If you’re looking for a USB/MIDI keyboard usable with an iPad, it’s your lucky day. Akai showed off their latest USB/MIDI keyboard, the SynthStation49 at NAMM this week. It takes advantage of iOS CoreMIDI to allow an iPad to provide the brains to its keys. That means you can drive many audio apps already available on the App Store. It also has nine MPC-style drum pads and transport controls for ultimate control. It might prove itself to be quite the useful tool for iOS based musicians when it’s available.
Basically, this is a fancy, 49 note keyboard with drum pads, sustain pedal inputs, all the other usual features, and then the curveball: the iPad dock. The dock will power your iPad, so there’s no need to worry about your battery draining, and is adjustable for the perfect viewing angle. Keyboard outputs include: USB, MIDI, headphones and stereo 1/4″ TRS (with a volume knob).
There are a number of reasons why this keyboard is so interesting. While Akai is planning their own app to drive this thing, there are many more options. Basically, any audio app that supports iOS CoreMIDI can be controlled with this keyboard. That means there are apps already available that are compatible. If developers want to ensure they’re taking full advantage of the SynthStation49, they can submit their application at SynthStationApp.com. Additionally, you can actually control these apps via your computer thanks to the MIDI inputs and audio out. So, sequence away on your Mac and use your iPad like a sound module. And finally, if you want to be boring, you can still use this keyboard just like any other USB/MIDI keyboard—to control Garageband, Logic or the like, without an iPad.
Since this product is still pending certification from Apple, there’s no release date. It’s safe to say you should see it sometime this year for around $200.