- A MIDI Keyboard Controller That’s Compact and Affordable
- A Solid Keyboard
- Pitch Bend and Modulation Wheels
- Pads For Triggering Samples, Controllers Or Patch Changes
- Programmable Knobs & Button
- Sustain Pedal Input
- Use Alesis V49 Editor to Create Presets
- Other Included Software
- VIP Compatibility
- What It Doesn’t Include…
- Alesis V49 Keyboard Controller Pros & Cons
A MIDI Keyboard Controller That’s Compact and Affordable
The Alesis V49 Keyboard Controller is a great choice for musicians who don’t need a boatload of bells and whistles but refuse to compromise on quality. Built to last, the V49 provides a best-in-class keyboard. Plus, it includes basic controls to help you work with your virtual instruments and plugins. At the same time, it has a sleek, minimalist design and a very affordable price.
The V49 features 49 full-size, synth-action keys with velocity sensitivity, pitch bend, and modulation wheels, eight backlit velocity-sensitive pads, and four assignable knobs and buttons. There’s also an input for an optional sustain pedal. And all these controls can be configured with the free Alesis V49 Editor software.
At under 10 pounds and 9.5 inches wide, it’s easy to carry around or fit on a small studio desk. The V49 draws its power from the USB port on the back, so you don’t need to carry around a “wall wart.” It’s fully plug-and-play on both Macintosh and Windows, so it doesn’t need any software drivers installed to make it work. And it comes with a comprehensive suite of performing and recording software.
A Solid Keyboard
The V49 has 49 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys for a fast, light touch. Alesis also makes 25-key and 61-key versions that otherwise have the same features. With the free, downloadable V49 Editor, you can choose among eight different velocity response curves to match your particular playing style.
Although the keyboard has four octaves of keys, the Octave Up and Down buttons let you instantly transpose it up or down in octaves over the full 127-note MIDI note range. Pressing both Octave buttons at the same time cancels transposition. You can also use the V49 Editor to set the transposition in half-steps.
The keyboard has an excellent, solid feel. The keys don’t rattle or wiggle around the way some keyboards in this price range tend to do. The superior build quality means it should last for a long time without experiencing any problems.
On the other hand, the keys have a flat front edge, unlike “waterfall” keys that are commonly used on pianos and many synths. The lack of overhang can make the keyboard feel a bit uncomfortable to play during long sessions.
Pitch Bend and Modulation Wheels
To the left of the keyboard are dedicated pitch bend and modulation wheels. These are smaller than the full-size wheels found on most dedicated synths, but they have a nice tight feel and accurate response.
By default, the modulation wheel is assigned to the industry-standard Continuous Controller (CC) #1. However, you can use the V49 Editor to reassign it to any other CC you choose. You can also specify minimum and maximum controller values to get finer control over your performance.
Pads For Triggering Samples, Controllers Or Patch Changes
The V49 also includes eight velocity-sensitive and touch-sensitive pads for triggering drums or other samples. This means that they sense both how hard they’re first pressed and also how long you continue to press down. The pads are backlit with blue LEDs, which frankly look pretty sexy in low light.
They’re also very versatile. Using the V49 Editor, you can set each pad individually to function in one of four modes:
- Note: The pad sends a MIDI Note On message when pressed and a Note Off message when released. As with the keyboard, you can select a unique velocity response curve for each pad.
- CC Toggle: The pad sends a CC message with one value when you press it “on” the first time, and a different value when you press it again. For example, if you set the pad to CC #65 (portamento), setting On to 127 and Off to 0 will turn portamento on and off with alternate pad presses.
- CC Momentary: The pad sends a CC message with one value when you press the pad, and another when you release it.
- Program Change: The pad sends a Program Bank and Program Change message.
With only eight pads and no banks, you will probably find them limiting for playing drum parts. Also, they’re located to the left of the keyboard, and many people prefer playing drum parts with their right hand. For live performance, particularly for drums, a separate dedicated pad controller would be useful.
Programmable Knobs & Button
The V49 has four knobs and four buttons, all fully programmable. The knobs rotate 270 degrees. As with the pads, there are no banks for knobs and buttons, so there really aren’t enough to comfortably control a virtual synth. They’re best suited for more basic tasks like volume and panning, or turning things on and off.
Sustain Pedal Input
On the back of the V49 is a 1/4-inch jack for connecting an optional sustain pedal footswitch. The pedal can be assigned to any MIDI CC, not only Sustain (#64). However, it functions like an on/off switch, so it won’t work properly with a volume pedal or other continuous controller.
Use Alesis V49 Editor to Create Presets
With the free, downloadable Alesis V49 Editor software, you can easily configure all of the Alesis V49 Keyboard Controller’ pads, knob and buttons to work exactly the way you want. Its clean, uncluttered interface makes it easy to create, store, and recall presets so you can quickly set up for any situation.
Other Included Software
The Alesis V49 Keyboard Controller comes with a great collection of useful music-making software to get you up and running in no time:
Avid Pro Tools Alesis Edition is a special version of this legendary, industry-standard digital audio workstation. Features include unlimited busses, Elastic Time and Pitch and offline bounce, plus a gigabyte of free cloud storage space.
Along with the Pro Tools app come some of their most popular virtual instrument plugins:
- Xpand!2, Avid’s renowned multitimbral polyphonic synthesizer with an advanced arpeggiator.
- Mini Grand, a full-blown sampled grand piano.
- DB-33, an accurate model of everyone’s favorite tonewheel organ.
- Eleven Lite guitar amp simulator, with over 20 high-quality amp and effect models to choose from.
Also included is Ableton Live Lite 9. This version includes all of the essential features, workflows, instruments, and effects of the full version. Live was developed especially for live performance, but it’s also a great tool for composing, recording, mixing, and mastering your songs.
Alesis controllers, including the V49, are completely compatible with VIP 3.1. This powerful instrument and effects software suite can load almost any VST plugin, combining up to eight virtual instruments and effects. You can build complex arrangements with multiple keyboard zones, splits, and custom mappings.
What It Doesn’t Include…
A few features are noticeably absent from the V49 that we wish had been included. For one, there are no transport controls, so you will still need your computer keyboard or another controller to manage your DAW. And the keyboard doesn’t include a built-in arpeggiator. However, the included Xpand!2 virtual synthesizer has one that’s excellent.
Also, there’s no input for a volume pedal or other external continuous controller. Standard five-pin MIDI In and Out ports would be nice, too.
Alesis V49 Keyboard Controller Pros & Cons
Alesis has been an important part of the home studio scene for decades, releasing amazing products at very reasonable prices. The V49 Keyboard Controller continues that tradition, with plenty of muscle for performing and recording, and no fat. Whether or not it has enough depends on your particular needs.
The V49 doesn’t have as many controls and other features of some of its competitors. By itself, it can’t really control a DAW or complex virtual instruments. So you’ll need to use either your computer keyboard and mouse, or a second controller to get the job done. Or you might consider the more full-featured Alesis VI49 as an alternative.
On the other hand, the V49 is uncomplicated, compact, and affordable keyboard controller that’s well-designed, sturdy, and looks and feels great. If you need a good MIDI keyboard to complement your home studio setup or live performance rig, the V49 is a smart choice.