The APC Mini gives you button and fader control over Ableton Live in a bite-sized form factor that fits in your backpack. Coming in at just less than US$100, its is by far the cheapest APC controller yet. However, it comfortably lives up to Akai’s reputation for high quality devices. If you’ve always wanted an APC for use with Ableton Live, this controller may just be your dream come true.
First Impressions / Setting up
This controller has a pretty standard 8 x 8 grid with tricolour pads, nine low profile faders, various control buttons, and a very well-placed shift key that allows you to access most of the secondary functions with one hand (it’s on the right side of the controller below the soft keys, meaning that if you press it with your thumb, your hand is well placed to comfortably access the other buttons).
The faders are very short, but they’re OK if you like fast changes. I would have liked them to be longer, but this is a matter of personal taste. It’s USB powered, and plugs and plays with Ableton Live without any complicated installation process. On the software front, you get a very capable synth called Hybrid 3, and a fantastic selection of sample packs from Toolroom Records, as well as Ableton Live Lite 9. Not bad at all considering the fun-sized price tag.
I found the APC mini very comfortable and pretty easy to get used to. There were no software problems, and the tricolour lights behind the pads were bright enough (even in my fluorescently-lit office). The shift key wasn’t a problem for me, but it’s definitely something that you might need to get used to, especially if you’re used to using deck-style controllers where everything has one dedicated function. If you’ve used any other Ableton Live controller, you’ll probably be okay with it.
To be honest, in terms of function, there’s not a great deal of difference from the Launchpad Mini, and I’d be quite happy to use either, although Novation’s iPad apps may be an influencing factor in your decision between the two. If you’ve always wanted an APC, this controller may just be your dream come true.