Akai MPK49 overview
The Akai MPK49 comes with a printed manual and an extensive pdf version of the same in an installation CD. Akai MPK49 is a plug-and-play instrument that doesn’t require the installation of any drivers to start functioning. Most, if not all, musical devices released at the moment come with computer connectivity options. This has significantly helped in improving the functionality of the keyboards, and that’s probably why MKP49 has the same technology. The device can work with any pc or mac laptop. It is compatible with various operating systems including Mac OS X and windows vista or XP.
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First Impression on the Akai MPK49
The first glance at the keyboard is generally decent. It measures 300 by 730 by 100mm. The keyboard is quite narrow, but it has still managed to host 49 full-sized keys. On the top panel it, however, appears quite deeper if you were to compare it with other similar devices.
There is sufficient space on the keyboard that’ll allow you to use any of the function buttons comfortably. The console can, for example, accommodate 12 percussion pads (MPC style) arranged in four rows of three. The knobs and faders have also received enough space around them. Cases of mistakenly rubbing the wrong knob or button are therefore eliminated, well, unless you have huge fingers. You can hence, assign parameters to two adjacent knobs and you’ll still be able to play them without any complications. Another great thing that you’ll notice is that most of the controls especially the crucial ones are well-labeled with an excellent utilitarian appearance.
The rear panel contains several connecting ports including One in and one out MIDI ports that allow the keyboard to work as a standard MIDI interface; a USB socket and another port to connect to an optional adapter (6V, 1A). The mains adaptor is not included you’ll, therefore, have to purchase it as a separate unit. The keyboard will otherwise be powered using the USB cable.
Two ¼” sockets are also available, and these enable you to connect the keyboard to expression and sustain pedals.
The keyboard is fitted with semi-weighted keys that are after-touch and velocity sensitive. Both of these features can also be turned off when you are not feeling like using them. Variable velocity curves are, unfortunately, not available. You may even notice that the key are somewhat too springier as compared to other semi-weighted keyboards, but this hasn’t affected their performance.
You can also change the keyboard’s range from up to down allowing you to access the 10-octave range.
On the left side of the keyboard, you’ll see the modulation and pitch-bend wheels. Both of these wheels are chunky enough covered with rubber with indentations at the center. The modulation wheel is usually free which means that you can assign various continuous controller functions. The pitch-bend wheel, meanwhile, is restricted to one role only, i.e., transporting pitch-bend data. It’s loaded with springs to boost its performance. The wheels are solid and jump into life with yellow LED lightings when the Akai MPK49 is powered on. The intention of including this lighting may have been to make it easy for you to use them in limited lighting area but their presence somehow transformed the entire keyboard into this cool relaxing gadget!
A large display with bright blue LED is also fitted in the keyboard. This display screen is conveniently placed and designed for you to see and read the writings on it comfortably. Below it there are two rows of buttons. The second rows contain sequencer controllers used to play, record, stop, forward and rewind the sequence. There is a knob on the right side of the display that you can use to move from one preset to another. This controller comes with 30 preset slots, and you can save your user settings to any of them! The first 16 presets have useful pre-programmed templates for your software, e.g., Ableton Live Lite which comes with the keyboard, Sonar, Cubase, Reason and other plug-ins/applications.
Akai MPK49 has eight faders below eight controller knobs. Use these knobs to control after-touch data and other functional changes. The knobs are endless rotary encoders, and hence you could use them as increment or decrement controls. Both the faders and knobs are reasonably big thanks to the spacious nature of the controller. I, however, found the faders a bit too flimsy. They tend to wiggle side-to-side which paints a terrible picture on a rather sturdy build of the rest of the controller. The faders, therefore, seem to be ideal for regular studio or home usage but if you are a gigging musician, you’ll have to be extra keen when using them.
Below the faders, there is another row of eight assignable buttons. They are also fitted with backlights that go on whenever activated. The buttons can also be used for “Time Division” purposes. These buttons together with the faders and knobs can be used with three control banks that act as a shift button.
The keyboard is sold with a librarian application and preset editor for both Mac OS X and windows. When you power the controller on it displays the PsiCraft developers and sound producers of the MIDI Quest Universal Editor. The Editor works well to meet any musician’s expectations. Connecting to the controller through MIDI or USB is easy (the editor will even try to auto-detect relevant ports) and also provides a user-friendly interface that directs you into doing any preset editing tasks you may have. It also allows you to write and access banks from their files. In general, it works quite well and simplistically.
You will also receive an Akai Edition version of the Ableton Live Lie when you buy the Akai MPK49. This comes with a printed card and a URL link to download the software. Once downloaded you can activate it using a serial number that’s supplied with the printed card. The Akai Edition provides 28 custom presets of pleasant sounds.
One of the key features of the Akai MPK49 is the percussion and drum pads. These big pads are and made using a rubber-like material. They are also pressure and velocity sensitive. With these pads, you can choose from four velocity curves. The minimum force necessary to activate a note-on can also be regulated using the threshold setting.
The manufacturer claims that these pads are identical to the ones used in Akai MPC500. We are not sure how accurate this comparison is, but we found the pads comfortable, and they also felt quite durable. Each of these pads has a bank function. There are four pad banks (A, B, C, and D) totaling to 48 different sounds that can be accessed through groups of 12. The pads will either send Program Change messages or MIDI note numbers.
The default mode setting of the pads is Momentary. It’s also possible to change them into toggle mode.
Note Repeat and Arpeggiator
Improvising rhythm patterns have been made extra simple with various features. The best feature of them all is perhaps the Note Repeat function imported from the Akai’s MPC series. This function is so simple and insanely effective. When you press and hold a pad while the Note Repeat is activated will make the sound to be triggered continuously within the intervals set by the “time division” setting. Some of the time divisions you can choose from include ¼ representing a quarter note, 1/4T representing quarter-note triplets, 1/8T, 1/8, 1/16T, 1/16 1/32T and 1/32. Note repeat may not seem that essential in its initial stages, but a few times after using and understanding its power you’ll definitely find it priceless! The function is arguably more fun and intuitive than step-programming sequencer!
The inbuilt arpeggiator is another excellent feature. It works with the time division setting. You can also apply variable “swing” effects and edit its “gate” time. There are six types of arpeggio to choose from: Up, Down, Inclusive, back again, exclusive and CHRD. Its range within the octaves is also adjustable.
Akai MPK49 Specs
- USB/MIDI computer interface
- 49 velocity and pressure sensitive keys
- 12 by 4 banks of drum pads
- Semi-weighted aftertouch
- Custom LCD
- One continuous foot pedal
- One programmable footswitch
- Dimensions: 28” by 11.75” by 2.5.”
- MIDI/MMC start-stop transport buttons
The Akai MPK49 offers excellent features and is well balanced ensuring that all the functions are provided and accessible simplistically without making the entire gadget complicated. All the knobs and control buttons are well spaced. The Note Repeat alongside the MPC-style pads and arpeggiator makes the entire unit not just fun to use but also quite inspiring. Conclusively, the controller is of decent quality both in the make and software functions that’ll prove to be very useful.