The market is crammed with MIDI/USB controllers at any price and picking the right one for you seems like a difficult task. First of all, consider this: there is no such thing as a controller that's perfect for everything. When you play a sampled piano, you definitely want a hammer-action 88-key controller. When you play a synth solo, you need great aftertouch, which a fully-weighted keyboard would make very cumbersome to engage. When you play a virtual Hammond, you want a keyboard that feels like that of a Hammond, which means lighter/looser keys. Yeah, you guessed it, I do use three separate controllers, depending on what I'm playing. The Akai MPK series falls in the second category.
The Akai MPK 49 and 61 (except for the number of keys, they're identical) have carved quite a reputation for their build quality, which is the first thing that you will notice about them. They really are built like a tank. Everything feels solid and rugged. I wish I could see this kind of build quality in many other products. Besides the keyboard, these controllers include pitch bend and modulation wheels (both covered in thick rubber, which gives them great grip and makes them feel really solid), 12 pads (with 4 banks, for a total of 48 triggerable MIDI notes), an arpeggiator with several patterns and a latch button, a transport section, 8 faders and 8 encoders (each with three banks, for a total of 24 items controllable from faders and 24 from encoders.)
The MPK 49/61 keyboard falls in the "love-it-or-hate-it" category. It's definitely stiffer (as in offering more resistance to your fingers) than that of competing products, a fact that Akai acknowledges by calling it "semi-weighted." Personally, I love it, and I suspect that any trained pianist would enjoy it just as well. Stiffer means more responsive, and this keyboard is incredibly responsive. Yes, if I need to play a virtual Hammond, I'd want something looser, and that's why I have a third controller besides the MPK and a fully-weighted 88-key controller (it could be something cheap, remember that you won't need any aftertouch for that.) But it's only for that, and therefore rarely used. The aftertouch on the MPK is incredibly precise and easy to control, something that few controllers can boast.
The drum pads are stiff too, and that, unfortunately, is far from ideal. You need to really bang on them hard to trigger high MIDI velocities (>100), while lightly tapping may not trigger anything at all. True that pad sensitivity can be dialed up from the menu, and that seems to help somewhat. Also, there's a button for full-level only, although, of course, that kills dynamics. The truth, however, is that the pad response is very disappointing. Fortunately, the fix is pretty easy. If you go on YouTube and search for "MPK pads", you will find dozens of videos that teach you how to make the MPK pads just as good as those of the MPC series. I suggest you spend a little money ($10-15 or so) to get one of the good retrofit kits on the market rather than go for a more "redneck repair" solution like using duct tape, whose adhesive can actually seep into and damage the controller's electronics.
The MPK comes with 30 presets, 13 of which "generic." All of them are fully editable. They include Live, Reason, Cubase and Sonar among DAW's, and then one for Arturia synths, Rob Papen, Arkaos VJ etc. If you use any DAW other than those four, however, you will have to configure the controls manually. Or maybe someone has a script for you available for download (Google is your friend...) My MPK worked fine with Cubase 6 right off the bat, except for the transport section and the arpeggiator. Since I never use the onboard arpeggiator and I have other controllers that handle transport, I haven't bothered looking for scripts on the net, but I know that they are out there. Once again, google the solution.
The MPK 49 and 61 are not cheap ($399 and $499 respectively), but you can save $50 or more shopping on EBay or online discount outlets. These prices, however, align with those of competing premium controllers manufactured by other brands. If you like a stiffer but more responsive keyboard, this is definitely the one for you. If you are a beginner or your main instrument isn't keyboards, you might be better off with a controller that has less "inflexible" and more "forgiving" keys.
Disclaimer: I don't OWN this keyboard, rather I have borrowed it long-term from a friend. So this review can only take into account the unit itself, not the packaging, physical documentation or software, etc. We begin:
The first thing I noticed about this keyboard is its construction, which I'll admit impressed me. It's hefty, and the outer shell seems very sturdy indeed. The knobs, faders, and buttons feel great to my fingers. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the keys and pads. The keys aren't full sized, and their ("semi-weighted") action feels flimsy to me. If you aren't much of a keyboard player, this might not matter to you. If, however, you do require the feel of a real piano, quit reading this review right now because the MPK49 is not for you. Onto those pads: I have read elsewhere that the MPK's pads have been a letdown to those who expected the same feel and quality as the legendary MPC line. I whole-heartedly agree. To me these 12 pads feel stiff and rather shallow, i.e. there's not a satisfying amount of vertical movement. You really have to bang on these suckers.
On the plus side, the keyboard looks rad when it's plugged in. The modulation wheels glow and little LEDs blink red alongside a sleek blue LCD display. As awesome as this is onstage or in your studio, there is an immediate downside: It's ALWAYS on! Even when your computer is asleep. There is no on/off switch on this keyboard, so you'll be plugging and unplugging the USB every time you use it. I suppose you could leave it on all the time if you wanted to, but that would bug the hell out of me.
