M-audio axiom air 25 midi controller review

M-Audio Axiom Air 25 Review & Producing Test

The M-Audio Axiom Air 25 has been around for awhile, but we got hold of a unit and did a review on it. The Axiom Air we put our hands on is a 25-key model. This review, however, can be closely related to the other Axiom variants, from the M-Audio Axiom Air 49 and 61.

Unboxing The M-Audio Axiom Air 25

The first thing you’ll notice upon unboxing the Axiom Air 25 is its size – which is huge if compared to many other 25-key midi controllers in the market. Most controllers out there usually have compact designs and smaller drum pads to save space, but the Axiom Air 25 was designed without compromising for space – giving you full MPC-styled pads and more space to use the unit.

The Axiom Air came with everything you’ll need to get started, with a supplied USB cable, user manuals, and CDs that contain driver installation and a copy of Ableton Live Lite.

A copy of Ignite is also included with the purchase of the M-Audio Axiom Air, though it’s only available as a download.

Controls On The Axiom Air MIDI Controller

M-Audio Axiom Air 25 Controls

M-Audio Axiom Air 25 Controls

The Axiom Air we are on is the 25-key model and there are variants for a 49 and 61 key models which come with longer spreads of keys respectively.

The full sized MPC-styled drum pads are pressure sensitive and they also feature aftertouch. It’s fun to see the light action that comes on the keys, however, the drum pads will take a little time to get used to, as it feels a little different from velocity sensitive only pads. There is a MIDI bank button that gives you the ability to select different banks for the drum pads, giving you a total of 48 pad banks to play with instead of only having 16 pad banks.

Additionally, you probably would find the drum-roll function interesting to play. The note length and swing for the drum rolls can be altered using the edit function then selecting the preferred note value with the keys. With this function, it’s possible to creatively program a few interesting patches to be used to trigger in a live performance setting.

What’s HyperControl & What’s Does It Do?

I’ll admit the first time I played with the Axiom Air, I had no idea what HyperControl was until I noticed the many Hypercontrol buttons on the Axiom, I decided to dig in further.

Hypercontrol is basically the new version of ‘DirectLink’ mode and its function is to automap the pan pots, transport, and pads to your DAW, plugins, and VST instruments. Unfortunately, there are not many documentations available for the setup of the Hypercontrol with different DAWs. I was able to get it to work with Cubase 7 but found it a hassle to work with Logic X.

You’ll have to download and install the drivers and Hypercontrol software in your computer. Hypercontrol doesn’t work on every DAW version, so you better check if hypercontrol is supported for your DAW.

I wasn’t really buying into the Hypercontrol function, so instead of using it, I found myself mapping the transport & pan pots manually. Manually wise, the transport and pan pots on the Axiom Air should work with most DAWs.

Back Panel & Possibilities of the Axiom Air 25

The back panel of the M-Audio Axiom Air 25

The back panel of the M-Audio Axiom Air 25

Looking at the connection ports of a MIDI controller would often give you an idea of the possibilities you could do with it. There’s the usual USB connection port on the Axiom used to connect it to your computer. You could also use the Axiom Air as a standalone controller without the computer by powering it up using a 9V adapter.

You’ll also get a MIDI in and MIDI out with the Axiom Air, which means you can use the Axiom Air to control other synths, keyboards or soundbanks that have a MIDI connection. Also very welcomed is the sustain and expression port. There’s also a Kensington lock but I don’t really see myself using that at all – well perhaps if you were to put it on stage, then maybe!

Producing Music With the Axiom Air 25

With everything said, the value of a MIDI controller will be determined by how easy and efficient it is when it comes to producing real music. I see the Axiom Air to be a great controller for producing music in the studio and also a nice controller for a live setting where you’d probably use it to trigger sounds, control filters and play some lead lines & chords.

In my review, I program a quick chord progression, utilizing the keys and a little of the pads. The Axiom Air series comes with synth action keys built and as usual, M-Audio keyboards never fail to disappoint. The keys felt super responsive and expressive, even for a synth-action key type. The keys also have aftertouch built in so you can get really expressive, playing on it.

However, the 25-key model can feel a little small. If you’re only programming lead & bass lines, the 25 key will do great for you, but you’ll start to feel constricted if you are into programming pianos and large string chords. So if you think you’ll be programming music with more keys, best to stretch your budget and get the model with more keys.

Transport buttons were quick to get familiar with and it’s a nice welcome on a MIDI controller, so you don’t have to always reach for your mouse or keyboard when being in the creative mood on the controller.

The pan knobs on the Axiom Air 25 can be mapped to your volume faders, pans, and knobs in any plugins. The best part about the pan knobs is that like the drum pads, you can switch up to 3 sets of MIDI banks, giving you a total of 24 programmable pan knobs. In my setting, I had the first set of pan pots mapped to my volume faders, the second set controlling the panning knobs and the third set controlling quick controls on Cubase 7.

You can map it any way you’d like it. In my case it found the pan knobs extremely useful when programming automation lines.

Otherwise, the other controls such as the master fader, pitch & modulation wheels all feel pretty solid and nicely spaced – you won’t miss the buttons even if you’re performing on a very dark stage.

Ignite Music Creation Software – Worth a use?

Ignite is  a music creation tool (not quite a full based DAW), good when it comes to creating and capturing ideas. The plus side is that Ignite works seamlessly with the Axiom Air and everything from Hypercontrol will work with no problems at all. Designed to work without too many technical hurdles, this would appeal to non-technical producers or musicians who wants to make music quickly.

The first thing I noticed was Ignite doesn’t have the usual linear arrangement timeline GUI that we are very used with most DAWs. Instead, you drop instruments and audio files on the arranger. It includes over 250+ of instruments that you can play with. All the basic effects and functions like quantization & piano roll are all in Ignite, so you’ll get around pretty quickly.

The only thing I miss when using Ignite is the ability to support VST or AU plugins like the Kontakt. But that aside, it’s worth a use for the creative process & I can definitely see myself using this during a live performance as well.

However, you’d want to bounce your ideas off to a serious DAW once you’re done with the creative music making process on Ignite.

Final Thoughts

You get a lot of features on the M-Audio Axiom Air 25 for the price you’re paying for. It would be a godsend for any beginners to the intermediate producer.

There are only a few complaints that I have about the unit and they are, firstly, the drum pads does need some getting used to. They can feel a little unresponsive at first but you just got to get the hang of it. Secondly, the Axiom Air is huge! It’s one of the biggest MIDI controller we have in the studio and probably not very ideal for the traveling music producer.

But that aside, if you’re not traveling, the Axiom 25 is definitely a really fun controller to have in your studio.

What do you think about the M-Audio Axiom 25? Do you have a unit in your studio or perhaps you have something similar to the Axiom Air?

Let me know in the comment section below as I’d love to learn from your experiences as well.


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