Posted by admin on 2009 May 28

Akai APC40 vs. monome 64 / 40h

I have been looking for some hardware device to play my music live with Ableton, since the prospect of just using a laptop is not very appealing, so i was thinking about purchasing a used monome unit (since buying a new unit is pretty much impossible).
As i watched the price for used monome 64 units plummet on Ebay (due in part to the recession, i am sure) from $900 to around $500-600, and i was ready to bid on one, i read about the Akai APC 40 controller, which was built for, and integrates seamlessly with Ableton Live.
So let’s make a comparison between the monome 64 and the Akai APC 40.

monome 64
-built in the usa (you may think this is a con if you live overseas hehe)
-community supported via open source software. Tons of apps can be downloaded for the monome and run via MAX runtime.
-good hardware documentation: can be extended, expanded and hacked
-Made of Sturdy Wood and aluminum. Strong enough to stand on (see pic below)

-Expensive (even when purchased used)
-Scarce, It takes months of waiting to purchase brand new.

Akai APC 40
-Cheap! ($399 with free shipping from some vendors in the USA)
-Available in most music stores. No need to wait for months to get a new unit.
-programmable (only using Ableton MAX $$)
-Has more controls and offers better Ableton integration than the monome 64
-hardware and software support from Akai

-Can only be used with Ableton.
-Need to purchase Ableton Max to program the unit.
-Build quality could be low (i am sure it is built in China)
-Closed architecture. Cannot be easily hacked.
-“Chassis” is supposedly made of “metal” but the whole thing is mostly made of cheesy plastic (see pics below)

After weighing the pros and cons (specially the price) i think (in my humble opinion OK?) the Akai APC 40 is a winner just because of the price, only if you plan to using Ableton.
If you are lucky enough to get a monome kit for cheap, i think the monome is the winner.

Either way the reviews for the APC 40 are good.
Check out this video review by DJ Tom Cosm which demonstrates some of the APC 40 features.
As Tom Cosm says at the end of the review, the APC40 is going to revolutionize Live DJ / music playing as thousands of artists will be able to afford and use one.
Disclosure: I am in not being sponsored by Akai and i am in no way associated with them.


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91 Responses to “Akai APC40 vs. monome 64 / 40h”

  1. David says:

    I think the cons you mention about the monome are quite unfair.

    PC support is as good on PC as it is on Mac. Most patches are written in Max, Java or PD, all of which are platform independent. monome serial, which controls the thing and communicates with the software patches is also cross platform.

    Vendor support – monome have good support, they are happy to help with faulty parts, or breakdowns, and servicing of parts for all series monomes and kits.

    All the software developers that write patches for the monome are also very helpful, even though they provide all the apps for free.

    The community board at is also a very friendly and helpful place.

  2. admin says:

    Thank you for your response.
    The Monome doesn’t really offer out-of-the-box PC support and integration for apps like Ableton. I looked into this, and it took a lot of surfing before i found a Java app that works with PC Ableton, and to customize this app you will have to learn how to code in Java, which is not realistic, as most musicians are not coders.

    You are correct about monome’s support, and i have fixed the original article to reflect your comments.

    The monome is basically a hardware unit made for coders and hardware hackers, not for amateur musicians who have little time to learn programming, etc

    The guys who made the monome kept the hardware unit artificially scarce to keep up their insane pricing, and that will be the monome’s downfall, because the unit’s scarcity and high price is no competition against the Akai’s availability and cheap price.

    If you are a mainstream musician using Ableton, there is not reason to buy an overpriced monome.

  3. David says:

    I used to run the monome on a PC, it works out of the box just like it does on a Mac. There is no difference in terms of functionality on OSX or PC, and there are no apps developed for the monome that don’t run on PC, they don’t need modification to do so.

    There are a few apps that make it work as a control surface for Live, and act similar to an APC40, without java coding required. There is an element of setting up to do, and granted it is not as easy as plugging in an APC40, but that’s not the point.

    The monome is not comparable to the APC40, the APC40 has one function – to control Live.

    The monome can run any app that is made for it, including step sequencers, drum machines, loop cutters, glitch machines, effects, DJ tools, tenori on emulators, and many more.

    I agree it’s not for the beginner, but you make it sound a lot more technical than it is.

    The pricing and scarcity has noting to do with keeping prices high, it has to do with the fact that it is made in the US, using locally sourced and manufactured parts, maintaining the local economy of the product’s origin, and making sure that slave labour isn’t involved. Their profit margin is actually quite low, and I would bet it’s a lot lower than the profit margin Akai are raking from the APC.

