A few weeks ago I sold my Dirtywave M8 to free up some funds and get an Akai MPC One. The Dirtywave was not jelling with me and I think my days as a tracker users have come and gone. I had the M8 for maybe a year and I was not able to really get anything productive out of it. Now, don't get me wrong, it is a super impressive piece of hardware, the workflow just wasn't quite working for me.
I've had my eye on picking up an MPC for years. It is after all a fairly iconic piece of music equipment in its various iterations. An updated version of the One+ was release a few months ago and at a reasonable price of around $700 I figured this might be my opportunity time to jump into the MPC world.
So far, I have to say that I am really digging the MPC. The sounds alone that came with it or that are available on Akai's website are impressive and pretty deep. There is a lot right out of the gate that can get you going with music. It is apparent though that many of the sounds are hiphop oriented and you can also tell from the legacy of the device how the sort of 80-115 BMP slow groove that comes from sampling exists. The sound libraries reenforce that and the sampling tools sort of reinforce that as well. I am super curious to see what sort of music I make on this device, because while you can certainly make "techno" or dance music, the vibe I get just seems a bit slower tempo.
I am really taking this opportunity with the MPC to dig into the sampling, which is an area of music production I have never been proficient in. The One+ does have some synth plugins, but it appears that the CPU resources are fairly limited, and as I mentioned above, the pedigree just leans into that sampling world. You can see that right on the way the interface is designed, where "Sampler" and "Sample" edit or very prominently labeled on the front panel.
I am working through the Akai Youtube channels introduction series and that is affording a pretty good intro on how the MPC works. It does have a bit of a learning curve, especially as someone who has now 20 years of using other groove boxes. Akai likes to use their own terminology for things. For example "quantization" is called "Time Control" or TC. Projects are broken down into Sequences, Tracks and then Programs. The Sequence is sort of how you would think of Patterns on other machines where you can have multiple tracks loaded into a sequence. Programs are basically the synth preset or drum kit that are loaded into a track.
As far as I can tell the MPC also does not have a linear tracking song mode, as you might find in a traditional DAW or some other workstations. It seems in this respect it does follow the sort of traditional "tracker" style sequencing methodology where you can take your sequences (i.e. Sequence 1, Sequence 2, etc.) and then place them in an order you like to be triggered. You aren't sequencing the individual tracks.
There are a couple of other really interesting features that I hope to dig into more. As one might expect the sampling features are very deep. There is some very impressive tools here that instantly make my realize why this is such a well regarded sampler. It even has a feature where you can trigger a synth via midi to play through a series of notes that can be recorded into the machine as a multi-sample. That sounds fantastic as I can see myself sampling my Command Station. I hope that importing a series of samples already setup as a multi-sampled instrument is just as simple.
So despite the machine itself being pretty fantastic, there are a handful of frustrations with the MPC that I have experienced so far. The first is the pads themselves. They are incredibly firm and have no "give" to them. I'm not sure if this how all MPC's are, but I was expecting something closer to the pads on my Command Station, so there is a bit of adjustment that needs to occur there.
The second issue largely comes down to the product support. The MPC ships without a manual of any sort and to make matters even more frustration the .PDF manual that is online covers all of the products in the currently MPC line (One, Live, X) so moving through it to learn the product is a tedious endeavor. The sample libraries offered from Akai's website also are tied into the MPC Software which you install onto your computer. Looking through Reddit it does appear that there are ways to get around installing all of this software, but Akai intentionally makes it obtuse, utilizing .pkg installer files for the samples. Adding insult to injury on that front, the MPC Software and associated samples cannot be installed onto an external HDD, they are installed onto your computers main's HDD, which I resume most musicians don't do.
Overall though a real nice piece of kit that I am enjoying and I anticipate utilizing quite a bit over the coming months.