The MPD226 is a MIDI-over-USB pad controller perfect for producers, programmers, musicians and DJs alike. Its intuitive blend of MPC controls and technologies mesh with easy USB connectivity to bring the feel of classic beat making into the world of computer music production. MIDI information is sent over its plug-and-play USB interface for use on Mac or PC, eliminating the need to install any drivers.
Akai MPD226 Review – Introduction
The MPD226 has an expanded control set featuring four knobs, four faders, four buttons arranged in three banks for 36 total controls versus 12 on the MPD26. This will enable you to maximize your sound and give you increased control over effects. The MPD226’s control section consists of four endless encoders, four faders, and four buttons. All these controls can be assigned freely to common midi parameters. For most basic applications this number of controls should be sufficient. If not, there are three available control banks that can be toggled through by clicking the control bank button. Next to the common midi parameters that can be assigned, the four buttons also can be configured to send keystrokes and keystroke combinations. That’s a very handy feature as it means that common keyboard shortcuts can be saved on the device and are triggered by just clicking a button. The MPD226 offer roughly equivalent controls and features to the previous generation, but as with the APC MkII, Akai have rearranged everything to line up the faders, knobs and buttons into a mixer-style formation. You can also save and recall your own presets.
Akai MPD226 Review – The Pads
Instead of trying to improve the pad section of its predecessor MPD 26, AKAI have made the best decision: they equipped the MPD226 with the pad section of their flagship groove production studio, the MPC. These pads have incredible pad sensitivity and feel great when touched or hit. They are pressure-sensitive which means that they can be configured to send aftertouch information in order to control effect parameters of connected software or hardware devices. The 16 pads on the left are very thick and have a slightly soft rubbery feel to the playing surfaces.The pads are velocity and pressure sensitive and very responsive. They are also multi-color illuminated when used with a computer or external power supply. The mechanism also offers different colors for the on- and off-state, which means custom setups can be created. Also, the color-coding can help when playing the device in dark environments, like when playing a gig. If this feature is not desired it can be completely turned off. There are three global controls that affect the pad sensitivity: threshold, gain, and curve. Threshold defines the minimum value with which the pads need to be hit in order to trigger a note. Gain defines how much a triggered note is amplified by the device. Curve provides six different velocity conversion curves: linear, s-curve, two exponential, and two logarithmic curves.
Akai MPD226 Review – Design and Layout
The MPD226 is relatively compact, the shell is black plastic with a cool-looking red base, and it is relatively lightweight at 2.9 pounds. The top of the unit is well laid out. Above the pads you’ll find a 4 row x 20 character LED display, and to the right of that, four directional cursor buttons, a rotary knob with built-in push to select switch (used to scroll through and select presets and parameters), as well as the Pad Bank switch, which allows selecting among four pad banks (A-D) for a total of 64 pads. The control section is placed reasonably far away from the pad section. That’s important when playing finger drumming with certain hand postures on the device. You don’t need to worry about knobs and faders that get in your way during performances.
Akai MPD226 Review – The Software Section
The editor software of the MPD226 is a little masterpiece. Its user interface resembles the hardware and it is intuitively editable. It contains some useful tools with which mass changes to multiple parameters can be performed at the same time. If, for example, you want to erase the aftertouch from each and every pad on each bank of a preset, the task can be done easily by just checking a few boxes and then clicking the apply button. Furthermore, the MPD226 editor software offers a feature that allows uploading several presets to the hardware simultaneously. The software package of the AKAI MPD226 is amazing. The software package contains MPC Essentials, AKAI’s groove production studio software for starters as well as Ableton Live Lite. That these two pieces of software are included might not be a big surprise. MPC Essentials is a software made by AKAI and Ableton Live Lite is included with many other music production hardware devices as well. However, there are two more applications included that really grabbed our attention: SONiVOX Big Bang Universal Drums and Big Bang Cinematic Percussion.
Akai MPD226 Review – Final Words
This controller has the potential to be perfect. The pads are super thick, thicker then the ones on both Ableton Push and NI’s Maschine. They feel amazing to play. Not only do they feel great, but the controller does as well. The continuous knobs are smooth and the build is quality. There is zero rattle or noise coming from the unit when you hit a pad; overall the build quality is amazing for the price point. With four faders and knobs (and three banks), there are plenty of assignable controls to support those wonderful-feeling and responsive pads. With 16 physical pads and four banks, there are up to 64 assignable pads at your disposal. Of course, if you need even more faders and knobs you can always step up to the MPD232, but I think the MPD226 may be the real winner of the bunch.