Akai has been in the business of making drum machines, production tools, as well as keyboards such as Akai MPK249 over the last several decades. With their production of professional-quality gear, it is no wonder that many a seasoned musician have over the years relied on the products they produce. Besides producing impressive instruments for the seasoned players, Akai has not left out the novices or beginners in the equipments they produce.
Over the years, Akai has comfortably shifted from the traditional ways of the music industry and adapted the recent digital age. The MPK series has been around for quite some time however this review covers the Akai MPK249.
Understanding MIDI controllers
The Akai MPK249 is not to be confused with a digital piano; it is a midi controller or MIDI keyboard.
Don’t know the difference?
Well, a Midi controller doesn’t have internal sounds to speak off. This means that it is incapable of making its own sound. Such devices are meant to be used with computer software programs to help control digital, virtual sounds. The programs used are also called Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and are used for everything from music production to sound design in addition to mixing and mastering. With such programs, you are a good step from learning how to make music. As such, they are present in many a professional’s studio.
DAWs are on the expensive side which is why midi controller, which are less expensive than digital piano keyboards are a must have for people who are serious about making music. With the DAW, you get a place to digitally host your creativity with the help of a computer. This is unlike regular keyboards which come with speakers, connections for playing on external speakers, an option to select different preset sounds as well as amps. As such, MIDI keyboards are meant to simply control the functions that you want with the help of buttons on the keyboard.
The Akai MPK249 comes with a number of wonderful features that make it a wonderful MIDI keyboard to own. Question is, what is the right fit for you’? Will it work well for a beginner or professional?
Akai MPK249 Overview
Generally speaking, Akai’s MIDI controllers are great. Thanks to the numerous keys it comes with, the MPK249 is fancier than the MPK mini. That in addition to the pads, buttons and wheels it comes with.
Much as the MPK’s design looks like plastic, it is durable. It is very portable weighing in at 12.6 pounds. Regardless of its lightweight, this midi keyboard is sturdy. In the 80’s Akai made a name when a number of hip-hop producers started using the legendary MPC drum machine.
Quite a number of hip-hop and rap performances recorded in the past few years have made use of this boom-bap style drum sampler. Not only is it easy to use but it is cable of tweaking samples and great stock drums. Much as the MPK is a reference to the MPC in as far as it being more of a production tool than an actual drum machine, you will still find a few features of the MPC on the MPK249. Case in point is the fact that Akai has always been great with drum pads. You can find the drum pads on the MPK in a grid on the face of the keyboard-in a group of 16 pads.
The pads feel soft, are velocity sensitive and are easy to press. If you wish to get multiple sounds, you can press more than one pad simultaneously.
The first time you set up the Aki MPK249, when you press the pads, you will get much the same feeling as when you press some of the keys. There are a series of bank controls next to the pads which controls allow you to scroll through the banks (sets you can switch to). With the banks, you get to change the range of sounds that you can play with the pads.
The colors of the pads make it easy to distinguish one from the other.
The DAW control keypad
The DAW control keypad enables you scroll through things on the computer screen minus the need to ever touch the mouse. With it, you can map it to do whatever you want. There is a tempo tap next to the keypad. In addition, you will also find an arpeggiator, a note repeater and a latch. With the arpeggiator, you will be able to play a sequence of notes while the latch makes it possible to hold the sequence in place so that you are able to modulate it minus having to hold down the keys.
With this midi keyboard, you get a screen that is clear and easy to read. If you wish to sift through the information displayed on the screen then you can do so using the scroll wheel to the right. Below the screen, you will find a number of DAW controls including previewing and looping, preset and program changes, a record button as well as a stop and play button.
All the controls mentioned above are useful which is why it makes sense to take some time off to set them up if you wish to utilize them.
Quite a number of people do use MIDI controllers for the keys, the knobs and faders, the pads, as well as the wheels. Other than that, you should be able to control just about anything through your typing keyboard. Quite a number of DAWs these days come with hotkeys to make the job even easier.
You can map the buttons below the assignable controls onto anything. In addition, they can also be used to modulate the rate of the arpeggiator. Akai’s unlike a number of other MIDI controllers do come with an onboard arpeggiator. This is very useful for easy arps minus the need of having to set it up inside the DAW.
Connections and other specs
- Power to Power Lock
- Midi in and Midi Out
- USB to Host
- Sustain Pedal Port
- Expression Pedal Port
Comparison with other MIDI controllers:-
- Akai MPK249 Vs Novation Launchkey 49
For someone who doesn’t have use for many of the buttons that control the DAW below the screen on the MPK249; the Novation Launchkey 49 will do just fine. In most cases, the few DAW controls that come with the Novation keyboards are more than enough.
On the other hand though if you are looking for a midi controller with an arpegiattor and more pads then you should go with the MPK249.
- Akai MPK249 Vs Novation Impulse 61
In case you use Ableton then you should go with Novation Impulse since Novation does specialize in Ableton gear.
- Akai 249 Vs Advance 49 Vs Max 49
The Advance 49 and Max 49 are a few of the 49 key keyboards from Akai. With the Advance 49 key, you get a virtual instrument that pushes the boundaries of what a MIDI is capable of doing.
The Max 49 on the other hand is relatively similar to the MPK although it does have touch faders and a swing option. It is great for those who have more money to spare and with to own a controller with added features.