What's Wrong with the Akai EWI 5000

Akai's EWI 5000 was announced as a new model at NAMM in January 2014, and finally became available for purchase in late August 2014.

Advance publicity for the 5000 promised several key upgrades over the previous model (the EWI 4000s). As Akai's press release put it,

Akai Professional, creators of the original EWI, announce the EWI 5000, the most expressive and versatile wind instrument in the world. EWI 5000 includes an array of advanced features, including digital 2.4GHz ultra-low-latency wireless connectivity, a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 12 hours, and more than 3GB of built-in traditional and progressive sounds from SONiVOX, a leading creator of premium virtual instruments and software synthesis technologies. [...]

EWI 5000 comes loaded with more than 3GB of top-quality sounds, including traditional horn, brass, woodwind, and string sounds, plus progressive synths, leads, and other non-traditional sounds. [...]

The promise here is enormous: In theory, the new EWI requires absolutely no other gear but its own wireless receiver and an amplifier or powered speaker. All the sounds one might want to play would be available directly from the built-in synthesizer.

Unfortunately, the reality is somewhat less exciting. The EWI 5000 isn't a horrible instrument, but it suffers greatly by comparison to what it could have been. Here are some of its deficiencies, from the point of view of a serious amateur player:

The good news is that most if not all of these problems can be fixed in firmware updates. The bad news is that (as of October 2020) only one firmware update has been issued since version 1545 (itself issued in September 2014), and that update was described as follows by an Akai staff member:

Firmware v1546 is an incremental update found in recently shipped EWI5000s. It does not implement any feature or content updates and is for manufacturing purposes only. Updating to v1546 will not have an effect on the EWI's performance or functions.

(originally posted at https://getsatisfaction.com/akai_professional/topics/ewi5000-firmware-update-v1546, but as of October 2020 that link no longer exists)

[ SMW, October 2020 ]