The return of the stand-alone MPC exceeds expectations.
Five years ago Akai Professional took the bold decision to move their MPC range to the hybrid software-plus-controller model that was proving a runaway success for Native Instruments’ Maschine. While this would appeal to a new group of beat-makers more comfortable with laptops than traditional drum machines, it left much of the existing user base yearning for a next-gen stand-alone solution. This demand never died away, in fact there’s a renewed interest in self-contained drum machines, grooveboxes, and mobile music devices in general. Akai have evidently been listening and are returning to stand-alone in a seriously ambitious way, launching two new MPCs that offer uncompromising computer-free operation, as well as a hybrid controller mode, and project transition between the two.
There are two new models. The MPC Live is designed for portability and is, on the face of it, a stand-alone version of the MPC Touch (reviewed in SOS September 2016). The MPC X is a larger, studio-based workstation that’s like a futuristic version of a Renaissance or MPC5000. I got the chance to play with both in order to make comparisons, but this review will concentrate on the Live model.
With the MPC Touch, Akai introduced a new interface that combines touch and physical control elements and, as we said at the time, offers a much enhanced experience compared to the software on previous MPCs. This is the foundation for the new MPCs, both of which, like the Touch, can be used as controllers (and audio/MIDI interfaces) for the MPC software. However, they also have on-board CPUs that can run the MPC software independently.
The MPC DAW and plug-in finally hits version 2.0 alongside this hardware launch, sporting a much needed visual makeover with styling inherited back from the Touch interface. It also has some big new features, notably audio tracks, a new loop launcher Program type and modernised content browsing. Despite a great deal of tidying up, Akai have not tinkered significantly with the MPC production workflow, which will either be a relief or a disappointment depending on your perspective.
The MPC Live is the same size as the Touch, but a little bit deeper, and it feels chunkier as the...
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