At the bottom end of the market, the difference from one product to the next tends to be obvious: spend a little more money and you might add a few features or step up from micro keys to full-size. Once you get past a certain point, the differences get a bit harder to spot. Most brands tend to stick to a fairly standard formula of full-size synth action keys, mod wheels, rotaries, sliders and pads. Some focus more on integration with particular software, but most are designed to play nicely with all the main DAWs and plugins. What you might not realise until you try a more expensive model in person is that the build quality tends to increase substantially when you reach the mid-range point where M-Audio’s CTRL 49 sits.
The CTRL might not blow you away with unique features, but it’s a class act, with the clear and bright screen providing feedback on plugin parameters thanks to VIP integration.
There’s a decent bundle of software included, but at this price that’s probably not your main focus. What you get for your money is a well thought out, dependable controller that’s sturdy enough to handle live use as well as studio applications.