Akai is a legendary brand in the world of music production, and many a classic album has been produced on their samplers. MPCs are famous for their amazing pads, iconic layouts and incredible sequencing abilities. There almost seems to be a magical quality that surrounds the brand, and a certain mystique that is associated with records produced on MPCs. As a long-time fan of Akai products, I was excited to try out one of their latest offerings, the new Akai MPC Studio.
From the minute I took the MPC Studio out of its packaging, I loved its sleek, shiny silver appearance. The MPC Studio has a super slim design, (it's under an inch thick) so it can easily be taken with you when you're on the go. I was impressed that it came with its own carrying case, which is a thoughtful added bonus from Akai. Now I just need to come up with a good excuse to go somewhere so I can take my MPC Studio with me.
Measuring in at just over eleven inches in length, it's the perfect size for beat-making, and will fit snugly beside your laptop, or wherever you happen to be. In the case of the MPC Studio, it's safe to say that good things come in small packages.
The MPC Studio's layout is straightforward and easy to learn, whether you're a new or longtime MPC user. The layout is centered around the traditional, top quality pads that MPCs are well known for. In my humble opinion, they're still the best pads for drum programming. The pads are velocity and pressure sensitive; I really like how they light up different colors depending how hard (or lightly) you play your samples. Up at the top, there's an LCD display you can use for programming and editing. However, you can also use the software to achieve the same great results.
On the right hand side, you'll find many classic MPC control sections; including the pad bank, pad mode, data select, the locate section, and a large jog wheel for easy scrolling. On the left hand side, you'll find the Q-Link knobs, which can be used to adjust a variety of parameters and settings.
Best of Both Worlds
The MPC Studio fully integrates hardware and software functionality, so you can still naturally program beats and samples using your hands, but quickly edit and arrange your sequences using the accompanying software. The MPC studio's software is the same software used by the MPC Renaissance, which offers you two flexible ways to work. You can choose to use the software as a standalone software program to record, edit and export beats in, or use as a software as a plug-in inside your DAW.
Once I installed the software, and the included sample library, I simply launched the MPC software and could begin making beats. The standalone MPC software allows you to create and sequence beats using either the MPC Studio hardware and software program, or simply the software on its own.
The MPC software features different 'windows' for creating and editing. You can record your drum patterns on the MPC (using either the hardware, or the software) and edit in the 'main' screen. Afterwards, add layers to your samples and filter your samples using the 'program edit' page, mix and add effects to each channel in the 'program mixer' panel. Finally, you can arrange your sequences into finished songs. Once you're all finished up, Maestro, export your masterpiece as an MPC 1000/2500/5000 mixer or program, a MIDI file, or an Audio mixdown.
Old school MPC users will be happy to hear they can continue to chop and edit to their heart's delight the way they always have, using the screen on the hardware. New school beat makers will love the software's easy to use functionality. It's the best of both worlds!
One of the really cool features of the MPC Studio software is the fact that you can use it as a software plug-in inside your DAW. This allows you to easily incorporate a sample you've just chopped into a song you're composing, or quickly lay down fresh ideas for new tracks.
The MPC Studio comes with an impressive sounding sample library, with over 9 GB of sounds, ranging in style and sonics. I personally really liked the quality and variety of samples included. My MPC Studio also came bundled with 'The 809', a hybrid of punchy 808 and 909 analog drum samples which I'm looking forward to using in my forthcoming releases.
I still think one of the best features of the MPC Studio is its ability to chop samples and drum loops quickly and easily. To do this, you'll need to find a great sample, press the sample edit button, and then enter into Chop mode. The MPC's Chop mode cuts up the loop into slices; you can choose how many new samples will be created. You can then proceed to convert the loop to sliced samples, and map these samples across the MPC's pads. Re-arrange the samples in a creative way to make something new, or play them live during a performance or DJ set. Just don't forget to clear your samples if you use them in your final track!
Tricks of the Trade
You can also use the MPC Studio and its pads to play samples chromatically. This feature can be used to transpose and write any type of melody, including bass lines, synth leads, or any other type of sample you'd like to compose with. To do this, you'll need to enter into Program Edit mode, and select Keygroup. Simply load up your sample, and it'll be instantly transposed across the MPC's pads. Use these new sounds to create a sonic gem. If your work of art needs a little tweaking, you can use the MPC Studio's software editor to easily refine your recording.
Think Like a Drummer
Ever thought of incorporating your MPC into your live performance? You can use the MPC Studio to add live drums or melodies to play during your DJ set, or in your live show. Or, if you're not quite that adventurous, you can practice your MPC drumming skills wherever you are. Like on a bus, at a jam session, or even in your kitchen. Check out a few araabMUSIK videos for MPC drumming inspiration.
Summing It All Up
Sara Simms sporting the Akai MPC in its gorgeous red case .
I think the MPC Studio is a perfect tool for creative beat-makers on the move. What's not to love about this MPC? It gives you the same software as the MPC Renaissance, the same legendary pads and iconic MPC layout. With its compact size and portable red bag, the MPC Studio is completely roadworthy, and easy to take with you, wherever your adventures might lead you. And with its sweet price tag, you just might have enough left over for a plane ticket too.
- Portable size
- Classic MPC pads
- Use its software as a plug-in in your DAW
The Not So Good
- Slight learning curve for those who are new to the MPC workflow
Price: $599 USD