I’m going to start this one off by saying that this definitely may not be the one for beginners. But for the ones willing to try, it could be the first and last controller you ever buy. There are just so many features packed into this controller that I’m almost tempted to call the Akai MPK249 a proper digital audio toolbox.
You tend to expect a lot from a brand as popular as Akai Professional and they delivered with a device that makes such a drastic extension to your workflow that you might wonder how you ever made beats without it, whether you’re on the grind producing in your bedroom or working in a world class studio. Throw in the potential to go live and you’ve definitely got a contender that can stand up to the Launchpads that dominate the game lately.
Effortless integration means that it’s ready for use with your favourite Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), so whether you’re rocking Ableton Live, FL Studio, Cubase, Logic, Reason or even Magix Music Maker, this guy seems desperate to stop you from using your mouse and computer keyboard to create those hits. It’s certainly got a steep learning curve but with so much versatility at your disposal, it’s easy to see why electronic music producers around the world have their eyes set on owning this bad boy.
That’s why I decided to give it a closer look in my Akai MPX249 review.
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars (based on 68 ratings)
What Can It Do?
Man, where do I begin with this one? In today’s modern music making environment, you’ve got many different DAWs to choose from, and each uses various effect plug-ins and virtual instruments. But like a swiss army knife, the MPK249 has every tool you need on deck. The main attraction has to be the 49 semi-weighted full-size keys because you know, sometimes mini just isn’t good enough. They’re ideal for anybody used to the real deal with aftertouch (for dynamic and expressive playing) and become a composers dream when combined with the 16 MPC-style pads at your disposal.
They live up to the reputation set by Akai’s MPC machines of the past with controls for Swing, Note Repeat, Full Level, and 4 banks of pads available to unlock all your inspiration. I didn’t even mention the RGB backlighting that illuminates them in all sorts of colours. For those that remember the MPK mini MKII, you’ll be glad to know this also includes the much-loved Arpeggiator (with its signature Tap Tempo) as well as the standard Octave Up and Down buttons we’ve come to expect.
There are 2 different sets of navigation buttons, one to control the DAW you’re using and one to use the screen that sits in the centre, above the various transport buttons for stop, play and record. Last but not least, we have 24 Q-Link controllers which include 8 knobs, 8 faders, and 8 switches that can be assigned to anything you wish. Assign them to tracks to take control of your pan and volume or use them on devices to control effect parameters with finesse. It’s really up to you and how you plan to optimise your workflow with this weapon in your arsenal.
What Can’t It Do?
One thing that I dislike about this controller is its overall size. I mean, 49 keys are a lot and considering all the extra gizmos and gadgets that are packed into this guy, it’s definitely not a controller that you take on the road with you. Be prepared to let this monster sit on your desk. Having 3 banks available on your assignable controls seems nice but somehow I just don’t see the use for it when you consider the fact that they won’t accurately affect each bank.
I’m sure by now you’ve seen the dent it’s going to make in your wallet (depending on what kind of person you are) but it’s definitely a worthwhile purchase that the serious producer will always find a use for. Its functionality is only limited by your personal skill.
Like every good MIDI controller out there, this one comes chockful of extra goodies that will get you started on the right note. For anybody still in need of a good DAW, they’ve got one especially for you in the form of Ableton Live Lite. It’s not the full version of the software but it packs enough punch for you to start making beats and composing songs from the moment you first open it up. They’ve also included MPC essentials, a beat production and sample-triggering software that can integrate into any DAW or standalone and operate solo.
Taking it one step further is the addition of Hybrid 3, the next generation Virtual Synthesiser from AIR Music Tech, and a Spectral Morphing Synthesis instrument called Twist from the guys over at SONIVOX. Together, these plug-ins would retail for over $200 sold separately and all you have to do is register your product on the website to collect them.
Should I Get It?
If it’s in your budget then I ‘d definitely say ‘Go for it.’ It’s really a controller that combines the best needs of today’s electronic producer, like a multi-tool in MIDI form. If you’re looking for something a little more suited to beat makers in particular than I’d suggest also checking out the Novation Launchpad Pro. It’s a little more compact too and the 64 pad grid is surprisingly versatile. Fro something a lot more affordable (and still in the Akai family), look no further than the MPK Mini MKII which has all the basic features a beginner needs to start producing effectively.
Got any questions about this device? Want to tell us about your experience? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- 49 semi-weighted, full-size keys with aftertouch
- 16 RGB-illuminated MPC pads each with 4 banks for 64 pads
- 24 assignable Q-Link controllers include knobs, faders, and switches (8 of each)
- Revamped control layout with backlit LCD screen
- iOS compatibility using the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (sold separately)
- USB-MIDI with 5-pin MIDI input & output
- Comprehensive transport and parameter controls for hands-on DAW integration
- MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing, and arpeggiator for advanced rhythmic and melodic manipulation
- MPC Full Level, 16 Levels, Tap Tempo, and Time Division assist with dynamics and tempo
- Pitch bend, modulation, and octave controls for expressive recording and performing
- 1 assignable footswitch jack and 1 expression jack
- USB power and plug-and-play connectivity
- Production software package included: Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, SONiVOX Twist 2.0, and Akai Pro MPC Essentials (downloads)
- MIDI Controllers For Beginners: The Good, The Bad And The Magnificent
- Novation Launchpad Pro Review 2017: Better Than The Original?
- Akai APC Key 25 Review 2017: Best Controller For Ableton Live?