M-Audio Axiom 49 MIDI Controller

The latest iteration of M-Audio's mid-range Axiom 49 (MSRP: $439) features the decidedly high-end feature that is semi-weighted keys. Eight rubberized trigger pads (think M-Audio's own Trigger Finger) provide an alternative input mechanism, as do the nine mixer-style faders and eight rotary knobs dotting the device. The company's homespun DirectLink mode, which is built to automagically work with Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, Live, and Reason, includes transport, mixer, track pan, and virtual instrument parameters. Likewise, the dedicated Instrument button instantly maps the controls to whatever virtual instrument you're using (as with all auto-mapping software, however, mileage may vary). An LCD screen atop an angled top panel makes for nice ergonomics, and USB bus power rounds out the package. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a solid keyboard controller for both stage and studio.