In this Akai Professional MPK Mini review, I’ll get into as many of the awesome things it can do as I can remember. I’ll also be going over the few if any limitations it has.
Do you want to kick your beats up a notch? Have you been struggling with efficiency? Are you interested in creating music in new ways or learning new instruments? If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, you might want to learn more about it.
Feature-packed for creating music faster.
Akai Professional MPK Mini is an MPC (beat machine) and a 25 key midi controller combined into one single space-saving unit.
- It features two banks of eight fully programmable MPC drum pads that can be edited when connected to a Mac or PC via included USB cable
- Each pad has its own individual analog 270-degree gain control knob
- It has a twenty-five-note velocity-sensitive multi function MIDI keyboard control with an octave up/down to give you a ten-octave range
- There’s an Arpeggiator On/Off button with five modes, a three-octave range, and six swing settings
- A Tempo button that allows you to tap to set it the exact setting you want
- It also features a programmable four-axis pitch bend thumb stick
- There’s a “CC” option that switches between the type of midi signal that the pad sends
- When the “Prog Change” button is active the pads send a MIDI prog change message instead of MIDI Note On messages
- The “Full Level” button switches the pads to Full Level Mode where they always play at a maximum velocity no matter how much pressure is used
- Hold the “Note Repeat” button while striking a pad or key to retrigger the note at the same tempo and timing settings
- There’s also “Prog Select” button that lets you choose from four programmable pads
- It can be used with an M-Audio SP-2 UniversalSustain Pedal.
Too many pros to list unless you want a novel.
Aside from the multi-functionality because of all of its keys, buttons, and pads, the MPK mini is packed with unexpected bonuses. It comes with its own software, an entire library of patches and samples, a free version of some popular DAW software, and a lot more.
It even has a jack for an optional 1/4 inch TS sustain pedal. I use an M-Audio SP-2 which works perfectly just like any other electronic keyboard pedal.
Along with all that, it has a small footprint and is built like it was meant to last forever. I literally beat on this thing for hours on end as my main IO device when in music production mode. When I notice it has my greasy fingerprints all over it I just wipe it with a moist paper towel and like magic, it looks like it’s brand new again.
Too few insignificant cons to worry about.
The cons list for this machine is so low because Akai put in the painstaking work of figuring out everything you could ever need out of an MPC and a MIDI controller in one. All that and the way they put functionality first as its base and form to bring it together the way they did.
So, one of its most major flaws is that it sometimes only recognizes three keys at any single time on the MIDI controller. This is not unheard of in a lot of inexpensive controllers. However, when a piece of equipment has “Professional” right in its name, you’d expect all of it to be a certain standard.
Another flaw it has is that it’s not initially user-friendly when it comes to the programmability of the pad patches. If you expected to just cycle through instruments as you would on a more expensive stand-alone MPC you’ll be immediately let down. Instead, you’ll have to search for samples and patches through your DAW.
Who needs an MPC and a Midi Controller combined?
Before I got an MPC or MIDI controller I feel like I was making amateur beats that didn’t have that magic, like they were all too robotic or obviously on a grid. If you make beats or compose music of any genre and you don’t already have one or the other this machine is perfect for learning. It’s mostly intuitive besides the aforementioned programmability.
Anyone who’s serious about music production will always try to learn new ways to create. What better way than with a combination of a MIDI controller and an MPC? Granted, that does create a couple of limitations, One is there are only eight pads instead of the usual sixteen, but that doesn’t matter much because of the A/B button to easily and quickly switch between patch banks.
I don’ have a lot of space on my desk after all the other equipment I have, So, its tiny footprint makes up for its lack of a full-size keyboard or the pad setup of an entire beat machine with all its gidgets and gadgets.
What is the MPK Mini normally used for?
The MPK mini is essentially an input device made for interacting with your DAW. It is not a stand-alone unit, but they do have a version with more memory and speakers. Anyway, it just sends a signal to the DAW so you aren’t just clicking on the patterns and hoping for the best.
Its MIDI keyboard is perfect for figuring out that melody or just playing what you know works. Granted if you’re a highly trained pianist you might notice the sensitivity is a little lacking. However, it does get the job done if you use editing software to layer in notes that are missing from the chords you intended to play.
The MPC pads are great for tapping out your beat just like an electronic drum set. Since they are pressure-sensitive, there is essentially an infinite amount of combinations of dynamic range that can be applied to any track.
