Monday, March 7, 2022

CONTROLLER KEYBOARDS. Akai Pro MPK249 and MPK261

 

Akai MPK249 Review. Akai MPK261 Controller Keyboard Review



So moving on from my review of the Alesis VI49 and VI61 USB controller keyboards, we'll now take a look at products from their InMusic stablemates at Akai Pro and see what the Akai MPK249 and MPK261 instruments have to offer. 

Like the Alesis VI49 and VI61, the two mid-sized Akai Pro MPK Series products represent a popular mid-range solution, so they offer plenty but won't break the bank for many users. 

When comparing to the Alesis 249 and 261 key controller keyboard products, it can instantly be seen that the layout of the Akai Pro product is noticeably different with the trigger pads now located above the keyboard, so the dimensions are 'chunkier' rather than 'sleek'. Shorter but wider, if you like. 

The Akai Pro MPK249 and MPK261 offer seamless integration with Akai MPC Beats and MPC Software music production platforms, so if you're using one of these DAWs (and they are very good, with MPC Beats being one of the best freeware DAWs available), then the choice of one of these keyboards as a USB controller may well be a 'no brainer', with dedicated controls for MPC Swing, Note Repeat, and MPC Full Level available as instantly mapped, dedicated controls.  

The 16 trigger pads with four banks for a total of 64 also matches up to the MPC/Beats layout and functionality. So these offers 48 more trigger pad 'notes' than the 16 of the Alesis VI Series which has a single bank of 16. 

Elsewhere, the keyboards are velocity and aftertouch (channel and polyphonic) sensitive with 49 (four octave) and 61 (five octave) note versions available with the octave +/- buttons delivering a total range of 10 octaves. 

Two chunky real-time pitch bend and mod-wheel controllers are located nice and close to the keyboard on the left hand side. 

Again the DAW transport section is fully MPC/Beats ready with Rewind, Fast Forward, Stop, Play, and Record buttons, but these will also integrate with just about any other music production platform, although it will always be worthwhile checking via Google.


Akai MPK249 / 261 Preset Mode.

One huge advantage the MPK49 and MPK61 have over the Alesis VI Series products is the Preset Mode which allows you to store and recall the keyboards fader, switch, and trigger pad note assignments in an instant without having to re-program it every time. All of these parameters can be altered in Edit Mode and then stored. 

This is great really not just for live performance applications but also for studio/writing applications where you can store a preset for each song or track. 

These Akai MPKs also have an on-board programmable arpeggiator. A lot of software synths and platforms have arpeggiators, but I still think this is a great feature. I love arpeggiators wherever they are found. Naturally, the keyboards also have a built in tempo clock to determine speed of the arpeggios. There are also a number of modes which include double, up, down, random, inclusive, exclusive and chord modes. 

Eight of each assignable knobs, faders and switches are available on the right hand side of the control panel, and there are 3 banks for a total of 24 of each. All of these assignments can be stored within a 'preset'.  

  

Akai Pro MPK249 / MPK261 Rear Panel.





The MPK249 and MPK261 can be powered from a laptop via USB bus power although there is a power supply option of you're using it just for MIDI applications. This has to be purchased separately, it is not supplied as standard. MIDI out is provided as well as MIDI in for synching/tempo control. A dedicated sustain pedal input is provided as well as an assignable real-time foot controller which can be used for volume or other real-time control parameters. 


Akai MPK249 and MPK261 Bundled Software. 

Ableton Live Lite and Akai's own MPC Beats music production software platforms are supplied alongside two software synths: Hybrid 3 by Air Music Technology, and Sonivox Twist.

MPC Beats is an ideal way to get into music production, particularly if you're into modern pattern based dance/EDM style production. But it has to be said that MPC Beats is available as freeware without purchasing the keyboard, and I've been unable to verify whether or not the MPK bundled version is supplied with any additional soundware, samples, patches, etc. 






Ableton Live Lite is an excellent introduction to this very popular and powerful software DAW. Again, this is very popular among contemporary EDM/dance producers and artists. 

Air Music Tech's Hybrid 3 is a powerful, virtual analog synth which is a very worthwhile piece of bundles software worth at least around £80, so that's well worth having!


The MPK249 is also available with black key. Which I would find a bit weird, but hey......



Is The Akai MPK249 Any Good?

Yes. These keyboards are an excellent combination of value and features for use with any DAW platform or especially Akai's own MPC or MPC Beats software. Polyphonic aftertouch is a welcome advanced feature, this is about where things start if you want programs/presets, they offer lots of realtime control with the right combination of faders, knobs and switches, and the bundled software package is excellent with two great DAWs and two excellent software synths, although it is clearly aimed at contemporary/dance/electronic music production, not so much singer/songwriters that might be looking more for acoustic instrument recreations.    



Links

You can find out more information at the links below. 

Official website description/specs, etc:


MPK249 User manual:


Akai Pro MPC Beats:




AIR Music Tech Hybrid 3. 


Ableton Live Lite


Sonivox Twist:


For a general look at controller keyboard functions and features:



Disclaimer:

The information contained within this blog post is offered on an informal basis and is correct to the best of my knowledge. I accept no responsibility for outcomes arising from the mis/interpretation or use of this information and/or associated download files. Always download files via security/scanning software.

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