Another complaint I have is that the keyboard has not held up well. A couple months after I started using it, the octave up button stopped working permanently, and some of the keys have started to respond worse and worse. This despite my gentle and infrequent use, and covering it to protect from dust. Apparently you can repair these things, if you don't mind the hassle. I do.
One more note: although the MPK includes 15 or so presets for popular DAWs and synths, there's no preset for Logic! A disappointment for users of the ever-popular DAW.
The previous described the keyboard as "love it or hate it." Call me a hater!
That's about it. Thanks for reading!
I have had the AKAI MPK49 for about four months now. Before this unit, I had only a M-Audio Keyrig 49. This is what I think of the MPK49 in use with Logic 9:
Sound Quality: 10
Simply for the fact that this is a MIDI Controller, so there is no sound create from this unit, but only sound triggered through your DAW or sound module.
Ease of use: 9
The LED display is bright and clear white-on-blue configuration. There is some buttons you can use to configure the controller as you like. The rotary selection knob seems a pretty cheap feature, but it actually works extremely well with the other buttons. The rotary knobs and the sliders can be used with almost anything in your DAW if you use the "Learn" mode. This is quite a nice feature, but sometimes it can take a while to set it up. Once set up, it works great. The Arpeggiator works well, is easy to use and makes great phrases. The pads are easy to set up too and is one of the features I was really looking forward to use...
The pads, you must have heard about it, are not great in stock form. They are difficult to hit and so a drum beat is very hard to do. The solution is to get those fat pads sold on a third party vendor. These are wonderful. Very responsive and playable in any situation.
Features : 8
Well for features, like mentionned earlier: The arpeggiator, the rotary knobs, the sliders, the pads, they are all very useable. I put 8 because of the pads that need to be replaced to have a 10. The keys are very responsive, very sturdy and feels great to play with.
Bang for buck : 7
Because the pads need to be replaced for this controller to really shine, I gave it a 7. It will cost you more, but the results are worth it. I will not be searching for another MIDI controller. This is it for me and it could probably be it for you. My advice is try before you buy and keep in mind that you WILL want to replace the pads.
As far as controllers go this one is better in some ways than the maudio axiom and not as good in other ways.
I like the build it doesnt feel as cheap as the almost expected budget chinese plastic.
It looks cooler.
The key action is stiff and I dont feel for my playing style is ideal.
The one thing I liked about the axiom was its key action.
This keyboard has a hard time being lightly
pressed and triggering, maybe as the first reviewer would suggest this means I have bad technique.i just feel that the way I play was not an immeadete fit with this action YMMV, whereas with other controller there is a feeling of a good fit.
Now the drum pads one might dream are just like the akai mpc, well it is a nice dream.
Good to know there is a mod, well thats a mixed feeling, even though this looks nicer then similarly priced contollers its not.
When you buy something at this price I guess if you know nothing at this price is going to do everything right, then , cool a mod value added.if however you were hoping you would not have to fiddle to get the product done right well......
That said this is a good solid controller for the money, and to be fair I have never played
a controller with built in pads that felt right or had enough.
I guess because of the name sake I was hoping for excellent pads.
All in all I like this controller.
I find keyboards tend to wear in over use time, and at any rate you do get used to
the feel of what your muscle memory gets used to.
Worth checking out, but to.me besides the looks not leaps and bounds better then others in its price class.
I got mine when it first came out and its been great. I feel like it just came with everything someone would need for today's productions. I thought it was better to get the MPK 49 and get samples vs. a real Roland or Moog... and being stuck with only those sounds.
The MPK allows for cool effects with the knobs and faders.
I moded the drum pads to increase the sesntivity (My only complaint) but fixable so no biggie....But Idk if this will mess up your warranty if you have one Mine was so old already it didn't matter.
I also like the feel of the simi weighted keys.
Presets com stock for almost and platform that your using. From Reason, Cubase, Sonar... list goes on and on. Good stuff.
Can't say much bad about the keyboard. I've had it for years now... no problems at all. Worth @ least giving a try.
I'm not normally one for writing reviews, but would just like to state the following:
If you're a keyboard player, make sure you try one of these in person before you lay down your hard earned escudos, because the keyboard action is really terrible - extremely stiff and more or less unplayable. Same goes for the pads. Obviously you're getting a lot of features for your money, so i s'pose they had to make savings somewhere!
I also have a Roland A-49, which is a really cheap controller, but has really nice, playable keys. So i'd recommend this together with a dedicated controller containing knobs and sliders.
Last edited by I.R.Baboon; 3rd February 2015 at 02:52 PM..