In 1988 Electronic drum machine pioneer Roger Linn teamed up with Japanese electronic musical instrument company Akai to produce one of the all time game changing pieces of midi sampling and sequencing hardware called the Akai MPC – then short for Midi Production Centre.
The very first device that was put into production was the now legendary MPC 60. This unit was completely stand-alone and combined sampling and sequencing as a way of creating music. Akai were already by this stage making hardware rack mounted samplers like the S612 and S900 but what set the MPC60 apart was it's desktop format, on board midi sequencing and rubberised trigger pads. Being hands on the MPC gave instant physical feedback to the musician and producer. This was revolutionary and was quickly adopted by Hip Hop producers as a key part of their studio setup.
In 1994 Akai released the big follow up to the MPC 60, the MPC 3000. This MPC had significant increases in technology by using 16bit sample rates and 44.1 sample frequencies, more polyphony and SCSI data storage. In essence it was a boosted MPC60 and had a sound that made Akai famous. There was always something special about how Akai samplers sounded and the MPC series continued this heritage. Unfortunately the MPC 3000 marked the end to the relationship with Roger Linn. Both MPC 60 and MPC 3000 are extremely rare these days and fetch high price tags – that’s if you can find one.
This wasn’t the end of the MPC line though and in 1997 Akai introduced the MPC2000. I loved Akai samplers and had been using their rack samplers for some time, but the MPC 2000 was my first introduction to the MPC series. People said the 2000 wasn’t quite as punchy as the original 60 or 3000, but I didn't care and fell instantly in love. It came with a whopping 2mb of ram but thankfully this could be increased, it had plenty of sequences, pad banks, external storage internal FX, filters and modulations. I made the MPC2000 the hub of my live setup for its ability to mute sequences, chain sequences, manipulate sounds in real time and for it's portability. I also worked in a music retail store and these things sold like hotcakes. The MPC2000 was in my mind the piece of kit that defined the 90’s. The updated MPC2000XL soon followed with some nice upgrades. When the MPC 4000 came out I immediately jumped on that too. Other models that came out in the naughty’s were the MPC 1000, 500, 2500 and 5000 all doing pretty much the same thing but in various shapes and sizes. By this point the Akai MPC series was at its peak in popularity and performance.
Enter the Native Instrument Maschine
In 2009 software developer Native Instruments came out with the Maschine series of hybrid hardware/software combinations that took inspiration from the MPC. The big difference is that Maschine hardware is purely a controller for their proprietary software that resided on the computer. The world fell in love with this new approach and MPC sales began to slow down. The Maschine software got better and better and people loved the idea of working inside the computer. Akai eventually came on board with similar hardware/software integrated units; the MPC Studio, Renaissance and the more recent MPC Touch and although these new units were worthy examples of the MPC line, it was hard for them to recapture the market that Maschine was now enjoying.
Everything moves in cycles though, and music technology is no different. People started getting more hands on again, moving away from the computer towards hardware based devices. Companies like Elektron, Arturia, Korg and Roland started making some awesome hardware synths, samplers and drum machines that are not reliant on computer software to operate and in the background Akai were taking note. Only now after some 2 years of behind the scenes R and D Akai have re-introduced the classic hardware MPC of old but with swag of new and updated features that will make any hardware purist go weak at the knees. The big change is that you have the best of both worlds - You can still run it from a computer if you choose to, but the real power in my opinion comes form being stand alone again. I personally can't wait to get my hands on the MPC-X - it's looks incredible and hopefully if all reports are true we should be seeing product land some time late April early May.
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