Akai AX80

Akai AX-80 Image

The AX80 has the privilege of being the first pro-keyboard produced by Akai, released in 1984. It's an eight-voice programmable analog synthesizer with a full 61-note keyboard and a series of techno-looking LCD bar-graph displays running across the top of the keyboard. Two analog oscillators per voice plus a sub oscillator provide the basis of its punchy analog sounds that can be described as similar to a Chroma Polaris or Roland Juno 106. Very good bass, brass, synth sounds, and effects are possible. However its strings are average at best.

The blue and orange florescent LCD displays use a simple and intuitive bar-graph format to show all its parameters and values, making for one of the best on-board displays ever! You have to wonder, however, with such a cool display, why couldn't they have included dedicated sliders and knobs for each parameter (see the AX60). A decent amount of patch storage and nice enough sounds make the AX80 a useable synth to have around, but it probably won't replace your Roland Juno. Other notable features of the AX80 include an angled rear panel for easy cable connections, chord memory, MIDI control, and pitch/mod wheels. It's been used by Mark Bell (LFO) on Bjork's Homogenic.

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78 Visitor comments
November 8, 2009 @ 2:18 pm
Of course it doesn't sound as warm as a Juno. It hasn't got a crappy little chorus effect built-in to cover up its thin, weedy sound. What it has got, though, are two oscillators, two ADSRs and three LFOs. If the AX80 isn't 'warm' enough for you, buy a chorus pedal!

If - like rather a lot of so-called analogue fans - all you're really interested in are the Juno's overused presets, modern digital synths (and a lot of home keyboards) have them in ROM. If it wasn't for the user interface, the AX80 would be right up there with the JP8. It can create complex patches that only a modular can beat.
Reverend Sunrise
October 28, 2009 @ 2:34 pm
Just starting to settle in with this sleek little black puppy and I dig it's sound. Like others have said tweaking on the fly live is difficult, but programming beyond the budge-ass presets yields some funkdafied results. Love the basses, complements my Pro One and Mini nicely, and the triple action eg's and lfo's allow for some interesting pad, string, and industrial-esque love. Much more fun to play than my Juno, and more bite than a JX. Have owned a Prophet 5, Andromeda, Jupe 6, CS-60, etc., and the Ax-80 ain't no jive talkin' [beep] as far as polys go. Definitely my thang.
October 15, 2009 @ 12:38 pm
I guess it doesn't hurt to say it again. This synth is not an average sounding synth. If you want that classic warm Juno sound this is a lost cause. I find this synth to sound very bitty and aggressive. It has an awesome layout though it is impossible to do heavy tweaking live. Despite all this it can always fill a spot in a mix that none of my other synths can. The AX80 is a valuable asset to any enthusiast willing to spend some time programing this analog beast.
October 7, 2009 @ 5:34 pm
I do think ross is correct here... i too have had many old synths as well as this ax and although analog it just lacks something...... sound is ok and easy to edit but i just love the old "hands on" with knobs and sliders to get that real live feeling. I think this is the cross over between classic analog and modern digital synths, it startyed to make life just alittle to easy and lost the user input :/
Ross Pooter
September 13, 2009 @ 11:11 pm
I gotta disagree with Dave and second Mem 3. The Ax-80 is a good synth but it doesn't compare to what everyone else gushes about. I have many analogs( a couple digitals) and the Ax-80 is my least favorite. Although it is quite programmable it just sounds kind of flat to me and it's not very warm. When you see people talk about Little Phatties or Prophet 08's sounding digital forget that mess, The Ax-80 comes much closer to digital to my ear mainly because it lacks character. Plus I got to have knobs.

I DO however, recommend this synth to anyone on a budget or interested in analog. You can find them cheap and it is great access to real analog sound that is still gonna be better than many vst synths.

But seriously, even though the Virus is digital is slays the ax-80 no question. If you want something great look past this synth. Get a juno a polysix, even a virus you'll be much much happier.
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 8 voices
  • Oscillators - 2 per voice + Sub Osc. (sawtooth or variable pulse width)
  • Filter - 8 VCFs (1 per voice)
  • VCA - 8 ADSRs (1 per voice)
  • LFO - 3 LFOs controlling OSC 1, OSC 2, VCF
  • Keyboard - 61 keys (velocity sensitive)
  • Memory - 96 patches (64 user, 32 preset)
  • Control - MIDI
  • Date Produced - 1984

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