Akai’s MPC Key 37 is now official – a standalone MPC/synth with onboard sampling and effects, all in a compact package with pads and 37 keys. That combination is likely to make this a hit at $899 list.

The fact that this was so heavily leaked and discussed tells you a lot of folks were waiting for this one. There’s nothing really new on the MPC Key 37 – this is the same computational core that Akai is sharing across their standalone MPC models, and there was already a 61-key MPC.

But I’m guessing the 37-key model will hit a sweet spot on price and portability. It’s actually still overkill for some use cases – a lot to manage if you want to add vocals, and I have to be even more skeptical of product images of someone trying to juggle another instrument. But if someone wants MPC-style sampling and some keys to play while dumping the laptop, this starts to enter a range they can afford and carry. And that could spell some tough competition for products like Ableton Push 3, which, for all its innovation, presents a grid that is unfamiliar to many musicians.

The specs to know on this one – starting with size and weight, which I think is critical (they don’t offer a bag, but it looks like this will fit in existing 37-key cases):

  • 22.92” x 12.36” x 4.08”/ 58.22cm x 31.39cm x 10.36cm
  • 4kg / 8.82lbs
  • 2x TRS ins, 2x TRS outs (+ headphone jack)
  • 1×1 MIDI
  • 4 TRS CV/gate jacks (you can split to 8 outs) – so yeah, analog connectivity (which Akai introduced way back on MAX37, if you recall)
  • SD card slot
  • USB type A, plus USB type B (so you get computer connection and host)
  • Quad-core ARM processor, 2GB RAM
  • 32GB internal (16GB user)
  • 37 keys with aftertouch
  • 7″ display

Then add all the MPC plugins and insert effects, plus Splice sample and loop collections (with sync), and while it’s not available quite yet, MPC Stems support will be there, too. All of this works standalone, but can also connect to the computer.

Great demo here by Chopsquad Dj out of St. Louis:

Hey, people sometimes describe my sound as “painful,” too, though… not always in the way he means.

The instruments you get are pretty impressive, given this is workstation-class stuff from a lot of big brands (so a much higher price):

  • JUNO clone (erm, “AIR JURA”)
  • 4-op FM synth
  • Drawbar organ
  • Stage piano
  • Stage EP
  • Studio strings
  • Flavor Pro for retro-sounding MPC sampling
  • Minimoog D clone
  • Air Delay Pro (delay + filter + distortion + limiter + chorus multi-effects with analog and digital modes and modulation)
  • Flex Beat

It’s still not such a powerful core – part of me thinks we’re really waiting for the next generation of all of this. But it’s a balanced package and a huge amount of value for the money and size. It saves having to lug multiple instruments to a live set, which is everything – and it is absolutely a workable computer alternative.

So, to be sure, NI’s Maschine+ offers its unique sounding instruments and effects and workflow. And Ableton Push still corners Live integration and holds a ton of promise with Max for Live – plus an expressive grid. But I’ll bet a lot of folks opt for this as a familiar package.

Some people will probably be annoyed that it’s this red, but Akai decided some time a few years ago that keyboards this size need to be this color, I guess. (Hey, gray is boring, anyway.)

Available at retailers;

If you buy something from a CDM link, we may earn a commission.

MPC Key 37 Standalone Production Keyboard [Perfect Circuit]

Akai Professional MPC Key 37 Production Synthesizer [Guitar Center]

Akai Professional MPC Key 37 Standalone MPC Production Keyboard [Sweetwater]