AMX is an audio interface, it's DVS ready, and it includes a full copy of Serato DJ.

AMX is an audio interface, it’s DVS ready, and it includes a full copy of Serato DJ.

Serato DJs swear by their software. But one thing they haven’t had lately is a lot of choice in DJ controller hardware. Sure, there’s now a range of hardware getting updated for the latest software. But even after a transition to the new Serato DJ platform, almost all of this hardware is of the “really wide with two big wheels” variety.

That big hardware is a big problem. It leaves out Serato DJs working with vinyl who just want some added control of the software. It adds two big platters, which are arguably something you don’t need in the first place. And it gives you hardware that’s tough to fit in a bag – and sometimes impossible to fit in a booth. It works for some people in some situations, that is, but not all. And to add insult to injury, Allen & Heath’s beautiful XONE:K2 controller supported almost every DJ tool except Serato (even competing head-to-head with Native Instruments’ own hardware for Traktor).

Well, now there’s release, in two inexpensive, versatile-looking controllers from AKAI. AKAI, for their part, seems intent on world domination of every category (with InMusic comprising that brand as well as M-Audio and Alesis).

The AFX is a US$199 slim USB controller for effects, cueing, and loops. The AMX is a $249 control surface and audio interface.

There’s an obvious parallel to Native Instruments’ X1 and Z1, respectively. (It’s worth mentioning that, because NI has just announced that it’s including Traktor Pro for free with the purchase of either one, for the month of August.) But for Serato lovers, there’s no real comparison. Not only do you get extensive Serato integration, but the AMX gets you the latest full copy of Serato DJ – meaning, if you’re looking to upgrade (or, cough, get a legitimate copy), this is a smart buy.

Details:

DJ controllers for Serato that aren't huge things with wheels. New AKAI hardware, out this month.

DJ controllers for Serato that aren’t huge things with wheels. New AKAI hardware, out this month.

The AFX:

  • Custom layouts with Serato Flip
  • 4 decks of control
  • 9 touch-activated knobs
  • 8 velocity-sensitive RGB-backlit pads
  • Different pads modes: trigger hot cues, loops, or slices.
  • USB powered
Touch control - look familiar?

Touch control – look familiar?

That controller is also driverless, so you’re not limited to Serato here. You could even map it on Linux, if you really wanted.

The AMX:

  • 24-bit/96kHz audio interface
  • 2 phono/line inputs, stereo and headphone outputs
  • 9 touch-activated knobs
  • Includes a full license for Serato DJ
  • Akai’s innoFADER crossfader
  • Headphone output
  • Velocity-sensitive pads on the front of the AKAI, a packed controller unit for Serato DJ.

    Velocity-sensitive pads on the front of the AKAI, one draw on a packed controller unit for Serato DJ.

    Here's where things get interesting: dual inputs mean you could really run a digital vinyl system off this, turntablists.

    Here’s where things get interesting: dual inputs mean you could really run a digital vinyl system off this, turntablists.

    Actually, having said there’s no comparison, let’s compare. The AFX has velocity-sensitive pads and 4 decks of control; the NI Kontrol X1 has only trigger buttons and 2 decks. (Switches at the top of the Akai give you the second two decks.) They both have touch-sensitive strips. But the trade-off is, the X1 gets a much cleaner layout than the AFX. Also, if the AFX feels anything like the new Ableton controller hardware from Akai, I’m suspicious you’re likely to prefer the more-solid feel of the NI gear – you don’t get anything for free. And, I’m sorry Akai, the NI box is just better looking.

    Then again, maybe it’s not fair to compare these two for a second reason – with the slicer, sampler, roll, and velocity-sensitive pad features, the Akai is more about live controllerism than the NI box. The question I have is whether you just want a dedicated pad controller at that point – and, if so, Akai will happily sell you one.

    The AMX is more of a no-brainer – and a portal into upgrading to Serato DJ. The NI Z1 has the advantage of seamlessly switching between desktop and mobile (working with the iPad version of Traktor), and it still covers the bases for audio. But the AMX is a different story: it adds separate LEDs for each track for cueing (absent on the Z1), it has two inputs so it can be used with Digital Vinyl systems (key for a lot of Serato’s market), and built-in browse and cueing. So here, the comparison between the two is a little more superficial.

    The big question is whether the AMX/AFX duo can cure Serato Face, the disease of laptop DJs (regardless of software maker) glued to their computer screens.

    • REGEND

      The entry to Serato DJ is ridiculous now. I remember buying my first SL1 box for 500 bucks back in 2006. I needed something like this 6 months ago because it super travel friendly.
      I need this.

