For over 8 years I made music with only my computer mouse and keyboard, but as time went by and my skill developed I felt it was time to buy a MIDI keyboard just to add a new dimension to my creation process. I decided to get a small keyboard to start with since I'm not an expert player. After a bit of searching I came across the AKAI MPK Mini which I purchased.
The unit is a USB MIDI controller which has 25 standard piano keys, 8 drum pads and 8 knobs for assigning to various controls. It has a dedicated buttons for changing the octave up or down, a built-in arpeggiator and a sustain button for holding notes. The 8 pads have a backlight. Power and MIDI data are both sent via a single USB cable.
Installing the keyboard is a breeze. It doesn't need any extra drivers to work. You simply plug it into the USB port on your computer and the drivers are automatically installed. It should work on both Windows and Mac, though I've only used it on my Windows 7 machine with no issues. It also comes with a software to help you assign the keys on the keys to various functions.
The best thing about this keyboard are the velocity-sensitive drum pads. This doesn't come as a surprise because the controller is made by AKAI, the same company which makes the MPC. They make for a very enjoyable experience when programming drums. To really enjoy it though you have to have your latency setting set as low as possible on your host so that you can enjoy the instant feedback. I've personally used it for composing drum patterns and for triggering patterns in FL Studio's performance mode and it is very enjoyable. There's a bank button on the unit which you can use to assign an additional 8 sounds to the pads, so in essence you can assign a total of 16 sounds to the pads.
Another handy feature is the memory bank which allows you to program the keys & knobs to suit your DAW. So every time you use the keyboard in your DAW you don't have to reassign the keys. You can save the settings of up to 4 different DAWs, meaning you can quickly switch from DAW to DAW without having to re-program the keys. This particular feature is very convenient for me because I often work in 2 DAWs (FL Studio and REAPER), sometimes 3 (Studio One) so I never have to re-program the keys when I switch.
The piano keys themselves are sometimes unresponsive which can be quite frustrating as well as the USB connector which is not of good quality. I've damaged mine due to its flimsiness and have to sit carefully with the keys to make sure they don't move around too much which is annoying.
Overall the controller does the job that it's meant to do, the drum pads are great and it comes with a decent amount of features. As a production keyboard it meets my needs. If you're a mobile musician this keyboard will come in great when you don't want to take your bigger gear along with you. It's best feature as far as I'm concerned are the drum pads. It also works great in FL Studio's performance mode. I'd have to think twice before buying this product because of the fragile USB connector and the keys which are sometimes unresponsive. I have come across some better keyboards such as the SubZero SPC Mini Key which has a lot of the same features and is more durable.
- Highly portable
- Packed full of features
- Beautiful design
- Keys are springy and sometimes unresponsive
- The USB connector is easy to break
Number of Keys: 25 velocity-sensitive
Pads: 8 velocity-sensitive, light-up MPC-style pads x 2 banks
Knobs: 8 assignable controller pots
Computer Interface: USB/MIDI only
Additional controls: Sustain, Tap-Tempo, CC
Dimensions: 6" x 13.6" x 1.2"
Weight: 2 lbs (shipping weight 2.5 lbs)
I really like this controller because it is small. It's small enough to fit in a computer bag and it's usb powered so you can really jam on it anywhere.
Using this product was really easy. I just plugged it into my mac, installed the drivers and it was good to go. The only thing that takes a little bit of setting up is using the pads. The pre-loaded notes didn't match up with the drum kits in reason so I had to manually change the notes so that I could have a more comfortable and usable drum/sample pad. The tap tempo and arpeggiator features both work very well and come in handy. The keys aren't weighted but if you get used to them you can utilize the velocity sensitive feature. The 8 assignable controller pots are useful too. They are the same situation as the pads, you have to set them up, but once you get them working they are really awesome. You can use them to add real time effects to your synth/instrument. I have some assigned to reverb, delay, modulation, phaser, etc. Using the knobs allows you to add any amount of those effects in real time so that you can improvise some pretty cool stuff live.
I really like this controller. It is perfect for a portable midi controller. Weighted keys, more keys, and a modulation wheel would be nice but aren't really practical for such a small unit. For the price, I can't think of a better midi controller. I've used a few other small midi controllers but got annoyed with all of the wires I had to carry around to get it working properly with my computer. This one is one plug and done. No midi adapters, no power chords, no instrument wires, no pedals. It's small enough to just fit in with my laptop wherever I take it. It definitely has enough features to effectively produce some cool electronic music. I would buy this again if I needed another.
I have XP home edition and it works fine with me ...
Akai will probably propose a solution in the future (drivers) for this kind of product.
Everything is included on this little MIDI keyboard, a real Swiss Army knife for computer music:
knobs, pads, keyboard, ultra compact and small (almost a toy).
Very pleased with this acquisition, I had a keyboard E-MU Xboard 25 and remained very good but I was looking for something smaller to move, the pads also have finally convinced me, sold one to buy another.
Definitely the best MIDI keyboard for musicians on the go!