Akai Professional MPC Live by kcearl
As it stands this is on firmware 2.0.5, which has addressed earlier ommissions and bugs, so Ill stick to the hardware and not bugs which will likely be addressed in future updates. (They better be lol)
Bit of a downer to start a positive review. Are there bugs, yes, there are a few small bugs. Are there features still missing? Yes, the sample offset needs to be global, there needs to be more editing tools for audio, etc etc. Is the hardware really only 600mb of Ram not 2gigs as advertised? Yes more about that later. So is this another half baked, rushed out, concept for ipad loving wanna be DJ melinials? No, unequivocally no, for me this is a game changer and quite possibly the best bit of gear I own. And Ill explain why...
After searching, neverendingly, for a workstation/groovebox/instrument to take me away from my rig, is completely portable, but quality enough to use with my rig my search is finally over...and thats going through MPCs, hybrids with laptops, hybrids with tablets, ipad and dedicated controllers, Electribe 2, hacked electribe 2, korg kross, roland fa, casio xyzpd something, MC 808...finally no more ebay fees!
The unit is solid, it has enough inputs and outputs for its size. The battery is great, Ive had it on for near 6 hrs and recharged in under an hour (take that apple) the pads are great the screen responsive, no lag. The screen worried me, it looked fiddly...but its not neant to take place of the controllers, the way the q links work with it are great. Your finger just takes the place of a mouse click. For instance on sample edit touch sample start, then the q links adjust the start starting in incriments of x1000 for the top knob down to x1 for the bottom knob, its a cool idea and rather than being a 7" hindrance speeds up workflow immensly. So does having all that information in front if you. Most screens on older instruments get crowded and it can be easy to lose your place, not so here.
Is it hard to learn a new workflow for an MPC n00b? Well it might seem a bit clunky at first...MPCs work in a certain flow sequence>track>drum/keygroup/midi and now also audio. These sequences can run as large as you like (128 bars I think) and can be chained in any order in a song mode. But you can also just use one sequence for the whole tune, or you can bounce your song made from different parts back into one large sequence. Kinda pointless on a small regular screen but on the Lives screen its another bit of genius...its almost like working on a regular DAW when its all on the one sequence! Audio tracks, of which there can be eight on the hardware, can play the expanse of this sequence, or can be played in a song length.theres loads more...but this isnt a tutorial lol the warping/realtime timestretching works well. The trick is to set the loops original bpm first. It works better on some material than others and its range is limited of course...but it works (ya hear that NI?)
Sound wise the amps are clear and punchy, recording samples is a breeze, but theres no xlr or phantom power for vocalists though...it can power midi keybords from the two usb slots, and take sd cards and an internal HD...I stuck a 1TB in immediately. The onboard HD should just be left as is imho, too much hassle getting projects off it. It has around 600mb of usable RAM, something that upset many expecting 2gb...but lets put that into perspective, the very latest electribe has 24mb, maxed out mpcs have 128mb, and my maxed out MC808, although it took 516mb, took four hours to load wave alchemies synth drums sample set, yes you read right, four hours! Unless you plan to load full song wave files as some kinda backing band this should never really be a problem. I havent got over 20% on a regular project yet.
It has bluetooth which Ive yet to try my bluetooth controllers on and wifi for Ableton link, which works exactly as it should.
The software is there, Ive installed it, Ive opened it, Ive closed it...who needs computers
Clips mode...why? Ive no idea why this was included, but my four year old loves it, so thank you akai I guess
Word of warning, those looking to use this as a synth module as well as a sampler may have to think again. Whereas loading up a waveform and making an oscillator out of it is simple enough, and the modeled filters do their job adequately, there is only a basic LFO and little to no modulation...this could be, should be, addressed in an update, but who knows...I didnt buy it for this use, but it may be a factor for others (one star knocked off)
So all in all this has surpassed my expectations, it has bugs, niggles, faults even...but they are all small or fixable. I havent touched another bit of gear since I bought it two weeks ago except to record into it. I havent fired my main rig up at all except to get some samples from it. Ive even had it out in my car lol. They got this right, and Ill be first in line for an MPC Live 2 when it comes out as this will be worn out.
Edit: Tried the bletooth with the Korg Nanokey Studio...worked flawlessly, could use the chord scale and easy scale, arps, x/y pad all as Id expect. If the ever get around to adding midi cc control to the Live Ill map out my nanokontrol studio...please?