Review – Akai MPC Key 61 workstation

Akai’s MPC series goes back a long way. MPC used to stand for MIDI Production Center, but today it stands for Music Production Center. It all started with the MPC60, designed by Roger Linn in 1988, and now from the MPC one to the X. These machines don’t have a keyboard, and are designed for the studio. Of course, you can use the MPC on stage, but then you need a MIDI keyboard, so we waited for a version with keys, and here it is: the MPC KEY.

An Akai sampler with keys is not new. In 1986, two years before the introduction of the MPC60, Akai introduced the X7000. This sampler has 61 keys and has almost the same sample functions as the S-900.

About the MPC Keys
The MPC KEY 61 is, as I said, a complete workstation. It has a 61 keyboard with aftertouch, 16 drum pads, pitch and mod wheel, and a large touch display, to name a few. On the back there are four audio outputs, two line/microphone inputs with 48v phantom, eight CV/gate inputs and outputs, MIDI in, out and thru and a sustain, expression input and an extra input for a pedal of your choice.

The MPC Key has 17 plugin instruments on board with a huge variety of sounds. From multi sample FM and analog synthesizers, acoustic and electric pianos, organs, a melotron and orchestral strings. In total you have over 6000 presets at your disposal. The instruments are easy to choose through the large touch display.

New instruments in the MPC Key
The MPC Key has a number of new instruments: the Fabrik XL, a sample based synthesizer, the op4x a four operator FM synthesizer, and in the 2.10 MPC software update you also get the Odessey a reincarnation of this legendary synth. Also new is stage piano. These are four true-to-nature acoustic pianos. Stage EP is the fifth new instrument in the MPC Keys. The name says it all: you get five familiar electric pianos: two models by Rhodes, Wurlitzer, a Hohner pianet, and an acoustic mechanical and an FM type piano.

And the new instruments don’t stop there! Also new to the MPC keys is Organ, a drawbar organ synthesis. Finally, for the composers there is Studio Strings. An extensive plug-in with beautiful strings.

Fabrik XL
New is the Fabrik XL. This is sample based synthesizer which consists of two layers of sample OSC, with a separate filter, envelope, LFO and nine effects. I’ll show you some of it.

As said, the op4x is a four operator FM synthesizer with 23 filter types, effects and much more.

This new instrument has been accurately copied from the original. This synth sounds natural because Akai has used circuit modeling. This gives the Odessey the natural character and sound of the original.

Stage Piano
Stage piano is Akai’s flagship instrument with four great-sounding acoustic pianos, including a Steinway D, a Yamaha C7, a Bechstein upright, and a workstation piano. Almost everything on these pianos is adjustable, from the dynamics of the piano, the hammers, how the pedals respond, and much more.

Stage EP
Stage EP gives you access to five of the most popular electric pianos: Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hohner, an acoustic mechanical and an FM type piano. Just like in Stage Piano, you can fully adjust the sound and how the instruments react.

Organ is an advanced organ simulation. 10 tonewheels, and a rotary speaker simulation give you an overwhelming organ sound.

Studio Strings
With Studio Strings, you have a large orchestra at your disposal with, once again, full control over the instruments. You can set the number of musicians, a full orchestra, a chamber orchestra or a solo instrument. You can play staccato, pizzicato, sustain, Tremelo and marcato. The samples sound natural and the extensive functions of this instrument help so that you can be the conductor of your own orchestra.

What do we think of the MPC key61? In a word” overwhelming! This is really an addition to the already complete range of workstations. The first question I asked myself was: why didn’t Akai bring this earlier to the market? The MPC can be used not only on stage, but also in the studio. You get all the functions, sample possibility, sequencer and effects of the MPC, with new instruments and a well playing keyboard.

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