Akai have released a new touchscreen ‘standalone’ MPC, the MPC One, which in many ways shares a significant number of features with the existing MPC Live. This has caused quite a bit of confusion in the MPC community, not only for those who are considering their first MPC, but for those who already have an MPC Live and are wondering whether or not to cross over to this new MPC. This is further complicated as someone recently discovered is mention of an ‘MPC Live Mk II‘ in the installer code for the current MPC Firmware!
MPC One Advantages
Let’s cut to the chase; here’s the advantages of the MPC One compared to the current ‘MPC Live’ model:
- It has CV/Gate outputs, perfect if modular is your thing
- It has dedicated buttons for most of the editing modes, so could potentially provide a faster workflow.
- Ethernet port provides very stable Ableton Link compared to wifi
- Smaller form factor makes it more portable and could save desk space.
- The MPC One is currently cheaper than an MPC Live.
In all fairness, the MPC One really doesn’t have too many advantages compared to the MPC Live, but without doubt the CV/GATE outputs are definitely a huge positive, but of course, only if you have modular gear.
The additional ‘mode’ buttons mean you can skip to the various editing screens nice and quickly, although these days the MPC Live has its own mode shortcuts (hold down the MENU button and hit one of the 16 pads), so most MPC Live users would probably not consider this to be much of an advantage.
A dedicated ethernet port provides more stable Ableton Link and Splice connections compared to wifi, but the workaround for this on the MPC Live is to use a $10 USB-to-Ethernet adapter in one of the two USB ports, so again it isn’t a huge issue.
The smaller form factor is certainly a welcome move, both for desk space and for travelling, but do remember that the MPC Live is hardly big itself and also has the extra benefit of the internal battery so is always going to win on the ‘portability’ stakes. The pads sitting differently under the screen may also offer a better workflow for some compared to the layout found on the Live (more about the pads in the next section).
Finally the price is very nice on the MPC One, saving $300 compared to a new MPC Live, which would certainly be a huge consideration for anyone just starting out with MPCs.
MPC One Disadvantages
As you’d expect, lower prices inevitably mean a shrink in features, so here’s the disadvantages of the MPC One:
- The pads on the MPC One are much smaller than the MPC Live
- The MPC One has no internal battery
- The MPC One does not support an internal SATA disk (SD card and USB drive only).
- It only has a single USB port and this is only USB 2.0 rather than 3.0 found on the Live.
- No bluetooth or WIFI support (that means no bluetooth controllers)
- The MPC One only has 2 audio outputs compared to the 6 on the MPC Live, and has no direct turntable inputs
- The MPC One only has a single pair of MIDI in/outs (the Live has 2 in, 2 out)
- The MPC One does not support Ableton Live control
- The included sample library is much smaller on the MPC One.
There’s quite a few potential disadvantages to look at here, some of which may seem of little importance depending on your needs. Firstly, what about those pads? Well they are smaller than ‘typical’ MPC pads, but in my opinion they are not so small to be a problem. I certainly have no issue with the small pads on an MPC1000/500, or the much smaller pads on the Akai Force. Existing MPC users might initially require a couple of weeks to adapt, but I honestly don’t see these smaller pads as a problem.
With only two audio outputs you’ll need to think about exactly how you’ll be using the MPC One in your studio. Unless you plan to always track certain sounds out through different outputs (e.g. to route to external FX, or to a mixer etc) or perhaps route the metronome separate outputs, you are probably just fine with the two outputs. Remember the MPC One can export all your songs as WAV files including ‘exploding’ this into individual WAV files for each track which you can then import into your DAW.
The lack of turntable input means you’ll either have to use a turntable with a line level output (which is now very common on modern turntables), or route your turntable’s outputs through a preamp first (most commonly you could use a DJ Mixer for this). So again, probably not a huge issue for most people.
A single pair of MIDI in/out is again perhaps not going to be a huge issue for many people. Sure, if you intend triggering an army of hardware synths then the Live’s two MIDI Outs will be better although you might even prefer to look at the MPC X with its 4 MIDI Outs. The single MIDI input seems even less of an issue when you consider that currently the MPC firmware doesn’t actually support multitimbral MIDI input (it only supports multitimbral output).
If you do plan on connecting a MIDI Controller (very useful for playing instruments), then it is worth remembering that as there’s no bluetooth support on the MPC One and only a single USB port, which may already be taken by USB storage, in which case you might need to use the 5 pin MIDI port or use SD card storage instead to free up that USB port.
