MPD226_angle_1200x750_web

Akai is a name synonymous with pad controls, via their MPC. But the MPD line of controllers hasn’t gotten a lot of attention lately – until now.

Today, the company unveils a big update to the MPD line. The numbers are parallel to the MPD18, MPD26, and MPD32, but these are really new pad controllers. They remain inexpensive but add additional hands-on controls and features, as well as a redesign of the pad sensing that Akai says is “ultra-sensitive.” Sounds a bit like something condom packaging would say, but Akai’s flagship MPC Revolution has terrific pads, so I’ll forgive the marketing-speak for now and look forward to trying them.

The MPD26 and 32 had hands-on controls, and the MPD18 had … well, a fader. But now you get lots of controls on the whole lineup and a new step sequencer on the top-of-range MPD232.

Also, following a growing industry trend, the whole line is class-compliant, which means it can work with iOS (and Linux and Raspberry Pi and all that, too – and your laptop, without drivers).

Here’s the quick run-down. All have 16 pads, but they have different bank sizes so you can assign those 16 to a different number:

MPD218_ortho_1200x750_web

MPD218_rear_1200x750_web

MPD218: pads and rotaries
Assign 48 pads / 3 banks
18 rotary encoders / 3 banks
MPC Note Repeat, Full Level
16 presets
USB powered (all have USB, but it appears the other two require power supplies)

MPD226_ortho_1200x750_web

MPD226_rear_1200x750_web

MPD226
Assign 64 pads / 4 banks
4 faders
4 Q-Link knobs
4 Q-Link buttons
36 assignable controls
MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing, 16 Level, Full Level and Tap Tempo
MIDI in and out jacks
Transport controls

MPD232_ortho_1200x750_web

MPD232_rear_1200x750_web

MPD232
64-part, 32-step sequencer
8 Q-Link faders
8 Q-Link knobs
8 Q-Link buttons
72 assignable controls / 3 banks
MPC Note Repeat, MPC Swing, 16 Level, Full Level and Tap Tempo
30 presets, including DAWs
MIDI in and out jacks

All of them
16 pads that are velocity- and pressure-sensitive
Software bundle with Ableton Live Lite and Sonivox sounds

And, of course, backlighting, because apparently there’s some new industry rule that everything must now light up all the time. Keyboards! Pads! Grids! DJ gear! I think the LEDs now have their own LEDs. But yes, you get that, too.

RGB on the 232 and 226; red backlighting on the 218.

More importantly, you get loads of editing options. Front-panel preset editing is possible, and there’s a Preset Editor. That helps fill a void left by the original M-Audio Trigger Finger, I think.

But that brings us to some confusion, InMusic. Because you’re adding pads to nearly everything you make, even across brands that aren’t Akai (like M-Audio and Alesis). M-Audio also makes the Trigger Finger Pro – which also has a step sequencer. What do these brands mean, exactly, given the similarities? Akai doesn’t resolve matters in the press release; before they introduce the product, they introduce “Akai Professional, a leading manufacturer of keyboards, mixers and production equipment for performers and recording artists.” For the record, that same description fits Alesis (exactly) and M-Audio (minus the mixers).

What I do see as potentially encouraging is that the MPD232 appears to improve on what the Trigger Finger Pro already did. The Trigger Finger Pro is great, but it’s a bit bulky, you don’t get faders for steps, and the pads are usable but not terrific. If the MPD232’s pads deliver, you could get that same step sequencing power in arguably a more usable interface and form factor – and more playable, too. So that’s one to watch.

What these are is relatively inexpensive. US$199 for the MPD218, $299 for the MPD226 and $399 for the MPD232 retail list – so cheaper than that street. If they’ve got the pads right, that sounds a good deal.

And they have each pad labeled “pad,” in case you are easily confused.

Looking forward to these, as having a pad controller that works with everything has some real appeal, nice as the integration of Push/Ableton and Maschine can be.

