Akai Pro just released the first hardware controller for FL Studio 20 and it’s about time they did. Image Line’s FL Studio has been around for a long long time and it totally makes sense that a company like Akai has finally created a dedicated controller for it.
The controller is well built and compact enough to throw in your backpack and take to live shows or studios. It is completely USB powered and doesn’t require any lengthy setup process. As long as its connected and FL Studio is running on your computer, it will work. An introductory edition of the DAW is even included with the controller.
There are four main modes for Akai’s Fire. Step mode lets you step sequence parts directly on the Channel Rack in FL Studio. There's a Note mode for melodic or harmonic part recording and a Drum mode that is built for FPC but works with any drum sampler/synth that responds to MIDI. Then lastly there is a Perform mode. Not many people know this but FL Studio has a performance mode very similar to Ableton Live’s Session View. It does take some time to set up a session in this mode but it works quite well.
There are four dedicated touch sensitive endless encoders that are assigned to control various aspects of the software like volume, panning, note velocity and so on. There’s also a user mode for the encoders so you can map any control to them directly.
The controller is not flawless. If you are expecting to work on the Fire controller without ever looking at the computer, that might not be possible unless you prepare the session beforehand. Its main sequencer buttons also lack velocity sensitivity. The rubberized pads have a nice feel and velocity sensitivity would make them even better. I’m guessing it is planned for addition in a future update, as Akai’s marketing material currently indicates that the pads are velocity sensitive.
EDITOR'S NOTE: You have to turn on accent mode when on the Notes Page to use Velocity Sensitivity, Akai Pro & Image Line will build on this feature in future updates... but velocity sensitivty is there already.
The included manual is very limited and a more detailed manual maybe as a PDF download would be a great idea. I couldn’t figure out how to quantize or transpose notes on the Fire - I’m not sure if it's possible or maybe I just couldn’t find the option. Since the hardware is so compact, it would be great if it would also work with FL Studio Mobile. Currently there doesn’t seem to be any indication of that. The main focus of the controller is to work with the Channel Rack and not so much the Playlist. It would be great if there were some options relating directly to the Playlist, other than the Performance mode.
Overall it's really great to see a dedicated controller for such a complex DAW. Controllers for Ableton Live are a dime a dozen but Fire should start the trend towards developing more complex control surfaces for FL Studio. Maybe something with a dedicated audio interface too?
Pros : Affordable, compact, easy to use. Comes with a copy of FL Studio Fruity Edition.
Cons: No velocity sensitivity, no way to quantize or transpose MIDI notes. Although these seem like features that can be added in a future update.
Learn more about FL Studio: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/application/flstudio