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Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:03 pm
by An_Ending
I'm a little nervous about my first post, but:

I've been offered an Akai AX60 for 450 dollars and I tried searching the forums for threads or information on it, but didn't find much. I'm mostly interested in making industrial and dark ambient music, some primary influences would be Steve Roach, Lustmord, Einstürzende Neubauten, Coil, Skinny Puppy, all the way up to Front 242. I currently own an ESQ-1 and an Electribe S mk1. In the past I owned an MKS-50 and a poly800 among other synths, but they were all stolen. I love my ESQ, I spend hours every day with it and it sounds great and is a lot of fun, but I'd still rate myself as barely an intermediate level synth player, and it's not the most fun to program.

I'd really love to have a synth that offers individual knobs and sliders for each parameter, and I'm wondering; a. Is the AX60 any good in the first place? b. will the AX60 offer new sounds for my setup that will complement the ESQ, or will it have too much cross-over in sound? c. Are there any major problems with the AX60s I should be aware of (the synth looks to be in great condition) and, e. Is this a synth that could work well for dark ambient or industrial music or is there a vastly superior option I'm missing? I'm less concerned about the last question because I'm aware of the twin facts that most synths can play most styles of music very well and that industrial was a genre founded on the principle of "what equipment can we get cheap?"

$450 is well within my budget; I prefer to spend less than 650-700 on a synth at this point in my life. Before anyone asks, I've read the AX60 page on VSE, as well as all the comments and a bunch of reviews on a half dozen other sites, I try to do as much research as possible for any of these kinds of purchases. Thanks for any input! (Sorry for the wall of text post)

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:01 pm
by Z
The AX60 was my first "pro" synth, I bought mine used in the late 80s. You've probably read that the AX60 has an aggressive tone and will make a great compliment to the ESQ-1 and if you're wanting to make tracks in the same vain as Skinny Puppy and Front 242. I'm trying to find a cassette with a track I made back in '90 that had some F242 influence that is mostly AX60 - since it is bi-timbral, I usually split the keyboard in 2-4 (2 voice for lower and 4 voice for upper) and would put the lower in unsion for bass and use the upper part for chords and such.

$450 is a good price today. People are starting to find out what a hidden gem these synths are and the prices are going up. I've got one I'm selling for $600 in great condition with all its slider caps. I've seen many sell in the $450-$500 range in fair condition and usually missing at least a couple of slider caps.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:12 pm
by Allthesound
Welcome to the forum! If everything works on it its well worth it. I had one a while back and had the s612 sampler to use with it as a second OSC. Fun stuff. Wild sounds uses the same synth on a chip as the Sequential Six Trak. Kinda wish i still had mine.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:22 pm
by Solderman
I had one in early 1997, bought for $150 from a horn player who said it "had too many sliders". I do recall it being my first exposure to an arpeggiator and having fun with that, a very noisy chorus, having a bit of a grungy, nasal sound with resonance up, some pretty snappy envelopes, the very unique option of duty-cycle modulation for both sawtooth and triangle, full size keys, a god-awful sounding unison mode with no portamento, but in the end, really kind of a harsh yet rolled-off top end and a muddy bottom end. It weighed alot for what it was and the keys went flop-flop as you played.

Here are some demo clips(some with effects) recorded to cassette at that period:

You had to tweak the sliders slowly, as the CPU was too slow to scan them all for fast motion, or if not you got ugly zipper noise.

It showed up in a few complete tracks, one using the arpeggiator and carefully using the pitch bender over a 10 note range to actually change keys so I could fake polyphonic portamento. I soon got a Roland Alpha Juno 1($250), an Oberheim OBXa($400!) and a Kurzweil K2vx($2200!!) and it became neglected, then sold. No regrets for me. Just ultimately wasn't the sound I wanted.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:35 pm
by An_Ending
Thanks for the input, for and against. I have read a everywhere that the AX60 has a much more aggressive and "wild" tone than the junos or JX's which was what put me on this path (and the polysix is wildly out of my price range), and the unison mode, PWM available on all wave forms, over-the-top filter, and arpeggiator were also really nice-looking features. I'll definitely make sure to see how the keys feel to me when I test it out, and to spend some time with the sliders, just get an overall feel for it.

I think my ideal setup at the moment would be my ESQ, an AX60, and an analog monosynth, though I have no clue which one yet. My bandmate is going to be covering more of the samplers and vocals for our music, but if I do get the AX60 I'd love to link an S612 up with it, admittedly I'm a sucker for obsolete samplers.

But, again, thank you all very much! I'd love to hear any other thoughts.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:39 pm
by themilford
$450 is a good price.

