The AK-7 Core MIDI Keyboard iPad app, released by Saitara Software just under a year ago, stands strong as one of the most straightforward and uncomplicated options among wireless iPad MIDI controllers. Though not available for free, the AK-7 keyboard is certainly worth the low price of admission for those lacking a keyboard in their production space, whether it be in the studio or on the road. You may not want to use it for composing elaborate symphonies, but for most EDM applications, this app provides everything you need.
The AK-7 Core is packed with plenty of useful features, such as a full 88-key layout with variable levels of zoom and the ability to glide effortlessly between octaves. At its highest level of zoom, the keyboard takes up almost the entire iPad screen, making it almost impossible to miss the notes. Even with a whole octave or two visible, the keyboard does a pretty good job of tracking the correct notes, though sometimes some missteps will happen, especially for those with large fingers. Multi-touch also allows you to play entire chords with impressive fidelity; however, sliding four fingers across the screen at once may cause your iPad to switch between apps if you aren’t careful. The keyboard can be viewed in either a 3D rendering of a keyboard or birds-eye 2D mode.
In addition to the keys, the AK-7 takes advantage of a few other MIDI capabilities. The pitch and modulation wheels provide two control signals to send to your DAW, and MIDI channel can be selected via an in-app menu. The keyboard can also transmit velocity information, though it is not actually representative of how hard you pressed the key; rather the velocity varies along the length of the key on the screen. Sadly, there is no aftertouch, so sliding your finger along the key once you’ve pressed it will not change the sound. Velocity can also be manually boosted in the menu for those who don’t require any velocity control.
Controlling MIDI-enabled software via WiFi certainly has its advantages and disadvantages. I personally find it really cool that I can walk around the room while testing out a synth, listening to the speakers from different angles, or from a different room. However, some latency issues can arise due to a variety of factors, such as your WiFi connection speed, WiFi-to-MIDI software (I used rtpMIDI for Windows) and sound card. Even with a high-quality sound card and a connection latency of only 3ms, I still noticed a slight delay between my key-presses and the actual sound. This is acceptable for generating ideas and listening to synths, but for complex melodies the delay can be rather jarring, and it makes playing along to a beat almost impossible.
The AK-7 keyboard app for iPad is a great idea for mobile producers, college students, or anyone who for whatever reason lacks a full MIDI keyboard in their production space. The iPad provides a compact, versatile platform for the AK-7 to fit in every truly necessary MIDI keyboard control. However, the delay that comes with WiFi-to-MIDI translation makes playing with any real level of dexterity quite difficult. This package gives you everything you need to get your ideas out of your head and into software, and for that reason the low price of $1.99 is entirely justifiable. Just don’t expect the AK-7 to carry you along to a finished work without a little bit of headache.