Electronic wind instruments (or EWIs) are a type of instrument you’ve probably never heard of before. It is a relatively new type of instrument. In fact, the first working models of EWIs were created in the 1970s by Nyle Steiner.
This instrument is a wind controlled synthesizer. So, you blow into the wind controller. Your breathe creates the signal that creates the synthesized sound.
Electronic wind instruments are a unique addition to any instrument collection. If you are a stage performer, you need to try out this unusual instrument.
If your interest is peaked, read on. In this article we discuss the top four best electronic wind instruments and provide a handy buyer’s guide to make your decision easier.
Top 4 Best Electric Wind Instruments In 2023
1 Akai Professional EWI5000
(Includes neck strap, charger, USB cable, and wireless receiver.)
Features: 3GB of sounds by SONiVOX, automatic calibration, USB port, MIDI output, ¼-inch audio output, and 1/8-inch headphone out.
Akai is a Japanese come. And, they took over the design of electronic wind instruments from the original creator, Steiner. Actually, Steiner originally helped Akai with their first EWI models. His involvement with the company has made them the leading manufacturer of EWIs.
But, that’s not all . . .
Akai’s EWI5000 is a great cross between instrument and synthesizer. On the wind instrument side, it has the responsiveness of an acoustic model. But, it comes with the ability to play in any key. Also, you can choose the wind instrument tone you wish to use.
However, the EWI5000 is not just another wind instrument. It has a wireless audio receiver and the connectivity of a synthesizer. There are even USB and MIDI connections available to expand the range of possible sounds. Plus, all of the controls are easy to use and understand. It doesn’t get much better then the Akai EWI5000.
- Sounds like an authentic wind instrument.
- 3GB worth of sounds created by SONiVOX.
- Even has wireless audio.
- Lots of connectivity for USB, MIDI, audio cable, and headphones.
- Comes with a wide variety of essential accessories.
- Set up time required.
- Sweatband is needed to keep things dry.
2 Akai Professional EWI4000S
(Includes neck strap, four AA batteries, cleaning cloth, and mouthpiece cover.)
Features: touch sensitive keys, MID output, headphone jack, and PC and Mac editor software.
Akai Professional is the top electronic wind instrument manufacturer. So, you would expect that they have a number of products on our top four list. You would be right. Akai is a Japanese consumer electronics brand. They do not just specialize in EWIs. Instead, you will find keyboards, drums, controllers, and music production software. If you need high-level electronic music software or products, then Akai is the company for you.
They are even a manufacturer of a great professional drum machine. Read about it here.
Plus . . .
Akai’s EWI4000S is a very flexible EWI. By that we mean that it has a wide variety of available sounds. And, it comes with a MIDI output that can be connected to both PCs and Macs. Akai will even throw in editor software that allows you to customize and recall the many sounds of your EWI4000S.
But, keep in mind that there are no set instrument sounds with this product. So, you will not be able to set it for clarinet sounds, saxophone sounds, etc. Instead, you have the ability to choose the sounds that you want independent of any acoustic instrument.
- Electronic Valve Instrument fingering mode for brass players included.
- Keys are highly sensitive to touch.
- Works with both PC and MAC
- Comes with editing software.
- Sound is sensitive to air pressure, just like an acoustic wind instrument.
- Akai’s written instructions are not helpful.
- None of the sounds are tied to specific instruments.
3 Akai Professional EWI USB
(Includes EWI USB, USB cable, neck strap, cleaning cloth, and software DVD.)
Features: Mac or PC USB connection, custom Garritan Aria Player software, and MIDI output.
The final Akai EWI on our list, the EWI USB has less of the bells-and-whistles of the other two Akai products on this list. However, it is still a versatile and great sounding Akai product. The company has been around since the early part of the 20th century. Initially, Akai was an electric company. But, the company began changing in the late 1990s. Today, Akai produces electronic music products like instruments and software.
Keep reading . . .
The Akai EWI USB is extremely easy to use. It is ready to play right out of its box. Plus, it comes equipped with custom Garritan Aria Player software that includes a number of wind instrument sounds. You will not find as many switches and buttons on the EWI USB as on some of Akai’s other EWIs. But, the pared down ESI USB is perfect for beginners to the instrument. And, you can still download other sounds using the USB connection.
- A plug-and-play instrument. No set-up required.
- Works with Mac and PC.
- Mouthpiece is dishwasher safe.
- Includes acoustic instrument sounds like sax, flute, oboe, and even brass.
- Versatile and can be set up as a MIDI controller.
