If you are looking for a cheap, extremely portable sample-playback unit, then the MPX8 is for you. That’s how they advertise it, and that’s what it does.
Akai MPX8 Review – Introduction
The MPX8 uses Akai Pro’s famous velocity sensitive drum pads. It comes with 21 built-in classic samples, and a SD card slot to add your own. You can also use it as a MIDI controller in case of cue point drumming. The MPX8 features a 5-pin MIDI input and output as well as a USB port, two balanced 1/4″ outputs and an 1/8″ headphone output that allow connection to a mixer and convenient monitoring. The MPX8 comes with a software sample editor for both Mac and PC. This unit is compact and very portable, and whether it’s used as MIDI module or controller, the MPX8 is a prime candidate to slot into minimal laptop setups. It can also act as a stand-alone unit, even if it would make so much more sense to allow a battery pack, since it was designed to be a portable device.
Akai MPX8 Review – Pads
The pads have excellent velocity sensitivity, to the point where it’s difficult to get the same volume twice in a row. They light up, which is actually useful to see whether a sample is loaded on a pad or not. The color also indicates the trigger mode. As for all Akai products, we assure you that the quality of these pads is not up for discussion. There’s no way to adjust the velocity or aftertouch response, but the main screen does contain a field for the selected pad’s MIDI note. Change this and you change the note transmitted and received for that pad. When triggering the MPX’s voices from an external controller or sequencer, the only other information you’ll require is that the MIDI channel is fixed at 10.
One of the few parameters that you can manage on the MPX8 is the TRIG which determines in which way the sample is played. You can choose between One Shot, Hold and Loop. One Shot is the classic way you’re used to, the sample plays to its end. However, if you pick Hold, the sample plays for as long as you keep in contact with the pad, meaning that you can choose how much of it you want to hear. Lastly, Loop continue to play until you hit the pad again or take the ‘stop all’ option by holding both volume buttons at once.
Akai MPX8 Review – About the samples
The MPX8 comes with twenty on board sounds to get you going with 8 internal kit memories, and the possibility to load samples via SD card. There’s a firmware update that lets you load stereo samples, which is very cool. There is a strict 30 MB memory limit on samples loaded into the unit’s memory, while you can store up to 32 GB in the SD card, and then you can choose from there. Unfortunately the internal memory is extremely low and takes way too long to load your own samples. It shouldn’t be a problem if you’re loading small samples, but when it comes to songs or anything longer than a minute, that’s just too much. The first thing I thought was ‘what if I accidentally select the wrong kit? Will I have to wait for it to load before I can do something?’. Luckily, no. There’s an ‘abort’ option that protects you from this potential disaster. Still, this doesn’t solve the slowness issue.
Akai MPX8 Review – Specs
- 8 velocity-sensitive and pressure-sensitive pads
- 8-voice polyphony
- USB MIDI plus standard MIDI inputs and outputs
- Drag-and-drop sample kit editor
- Built-in library of popular sounds and samples
- Includes additional free Akai Pro loop library download
- 2 balanced 1/4-inch outputs (6.35mm)
- 1/8-inch headphone output (3.5mm)
Akai MPX8 Review – Conclusion
Overall, the Akai MPX8 is very useful for adding percussion to home recordings or samples to live performance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing device for its price tag, it’s just that I think the idea behind it was great, but the result turned out to have some issues.