Review of M-Audio CTRL49 – USB/MIDI controller with color display and advanced functionality

MIDI keyboard M-Audio CTRL49 was introduced in 2016 at the annual exhibition NAMM. To date, this model is the most advanced device among all MIDI-keyboards from M-Audio. The new M-Audio CTRL49 keyboard differs from many other similar devices using a full-fledged display and close integration with the proprietary software AIR and inMusic.
It is impossible not to mention here a similar series of keyboards Native Instruments KOMPLETE KONTROL S25, S49, S61. M-Audio has two serious advantages: a much more affordable price and you do not need to buy expensive software, which is controlled by the keyboard, since it is immediately bundled. By the way, Native Instruments also lacks pads. But every solution, of course, has its pros and cons and its fans.

M-Audio CTRL49 Video: Hardware Overview & Demonstration

M-Audio CTRL49 – price. Where is the best place to buy?

The recommended retail price of the M-Audio CTRL49 in the US is $815. At this cost, you can buy it on Amazon. I would not recommend ordering anywhere else except on Amazon. Since you are less likely to find cheaper, and if you do not take into account the fact that Amazon is probably the most reliable online store, it still very often provides free shipping.

M-Audio CTRL49
The M-Audio CTRL49 uses a color 4.3-inch high-resolution LCD display that graphically displays all possible modes, settings and adjustable parameters of virtual instruments. This is very convenient, as it allows you not to turn to the laptop again and concentrate completely on the performance. Often, MIDI controllers are equipped with a tiny screen that shows only the numerical values of certain parameters.
The set includes a number of virtual instruments AIR and a unique VIP software (Virtual Instrument Player), allowing the device to interact with various software tools. MIDI keyboard CTRL49 is designed primarily to work with this software. It is thanks to the use of the VIP controller CTRL49 from a conventional MIDI keyboard turns into a kind of workstation.
M-Audio CTRL49
Soft VIP works offline and as AU, VST, or AAX plug-in. With the help of VIP access to any installed virtual instrument in the system directly from the keyboard. Here you can easily find and sort plug-ins, load and edit them, save all settings to global presets and instantly download them. In addition, VIP allows you to simultaneously use up to 8 different virtual instruments, creating multi-layered voices and conveniently adjusting each of the plug-ins inside the shell itself. This is especially useful in live performance, where there is no urgent need to use a sequencer.
M-Audio CTRL49
The CTRL49 keyboard works well in all popular DAW applications using the Mackie Control protocol. The following programs are supported: ProTools, Logic, Cubase, Bitwig, Ableton, Reaper, Studio One and Reason. For a full operation in CTRL49 there are a number of different controllers. Here, illuminated buttons, faders, noncontact controls, pads sensitive to the force of pressing are used. In a word, all the best and necessary from the MIDI keyboard M-Audio.
As for the keys, a full-sized four-octave keyboard with semi-weighted mechanics and an aftertouch function is used here. There are three kinds of velocity curve and ten sensitivity modes. Tactile mechanics are responsive, fairly light and relatively quiet, when you return the keys, excessive noise is not created. White keys are glossy, smooth. Black keys on the contrary, matte,
while their surface is less slippery. There is some similarity to the keys used in the Axiom keyboards.

Video: M-Audio CTRL49 – Unboxing

Technical specifications of M-Audio CTRL49

full-sized keys
semi-weighted mechanic with aftertouch
sensitivity to the velocity of depression
three types of velocity curve
color 4.3 inch display
8 rotary controls
9 faders
8 illuminated pads
transport panel buttons and controls
       MIDI In
MIDI out
connector for Sustain pedal
connector for Expression pedal
Package Contents
       Ableton Live 9 Lite, AIR Creative FX Collection,
AIR Vacuum Pro,
AIR Loom,
AIR Hybrid 3, AIR Xpand! 2,
AIR Velvet, AIR Transfuser and SONiVOX Eighty Eight Ensemble
power adapter
printed manual

The device has a plastic casing. The front upper surface is made of metal, it is removable for repair or cleaning of individual groups of controllers. By modern standards, the dimensions of CTRL49 are quite large (81.4 x 31.4 x 10.4 cm). However, the weight of the device is not very large, only 6 kg. The lower part of the case is completely flat, so the keyboard will fit unobstructed on any stand. For placement on flat surfaces, rubber feet are provided.
M-Audio CTRL49
The MIDI keyboard is connected to the computer via the USB port. Since the device uses a display, a 12V power adapter is required to operate. To connect various external MIDI modules, there is a five-pin MIDI input and a MIDI output. It is also possible to connect two pedals, Sustain and Expression.
For correct operation of CTRL49 from a PC, you need to install a special driver. All the complete software is available for download after authorization of the account on the site M-Audio and the procedure for registering the device. The kit includes a lite version of Ableton Live 9 Lite, a SONiVOX Eighty Eight Ensemble tool and seven AIR plug-ins (Creative FX Collection, Vacuum Pro, Loom, Hybrid 3, Xpand! 2, Velvet and Transfuser). Examples of the sound of the complete software are available on the manufacturer’s website. Thus, buying only a keyboard, you can fully engage in creativity, without additional investment.
CTRL49 has several modes of operation allowing the device to be used as a standard MIDI keyboard in a sequencer or with external MIDI modules. However, the most interesting is the work of CTRL49 with the VIP shell, as this reveals the possibilities of the device to the fullest.
For a full-fledged operation, nothing else is needed to configure. The default controllers are assigned to all the necessary functions of the VIP application. When using VIP as a plug-in, in the sequencer you can control both the VIP settings and the functions of the sequencer itself. Change the control is through switching modes that switch instantly. It will only be necessary to assign the necessary parameters of the sequencer to the corresponding controllers of the keyboard in advance. The assignment process is simple and intuitive, as in any similar utility.
In the sequencer, you can use multiple copies of the VIP, as in the case of conventional virtual instruments. The sound of each of them will be output to the corresponding stereo channel.
M-Audio CTRL49
The VIP application allows you to use up to eight virtual instruments at the same time, getting complex multi-layered voices. Compilation of such individual sounds from different plug-ins is very simple, thanks to the convenient sorting of all installed instruments and their presets in a single list. It is important that the search and download can be done from the keyboard without resorting to the mouse and the computer screen. All navigation in the program is made by the controller and buttons below the display.
M-Audio CTRL49
To control eight plug-ins there is a built-in mixer with channel adjustment: volume, panoramas, SOLO and MUTE functions, and even the possibility of sending to four buses with VST-effects. In addition, up to four individual VST effects can be superimposed on each channel and the range of notes in which the corresponding instrument will play.
M-Audio CTRL49
Strangely enough, the volume control of the miniature VIP mixer is performed not by faders, but by rotary controls. The faders and buttons under them serve to control the sequencer mixer. Rotary controls in different modes control a lot of parameters.
The buttons under the knobs are responsible for the Note Repeat function, which is always active and synchronized by tempo or external cloak. With the help of the BANKS buttons, a fast switching between the virtual instruments loaded in the VIP is carried out.
The pads have a multi-colored display and are designed for both drum and percussion parts, as well as for the indication and control of some parameters. For more convenient perfomance, there are four types of velocity curve and 10 sensitivity modes.


Apparently the development of MIDI keyboards is in the direction of closer integration with the software. And the M-Audio CTRL49 controller is a clear confirmation. Such devices are not just a MIDI keyboard in the traditional sense, but rather are hybrid workstations with their original interface and interesting features. The numerous controllers used are an integral part of the environment and do not look like a rarely used useless add-on.
It is also important that the keyboard CTRL49 is equipped with a whole collection of various software and allows you to start creating music right out of the box. At the same time, the bundled programs do not significantly affect the final cost of the product. Moreover, the manufacturer’s website has a list of more than 400 plug-ins that fully supports the VIP.

M-Audio CTRL49 - Review of USB/MIDI controller with color display
Article Name
M-Audio CTRL49 - Review of USB/MIDI controller with color display
Full review & video of the USB/MIDI controller with color display and advanced functionality M-Audio CTRL49. What's the price? The best place to buy.

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