    • James

      How do you think any of these fair as open-format controllers?

      This wave is the only thing I’ve seen that competes with the Faderfox devices, although I never had the pleasure of trying any of them hands-on. The x-fader might be too diminutive on the Faderfox, although the single hand position of the ft3 always intrigued me. You think the tape on the afx will have a width parameter the way the quneo does? I do like the reverse feature on the amx, but it would make more sense on the quneo, which has that one port going out the wrong way from all the connections to a mac, and lending itself to open format, should not technically have a top or bottom.

      I do wonder what folks will sacrifice in terms of latency, D/A conversion, and jitter when it comes to these new interface/controllers? I do think some of these pocket interfaces, like the ECHO, were more robust, but still, the ports on a laptop are competing for attention.

      Thanks for pointing out the iPad compatibility on the native instruments controllers. That app is no joke. Still, you raised the bar for me, Peter, when you reported on the Djay app’s compatibility with streaming services, but I’d hold out until that’s a more x-the-board feature for iPad dj software.

    • denverp

      The AMX is basically exactly what I’m looking for, but for Live. Any idea how much I’d be sacrificing using this? Would anything work better as an interface/mixer?

      • regend

        i can see this being used for Live but i would wait to see if the USB audio is recognized by 3rd party audio apps.

      • lokey

        this is the first audiointerface/midimixer that really hits the right notes for use with ableton, in my opinion. At this size, at any rate.

    • chap

      My question is : on the AMX, are the faders and crossfader AUDIO faders, or just MIDI controllers ? Same question for the VU meters.

      • D.N.A.

        AMX is a MIDI control surface with audio interface. It isn’t a stand-alone mixer.

      • Jay Filbert

        Nah it’s both. You just need Serato DJ to run it, even if it’s just regular vinyl.

    • Mr P

      I’ve never used these types of controllers before but just wanted to know how you pitch bend to keep the music in time?

      • breeze

        With these controllers, you don’t. You have two options. 1) pre program your tracks in Serato DJ in grid edit mode so everything snaps to tempo from beat matching and mixing tracks to FX or 2) you could still manually mix with the turntable pitch controls

      • Mr P

        Thanks for this. This completely writes this off for me as a stand-alone unit. Maybe I’m just too old school to trust the software to snap and hold everything in place. I still like to have the option to manually adjust the music if needed.

        As well as house and Hip hop, I also play a lot of 70s and 80s music and as you know, a lot for them were recorded with live instruments so they are not always 100% in time. I can’t take that risk.

      • http://soundcloud.com/yanisko James Yanisko

        Luckily there are a couple of ways to add that functionality if you want.

        The sister unit to the AMX is the AFX which has a touch strip in similar fashion to the Twitch or the NI X1 MK2.

        OR

        Add your turntables / CDJ back into the mix…while keeping all of the digital options available. I’m kind of excited about this myself…as I took out my turntable some time ago for the new digital setups..

      • Mr P

        Good to know. I’ll probably be looking at the AMX if I was ever going this route. I’ll have to wait until I get a chance to actually use it first.

      • D.N.A.

        The AMX has Pitch Bend built in using the Browser knob for standalone, and the AFX has a momentary Pitch Bend on the touch strip.

      • Mr P

        Thanks for that. I’ll have to wait and see how it works before purchasing. I’m hoping Pioneer will consider releasing a similar one but I guess that would take sales away form the DDJ line.

      • regend

        You can MIDI map two knobs as well if you don’t use the DVS system. Normally, when I just my SL1 box, a hardware mixer, and no vinyl controllers, i use my laptop touchpad or map keys to pitch up and down on screen.

    • coolout

      Holy shit…I just realized that if you use an 1/8″ to RCA cord in AMX headphone slot you could probably use it as normal Serato DVS interface. Half the price of a Rane SL box with triple the functionality. Even if the build quality isn’t Rane level…at that price it way worth it. I just might buy two…

      • REGEND

        You need a plug-in to unlock the vinyl/cd timecode DVS feature. No need for the headphone out…unless you’re using that headphone out and sending back into a regular analog mixer? Seems redundant. For 99 bucks to add the DVS it’s worth it.

      • coolout

        Damn I thought DVS came standard with the AMX out of the box like when you plug in a Rane SL box. So you basically have a box designed for DVS but you still have to pay an extra $100 just unlock that functionality?!?!? That sucks big time. Is it not enough for Serato to charge for FX, decent time-stretch, and video…not to mention the timecode records you need anyways? I can even understand charging for a DVS add-on for devices that already have jogwheels, but to tack $100 on top of a $250 product for a feature that it NEEDS in order to work is ridiculous.