In the world of music production today, there’s one name that stands out from the crowd as a provider of affordable and effective MIDI Controllers and that’s Akai Professional. Their first round of MPD controllers was a resounding success and they spent six years gathering customer feedback so they could jam all our wants and needs into a few simple devices. The standout, however, has to be the MPD226 and it’s the one I want to tell you about today as it ticks nearly every box you could have when picking out your next toy.
The art of finger-drumming is taking over the globe as more and more producers demand expressive control over their Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) instead of being tied down by the traditional point and click action of the mouse. Whether you’re rockin’ Ableton lIve, FL Studio, Cubase, Logic Pro, Pro Tools or even Magix Music Maker, it’s sure to add a new dimension to the production game of studio veterans that have been working for years as well as bedroom beginners that wanna get started on the right foot.
That doesn’t mean it has to be a permanent fixture in your setup either. It’s so light and portable that you could take it with you anywhere and have it ready in seconds to produce that magic whenever the mood strikes (we all know inspiration doesn’t take the time to knock). So, here’s my Akai MPD226 review.
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars (Based on 83 ratings)
What Can It Do?
Back in the days when LPs and CDs ruled the musical market, MPC controls were the ones that lead the way for electronic producers creating that signature boom-bap sound that hip-hop is known for. That classic feel of beat-making is what Akai attempted to replicate with this snappy piece of tech and they may have done just that. The main attraction on this device has to be the 16 thick fat MPC style pads that come equipped with multi-coloured backlighting for added visual expression.
Their size and overall feel make tapping out an amazing drum pattern easier than ever with the response of the pads feeling almost effortless and a texture that far surpasses what came before. Even their layout is a win as the symmetrical gaps between them give you enough space to let those digits dance across the board. And there 4 different banks of pads to choose from giving you 64 playable sounds at once. Oh, and when you’re done drooling over those pads, turn your attention to the assignable knobs you get on the right-hand side.
There are 4 control knobs, 4 faders and 4 switches too, which can be assigned to any command within your DAW to give you precision command over effect parameters or just basic channel settings like pan or volume. The classic ‘Full Level’ button is there (as seen on many other Akai controllers like the Akai MPK Mini MKII and even theLPK25) which locks in the velocity of the pads and ensures that each one gives the same response regardless of how hard you touched it.
The ’16 Level’ button assigns one single sample across the entire 16-pad grid and plays each hit back at a different velocity level, starting with the softest hit in the bottom left and ending with the loudest in the top right. Add in the basic transport and tempo controls, plus a nifty little LCD screen for you to fine tune every parameter of this device, and you’ve got something worth writing home about.
What Can’t It Do?
Ultimately, you’ll need to be a bit of a veteran behind the screen to squeeze every drop of value out of this controller. It’s easy for beginners to pick up and play but fine tuning every parameter to meet your need will be a headache without prior knowledge but with experience, every need can be matched.
Speaking of value, it comes in bucket loads with this bad boy. The boys at Akai were generous enough to throw in over $400 worth of downloadable extras to help you start making dope a** beats as soon as you unwrap the box (and take the time to register your product and download the stuff of course). For anybody still in need of a DAW, they’ve included Ableton Live Lite as a startup for your production space.It’s a basic version of the real deal but to give it an extra boost of creative freedom, there’s Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Big Bang Universal Drums.
Those are two great virtual instrument plugins from a leading brand that’s sure to help you unlock the magic hidden in your music making mind. Like other Akai products, it features the well-known MPC Essentials but unlike its other brothers, it features Software Preset Editor which is your main tool when it comes to making those hairline adjustments and getting your controller playing just the way you like it. This makes playing live a real possibility as true musicality and virtuosity are able to shine through.
Should I Get It?
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the Launchpad Pro then maybe this isn’t what you’re looking for. But if you need a solid MIDI controller that’s just right for tapping out your most inventive beats then this just may be the one for you. The pads are great and they, not only make the art of finger-drumming look cool but far more enjoyable as a whole. It certainly looks the part and should fit right at home in the arsenal of any electronic music producer no matter what genre you prefer to make.
Got any more questions about this device? Wanna tell us about your insights? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- 16 Thick Fat RGB illuminated velocity and pressure sensitive MPC pads
- 64 assignable pads accessible via 4 banks
- 4 assignable faders, 4 assignable Q-Link knobs, 4 assignable Q-Link buttons
- 36 assignable controls accessible via 3 banks
- Classic MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing, 16 Level, Full Level and Tap Tempo
- 30 presets total, with configurations for most popular DAWs
- iOS compatible using the Camera Connection Kit (sold separately)
- MIDI In and Out jacks for controlling external gear
- Dedicated Transport controls
- Includes Ableton Live Lite, Akai Pro MPC Essentials, Sonivox Big Bang Cinematic Percussion and Big Bang Universal Drums
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