Akai Professional MPC Beats by themixtape
So, I've never been an Akai fan. But they just may have won me over with the release of MPC Beats, summer 2020.
Installation was absolutely painless. It doesn't give you an option during install, for the plugin location... (Windows) which means, if you have a custom plugin folder like a lot of people have, you have to grab it from Program Files\Steinberg\vstplugins and move it to your VST plugin folder.
That said... I immediately liked MPC Beats.... A LOT. and I didn't think I would.
The free factory content is really nice and covers a lot of ground, musically. And the templates/demos show that you can do a lot, even with its track limits (8 MIDI tracks, 2 audio tracks). But you can do a lot with that.
I love how (almost) everything is midi-mappable to basically ANY 3rd-party MIDI controller. The software and plugin provides a lot of maps for a lot of controllers (including Akai's biggest competitor, NI, and Maschine)... and it's just awesome.
Oddly, some midi-mappable controls (Grid View / Waveform View) are not present with Akai's own MPC Studio (v2), MPC Touch, MPC Ren, etc.... amazing how these controls are available to learn, but not on their own hardware. I find Grid View and Wave view (especially in Program Edit mode) to be really handy.
I used to think the best drum sampler plugin was Poise by www.onesmallclue.com (Windows-only, and now free!), but MPC Beats may be the king.
The waveform view is HUGE. The window is HUGE and shows you everything you need to see. The fact that nearly everything (including all 16 q-links) can be midi-mapped is so, so, SO useful.
If you truly want the best of everything... buy a used MPC Studio (the black version). I picked one up just because I loved MPC Beats so much... now I get everything I need, at a fraction of the cost... and total hardware/software integration. Also awesome is that if you register the MPC Studio's serial # in your Akai account, you get a free upgrade to MPC 2.0 (version 2.8.1 as of this writing). So, win-win-win. Or you can just opt to just use MPC Beats (which I use about 99% of the time, even though I got the free upgrade).
If you love hip-hop and do the math.... you can have a project that has 8 kits (Programs), filled with 8 banks EACH... (128 sample chops per Program... 16 chops spread across 8 banks)... and then multiply those 128 by 8 tracks... 1024 total sample chops.
Granted, you can only use a single instance of MPC Beats if used as a plugin, but that's fine. You really do get a LOT in this.
Bugs? Yeah. It's Akai. What do you expect?
The biggest bugs I have found is, sometimes accessing Track Mute mode crashes it (no big deal). When restarting, it doesn't happen.
But, this bug annoys me: there's a weird octave-shift thing with Keygroups or Plugins, using MIDI Channel 1. If you go down to E2, then hit Eb2, sometimes it drops like two octaves... really weird bug. Workaround is to set your midi keyboard to Channel 2, and you can still record a keyboard part, but without that bug. I've found it happens mostly in plugin mode, but some people have reported it in standalone as well, which is annoying.
There's some other bugs I've experienced... such as switching from Mixer View to Main view... the mixer view is hidden gradually, with every view shift.... then you have to use the mouse to drag the mixer view more visible... that's annoying as hell.
Beyond that, I think this is a seriously DOPE program AND plugin. And you can route the MIDI to record directly into your DAW, and just use MPC Beats as a sound source (I did this with Reaper).
I'm the first person to review this, amazingly! Don't sleep on it. It's worth it, and it's even more worth it to pick up the MPC Studio (v2, black) used... because you can also customize 4 banks of Q-Links, and MOST of the buttons (not all) but certainly more than the MPC Touch... they made that MIDI control mode very limited. You can only map 1 set of Q-links (not including the main notched/detented encoder).... MPC Studio way more powerful, as a general midi controller... and you get all the benefits of the integration with the MPC software.
Hope this helped!!