Akai MiniAK Keyboard Ballston Spa NY

At first glance, the Akai MiniAK looks like a compact performance synth with few frills. Its three-octave velocity-sensitive keyboard, pitch and mod wheels, three assignable knobs, and gooseneck mic for singing into the onboard vocoder, are just the thing for playing solos, bass lines, pads, and fills at live gigs or in the studio. But appearances can be deceiving. Under the MiniAK’s hood lies a full-blown virtual analog synth that’s capable of producing up to eight voices with three oscillators each. Each voice can be its own multitimbral part if you prefer.

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Akai MiniAK Keyboard

ortho_mediaAt first glance, the Akai MiniAK looks like a compact performance synth with few frills. Its three-octave velocity-sensitive keyboard, pitch and mod wheels, three assignable knobs, and gooseneck mic for singing into the onboard vocoder, are just the thing for playing solos, bass lines, pads, and fills at live gigs or in the studio. But appearances can be deceiving. Under the MiniAK’s hood lies a full-blown virtual analog synth that’s capable of producing up to eight voices with three oscillators each. Each voice can be its own multitimbral part if you prefer. You get two multimode filters, three ADSR envelopes, two LFOs, linear and exponential FM capabilities, a ring modulator, and stereo effects including a 40-band vocoder. There’s also a step and pattern sequencer, an arpeggiator, and a drum machine. Oh, and lots of preset sounds—600 of them. This gives you a lot of musicmaking power in a deceptively small package.

by Dominic Milano

Sounds

miniak_angleYou can process external audio through the MiniAk’s synth engine, either via the included vocoder mic or the 1/4" balanced inputs around back.

Bass, lead, pad, string, brass, comp, keys, drum, vocoder/special FX . . . the MiniAK’s sounds are organized in nine self-explanatory categories. Though sounds cover all the bases—organs, electric pianos, Clavs, chimes, and yes, synths—there are no samples. Everything is analog modeling. Even its drum sounds are created using analog-like synthesis techniques, so many have a TR-808 or TR-909 feel. A few distortion-enhanced kicks and snares evoke a Nine Inch Nails industrial vibe.

A number of programs have names that keyboard cognoscenti will recognize: “Seven Days,” “Lucky Porta,” and “WontGetFooled,” for example, are dead-on covers of sounds from Jan Hammer’s “The First Seven Days,” Keith Emerson’s “Lucky Man” solo, and the pulsing, filtered organ of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Many of the factory presets have a wonderful ambient tone, thanks to judiciously applied onboard DSP effects. In addition, the performance controls—both mod wheels as well as the three assignable knobs—usually take the sounds in new, expressive directions. For example, by opening up the filter cutoff, dialing in resonance, adding vibrato, or giving the tone added grit via overdrive, and so on.

Synth Engine and Effects

The MiniAK’s voice architecture will be familiar if you’re an Alesis ION or Micron player, as the MiniAK is a direct descendent. As such, its programs are compatible with both Alesis machines. The MiniAK is also reminiscent of various classic analog synths: the Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, Prophet-5, and so on. It also incorporates a few useful enhancements.

For example, one of the three envelopes can modulate oscillator pitch. There’s also a ring modulator between two of the oscillators, and various types of frequency modulation. Linear FM does classic FM synthesis a la Yamaha DX7, whereas exponential FM modulates the pitch of an oscillator and can be us...

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