Rumours of a new Akai MPC all-in-one production device, capable of sequencing, sampling, synthesis and processing without the need for a computer, have been circling for a while — but now it's arrived, there's not an MPC logo in sight. Simply called (the?) Force, it debuted at NAMM 2019, featuring step sequencing, MIDI editing, sampling and synthesis. All of these features are accessed, edited and manipulated via a 7-inch, touch-sensitive, full-colour display and eight continuously variable, OLED-equipped encoders, the movement of which can be captured and fully recalled, and to which you can map almost any internal parameter for real-time modulation.
Cosmetically, Force's most obvious feature is its eye-catching 8x8 matrix of backlit, RGB multi—coloured buttons, which can be used for real-time clip launching, sequencing, DJing, on-the-fly real-time remixing, to tap out rhythmic performances, to trigger the built-in arpeggiator or to access intelligent chord and scale options. See here for a video introduction.
With MIDI and CV interfacing built in, dual Combi XLR/quarter-inch mic/line audio inputs with phantom power, and four audio outs, plus a headphone out, Force has all it needs to talk to your other gear without first going through a computer. Built-in processing, courtesy of AIR Music Technology and known on Force as XYFX, is also provided, including real-time pitch-shifting and timestretching, and there are three intriguingly named built-in synth engines, TubeSynth, Bassline and Electric, plus a fourth, Hype, which combines the output of the others in a variety of presets. You don't even need a computer to record the results of all this, as Force has over 16GB of built-in storage (including over 10GB of existing content), and has a SATA drive bay where you can install extra drive storage, as well as two USB ports where you can connect optional extra MIDI controllers or thumb drives for importing additional audio content. Force can record up to eight stereo tracks as standard without anything extra being added... although for those completely welded to their laptops, integration with Ableton Live is apparently coming later in the Spring.
Force is promised for worldwide release during February, and is priced at £1299.99$1499 in the UKUS.
On the last day of NAMM 2019, SOS Editor-in-Chief Paul White dropped in at the Akai stand and got a detailed rundown of the Force's capabilities from Akai's product specialist Andy Day. You can see that interview below.