Akai EWI USB

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Very nice instrument to play but poor support from AKAI
ChrisBell, 17.01.2019
The instrument is very useful for whom - like me - is a classical wind instruments player and is searching for a midi device to use VSTs or digital instruments without the need to learning keyboards.
The EWI USB is very enjoyable to play and offers good touch controllers (no moving keys or buttons, just touch sensors). You can choose you preferred fingering (i.e. flute, sax, ...) so you can immediately start playing naturally. The most awkward part is the octave control, since it is managed using a set of rolling sensors under the left thumb. They are practical overall, but quite innatural for classic wind instrument players and require some practice to be mastered.

The construction is clearly cheap and doesn't suggest robustness, yet the EWI is functional even in live sessions. Just handle it with care.

The main problem with the EWI is that AKAI software support is missing and updates are not provided. Documentation is poor and you get the feeling that the instrument is going to become an old piece of unsupported electronic soon.
Fortunately there's a third-party configuration tool (search for Cognitone EWI Control) which is a must and is very well done.

For flute players, please note that the breath amount required to play the EWI is more than that required for the flute, so it could be difficult for children and young players.

The dynamic control is very good and configurable using the above mentioned utility.

To conclude, EWI USB is a cheap but useful and enjoyable digital wind instrument that would be great with a better support from the producer.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
- The EWI isn't affected by latencies, since it's a mere MIDI controller. Latencies can be related to the audio interface hardware and drivers (e.g ASIO) and to the performance of the VST/software used.
- The EWI USB is just a controller and doesn't produce sounds by itself. You need to use a digital instrument or a software library and to control it via MIDI (USB) input.
- The EWI is self powered via USB from the host device (e.g. a notebook).
- Since the EWI USB is a class compliant midi device, you don't need specific drivers for it. It's just like a master keyboard, basically. Yet you need a software utility to configure it (a standard configuration is preset), to change the fingering and to assign MIDI controls to its sensors. Unfortunately AKAI doesn't support this product so you must rely on third party tools. I found very effective the one from Cognitone (free). I hope it will persist.
- Touch sensors can degrade through use, but it seems that they remain effective even when they look worn. An accurate maintenance and cleaning is suggested.
- The USB MIDI cable is standard and replaceable, so you can use a longer one if needed (eg. in live sessions).
- Since MIDI Controls (CC) are configurable, the EWI supports quite every software instrument.
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Akai EWI USB

€289 £244.27
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The price in GBP is a guideline price only!

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