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It’s the Akai right? How can it not be? They invented (along with Roger Linn) the MPC!
Not so fast.
Since the invention of the MPC there have been plenty of new players that give Akai a run for their money. Today I’m going to look at a few up-and-comers and find out if Akai is still king of the castle.
Information on MPCs can be hard to come across. To be honest, most people don’t even really know what I’m talking about when I mention them.
For this reason, it can be hard to find trustworthy reviews from actual producers.
Nevertheless, if you understand the basics of audio equipment you’ll be able to pick the winners.
Here are my favorite MPCs on the market today.
My Top 5 Picks For The Best MPC
1. Native Instruments Maschine Mk3
- Integrated hardware/software system includes sampler, arranger, mixer, FX, and more
- Includes 25 GB KOMPLETE 11 SELECT library featuring 25 pro-quality studio and creative FX
At first, I put the Akai ahead of the Mk3, but after finishing my research I just realize how great a product this is. I mean, the value is incredible.
It comes with 25 GB of samples and with the Maschine software! I’ve used the Maschine software a bunch and it’s pretty much a complete DAW all on its own.
I have a friend who refuses to switch from the Maschine software into anything else because it’s just so user friendly.
These two facts alone give it a leg up on Akai. In addition, the LCD screen is higher resolution.
It also comes with KOMPLETE 11 Select – 11 premium instruments like, MASSIVE and MONARK, and other effects. Meaning, this is the complete package when it comes to producing.
Now, if you are only wanting something to produce beats with then this might not be something you want to pay for. If this is the case, I recommend the Akai below.
Otherwise, if you want to produce music other than just beats, this MPC (let’s just call it an MPC) is the best option on the market.
The hardware component is of the highest quality, and the workflow is comparable to the Akai below. Keep in mind those of you who learned only with an LCD screen will have a small learning curve to catch up with regarding software.
It’s USB-powered and packed with a built-in, a professional grade 96 kHz / 24-bit audio interface. Basically, what this means is your hardware won’t be holding you back when it comes to professional sound quality.
It will easily interface with any of the popular DAWs on the market.
Bottom line: the best MPC on the market. Period. It’s the best option for anyone who wants the highest quality product with limitless options.
2. Akai Professional MPC Studio
- Production On The Move – Ultra Compact MPC Fuses legendary MPC production with the processing power of your computer; Compact design is less than 1 ½ inch thick and fits easily into a laptop bag
- MPC Software Production suite combining 128 track sequencing capability, real time time stretching, advanced MIDI editing capability, VST compatibility, advanced sampling & audio editing/recording
If you are a purist and only really want to construct beats the Akai MPC studio is likely your best option. This is especially true if you are looking for more of a classic MPC.
If you want something a little more versatile you will want to check out the Native Instrument option above.
Why do I think this is the second best MPC? Simply because it does everything you can want from an MPC at a reasonable price.
The physical form of the Akai is also very impressive. They’ve lightened them up and slimmed them down – making them much more portable and sleek.
For those of you who were around for the original MPCs you may notice something different – this once comes with both an LCD screen and software.
That’s right, it’s more of a hybrid.
Software features 128-track sequencing capability and up to eight pad banks.
The workflow can be a little tricky to get used to, but if you spend enough time you will be able to effortless laydown beats. This is particularly true for those who have learned on an LCD screen.
Otherwise, the hardware is fantastic and it comes with every function you could ever want.
Bottom Line: the second best overall MPC for the price. Great for seasoned users and newcomers alike.
3. Akai Professional MPC Live
- Standalone – Fully standalone MPC natively powered by MPC Software 2 with 7-inch high-resolution display, Ableton Link over WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 Midi Support – No Computer Required!
- Control Evolved – 16 MPC Pads, 4 touch-capacitive Q-Links, transport controls, full monitoring control and much more
If you’re someone who wants (and can afford) the best piece of equipment then the Akai Professional is something you may want to consider.
However, just because it’s the most expensive doesn’t mean it’s better than the two above.
In fact, what you’re really paying for is the portability. This is one of the few standalone MPCs on the market. So, if you’re someone who wants to perform live and don’t want to have to bring a laptop this is your best option.
