Best Akai MPC – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

The influence of Akai MPCs on the development of electronic and hip hop music can't be overstated. The ability to create percussion from any kind of sound turned sampling into what Vox magazine called a new "artform".

In this article we're going to look at what all the fuss is about. Starting with a short history, we'll dive into key considerations you need to make when buying one and we'll also recommend our favorite models on the market today. 

If you want a quick peek at the MPCs we review, here they are:

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The Best Akai MPC On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

A Short History of the MPC

By the late 1980s, drum machines had enjoyed a decade of two of unbridled success as the go-to option for creating beats. Meanwhile, around the same time, hip hop artists were using samples of recording - especially jazz and rare groove samples - to create new compositions.

The Akai MPC, created by drum machine expert Roger Linn while employed by Akai in Japan, managed to bring the two elements together: a standalone drum machine that was capable of creating samples.

Up until this point, Grooveboxes such as those by E-mu Systems required knowledge of music production and cost up a pretty dollard (up to $10,000 in some cases) - in short, a price way out of reach for most amateur music producers. The Akai MPC was revolutionary in the sense that it made this affordable for the first time.

Where Can the MPC Be Heard?

So where can MPCs be heard? Some notable examples are:

Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best Akai MPC

  • Do you need it for gigging, or is studio use enough? If you’ll only be using it away from an audience, then standalone features might not be your priority, likewise weight and durability will be less of an issue
  • What’s your budget like? The newest versions of Akai MPC’s are much more expensive
  • Do you need an in-built screen? Although nearly all recent MPC’s have one, the more recent versions are similar to those of a smartphone, whereas the older models are more limited and you will be more likely to use your computer monitor

Ok let's look at each product in more detail:

5 Best Akai MPC 

1. Akai Professional MPC Live

Akai Professional Live | Standalone MPC with 7' High-Resolution, Multi-Touch Display

Part of the newest generation of Akai MPC’s, it’s designed to be a completely self contained unit for music production and performance.

  • 7-inch colour touch screen
  • Rechargeable battery with up to 5 hours life
  • Plenty of input and outputs of different types
  • The screen could be slightly larger as in the MPC X
  • The display is flat, making it awkward to use properly without having the whole unit propped up the back - and there are no built in stands
  • Not a beginner’s MPC due to the high-end price tag, which is unfortunate as it is a great tool for learning to produce and DJ

Let's take a look at this product...

2. Akai Professional MPC Touch

Akai Professional MPC Touch | Music Production Station with 7' Multi-Color Touchscreen

Although not a standalone station like the MPC Live, the price is much lower and much of the same functionality is included - the main difference is you’ll need to use it in conjunction with a computer.

  • More affordable than the MPC Live
  • Thick responsive pads
  • More streamlined layout, especially the Q-links compared to the Renaissance, by using selectable banks rather than 16 dedicated Q-links
  • Poor driver support can cause problems using the touch screen
  • Fans of the Renaissance might not like the reduced number of dedicated controls in favour of a touch screen
  • Like the MPC Live the screen is flat, making it harder to use than a flip-up display

Let's take a look at this product...

3. Akai Professional MPC Studio (Budget Choice)

Akai Professional MPC Studio Black Music Production Controller with 7+GB Sound Library Download

The MPC Studio is an earlier iteration of the portable friendly models, and doesn’t feature a touch screen like the newest MPC’s.

  • An absolutely staggering amount of drum kits, synth sounds and more to experiment with gives this drum machine a life of it’s own
  • A decent sized screen is built in so you can use this live without also needing to hook it up to a laptop or tablet for a display, which serves to enhance it’s live gig usability. However, the functionality of this is much more limited than the touch enabled screens and you will need to use your computer much more
  • It’s a very slim piece of kit, making it perfect for travelling
  • The interface is quite cluttered
  • Being only an inch or so thick, it can be damaged quite easily if you aren’t careful
  • The pads are much thinner compared to the Touch/Live and aren’t as responsive to velocity, even after the sensitivity parameters have been adjusted

Let's take a look at this product...

4. Akai Professional MPC Renaissance

Akai Professional MPC Renaissance | Music Production Controller with 9GB+ Sound Library Download (24-bit / 96 kHz)

This is a controller designed to be used with the MPC software - this is one of the more tried and tested MPC models.

  • High quality pads with great velocity sensitivity
  • 16 Encoders that can be set to control just about anything
  • Older style monochrome display, however it does have most of the information needed for you to rely entirely on the screen without using a computer monitor (but this is much less so than the newest screen designs)
  • Quite heavy, so isn’t as useful for using live compared to the MPC Touch once the extra gear like a laptop is factored in
  • Cannot be BUS powered
  • Can cause software crashes unless your computer has high levels of memory

Let's take a look at this product...

5. Akai Professional MPC X

Akai Professional X | Standalone MPC with 10.1' High-Resolution, Adjustable, Multi-Touch Display

The new flagship of the MPC series - it’s loaded with the newest developments in music production technology and is hands down the best Akai MPC you can find.

  • Flip up display and 10” screen makes the touch screen much more functional
  • Completely standalone - no need for a computer
  • 16 dedicated Q-links that can be loaded with custom settings
  • One of the most expensive drum pads and MPC’s currently available, this is a serious piece of equipment that will need an equally serious investment
  • Weighs 12 lbs so can be a little heavy for travelling with to gigs compared to the much lighter MPC Studio
  • Flip up screen can be broken if care isn’t taken, and repairing a cracked screen can be quite expensive if not covered by warranty or insurance

Let's take a look at this product...

So Which Is The Best Akai MPC?

First of all, if you’re primary concern is having something you can use at gigs and don’t mind bringing along a laptop or notebook, the MPC Studio is definitely the best Akai MPC for travelling.

On the other hand, if full music production as well as live performance are what you’re looking for, the Akai MPC X is hands down the most advanced standalone MPC you can get - and possibly the best of all drum controllers.

If you can’t quite afford the MPC X, the MPC Live doesn’t lose too much, is much more affordable and also has standalone capabilities unlike the MPC Touch. It’s also more suitable for gigs than the MPC X, which would be better kept as the studio center piece.

Finally, for fans of the old school generation of MPCs, the Renaissance offers a good balance between new developments and what you would expect from a classic Akai MPC.

However, since most of the newer Akai MPCs are going to be out of the budget range of many people, it’s worth noting that the Studio, Touch and Renaissance are much more affordable compared to the Live and X models.

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