    The volume of units made is because they are all made by hand by the 2 people that own the company, even the boxes are screen printed by hand. They don’t have the time, resource, or desire to mass produce them.

    A similar story is true for the Ohm64, another alternative Live controller.

    In total contrast, The APC40 is made in China, using cheap labour, and mass produced parts….

    I appreciate the above article is your personal view, but if you are publishing a guide for the world to see, then I think it only fair that you get the facts correct, rather than accusing the company of artificially keeping prices high, and stating that it is geared more towards Mac. Neither are at all true.

    And no, I don’t work for monome, I’m just a user of their products, and a supporter of their community.

  4. David says:

    A few more things, you say Mac, and Max centric – Max has nothing to do with Mac, it is a runtime that runs on both Mac and PC. It is made by Cycling 74, the same people making Max for Live, which will also run on Mac and PC when it comes out later this year.

    Joining a waiting list is not required to buy a monome, they are released to the public at a specified date and time for each batch, on a first come first serve basis.

    You are a record label, a professional company, I’m really surprised at the unprofessionalism, and lack of research put into the above guide, it contains factually incorrect information, and slanderous suggestions as to a companies practices…..

  5. Nico says:

    Yeah dude (Admin), you really need to get your facts straight before posting comparisons like this about two pieces of gear you seemingly have spent less time exploring than you did making up your rather weak “pros and cons” list. However well intentioned your efforts may have been, the results are grossly inaccurate and incomplete and most wisely should be removed before anyone makes the unfortunate mistake of taking this “review” especially seriously.

  6. johnisfaster says:

    this is a really silly review.

    —“Mac and Max centric, poor PC / Windows integration”

    not true, I’ve been using the monome on pc since I bought it, using it on pc is just as easy as using it on a mac.

    —-then your comments “The monome is basically a hardware unit made for coders and hardware hackers, not for amateur musicians who have little time to learn programming, etc”

    I’ve never programed or coded anything in my 2 years of using the monome. if you did your research you’d realize that the monome community shares all the apps and is continually growing.

    you can’t compare the monome to the apc-40 anyway. the monome has no specific use, it’s not even a musical device. it’s just buttons and lights that you can program to be… maybe.. a clock. or a scrolling text message.

    next time, try to review something you’ve actually used long enough to understand (did you even use the apc-40?) and maybe take an hour to do some research as well.

  7. salamanderanagram says:

    i like how $400-$500 is “very expensive” yet $399 is “cheap!”

  8. Marc says:

    Sure. You should totally go for the apc if you want something to work right-out-of-box with Live. That’s the one function it was designed for.
    If you want something that’s more like an instrument that is that is based in flexability, then that would be a monome.
    Not much in common for you to really compare

  9. Brian says:

    Ummm… I’m on David’s side on this one….

  10. Anon says:

    I currently have a monome kit that I built for 250… if you want a monome that is the way to go, it only takes a few hours to solder the parts together, and its half as cheap as any of things you talked about. Also I think your missing the point , the idea is that you get a box of buttons, its not even supposed to be a controller. The real differences between the APC and the monome comes down to is the idea of being able to plug something in and just having it work vs having an open framework to program / build / engineer things yourself …If you wrote an article about the that then it would make more sense. I have my opinions on that but that doesn’t really matter; what I am trying to say is these things are not really comparable, you can’t treat a monome like a commercial product with “features” it really is just a box of buttons with lights in them.

  11. chapelier fou says:

    With the monome, you can control live without any program running. Run monomeserial in MIDI mode and you have got a clip launch matrix.
    The only interesting thing in the apc40 is the clip status display. But I bet that in the next few weeks there will be a simple app doing this for the monome. One more thing : I think monome is not to blame for the “complexity” with ableton live. If only live had OSC, instead of having a secret partnership with akai…

  12. dude says:

    if you simply want an ableton controller i can’t really understand why you even bothered looking at the monome.

  13. Luke says:

    And also, just to add a comment to clear up a few incorrect points, I am not a coder or programmer, but have a owned a 64 and built 2 kits (so they cant be that scarce or overpriced) and have had no issues whatsoever in getting many many different apps to work with the monome, and use it successfully in a number of different ways, both in the studio and live. I dont think the 2 products can really be compared on a like for like basis, the monome is much more flexible.

  14. will says:

    what you’re basically saying with this article is that:
    if your not technically minded and are a generic dumb ass pc user then the Akai is for you, wheras if you have a brain that can handle about 10 minutes of setup and learning (yes learning and reading instructions before wanting to play around) then go for the monome..

