Best Akai MPC For Beginners 2021

Best MPC for Beginners

Under attack from new kids on the block such as Native Instruments Maschine range, Akai’s MPCs were in danger of falling behind the fashionable crowd, however in recent years Akai have revamped their MPC range and focused on a streamlined range of standalone MPCs (starting with the MPC X in 2017) that more than hold their own against any competition.

At the time of writing (June 2021) AKAI have 3 different models of MPC in production: the flagship MPC X, the MPC Live 2 and the MPC One.

If you’re looking to purchase your very first MPC then the MPC One has everything beginners need to start producing beats and complete tracks at a significantly cheaper price than the MPC X and MPC Live 2.

5 Reasons You’ll Love the Akai MPC One:

  1. Standalone. Sequence, mix and master beats and complete tracks without a computer.
  2. Great value for money – the MPC One is the cheapest of the current MPC range.
  3. Powerful and versatile – the MPC One is a capable and fully featured studio production tool.
  4. Excellent build quality – the MPC One comes with a fantastic 7 inch, full colour screen and 16 best in class velocity sensitive pads.
  5. Everthing beginners need to get started in one box – the MPC One comes with a useful selection of sounds, synths and effects .

O.K. we all know very few things in life are perfect so before I declare the MPC One the greatest invention since Penicillin, let me not shy away from mentioning a few of its more obvious failings. Obviously Akai have had to cut some corners to make the MPC One smaller and signficantly cheaper than its siblings although the compromises are not as drastic as you might fear.

5 MPC One Niggles:

  1. The MPC One is not battery powered so it is not as portable as the MPC Live 2.
  2. The MPC One does not have built in speakers (although I could argue this is more of a positive than a negative).
  3. The MPC One has less onboard storage than the MPC Live and X (2GB VS 16GB).
  4. The MPC One has less inputs/outputs than the MPC X and MPC Live.
  5. The MPC One software is excellent but not perfect – be prepared to get frustrated when you are ‘in the flow’ and the MPC software forces you to dive deeper into menus than you might like or throws up convulted ways of achieving what should – and could – be simple housekeeping and track building tasks.

MPC Comparison Chart:

Below I have put together a chart to give you an easy way to compare the MPC X, MPC Live 2 and MPC One.

Screen10.1” / 257 mm (diagonal)6.9” / 176 mm (diagonal)6.9” / 176 mm (diagonal)
Storage16 GB16 GB2 GB
Included Sounds10 GB10 GB2 GB
SoftwareMPC2 MPC2MPC2
Battery?YesYes N/A
Weight12.57 lbs/5.66 kg7.45 lbs/3.38 kg4.7 lbs/2.1 kg
MPC Feature Comparison

MPC One Included Software:

When you buy your MPC One you get the MPC2 Desktop Software which compliments and enhances your MPC hardware nicely. This is no ‘Lite’ or limited piece of freebie software – it’s a fully featured and capable DAW designed from the ground up to work as the bridge between your MPC hardware and your computer set up.

I can’t possibly cover all aspects of MPC2 software here, suffice to say the software lets you carry out all the all the core tasks of putting together your beats and complete tracks including sequencing, audio track recording, real-time audio warping, clip launching, Audio/MIDI drag-and-drop, adding effects, automation, mixing and mastering.

The MPC2 Desktop Software includes over 90 insert effects plugins. These effects are from developer AIR and cover all of the staples you would hope to see in any DAW including reverbs, delays, filters, EQs and compressors.

You also get several ready to use instruments the most impressive of which is a fully featured and easy to use DrumSynth plugin (which is obviously Akai’s attempt to compete with Native Instruments Maschine drum synth) with the ability to create and sculpt a never ending supply of eletronic kicks, snares, toms etc to suit your tastes.

As well as the DrumSynth plugin you get the AIR Bassline synth, AIR Electric synth (for emulated electric piano sounds), and AIR TubeSynth (for classic vintage analog polysynth sounds).

With the MPC2 software you can work with 128 stereo audio tracks which is a significant on the 8 tracks you get when using MPC One in standalone mode.

