Who is the Akai MPC for? Who is it NOT good for?

I’ve been seeing a lot of love on the web lately for the Akai MPC.

So who is it for? And who is it NOT for?

FYI, I’ve had the OP1 for a few years. And I play bass, guitar, and synth. Wish I played keys well, but can play scales and a couple of tunes. I also have tons of iPad apps. Started writing songs last year. And I am starting to actually understand the differences between inspiration, music sketching, composition, performing, mixing, and production.

Thanks,
Joe

I’m not an MPC user so take this with a grain of salt, but the current batch of MPCs (One, Live II, X) seem to be built for full song production in a semi-traditional DAW environment. They still work well as standalone instruments/grooveboxes, but you also get audio tracks, actual plug-ins instead of effects sends, decent audio editing, and more. The most recent firmware update even lets you plug an audio interface INTO the MPC to expand its in/out ports. This comes at a slight cost to immediacy since you now need to navigate through a touchscreen menu, and it changes some elements of the “classic” workflow, but they’re exceptionally powerful boxes.

Essentially, judging from everything I’ve seen on YouTube, I would say the current MPCs are for someone that wants most of the features of a midrange recording PC. They support Ableton Link, Splice, USB thumb drives, USB MIDI, USB audio interfaces, and internal harddrives so you’re REALLY getting into computer territory. You’re trading raw power for workflow optimization, which is usually a solid trade IMO.

Fans of older MPCs seem to be slightly less enthusiastic but some are coming on board: Ricky Tinez made a rather-positive video about the Live II last week despite disliking the Live a few years back. SPvidz is mostly focusing on the Live II moving forward and Tefty&Meems get a ton of mileage out of the One.

I’ve been eyeing the MPCs but feel like they have too much overlap with gear I already own (particularly an iPad w/ Beatmaker 3 & Koala). Also, the Live II is huge and the One isn’t battery powered so neither meets my definition of “portable.” But really, it seems like they’re for anyone that wants more than a groovebox but less than a full computer.

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I’ll also mention that years ago I went full-on with Ableton Live and Presonus Studio One. I even bought and read most of a big Ableton Live book.

Got VERY burnt out.

Part of my burn out was in the time spent just to setup the connection between my guitar or bass and the Mac and the DAW. I started tracking the time spent on just setup and futzing around with the DAW vs. playing. Not good. I also realized that many of the musicians I played with didn’t know or care to know about this stuff.

Also, a few years ago I went in deep with iOS and iOS apps and various paraphernalia. Again, realized too much time and energy spent on gear and learning tools and apps. So I went cold turkey on that.

GAS is a hard addiction monkey to break.

Thx,
Joe

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One other thought… I’m also firmly in the camp that “muscle memory”, feel, and just physicality is a significant factor in music tools. Oddly enough, an analog synth seems more “real” to me sometimes than a guitar played through a bunch of gear.

Don’t want to go overboard on anything, but it’s clear to me that something in the music needs to have organic feel somehow. So while I am open to things like software and MIDI sequencing, I’m pretty convinced something in the mix has to originate and communicate “feel”.

Dunno if MPC will do that. And I do know the OP1 can.

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Did you amend the above post?

I’m sure I read something different that I was trying to respond to. No worries though. Just that I’ve now lost my train of thought, lol!

No, though I can understand it looks like my thoughts are jumping around :slight_smile:

Just sharing my musical tool adventures.

The topic is still meant to focus on the MPC.

Who’s it for?

the MPC is great for a few things:

1/ as a one box, no other gear needed, device for quickly getting a beat/song made.

2/ as a high quality sampler.

3/ as a rock solid fully-featured midi sequncer at the centre of a studio full of other gear. (MPC used to stand for midi production centre).

I don’t have any experience wiht the new line of MPCs such as the live and the one. The new line has added synths engines, and so aren’t solely samplers. Word on the street is that the one and live have very good sound quality. (I found the MPC1000/2500 line had a fairly flat, uninspiring sound).

Of course there are lots of videos out there. Su-preme wilder gives you a sense of the spontaniety fun and ease of beat making on the MPC Su-Preme The Beat Maker channel. - YouTube

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Thanks!

I had an MPC2000xl for many years, it was my first sampler/sequencer, and loved it. Very easy to use and play. I built most of my songs just sampling the korg ms2000 I had. Occasionally used midi. Such a simple setup and really didn’t suffer from GAS, just focused on making sounds in the synth and composing beats and patterns on the MPC.

Can’t comment on the new MPCs but I guess they are even better. I’d be tempted to get one, but I don’t think I really need one as I have the OP-Z.

I am blown away by how quick the OP-Z is for composing patterns (although I guess everything has got quicker since 20 years), and neat features like step components and tape track.

However, I find constructing a set of samples on the OP-Z painful as you have to create all sounds for the whole track of 24 sounds. It really lacks spontaneity. It basically forces you to plan your sound palette rather and progressively add or evolve it. It would be so much better to be able to add sounds on a per note basis whenever you like and the OP-Z handle turning that into its own one audio format. So this is something I miss from the MPC, although I don’t miss loading up audio samples from floppy disks :floppy_disk::laughing:

Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences!

I had an MPC Live for a while. It’s a great device but it wasn’t for me. It has some downsides of a computer - after turning it on you have to fuss around a while before you can play any music. (If you like the style of the demo projects then it’s a bit better experience, I guess.) It has some downsides of a hardware device too - like giraffe neck from looking down at a screen in your lap. The workflow is good for looping and sampling, not so much for recording and arranging songs end-to-end.

The OP-1 definitely is for me.

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I just started watching this Ricky Tinez video. At the very least, laying down drum parts and editing stuff like filter and envelope looks like fast workflows.