    “The monome is basically a hardware unit made for coders and hardware hackers, not for amateur musicians who have little time to learn programming, etc”

    actually, it’s perfect for amateur musicians as it makes them learn something new and add a new creative ability which they can apply to their music..

    basically my friend, you could not be more wrong.. this is a very silly article..
    read the soundonsound article and compare it to yours..

  15. Aldaraia says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything David said. The monome is about as Mac-Centric as Firefox and Ableton itself. As stated before, Max is a runtime developed for both platforms by Cycling74, and is supported on both Windows, OSX and (maybe?) many *nix Operating Systems.

    Because of this, the monome has no platform dependency, and is not oriented toward one user or another, which is kind of the idea of the monome in the first place: to be open ended. Anyone can go to Cycling74 and download Max/MSP runtime and run any of the monome apps. Others are based in PureData, a few are even based in Java, a few more in Chuck. The point being that the monome possesses no dependency on the computer to which it is connected, it runs the same no matter what operating system.

    As for it not being able to interface with Live, maybe you should have done a little more research, as a large part of the monome community uses Ableton, and several apps have been developed to interface directly with Ableton.

    As David said, you are a record label and professional company, this site is likely read by thousands of people a day. You cannot hope to be respected if you continue to make reviews and opinions on something without any hands on, first hand experience with it. You’ve obviously never looked at a monome in the same room as you, otherwise your opinion would be less biased toward something slated directly for an application that you use. The monome may not have the built in, direct with live functionality, it makes up for that with open ended functionality; the ability to do with it whatever you want.

    Research a little more, attempt to be fair and honest, and most of all knowledgeable before posting this slanderous drivel.

  16. admin says:

    Thank you for your posts,
    I apologize if didn’t find any PC Ableton apps for the monome other than lstep8.
    It wasn’t my intention to “slander” you beloved monome, i was just voicing my opinion as an electronic musician and as a prospective buyer.

    I think the monome folks should have created an information repository of apps for the monome, instead of having people wade through threads and threads of posts.

    If you guys send me links of monome pc apps, (other than the apps found at i will be more than welcome to post them here. I am open to any links, suggestions showing how easy it is to run the monome on the PC.

    I made some changes to my comparison reflecting your comments. However I still stand by the conclusion of my article, and the following points are still valid:

    1-The monome IS expensive (and overpriced)!
    Before the recession, a monome 64 was selling for $900 or more USED on Ebay. I can buy two NEW Akai APC40s with that money.
    I can only imagine what used Akai APC40’s are going to sell a year for now on Ebay.

    2-The monome is not readily available. It is silly to have to get on a year-long waiting list to get a unit.

    Whether you guys like it or not, the APC40 is going to become a very popular item and will overtake the monome in popularity.

  17. Steve says:

    Again, look before you leap. Go to the monome site and click on the “docs” link for a wiki site containing all the info you need.

    The monome is not overpriced as stated earlier.
    – All parts are VERY locally sourced and therefore prices are bound to be higher.
    – If a ebayer wishes to pay $900 for a monome then that’s there decision. That does not mean the monome is overpriced.

    As stated earlier, the monome is entirely manfactured by 2 maybe 3 people. Its impossible for them to churn them out constantly. It also means that only people who really want one will buy one. This means less waste as people would just buy them on impulse and not use them.

    I can completely understand where you are coming from but your comments are just very poorly researched.

  18. ben says:


    I think the use of ‘review’ is a little strong, owing to the fact that it’s not clear you’ve used either device. ‘Opinions on’ would be somewhat more appropriate, I think.

    I don’t think there’s much dispute concerning that the APC40 is a more natural interface to Live than monome, given that was the design brief for it. However, I do think some of your other opinions were a little off-the mark. The only one that irked me was the claim (in your comment above) that the monome folks produce few units a year in order to keep prices high. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in my opinion. The small batches are a result of the manufacturing process – I think only 2 or 3 people are typically involved in the final assembly. This manufacturing process was chosen on the basis of some ethical decisions made by monome (the company). Whether you agree with those ethics or not, it would take a super cynic to say that monome’s business practices are there to prop up prices. As far as protecting profits goes, do some web-searching on the ‘Arduinome’ – this is a port of the monome to more readily-available hardware, the price of which undercuts the price of any of their devices. Yes, building an arduinome is a DIY project, but the fact that monome not only made their protocols and design open source, but also host a forum for the arduinome and host one of the main sources of documentation on arduinome, speaks volumes for how seriously they take their stance on information sharing.