On the subject of storage, this is an area where the MPC One seems to fall quite short compared to the MPC Live. Firstly, there is no option to add an internal SATA drive, and the factory ‘internal drive’ is tiny and in my opinion best left as a ‘read only’ drive that stores the factory content. So storage is realistically handled either by SD card or USB stick. But with the lone USB port stuck at USB 2.0 speeds I’d be tempted to reserve that for MIDI controllers and instead buy yourself a fast SD card from a reputable manufacturer such as SanDisk. I find SD card loading/saving speeds perfectly fine on these MPCs.
Now, what about the lack of internal battery? Well some people clearly love having the option to make beats on the go, sitting on buses, in the park, on planes, on the sofa etc, and it’s definitely very handy and flexible to have that truly portable option (I find I can easily get at least 3 hours from the MPC Live battery). Of course for many producers their MPC will never leave their studio, so having the internal battery is neither here nor there.
When it comes to software, the MPC One is currently going to only have one feature missing compared to the MPC Live; Ableton Live Control Mode. Now don’t confuse this with ‘Ableton Link’, this specialist form of syncing between the MPC and Ableton Live (via ethernet on the MPC One) is still there. Live control mode on the other hand effectively turns your MPC into a basic ‘Push’ style controller for Ableton Live – this would currently appear to be an MPC Live/X exclusive feature.
What About the MPC Live Mk II?
Yes, someone has searched through some of the installer code for the current MPC firmware and discovered mention of the MPC Live Mk II. This would make a lot of sense for a number of reasons
- Products tend to go in 3 year cycles
- The MPC Live is out of stock in many stores
- The MPC One seems to share far too many features with the current MPC Live model for them to both sit comfortably in Akai’s ‘active’ product line (in my opinion)
So it is likely that we’ll be seeing a new and improved MPC Live model; however there is no way of knowing when this might be, it could be weeks, months or a year away.
If I had to guess what upgraded features the MPC Live Mk II would offer it would probably include the CV/GATE outputs, the extra navigation buttons and ethernet port, i.e. all the features that currently make the MPC One unique compared to the MPC Live Mk 1. Beyond this, perhaps a new form factor, or maybe a 9 inch screen?
However, I suspect we will not be seeing any internal improvements with regard to memory or CPU; my guess is that a new MPC Live Mk 2 would probably still use the same internal board used on the MPC X, MPC One and Akai Force. But hopefully by then Akai will have implemented disk streaming, so the amount of available system RAM should no longer be a concern.
Existing MPC Live Users – Should You Change to the MPC One?
If you already have the MPC Live I would say stay with what you have, the MPC One is mostly a downgrade. Perhaps if you really need the CV/Gate outputs then the MPC One could suit you better, but I feel that most MPC Live owners will probably regret changing over. However, if your MPC Live were to die then I can see how you might be tempted to try the MPC One, which is probably going to cost the same as a second hand MPC Live. But let’s face it, with the MPC Live Mk II potentially on the horizon, any MPC Live owners itching for that gear-lust upgrade would probably be best advised to wait it out for a while to see what Akai might announce in 2020.
Is the MPC One the Best Entry Level MPC?
If you’re new to the MPC world, or coming from an older ‘legacy’ model like the MPC1000, then I would definitely recommend considering the MPC One as a lower cost way of discovering the new standalone MPC workflow. I believe most beginners will be perfectly happy with the more basic audio and MIDI connections, and will probably find the smaller pads immediately playable. Just make sure the MPC One has all the features you’ll definitely need – if you do think you’ll make use of the battery or the extra audio outs, then perhaps the MPC Live will be more suitable. And remember if money is an important factor you can always pick up a second hand MPC Live for similar money to a new MPC One.
And if you have no need for the ‘standalone’ aspect of the MPC then an MPC Touch might be worth considering, with a software experience identical to the standalone MPCs but a requirement to always be ‘tethered’ to a Mac/PC. Just remember that the MPC Touch seems to be discontinued these days so second hand is probably the most likely option unless you can find a retailer with old stock. But in terms of software, it runs the same MPC Software as the standalone MPCs, plus with the added bonus of VST and AU plugin support.
The MPC Bible
Whichever MPC you choose, make sure you get the best tutorial course available for it! The MPC Bible is the only MPC course that is constantly updated to keep up wth Akai’s new firmware releases, with structured, step-by-step tutorials designed to teach you all the skills and workflows you’ll need to create music with the new generation of MPCs, with editions available for the MPC Live/MPC X/MPC One, MPC Touch and MPC Renaissance/MPC Studio.