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Akai EWI4000S Wind Controller Synth Reviews
I am mainly a saxophone player and so the ability to control midi via my 'natural' fingerings and techniques was a major reason why I bought this product. I must say that since I have bought the EWI it has completely changed the way I make music. I can literally play any sound I like via software synths and build up an entire sound texture just by using the EWI.
At first the touch sensitive keys will seem very odd to play and you will probably find yourself triggering rogue notes all over the place. At the beginning, turn down the key sensitivity and alter the fingering mode to 'sax' this means you can rest you finger on the G# and not make very other note sharp, this is indispensable when playing in F# or C# ! After a while though I have found that the precise fingering technique has actually improved my speed and accuracy whilst playing the standard sax, not a bad consequence :)
Before buying the EWI I was skeptical about the whole mouthpiece setup and not having a standard reed. But I have found the breath controller to be very responsive for creating dynamics and controlling the parameters of a sound. The vibrato in the mouth piece can be a bit weird to get used to and it doesn't imitate acoustic instruments that well, but when playing a synth patch it can create some stunning effects. For more realistic vibrato try reducing the sensitivity of the sensor as you won't get such a crazy wobble effect going on!
The inbuilt, two-voice synth is good for practicing and messing around but for more diverse sounds you really need an external module or software. If used with a good sampler then the EWI CAN create very realistic sounding instruments (my clarinet patch sounds awesome). The synth module and effects built-in are of OK standard but I would never record them on a track.
The coolest thing for me has been the 8 octave rollers and the portamento (glide) strip. You can create some wicked dub effects by sliding up the octaves and then releasing the glide so the sound shoots up into the atmosphere. With some spring reverb and a good delay you can be making some great King Tubby style effects in no time.
Another reviewer mentioned the low volume output of the inbuilt module and I totally agree, at full volume its only just adequate so expect to connect a decent headphone amp or cranking up the gain on your mixer.
Overall the product is superbly designed and thought-out and has lots of great features to get you inspired and creating music. For a sax player who would like to diversify their sound palette then this is ideal. I went down the harmonizer, effects box and delay pedal route for my sax but was never satisfied with the sounds I wanted to create, the EWI will broaden your sonic horizons.
For any questions email [email protected] spam b0ts will be pinged to death :)
Akai and Yamaha’s parallel development of Electronic Wind Instruments has taken an interesting turn with Akai’s new model, the EWI1400s, the first wind controller with built in synthesiser. The instrument is played via touch sensitive “keys”, as previously favoured by this manufacturer. The Yamaha models have switches operated by moving keys, and feel closer in this respect to acoustic wind instruments. One advantage of the Akai system is that some of the “keys” can be moved slightly to accommodate different hand sizes and finger lengths.
Having taken the EWI1400s out of the box, the first thing to do is fit 4 AA cells, as a mains adapter isn’t included. This is a rather fiddly operation; thankfully a decent set of alkaline cells lasts for some time. Plug in your set of headphones and you’re away, but the first thing you’ll notice is that the output isn’t particularly loud, even when set to maximum, and that the headphone amp is noisy, with gurgles and noise. The line out level isn’t high either, I needed to turn my amp right up.
One hundred sounds are included on the synth board, these can apparently be “tweaked” on a PC using supplied software, but I haven’t tried this yet. The sounds are OK, many of them are similar sounding. Sounds can be assigned to finger keys, for fast changes “on the hoof”. Of course, the EWI1400s can be used as a midi controller, and it was when I plugged it into my Yamaha VL70m wind synth module that I really began to enjoy myself. The sounds produced by the Yamaha synth are in a different class, much more sophisticated and interesting. This combination of controller and synth is flexible, powerful, and great fun!
As a bassoon player, I’m spending some time learning the saxophone style fingerings. Moving your fingers up and down onto touch pads takes a little getting used to. There is no reed, you just blow into a plastic mouthpipe. Biting on the mouthpipe bends the pitch a little, so can be used to produce a vibrato effect; I didn’t find this at all natural and didn’t work for me. Pitch bend can be controlled with the right thumb, and with practice I imagine this could be made to sound convincing. Flutter tonguing, double tonguing and so on work fine.
For the price, this gadget is a complete bargain. Five minutes after the postman calls, you’re having a good time making music. It’s well made; good to look at and hold. Highly recommended!
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