It CAN do mellow tones as as well... at least I could coax some great smooth, dark pads out of mine. You just need to stay down in the lower 15% of the Filter and Resonance controls. But it excels at screechy, squelchy, swooshy stuff and has a boatload of USEFUL bells and whistles for a single-oscilator poly.

For the kind of music you are into you might really want to grab one of the Akai samplers designed to work with it (S612, S700, S900).

If you do a search for my name and AX60 you will find much of my praise for the AX-60.

Certainly one of the best "Bang-for-your-buck" analog Polys. And unique to boot.


Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:55 pm
by An_Ending
I've read a lot of reviews and watched videos of the S612, it seems like a great weird sampler - with some very limited abilities, but limitations breed creative answers - but is there any "consensus" on which of those three is the way to go? (Yes I realize that consensus on the subject of gear is next to non-existent, sorry to ask).

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:10 pm
by themilford
An_Ending wrote:I've read a lot of reviews and watched videos of the S612, it seems like a great weird sampler - with some very limited abilities, but limitations breed creative answers - but is there any "consensus" on which of those three is the way to go? (Yes I realize that consensus on the subject of gear is next to non-existent, sorry to ask).

S612 is a two-piece unit... the drive is separate.

Both the S700 and the S612 use Quickdisk. Which are hard to find and drive can be unreliable.

Never used a the S900/S950 but they are 8-voice... so I'm not sure how this matches up with the AX-60.

I've been looking for an S700 to use with my AX-60 because it's compact. And I have some NOS Quick Disks for such an occasion.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:16 pm
by An_Ending
Thanks again for the input! I'm going to try contacting the seller again to see when I can take a look at it. I'll let y'all know what happens.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:18 am
by Nannerfan
The AX-60 would complement the ESQ-1 perfectly.. consider yourself lucky!

Look out for very crusty sliders. In general they are not the best, but if you can barely move them, then that's a problem. Also, the ENV sliders don't work in real time.. you have to play another note.

It'd be good to just let an arpeggio play on hold.. and move the sliders to test them out that way.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:04 am
by Pro5
With the AKAI AX's i'd try to demo them before you buy. Especially at that price for an AX-60, not a super high price for one but certainly more than they were going for not long ago.

I had an AX80 which is obviously different in that it was Dual DCO not single VCO but from what I heard the VCO didn't sound quite as warm/vintage as i.e Polysix VCO and it didn't sound like a very sweet synth.. bit edgy, maybe too edgy?

The AX80 was a powerful synth, can't remember about filter differences, but overall I wasn't too sad to see it go.. it's sound wasn't amazing overall and for many synth tasks I'd turn to the JX-3P or Polysix instead. They just sounded 'better'.

AX synths are quirky and good if you have plenty of other synths and want something a bit odd to fit in on occasion, I think there are better all round nobby synths, though it's probably like the evil brother of the Juno 60 and early junos get a bit boring... Maybe the AX60 wouldn't get as samey so quickly but not sure if it would be as musical either. You really have to try it.

If you want a cheap musical synth then I'd steer you towards the Alpha Juno or JX-3P first.. cheap! or Polysix for sure if you had the cash. If you must have a hands on interface then the AX is worth a try, you can always resell it even for the ~£300 you'd be paying, because of the interface someone on ebay would buy it for that or maybe £350 if you do a good listing (if you dont like it).

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:19 am
by An_Ending
I've never gotten to play with a JX-3P but I did own an MKS-50 for a while, which I understand to be much the same as or just similar to the Alpha Juno. I'll say that I was pretty devastated when it was stolen, but when it came time to start replacing my lost setup, I didn't really want to get another MKS-50 off the bat. It sounded great to be sure, and the rack size was nice, but I never really fell in love with the MKS-50, except insofar as I will always hold dear any and every synthesizer that I owned. At this point I'd be much more excited to try something new and different.

If I could find a working condition polysix under the 900 mark I'd seriously consider saving more money, but as it is the prices it fetches are way too much for me to swallow at this time in my life. Every experience I've had with Korgs from that era has been positive, and I'd really love to get a chance with a polysix.

EDIT: Not that I mean to be reluctant to any suggestions, I am taking everything y'all say to heart and am very appreciative for the more knowledgeable insight! I've had some time around some weird instruments but I've still not gotten to play with 1/10th of the synthesizers I'd like to have experience with, but at this point in my life I'm trying to keep it very simple.

Re: Akai AX-60

Posted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 2:58 am
by An_Ending
So I went and checked it out today, tried to stay conscious of what people said about this synth. I ended up loving the chorus sounds, and the zippering seemed pretty easily avoidable for my purposes. Some of the buttons were a little finnicky, you have to press them very fast or they want to go two at a time, but otherwise it was in beautiful condition, and the price was right, so I picked it up. I am currently in love with it. Thanks for the help everyone!