As soon as you’re ready to go from pointing and clicking or stretching loops out, this is a perfect first stepping stone to start upgrading your production skill and equipment.
Where can it be used most effectively?
Basically, this machine is an extension of your computer or laptop. I can pull out my MacBook air and the MPK mini, open up Garage Band and five minutes later I’m making a beat that slaps.
When I’m not using it, I normally leave it next to my workstation in the case that I bought separately. It sits on my lap when it is getting used, so I can use that, my computer keyboard, mouse, and still have room for everything else. When I need to set it aside it’s small enough that I can easily find a spot for it.
As long as you have some sort of computer to connect to anywhere can become a studio. I’ve taken it to family get-togethers and brought along my laptop and some Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. By the time I would leave, I’d have a banger ready to be mixed.
Why didn’t I just get a separate MPC and Midi Controller?
Space is my main concern. I have a desk, a recording booth, a lamp, two cabinets, a bookshelf, and a TV console crammed into a corner of a room. On top of my desk, I have my 8 “monitors, microphone interface, mouse pad, computer keyboard, iPad, and 2 laptops. (A MacBook and a Sony Vaio)
That gives me just enough space for an MPC or half of a MIDI controller. Well, that doesn’t work unless I can shrink them down. Akai basically did just that. By combining them into one unit they had to make some changes to the originals but you don’t really lose any production value.
How does the combo affect music production? Sure you have to switch between the A and B banks for all the sounds to be accessed but if you are just adding one instrumental layer at a time, it does that perfectly without any issues. Of course, having fewer keys and drum pads does create some limits, but those are easily fixed by the push of a button.
I wish I had gotten an MPC much earlier than I did.
When should I have gotten an MPC or Midi controller or both? Well, back in the day I had a keyboard that had XLR to MIDI compatibility, but one of my friends had a keyboard that died on him. So, I regretfully gave it to him. He probably got way more use out of it in the long run because he was in a band, but it probably stunted my beat-making abilities for a significant time.
I should have replaced it much sooner, but I was stubborn and just stuck to the point-and-click method. That was not a smart decision. Especially, when an average MIDI controller alone is about $100 so it’s definitely not unattainable.
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Akai MPK Mini MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller + M-Audio SP2 Sustain Pedal, with Software Suite –Bundle (Black)
Now, owning an MPC or Beat Machine is another story. They are usually expensive unless you get them used. Obviously, they have a lot more functionality than the MPK mini, but even the All-in-one model is pretty close in comparison.
If you enjoyed this article and thought it was helpful, or found an error that needs to be fixed, feel free to hit me up in the comments below or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 thoughts on “Akai Professional MPK Mini Review”
Wow, this is definitely the smallest keyboard that I have ever seen but the price is great for all the features that you are getting. The ability to work it to create music to transfer to your computer is also a big plus, especially if you write your own beats to use online.
I was just wondering if the keys are weighted like that of the piano, but I don’t see anything mentioned so I imagine the keys feel like those on a normal keyboard to play.
No, the keys are just like your average keyboard by touch. However, all the ways the patches can be manipulated with live effects make up for it a little. Especially because it does register each key’s velocity plus, you can just edit it in your DAW.
I have a friend who is a music producer. I am not sure if he has all the equipment he needs so I will be sure to share this article with him. I will let you know if this helps him or not so thank you for this. I also learned a thing or two. It is always good to learn new things.
I’m an autodidact. So, I’m always in learning mode. It’s probably why I love music production so much because there’s virtually an infinite amount of things to learn from instruments and DAWS to music theory and production itself. It’s basically unlimited input, kind of like listening to music. I doubt anyone could listen to or recreate/play every song ever made, or even a fraction of them, in a single lifetime. Either way, I still want to give it the old college try.
A lot of people I know call me coach because I’m always rooting for their success, trying to help them any way I can. Especially, when it comes to making music. I could go on forever. I will eventually be posting actual production videos as a supplement to these as I grow my site, but first I’m going to go through all the necessary equipment and the stuff I think helps make it easier and more efficient.
What kind of stuff does your friend produce? Is it just the music part or is it recording lyrics, mixing, and mastering too? I started in 2000 and make just about everything except country, but I tend to do mostly hip hop/Rap, plus I’m learning to master more recently.
Anyway thanks for the encouragement to continue. I’m sure I’ll see more of you around. Until then, have a good one.