MPC lovers, you finally get a piece of hardware with everything in one place: touch, color displays, pads, buttons for workflow access.
There’s just one catch: you will still need the computer.
Ever looked at those beautiful color waveforms on Native Instruments’ Traktor and Maschine controller and wished you could touch the screen? Imagined pinching to zoom waveforms and navigate samples, the way you can on an iPad?
Well, Akai are the first to do groove-making hardware that combines physical pads and a touchscreen in one unit – no iPads (or Microsoft Surfaces) in sight.
Today’s MPC Touch also does something else Maschine and Ableton Push don’t do – this slim-line hardware has an audio interface built in. That means you don’t need an extra piece of kit just to hook up to a PA (don’t mention the MacBook headphone jack) or to sample sound (oh yeah, that “sampling” idea of sampling workstations).
The hardware leans really heavily on the touchscreen for a lot of functions:
browsing / sample selection
MIDI event drawing
There’s even what they call “XYFX” — an X/Y controller for real-time effects, in the tradition of the KORG KAOSS Pad (and many other things).
Now, that isn’t a sure win. It’s actually really satisfying to reach out and grab a knob for some of these features, rather than a touchscreen, on some of the rival hardware. A big question will be how well the touchscreen itself responds.
The on-screen interface looks refined and attractive, though, if conservative – and the same can be said of the hardware.
It also means there is a really clear, compact control layout for everything else. And you’ll see the usual Akai workflow shortcuts, like Note Repeat, and quick access to features like overdub.
Behind the scenes, you still use the Akai MPC software. And I suspect that will leave some people scratching their heads and wondering why Akai didn’t simply make this standalone hardware so you can untether from the computer entirely.
But while the computer is still in the background, Akai’s appealing approach to tasks like recording and immediate control are right on the hardware. It’s too soon to judge without trying it, but I think it is the best rival to the Maschine and Push workflows – each of them distinct – with something that is unique.
Akai has a live microsite with more, but it’s struggling a bit with Web traffic. (Come on, people – scaling!)
What they do have is some serious artist credibility. Hip-hop really defined the MPC and this entire category, so that is worth saying. They’re launching with videos by Needlz:
So what’s running under the hood?
I asked the folks at Akai to tell us more about what they’ve done.
The pads are all-new. Akai tells CDM the pads are…
“far superior to existing MPC hardware. They’re much more sensitive, and very playable. Akin to the new MPD line of MIDI controllers as they follow a similar lineage.”
And I was curious what hardware is inside. Here, CDM gets a scoop —
That’s an actual, touchable screen for your computer.
It’s a bespoke platform with a custom touch solution. The screen is a customised Display Link USB-attached screen, under some cunning control from us. This means that you have the ability to also use MPC Touch as a desktop extender, and put other software on the screen, if you so choose.
That’d be a cool hack, in fact.
Without question, though, this week has changed how you touch the tools you use to make music:
1. We’ve got a new Surface line from Microsoft, including a flagship laptop, that will run your favorite music apps in Windows.
2. We’ve got a new Bitwig Studio that has been redesigned with touch in mind.
3. We’ve got hardware control with a touchscreen built-in from Akai.
And, of course, you could choose to combine all three of those.
The post Akai MPC Touch is an MPC with a multi-touch screen appeared first on Create Digital Music.