After weeks of leaked photos and info doing the rounds on the internet, Akai puts the rumours to rest with their announcement of FORCE – A standalone production workstation which features “Ableton Push” style workflow, whilst providing musicians of all disciplines DAW-centric capability.
It’s something many have been asking for – computer-free music production. Evident in the strong rise of hardware synth popularity and companies like Elektron and Korg, who pride themselves in DAW-less music products, even DJ companies like Denon are releasing standalone DJ controllers, which no longer require a computer to run DJ software.
Akai was originally made famous for their iconic MPC line of hardware samplers back in the late ’80s (which literally stands for Music Production Controller ) and has been at the forefront of this concept for decades. Granted they did move away from standalone hardware gear for a while during the “DAW controller boom” with the release of the APC series and the MPD controller keyboards. Both were very popular and still widely used and it was only last year that they have released the FIRE controller designed to work with FL studio, however, it’s their standalone hardware like the MPC LIVE and MPC X which gets most of the attention.
Akai’s FORCE looks like the lovechild of an MPC Live, Maschine Mk3 and Ableton’s Push, in fact it was Akai that where involved in the design and production of the first Ableton Push 1, and have many products that support and control clip launching in Live, which probably has influenced the “Ableton Live style” workflow behind FORCE. At its core, we can see the 8×8 pad matrix that is used to launch clips and scenes, step sequence drums, play chords and melodies. While the 7″ colour capacitive multitouch display provides feedback on MIDI clips, display integrated synth engines, the ability to browse the 10GB sample library, plus view project management, both which are at the heart of the workflow. Sitting above the pads are the 8 capacitive encoders which assign to selected parameters and each has their own OLED data display, which is a nice touch.
- Standalone – no computer required
- 8×8 clip-launch matrix with RGB LEDs
- 7″ colour capacitive multitouch display
- Mic/Instrument/Line Inputs, 4 outputs
- MIDI In/Out/Thru via 1/8″ TRS inputs (5-pin DIN adapters included)
- (4) configurable CV/Gate Outputs to integrate your modular setup
- (8) touch-sensitive knobs with graphical OLED displays
- Time stretch/pitch shift in real time
- A comprehensive set of AIR effects and Hype, TubeSynth, Bassline and Electric synth engines
- Ability to record 8 stereo tracks
- 16GB of onboard storage (over 10 gigs of sound content included)
- 2 GB of RAM
- Full-Size SD Card Slot
- User-expandable 2.5″ SATA drive connector (SATA or HDD)
- (2) USB 3.0 slots for thumb drives or MIDI controllers
In a quote from Akai, they have planned 2 updates that will include “in-depth Ableton Live integration” plus a partnership with Splice:
“In March 2019, Force’s development program includes in-depth Ableton Live integration. This functionality will include total visibility and command of Ableton’s clip matrix, tactile control of core mixer parameters including crossfader assignments, and control of device parameters instantiated in Ableton Live’s workspace via the touch user interface and Force’s rotary encoders / OLED displays.
Additionally, March 2019 will also see Splice integration within Force. Splice Sounds fuels the creativity of producers around the world with millions of high-quality, royalty-free samples, sounds, presets and loops, covering nearly every musical style. With Splice integration in Force, users will have immediate wi-fi access to their own Splice library directly from the touch user interface – perfect for ultra-fast auditioning of sounds for implementation within their Force project.”
Akai’s FORCE is certainly a leap forward in computer-free music-making, with a host of features that make it a dedicated music production workstation with intuitive control for beat making and melody arrangement. Performers and DJ’s will take advantage of its portable footprint and it’s also nice to see CV/Gate added so it can be integrated into a hardware setup, however it remains to be seen whether users are ready to ditch their DAW’s just yet.