Another year, a bunch of new gear. We always have our antennas up for new Akai music equipment, and this year they’ve brought us a few new controllers to play with. They’ve built upon their older, solid MPD pad controller and have created three new versions (upgraded, that is). In this article, we explore the flagship model of the new MPD2 toys, the Akai MPD232 MIDI Pad Controller. They’ve combined their beloved MPD pads, some control surface features as well as step sequencer programming into one machine. Let’s check it out!
Main features\specs of the Akai MPD232
- 64-track, 32-step sequencer built-in
- High-quality MPC pads (RGB LED backlighting) (velocity and pressure sensitive MPC pads)
- 4 pad banks (totals 64 pad controls)
- 8 assignable sliders
- 8 assignable Q-Link knobs
- 8 assignable Q-Link buttons
- MPC Note Repeat\MPC Swing,
- 16 Level\Full Level\Tap Tempo
- 30 presets
- Compatible with iOS (need Camera Connection Kit)
- MIDI in\out jacks or connect it via USB
- Transport controls
- Software bundle included
- Compatible with most major digital audio workstations
Overall controller features
Although this may have caught your eye because of the pad controls, a cherry on top for you is the 64-track 32-step step sequencer. This is a huge plus if you were looking to make some steps for a beat or song. We know many people who merely use their DAW for this as it’s a bit easier to customize and add some swing to; however, we have also spoken to artists who still swear by step-sequencers in terms of producing. At the same time, it’s probably more attractive to you if you perform live since this will enhance your set drastically in terms of work flow and ease of use. You can save your steps depending on the song and set list you’re performing and can quickly access the preset when you need it for the drums\samples. We like to map out the backbone of a song and then play along to it.
In conclusion of the step-sequencer, it isn’t necessarily a must, but a plus. Aside from this feature, you have your typical MIDI controller basics. As opposed to only being a pad controller, the MPD 232 also gives you assignable faders (8), Q-Link buttons (8) as well as Q-Link knobs (8). Why not?
Design and build
At first glance of the pad controller, you’ll notice it has a super slim design. This has been the latest trend for gear in the past few years — the sleeker, the better and for numerous reasons. It’s easy to travel with, carry, and especially puzzle into your current setup in the studio.
The quality of the Akai MPD232‘s pads themselves were in our opinion what would make or break these new controllers. You have the legendary ‘MPC’ style pads that are thicker than the original MPD controller as well as their MIDI keyboards. They are very sensitive with the velocity and pressure control and feel super smooth on your fingertips. No complaints when it comes to the pad quality, especially when compared to others like it. Not to mention the LED feedback and RGB back-lighting, which isn’t necessarily a must but it doesn’t hurt at all (especially if you’re on stage and want some cool aesthetics).
In terms of longevity, since it is super slim, you’ll want to be careful with traveling as well as merely carrying it around. Akai always has some of the best builds in the gear market (which in our opinion is what justifies their higher price points), so you won’t have to be overly cautious with it; however, if you do take care of it, it is going to last you quite a few years and will turn out to be a solid investment.
Software bundle included
We always get excited when we see the marketed “software bundle included!”. However, with this piece of gear, we wouldn’t call it too groundbreaking. Although it really depends on what you need at the moment considering it comes with Ableton Live Lite (if you’re looking around for a DAW or want to try out Ableton this is a plus). It also comes with their new software to make music with (it’s hard to call it a DAW for us) MPC Essentials, as well as two VST instrument plug-ins: SONiVOX Big Bang Cinematic Percussion as well as SONiVOX Universal Drums (combined is a $300 retail value).
It makes sense they’d only include drum sounds with the package (it is a drum pad controller), but in our opinion a few other synths may have been cool as well. Beggars can’t be choosers. If you are indeed looking for some better sounds besides drums, be sure to read our top 10 best VST plug-ins for more info on some other choices.
The verdict on the Akai MPD232 MIDI controller
All in all, if you’re looking for a MIDI pad controller that has some of the nicest pads out there as well as some extra MIDI functionality, this is a nice piece of gear to check out. Even more so if you’re into step-sequencers, this could be the perfect machine for you. Otherwise, if you do want to save a few bucks, you can check out their lower models of the new MPD2 MIDI pad controllers — both come with nice pads but do not include a step-sequencer. They’re priced at hundred bucks lower each step down you take (double check the websites to see the current price). You can also read our best MIDI pad controller for some other options.
In terms of cons, it’s a bit of a bummer it is not battery powered and needs DC-in to work. This may be a bit tough for those traveling a lot or performing live; however, it isn’t a fault to where it isn’t worth it. The software bundle in our opinion is also weak, but again that does not make us steer away from grabbing one of these.
Regardless, the Akai MPD232 MIDI Pad Controller is super sleek, looks awesome, feels great, gives you some step-sequencing ability, and includes some nifty drum sounds (and amazing quality drum pads) to ensure you’re able to play around with it right out of the box.