That said, I don’t know how look it took Ricky to memorize the menu navigation to assign FX, edit envelopes, etc. I’m used to working with Octatrack, so dealing with screen pages, menus, etc. is ok for me, but might be scary to others.

I’ve owned an OP-1 for a while and last year added the OP-Z - both purchases have been purely focused on how much they can do in such a small box, with physical controls and no need for a screen. Okay, a v small screen in the OP-1 case! I don’t have the space for lots of gear so when I buy something I want it to deliver as much as possible in an attempt to avoid any GAS!

I love the 1 for its sound control and sampling but it’s not particularly easy to continuously jam on, more for song making, in its own inimitable style.

And I love the Z because it excels at precisely that - I can start a beat and then without ever stopping it, bring in rhythms, baselines, key changes, style changes etc all live while the music is still playing. I can literally spend hours doing that on the sofa with some headphones on. Love it.

BUT as someone else commented, it’s quite hard to really significantly change the sounds. You can sample, but it does suffer without a screen and I don’t like using the iPhone as I prefer the muscle memory of just the device. So while it’s super quick and super fun to endlessly fiddle with, the music is often of a somewhat similar type.

Recently, and after lots of research, I purchased a Maschine+. I looked hard at the MPC Live II with its speaker and battery as that aligns with the OPs portability. But ultimately, the reliance on a touchscreen on all the MPCs was too much of a trade off for me. I love the physicality of twiddling the knobs, ‘feeling’ the music change. Rather than sliding my finger over a flat surface like I’m doing on my phone screen right now!

The Maschine seemed to align much more to my feeling that the OP-1 and OP-Z are instruments, rather than controllers. They’re something that has to be learned and played rather than simply a hardware interface to some software.

The Maschine sound library is also incredibly impressive - apparently much bigger and better than the MPC, from the reviews. So that is something that answered my OP-Z concerns, it can sample and slice better than the OP-1, it can be played live like the Z, but can more easily make full songs, it quantises everything if you like, (or not if you don’t!), it has multiple ways of inputting music, etc etc etc…

So, that’s all to say, I love it. It answers all my needs of a step up both in ease of use, variety, sound quality, choice, and does it all while retaining the physical, muscle memory that comes with playing an instrument. No it’s not strictly portable in a ‘sitting in a forest making music’ kinda way but I’m not sure I’ll ever do that anyway! It’s certainly portable in that it’s self contained and doesn’t need a laptop, which would almost double its desktop footprint.

But, i would say, it also goes to show just how brilliantly designed the TE interfaces are. For all the Maschine’s functions, it can be very easy to get lost. There’s so much in there that you can sometimes struggle to remember where certain things live, there’s so many sounds that even with favourites, it can take some time to find the sound you’re looking for etc etc. Now, obviously these are good problems to have, but it’s amazing how quickly you can get the OP-Z to make great music, with only a few buttons and no screen!

Anyway, hope this is helpful in understanding what role this type of device might play, and help consider whether you’re a touchscreen or knobs kinda person! Ultimately that was the deciding factor for me.

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Thanks, BillyTuns.

FWIW, the sheer portability of the OP1 truly is a factor in my real world. I’m not a full-time musician and taking the OP1 in my car to a park for some creative work is part of my routine. Yeah, that can be done with other devices, including iPhone and I suppose MPC LIve 2. However, I know from experience I can get some songwork done with OP1.

But to be honest, the Koala Sampler app might indeed be the FASTEST way now for me to get some ideas started. That, and my voice.

  • Joe

OP-1 and MPC user here. Also record in Ableton.

OP-1 is the ultimate sketch tool. Typically it travels with me mourned the house, and I sit down with it and a guitar to write (expressly).

MPC is a bridge between this and Ableton, which for me and many, can put the brakes on creativity (meaning Ableton).

If I come at it with a song done, then Ableton is noting but inspiring, helpful, and additive. But if I do not come with a finished product, I waste a lot of time farting around.

SO, I use the MPC as the OP-1’s bigger, better sounding brother. In his article on the MPC in Sound on Sound Simon Sherborne suggests not asking everything from every piece of equipment. 100% agree.

A computer is not an instrument. It’s a tool and the longer you stay away from it in the writing process the better.

MPC keeps you in the flow state. And the workflow is so different that you write differently. Lots and Lots of benefits. And once you get over the workflow learning curve, lots and lots of music comes out as well.

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Awesome point.

I work in the UX field, and have learned the hard way how much it matters to separate my tools for ideating, sketching, rendering, and polishing.

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Yes! Totally enlightening. Here’s the article.

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Got the article. On my reading list for sure. Thanks

MPC is great for sampling, has some nice synths and fx, decent sequencer - for me it is somewhat of a workhorse for certain things. But it is a bit cumbersome to use at times, the touchscreen is pretty unresponsive, as you can see in Ricky Tinez video mentioned above.

Unfortunately a lot of things rely on the touchscreen, you do get used to it, and a stylus does help, it is essentially like using a computer for a lot of the things it does, but some things like banging out a beat or sampling are like using a dedicated hardware unit.

I think the MPC One is amazing value for what you get, almost a no brainer, but be aware that it does have some pretty bad flaws too, if these will be an issue for you then you might want to take them into consideration:

Bad midi sync, can’t record audio when synced to another device, and because its midi clock is jittery can’t be master, also there is start lag when sampling synced midi devices.

These can be somewhat worked around, but as no one seems to mention the issues it is something to be aware of.

Aside from the crappy touchscreen and the other flaws I mentioned I am very happy with it, there are some other bugs too, but overall good value.

Man, MPC One is great groovebox but I got frustrated by its workflow (DAW in a box). I’m gonna replace it with Circuit Rhythm. I love its simplicity. The sampling is breeze. It’s a PO-33 on steroids :slightly_smiling_face: