A robust MIDI controller with great MIDI functionality.
What Is The Samson Graphite 49?
As the name suggests, the Samson Graphite 49 is an upgrade from its forerunner; the Samson Carbon 49. The Graphite offers the same 49 semi-weighted, velocity sensitive keys with the addition of aftertouch (a nice little bonus) and has nearly identical octave and transpose buttons, but offers many more bells and whistles than the Carbon. With 4 drum pads, 8 encoders, 9 faders and 16 function buttons the Graphite gives you what you’d want from a controller for the studio and live performance alike.
The first thing I notice when unboxing this beast is that its rather heavy for a controller with only 49 keys. Isn’t graphite meant to be light? It’s twice as heavy as the Samson Carbon – maybe ‘Samson Lead 49’ is a better name. However, the 5,8 kgs of mass reassures me that it’s not just a piece of plastic junk. (Hopefully it’s as strong as graphite.)
Again, I’m impressed with Samson’s design. With its rounded edges and aesthetically pleasing control surface, it looks like an elongated iPhone with a piano app open. All the knobs, buttons and faders are placed cleverly and I can’t fault them on the design – everything is where it should be.
The LED screen is user friendly. Whenever you press a button, move a slider or encoder its name and parameter values appear on the screen.
The drum pads are a nice size, about 2,5cm². However, they’re a bit too stiff for my liking. I prefer drum pads that have a bit of give. You really have to hit them quite hard if you want to get any response out of them, so unfortunately the velocity sensitivity isn’t that accurate.
Below the drum pads Samson have put rewind, fast forward, stop, play and record buttons – especially useful for live application. If you press rewind and fast forward together it triggers the panic, which is useful in case the controller freaks out.
I love the encoder and function buttons. They’re compact, easily accessible and I really like that there are lots of them. If there’s one criticism it’s that the function buttons don’t light up when you press them (a feature that I was expecting), but they are displayed on the LED screen which I guess is an alright alternative. You can change each button’s function individually to Toggle (on when you press it and off when you press it again), or momentary (on when pressed and off when released) with relative ease. It normally takes a while to figure out how to do that.
The sliders are okay but slide a little bit unevenly at times. The pitch bend and modulation wheels are a little too bulky for my taste, but otherwise work perfectly.
Who Should Own One?
Someone with a firm understanding of MIDI functionality; this isn’t a child’s toy. I find it a bit clumsy for studio use, but it’s really fun to play and will get really good mileage in a live situation. The main issue for me is the weight. My personal controller is around 2 kgs and with all my other equipment to carry around too, a controller that’s nearly 6 kgs is a bit heavy.
Although the Graphite 49 does not have an actual iPad stand (like the Carbon 49) it is worth noting that you can still connect one.
The Graphite 49 is a really practical and versatile unit with more functionality than most 49 key controllers out there.
The drum pads aren’t great but the sliders, encoders and function buttons make up for it. For R 2,995 it’s a bargain. I think with this being Samson’s MIDI controller debut it was a good move to make the price appealing because they’re going up against some big competitors. If you’re still not convinced that it’s a great deal, they’ve thrown in Native Instrument’s ‘Komplete Elements’ – a really awesome production suite with 3GB of quality samples and effects.
Price: R 2,995.00 incl. VAT
Supplier: Audiosure (Pty) Ltd