MPD218_detail1_1200x750_web

MPD226_detail1_1200x750_web

MPD232_detail1_1200x750_web

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  • Stephan Vankov

    For a long time I convinced myself that I DESPERATELY needed a hardware step sequencer. Until I picked up Touchable (and Mira) for my iPad. So much nicer being able to edit directly inside Live MIDI clips, and see more than one note lane at a time. I guess if you’re sequencing other hardware gear, maybe this type of sequencer works for you, but if you play in the software world like I do, you might find the allure of the 808-style button sequencer pales in comparison to the usability and functionality of a tablet solution.

    • Yes, and (cough), one of these days ModStep will ship. Really good stuff.

      This isn’t either/or, though. I’m really keen to combine the tablet with hardware. There’s a totally different feel playing live with each, and I wouldn’t mind having both.

      You know what you wind up removing in this setup? The computer. 😉

  • Stephan Vankov

    For a long time I convinced myself that I DESPERATELY needed a hardware step sequencer. Until I picked up Touchable (and Mira) for my iPad. So much nicer being able to edit directly inside Live MIDI clips, and see more than one note lane at a time. I guess if you’re sequencing other hardware gear, maybe this type of sequencer works for you, but if you play in the software world like I do, you might find the allure of the 808-style button sequencer pales in comparison to the usability and functionality of a tablet solution.

    • Yes, and (cough), one of these days ModStep will ship. Really good stuff.

      This isn’t either/or, though. I’m really keen to combine the tablet with hardware. There’s a totally different feel playing live with each, and I wouldn’t mind having both.

      You know what you wind up removing in this setup? The computer. 😉

  • Tom

    While I love these, this is a huge missed opportunity for Akai. They released the LPD8 which actually plays sounds on its own. Why wouldn’t they give this the same functionality? This way it could be used as a controller for laptop based musicians AND work as a legit sampler for hardware based set ups.

  • Tom

    While I love these, this is a huge missed opportunity for Akai. They released the MPX8 which actually plays sounds on its own. Why wouldn’t they give this the same functionality? This way it could be used as a controller for laptop based musicians AND work as a legit sampler for hardware based set ups.

  • edisonSF

    i gotta mpx16, and it was the cheesiest-broken in 3 days-plastic-power board failure garbage i have ever spent money on. it was returned and refunded within 5 days. this appears to be the same build, just without terrible sampling guts. i dunno…

    • Tom

      brutal… good to know I guess. Just always been surprised they never tried to make an mpc/mpd combo, especially with all these new analog devices popping up.

      • edisonSF

        yea man! seriously such a good opportunity to make a cheap fully functioning hardware sampler, no bigger than a MPD.

  • edisonSF

    i gotta mpx16, and it was the cheesiest-broken in 3 days-plastic-power board failure garbage i have ever spent money on. it was returned and refunded within 5 days. this appears to be the same build, just without terrible sampling guts. i dunno…

    • Tom

      brutal… good to know I guess. Just always been surprised they never tried to make an mpc/mpd combo, especially with all these new analog devices popping up.

      • edisonSF

        yea man! seriously such a good opportunity to make a cheap fully functioning hardware sampler, no bigger than a MPD.

  • Korhan Erel

    I like the fact that largest one has a healthy set of controls and MIDI in/out. I could use it in my new/imaginary hardware set up, controlling and sequencing a Virus, two Volcas as well as playing a Microgranny (using a MIDI thru box). I could even perhaps sync modstep and this, as the Akai would give me more tactile control than tapping and sliding fingers on glass. All that assuming these units are well-built. I was not happy with the APC Mini at all.

    And yeah, any news on ModStep’s shipment date? I’ve been literally putting two projects on hold because of that.

  • Korhan Erel

    I like the fact that largest one has a healthy set of controls and MIDI in/out. I could use it in my new/imaginary hardware set up, controlling and sequencing a Virus, two Volcas as well as playing a Microgranny (using a MIDI thru box). I could even perhaps sync modstep and this, as the Akai would give me more tactile control than tapping and sliding fingers on glass. All that assuming these units are well-built. I was not happy with the APC Mini at all.

