not necessarily any more portable than a laptop and Push, and its price point isn’t vastly cheaper either.

The Force’s stock of onboard synths and Air effects sound good to our ear, but the feature set can’t match that of the full crop in Ableton Live. It begs the question, ‘why would those seeking a Live-like workflow switch from Ableton?’ It’s worth noting that, if portability and a self-contained workflow is a priority, Akai’s own, excellent MPC Live is cheaper and has a rechargeable battery for true portability.

That being said, the hardware itself feels great quality, with responsive pads, solid rotaries and a clear, quality touchscreen. Clearly, a lot of work has gone into creating a slick and flexible workflow, too, and we’re sure that those who learn its ins and outs will undoubtedly find it to be a fun and creative instrument.

One downside we can see at the moment is the lack of flexibility when it comes to creating and exporting full arrangements. We’re told there’s no Song Mode right now and, unlike with the MPC, there’s no desktop version of the software, so transferring ideas to a DAW could prove cumbersome. Hopefully, future firmware will improve this. We’re told there’s extensive mapping to use Force as a controller for Ableton Live, too.

In short, the jury is out right now. Force is clearly a well made and powerful piece of kit, but we’ve yet to get our head around its USP.

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NAMM 2019 - all the news

The dust is settling, but our ears are still ringing. You'll find all the stories that counted in our massive news hub. Below, enjoy our editors' findings as we regrouped at the end of the show.