I finally got around to buying a smaller keyboard for more studio desktop. I have a 61 key M-Audio key station mk3 under my desk that I can easily slide out when I need to play, but I wanted something for quick access for those occasions when I just need to record a few notes or preview sounds. Here are my findings.
First off, this is a quality little rig. Key action is great, keys do not sound clicky and annoying like most keyboards this size; they actually have nice padding and you can barely hear them. They also don’t have much horizontal play, which is great. Buttons are firm and responsive. Pads are great. Knobs do what they’re supposed to do. Wheels are smooth and responsive.
Truth be told, the reason I chose this over the other MPK keyboards that cost less is because it has the play/record transport controls for DAW. In my case, I’m still using Cubase, although I am in the process of transitioning over to Luna, and there wasn’t a template for it, so I had to make one. I have posted it online if you are a cubase user and want to try it. Fortunately that worked and I can now use it to control playback and record in Cubase. One of the cool things about this keyboard is that almost all of the parameters are midi assignable, almost. More about that in a minute.
In use, it does what it and therefore I consider it a good buy. I’m not going to get into the other features like the onboard sequencer, scales, etc, because I don’t think most people who buy this keyboard will use them. That said, it has an arpeggiator and note repeat button, so that’s cool. However I do find that the pads accidentally record double notes at times. It’s not frequent, but it happens. I wish Akai would solve this problem once and for all because I’ve used other controllers where it is not a problem. Having said all that, I do have a few other nitpicks. They don’t get in the way of the overall function of this keyboard, but they are annoyances nonetheless.
It doesn’t have an on/off switch. This is mystifying to me. We are in the age of energy conservation. It’s not environmentally responsible to not have an on/off switch, and it’s inconvenient to have to unplug it at night. And by the way, if you unplug it, you will lose any custom settings you made with the editor and have to reload them again. Real big pita. The other problem with not having an on/off switch is that if you leave it on all the time you are depleting the life of it. Not good. No doubt in my mind that the display is going to burn out eventually because it is always on.
The pads are lit up by default and there is no quick way to turn them off if they annoy you. Not everyone likes having the pads lit up all the time. You shouldn’t have to go into the editor to turn the pad lighting off. I wish Akai would give us a little switch to turn the pads lights on or off. I actually don’t like a bunch of lights in my studio. I had to put electrical tape over the lights on my Yamaha HS7 monitors bc they were so bright. Enough with the lights already. We are running studios, not discos. 😀
Speaking of the software editor, downloading it is a pita. You have to register, then go to their (inMusic, which now owns Akai) site, get codes, and do all this crazy stuff just to get the editor. How about just a simple download link like the old days? This registration and password stuff is getting out of control. Every studio engineer I talk to is tired of it.
Last but not least, for some reason Akai decided to not make the “SEQ“ button assignable via midi. This stinks. I could have used it to assign “loop“ or some other midi function for more DAW control, but I can’t because Akai decided the button shouldn’t be assignable. An Auto quantize button would be nice also.
Let me end on a good note. The software that comes with the MPK is absolutely awesome. MPC Beats is a killer DAW in itself, and the MPC library that comes with it is nothing short of stellar. You also get Velvet (which is the best electric pianos plugin I’ve used) and another synth called Hybrid VST from Air, which is also awesome. In fact I could make a case that those samples are worth every bit as much as this keyboard so if you intend to use the samples, you’re basically getting a keyboard free. Respect!
I love this little keyboard. Keys are quiet and not clicky, unlike the MPC 61 workstation. (If anyone from the Akai is reading this, please fix the keys on your MPC 61 workstation, they are clicky. Make them nice and soft like you made the keys on the MPK series). I only have a few nitpicks, which is why I gave it four stars.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Recommended.