Alesis is a company that has long been a guiding force in the world of MIDI controllers. For years now, the Rhode Island-based company has led the charge for high-quality, simplistic MIDI controllers geared primarily towards studio work.
In this review, we’ll be taking a closer look at the Alesis V49 MIDI controller specifically. We’ll discuss all of its key features, and even compare it to the likes of the Alesis VI49 and M-Audio Oxygen 49 (amongst others) to better help you make an informed decision.
In fact, we encourage you to use the interactive guide below so you can see exactly how the Alesis V49 stacks up against some of the noteworthy MIDI controllers out on today’s market:
|Roland JUNO DS61||8-Track Pattern Sequencer w/Non-Stop Recording|
|Roland JUNO DS88||128 Note Polyphony|
|Korg Kross 2||Pro-quality EDS-i sound engine|
|Korg Minilogue||16-Step Polyphonic Step & Motion Sequencer|
|Roland JD-XI||Gooseneck mic w/built-in Vocoder & AutoPitch|
|Yamaha MX88||1,106 voices, 61 drum kits|
|Behringer Monopoly||VCF, 2 LFOs, 2 envelopes, sync and cross modulation|
|Novation Impulse 61||Semi-Weighted w/Aftertouch|
The Alesis V49 is about as minimalist as you can get when it comes to controllers, at least at this size. The keyboard represents one of the company’s most affordable controllers ever, falling into a price of about $139; lower than many other comparable products that boast the 4-octave range.
This extremely reasonable price might make you question whether or not this particular keyboard has any quality behind it, but as it turns out, Alesis hasn’t let us down here.
The keybed itself is a 49 key, full-sized setup, which actually takes up about 90% of the real estate on the entire keyboard, thanks to it’s slimmed down body comparatively to the VI line, which features several buttons and knobs above the keys.
In the aesthetics department, Alesis took a rather functional and practical design cue, instead of going for a flashier look, perhaps like the Arturia KeyLab controllers sport. This type of look might not please everyone, especially those who are looking for something to perform live often with, but then again, that isn’t what Alesis was going for here anyways. There are plenty of other options to suit live-oriented players better.
As far as the additional features the V49 does include, you’ve got your standard fare of 8 illuminated trigger pads that can be used for drum sequencing, pattern and loop triggering, or just playing programming chords perhaps.
The company has also included 4 illuminated buttons and 4 backlit knobs that can be easily assigned to custom functions within a DAW. This is a stark contrast between the VI25’s larger and more versatile setup, and in fact is one of the biggest differences between the two keyboard controllers.
This extra bit of weight that has been shed from the V series allows it to be even more compact and lightweight, meaning that it might be particularly well-suited for those with limited space, or those who aren’t looking to do anything crazy in the sound-design department.
On the back of the keyboard, the minimalist trend continues. There’s a USB MIDI for power and MIDI-thru, as well as a sustain pedal jack. That’s it. To be fair, that’s really all you’d ever need for this guy, since you won’t be hooking up directly to a hardware synth or pair of speakers with this keyboard.
It’s purpose is decidedly more grounded in working within a DAW to create and produce music.
I’d go so far as to say that Alesis even envisioned this product as being truly mobile, at least as far as 49-key standards go. This minimalist design and lack of cables and other complicated features means that this is a keyboard that is easily taken on the road, if you have enough space for 4 octaves worth of keys that is.
Before we move on in our review, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling MIDI keyboards online below, and then see how well some of them compare to the V49 by Alesis.
|1) Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII|
|2) Roland A-88 MKII|
|3) Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88|
|4) Novation 61SL MkIII|
|5) Novation Launchkey 88 MK3|
Setup & Compatibility
As mentioned above, the V49 is designed first and foremost to be a hassle-free MIDI controller for composition and production, and thankfully, it really excels here. This keyboard should be compatible with just about any DAW you can dream up right out of the box, and tested on Logic X, we found that the device was recognized automatically and was ready to go within seconds of starting up.
From there, programming the various functionalities like the knobs and buttons was a breeze, and we found no issues in the dozen or so VST programs we used it with. All told, this is one of the easiest keyboard to set up and get to playing within moments, and for that reason, it might make an excellent first purchase for someone looking to get into making music with MIDI.
There really aren’t many other keyboard controllers with this many keys at this price point, and the simplicity added into that equation makes this a very interesting prospect for beginners.
Bundled sounds are becoming more and more important when choosing a MIDI controller, because more and more manufacturers have started including them in the box as a free download.
To that end, Alesis has partnered with the German-based company Air Music Technology to include their premier program, Xpand!2, with the V49. It’s a known variable that bundled software is unpredictable in terms of quality, especially as brands without their own software solutions are increasingly pressured to include them into their offerings. The great news for potential V49 customers is that Xpand!2 is a hugely popular synthesis program that features some of the highest quality synthesizer sounds out there.
