Akai AX-73 Analogue Synth

Akai AX-73 SynthIn the world of synthesizer fanatics there is a huge number that believe the best sounds are created by synthesizers which have an "all analogue" signal path. A great many also believe that voltage controlled oscillators (VCO) are far superior to those which are digitally controlled (DCO). Digitally controlled oscillators were a solution to the problem of pitch drift common in VCOs. While the DCOs certainly stayed in tune many prefered the sound of oscillators which drifted tuning as the drift created notes which were detuned. Unfortunately a synthesizer utilizing VCOs would require regular tuning which was not always convenient, especially when appearing on stage or in any other live situation. The Akai AX-73 is an interesting synthesizer which uses the "old fashioned" technology of VCOs while also featuring MIDI and, although it often requires retuning, the autotune facilty is able to do this perfectly in just a short space of time.

The Akai AX-73uses the famous Curtis CEM 3394 chips which incorporate a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO), a voltage controlled, resonant 24db/octave lowpass filter (VCF) and a voltage controlled amplifier (VCA). The AX-73 uses six of these chips, which were also used in some Sequential Circuits synths, one for each voice for six voice polyphony. Below you will discover some more interesting facts about the amazing Akai AX-73,



More About The Akai AX-73
AX-73 Specifications
Notes About The Akai AX-73
Famous Akai AX-73 Users
Akai AX-73 Samples


More About The Akai AX-73

The Akai AX-73 may not be top of the wanted listsof many synth enthusiasts but, for the price it is going for at the moment (often less than £300 but worth much, much more), it is an absolute bargain. For your money you get an excellent midi controller keyboard with a rather good synth engine for basically free. While the synthesizer may not feature the knobs and sliders seen on many classic, and very expensive, analogue alternatives the spartan interface facilitates rather easy editing and you can very quickly learn where to find your most used settings. The sound often requires the finer control of the parameters which the interface allows as it allows you to use the + or - buttons for incremental movements and the slider for larger/faster jumps. For example when you are altering the Unison Detune increasing or decreasing it by an increment on one may make the difference between a sweet spot or something that "will do" or is merely acceptable. It seems strange to us how cheap these synths go for on eBay but it may be because so many reviews state that the sound is thin. Well the plain truth is that yes, of course, with only one oscillator it is possible to produce some incredibly thin, but extremely useful, patches. HOWEVER, when you put the Akai AX-73 into Dual mode you have two oscillators per voice which plays the exact same waveform etc. but it can be detuned creating a wonderfully PHATT sound. Put it into Unison mode and you have before you a most wonderfully thick mono synth it will blow away the cobwebs in the detractors ears and it easily compares to famous mono synths which cost much, much more than the AX-73 - PLUS you have 73 notes rather than the measily few octaves you find on such synthesizers as the Roland SH101. Of course every mono synth out there has a unique sound and while it is problematic making comparisons it is safe to say that the Akai AX-73 has a distinct and highly useable sound in Unison. Add some of the onboard chorus and this synth is as fat as can be and you may find that you need to thin it back down to sit in a particular track nicely. This synth is capable of some seriously powerful bass and lead sounds and can scream as loud as the best of them. For those who say this synth sucks I say that you really need to spend some time in programming training BUT I genuinely feel that too many people freely add comments and reviews based only upon what they have heard on the likes of youtube rather than them having actually laid their hands upon the keyboard let alone spent time programming it.

Every synthesizer fanatic goes weak at the knees when a synth produces weird and whacky sounds and the AX-73 does not disappoint in this area either. If you get sick of the endless blurby, rubbery basses that this beast produces you can mix in a little weirdness and unpredictability by adding some modulation of the filter from the oscillator. You can make the filter react to the velocity sensitive keyboard for crazy performances. Because the AX-73 has midi and velocity sensitivity it is an excellent keyboard for use in a DAW such as Logic or Cubase where you can program (or play) very fluid movements of the filter. The only problem in that environment is that the chorus, like many of that age, produces too much noise but it is incredibly easy to use a plugin to remove it without taking anything from the actual wanted sound elements. Many people compare this synth to the Roland Juno 106 and Korg Polysix which is very unfair in most situations. Yes, like the Polysix, it has genuine VCOs and it can, sometimes, sound a little like the 106 but these two synths have been used in so many hit records that the listener feels more at home with the sounds created on these synths than those produced by the AX-73. Used in the right context this synth can produce sounds which the aforementioned classics cannot and for this reason alone I am sure that it will sit well in almost any studio.


