GEAR : Akai “MPC1000”

Akai MPC 1000: a compact flagship

Akai Mpc 1000 Sampler FREE DELIVERY
front panel of the “black” MPC1000, by Akai… but the one I had was “blue”…image from VintageSynth

This became my (first) serious relationship with a piece of gear, bringing new levels of learning to be creative within limitations, and I found not only how their “Programs” could create drum kits or chromatic voices (leads, vocals), but also experiment in between. As understand of, and ability to create on the MPC grew, I was looking at the screen less and less (having memorized all the basic screen interfacing).

Distinguishing Features

  • linear-recording pattern sequencer allows for real-time, step-input, or (with 3rd party OS) a fully-visual sTRip interface for sequencing.
  • more tracks (64) than I have MIDI channels.
  • work based on Projects (pool of samples, instrument definitions, and patterns), with ability to chain patterns into songs.
  • load your own sounds into patterns, limited only by onboard memory, expandable to dozens of megabytes (several minutes) with standard RAM sticks.
  • sample-based sound “Programs” allow up to 4 samples for each voice, with individual volume/tuning/etc for each sound, through a single filter (with envelope) and amp (with envelope). VERY expressive or one-shots (drums, stabs) or sustained tones.
  • Sampler can re-pitch sound, time-stretch sounds (to keep pitch at faster/slower playback), chop and slice rhythm/melody samples into their component notes/hits for creative replay and re-arranging. Time- and pitch warping can sound decent when use for subtle “corrections”, and wild with extreme or “abusive” application.
  • 2+4 phone outputs, with stereo sampling inputs.
  • well-lit pixel screen switches from displaying panel menus, waveform editor, sequencer grid, etc.
  • onboard
  • compact, where pads take on many duties: triggering sounds, switching patterns, muting tracks, even entering letters/numbers.
  • rugged build with after-market options to personalize colors/styles out your panels, pads, and knobs at places like mpcStuff
  • so deep that there are after-market Operating systems (I enjoyed the free version of JJOS form former-Akai employee “Japanest Jenius” ), and
rear panel of the MPC 1000… stereo main, 4x assignable audio outs, stereo in, 2 pair MIDI DIN port, IEC power plug

My Spin

Akai’s MPC line is less a product than an institution. The instrument-of-choice for much of  hip-hop, developed by  by two white engineers (Dave Smith and Roger Linn).

This was my ONLY, and I could already appreciate how people can be productive for hours in it’s work flow. The sampling, sound-building, sequencing, are all feel power-ful yet agile, and moving around quickly became a matter of muscle memory.

Only a FEW things felt like frustrating slow-downs.

  1. Early on, I noticed how much the screen-based interface required me to use cursor to move around and select different things with the data/value wheel. I can see why the “better” MPCs have more knobs and a dedicated.
  2. Later on, I’d notice when I’d have to stop and LOOK at the pads (say to key in names for patterns or samples, or enter numeric values). But luckily, this kind of housekeeping can be deferred within the creative bursts.
  3. After I got good at moving around, I’d start to run “run out of space” in the OS, such as not having enough memory to keep (re)sampling, or how I’d only be allowed a fixed number of  sound Programs per Project. Expanding the RAM helped the first case, but the Program Limit kept me grumbling.
  4. the sequencer required Re-Start to switch between composing and performing, and would lock to one Patten while recording. With the the ability to “jam out” by switching patterns, mute/unmute parts, and even play along, having to stop the groove everything to Record (or Erase) became a glaring hiccup.

These were not show-stoppers, and I continued to use the MPC as both my main sequencer for “beat box work” and main sound-module for my drum kit for 3 years. The MPC, not a latop, was my “brain” of choice for my presentation(s) on drumming-with-triggers and drum machines to the Philly chapter of the Audio Engineering Society.

Where this device really impressed and inspired ME was its ability to not just be polyphonic (many notes of one Program at once) AND Multi-timbral (multiple Programs at once), but also allow control among sound Programs and Patterns that was both selective, direct, and customizable.

Specifically, I could drive sounds out the MPC from 3 or so manners of live control at once, simultaneously (using mostly onboard interfacing).

  1. program tracks of rhythms and melodies on the sequencer, and use onboard footswitch inputs to both (re)set tempo and start/stop the play and/or recording actions.
  2. create a kit of drum sounds one one track to play live by MIDI input (from drum triggers) from my triggers
  3. program a patch of notes or noise, and leave that track active to play it with the pads.

The MPCs smart “MIDI Muli-timbrality” left promise to grow. I considered incorporating additional hands-on MIDI controllers (pads, keyboards, etc) to delegate for more direct, simultaneous control of switching patterns, muting parts, without having to fiddle with the devices screen and pads live.

Eventually, the thing that made me sell it was not so much a need for cash, as much as a growing appreciation/desire for devices with computer-based editor programs  (full screens UI, windows, easy saving/loading/organization, proper typing keyboard, etc). With these (such as my R3), I could do “pre-production” experiments, design, and prep with the strength of the computer,  then “unplug the box” to go play without struggling with menu-diving. Being discontinued from it’s official maker, with only third-party non-professional support, MPC1000 proved to be a dead end there.

I sold my MPC to try out the Elektron models (with their fluid “keep jamming” design and impressive OverBridge software editor suite), I see the MPC Live now has full editor/sequencing/recording parity with their MPC 2.0  recorder/editor software.

I hear the new models only take all Pad or MIDI control for only the active track, and could not “channelize” for 2 and 3 above… so I’m saving that money for a later MPC version.

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