In total, the program offers over 2500 different preset patches spread across a wide variety of pads, strings, leads, drums, basses and keys, each able to be further broken down by genre and type.
These are top-notch sounds that sound fantastic out of the box, again adding another layer of immense value for someone looking for an inexpensive package that gets them going without needing anything else except for a computer and a DAW.
There are certainly plenty of other extremely high-quality synth VST’s out there—countless different ones in fact. That doesn’t change how impressive Xpand!2’s library is, and we were particularly impressed by the range of genre represented by the presets. There’s a lot to love here, and for the fantastic price of $0.00, you really can’t go wrong.
Although Alesis has been one of the leading brands in MIDI controller keyboards for years now, that isn’t to say that they haven’t had their fair share of competition. Today, there are tons of brands creating quality options at just about every price point, including the entry level range the v49 is found in.
There are also several options from Alesis that might be a better pick for you, depending on your specific needs.
Let’s take a look at a few alternatives in order to decide what will ultimately be right for you.
Alesis VI49 vs Alesis V49
As mentioned earlier on, the V49 has a big brother, aptly named the VI49.
This keyboard is virtually the same at the V49, save for the fact that it is expanded to include additional buttons and knobs for manipulating your sounds. This makes the keyboards footprint larger overall, but adds a lot of functionality in the process.
In total, the VI49 sports 36 assignable buttons and 12 assignable knobs, up from the 4 each included on the V49. It also features 16 velocity sensitive pads, exactly double the 8 on the little sister.
So, which one is right for you?
Well, the answer to that question will ultimately come down to preference and individual needs. For instance, if you’re looking to really dive in and experiment with sound design, playing around with different effects and processing, having more buttons and knobs at your disposal can quickly become invaluable.
Conversely, if all you’re looking to do is use a MIDI controller as a virtual piano, recording notes without doing much in the way of modulating them, the V49’s eight configurable controls will probably be just fine.
There’s also the matter of price; the VI49 is a full hundred dollars more, sitting at $229. You’ll need to decide for yourself if the added functionality is worth the additional hit in the wallet.
Alesis Q49 vs Alesis V49
Adding yet another layer to the puzzle, the Alesis Q49 is a nearly identical model to the V49, notably missing the trigger pads and knobs on the latter. This product is a bit older than the V series, and for many, it will probably not be the best choice.
If you’re looking for the most minimal setup imaginable, then this might do you well enough, but honestly, for the same price, you can get the same exact keyboard with the added functionality of the pads, knobs and buttons on the V49.
At this point, it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s the better buy for the majority of players.
M-Audio Keystation vs Alesis V49
M-Audio has long been one of Alesis’ primary competitors, and for good reason. The company has been making inexpensive MIDI controllers for as long as Alesis has, and the two have shared a common culture of friendly competition the entire time.
The Keystation 49 is very similar to the Q49, lacking the buttons and knobs that the V49 sports. It’s also a bit cheaper than both products, sitting right at $99.
For some, that price might make it an attractive option, but it’s not a huge discrepancy, especially if you’re looking for functionality. Additionally, many have noted that the key action on the M-Audio is a bit softer to the touch in general.
Some will prefer this, while others will lean towards the stiffer action on the V49.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 vs Alesis V49
The Oxygen 49 is the next step up from the Keystation, adding in 8 MIDI-assignable knobs, 9 MIDI-assignable sliders, 6 dedicated transport controls, and a slew of other controls.
Notably, however, it lacks any trigger pads.
For some, the sliders alone will be worth picking this one up instead of Alesis’ offerings, because some prefer to have vertical sliders for live performance and control of synth parameters. On the other hand, having velocity sensitive pads is huge for many, and it seems like an oversight not to include any on the Oxygen 49.
The keyboard controller costs $135, so there isn’t a huge difference there.
The Alesis V49 MIDI controller packs a lot of value into its compact, plastic casing. The controller represents one of the best options for those looking for a capable controller with 4 octaves of range, and its portability really becomes a killer app when you consider the size of most 49-key controllers.
There are keyboards with additional functionality, and those with an even more minimal footprint, but the V49 strikes a balance between both that we think will resonate with plenty of players, from beginners looking for a good “jumping-in” point to experienced producers looking for something lightweight and hyper-functional.
- Fantastic keybed that feels great and is fun to play
- Quality hardware for a plastic controller
- Bundled software is excellent & versatile
- Fantastic price for the value
- Not as adaptable as more fully-featured controllers
The Bottom Line
The Alesis V49 is a functional, minimal MIDI controller with some great software bundled in. If you’re looking for something you can take with you on the road that still supports 49 keys, this is the controller for you.
OUR RATING: ★★★★ / ★★★★★
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