In may even be cheaper in the long run buying this standalone MPC versus purchasing a laptop along with the additional software.
The LCD screen is fantastic. The 7 inch screen is the biggest LCD screen around for MPCs. The resolution is everything you’d want when performing up on stage.
The workflow is simple enough that you won’t get carried away with unnecessary effects or complicated processing.
It comes with 10 GBs of samples (still less than the 25 GB from Native Instruments.)
You will easily be able to plug it straight into any club sound system, which makes it perfect for those looking to perform live.
Best for: someone looking for an MPC for live performances.
4. Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 Drum Controller
- Compact, music production instrument that integrates powerful software with tactile, responsive hardware
- Four ways to input sound using the 16 pads – drum in pad mode, play melodies in Keyboard mode, create chord progressions in Chord mode, and program in a classic step-sequencer style from Step mode
If you are looking for something that is scaled down and simple this is your best option.
It’s perfect for producers who just want a simple MPC where they can finger tap out beats instead of drawing them in MIDI or using your keyboard.
It’s simple, yet incredibly functional. Once you spend 2-3 hours working out each function you should be able to write a complete percussion section within minutes (as long as your rhythm is there.)
It will work with all of the major DAWs and can even be used on its own or as a VST.
My only complaint is there is a lack of samples included. But, I suspect at this price range this is the best you’re going to get. Which is fine for experienced producers who have already built their sample library.
Honestly, there is nothing really bad I can say about this drum controller. Love it!
Best for: someone who just wants a quality MPC to use with their DAW.
5. Novation Launchpad MK2 Ableton Live Controller
- Integrate immediately and seamlessly with Ableton Live, without any setup whatsoever
- 64 RGB pads light up to match the color of your clips in Live; see at a glance what's loaded, playing, and recording
On a budget? Want more than 16 pads? Want an Ableton specific controller? This is your option.
While I find the 64 pads to be overwhelming, some people really use them to take it to the next level.
I also find them to be a little small for my liking, but if you can make it work then you can create some amazing tracks.
While you will notice the MPC is definitely paired down compared to the others on the list you will still get most of the functionality you need on the controller itself.
However, it’s best used in conjunction with Ableton Live.
It doesn’t come with any additional samples, so keep that in mind when you are comparing the prices.
Really, this is just for the advanced user who wants to play live with a drum controller with more than 16 pads. Or, if someone is really on a tight budget and can’t afford the Mikro Mk3 above.
Best for: those on a tight budget and talented drum controller musicians with Ableton Live.
A Short MPC Buyer’s Guide
MPCs aren’t that complicated. Every single MPC above is fantastic quality and is made by industry leaders. You only have to answer a few questions to find the best MPC for your needs:
- Software or LCD?
- Standalone or not?
- Do you have a sample library already?
- Will you need more than 16 drum pads?
Not all the software that comes with each MPC is created equal. In my opinion, the capabilities of the Maschine software that comes with Native Instrument MPCs is far superior to anything else on the market.
However, this can easily be remedied by using any of the popular DAWs. So if you already have a DAW you’re happy with this won’t really be a consideration.
If you want to go old-school and only use the LCD screen then I recommend either the Mk3 or Akai Live. These are the two with the quality of screen you need to perform.
Speaking of performing, there is really only two reputable options. First is just going with Akai live and having everything taken care of for you, or pick any of the options above and pair it with Ableton Live. Your choice.
If you already have a decent sample library then there is really no need to pay extra for 25 GBs of samples. On the other hand, who can turn down samples!
For me, it’s a really close competition between Akai Studio and Mk3 from Native Instruments. I gave the Mk3 the edge because of the additional add-ons it comes with (samples and software.) But if you already have these bases covered I’d go with the Akai Studio.
If you are performing live then chose Akai Live.
If you want something simple and budget-friendly then go with the Mk3 Mikro.
If you are already talented (or have the ambition to be) in drum controllers then you may want to consider the Mk2 from Novation. But if just want a simple MPC then I’d recommend choosing from the other options.
Hope this helps! See you next time!