    On a practical note, a small company can’t afford to keep large inventory in stock, so limiting the quantities to what they believe they can certainly sell makes sense from that point of view too. Similarly small companies that produce small batches don’t get the kind of price breaks that a company like Akai does on their components (how many of their devices have those same knobs and sliders now?).

    Finally, if you’re looking for apps, I’d try this bit of monome’s wiki:

    Most of these are multi-platform. As you say, many are Max-centric, but that’s where the free run-time for Max comes in handy for those of us who don’t have the cash (or perhaps need/desire) to buy the whole Max programming environment.

    And for Live control we have:

    which I believe started life as a windows-only application, before a mac version was developed.

  19. admin says:

    Steve: The monome is overpriced.
    I am comparing built units vs. built units
    There is a big difference between buying something already built and having to build the unit yourself. I actually have built stuff, i almost built an entire gainclone power amplifier, from scratch, and i know, soldering circuits is just not for everyone. Most musicians just want to use their tools instead of fooling around with a soldering iron. I know i do.

    It is not my fault the monome is built by only a few people. Not my fault they can’t compete in price with the Akai APC40. Not my fault they didn’t outsource the whole thing to be made in China. There is no excuse for bad business decisions.
    If the guys who invented the monomes don’t want to build the units, why not outsource the whole thing to the Chinese and sell them cheap?

    Even if someone wanted to buy a monome, they CAN’T because there aren’t any new units available, and they have to get on a silly waiting list and wait a months to get one.
    I was on the monome email waiting list and i got tired of waiting.

    The monome was an awesome and original idea, unfortunately Akai stole the design, and are now going to outsell it by making a cheaper unit.
    I am not making anything up, these are the facts.

  20. Jonny says:

    ‘It is not my fault the monome is built by only a few people. Not my fault they can’t compete in price with the Akai APC40. Not my fault they didn’t outsource the whole thing to be made in China. There is no excuse for bad business decisions.
    If the guys who invented the monomes don’t want to build the units, why not outsource the whole thing to the Chinese and sell them cheap?’

    Bad Business decisions !? Again , do some more research – please look into the business philosophy of monome before making such rash comments.

    There is no waiting list ! I made the decision to buy a monome and had one within three months direct from monome.

  21. Nico says:

    Application List:

    Ordering Info (NOO WAITING LIST!):

    Well,I wish they were cheaper too so that I could have one in every room but I can accept that it costs more to consciously manufacture products that stimulate local economy rather than the otherwise outsourcing to what may as well be slave labour. Besides, the value I’ve gotton from even one of the many free apps makes the cost of the hardware well worth it!
    BTW, have you checked the Ebay pricing of the currently in short supply APC40 lately!?

    “The monome was an awesome and original idea, unfortunately Akai stole the design, and are now going to outsell it by making a cheaper unit.
    I am not making anything up, these are the facts”

    Well, there you go again! These aren’t facts because the two devices do not even at this point share basic functionality. Apples and oranges really.

  22. salamanderanagram says:

    “Steve: The monome is overpriced.”

    how is $500 overpriced yet $400 is cheap, since you didn’t respond the first time? seems pretty comparable, especially because the monome’s build quality is so much higher?

  23. salamanderanagram says:

    not to mention, to be able to program an APC requires live 8 and max for live, $hundreds$ extra.

  24. DeFex says:

    “Steve: The monome is overpriced.”

    “Not my fault they didn’t outsource the whole thing to be made in China. There is no excuse for bad business decisions.”

    except ethics, supporting your local community and stuff like that.

  25. admin says:

    A USED monome 64 goes for about $510+ on ebay + shipping
    A NEW Akai APC 40 goes for $399 shipping included.

    Did you catch the difference? the key word is NEW.
    There is a BIG difference between buying something new and something used.

    The monome is built out of wood and plastic.
    The Akai may be cheaply built in China, but it is built out of METAL, so it can take more abuse than the monome, specially if you are a traveling musician.

  26. salamanderanagram says:

    in case you didn’t know, monomes are usually cheaper new than used

    you should really do some more research. the number of demonstrably false or misleading statements in a mere two paragraphs is laughable.

  27. Fluxpod says:

    Saying the Monome is build out of wood and PLASTIK…Man where do you get the idea that anything on the Monome is Plastik????

    You have really no idea about this device.

