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Rating and Reviews: Akai MPK mini MKII USB

Produce and perform anywhere with this 25-key controller that fits in your laptop bag! The 2nd-gen Akai MPK Mini adds a thumbstick for pitch and mod control.

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"Ultra portable with good mix of features" submitted April 23, 2015

By Jon T in Kansas City, MO
Ease of Use
Manufacturer Support
The Wow Factor
Musical Background: Producing on and off as a hobby for 20+ years.
Music Style: Mostly electronic.
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Overall: I did a lot of comparison shopping for 25 key controllers, even after getting this one and using it for a few days. I originally wasn't very happy with it. I considered sending it back and getting something else instead. My perception was that the keys were not responsive. It turns out that it was just my laptop's audio driver latency which was bad. When playing the soft synths in Reason, the latency gave a perceptible lag, which you may not realize is latency at first but something just feels off. I mistakenly blamed the keyboard at first, until I plugged in an external USB audio device with ASIO drivers and played through that. The latency was gone and the keyboard seemed much more responsive. The second thing I didn't really care for was the mini keys. I didn't realize the keys were so small before I purchased it. There are a few other 25 key controllers with full size keys, and I thought about replacing it with one. In the end, I decided to keep it because I already have a nice big 61 key controller in my studio. I bought the Akai as something to use with the laptop and maybe take along on vacation. And for that purpose, it is perfect. It really is very small and light. It fits in a laptop bag. I can live with the tiny keys since I'm no piano player anyway, and it fits directly in front of the laptop nicely. The pitch/mod joystick is a pretty nifty feature. Be aware though that it always snaps back to the middle. Mod wheels usually stay put. Plus the zero joystick position sends 50% on the modulation instead of 0. To get to 0 you have to pull the joystick down. I think this is editable in the software though. In the alternate case pulling down on the joystick will send the same data as pushing up. I always like the Roland joysticks that combined pitch and mod that only pushed up and not down. At any rate, the Akai joystick is a fun controller that doesn't take up hardly any space and can be used in lots of creative ways. Plus I think you can map it to different controller numbers. The eight pads take up a lot of space. I won't comment about the pad responsiveness compared to whatever, since I'm not a big pad user. Obviously all the controllers are moving toward more and more pads, I assume because of Ableton. I don't mind a few pads, but keys work just as well for programming drums. I'd rather have more knobs, myself. The knobs on the Akai work just fine. The arpeggiator is a nice bonus feature that I haven't seen on any other mini controller. It's a very simple one, but it's really easy to switch it on when you want a quick preview of how a patch would sound arpeggiated. Plus you can latch it. The knobs and pads have 4 different programs you can switch between. You have to use the editor software to configure it. You can set which note the pads send and which CC number the knobs send. I set program 1 on mine to map to the first 8 pads in the Reason Kong device, and the knobs to map to filter 1 and 2 cutoff and resonance, plus a/d/s/r envelope on most Reason synths. And program 2 pads to the second 8 Kong pads, and the knobs to the combinator knobs. A note on the editor software. It's got some bugs that you have to be aware of to get it to work properly. When you first try to send or receive data from the Akai, it will pop up a box asking you to select the input and output device. The trick is to ONLY select the output, else it will crash the program. It took some digging to find this on the Akai website. I did put in a trouble ticket at first but NEVER GOT A REPLY! I almost sent it back over the crappy editor software and lack of support as well. But I got it to work eventually. Overall, I would prefer normal size keys. But I like how small and light this is, while still having a joystick, 8 pads, 8 knobs, and an arpeggiator, plus 4 banks on the controllers. The only extra I wish it had is some transport buttons.
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