I’ve written about this particular brand more than a few times on this site and I’ve rarely disliked what they have in store. Akai Professional have built a significant reputation amongst music makers everywhere that has lasted decades but they are by no means perfect. Like all musicians know, not every song is a hit, and that’s the case right here with the Akai MPX8. It’s definitely a great…idea but I don’t think this tool makes much sense in today’s market.
Still, there are some redeeming qualities to it that make it an appealing device. It’s light and compact, making it highly portable if you’re in the mood for some composing on-the-go, and can stand alone as an instrument with its own preloaded samples, a feature many live performers crave and one that is sorely missed on the market.
As a MIDI Controller, it works with most of the major Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) on the block, including Ableton Live, Logic, Pro Tools, Reason, Cubase, FL Studio and even Garageband and Magix Music Maker, so no matter which music making software you use, it should do the trick. There’s a lot to love at first glance but once you take a closer look there’s, even more, to make you question why some producers are adding this to their toolkit. I really don’t recommend it to any beginners but let me explain why in my Akai MPX8 review.
Cheapest Place To Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars (Based on 73 ratings)
What Can It Do?
This is one MIDI controller that can almost proudly wear the label of full blown ‘instrument’ since it doesn’t need to be plugged into a laptop (or have a DAW open) to work. It doesn’t produce sound on its own but with a simple 1/4″ jack connection to your favourite speakers, you can start rockin’ out, playing your favourite beats directly off the device. The next thing that stands out is the teeny tiny backlit screen sitting on the left and from here, you’ll access many of the features on the MPX8.
In combo with the data wheel, you can cycle through and select various samples from the internal sound bank or from your own sounds preloaded onto an SD card (up to 32 GB max). The two select buttons allow you to navigate through the features on the screen so you can make some minor edits, like tuning your samples or adding a bit of reverb. The 8 backlit drum pads are all velocity- and pressure-sensitive and are your main ticket to creative freedom with this device.
Once you have a sample or drum kit loaded, you can start tapping out your creations live or in your DAW. It’s great for one-shots, loops and even long samples but there’s a 30MB limit for each set of 8, so you may have to plan carefully if you plan to take full advantage of the sample range. One added bonus is are MIDI inputs and outputs available for you to add this to your complete setup of hardware synths which finally ultimately takes the ‘instrument’ factor to new heights.
What Can’t It Do?
As much as I’ve used the word instrument, you’re still going to need a laptop nearby to effectively use this device. If not for the fact that you have to load your own samples on, I don’t remember ever being able to effectively compose a great beat with a handful of sample preloaded onto an MPC. If I’m going to do some real magic in the lab I’m definitely going to open a laptop and fine tune everything for my production need, so I might as well work within a DAW anyway.
And if I’m going to do that, I’m probably going to use this as a regular MIDI controller most of the time. There are so many other controllers that can fulfil that role with ease at the same price which makes this a really bad option in the end. What about just launching clips or samples during a live show or DJ set? Well, that makes it even worse when you consider the price you’re paying for this. No matter what box I try and put this little guy in, he’s either outclassed or just too expensive to seem like a reasonable choice.
First things first, just look at how much you’re paying and you’ll see exactly where this fairytale begins to fall apart. Just take a look at controllers like the Novation Launchkey Mini that sells at the same price and offers you a bag of goodies that more than doubles the controller’s initial value. Fortunately, you do get a library of sounds to download for free from Akai’s website but I’m not sure if I can trust these guys to supply some great sounds. There’s no DAW that comes with it, just a sample kit editor to…edit samples, so you’re going to need to add that to your purchase list if you’re looking to get started making some hot beats.
Should I Get It?
THAT’S A BIG FAT HELL NO!
I’ve got nothing against Akai themselves (I mean, I personally adore controllers like the LPD8) but this is one I’ll definitely stay away from. I felt like this device is confused about what it wants to be and doesn’t really have a place in the modern producer environment. If you need a great sampler, try spending a little more for something really effective and if you’re just looking for a MIDI controller, look no further than the Akai MPK Mini MKII. Still from the same brand except it’s a much more practical tool for beginners and studio veterans alike.
Got any more questions on the MPX8? Got something on your mind? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakehip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- Add mono or stereo samples via standard SD card (sold separately)
- 8 velocity-sensitive and pressure-sensitive pads
- USB MIDI plus standard MIDI inputs and outputs
- Also controls computer MIDI software and outboard MIDI gear
- Drag-and-drop sample kit editor for Mac® and PC included
- Built-in library of popular sounds and samples
- Includes additional free Akai Pro loop library download
- Tune, add reverb and save sample sets for easy recall
- (2) Balanced 1/4-inch outputs (6.35mm)
- 1/8-inch headphone output (3.5mm)