Remember the MPC One is a standalone device – no computer required – so you do not have to touch the MPC2 Desktop Software but if you do happen to have a computer set up in your studio then the MPC2 software could become a regular part of your workflow. For some younger producers who have not yet invested heavily in the likes of Logic, Live OR Pro Tools the MPC2 Desktop Software could be all they need.

MPC One vs MPC X

The MPC X is Akai’s flagship MPC and as such it is the biggest, the most powerful and the most expensive of the current range of MPCs. Retailing at roughly 500 bucks more than a new MPC One, the MPC X is a great choice for professional producers with the money to drop on piece of gear that is designed to take center stage of a studio setup.

For the extra dollars you get a bigger sceen, more controls, more storage space and more inputs/outputs than the MPC One. The MPC X also has the advantage of lithium-ion, rechargeable battery power although the sheer size of this machine means many of us would probably shy away from carrying it around outside of the studio and making beats in a coffee shop!

MPC One vs MPC Live 2:

The MPC One and MPC Live 2 share much of the same performace power and functionality and the exact same software. The MPC Live 2 is the more expensive of the two machines and as you might expect that means you get a couple of extra goodies.

The key difference is that the second generation MPC Live 2 features a built in speaker which runs the full width of the device. The speaker is pretty decent, and a cut above the usual puny speakers that many grooveboxes and budget drum machines have been lumbered over the years. Akai’s marketing boasts that these speakers are ‘studio-grade monitors’ although as you might expect you’re never going to get a pair of $1000 Genelecs inside a drum machine of the same price!

Best of all, the MPC Live 2 is a truly portable device. Thanks to its rechargeable lithium-ion battery you can get around 5 – 6 hours of music making wherever you are.

The MPC One actually features more hands on controls than the MPC Live 2.

MPC One vs MPC One Retro:

Announced in May 2021, the MPC One Retro is simply a reskinned MPC One designed to appeal to anyone who pines for the golden age of hip hop and the iconic stylings of the MPC2000XL and MPC3000. Beyond the cosmetic tweaks – which, it has to be said, do look rather cool – there is no difference in terms of features between the MPC One and MPC One Retro.

MPC One vs MPC500:

First up its important to note that the older MPC500 – and its sibling the MPC1000 – have been discontinued. You can pick one up on the second hand market for around half the price of an MPC One but should you bother? While there are plenty of positive magazine reviews of the MPC500 (and 1000) online, beyond the trade press you can also can find plenty of owners who find their machines frustrating in more ways than one.

For me, the only advantage of the MPC500 has over the MPC One is that the MPC500 is a battery powered, incredibly light, truly portable machine. With this unit you can make beats almost anywhere. However this advantage is, for me at least, outweighed by the negatives chief of which is the MPC500’s notoriously unresponsive pads (in contrast, the MPC One’s velocity sensitive pads are worthy of praise and a joy to use).

Comparing the MPC500’s tiny LCD screen next to the MPC One’s glorious full color display is a great lesson in technological advances – younger producers might recoil in horror when faced with the MPC 500’s puny display!

In my humble opinion you should only pick up an MPC 500 if your budget dictates that you absolutely must plump for the cheapest MPC option and if the portability of the MPC 500 trumps all your other needs. Learn to live with MPC500’s shortcomings and there’s nothing to stop you creating fantastic beats and complete tracks however the MPC One is clearly a couple of generations ahead of the MPC500 and MPC1000 range.

Overall the Akai MPC One offers so much in terms of ease of use, features and power that it would be a real shame to miss out on if you have the choice.

Is the MPC One worth it?

You can expect to pay around $799 for a new MPC One and you can easily find good condition second hand units for less on the second hand market. If you’re keen to emulate your idols and try the MPC way of doing things – and keen to get away from making music on the computer – then the MPC One represents fantastic value for money.

When you think that around 2007 people were paying about $1000 for the MPC 500 you can begin to appreciate just how much bang for your buck you are getting for your money here in 2021.

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