Updated – Now with more details on MPC Software 2.0! Winter NAMM is here and in addition to the announcement of a new ‘black’ MPC Studio with more tactile knobs and dials, Akai have some news for the current generation of MPC heads running the MPC Touch, MPC Renaissance and MPC Studio. At the Akai booth, Dan Gill has been showing Saintjoe the current (early) beta of MPC Software 2.0 and it’s fair to say there’s been much rejoicing in the MPC community as it promises to finally bring a number of much requested features that should fully transform the MPC Software into a fully fledged DAW!
MPC Software 2.0: New Features At A Glance
MPC Software 2.0 will no doubt contain a wealth of tweaks and improvements, but the headline-grabbing features announced specifically for MPC Software 2.0 are:
- Audio tracks
- Audio & MIDI ‘drag & drop’
- New ‘phrase’ program type
- ‘Real Time’ Timestretching & Pitch Correction/Pitch Changing
- Air Music Effects Suite
- New GUI
- Lots of backend changes to improve overall efficiency
MPC Audio Tracks
Perhaps the biggest user request since MPC Software 1.0, audio tracks are finally coming in MPC Software 2.0. It will support 128 audio tracks with full waveform editing, both in the GUI and TUI. Multiple audio tracks can be simultaneously armed to allow for multitrack recording. This could make the MPC Software a fully contained production centre and, assuming audio tracks are implemented well, could mean that many see no need to use a third party DAW.
Audio & MIDI ‘Drag & Drop’
You will now be able drag an entire audio track or MIDI track directly from the MPC into another application (e.g. into a DAW or audio editor), so no need to first ‘export’ as a WAV or MIDI file. You’ll also be able to drag audio or MIDI to your desktop to automatically create an standalone audio/MIDI File.
‘Real Time’ Timestretching & Pitch Shifting
I assume realtime timestretching will involve the ability for loops to automatically stretch to the tempo of the sequence, and from what I can make out from the video, it seems they will be using elastique for this – elastique will no doubt also power the proposed pitch correction/pitch changing features coming in 2.0, which I assume this will be of the ‘autotune’ variety, correcting duff vocals and perhaps more creative uses such as changing octaves, harmonising and so on, and potentially automatically matching together loops recorded in different keys. (Update: audio ‘warping’, which allows for real time quantize of audio, is not actually coming in 2.0 – I’ll explain more later in this article).
New ‘Phrase’ Program Type
MPC Software 2.0 will also feature a new sample program type made specifically for loops. The ‘phrase’ program seems to function in a similar way to Ableton Live clips and lets you assign various loops to the pads which can be triggered and layered over each other (no doubt utilising the realtime time stretching and pitch shifting). Like Live clips, you can hit a pad at any point to ‘queue’ a loop but it will not actually launch until the next bar begins. Apparently the phrase program will support latch and toggle modes and will also still allow the use of one shot samples.
AIR Music Effects & Instruments Added
MPC Software 2.0 will also include all the AIR Music effects and expansion instruments found in Pro Tools. I’m not entirely sure of the exact contents, but based on what Dan mentioned (e.g. pianos, DB33, mastering suite etc) I assume it’s probably something similar to the AIR Creative Collection, so a really nice selection of sounds and effects there. All existing effects are also retained.
MPC Software 2.0 New GUI
Since its initial release, the original MPC Software GUI always looked terribly dated in my eyes, so a refresh of the GUI is very welcome. And from the photos and videos so far it certainly looks very sleek and modern, although Dan mentioned that they are still working on making it match the Touch interface (which is more red and grey), so I’m not sure what the final GUI will look like. I personally hope they stick with the blue and dark grey look and just update the Touch UI to match.
MPC Software 2.0 Release Date
So, when will MPC Software 2.0 be released? Unfortunately all we have is that it will be coming ‘later’ in 2016. Dan made it clear that this is an alpha version and considering they are adding some pretty hefty features it wouldn’t be too much of a shock if this wasn’t released until Q3 or Q4 2016. That said, Akai are not shy about releasing software in a somewhat unfinished state (MPC Software 1.0 – 1.3 spring to mind, as does the current release of the Touch UI with it’s various ‘coming soon’ pages), so it wouldn’t surprise me if this got rushed out to tie in with the release of a potentially new flagship MPC.
