MIDI Controllers come in all shapes and sizes and make a great addition to any producer’s toolkit, but it can be a drawback for many that are starting out. Allow me to shine a spotlight on the remedy you’ve been waiting for, one that’s not only perfect for the beginner but for the veteran producer in need of a portable and compact addition to their arsenal. They’ve put nearly five years of user feedback into creating a device that looks at home on the desktop of any beat studio and still fits easily in the backpack of any laptop-toting musician.
It integrates with many of the most popular DAWs around, including Logic Pro, Reason, Pro Tools, Cubase, Fl Studio and Ableton Live, so if you’re on a budget or looking for an inexpensive way to keep the tunes bangin’ while you’re on the road then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our review of the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII.
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Operating System: Windows and Mac OS
Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars (Based on 1006 ratings)
What Can It Do?
The MPK Mini is pure Plug-In-and-Go! No additional software drivers to download and absolutely no external power necessary. Once you’ve plugged in that USB into your Mac or PC, you have everything at your fingertips.
The first thing that stands out is obviously the 25 black and white mini keys at your disposal. Emphasis on the word mini too. These bad boys are your ticket to creative freedom with every octave available through the Up and Down buttons in the top left, so you can access the keyboard’s full melodic range. They sit neatly below the unique 4-way thumbstick, the perfect tool for dynamic pitch and modulation control, and the built-in arpeggiator. Use this to create complex melodic lines with the adjustable resolution, range and modes.
The Pad Life
The MPC-style pads are great…for the price you’re paying that is. I mean, they’re not top of the line but the fact that they have any is astounding. I know some full-size MIDI controllers that don’t even have any so it’s great to have these that are both pressure- and velocity-sensitive. The added MPC Essentials software is what takes it to the next level by adding up to 8 pad banks and 4 samples and insert effects per pad. Be prepared to download only once you’ve registered your controller
The Full Level Button is there to keep every pad at the same volume, no matter how hard you hit them. You’ve also got eight assignable Q-Link knobs that can be mapped to your DAW. They can be used on your plugin parameters and for making your tweaks once you’re in the mixing phase. You can also run it on its own without a DAW so Bonus! (but I can’t say I’ve tried or seen it in action).
What Can’t It Do?
There are a few things that work against it, however. It’s not exactly built like a tank, so try not to throw it around too much and keep it out from under anything heavy, especially if you’re taking it on the road. It’s by no means a flimsy piece of gear but a little extra caution will keep it in good shape and let you use it for years to come.
Emphasis on Mini
I have to stress the ‘mini’ factor for a bit. This thing has a shorter width than your MacBook Pro. As you may know, it basically means that your keys are going to be slightly smaller than your average keyboard. They already take some getting used to and it may only frustrate you if you’re used to using a full sized set. I’d say they’re about slightly larger than a penny, but still very useable.
What Comes Extra?
The extra sauce on top comes courtesy of the software that’s available to download once your product is registered on the Akai website. I’ve touched on the MPC Essentials but along with it comes Hybrid 3, created by AIR Music Technologies. The same group of Einsteins that created the Xpand!2, a plugin I use on almost every track I create. This virtual synthesiser can create classic leads and retro sounds with a full range of digital manipulation capabilities. To accompany it is Wobble, the Dubstep grime generator by SONiVOX. It is designed to create the craziest and most unique pulsating sounds so you can bring the grimiest bass lines to life. Both of these cost over $200 when sold separately so it’s practically a steal.
Why You Should Get It
What still amazes me is the amount of sheer value that you get from this controller. That’s what makes it such a great starting point for anybody new to the art of electronic music production (or Makin’ Beatz as I’d say). Whether you started making tracks last month or last night, extend your kit with this no problem. ‘Mini’ won’t even be a factor eventually once you let your fingers do a bit of walking over these keys.
If you’re looking for something more suited to Ableton users then look no further than the Novation LaunchKey Mini MKII, probably the Akai’s closest competitor in this price bracket. If you’ve got a little less room in your budget then allow me to turn your attention to the Akai LPD8. It’s a small controller with just the pads that is another great starting point when building out your beat studio.
Have you had any experience with this controller? Want to know more before you go? feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com
The Short Version
- Incorporates 5 years of user feedback for an all-new, enhanced design
- 25 synth-action mini keys
- 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control
- 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads with Note Repeat & Full Level
- 8 assignable Q-Link knobs for mixing, tweaking plug-ins, and more
- Built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes
- Dedicated Octave Up and Octave Down buttons
- Ultra-compact design lets you create anywhere
- USB-powered; no power adapter required
- Full-size sustain pedal input jack
- Comprehensive production software package included: Akai Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, and Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech (downloads)
- MIDI Controllers For Beginners: The Good, The Bad And The Magnificent
- Novation Launchkey 25 Review 2017: The Choice of Champions
- Alesis V25 Review 2017: Still Missing The Bullseye?