    And yeah, any news on ModStep’s shipment date? I’ve been literally putting two projects on hold because of that.

  • Frank

    Nothing beats the Korg Padkontrol.

    • Ashley Scott

      this is the truth

  • Frank

    Nothing beats the Korg Padkontrol.

    • Ashley Scott

      this is the truth

  • Jerome pera

    is that the mpd 218 has the mpc swing. I want to buy a cheap akai controller that has the swing, to control ableton live or other daw. I just want the mpc swing, can someone help me?

    • aaa

      yes it has. whit the NR CONFIG button and the upper 8 pads you can assign the amount of swing that you want

  • Jerome pera

    is that the mpd 218 has the mpc swing? I want to buy a cheap akai controller that has the swing, to control ableton live or other daw. I just want the mpc swing, can someone help me?

    • aaa

      yes it has. whit the NR CONFIG button and the upper 8 pads you can assign the amount of swing that you want

  • WetBoy

    Dunno, the Arturia BeatStep Pro is the controller / sequencer to beat IMO, especially at its street price, way cheaper and more versatile than the that 232

  • WetBoy

    Dunno, the Arturia BeatStep Pro is the controller / sequencer to beat IMO, especially at its street price, way cheaper and more versatile than the that 232

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    Mpd 266 looks kinda like Trigger Finger pro…

  • Krzysztof Cybulski

    Mpd 266 looks kinda like Trigger Finger pro…

  • Just a detail: Funny how the knobs and faders are counted in the specs. The small one has only 6 knobs, but the specs suggest that it’s got 18. I know it is because you’ve got 3 banks to switch between, but it always annoyed me when manufacturers make their stuff sound greater than it actually is. Same with a lot of audio interfaces and their in/out counts…

  • Just a detail: Funny how the knobs and faders are counted in the specs. The small one has only 6 knobs, but the specs suggest that it’s got 18. I know it is because you’ve got 3 banks to switch between, but it always annoyed me when manufacturers make their stuff sound greater than it actually is. Same with a lot of audio interfaces and their in/out counts…

  • misa
    • Roikat

      I like the trend to more neon-y colors (RGB is so 2012) but I gotta have the tops of my buttons light up or it’s just not right.

  • misa
    • Roikat

      I like the trend to more neon-y colors (RGB is so 2012) but I gotta have the tops of my buttons light up or it’s just not right.

  • Virtual Flannel

    I wonder if the 232 will work stand alone without a computer a la Launchpad Pro??

    • Tom

      yeah the launchpad pro doesn’t do that.

  • Virtual Flannel

    I wonder if the 232 will work stand alone without a computer a la Launchpad Pro??

    • Tom

      yeah the launchpad pro doesn’t do that.

  • Twumpy

    I’m more interested in what the screen can do. If you can integrate it to the Ableton like Push, the 232 is actually more interesting than Push. I hate the black buttons on the Push, so I’d rather have a bit of light show to see what I am doing.

  • Twumpy

    I’m more interested in what the screen can do. If you can integrate it to the Ableton like Push, the 232 is actually more interesting than Push. I hate the black buttons on the Push, so I’d rather have a bit of light show to see what I am doing.

  • unsaame

    “Akai’s flagship MPC Revolution”. MPC Renaissance, maybe? 😉
    Anyway, looks like Akai is still lacking a standalone pad device that can compete with its older MPCs. They really are the benchmark to me. Limitations can trigger a hell of a lot of creativity.

  • unsaame

    “Akai’s flagship MPC Revolution”. MPC Renaissance, maybe? 😉
    Anyway, looks like Akai is still lacking a standalone pad device that can compete with its older MPCs. They really are the benchmark to me. Limitations can trigger a hell of a lot of creativity.