Akai AX-73 Specifications

  • Polyphony: 6 notes at a time
  • Oscillators: 1 Analogue voltage controlled oscillator (VCO).
  • Osc Waveforms: Triangle, pulse, saw, and a saw plus triangle mix. Separate noise generator.
  • LFO: 1 LFO assignable to amp, filter and pitch - various waveforms.
  • Filter: 24dB/oct low pass filter with resonance (resonance can go extremely high),
  • Effects: Filter can be controlled bythe oscillator for subtle thickening to extreme FX. Analogue chorus.
  • Control: Midi
    Special: Facility (13 pin Din) to run the Akai S900 sampler through the filter.
  • Keyboard: 73 velocity sensitive synth style keys - excellent master keyboard facilities.
  • Manufactured 1986


Akai AX-73 Notes

Although the Akai AX-73 is a polyphonic synthesizer by using the excellent Unison mode it transforms into a powerful single oscillator mono synth. Each of the six oscillators play in Unison creating an incredibly phatt sound but unlike the Roland Juno 106 it is possible to detune them creating a thick chorus type of effect similar to the famous "Supersaw" sound (but across all waveforms). While it may not compete well against some of the more famous vintage mono synths the Akai AX-73 certainly produces a wide range of useable analogue sounds, enhanced by the fact that the synthesizer uses genuine Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) as against Digitally Controlled Oscillators (DCOs, found in the like of the Roland Juno and JX ranges) leading to a less "digital" sound. At current prices if you view the Akai AX-73 as a reasonable mono synth with polyphonic abilities it suddenly becomes a bargain at less than half the price you would pay for the Roland SH 101.

As the Akai AX-73 uses VCOs it does have a tendancy to drift out of tune. When we use ours we press the autotune as soon as it is switched on and then let it warm up for about half an hour and press it again. Once ours has been set this way it seems to have pretty stable tuning. If your AX-73 starts to misbehave simply press the autotune, wait about 30 seconds and everything should return to normal.


Akai AX-73 Famous Users

The AX-73 seems to have virtually zero famous users. The only user I have found is N-Trance and although there are sites which suggest that Bjork has used it there is little hard evidence of this fact and we feel that it is more likely that the keyboard used was actually the AX-80 which is a very different synthesizer indeed. Although it has proved difficult to find famous users this does not mean that it is less useful than more widely used synths as many famous users have been sponsored by synth manufacturers to use their products, especially when on television or on stage. Another problem with identifying a synths useage is that, although when played side by side it is easy to notice differences in the overall sound of a particular synth, it is incredibly difficult to identify a specific synthesizer once it is mixed into a track. It is also impossible to find out how many Akai S900 users ran their sampler through the AX-73 (to addan analogue filter).


Akai AX-73 Samples

For those considering purchasing and Akai AX-73 the samples below will give you an idea of the capabilities of the synthesizer. For those who cannot afford to buy this amazing synthesizer we have thoroghly sampled (over 8,500 individual samples) 100 different sounds/instruments/patches created on the synth for use in a wide range of software samplers. Read more about our AKAI AX-73 samples



  Akai AX-73  

Kontakt, EXS24 + WAV


Contains 100 Akai AX-73 sound patches at 24-Bit

PRICE: £17.77

P&P: £1.99 (UK ONLY)

TOTAL: £19.76

  This collection now includes a free copy of our Ensoniq SQ-1 PLUS Collection of samples