  28. admin says:

    who is the genius?
    Why would anyone pay $500 for a monome on Ebay if they can get it “cheaper” as you claim somewhere else?


    Also, 90% of the “apps” available for the monome require you purchase Max which is as expensive as Ableton, so there you go.

  29. Fluxpod says:

    You can run all the apps in the free Max runtime.

  30. admin says:

    Fluxpod: Please show me the METAL case in the monome picture, please?

  31. Trent says:

    “Also, 90% of the “apps” available for the monome require you purchase Max which is as expensive as Ableton, so there you go.”

    -this is false. I’ve never paid for one app or patch and have nearly every one available. what else you got?

  32. admin says:

    DeFex: True, it would be more ethical to buy the monome vs. the Akai, unfortunately, most musicians don’t have a lot of spare money to spend and every dollar makes a difference.

  33. Fluxpod says:

    The plate is made out of Aluminium.There is your metal.No plastik.
    Like stated above..made out of wood(the “case” and the top plate is metal.

    Please..drop it and research before beeing wrong 90% of the time.

  34. admin says:

    johnisfaster: Please find the word REVIEW in my post.
    My post IS NOT a REVIEW, i never claimed it was, it is only a comparison between some of the features between the monome vs. the Akai APC40.

  35. admin says:

    Tren: Please tell me, how do i run the MAX / MSP patches available for the monome without owning MAX?

  36. admin says:

    Sorry buddy. Nice try.
    The CASE is partly made of wood.
    I can step on a monome and the wood will crack. I can step on the APC 40 and nothing will happen to it.

  37. SnareHanger says:

    MAX/MSP Runtime…

  38. admin says:

    ok. I stand corrected.

  39. Trent says:

    “Please tell me, how do i run the MAX / MSP patches available for the monome without owning MAX?”

    you download a free version of MAX…below version 5. craziness.

  40. Trent says:

    little bits of research would have saved you all of these comments from monomers who apparently know far more than you about both the apc and the monome.

  41. Trent says:

    …and I’m sure stepping on the apc would do nothing but shoot out rainbows and lavender scent, right?

  42. admin says:

    I don’t care if i am corrected. My ego can take it and i can admit i am wrong, something a lot of the commenters here can’t.
    I stand corrected about a few things i originally wrote about the monome, and i have fixed the original post to reflect that.
    Please accept my apologies.
    Despite all this, the monome is still overpriced, and it’s surrounding case made out of wood :)

    Once i get my APC40 i will step on it and email you the pics. Does that sound fair?

  43. Trent says:

    I appreciate your acceptance of being wrong, cheers to that.

    as far as stepping on your apc, I’d love to see the results. I’m sure that hardcore metal could stop bullets too.

  44. Lukas says:

    and by the way the wood case is awesome. looks gorgeous and is thick and sturdy. definitely not a con.

  45. kozmoray says:

    If you want a monome so badly, buy my 2 40h kits. I need the money. I’m in Los Angeles.

    $250/each includes keypad and logic board… Never touched.

    Email me at kalib at-at energyevolutions weedot ws


  46. kramer says:

    admin, you’re kidding us right? that sound you hear is your hole being dug deeper and deeper. i think you’ve lost this one.

    you’ve shown your level of expertise, your words reverberate with incompetence, and i can’t help but recognize that you’ve got some jealousy issues.

    – i’d like to urge you to open your mind and think creatively…

    – i wish you could see that your comparison is posted chockfull of errors, misconceptions, and several hurtful nuances…

    – i want you to understand how encouraging it is that two people created and maintain something from scratch that’s completely unique and fostered an international community of positivity…

    I realize you may not want to digest this, but you’ve been proved wrong on every level.

    don’t disss
    long live monome

  47. salamanderanagram says:

    “Why would anyone pay $500 for a monome on Ebay if they can get it “cheaper” as you claim somewhere else?

    because they want one, because they are rare, and because people are willing to pay that much for them. a monome costs $500 new. you could buy it, turn around and sell it for $600 easily. an apc loses half of it’s value the second you take it out of the box.

    “DUH” (left for effect)

    “Also, 90% of the “apps” available for the monome require you purchase Max which is as expensive as Ableton, so there you go.””

    you really have no idea what you’re talking about.
    max/msp runtime is free.
    you can run any monome app for free.

    don’t write about things you clearly know absolutely nothing about. you’re just embarrasing yourself.

  48. salamanderanagram says:

    “I can step on a monome and the wood will crack. ”

    not only is that completely false, but…
    dude it’s a music controller not a scale! get a grip.


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