I have to admit, I’ve been wanting to write about this controller ever since I saw Zac Efron using one in the movie We Are Your Friends, where he plays DJ/Producer Chris Cole. I know it wasn’t really him playing the song but a lot of what he did was easily achievable and just goes to show what can be accomplished with this little device.
The Akai LPD8 is definitely and oldie but a goodie and is about as basic as basic gets, which makes it almost perfect for anybody new to the game of electronic music production or anybody looking for a quick solution to making music on the go (whether you’re all about hip-hop, trap or EDM). Akai is a brand that constantly delivers affordable quality and the LPD8 is no exception. They been around since 1984 and crossed over into this century as a force to be reckoned with.
Just like their keyboard controllers, it plugs directly into your Mac or PC and effortlessly integrates with any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) including Reason, Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase, Logic and even Magix Music Maker. It’s compact, portable and above all else, ready to help you create music anytime, anywhere.
Maybe you just don’t have a use for piano keys or you’re itching to rock an MPC just like they did back in the day or maybe you need a few extra options to add to your setup, it really doesn’t matter. Without further ado, here’s my Akai LPD8 review
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars (Based on 174 ratings)
What Can It Do?
The LPD8 is a far more useful tool than it’s keyboard counterpart and excels at extending any user experience by giving you hands-on control (no more mouse and keyboard). This thing is tiny too. Like smaller-than-your-MacBook tiny. Like you-might-forget-it’s-even-in-your-laptop-bag tiny. But that doesn’t put a damper on its functionality in any way. Starting on the right-hand side, you have 8 assignable Q-link knobs that have no set function and are waiting to be given a parameter to control, either from an instrument or from an effect.
You could control a cutoff parameter to create an interesting swell effect or assign it to the send controls and have the level of your delays dipping in and out with a simple twist. That’s just a few easy examples but the options are limitless. To the left of those knobs is the main attraction on this controller. I’m talking of course about the 8 MPC-style pads you have at your disposal.
Akai is world renowned for their MPC tech and the LPD8 lives up to their reputation.
All about the pads…
Each pad is velocity-sensitive so the level of each sample is dependent on how enthusiastically you tap out your beat and there’s a handy backlight behind each pad that lights up with every hit (perfect for DJs working in the dark). This controller isn’t just good for playing the drums either. You can assign your own MIDI commands to give each pad a unique function. It could launch clips. program changes (like muting or soloing for instance) and even play a few notes if need be.
Don’t think that you’re limited by the fact that there are only 8 pads. There are 4 programmable banks for you to assign a different set of commands for each different scenario. They can be switched on the fly or from software to software, so the options are really limited by your imagination.
What Can’t It Do?
This is definitely not the MIDI controller for anybody trying to compose super complex melodies or anybody trying to find a super cheap alternative to the Launchpad Pro. Again, it’s extremely basic and leaves much to be desired for the hardcore producer. Especially when you consider the other great first time controllers out there. For just a few dollars more you can easily get one that comes with all this has to offer and more.
I see it more as ‘stepping stone’ device, meaning that it’s perfectly fine for now but eventually, as you start to take your craft more seriously, you’re going to need a tool with a bit more bite that can really get the job done. It’s a decent first item for your beat studio but you’ll be upgrading in no time. Plus, without a ‘Full Level’ feature (like many others have) you’ll have to rely on your own skills to accurately hit the keys right every time when you’re recording and with such limited space, you probably won’t be going anything fancy.
Whereas most MIDI controllers come with some kind of recording software to help you out, the LPD8 does not. Like seriously, some of them come with downloadable extras that double, and even triple, the initial value. Here you pretty much get what you pay for so make sure you have your own DAW to work with. You do get the standard editor software to help you fine tune the pad sensitivity and surgically program the four different banks and that’s it about it, really.
Should I Get It?
If you’re in the market for your first controller to help you start making banging beats without taking too much out of your wallet then it’s definitely the controller for you. However, if you’ve got a higher ceiling on your budget than I’d suggest you look no further than the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII which comes with all the same pads and knobs plus 25 mini keys for you get started on the right note. Don’t get me wrong, the LPD8 has it’s charming qualities and if it does all that you need, I say go for it.
Got any more questions on the Akai LPD8? Wanna tell me about your experiences? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
- USB MIDI works with virtually any music software or DAW
- 8 backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads to send note or program changes
- 8 Q-Link knobs for controlling virtually any parameter
- 4 programmable memory banks
- Editing software for Mac and PC included
- USB bus-powered, no power adapter required
- Class-compliant with Mac and PC, no driver required