Ideal travel companion for saxophone players
PatrickJam on 2017/10/12
I'm not new to electronic wind instruments. I have an Akai EWI USB & EWI 5000 as well as Yamaha VL70m synth with a Patchman Turbo chip. So quite well equipped. I nevertheless was attracted to the AE-10 for multiple reasons: The fingering is basically identical to a saxophone, Roland sounds are generally top notch and it has some cool features allowing to play along with backing tracks with e.g. an iPad.
The sounds generally don't disappoint though obviously my Selmer saxes still sound a lot better. But they are way better than the Akai EWI's, even using the Patchman chip on the VL70m. Just use a decent speaker or headphones (The built in speaker do not sound ... very good).
The keys still needs to get some time to get used to. The AE-10 has buttons and it plays not nearly as smoothly as with the keys on a proper sax. They are at times a bit clunky. And it seems a lot less forgiving to sticking fingers or "alternative" fingering (somehow the EWI's are a lot less demanding when it comes to precise fingering - so there is margin to improve also for the AE-10). I started playing flute and still (after 30 years) have the bad habit to press the D# key on my sax just about all the time. A no-no on the AE-10 so it seems. So I may need to reconfigure some keys (but only 10 alternative fingering allowed at present). Or maybe it will make me play with a bit more discipline. Perhaps not bad. Time will tell.
For me a real attraction of this instrument is that it is light and easy to carry around, also on a business trip. You can play just about anywhere without bothering anyone. And with the addition of a little Bluetooth receiver I can hook up my iPad an play completely wireless with my backing tracks. Great fun and good practice.
As a conclusion the AE-10 is great fun to play, even if no replacement for the real thing. It's not perfect. Let's hope the concept catches on and motivates Roland to develop an even better version. I might be the first one to buy it.
PS.: The mouthpiece seems quite fragile and wears out quite fast. My teeth marks are already quite visible after several weeks of rather intense playing. And the reed seems really fragile too. So ordering a replacement mouthpiece is certainly something to consider.