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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > May 2019 > Force £1,299

Force £1,299

Akai’s long-awaited box of delights has finally arrived. From song-sketching and Ableton Live control to a versatile performance hub, is there nothing the Force can’t do? Let’s find out…

REVIEW

Despite the differences between hardware and software, there’s still room for something in-between the two worlds; hardware that provides a lot of what software offers, but doesn’t feel like a computer. We’re not talking about your dad’s groovebox, though: we want some 21st-century tech with our standalone piece of kit and Force is the latest manifestation of this.

It’s a standalone sampler, sequencer and effects processor with a display, lots of tactility and plenty of connections to the outside world. It also connects to a computer and acts as a controller for Ableton Live, which gives it a unique hybrid status – like a toaster that also makes coffee.

The Force package includes pre-installed content, a printed quick-start manual, power supply (this thing is way too chunky to run off a battery), three MIDI DIN-to-3.5mm jack adaptors and, more unusually, an ethernet cable. It’s physically imposing, weighing just over 3.87kg, and measuring 13.8 x 15.3 x 2.85 inches – definitely at the outer limit of being backpack-friendly.

The Force is much better-looking in reality than online – the standout features are the 6.9-inch (diagonal) touch display, 64 backlit RGB pads, and eight knobs aligned at an angle below the display. This combination makes it possible to view three sets of data at the same time. Alongside these main elements, there’s also a large data-entry dial, crossfader, and a bunch of backlit buttons.

The front edge hosts an SD slot, full-size headphone output, and knobs for headphone and cue volume. The rear panel features two ¼-inch/XLR inputs with switches for line/mic levels, and phantom power, two pairs of ¼-inch stereo outputs, MIDI In/Out/Thru connections on 3.5mm jacks, and four CV/Gate outputs. This is rounded off by two USB A ports for connecting a controller or storage, a USB B port for computer connection and an ethernet port for that cable. And now, we need to talk about something that isn’t in the box – Ableton Live.

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About MusicTech

Many, many years ago, when pop music was in its infancy, artists would record at multi-purpose recording facilities that were typically designed simply to capture the live performances of the bands and artists. During the 1960s, when pop music had seized the mantle as the dominant entertainment medium in popular culture, bands such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys grew frustrated by the limitations imposed on them by the technology of the time. Their desire to sonically innovate (not to mention the genius-level work of the producers and engineers they worked with) spearheaded the advancement of multi-track recording technology, as well as several techniques and recording approaches that are still widely used today. In our cover feature, John Pickford examines how much of this classic technology was used – and how we can replicate those approaches today in our own home studios, using very faithful recreations of key kit from decades gone by. Elsewhere this issue, we learn more about the art of stem mastering from London’s Wired Masters; discover how an effective understanding of social media can hep you grow your audience; talk to a range of producers and engineers (including the Grammy-winning Darrell Thorp) and review all the latest hardware and software. I hope you enjoy the issue.