Sonic Union reviews the latest AKAI APC40 MK2

What is it?
Ableton Live controller

£269.99 RRP

A few weeks back AKAI released the MK2 of the very popular APC40 ‘Ableton Live’ controller released back in 2010 and we are taking a look into the updated version to see how it differs from the original.

Visually compared next to each other they look very different yet you can see the resemblance in the units. The MK2 has rectangular buttons instead of square launch buttons on the MK1. They have also moved the 8 pan/send knobs from the right side of the unit to be above each channel instead which makes more sense when you are looking at the unit and working with it live. Instead of having dedicated ‘Send A/B/C’ buttons you access the pan/sends by holding down the pan/send button and select which one from the 1-8 numbered buttons.

The MK2 is also quite a bit smaller and lighter than the MK1 but feels sturdy and it feels like its meant to be taken with you to gigs. Each channel now have a new A/B crossfader select button for quick and easy cross-fader setup. The sliders have also been recessed into the unit and feel more sturdy compared to the MK1. As for the clip selection buttons, they are now multi coloured to match the clip colour in Live which improves usability a lot and when active they also pulsate in a very bright green colour.

The unit also has a footswitch jack and a Kensington lock slot. Additionally each track also has a stop button, a track selection button, and dedicated buttons for mute, solo, and record arming just as on the MK1. The MK2 is USB bus powered only which is great compared to the MK2 who needed extra power to get bright colours on the pads. One drawback with the new pads though is that they are not velocity sensitive so they can’t really be used for expressive playing.

The APC40 MK2 also includes a USB cable and a download only software bundle consisting of Ableton Live Lite, 5GB of samples, and the Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Technology & SONiVOX Twist.


The APC40 MK2 is a great piece of kit, worthy of any producer or performer using Ableton Live. It’s even worth considering upgrading to the MK2 if you bring your current MK1 out to gigs. If you only use it in the studio then perhaps the upgrade might not be worth it.


18 knobs
40 backlit RGB buttons
5 scene launch buttons
9 faders – 8 channels / 1 master
1 crossfader

To find out more information, including stockists, head to the AKAI website

About the Author

Sweden’s Erik Pettersson is better known as DJ/producer Sonic Union, one half of prolific progressive house pair Bastards of Funk and Sonic Union and co-founder, label owner and manager of Lowbit Records.