- Not as much functionality as the EWI4000S or EWI5000.
- No power switch.
4 Roland Digital Wind Instruments “Aerophone AE-10”
(Includes AC adaptor, mouthpiece cap, neck strap, and special hand carry bag.)
Features: SuperNATURAL acoustic sound source, multi-effects, built-in speakers, stereo input, headphones output, and USB.
Roland is another Japanese electronic music company. It produces keyboards, synthesizers, guitars, percussion, digital recording equipment, amplifiers, and other audio processing devices. Essentially, any live performer can find what they are looking for from Roland.
For more information about Roland, check out this article. It discussed the best Roland digital pianos available in 2023.
Also . . .
Roland’s “Aerophone AE-10” has a white, stylish design. The buttons are set at odd angles along the EWI’s body. This makes the AE-10 stand out from the competition. And, the 55 included preset tones allow you to play music right after unpacking.
But, the Roland AE-10 is not just a wind instrument. It includes a built-in speaker and all of the connectivity need. There is no dedicated MID output. However, there is a USB computer connector. So, you can download all the extra sounds you want.
- Great sound from SuperNATURAL Acoustic sound engine.
- 55 preset tones.
- Custom LCD display is clear and easy to read.
- Lots of useful accessories included.
- Don’t need headphones with the built-in speaker.
- Instruction manual in Japanese.
- Rechargeable battery only lasts seven hours.
Best Electric Wind Instruments: Buying Guide
If you’re confused about what to look for in an EWI, you are not alone. These instruments are still so unusual that they may be fairly intimidating. So, just keep the following features in mind, and you will be able to find the best EWI possible.
Most importantly, the electronic wind instrument you choose should sound good. Sound comes down to the actual sound engine used in the device and the included preset sounds. You will be able to determine which sound engine you prefer by trying a number of different EWI and choosing your favorite.
But, the sound engine is not the only determining factor on the sound of your EWI. In fact, the preset sounds that come with your purchase is just as important. Some electronic wind instruments come with a wide variety of tones. However, some only have a few. Also, some products will include familiar wind instrument sounds like those from saxophones, oboes, or clarinets.
Finally, because EWI use digital technology, you should have the ability to download more sounds. USB connections are extremely important on EWIs because they open up the number of sounds the instrument can make. Another bonus is if the manufacturer includes a helpful app where you can purchase these extra, MIDI sounds.
When you are looking for a good electronic wind instrument, you should gravitate towards one designed for sensitivity. Especially, you should look for an EWI that is sensitive to touch and air pressure. Touch sensitivity allows you to play as fast or slow as you need and the instrument can keep up.
Also, sensitivity to air pressure is important because in an EWI because it is a wind instrument. All wind instruments, whether acoustic or electronic, use air to make their sounds. The goal with EWIs is to make an instrument as sensitive to air pressure changes as an acoustic wind instrument.
So, when you are researching EWIs, looks for models that have a specific sensitivity program. You will want to be able to shape the musical phrase with your air. That is how the many tones of the EWI will turn into music.
Because electronic wind instruments are digital, they should come with a variety of available apps and software for you to download. You should definitely have connectivity options with EWIs. For example, the EWI should have a USB port at the very least.
USB connectivity will allow you to hook the EWI up to your computer. You can access other MIDI sounds and music programs through the USB connections. Also, some EWIs even have their own MIDI output. This feature speeds up your ability to find new sounds for your EWI.
Finally, the number of accessories an electronic music instrument comes with may help determine your purchase of it. A few of the EWI listed above have accessories like straps, mouthpieces, adaptors, neck straps, cleaning clothes, or even carry bags. The accessories you need for your EWI will depend on how you plan on using it.
More is not always better in this instance. If you are already an EWI owner, you may not need some of the included accessories. And then, you would be wasting your money to purchase a more inclusive product. But, if you are just starting out, you should look for a full package.
Electronic wind instruments are truly the instruments of the future. They can be any number of wind instruments at the flick of a switch. Even though they are a newer addition to instrument catalogues, electronic wind instruments they have a great reputation. You cannot bet their versatility and functionality. For another unusual wind instrument, check out our article on the best ocarinas.
Wind performers need to consider one of the best electric wind instruments available. They can open the door for new sound possibilities. Plus, they give you the opportunity to interact with other digital devices while you play. You wouldn’t expect these types of features in a wind instrument. But, the EWI does the seemingly impossible well. And, they sound great in the bargain. Try one today, and get ready to be impressed.