Will MPC Software 2.0 Be a Free Update?
No, it is now confirmed that MPC Software 2.0 will be a paid upgrade for existing users, no pricing announced yet, but I suspect/hope it will be similar to the price Maschine charged for their 2.0 update ($99). It also seems that it will be already included for people who purchase their hardware after 2.0 is released, although we don’t know if the RRP of the controllers will also see a general price hike at the same time to account for the significantly improved software included. Nor do we know if there will be some kind of deal for people who purchased just before the 2.0 release.
Obviously some existing owners will prefer to stick with the last 1.9.x release, but if that isn’t stable (1.9.2 crashed on me yesterday) I wonder if Akai still continue to provide bug fix releases for 1.9.x?
Other Features Coming Later For MPC Software ‘2.x’
Some features appear to be coming at some point in the future, but it’s clear from the video that they are unlikely to be in the initial 2.0 release:
- Warping – a feature well known to Ableton Live users which can be used to perform real time quantising of audio files, so imported audio tracks or loops can be made to conform to a specific timing grid, automagically fixing any wayward playing and allowing you to match together performances featuring different rhythm and swing. This one is definitely a 2.x feature.
- VIP Integration – Akai keyboards come with a very nice piece of software called ‘VIP’ which provides a centralised interface for all your instrument plugins, allowing you to search across your instruments to find patches of a similar type (e.g. Lead, pad, bass etc), and MPC Software 2.x is apparently going to see some aspects of this introduced to improve the entire instrument plugin experience.
- File Browser improvements – no doubt linking in with the VIP technology, Dan has categorically stated that the browser is getting a complete overhaul, with the introduction of a ‘database’ (I assume that’s an indexed and tagged User Sample Library), searching across the library and improved sorting features. This is fantastic news, hopefully the MPC will now have a browser that can compete with that in Maschine.
- Q-Link Edit Mode – currently a ‘coming soon’ page in the MPC Touch, but now clearly not actually coming ‘soon’, this will allow you to manage how the Q Links are utilised, what they control and how they are configured (including whether they control via row or column).
So What’s NOT Coming?
There’s a few common feature requests that are perhaps not particularly on Akai’s ‘to do’ list at the moment; groove templates (Dan clearly doesn’t see the point), mapping templates for DAWs (“we’re really just focussed on the MPC”), and if you want to go back and forth between the MPC Software and a proper legacy MPC (MPC4000 or older), you are definitely now out of luck as Dan makes it clear that as far as they are concerned, ‘legacy export‘ just means MPC1000/2500/5000 export.
Is the Standalone MPC Coming?
Dan states that the MPC Touch is ‘not the final controller’, and then changes this to ‘it’s not the final product’, so I think most would like to see this as a hint that a standalone is potentially on the way. However as he first called it a controller, I wonder if this is more of a hint that a ‘hybrid’ MPC is on the way, one that can act both standalone and as a MPC Software controller? One thing seems clear from Dan’s reaction, the Windows Embedded ‘standalone’ Renaissance that appeared in a Microsoft video a year or two ago seems to be going nowhere other than as a paperweight for Dan’s office desk!
MPC Software 2.0 Feature Requests
With the introduction of audio tracks, many people should finally be happy (unlikely though!), but what other features would we like to see in MPC Software 2.0 (or 2.x)?
Personally my biggest bug bear is the File Browser, so I’m happy to hear that this is going to be improved, although 2.0 would have been better than 2.x. I’d also like to see a better audio editor with vertical waveform zooming and the ability to permanently ‘process’ samples in SAMPLE EDIT using VST effects (as you can in dedicated audio editors like Adobe Audition).
Of course there’s lots of other nagging issues (explode tracks from Song Mode anyone?), and I’m sure everyone has their own list, so feel free to add your ideas in the comments!
Here’s some other MPC Software 2.0 videos from Winter NAMM 2016: