Akai Professional has been in the lab working on new music equipment to adapt to the ever-flowing trend of digital and computer rigs. We’ve provided you with a little overview of their famous MPC drum machines and samplers; however, they’re also moving towards the digital movement — it is the year 2014. The MPC Element is a very small in size (only about 2 lbs!) controller for both the Mac and PC that is typically used for MIDI. It gives you the beat and song creation capability of it’s famous and well-known MPC drum machines into your computer. What’s most notable of this is the pads with pressure and velocity, for those who like the natural swing and feel of pressing those buttons for drums or other sounds. I’m a huge fan of these and always will be — both for live performances, recording, as well as just messing around and jamming with a drum kit I like. These sounds are controlled entirely by your computer, depending on the VST or software you’re using. This gives it the ultimate customization, not restricting you to uploading particular sounds into the MPC in order to choose what comes out of it, which many nowadays would consider a hastle. Here is a detailed overview and review of the Akai MPC Element.
Review of the Akai Pro MPC Element
This is a standard MIDI controller but with a drum pad integration as opposed to keys, a nice supplementation to your MIDI keyboard if it doesn’t have pads already. The only ‘MPC’ thing about it is merely the name and the incorporation of Akai’s trademarked pads (unless you’re using their software, which we speak about below). I absolutely love these pressure pads, something about jamming on them makes me feel like an almost-real drummer, but with more of a street feel. It comes with Akai’s own music software, called the MPC Essentials, but I don’t use it all (I’m more of an Acid Pro kind of guy). The software is pretty convenient for live performances, depending on how familiar you are with the current software you use — it’s only a plus. The Essentials software is what enables the device to give it an ‘MPC feel’. You can open it up as an instance inside any DAW but you can run it as a multiple plug-in. You get the classic MPC swing templates, multiple layering (ie, putting 3 kicks into one pad), tune, pitch and volume control of the pads, filtering, helping expand your production pretty well. Again, this is all capable within the software that comes with it — I wouldn’t buy it just for Essentials. Note: if you make a pattern or anything really within the MPC Essentials software, you can’t export it to a different program. Some have tried, but no luck yet. Here’s a video of an overview of the software.
[Related article: Which Akai MPC Drum Machine Should I Buy?]
The MPC Element is compatible with any music production software that supports MIDI – I’ve heard of it being used with Logic Pro, Fruity Loops, and even Ableton Live. The pads don’t light up when you press them, but all that would really do is make it look cool in your studio or if you’re on stage. In terms of drum pad quality, it’s some of the best we’ve ever felt. Their MPK MIDI keyboards have had complaints about pad quality (people say you have to press them really hard and the sensitivity isn’t as advertised); however, the MPC Element’s are just all of the rest of Akai’s MPC pads — simply the best.
It comes with 1 GB of default samples (a bit house and dancey), but if you’re a producer who knows what they’re doing, you won’t be too attracted to them and you’re better off using your own. The interface includes the obvious 16 pads, a note-repeat option, drum pad bank selection, mute track, solo track, undo, erase, record, over dub, stop, play, and play/start. This is excellent in terms of portability: very slim and can easily fit in a laptop bag, weighing only 2 lbs (check the tech specs below for measurements).
There are no true cons with this product by Akai. Not even the price – it’s only $150. It also does what you think it’ll do: enables you to produce and trigger samples from your computer with their legendary MPC pads. If you’re interested about their software, it is an extreme plus. The capabilities of the software are very convenient for production; however, if you’re used to using a specific production software on your mac or PC, it’s not recommended to merely switch just to use this piece of equipment.
Regardless, it is a nice supplementation for your studio to be alongside your MIDI keyboard. Shop around for some competitors if you wish, some that include MIDI pads may be cheaper. Although with Akai Professional, you know what you’re getting and can trust them as they’ve been in the game for years. Here’s the user link to the user guide.
For a list of other devices like the MPC Element, check out our article on MIDI drum pad controllers.
- Control the pads via MIDI
- Can work as a standalone beat creator (if you don’t have a preferred software yet)
- DAW integration as a VST, RTAS or AU plugin.
- Very thin at less than 14mm
- Weight at less than 2 lbs
- Velocity and pressure sensitive MIDI pads (also backlit)
- A plus if you use their MPC Essentials software
- USB powered
- Comes with 1 GB sound library (not sure if you’ll particuarly like the preset sounds, but why not?
- Hosts any VST plug in and can auto-map the controls
- Can export your tracks to WAV and AIFF
- Powered by USB
- Height: .6″
- Width: 11.2″
- Depth: 8.1″
- Weight: 1.85 lbs
- One MIDI input and output
- 128 sequences
- 16 velocity and pressure sensitive drum pads
- 8 drum pad banks
- Effects: dependent on VST of your computer
Compare prices of the Akai MPC Element
Laslty, here’s a cool video by Akai Pro with David Heartbreak: