The world now: a bunch of mismatched cables, and then complicated setup. The world of the future: wireless, easy to configure. Or so we hope.

Akai has managed to deliver MPCs that function both as standalone production boxes, untethered from your computer, and computer accessories (they’re a controller/software combo when you plug them in).

But they’re also making these things work wirelessly with some new technologies.

Via Bluetooth, you can connect keyboards (making this a kind of weird computer, or letting you touch-type your musical sets), or wireless MIDI devices (so you can use a piano-style interface instead of just pads, among other solutions).

Via Ableton’s Link technology, you get the ability to jam with other software, hardware, and mobile apps over a wifi network. In fact, that makes this about the only standalone hardware to do so – though of course it’s really just a PC beneath that skin (and that’s kind of a good thing).

I suspect the stumbling block to this happening more is simply having more of a hardware ecosystem of stuff that does this.

It makes the MPC Live and MPC X still more appealing right now, as well as being a glimpse of things to come.

Now, you still have to decide whether Akai’s workflow is what you want, or whether you want to buy another piece of gear, with competitors from the likes of Elektron and Native Instruments eager to keep you on their side. But if you do, here’s what you get to enjoy, explained in video:

  • Sabre38

    Bluetooth?.. Oh pls

    • Do you have any experience with Bluetooth in a musical context? I’m also kinda turned off by Bluetooth’s potential instability (having tried out several audio transmitters that didn’t even rely on low latency but still sucked a lot).

      • We can go into this – it’s still a good question. But I think for the purposes of whipping out a portable MIDI keyboard and plucking out a bassline, it should be fine.

        Note that audio over Bluetooth is a totally different animal. We’re just talking MIDI. There, the only issue I’ve seen is, sometimes it is actually more work to pair wireless devices than to just plug in a MIDI cable… provided you’ve got a cable handy, that is.

        • Tom

          Agreed. Bought the Nanokey Studio for use with my iPad and PC. As far as mobile setups go, you can’t get much better than an iPad+bluetooth midi controller. Still have my eye on those Lightpad Blocks, but price point is a little high and they raised the price of the new ones.

          • m.ess

            My experience with Nanokey Studio + iPad was an unusable amount of latency to do any real-time playing, only good for playing into a sequencer… Is this not typical?

          • Tom

            definitely not in my experience. did you download the korg BLE app for your device? As Peter mentioned, usable bluetooth will be one way only, midi to device. Audio out will have to be wired.

      • Sabre38

        Simply a laughable amount of latency… Perhaps ok for a mobile friendly production situation plunking in notes on a grid.. But playing parts in live, with timing? .. Agonizing..

  • Nijah Fowlkes

    First off, Akai put the Standalone Challenge in there to prove that it works better as both a Hardware and Software Device by a Bluetooth Connection. Second, the colors shining on the MPC X and MPC Live Pads came from them learning about the disadvantages of Open Labs’ product, Stagelight, as far as the color on the software grid in the drum patterns. Third, the arrangement of the tempo and time signature as well as the Pad Performances came from another disadvantage in Open Labs’ product, Stagelight, with their thing called, “Key Lock”. Fourth, before Akai’s MPC X and MPC Live BOTH worked well with Ableton, Open Labs’ original product was the Neko, a keyboard, drum machine and computer into one. And what was it linked up to? Ableton, Pro Tools and FL Studio. THAT is all Stagelight is based off of- the Neko! And last, but not least, the Neko is MUCH HEAVIER than the MPC X and MPC Live PUT TOGETHER! If you think I’m lying, go look at the Akai Standalone Challenge first, then interviews about the Open Labs Timbaland Signature Edition Neko. Otherwise, DON’T SPEAK on ANYTHING you DO NOT know about!

    • Tom

      what are you going on about?

    • Tom


      Space is that a way!

  • Habib

    I can‘t be excited about any of this given Akai‘s diesmal track record with keeping their promises / delivering on their „intentions.“

    @Akai, where is the MPC 2.0 Release? Shame on them.

  • Arminius

    Wireless connections are not stable or trustworthy. Maybe some day, but not currently. If I’m working with “hardware”, I want tight timing and minimal latency or what’s the point?

    • Joseph Guisti

      I’m with you, and this was my stance on things entirely, until I realized 1) what a joke it is to try and get reliable wired syncing with DAWs like Ableton (I mean, not even close, like a whole sixteenth note of lag, plus jitter), and 2) realized how epic Ableton *Link* is. It’s not midi, it’s its own protocol, and it’s so tight that i use it to sync Ableton and Reaktor, send CV from Reaktor to my modular, send that clock signal to an expert sleepers midi module, then send sync from THAT to my Octatrack, obviating the need for an Innerclock sync system or equivalent, which would otherwise be necessary for syncing an octatrack to software without pulling my hair out.

      Link really is that good.

      Also, when it comes to Bluetooth midi, I was a naysayer until I realized how slow and data-thin the ancient midi protocol is. Any latency I get with a Bluetooth midi controller is probably negligible compared to the latency of the equipment/software itself.

  • Joseph Guisti

    I have the Live and i’ve enjoyed Link support.
    The thing that frustrates me, though, is the total lack of support for *actually doing anything* interesting with midi.

    The internal drum programs cannot be controlled via external midi cc’s. That’s right: your options are note numbers, velocity and pitch bend or go home. That means you can’t use a knobby controller to do anything with the MPC aside from, say, send those values straight through to an external synth that DOES have some use for external CCs, making the MPC essentially a fancy midi through adapter when it comes to CC messages from an external controller.

    Midi FROM the MPC is also horrible. The qlink knobs on the MPC cannot be freely assigned to midi controls on external gear. You want to send cc# 27 to your synth? If it’s not one of the numbers that come baked into the MPC OS, you’re out of luck.

    You also cannot send midi to any midi program that’s not currently open on the MPC. That means if you want to, say, use an external midi controller to play notes on a synth program while playing the MPC’s drum pads to trigger samples on the MPC, you can’t.

    TL;DR: They effectively made a machine with two midi din inputs, two usb midi inputs, Bluetooth midi input, and…the ability to only use one of those at a time to send midi information to the MPC.

    It’s a maddeningly limiting use of what would otherwise could be a game changing piece of gear.

    • Will

      Yikes. Very not good.

  • SevenEyeballs

    Or conversely just grab an old iPhone out of your sock drawer, hook up a midi adapter between it and your hardware, and then use it to Link the hardware to PC or whatevz